Devine’s political set wows Rat crowd

Last Tuesday night, concertgoers at the Rathskeller turned a deaf ear to the background noise of clattering spatulas for the return of Kevin Devine, accompanied by the Goddamn Band.

Devine is a Brooklyn native, and the autobiographical hit, “Brooklyn Boy,” from his latest album, “Put Your Ghost to Rest,” was one of the highlights of the night’s sequel performance.

It was the successful tour with alternative rock band Brand New that paved the way for Devine’s first show at the Rat, which sold out last February.

The College Union Board’s co-Rat chair, Michael Lawrence, loved Devine’s distinct sound and the capacity-filling crowd it drew, so he opted for a second Devine appearance.

“Last year’s show was a solo performance and it was really intimate,” Lawrence said. “This year we invited (the Goddamn Band) to come because we wanted a new atmosphere for the audience.”

Jen Evans, senior health and exercise science major, made it her duty to get there early because she “wanted a good seat” and “to be drunk.”

The opener, Brian Bonz and the Dot Hongs, took full advantage of the anticipation in the air.

Their genre-bonding set fused indie rock, pop and a surprising minitribute to Lauryn Hill’s hit single, “Doo Wop (That Thing).”

With Bj?rk and Sam Cooke as inspiration, Bonz has committed himself to music that tells a story – of life, adventure and escape – with creative instrumentation.

The Dot Hongs’ instrumental range was as broad as their influences. The band comprised a keyboardist/electronic DJ, two guitarists, including Bonz himself, a bassist, drummer, alto saxophonist and a trumpeter. At first glance it looked as if it were new age big band night at the Rat, but Bonz’s interesting approach to music displaced all preconceived notions and delivered an innovative, falsetto-filled approach to the age-old art of musical storytelling.

“I want to create a musical experience for my fans to come back and enjoy,” said an exhausted Bonz, whose album, “From Sumi to Japan,” will be available in 2009.

Bonz didn’t fail to leave without a staged dialogue advertising his handmade EPs available at the merchandise table.

The headliner wasted no time in regaining the connection he established last February. After only a few songs, Devine dramatically changed the mood with a stageside invitation that more than half the crowd accepted. Within seconds the crowd, which stood bobbing their heads at Devine’s feet, turned the Rat into a fully functioning concert hall.

Even with the addition of the Goddamn Band, his concert seemed just as authentic as his solo performance, a testament to his uncanny ability to engage his audience. Even the Rat workers and supervisors found themselves uncontrollably tapping their feet as his music became the soundtrack to their bustling race to close.

Devine’s folk-punk sound was soothing, but it was his well-timed, politically charged lyrics that hit home with the audience.

Rebounding from an election especially relevant to the collegiate constituency, his show captured the newfound power that has overcome students across the country – even at the College, where political inactivity was given life by the historic election.

“I want my music to make people think. I want to create a dialogue,” Devine said.