Jeff Rosenstock, Laura Stevenson’s Rapport Elevates Entertaining Set at Grog Shop

"Thank you for coming to see our cover band," Rosenstock told the crowd. It was more than that

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click to enlarge Jeff Rosenstock, Laura Stevenson’s Rapport Elevates Entertaining Set at Grog Shop
Photo by Eric Heisig

Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Stevenson were clearly having a blast on Saturday night.

In front of a sold-out crowd at the Grog Shop, the longtime friends seemed to crack up each other — as well as themselves — at every turn. Whether it was playfully staring at each other and doing the rock-star fast-strum to end a song or Rosenstock telling Stevenson she was “rude” when she asked for less of his guitar in her monitor, their rapport and senses of humor brought an already entertaining show to a new level

But, none of their antics or jokes came at the expense of the music. The pair, former bandmates in Bomb the Music Industry!, stopped in Cleveland as part of a short tour behind a pair of EPs made up of Neil Young covers. The strong show included songs from Shakey, as well as ones from their respective careers.

Starting out with the Young rarity “Razor Love,” Stevenson stuck to her acoustic guitar as Rosenstock switched from acoustic to electric to keyboards to tinkering with a drum machine. The pair harmonized, though Rosenstock did not even try to blend his idiosyncratic voice with Stevenson’s.

That’s not a slight, though. The passion shined through, such as when they found the tender center in Stevenson’s “Living Room, NY.”

And while Stevenson is an accomplished musician who has won acclaim for her own music, it was clear that most of the crowd was there for Rosenstock. He has amassed a large following in recent years as he released a series of excellent solo albums, the most recent being 2020’s No Dream (well, technically it was 2021’s Ska Dream, which was — you guessed it — a ska redo of the previous record).

The crowd shouted along to “9/10” and “The Beauty of Breathing.” Some even knew the words to songs he played from Bomb the Music Industry!

But the heart of the show was the Young covers. The 16-song, 70-minute set contained no fewer than nine songs from his catalog, from a lovely reading of “Harvest Moon” to an amped up version of “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.”

While most were true to the original arrangements, the pair wasn’t afraid to tinker a little bit, whether it was using a drum machine on main set closer “Ambulance Blues” or thrashing through a speedy “After the Gold Rush.”

They closed the set with a raucous cover of Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” joined onstage by opener/punk-pop maestro Mikey Erg and his band. Rosenstock and Stevenson traded verses. By the end, Rosenstock led the band through another run-through of the chorus, clearly wanting to hear its anthemic melody just one more time.

Even at the end, they hadn’t stopped entertaining each other, or themselves.

1. Razor Love (Neil Young)
2. Comes a Time (Neil Young)
3. 9/10 (Jeff Rosenstock)
4. A Shine to It (Laura Stevenson and The Cans)
5. After the Gold Rush (Neil Young)
6. Hey Babe (Neil Young)
7. Living Room, NY (Laura Stevenson)
8. The Beauty of Breathing (Jeff Rosenstock)
9. Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
10. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)
11. Emily in Half (Laura Stevenson)
12. All Ages Shows (Bomb the Music Industry!)
13. Through My Sails (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)
14. Ambulance Blues (Neil Young, with Mikey Erg and Alex Clute)
15. Wednesday Night Drinkball (Bomb the Music Industry!)
16. Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young, with Mikey Erg and his band)

Eric Heisig is a freelance writer in Cleveland. He can be reached at [email protected].

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