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Chris Barron Made Heads Spin At The Beachland

April 20th, 2018

The early '90s produced a veritable smorgasbord of alternative bands that re-wrote the pop landscape.  Seattle, who gave birth to such names as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, may be the most well-known city to front the movement, but the East Coast played a part in that as well. Names like Joan Osborne, Blues Traveler, and Spin Doctors became recognized in the mid-1980s, gained a fair amount of notoriety, and, like any musical or pop cult moment, inevitably declined and were replaced in the late 1990s by Hip Hop and artists like Eminem, which still dominate much of the musical landscape today.

However, for a sliver of time there wasn't a moment that you couldn't turn on MTV or any FM pop station and trip over the Spin Doctors' massive hits "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong."  The New Jersey-founded outfit released their most successful album Pocketful of Kryptonite in late 1991 and saw it slowly build to a juggernaut in the summer of 1993.   The band released a sophomore album and, while well-received, couldnd't quite attain the success of their first effort.

Has that slowed the band down?  Hell no.  They still tour largely intact from the early '90s lineup and frontman Chris Barron has been making music ever since.  At home.  In the shower.  He even puts together a few chords here and there with the help of his wife, who may intone from another room in the house that he shouldn't commit songwriting blasphemy: By leaving a hanging chord.

Barron brought his solo show to the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern Thursday evening and played his new album Angels and One-Armed Jugglers in full for the intimate crowd that had gathered to see the almost-unrecognizable MTV darling.

Taking the stage and creating a delightful and insightful look into his career, the night seemed almost like a VH1 Storyteller episode.  He let the audience on to a little bit of nerdy trivia early on in the show:  His new album is a bit of a curiosity.  All the tunes are in alphabetical order and each side of the vinyl have the same exact running times.  How many albums, in the history of record pressings, can be said of that?

Leaving the reddish mop of curly hair square in the early '90s, Barron's temples are grey, balding, and framed by a beard that would be at home in an Errol Flynn Robin Hood movie.  Playing for nearly two hours, Barron saved his two most well-known tunes for the end of the evening.  Playing them stripped down on an acoustic guitar, "Two Princes" had a much more immediate vibe than the slickly-produced album version that we all know.  

When he played "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong," he let us all in on who the person was in the song:  It wasn't a lost love, or an old girlfriend.  But rather his stepmother, who, according to Barron, is now deceased and looking up to us from the fiery pits of Hell.  So, there, now you know.

He decried how The Spin Doctors were a band that wore "funny hats" and had simple, "silly" songs.  Most of the crowd in the room disagreed.  Although never a band that you would place in the angsty pantheons of REM or Nirvana, Barron's songwriting skills filled a hole in the post-Gordon Gekko world.  Kind of like The Barenaked Ladies, whose tunes espouse mirth and a not-so-serious look at the world around us, the Spin Doctors and their catalog of tunes catch us off guard with a beat that defies you not to tap your toes when the song overtakes your radio.  

Review and Photo by Brian M. Lumley

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