Patti Rothberg Entertains the West Village
If you watch old music videos, there’s usually eventually a point in the guitar solo where whoever’s playing it leans back, pelvis thrust out, scrunching up his or her face with a comically fake intensity. Last night at the Bitter End, Patti Rothberg didn’t do that. Instead, as she brought one fast, slithery solo over the top, she turned to bassist David Leatherwood and smiled. It wasn’t a smirk, just a cheery “are you having as much fun as I am up here” look. He grinned back, obviously on the same page. It pretty much summed up what Rothberg and her power trio Wet Paint are all about: they’re peas in the same pod. They were tight beyond belief, just what you’d expect from road warriors who do the occasional small club show in between gigs opening for Blondie or the B-52s. Drummer Mark Greenberg is one of those rare four-on-the-floor rock guys who also swings; Leatherwood hung back with a steady pulse, but on the few occasions where there was a bit of a lull, he’d take a judicious prowl up the scale, bending and circling around before bringing back the groove.
Tantalizingly, Rothberg played a grand total of three solos all night, but she made them count, particularly one series of savagely growling, Mick Ronson-inspired runs in Dish It Out, the double entendre-driven Ramones/Stones hybrid from her 2002 album Candelabra Cadabra. They swung their way through Inside, a 1996 top 40 hit that pays tribute to the joys of staying in for the night, as well as a pensive version of Hurt Me, the nonchalantly scorching Double Standards and the triumphantly swaying kiss-off ballad Perfect Stranger. Throughout the set, there were echoes of Bowie, and Elvis Costello in the occasionally blazing riff or direct, snappy chord change, but all put together with an individual flair. As a singer, Rothberg is feminine but not girly, her coyly, subtly blues-tinged delivery a good match for her clever, sarcastic lyrics. As usual, there were places where she’d break into a little smile, as if in on some inside joke.
The band closed the set with the ominously growling garage rock hit Treat Me Like Dirt (which went to #1 in Europe in 1997). “Back in the 90s they tried to pigeonhole me as an ‘angry young woman,’ when I was really Tongue. In. Cheek,” she gestured broadly. “They didn’t get it. Just so you understand, if somebody treats you like dirt, vaccuum it up. Go far away from it! We can talk about this after the show when everybody’s good and drunk.” They encored with a pretty hilarious new song, sort of a rocking Irish ballad where a woman finally joins the ranks of the sluts. From the lyrics that Rothberg handed out to the crowd so that everybody could sing along, that seems pretty much like an inevitability, in this case where a “mercy fuck” leads to an obsession with a guy who demystifies every conceivable notion of romance. The lyrics are a lot funnier than that, but it would be a spoiler to give them away. This was the first time the band had played it: from the crowd’s reaction, they’ll be doing it again.