A farewell tour is bittersweet for both band and fan. It’s kind of a celebratory farewell – feelings of excitement and cheer rest uncomfortably on the notion that it will be the last time either party shares a venue together. In the case of Dr. Dog is particularly difficult. Given their loyal followers and 20-year discography, their current tour, aptly dubbed the “Last Tour 2021,” serves as the final hurray for the Philadelphia outfit. On Saturday night, her final foray through the Ogden Theater in Denver for one final jam session stopped in Rocky Mountain state.
The Ogden is built like the inside of a Quonset farm. It has a high, slightly vaulted ceiling with a terraced base and a fan the size of a helicopter propeller. In the moments that lead to Dr. Dog’s opening band Toth, the intermission lights glowed a thick blue-violet on a selection of instruments covered with blankets. The crowd was large, but not shoulder to shoulder. Spectators gave the person enough space to breathe and relax on the left and right. It was a cool, cozy place where everyone was chatting – like a class reunion without judgment. Dr. Dog played the role of the classmates who formed a band.
Toth – a trio from Brooklyn – wore butterfly wings on stage. Fittingly, they opened with “Butterflies”, a 38-second song from their new album You and me and everything it had the vibe of stress relieving exercise. The best moment for Alex Toth and Co. came with “Turnaround (Cocaine Song).” The singer, guitarist, trumpeter and keyboardist told a vivid story of a night on the town. Halfway through, Toth broke out a trumpet and spat a brass solo in the middle of the song. At one point, drummer Jeremy Gustin tore his drum kit with one hand and shook a tambourine with the other. It is clear that every member of Toth is multi-talented in the musical universe, and Turnaround (Cocaine Song) is a shining example of this. On several occasions audiences were taught sing-along sections, most notably for “Daffadowndilly,” which even had the group’s tour manager on stage for backup vocals and string work. The gallery joined Toth when he sang “Happy Birthday” to bassist Ryan Dugre’s partner before playing a few more songs and leaving the stage.
After a short break, Dr. Dog on stage and switched it to full blast. They started with “Lonesome”, an absolute ripper with speed and energetic percussion. Bandmates hopped around on the stage under flashing lights in warm colors. Scott McMicken, Toby Leaman and the rest of the crew always had a visibly great time on stage, and on Saturday nights they were jumping around the theater like there was no tomorrow. It is noteworthy that there was no age group. The library of Dr. Dog is for everyone: suburban teenagers, young adults in Cap Hill, and Boulder parents.
Leaman, front and center, asked the crowd how their Sunday had gone. “I watched football and had dinner … that’s how it is,” he says. “Shadow People” came not long after that and asked the question, “Where are all the shadow people going?” Its repeated chords and drumbeats are a combination made up in music heaven. A mosaic tarpaulin of irregular geometric shapes hung behind the ensemble and felt loosely metaphorical for the band’s composition of six uniquely talented members. “Heart It Races,” a fan favorite, saw the lights quickly flip back and forth between the delivery of verses and the chorus – low-energy, sing-along verses abruptly interrupted by full-blown rock choruses.
McMicken, Leaman and guitarist Frank McElroy took turns singing different songs. They are a vocal triage with McMicken on top that expands octaves and ranges. “Listening In” was perhaps the biggest highlight of the show – the introductory track from their 2018 album Critical equation. McMicken’s voice was a harsh, pleasant voice as he continued to ask precisely, “Who are you talking to?” Each hit felt like a downbeat that hit the soul of the audience. The delivery was heavy but slow as molasses as it floated over an Arcade Fire-esque keyboard. The lights exploded into a bright yellow haze as one of the night’s many highlights reached its coda. Dr. Dog continued with songs from their 12 project catalog before saying goodbye to his fans for good. Like a much happier version of Marley & Me, Dr. Dog’s appearance on Saturday night Denver’s chance to say au revoir to husband and wife’s best friend.