Dan Bern at Bottom Line


East Coast Rocker 10/29/03


New York City

Dan BernIn the late night hours on an empty stage on the campus of William Paterson College where he had just finished a haphazardly grueling but unerringly honest performance, Dan Bern described his current one month, twenty-two city solo tour in baseball terms. The admitted frenzied fan of the game likened the uneven gig to that of a pitcher with a formidable arsenal of pitches, but no real consistent snap on the curve or zip on the fastball. “There were nights when I used to feel like Sandy Koufax,” Bern said, slumped on his amp about to load out and head for NYC with the waning confidence of a man at the crossroads of a burgeoning career. “And some nights I feel like Pedro just trying to get out of the 8th.”

After his searing, balls-to-the-wall performance on the legendary stage at the Bottom Line on West 4th street the following night, his odd journey from the embattled Red Sox hurler to the best lefty the game has ever seen had come full circle.

Bern serenaded and spat, chugged and crooned, sliced and diced his way through a nearly two hour set of his best material, charming and probing, questioning and joking with the sold out crowd like a man on the hill with a nasty slider and a wicked splitter.

“On a solo tour there is nothing to lean on, no band to meld into when things are not going your way,” Bern noted, describing his constant fight to “stay in the song” as the key to the honesty of any worthwhile performance.

Dressed in baggy shorts and a ragged sweat shirt, hair cropped close to his scalp, Bern buried himself deep inside such sterling numbers as the haunting, “I Need You” and the rousing, “Alaska Highway”, seducing the crowd with his fan-favorite “Estelle” and culling huge laughs with his ode to paradoxical romance, “Johnny Cash and Anais Nin”.

But the highlights of the evening came when the prolific song-smith unveiled two new satirical numbers, “The President’s Song”, a winding lyrical masterpiece worthy of H.L Mencken on blotter acid and the infectious, “Bush Must Be Defeated”, both of which were blatant jabs at the current administration with political solutions both varied and bizarre, if not wildly entertaining.

Standing in the naked spotlight with guitar slung over his shoulder in defiance of age or apathy or even bad pitches is where Dan Bern was meant to roam. His songs, like his performances, and his late night rants about songs and performances are what make music and art worth fighting for in the first place.

And for a couple of hours in the most famous theater for rock music in Greenwich Village, Dan Bern pitched himself a perfect game.

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