"THIS is a bonkers kind of night," said Joseph Arthur, right as he started the second half of his show Tuesday at the Roxy with his new band, the Lonely Astronauts.
And right he was.
That's a good thing, though -- something that's been all too rare in much of rock of late. And that seems to be the point of this latest venture from this former protege of Peter Gabriel known for his introspective, largely solo musical constructions that could at times be distancing.
With his crack band of accomplished-but-loose players, he's achieved a sense of onstage community that was always engaging. Even more than on the ensemble's recent, hastily recorded debut album, "Let's Just Be," the result was a sprawling mess, in the most delightful, playful way.
It was hard to miss the intent, with pointed allusions to some of the greats of the bonkers-sprawling-mess genre: There was David Bowie, whose glam glory infused the opening song, "Spacemen," not to mention the "Aladdin Sane" lightning bolt painted on lead guitarist Jennifer Turner's face, complementing her sometimes Mick Ronson-like playing. The Rolling Stones, circa the shambling "Beggars Banquet" period, shone through "Diamond Ring," with Arthur doing his best Mick Jagger falsetto twang. And Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue seemed a model for the offhand esprit de corps of the band, which also includes former Jayhawks guitarist Kraig Jarrett Johnson, bassist Sybil Buck and drummer Greg Wieczorek, supplemented by Jayhawks leader Gary Louris on a few songs.
The Lonely Astronauts is clearly the way to go for this talented explorer. He's made some terrific albums, but based on this show, maybe he should go back and redo everything with this crew. Now that would be bonkers.