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Arts and Entertainment

Alexi Murdoch @ The Bootleg, 2/26/11

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It was downright cold—ok freezing—on Saturday night, so much so that that even singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch made mention of it from the stage during the first of two sold-out shows at the Bootleg Theater. He asked, "Can someone turn off the air-conditioning?" a few times during his 75-minute set. Murdoch was positioned right under a vent, and his old Gibson guitar was having trouble staying in tune.

While there were both climate issues and noise issues (coming from a bumpin' party next door) Mudoch kept his cool and didn't pull a Damon Gough. Funny thing is that the rapt crowd—with a distinctly higher female to male ratio—didn't seem to notice or mind these disturbances at all. In fact, one person shouted from the crowd that Murdoch should move back to LA, he laughed and answered back, "LA I love you,"

Murdoch was in town to promote the release of his sophomore, full-length CD Towards the Sun, most of which was recorded in one night in Vancouver during a 2009 tour stop. He polished the recordings later with a number of musicians, including Jon Natchez (Beirut), Kelly Pratt (Beirut) and Kyle Resnick (The National).

He often earns comparisons to the vocal and music styling of Nick Drake—for good reason—but his success from the soundtrack Away We Go (2009) and his self-released breakout debut album Time Without Consequence (2006) proved that there was still a niche for spare, unadorned songs about heartache and life. Towards the Sun mines from a similar music vein of the first two releases (lots of finger picking and slower ballads sung in his rich baritone) and we're okay with that.

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He opened his set with "Through the Dark," a track from the new album, and was backed throughout the night by a drummer, two guitarists and the occasional flugelhorn. Standout songs and crowd favorites included older tracks "All My Days," "Song for You" and the new song "Some Day Soon." In a different instrument of choice, Murdoch used a violin to pluck during "Crinan Wood," adding a childlike quality to the song's timbre.

When it came time for the encore, Mudoch joked that it was too hard to get off the stage (risers, really at the front of the room) and since the space had no backstage, per se, he and the band would dispense with the usual motions associated with the encore. They went into a great rendition of "Orange Sky," which he sang through a mic that distorted his voice, sounding as if he were singing through an amplified PA system. The effect was fantastic and really meshed well with the song's haunting drum beat.

The audience at the Bootleg was generally as respectful a a usual Largo crowd, with minimal talking. But the number of iPhones, cameras and other devices in use was a little distracting. If you're going to snap photos during a quieter concert in a smaller venue, here are a couple tips: Turn off your flash and silence your phones.

Murdoch plays another sold-out show at the Bootleg on Saturday (3/5) with the Watson Twins opening. A few tickets might be available at the door. If you want to make the drive, there are tickets available for his gig at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa on Thursday (3/3).