Poisson Rouge, New York City, November 14
Whatever fans of Girls expected of the now-solo Christopher Owens – that denim skirt-wearing manic pixie dream boy, last seen performing spiritual rock flanked by trussed-up gospel singers and a truckload of flowers stuck to every bit of kit – it probably wasn’t this.
Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street looks especially fancy tonight, decked out with dining tables draped with tablecloths and fashionable people who poke at the food on their plates. At 8pm sharp, Owens slips past those standing at the back and wraps himself around a guitar.
He’s dressed like a dad: slacks, pink shirt, bad tie, brown jacket and brown shoes. A lonely vase of white lilies on the floor behind him seems oddly symbolic. Then the lilting refrain that threads together the songs on his first solo album, ‘Lysandre’, starts up, played by an old man with a grey goatee, on a flute. Rock. And. Roll.
Owens has had most of ‘Lysandre’ written for a long time – he penned ‘Lysandre’s Theme’ in 2008 after a lover came to stay with him in San Francisco. The album tells the story of their affair and also of Owens’ first tour with Girls, which conveniently started right here in New York. So tonight, when he plays the album straight through, ‘Here We Go’ and ‘New York City’ feel just right, marking the start of another new chapter.
Owens’ eight-piece band is basically Girls without Chet White. The guitarist, who possessed an excellent rawk grimace during Girls sets, keeps the face even though his solos are turned down to a minimum to allow Owens’ whispery vocals through. He’s nervous. He breaks a heavy silence to say that the band are still getting used to playing with each other.
When ‘Lysandre’ is over, Owens plays five folkish covers. He looks up, startled, when the audience greets Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ with whoops. What he doesn’t realise is that by this point in his career, the super-fans at this sold-out preview are just happy that Owens is back. Even with an album full of flute.