A jazz club doorman turned beat poet-inspired frontman, Mike Doughty has carved out a singular niche for himself over the course of a career that now spans two decades. While he certainly had the most notoriety leading Soul Coughing, the New York-based avant-jazz act that appealed to hipsters and jam-band fans alike, he’s also done fine on his own after going solo in 2000, working his extensive vocabulary into a variety of tongue-twisting tunes.
Dubbed the Question Jar Tour, Doughty's latest jaunt brought him to the Beachland Ballroom last night, where he played to a near-capacity crowd — not bad considering he was unplugged, accompanied only by cellist Andrew “Scrap” Livingston.
Opening with the sardonic “All Them Tremendous Brunettes Around,” Doughty didn’t exactly break a sweat during the two-hour show. He never rose from his stool during the entire set, and his laid-back vocal delivery and monotonous acoustic guitar strumming weren’t exactly dynamic. Add in the fact that he wore a tight-fitting black T-shirt that made him look like a stagehand and you have a pretty generic stage presentation.
But Doughty did his best to keep things entertaining. He answered a variety of strange and unusual questions from fans who wrote their inquiries down on bits of paper and then stuffed them into the “question jar.” “What’s the dopest hip-hop song?” one fan asked. “I’d have to say ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’” said Doughty. “Have you ever killed anyone softly with your songs?” “Yes, I’m trying to do it right now,” he answered.
Given the acoustic format, more melodic tunes like “Navigating the Stars at Night” and Soul Coughing’s “Circles” fared best.
But new tunes — such as the peppy “Rising Up,” taken from the just-released Sad Man, Happy Man — sounded sharp, as did Doughty’s tongue-in-cheek cover of “The Gambler.”
After the show, the personable singer signed copies of his new disc at the merch booth, endearing himself even more to his faithful fans. —Jeff Niesel