Dr. Dog treats Wiltern crowd to a night of high energy

Dr. Dog at the Wiltern (Photo by Mitch Livingston)
Dr. Dog at the Wiltern (Photo by Mitch Livingston)

Dr. Dog bassist-singer Toby Leaman was carried by audience members as he sang and crowd-surfed during fan-favorite, “Lonesome,” closing out a show Friday night at the Wiltern that was laced with old favorites and heavy hitters from their new album “Psychedelic Swamp.”

Reinforcing their reputation for turning live shows into a spectacle, Dr. Dog outdid themselves once again, in terms of performance and stage production. A 3D grid backdrop illuminated the stage, and LED lights were placed on pianos and drums, and side stage, giving the effect of spinning rainbow drink umbrellas at points. The visual aspect of the night was reflective of the band’s digitized album cover. The band clearly one-upped themselves from their last tour, “Live at the Flamingo Hotel.”

||| Photos by Mitch Livingston

The “new” album actually originated in 2001, when Scott McMicken and Leaman co-wrote a 35-track version — which has now been revisited with new songs, remastering and even a live stage play.

Before the band took the stage, an analog version of latest single “Badvertise” was piped in over the PA, sounding like something off an ’80s workout tape. The band walked out and began playing another new song, playing “Fire On My Back.”

“Good evening, it’s a pleasure to be back in Los Angeles,” McMicken said, before continuing into a soulful “Bring My Baby Back,” “How Long Must I Wait” and “Distant Light.”

Dr. Dog spends about nine months a year on the road, accounting for their ability to play one song after the next without needing a second to rest. So they played right into “Shadow People,” which was greeted with cheers and sing-alongs. “Shame, Shame” came next, and was really the first moment for the audience and (seemingly, the band) to catch their collective breaths from the first 40 minutes.

The crowd was buzzing plenty, as arms joined around shoulders and friends and lovers began swaying during “Jackie Wants a Black Eye,” inducing a crowd sing-along of the words, “We’re all in this together now!” After a rare quiet moment, McMicken responded to cheers by exclaiming, “Maniacs! I knew it!” before leading the band and crowd in the chorus. Guitarist-singer Frank McElroy belted out a falsetto high note to finish it off, impressing the crowd. Touching back on the 2013 album “B-Room,” Leaman began the dreamy and sentimental “Oh Nelly,” featuring angelic vocal harmonies from the rest of the band.

About halfway through the show, they hit the new album, with “Swampadelic Pop” and a spooky breakdown into “Broken Heart,” followed by B-Room opening track “The Truth.”

Returning focus to new material, the band played on into the slower “Engineer Says,” which features a lyrical allusion to “Bring My Baby Back” and ended in a heated jam. During “Be the Void,” the band made great use of its lighting system, which was also synched with the bass drum and would illuminate in time with the kick during a vocal/drum breakdown in which the lighting was turned down to show off the kick/lighting feature. The quiet instrumental changed gears and quickly built up to “One Of These Days,” followed by “Old Black Hole” and “Heart It Races” to a frenzied response.

They departed the stage but returned to thunderous cheers for a encore that includes “Fools Life,” “Say Something,” “The Beach” (which featured a spicy guitar solo from McMicken) and “The Rabbit, The Bat, The Reindeer.” The anthemic, call-and-response “Lonesome” closed out a rambunctious night.