The Electric Six are a band that gets straight to the point.
“Buy our new album so the Electric Six can continue touring,” said Electric Six frontman Dick Valentine at the Black Cat on Sunday night. “Buy our new album so that we can buy gas and pay tolls on our way to Philadelphia — including that one expensive toll over that bridge in Maryland where you don’t know why you have to pay a toll.”
With Dick’s impressive knowledge of local geography on display, Electric Six also display some impressive musical chops — a welcome sight given that they came into town with both a new album and two new members. The new album, Flesh Blood for Tired Vampyres, is commercially available tomorrow, Oct. 7, via Metropolis Records as their 12th studio album. You also can buy it directly from the band tonight if you see them in Atlanta.
And in Atlanta, as in DC, the Electric Six come equipped with two new members — drummer Noah Appel (aka Two-Handed Bob or simply “Drummer!” in Dick’s parlance) and bassist Rob Lower. The two new members are a bit younger than the legacy members of the Electric 6, and they bring a particular energetic kick to the music. Noah in particular was a standout performer, often starting off a song with funky percussion.
The very full show in the backstage of the Black Cat found the main four of the Electric Six also in good form. Da Ve and Johnny Na$hsinal are great guitarists, and their camaraderie with Dick infused the tunes with vigor. Da Ve, ever silent, steady, and hell almost stoic behind those mysterious translucent shades, is cut from the same stone as Dick Valentine, happy to radiate bravado and to generate electronic cool. Johnny, who resembles the actor Dwight Schultz a bit, plays with a more cerebral confidence, but he’s very much part of the cool guy squad with the red suit he’s sporting on tour for some reason this time around. In all seriousness, he’s very talented, and you can tell how much his bandmates respect him when he performs.
That leaves Tait Nucleus? on synthesizer, who may be just as clever as Johnny. He certainly seems smart at the Black Cat, given that he’s in corner of the overly crowded stage, facing away from the audience. But the synth player never lets up as he gets straight to work like a crazed if stylish wizard locked away in his corner.
Well, that’s the Electric Six! And they came into town to funk us down. That, they did, beginning with their eponymous song “Electric Six,” showing some love to their 2015 album, Bitch, Don’t Let Me Die! On the fourth song, they perform a new one, “(Be My) Skin Caboose,” and the audience is super fine with that because the Electric Six has us feeling good like we knew they would.
Dick introduces the next song “Roulette!” with “This is a song about roulette,” and the Electric Six show more love to their last album. Later in the set, Dick warns, “This is song is about when cowboys file for divorce,” and Electric Six surprise with yet more love for that last album with the song “When Cowboys File for Divorce.”
Despite the wealth of very good new material, Electric Six know we all love their debut album from 2003 — Fire — still, so they show it some love as well by dedicating four songs of their 19-song set to it. Electric Six thrill the audience early with the familiar funk and farce of “Gay Bar.” And a little later, Electric Six revisit “Danger! High Voltage!” In the first encore, Electric Six switch on “Synthesizer,” and they return for a second encore by popular demand for “Dance Commander.”
That’s the Electric Six for you. They don’t quit! Their audience doesn’t quit! And the Electric Six are very much here to stay it appears, despite doubters who think the Detroit-based funk collective won’t be able to keep it up year after year. Well, keep it up they do.
As an aside, as great as it was to see Electric Six in such good form, my personal favorite moment came during the end of the main set when Electric Six performed an unheralded cover of David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder’s “Cat People,” which appeared on Bowie’s terrific album Let’s Dance.
“There are a lot of fascinating dudes in the audience tonight,” Dick said in introducing the song. “But this one’s for some of the ladies.”
And with that, Electric Six launched into a jaw-dropping cover of a hidden gem from the Bowie catalog that impressed me mightily. They earned the right to that cover, in my opinion, and that’s no small praise.
And Dick obviously enjoys visiting DC. “I took a lap around DC before the end of the show, and I overhead people saying, ‘Electric Six aren’t great any more.’ They say, ‘Electric Six aren’t as good as they used to be!” ”
“No!” every member of the audience objects in unison.
Listen to your audience, Dick Valentine. It is full of fascinating dudes.
Here are some more pictures of Electric Six being Electric Six at an Electric Six show, which took place at the Black Cat on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (Photos below by Mickey McCarter, separate from photos by Ben above.)