Dr. Dog bring confidence to House of Blues

Chad Batka for The New York Times/file 2010
Bassist Toby Leaman (pictured in Tennessee in 2010) of the indie-pop band Dr. Dog.

Dr. Dog roamed freely through glitter and grit during a sprawling show Thursday at the House of Blues, where the band carefully balanced pop hooks with loose, jangly playing in a way that seemed both exacting and exultant.

Dr. Dog’s recently released “Be the Void’’ continues the Philadelphia troupe’s confident stride through quirky songcraft that focuses more on alluring textures than on strict genre rules. “Lonesome,’’ for instance, could split into a country song and a Beatles b-side at any moment, but ultimately sticks together - both in concert and on record - quite nicely.

Guitarist Scott McMicken and bassist Toby Leaman shared vocal duties in a way that gave Dr. Dog’s live show a pleasingly contoured flow. McMicken’s cautious optimism and Leaman’s hoarse, haunted blues grew more animated and theatrical as the concert moved along. Songs blossomed with infusions of vocal harmonies from other band members and with blasts of spectral jamming from keyboardist Zach Miller. The band seemed to scale a little higher with each tune, eventually reaching the musical group hug of “Jackie Wants a Black Eye.’’


Dr. Dog tapped its back catalog for standout moments in the live show, especially during the encores, when the band paired “The Way the Lazy Do’’ and “Die, Die, Die’’ in a display of clever whimsy.

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New tunes “Heavy Light,’’ “Do the Trick,’’ and opener “That Old Black Hole,’’ while more polished than older material, comfortably fit into Dr. Dog’s approach, something seemingly driven more by instinct than calculation.

McMicken not only voiced Dr. Dog’s appreciation for veteran Boston songwriter Rick Berlin, but the band also had Berlin open the concert.

Performing with the seven-piece Nickel & Dime Band, Berlin still delivers a provocative, unhinged enthusiasm whether pining for a lover or celebrating a beer belly. At minimum a generation removed from his current bandmates, Berlin looked and sounded as inspired as he did stalking city stages back in the day when he could capitalize off of punk’s freedom without conforming to its sound.

Purling Hiss, also from Philly, followed Berlin with a brash blast of wiry garage rock.

Scott McLennan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcLennan1.