Har Mar Superstar w/ Ben Lee (Sunday, April 3rd, 2005, First Avenue,
When I walked into my first Har Mar Superstar show a couple years ago, I brought with me only my notepad and my twisted journalistic curiosity. As it turned out, as I watched Har Mar and the crowd’s response to his onstage antics and dance music, I almost immediately “got it.” Having seen him more than half a dozen times now (including once on a festival tour in Europe) he’s become much more than just a curiosity or a spectacle to me; I’ve really begun to enjoy his shows.
There’s another thing: Har Mar’s music actually moves me, and I mean that in the literal sense that it makes me dance, almost against my will.
At Sunday night's show at First Avenue, Aussie indie rocker Ben Lee opened. At other stops on this tour, Lee has been the headliner, but Har Mar appropriately filled the top slot here in his hometown.
About two thirds of the way through his set, Ben Lee dedicated a beautiful version of Neil Young’s “Lotta Love” to the Canadian songwriter who recently suffered a brain aneurism. (Young is expected to fully recover.). Lee then tacked on as many as half a dozen other people to that dedication, including Paul Westerberg. Lee closed his set with his new single “Catch My Disease” from Awake Is The New Sleep which really got the crowd moving as fans sang along and Har Mar came out on stage to sing backup with each band member in turn. Having been right up front at the end of Lee's set, all I can say is that Lee did a terrific job of warming up the crowd. If you were to have asked me, “Son, are you a Ben Lee fan,” I would have replied, “Ma’am, I am tonight.”
Mr. Superstar and his band took the stage around 10:15, Har Mar in a white coat and tails. He opened up his traditional song that mentions felatio, cunilingus and masturbation and many more unmentionables in the first line. He addressed the crowd with the confidence of a French general--albeit a short one like Napoleon--saying, “Hello, Minneapolis. I’m fuckin’ back.”
Fans who had been primed by Ben Lee began to dance early and did not stop as Har Mar pranced around stage working through his songs. He introduced his touring band, which included Bert Thomas on drums and Tony Bevilacqua (of the Distillers) on bass When the band broke into "Elephant Walk" from his 2003 CD You Can Feel Me, Har Mar left the stage and made a beeline to the soundboard where he stood on a platform where he sang most of the rest of the song. Actually, Har Mar moved around so much during the show that I almost broke a sweat running around First Avenue just trying to keep up with him and to make sure I didn’t miss any photo opps, not to mention finding myself dancing to new single “Body Request.”
At around 10:30 (and it struck me that it might have been about the time 35 years ago on this very day that Joe Cocker had been on this very stage) Har Mar led the club in a rousing version of "Happy Birthday" to a “most fucking awesome First Avenue.” I could think of no one better to have led the official rendition of "Happy Birthday" to the club than Har Mar, who regardless of what you might think of him has done as much to keep Minneapolis on the world’s musical map these past few years as anyone. (Listen to rock or pop radio in the UK and you don’t have to listen too long before hearing Har Mar or Duluth’s Low.)
Speaking of hits, “DUI” (Dialing Under the Influence) from Har Mar’s new album The Handler (listen to the track on his website at http://www.harmarsuperstar.com) went over well Sunday night, as did the older “Power Lunch.” “Cut Me Up,” another new song, is one he says he has performed with Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s). Sunday, he faked receiving a “live feed” from Miss O on some imaginary electronic device as part of the intro to the song.
During the encore, First Avenue Stage manager Conrad Sverkerson came up on stage with shots for Har Mar and the band. (Conrad joked that it was Windex.) And the band closed with EZPass as soon as Har Mar recovered from the shot of well, whatever it was. As he did at his own farewell show at First Ave in 2003, Har Mar instructed stage techs to bring down the screen/curtain even as he continued to sing and say his final goodbyes.
David de Young is at email@example.com
Other Har Mar reviews I’ve written: