Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Feelies (Cat's Cradle, 9/15/12)

Okay, old band (older than ME even!).  Two sets.  No opener.  Early start.  Billed as "An Evening With..."  All the hallmarks of a snoozer.

Oh, they had the pedigree.  To me, the Feelies were already post-punk when punk had barely left the womb.  Formed in 1976 (though I didn't discover them until a decade or more later), their angular, jangly guitars, mathematical precision, and tense builds and crashes, made them a harbinger of the Pixies, Husker Du, R.E.M, Pavement, Versus... well, let's just say indie-rock in the late '80s and 1990s.  They themselves are often cited as being heavily influenced by the Velvet Underground.  But I think they were early enough, and different enough, to be considered more like younger contemporaries.  I wore out my vinyl of their debut, Crazy Rhythms, and then spent years looking for it on MP3.
Still, despite all this, I didn't anticipate much other than a pleasant, nostalgic, early night.   I had never seen them live, so I went in large part because of that little voice that sometimes whispers "When else will you get the chance?"

The Feelies, however, begged to differ.  They OWNED their pedigree.  They sounded as relevant as any band I've ever seen fill the Cradle.  If they were a local buzz band of kids, I'd have been blown away.
They started slower, gradually building the energy of the eager crowd, which -- while clearly filled with many of their generation -- was  liberally sprinkled with the younger set.  They played some of the more pastoral numbers from their follow-ups to Rhythms, The Good EarthOnly Life, and Time for a Witness; rolling songs like On the Roof, The High Road, For Awhile, and Invitation.  I was waiting for some from my favorites from Rhythms, to no avail (though I missed the first 2 or 3 songs).  I half-hoped the second set would be that album in its entirety.

Nevertheless, I found myself getting more and more into the show with every number.  Live, these "pastoral" numbers (including several from their recent CD, Here Before, which I hadn't yet heard) had a drive I didn't anticipate.  Glenn Mercer's vocals were deep and strong as ever, and his lead guitar a perfect counter to Bill Million's rapid-fire strumming.  And they were TIGHT... like they'd been playing non-stop for the past 20 years.  In fact they have not played as a band for most of the past 20, and apparently now only play a handful of shows a year.

By the time they played Slipping (Into Something), the psych/spazz-out builder from Earth, and Away, a jangly rocker from Life, and I wasn't missing Crazy Rhythms at all.  These WERE crazy rhythms.  Towards the end of the second set, they finally catered to my finicky demands, playing Raised Eyebrows and Crazy Rhythms from the debut. If I remember correctly(?), they also played the dark-cool Moscow Nights.

But they weren't done.  Fans of a band like this demand an encore.  They complied with covers, which they're known for.  It was the Beatles and the Stones, She Said and Paint It Black.  In their own inimitable style.  The crowd chanted and stomped for more.

Encore Two it was, then:  Real Cool Time (the Stooges) and Everybody's Got Something to Hide (Except for me and My Monkey).

What a night.  Two long sets.  Two encores.  The Feelies rocked the house.  Musically satiated, we head for the... Oh, wait.  Encore Three.  Now I was starting to see why the show started early: they needed to fit it all in before last call!  This one consisted of R.E.M.'s  Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars) and their own Fa Ce La.  

Then -- hell yes -- Encore Four.  The Velvet's We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together, followed by Brian Eno's Third Uncle.

Musically exhausted... NOW, we head for the door.  Well, the merch table.  Feelies fans have a lot more cash on hand than fans of most young bands these days.  What a show.  Don't think I've ever seen four encores; and each one better than the one before.  More photos below; hopefully capturing the energy of a night that won't soon be forgotten.

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