Cracker at the Middle East (Downstairs) on July 23

A Review of Cracker at the Middle East (Downstairs) on July 23

, Contributing Writer

Over the past few years, they have been a band with a dreaded label: “has been.” Yet, anyone in attendance at Cracker’s show this past Sunday night would agree that the band is anything but relevant. Touring in support of Greenland, their first release since 2002, the self proclaimed “country band within a rock band,” nearly filled the Middle East downstairs room.

Cracker took the stage to a smattering of applause courteous of some of the band’s most ardent supporters in attendance, as one fan even sported a tour t-shirt from twelve years ago. They opened the show with “One Fine Day,” whose beginning is very similar to that of Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane.” The intimate setting and near two minute jam towards the end kept the crowd mellow, but was still enjoyable for an opening song.

Next up was “Give Me One More Chance,” off Cracker’s latest release, Greenland. The tune rocked with electric guitar and a sing-song tone to the beat of the lyrics. From there, they flowed straight into their staple hit, “Low.” The song garnered hoots and hollers from everyone as the crowd sang along, “I’ll be with you girl/Like being low/Hey hey hey like being stoned.”

Lead singer David Lowery, who is now clean and sober, was in great form along with co-founder and lead guitarist Johnny Hickman. Drummer Frank Funaro and bassist Sal Maida held it all together with a thumping and energetic rhythmic backbone. Rounding out the group is the band’s unsung hero, keyboardist and accordion player Kenny Margolis, who gives the band a unique flare.

One of Cracker’s greatest strengths displayed through the night was their agility with easing into their next song. This was highlighted during a perfect rendition of Greenland’s “Where Have Those Days Gone.” The crowd seemed to be at a stalemate for much of the show until “Brides of Neptune,” which finally got the crowd energetic and excited. Fan favorite, “Eurotrash Girl” continued the trend as the roomful of middle aged-men- finally started to move and rock with the infectious chorus. It might have just been the beer kicking in, but it worked and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Roughly half-way through their set, Cracker slowed it down a few notched with “Duty Free” off 2003’s Countrysides. Lowery described how he always found it odd that this song about four Irish-Americans had been a huge hit in their native Minnesota. “I don’t think there’s too many of those in Minnesota,” Lowery chuckled. It was an easy sell for the Boston crowd, who ate it up and yelled in support of their Irish pride.

Cracker gave a rousing performance of “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” from their debut album, Brand. There were few low points, though “Take Me Down to the Infirmary” was too repetitious and drawn out to be truly enjoyable.

After a 16-song set that lasted upwards of two hours, Cracker appropriately closed out the night “Darling, We’re Out of Time,” leaving departing fans to murmur words of approval for a great show from a band that refuses to be labeled a “has- been.”

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