Concert Review: Over the Rhine at the Birchmere

Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler are perhaps the antithesis of Ike and Tina or George and Tammy: they’re two people who have been married and singing together for twenty years and still seem to have a happy and functional relationship. Oh, and they’ve got some incredible songs, too.

The duo, joined by four stellar musicians (especially deserving of recognition is pedal steel/harmonica/lap steel whiz Jason Goforth), captivated a near-capacity Birchmere on Sunday night with an hour and forty minutes of music and eminently quotable storytelling about events that seemed like, as Bergqist defined it, “a head-on collision between comedy and tragedy,” like “Only God Can Save Us Now,” a part amusing, part heartwrenching tale about the denizens of Bergquist’s mother’s nursing home.

Nearly all of the fourteen song set came from new album The Long Surrender, with the exception of a couple past cuts like “Trouble,” which sounded straight off Doris Day’s Latin for Lovers album. Both Detweiler and Bergquist are heavily influenced by American music history, something that was evident on “Undamned,” which drew on old hymns and also found Detweiler stepping out from behind his piano and strapping on a guitar. “There’s a Bluebird in My Heart,” meanwhile, is a torch song that sounds straight out of some prewar jazz club (turns out it’s influenced by a Bukowski poem). Bergquist has some major pipes, sultry, smoky, and seriously powerful; in the words of her husband, she can—and did—sing her ass off.

The band closed the evening with “No-Kill Shelter,” a lively boogie for the stray dog in us all that was inspired by the couple’s own propensity for taking in strays. In our interview last week with Linford Detweiler, he hoped that last night’s show would make “people laugh really hard, and if they tear up, that’s great, too. I hope the experience causes a whole array of feelings. Maybe they’ll get to see people doing what we were born to do, and hopefully that feeling will be contagious.” Mission accomplished.

SET LIST

The Laugh of Recognition

Rave On

The Sharpest Blade

Suitcase

Undamned

I’m On a Roll (to be covered by The Judds on their upcoming album. Yeah.)

The King Knows How

Oh Yeah By the Way

Infamous Love Song

Only God Can Save Us Now

There’s a Bluebird in My Heart

Trouble

Days Like This

All My Favorite People

ENCORE

Drunkard’s Prayer

No-Kill Shelter

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