Christopher Owens -- 3/28/13 -- The Vera Project

Looking back at Andrew Gospe’s review of Girls’ 2011 concert at the Neptune, you could say not much has changed since the band’s frontman, Christopher Owens, went solo.

Playing the Vera Project last night, Owens’ almost sullen stage presence produced the same “awkward silences” between songs that Gospe noted during the Girls show. And while Owens had seven very capable musicians behind him, the show always hinged on what he was doing.

But man, things have changed.

Not only was the venue smaller, but even the cozy Vera Project felt empty last night, a testament to what an artist does when he sheds a critically acclaimed stage name for a new one.

And while Owens is widely credited as the writer of those catchy and jangly Girls tunes that set music critics afire, he didn’t play any of them, instead drawing exclusively from his new album and then, for the encore, performing a series of Dylan, Donovan and Cat Stevens covers.

The set gave ample reminders of what makes Owens’ music so much fun, whatever name he’s performing under: the reverence for great hooks, the love of big sounds, and Owens’ overwrought, sentimental slacker persona. The band burst to life for their single, “Here We Go Again,” a Girls-eque pop tune all about harshing buzzes and getting high.

But beyond that one song, the group came off totally aloof, perhaps phoning it in on account of a miserable turnout. The combination of a lifeless stage presence and a small and sober crowd was brutal.

At the end of their first set, polite clapping and a few cheers quickly died down to a complete silence. It took the guy running the sound board to say, “You guys want them to come back on, don’t you?” to keep a meager cheer going until the band re-emerged from back stage (proving once again how completely contrived encores are*).

The covers set closed with Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice it’s Alright,” the classic that ends: “I ain’t saying you treated me unkind, you could have done better, but I don’t mind, you just kinda waisted my precious time, but don’t think twice, it’s alright.” The way Owens slinked off stage with the band still playing, you have to wonder if he really meant it.

* At Sasquatch in 2005, the main stage had a very regimented hourly schedule. Because he is who he is, Kanye West left the stage 10 minutes before his set was over just so he could get called back for an encore. He played “Gold Digger.” It hadn’t been released yet. It was awesome.

 
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