Riverview Lounge was crowded with faculty and students gathered together for the Dan Bern concert last Wednesday. This Lawrence alum has been touring the country since the early 1990s, serenading audiences with satirical and comedic songs. But before that he could be heard beating out tunes on his guitar in the game room of the Memorial Union.
The performance was filled with humorous anecdotes and slightly incoherent, inebriated rambling aimed directly at students. These reminiscent meanderings struck familiar cords with students, alternately poking fun at and flattering former teachers and students.
He even convinced the attending faculty to join him in a rendition of Lawrence’s Alma Mater, leaving President Warch’s voice ringing above the silent students. The train-of-thought flow of memories that was his between song banter recounted not-so-outrageous tales of frat boys tossing bowling balls into the river and of catapulting grapefruits nearly missing his head. Judging by the laughter in the room these flashbacks rang true to most current students.
He even managed to work these commonalities into the songs, making up lyrics on the spot and amusing the audience with stereotypical portrayals of well-known professors.
But this energetic performance featured less music than would typically be expected from a concert of this type. In between these recollections of his college days he managed to work in a few songs. Mainly satirical and often very clever, the lyrics commented on wide topics, from God and political situations to a love song about a narcoleptic and her husband the necrophiliac.
Overall it was quite a performance. Bern’s music has often been compared to that of a young Bob Dylan, and the social commentary and acoustic nature of his tunes lends itself well to this comparison.
In between swigs of beer, reapplication of his contact lenses, and his notes on the pitfalls of college life, his performance held enough humorous aspects to keep the audience in their seats.
The performance was admittedly altered from his usual fare; instead it aimed at relating to Lawrence students and less toward playing music.
Bern’s first album was released in 1997 and he released his sixth album, Fleeting Days, in March. He will spend most of this month touring here in Wisconsin before leaving for his European tour in May.