Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottlerockets at the Beachland Ballroom August 16, 2012

Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom is a strange little venue; only recently converted from a Croatian dance hall, the place is somehow surreal when serving as a place to see rock n roll shows. By “recent”, I of course mean in terms of how long rock music has been around – something that is hard to tack down, but is something that Marshall Crenshaw seems to know a thing or two about.
Since the early 80s, Crenshaw has been churning out the kind of tunes that would be American Classics, had they been penned only a couple of decades previous and crooned by The Crickets instead of Crenshaw’s band of kind-of short men. (Crenshaw is not the world’s tallest man, and, supposedly, early on in his career, he refused to hire taller band members. This is not a fact. I read this on Wikipedia.I find it hard to believe, but, hey, it makes for an interesting anecdote, doesn’t it?)

Crenshaw is one of those musicians who seems like he should be at least as appreciated as Neil Young, or Elvis Costello. Apparently, this is not the case, if the strewn crowd at Marshall’s gig at the Beachland Ballroom Thursday night is any indicator. There were a handful of relatively excited folks – and more dads than you could shake a stick at – but it even took a couple of drinks to get anyone in the audience to sing along. Which is sad, because Marshall’s songs are incredibly catchy and downright fun to sing along to.
Crenshaw started out the evening with a slew of old favorites, a cerebral, punchy version of “Someday, Someway” from his 1982 self-titled debut; “Something’s Gonna Happen”, his very first release, and just about every other tune from any decent “best-of” collection.

“There She Goes Again”, “Cynical Girl”, “Mary Anne” – you name it, Marshall and the Bottlerockets (some of them, as Crenshaw joked,) played it. Honestly, what else would you hope for with a Crenshaw concert? You want to hear your favorite songs, but the problem being when you come to the realization that “your favorite songs” make up half of the man’s discography. Even the more obscure picks that Crenshaw made were perfect. “Television Lights” (which my introduction to Crenshaw when I was but a very pudgy girl obsessed with music. Now I am not so pudgy, but the fascination with tunes has yet to fall away.) was a particularly beautiful number, leaving some audience members (Read: me) overtly nostalgic and cooing.

The band plowed through a couple covers as well – Crenshaw joking about “what the crowd would least expect them to play now” before diving into Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression”, as well as “Valerie” by Richard Thompson, and some other song I can’t remember.

Every song was a hit with the crowd, as much as anything could be a hit with the rather stodgy group. The Ballroom had laid out seats for concert-goers, making the show the single most comfortable one that I have ever attended – perhaps this was something that the Ballroom planned in anticipation of the highly-dad oriented crowd Marshall apparently attracts.

But perhaps that “dad” contingent is just a feature of the Ballroom – last spring I saw Pere Ubu there, and my boyfriend and I were by far the youngest in the room. However, Pere Ubu is a band loved by many dads, even if they tend to fall on the weirder side of dads. I am hoping to make it to a Shonen Knife concert at the Ballroom on Tuesday. I do not know if there will still be such a high concentration of dads, but I sure hope there will be. More word on that later.

Crenshaw loved the crowd, and he was quite happy to entertain the bunch late in to the night – even if that meant not one, but two encores. Encores made up of beloved Cranshaw classics – “Starless Summer Sky”, songs that portions of the crowd must have been hankering for throughout the performance – as well as a couple more covers, like “Little Sister” by Elvis Presley – who died thirty-five years to the date of Thursday’s show.

All in all, Thursday’s show was incredible, the only downfall being the fact that Crenshaw’s lead guitar had hardly enough volume – and it looked like he was pulling off some incredible solos.

So what if people don’t know enough to show up to a dirt-cheap performance by one of the greatest song-writers of the past half century. It would have been pretty amazing to walk in on a performance of “Cynical Girl” if you had never heard it. Might be a life-altering experience. Or maybe not. It would just make you want to take a look into everything you had been missing.