Book of Love played the third of 3 shows with their original lineup (Lauren Roselli Johnson, Jade Lee, Susan Ottaviano, and Ted Ottaviano—no relation) in San Francisco at DNA Lounge. Time will tell whether this will be their last show together, but one thing we know for sure is that this show went off without a hitch.
The first act, Ejector, was ejected from the lineup, so we just had 2 acts and a somewhat later start. Fever High took the stage at 835.
The Brooklyn band is officially a duet (Anna Nordeen and Reni Lane), although they performed as a four piece. One played the trumpet and guitar (not at the same time), while the other had a tambourine. Both sang tracks from their All Work EP.
Fever High are signed to Sire and sound like an evolved Ting Tings with Thompson Twins harmonies. Recommended if you like the Murmurs or ABC. Their performance was quite polished and the perfect opener for Book of Love. Despite being on Twitter for nearly 3 years, Fever High have fewer than 300 Twitter followers. That won’t last long.
During the first break between songs, the band was ready with some San Francisco pop culture references. The first didn’t go over well when they talked about Rice-A-Roni, but honestly I think the jeers were defensive, because how do you not act ashamed of the San Francisco Treat? Fever High’s subsequent references to the Giants and Haight Street were much better received. Besides, how could a crowd stay mad at an act so young they probably weren’t even alive when Love Bubble (1992) came out, let alone Book of Love’s eponymous debut (1986)? Well, it can’t.
This band reminds me of when I saw Fitz and the Tantrums at Holocene in Portland in 2009, opening for a friend’s band. Here’s hoping for similar success for this act. Fever High are legit.
Their penultimate song was a cover of “Never Let Me Down Again,” which is fitting because Book of Love’s big break came when they opened for Depeche Mode. And as if that weren’t enough, during the bridge, one of them did a slow motion breakdance routine. I imagine that the song and accompanying act encapsulates what the ’80s means to people born after 1990.
Fever High ended with “That’s So Typical,” which sounded like Bananarama covering Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait.”
The 40 minute set flew by. And, sure, there were some in attendance objectifying the band, but Fever High held their own with the larger crowd. And at the end of the night, the line for merch was as long for them as it was for Book of Love.
I noticed Facebook Live broadcasts going on all around me. This is the future of live music. One day it will be organized, and I’ll be able to pay the venue to watch it from my living room, and then I can charge myself $5 for a Red Bull. (Having said that, DNA Lounge can charge whatever it wants. They’re a class venue with a long and rich history.)
After a half hour break in which I caught several Pokemon, including my first Cyndaquil, a slideshow retrospective of Book of Love appeared on the wall behind the stage. Then Ted showed up. Then Jade, with Lauren right behind. And, after a pause, Susan made her grand entrance to thunderous cheering and applause. The band launched into “Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes)” as the slideshow wrapped up.
Lauren’s stage presence was as upbeat as always. She seemed genuinely happy to be there, really beating the shit out of her tambourine during “Melt My Heart” and dancing the swim during “Still Angry.”
The audience was more receptive, too. Compared with their last show in 2013 (which was at the same venue but Jade-free), it was much more crowded as well as louder. Was the difference that Jade was there to complete the quartet?
Susan mentioned between songs that the reason they selected San Francisco for a show was because Jade said it was the only city she would do. (I’m pretty sure she lives near Houston, the site for the previous night’s show.)
The next couple songs featured vocals from Lauren, whose voice was quite soft. Nevertheless, it was still a treat to hear “Counting the Rosaries” and, especially, “Alice Everyday.” It was a pity because you just knew someone in the audience had named their kids after the names Lauren sings at the end of the chorus, so you really wanted those kids to hear their names.
And there were a fair number of children in attendance. In fact, Susan remarked, “So excited to see the children here tonight. It is inspiring to see a new generation here.”
She went on to talk about how acts such as the Slits and the Go-Go’s helped Book of Love get together. They then played “All Girl Band,” which you can read more about in our interview with Susan
I had no idea “You Make Me Feel So Good” was such an audience favorite, but they sang along with this chorus like no other. Ted even played the bridge on his recorder, proving the band is capable of more than just tickling synthesized ivories. Speaking of Ted, he then brought down the house when he sang “With a Little Love.” More than one tear was shed.
I can’t say I know what the band thinks of their last original LP, Love Bubble, but you never expect to hear any music from it, for whatever reason. So I was really caught off guard when I heard the rattling off of “Chatterbox (Pt. 1)” on top of the extended intro to “Tubular Bells/Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls.” The crowd ate it up and had to be thinking, “Mother, please DON’T make it stop.”
Book of Love played many deep cuts, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear “Lost Souls.” My gothier friends in college would have been proud of this throwback, even if they couldn’t fit into their black jeans anymore.
Now, we all knew the band was going to play “Boy.” But what most of us didn’t know was that the originally scheduled opener, Introflirt, died in the Ghost Ship Fire. Susan dedicated “Boy” to them, and it was a moment that many will never forget.
They then finished their main set with “Book of Love,” but understandably, many of the audience was still tilted from the previous song.
After the wait, it was time for the encore. The band came out in the same order as they did at the beginning. And Susan emerged with a bouquet of roses. Sure enough, the band played “I Touch Roses.”
Between measures of the first two verses and chorus, Susan tossed them out to the crowd, one at a time. Then, during the bridge, the rest of the band did the same, with Jade sniffing each one first.
The band then played “Lullaby,” a song they hinted at on Facebook as a song they hadn’t played since 1989. Book of Love didn’t miss a beat. It was unbelievable.
Finally, Susan, Lauren, and Jade donned witches hats and went to the front of the stage to sing “Witchcraft.” The choreography was perfect. In 30 years, when they do their 60th anniversary show, it will look just as good.
Tonight’s set will go down as the 80 best minutes of 2017. Just wait and see.