Okkervil River.  The Haunt, 27 Sept. 2013.

Ryan Enderby


Following a remarkably angsty opening set from Nashville natives, Torres, Okkervil River took the stage and proceeded to command The Haunt for almost two uninterrupted hours.


The group performed songs from their earliest days and from their newest record alike.  On more than one occasion, frontman Tim Sheff encouraged the audience to allow him some leniency, as some cuts from the set had not been practiced in years —although you’d never guess from listening to the group perform.


Although few members of the audience seemed familiar with most of Okkervil River’s conceptual and biographical lyrics, the audience received every song and action of the band with open arms.  With each song, more members of the audience found their groove until the whole crowd was bobbing by the time “For Real” was played as the third number.


Even though Sheff took the “less is more” approach to directly interacting with the audience, his energetic stage presence and charisma held the audience throughout the extended set.


Okkervil River’s tour, which closes out in Tokyo on November 30th, is in support of their most recent release, The Silver Gymnasium.  The album chronicles frontman Will Sheff’s time spent in his quaint hometown of Meriden, NH.  The autobiographical record details bullying, tragedy and all of the quirks of growing up in a small northeastern town.


Along with this tour, promotion for The Silver Gymnasium features two unique forms of interactive media.  NPR’s All Songs Considered displayed an interactive map of Meriden, NH, beautifully illustrated by artist William Shaff.  Okkervil River also released a short point-and-click video game that leads you through the mind and life of a young Will Sheff.


The extensive multimedia approach that Okkervil River took to promoting The Silver Gymnasium was sadly underrepresented on stage.  Save for a bass drum adorned with the seal of New Hampshire and a few oddly placed toy figurines, the stage set up was visually bare. A visually uninteresting set up turned out to be a performance virtue as Sheff used every inch of open space to haphazardly throw himself about for the entire duration of the set.


The show closed with three encores: a cut from their newest record, “Walking Without Frankie,” and two songs from their 2007 release, The Stage Names.  Pulling off three encores without making the show feel tiresome is an accomplishment in itself, but Okkervil River’s ability to pull off three encores following a set already bordering on tour hours is perhaps the strongest testament to the band’s passion and maturity.

Whether you’ve been a fan of Okkervil River since 1999’s, Stars Too Small to Use, or are just discovering them now, do not pass up the chance to see Okkervil River live.