The Gene Clark “No Other” tour was announced in early December. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally of Beach House organized a group of musicians for the limited tour that included members from Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, The Walkmen, Wye Oak and more. This tour features the voices of singers from each band, as the potpourri of bohemians cover each song from “No Other” in an effort to honor the “unique lyrics, voice and spirit” woven throughout Gene Clark’s 1974 release, which instilled an “infatuation” in the members of the many groups involved.
On Jan. 22, I stood inside Union Transfer and scanned the diverse crowd as clouds of hazy folk music tracks began to dissipate, signaling the beginning of the show. Rather than an opening band, the performance kicked off with a documentary snippet of Gene Clark’s career. It provided a background to his music that seemed to fill in the holes, where questions regarding the meanings and motivations in “No Other” used to lie. It also informed the crowd that, despite the album’s artistic innovations, it never reached past No. 144 on the charts. As if the fact that alternative music’s most innovative minds were working together under one roof was not already indicative that this show was one that would be impossible to forget, the opening documentary spread a holistic aura throughout the venue and created a sense that we were all, at that moment, connected to a common point of musical history.
As the ending credits began to roll, a silent buzz of anticipation ran through the room and the collection of talented artists took the stage. Singing the first track, “Life’s Greatest Fool,” Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes opened the show with a rendition that stayed true to the original version in many ways, while adding subtle changes to the song through the powerful and atypical harmonies provided by the soulful set of four backup vocalists, which included Legrand. With an incredible energy, the opening song set the precedent for a night filled with unadulterated elation as the bands played through Clark’s neglected masterpiece. If you can imagine what it would be like if some of the biggest names in indie music got together for a casual jam session, and invited you to listen, then you would have an idea of the feeling that filled the room.
Following with one of the album’s most popular songs, Iain Matthew’s warm voice complimented the simpler instrumentals in “Silver Raven,” and intensified the somber themes found in Clark’s life and music. He later provided a more upbeat counterpart to the ballad with his rendition of “The True One,” in order to lift the mood.
Next, Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear stepped up to the microphone to sing the album’s title track, “No Other.” He managed to layer energetic poignancy on top of the song with a haunting vocal clarity that rounded out the overall sound. These aspects of the performance echoed in the sixth track of the album, which was also sung by Rossen, who added some variation to the original intro, rendering a more modern interpretation of the opening synth line.
The instrumentalists did a great job of reshaping some of the intense guitar overlay on much of this album in a way that stayed true to the original sound while still leaving room for creativity. Hamilton Leithauser’s classic rock ‘n’ roll-era voice played off of the 60s aspects of the album when he sang “From a Silver Phial” and “Lady of The North.”
The night ended with a compilation of Byrds covers that featured all of the singers, as well as a solo song for Victoria, whose voice filled the room with the raspy and full sound that is a Beach House trademark.
Although the group stayed true to the original album for the most part, distortions, reverbs and things of the like were added to make changes that reflected the styles of each performer onto the album in subtle ways. Though I expected more deviation from the original music, the unique timbres of the singers’ voices stood out and served in making the album their own. The Gene Clark “No Other” Tour was more of an experience than a concert. In getting together just to perform a selection of music that they love, the members of the band did something that is far more uncommon than it should be, as it completely eradicated the formalities of concerts, and reminded everyone that in the end, it’s all just about sharing your music.
The artists left the audience with a new curiosity regarding the life and career of the former Byrds member that definitely reflected the objective of the tour. Although Gene Clark’s “No Other” was cast aside for its lack of commercial appeal, its melancholy complexity reflects a progression in music that has served as a foundation for the most innovative musicians of our time. Despite its lack of commercial success, if you appreciate the complexity of modern music and want to learn more about its humble origins, this folksy and psychedelic rock album is one that definitely should not be forgotten.