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Review: Dr. Dog growls its way to perfect harmony at the Newport

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Dr. Dog performs at the Newport Nov. 7.  Credit: Michele Theodore / Copy chief

Dr. Dog performs at Newport Music Hall Nov. 7.
Credit: Michele Theodore / Copy chief

Dr. Dog may be too weak to ramble, but the band is never too weak to bring a full-energy concert, complete with the type of harmony only it can muster.

One of the lead singers of Dr. Dog, Toby Leaman – he trades the lead vocal role back and forth with Scott McMicken– flaunted his deep howling vocals when the band graced the Newport Music Hall Thursday night.

The only thing better than his raspy, growling voice is the nearly perfect harmony Dr. Dog does so well with four or more vocalists all showing what they can do at once. Live harmony is incredibly difficult, but somehow the band members make it effortless as they blend their voices together to create something beautiful in every song. Forget a cliché rock ‘n’ roll band with one guy screeching and the others head-banging along. This psych-rock / indie-rock band, like so many others, refuses to fit into one genre, and brings an early 1960s-esque harmony-packed feel to everything they sing that’s undeniably catchy.

Leaman’s voice shone the brightest during the slow, passionate melody to “Too Weak to Ramble,” one of the songs from the band’s newest album, “B-Room.” If he hadn’t been dancing almost immediately before this song started, surely anyone listening would have thought he was about to fall over from weariness — he sounded so weak  he could barely stand.

But weary is hardly the word to describe this Philadelphia-based band. After debuting its eighth album in September, the set effortlessly blended new songs in with old favorites, and the members kept their energy up like they always do, dancing the whole show and spreading an infectious grooving vibe through the crowd. Dr. Dog isn’t the sort of band that inspires audience mosh pits or screaming fans, but rather the sort of band where you’ll find the audience swaying back and forth together as one rolling unit.

The songs almost everyone in the audience first listened and fell in love with, “Shadow People” and “Heart It Races,” blended perfectly with new favorites. “Nellie,” with its catchy chorus, left the audience swaying back and forth together in one large, beautiful harmony, and “The Truth” caught on especially well, most likely since the album has been out for a month, so fans have had time to learn the beats.

One of the best songs of the night, “Lonesome,” featured Leaman without his bass, something rare in a live show. Many instrumentalists feel lost without their instrument and seem awkward and naked on stage without it, but not Leaman. He showed all the energy of a frontman unaccustomed to wearing an instrument. His enthusiasm and interaction with the crowd were second to none and as the closing song of the main set, fans went crazy.

Dr. Dog didn’t waste much time waiting for an encore and gave a four-song set to close the night, leaving Columbus with one last taste of the harmony the band does so well.

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