The Poppy Family Experience opened the doors on its last practice before Khatsahlano at a packed and sweltering Fox Theatre last night (July 9). Despite the insane heat, some sound issues, and an understandable tentativeness around some of the songs—there was a couple swings at “Happy Island” before they nailed it—you folks should know that Saturday’s show is going to be something special.
First and foremost, they still have THE VOICE. When he spoke to us for this week’s cover story, New Pornographers bassist John Collins told the Straight with no small sense of wonder that Susan Jacks had tweaked everybody’s eardrums with a high C-sharp during practice. “She’s still got it,” he said, and he’s not blowing smoke.
Then again, everybody’s still got it. Switching between guitar and sitar, original Poppy Craig McCaw looked a little nervous, and he complained later about missing one or two changes (pshaw!), but it was clear from the opening bars of “Beyond the Clouds” that this stuff is still internal to him, even 45 years later. Ditto for Singh, sitting behind his tablas at the front of the stage for most of the set and looking and sounding right at home the whole time.
As for the new Poppy kids, Collins, Dahle, Wells, Bois and Webber—along with Jacks’ veteran collaborators Mary Saxton (vocals) and guitarist Dave Sinclair (beaming broadly throughout)—they’ve set their sights on the most faithful recreation of the Family album they can muster. Bois in particular is filling in a lot of the gaps on keys, but the great achievement here is the way the Poppy Family Experience nails the remarkably delicate work of studio people who were at the top of their game when that really meant something.
The elf standing next to me all night was a little disappointed that there’s was no “Moonlight”, but with a set that includes “Free From the City”, “Good Friends”, “Where Evil Grows”, “There’s no Blood in Bone”, and “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?”—and a lot more besides—none of us are in any position to complain. Other than that, I couldn’t help but feel that this whole enterprise has the kind of turbocharged awesomeness you’d usually find in, I dunno, Brooklyn. Don’t miss it.