Mike Doughty’s old band Soul Coughing won’t be joining the ranks of newly-reunited ’90s bands anytime soon, as he made more than clear during his performance and question-and-answer session Saturday night at The Linda.
The show was actually the antithesis of all these reunions that have been hitting the road in recent years. Before a packed house for more than two hours, Doughty performed acoustic versions of his solo material, read from his new memoir “The Drug Book” and answered a handful of questions at the halfway point of the show — using the opportunity to clear the air once and for all about his former band.
He’s not a fan, by the way. During the Q&A, he made two points abundantly clear, over and over again.
“I’m an [expletive],” Doughty said, “but those other guys were sociopaths.”
They may have been harsh words, bordering on whining, but Doughty is a smart storyteller as well as songwriter. Stories from the book about Soul Coughing’s bass player shirking the bill at a diner on the road and charging a $700-plus phone bill to Doughty’s hotel room in France kept things light and humorous. Let’s face it, these are the kinds of stories everyone wants to hear, and judging from the handful of readings this night, Doughty’s book delivers the goods.
While the banter and readings focused on Doughty’s negative past, the best part of the show was rooted firmly in the present. Doughty stripped down his solo songs, drawing from all of his varied albums in a celebration of his career post-Soul Coughing madness.
Opener “Grey Ghost” set the mood with Doughty’s muscular strumming and gruff baritone. Highlights included the jangling “I Hear the Bells,” fist-pumping sing-along “Na Na Nothing” (co-written with Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx), and the semi-rapped “Day By Day By.” “Madeline and Nine” provided some of the evening’s most heartfelt moments, with Doughty carrying the simple melody with his workmanlike playing and singing.
Doughty’s humorous nature stretched into some of the performances — “Sunken-Eyed Girl” showcased the wit Doughty is known for in his lyric writing, with a false ending that fooled pretty much the entire audience.
Oddly enough, Doughty seemed a bit reserved during his first reading. Other readings were spaced out like clockwork after every third song, and he soon loosened up, playing off the crowd.
Throughout, Doughty kept the entire evening an intimate experience, whether relaying Soul Coughing’s experiences opening for the Dave Matthews Band in 1996 or rocking out on his biggest hit, “27 Jennifers,” for the show’s encore.
A chunk of songs from Doughty’s first album, “Skittish,” performed after the Q&A, received some of the biggest applause of the evening. Included among these was his cover of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” — preceded by Doughty taking a potshot at a reviewer who had slammed the track after its initial release.
The only minor complaint about the show would be the sameness of the songs after a while, but the readings broke things up nicely.