Monday, March 28, 2011

Reggie Watts's "Live at Third Man Records"


Fans of Reggie Watts, the one-man improvisational music-looping genius, know what to expect when they go see him perform live. To put it simply, they expect everything and Watts never disappoints. Folks unfamiliar with his scattered off-the-wall-ness are in for an experience they won't soon forget and on his new EP recorded in Nashville, Live at Third Man Records, you get the sense that's exactly the people Watts is aiming for. It's easier to throw the audience for a loop - or in this case loops - when they don't know they're about to be thrown.

Watts opens the show in character, and for those who don't realize he is noted for his various spot-on dialects and accents, nothing seems amiss. After all, why wouldn't a black man with an afro that appears to be reaching for something across the room talk in barely-comprehensible urban slang? He sounds more like Ali G than someone raised in Montana. The joke, of course, is on the crowd and you can hear them "get it" as Watts morphs seamlessly from one character to another.

Watts keeps us entertained by doing nothing more than entertaining himself. It's not unlike watching a child at play, carrying on conversations - and doing all of the the voices - telling stories of dragons and a little boy's breakfast, of Nashville's thriving industrial factories, and stopping everything altogether right as he loses interest. He's a master of the improvisational riff and only his gift for the spontaneous could bring us the single most-hilarious Nabisco commercial ever conceived.

Watts is generally known for his music, free-styling with loop machines and voice changer-things (yes, that's the technical term), but on Live he focuses more on his storytelling, regaling the crowd with stories of Smurfs, iPad covers, and other fantastical stories narrated in his best Gandalf-type approach.

The songs that do appear on the EP are nothing less than musical masterpieces. Watts is his own sound man as he controls everything from the reverb, pitch, sustain, music, and other vocal effects, accompanying himself on the loop machine and piano. You know someone has talent when they can sing a song from two different characters' points of view and the entire thing is done entirely in gibberish. It isn't until you realize you can follow exactly where the song is going and what it's saying  despite not understanding a single word of his secret language that you're knocked over again by Watts's incredible talent.

Above all else, Watts makes comedy - and music - fun. The fact that this release is only available on vinyl - and only available through the Third Man Records store - means fans will actually have to put some work into getting their hands on it. But if there were ever an album worth the effort, Live at Third Man Records is it.

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