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VAN Reviews

The Bobs
Da Vinci's Notebook
Vance Gilbert

January 6, 2001, 7:30pm
The Bottom Line, New York
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Reviewed by Dan Rosenbaum
Web posted January 8, 2001

The Bobs' (Mostly) A Cappella Comedy Show was a showcase revue assembled mostly for attendees of a �fine arts presenters� convention � a concert for people who book concerts. If ever a band ever needed to make a big and quick impression on a new audience, this was the time.

All three acts delivered. The material on stage was the surest of the sure fire: the biggest crowd pleasers, the funniest well-honed bits, and the best of the new stuff. No 20-minute vocal percussion solos tonight, just an abundance of penis jokes, always good for a laugh.

The Bobs, not always the most disciplined performers, were on their best behavior -- quick to pick up pitches, with a minimum of cross-chatter and fuss. Their set started with �Helmet,� a full-voiced song in a major key that let the excellent sound system settle in quickly. Highlights included �Mr. Duality,� and a number of songs from their new CD �Coaster�: a vocalese version of Duke Ellington's �Caravan,� �She Made Me Name You Earl,� and a madrigal cover of �Light My Fire.� The closer was �Purple Haze,� with the customarily amazing vocal guitar of Joe Bob Finetti.

Da Vinci's Notebook comes across as sort of The Bobs's kid brothers. To say that their performance style continues to mature is not to suggest that their lyrics have abandoned their trademarked rudeness and humor. �Title of the Song� is as knowing a rip at boy bands as you are apt to hear, and �Secret Asian Man� -- with lead vocals by Richard Hsu -- is wonderfully barbed. Paul Sabourin, who writes most of the group's lyrics, is in fine form.

Vance Gilbert is a wild-haired folkie from the Boston scene. His soaring voice and humorous patter were a better match for this bill than his introspective, if energetic, songs. Though his guitar was amplified, he sang mostly off-microphone, and had no trouble filling the room with sound.

It was instructive to see The Bobs and Da Vinci's Notebook sharing the stage. Though clearly of the same stylistic school (Bobs's bass Richard Greene produced DVN's latest CD), the two groups have very different aspects.

The Bobs use wired mics, and though they will may change positions between numbers, they essentially stay in place while singing. DVN use wireless mics, and use the freedom to move onstage much more freely. The result, however, is frequently a kind of caged-animal choreography, where the lead steps out in front and paces repeatedly from one end of the stage to the other while the other singers stand behind and sing supporting lines. This is not unlike boy-band choreography, which is different from, say, the Temptations, who were tethered by wires but hardly immobile.

The result is that DVN comes across as puppy dogs, tugging at your cuffs demanding your affection. The Bobs are much cooler � catlike, clearly wanting your approval but perfectly happy waiting for you to come around. On this night, both dog and cat lovers went home happy.

Dan Rosenbaum is a former music critic for Digital Audio and CD Review magazines, and his reviews have also appeared in Audio magazine and the Schwann Catalog. He is a widely known technology journalist, and sings tenor in several New York groups.

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Content Contact: Dan Rosenbaum.
Revision Date: January 11, 2011.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

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