Monday, June 16, 2008

Swervedriver @ Metro

Even before the band took the stage, the energy from the crowd was palpable. Everyone there had been waiting for this performance for a looooong time. As you might expect, there were a lot of old dudes. I'm not sure if I fit that category yet, but I must at least be getting close. The only people under 30 appeared to be girlfriends. I think everyone was curious about which track would begin the set. They opened with Sci-Flyer, the first song from their first album. Fitting, if not as hard-charging as Son of Mustang Ford or one of the other singles.

One of the great strengths of Swervedriver's music is that each part seems to be doing its own thing, yet all the disparate sounds find a way to work together. It's not just that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but that the whole works despite the fact that the parts don't want to have anything to do with one another. Kind of like the New York Giants. Unfortunately, over the early parts of the set, things sounded a bit muddy. A friend of mine said that he thought there was too much fuzz on the guitars, which you'd think could never be a bad thing. But yet, something was amiss. However, once they launched into For Seeking Heat, everything changed. From that point on, the show was the ear-drum barrage we all anticipated, even though each instrument did its own thing.Adam Franklin's voice sounded as pure as ever. He seemed to match his levels from the original album recordings. On the songs from Raise, he blended in. On their later material, he became the featured sound. The thing that has changed is the way the band looks. Gone are Franklin's long dreads and sunglasses. His receding hairline and bushy beard indicate the years that have passed. Stage presence was never the band's strong suit. Franklin addressed the microphone, but rarely the audience. I said last week that the band didn't really fit the shoegazer label, but live and in person it's certainly more apt.

Nevertheless, the audience showed all kinds of energy, particularly after the set picked up halfway through. The singles of course drew a positive response, Duel in particular. When the band launched into Rave Down, seemingly every head in the building bobbed in rhythm. Well, every head except the four on stage. The main set ended with an over ten minute version of Duress. Most bands would probably want to end on a rocker, but it was clear that the crowd loved it.Also last week, I mentioned how this band was a particularly star-crossed one. Things just always seemed to go against them. But seeing them perform again makes you wonder if they just weren't quite patient enough. Perhaps a star-crossed band can earn the success they deserve after all. Their music is still every bit as viable as it once was. I wouldn't be surprised if a reunion album eventually arrives. Some record label will mess everything up, but there's just something so compelling about this band. After their encores, the drummer got on the mic and told the crowd that they knew as soon as they got back together that they had to play Metro in Chicago and that since they're not playing the UK on this leg of the tour, this was their home show. Maybe he says that everywhere, but it seemed earnest enough. In the end, it was a pretty fantastic performance. They sounded every bit as good as they did on the same stage a decade ago. I can't wait for them to return. I just hope I don't have to wait another ten years.

Swervedriver setlist:
The Birds
99th Dream
Scrawl & Scream
These Times
For Seeking Heat
Blowin’ Cool
Deep Seat
Last Train to Satansville
Rave Down
Son of Mustang Ford
Never Lose That Feeling
Kill the Superheroes

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