Alden Penner & Michael Cera at Hangar, Dublin, on June 30th 2015
The best part of Alden Penner and Michael Cera‘s concert in Hangar last week had to be when someone near the front started waving a shoe around in the direction of the stage. The next best part was when the music stopped.
Polymaths get bad press these days. As an example, Indie darling Cera’s transition to even Indie-r darling hasn’t been smooth. As is the case with multi-talented people who are initially known for acting, singing or whatever, it takes some time to quieten the begrudgers.
His first solo album bears many of the hallmarks of his acting persona – subdued, a little bit awkward, a little bit ironic; truly a lo-fi record. ‘True That’ has some half decent songs dotted about, like Ruth for instance, and it shows that Cera can in fact make music, but aside from that it’s not all that magnificent as he ends up sounding like a Conor Oberst knock-off.
His part in the concert is awful. You can’t hear him sing because his falsetto is so soft and inaudible that it gets washed under by the chants from ‘Michael Cera: The Actor’ fans who continue to shout “We are Sex Bob-Ombs,” even though this is objectively unfunny after and during the first time it’s said.
The stage set-up is quite meagerly done for the night. Decoration is provided by a white sheet pinned to the back wall and lit up by blue lights, while the sound quality doesn’t travel well in the air, making the concert seem quite impromptu and inconsequential – almost like the band are background noise at times. To make things that bit more difficult this evening is probably the warmest and sweatiest on record in Ireland, ever. The band periodically let their confusion be known.
“We’re just going to towel down heavily,” Cera informs the crowd “We’ll come back and play more.” This is about four songs from the finish, and by this stage Penner has taken control of the mic. He’s more performative, more energetic as he leans into the music, bringing a bit of excitement to proceedings. At one stage Penner feels the need to re-assert the point that this is not a Unicorns concert, which seems pretty funny because it’s hard to imagine many in the crowd are here to see him, even though he’s the one who saves the night from being a complete waste of time.
When they finally head off there’s some confusion as to whether the encore had come after their brief towelling break. They come back to play a quick song, which sounds rushed and unplanned so that the possibility of salvaging the night with a big send-off is banished and the feeling in the room is less euphoria than it is relief.