Daniel Romano’s Outfit turns songs from his back-catalogue into supercharged rock anthems.
What a difference a day can make. On the morning of March 11th, I was anticipating seeing three shows in as many weeks, and by the evening, it was clear that wouldn’t be happening. And now, weeks later, I am left wondering if I will ever see a show again and if I do, will it be the same? That’s a dramatic thought, obviously, but not a ridiculous one. Will the musicians I love still be able to eke out a living playing music if people are afraid to pack themselves into a nasty club for a few hours on a weeknight? Hell, will they be able to survive the next who-knows-how-long without any reliable source of income? Will venue capacities be slashed in half to ensure everyone is practicing proper social distancing? Whatever happens, it certainly won’t feel quite the same as it used to, at least not right away.
Had the circumstances been different, the release of “Okay Wow”, credited to Daniel Romano’s Outfit, would still be something to celebrate. The live collection is a career-spanning and career-defining album for Daniel Romano. It is an essential document that immortalizes a musician and performer at the peak of their powers, flanked by the most consistent gang of musicians he has employed since his days in Attack in Black. I’ve written about the musical chemistry Romano has with himself, but hearing the Outfit take songs from records like Mosey, Finally Free,and Modern Pressure and turn them into supercharged, breakneck rock anthems is something else altogether.
The Outfit (Romano, his brother Ian on drums, Dave Nardi on guitar, Julianna Riolino on backing vocals, Roddy Rossetti on bass, and the mysterious Tony Cicero on the organ) is as well oiled a band as you will ever hear. Each song seamlessly flows into the next, and each instrument, voice, and player is easily heard and — more importantly — felt. If there is another live album that sounds this alive and crisp, I have not heard it. It’s thrilling to hear old favourites from “the country years,” like “Strange Faces” and “Time Forgot (To Change My Heart)”, given an electric facelift. Definitive versions of “Turtle Doves”, “Nerveless”, and “Human Touch” from Romano’s 2018 limited-edition digital-only albums are infused with an energy not felt in the originals. The same can be said about nearly every song on “Okay Wow”. Dave Nardi and Julianna Riolino’s backing vocals are elevating, and Ian Romano’s furious and beastly drumming sends these already god-tier tunes to the fucking stratosphere.
Romano is comfortably settled into his role as a cult favourite over the past decade (despiteourbestefforts); “Okay Wow” is a gift to fans who’ve followed him through his many musical iterations. The songs we’ve come to love over the years are gloriously presented and blown-out into high definition. It could also prove to be the essential jumping-off point for everyone late to the party.
For me, “Okay Wow” feels exceptionally well-timed. I haven’t been able to digest new music the way I usually do and have been finding comfort and peace of mind in old favourites. On top of that, none of us will be sweating it out in a packed room, bombarded by the songs we love anytime soon. “Okay Wow”will be my comfort zone for the next few months and is a reminder of what it feels like to have my mind blown by a live show. While I hope it won’t be too long before things go back to normal, and I find myself wowed by the chemistry of a handful of people playing music on stage once again, I am grateful that, in the interim, I have “Okay Wow”.