“This one’s a little more straightforward,” joked Elvis Perkins at Icehouse on Monday night, before playing his new tune “My 2$.” But, he carried on, “it still can be cryptic.” Six years after his last record, it’s good to have Perkins back on the scene, and he really is as cryptic as ever. The new disc, I Aubade is a play and pun in and of itself – an “aubade” is a piece of poetry for the dawn, but it sounds like “I obeyed.” For this self-produced and released disc, Perkins mainly seemed to be obeying himself and his whims, which takes us all over the map. on “My 2$” Perkins channels his early Dylan and writes a biting topical song with lyrics like, “It matters less who I vote for/than what I put my dollar towards.” The performance of “I Came for Fire” was a welcome tune for long-time Perkins fans, with an element of longing and mystery in love, and the satirical “Hogus Pogus” played with porcine wordplay and imagery to set up an unexpected revelation of kindness and love. In all, cryptic and far-ranging, as Perkins has always been.
If there is a criticism of the new record itself, the production can feel over-wrought and layered on, but there was no such problem on stage. Supported by Danielle Akroyd on bass and a variety of synthesizers, as well as a hurdy-gurdy, and Mitchell Robe on keys, the support was just enough to let Perkins’ own sweet, wry tenor to shine through on new tunes and old. The quiet Sunday-night Minnesotan crowd offered little support on a singalong to “Doomsday” but the sharp and spare arrangement of “Shampoo” cut through the crowd to close out the set. It was reminiscent of the first time that I heard the tune, at a hootenanny in the Java Jack’s basement eight years ago, with a rapt audience eager to sing along. In closing out his encore, Perkins included the epic, gorgeous, “While You Were Sleeping” and there more than a few mouths joining in and humming along. If Perkins is making a break for a new day, there is at least the memory of our love, as we decide what to do next.