There was palpable energy emanating from the crowd in the Electric Factory Feb. 1. The doors had only been open for half an hour and the venue was already three-quarters full with a wide variety of patrons. There were plenty of 20-somethings like myself but also a ton of older adults, people who would not be out of place at a Fleetwood Mac or Rolling Stones concert. What was great to see was that most of these older concertgoers had brought their kids with them, or maybe it was the kids who convinced their parents to take them. The look of wonder on this one kid’s face gave me the impression that this concert was the real deal for him; he got to go to the big city AND listen to music with grownups — talk about a win-win. His head was engulfed in a giant blue knit cap emblazoned with the name that brought everyone together that night: Dr. Dog.
After St. Rich, the opening band, played their set of alternative rock to a warm reception, the excitement began to build throughout the old warehouse venue. Dr. Dog already has a devout fan base due to the band’s reputation for incredible live performances, so playing in their hometown only helped ensure the sold-out show. With seven albums in their repertoire, Dr. Dog had plenty of material to use to cover the two-night stand they played at the Electric Factory Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
Just before 10 p.m., the lights dropped and the crowd went bananas as the six-piece band took the stage. They launched right into “The Truth,” a single from their latest album “B-Room.” The soulful keyboards really stood out as the lights suddenly focused on a disco ball, giving the venue a late-70s vibe. The next song, “These Days,” featured a layered guitar riff played by Scot McMicken and Frank McElroy that was reminiscent of the Allman Brothers’ “Jessica.”
After a few more upbeat songs, the band turned it down a notch with a slow burn, “The Beach.” The guys eased their way into the song before it culminated with bassist and singer Toby Leaman passionately wailing the chorus before jamming out to end the song. “Heavy Light” was another standout track. It opened with drummer Eric Slick playing the congas as McMicken sang the opening verses, with Leaman and McElroy backing him. It slowly built before bursting wide open with guitars, keyboards and vocals all coming together spectacularly.
Slick deserves a shout-out; he provided a rock-solid backbone for the band from behind his elevated drum set. He was powerful and controlled in a style that reminded me somewhat of E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg. Leaman also put on quite a show. Between his impassioned vocals and energetic bass playing, he really brought something special. The lighting was also captivating with a glowing, shimmering arch behind the stage that nicely accented the multicolored lights roaming across the walls and ceiling.
After playing their popular cover of “Heart It Races” by Architecture in Helsinki, the band played the intimate, stripped down “Too Weak to Ramble” from “B-Room.” After that they brought the crowd to a roar with the intro to the hit “Shadow People.” The crowd danced and sang along with McMicken as he cried out, “Where did all the shadow people go?” Without letting up, they moved right into “Lonesome” from the album “Be the Void,” closing their set and ending with Leaman somewhat successfully surfing the crowd.
As the crowd chanted the obligatory “One more song!” they were treated to a surprise that no one saw coming: an appearance by the Phillie Phanatic. Smartphones were whipped out in the blink of an eye to capture the big, green furry guy throwing T-shirts into the crowd, running up and down the stage to pump up the fans before Dr. Dog came out for an encore. The band looked just as happy as the crowd to have the legendary mascot on stage with them. As they launched into “Oh No” from “Easy Beat,” the Phanatic did his thing — strutting up and down the stage dancing, sticking out his tongue and pantomiming the guys. He played air guitar next to McMicken and McElroy, and shook his belly in time with the music. Everyone loved it, and even the band members couldn’t keep the smiles from their faces. It was surreal.
After two more songs, the band played a great rendition of “Jackie Wants a Black Eye.” The crowd joined in with McMicken as he sang the line “Are we madly in love, or are we madly insane?” a capella. The night ended on a high note with everyone dancing along to the stand out track “The Rabbit, the Bat & the Reindeer.”
Dr. Dog put on a tremendous concert and showed why they are one of the best Philadelphia-area bands. The doctor (Dog) is definitely in.