Having already toured the U.K. and Japan last year, this week, the surviving members of Queen will again reunite to tour the United States, with Paul Rodgers filling the shoes of the irreplaceable Freddie Mercury. Rodgers, the onetime vocalist for Bad Company, Free and The Firm, has, to be sure, a hell of a set of pipes, tailor-made for rock 'n' roll. But Queen was always something more than a rock band, and it's difficult to imagine those pipes hitting the upper-register trills that Mercury did so effortlessly.
Though he likely would have turned down the offer, a better choice would have been Craig Wedren, whose former band, Shudder to Think, married the D.C. punk aesthetic with complicated, challenging music, Wedren's almost operatic voice and a well-honed sense of melody. At his Vaudeville appearance last week, he proved he hasn't lost a step in the eight years he's largely been absent from the limelight.
He began the show with a pair of songs written for films (soundtrack work has been his bread and butter since Shudder to Think's breakup), which were, ironically, less cinematic in scope than most Shudder to Think songs. He performed a slew of songs from his first, recently released solo album, Lapland, essentially a sandpapered, less epic and more grown-up version of what Shudder to Think used to do. But, perhaps due to the relative newness of the Lapland material, the biggest cheers of the night came a chord or two into an old Shudder to Think favorite, of which there were three.
Judging from his gregariousness, Wedren was as thrilled to be back on stage as the small but devoted crowd was to have him there.
Seattle trio The Dead Science served expertly as Wedren's backing band (according to Wedren, they cold-called him last year and proposed a joint tour), but their own opening set was somewhat less successful. Almost every song they played began with a few lightly strummed guitar chords and singer Sam Mickens crooning--and I mean crooning!--in almost goth-like fashion lyrics about, among other similarly themed things, wanting to taste someone else's mouth, before exploding into a noisily jarring odd time-signature. Their willfully executed, arty math rock was impressive for a few songs, but it became rather arduous over the course of a full set.