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  SUPERCHUNK W/ The Glands  
  The Variety Playhouse  
  Little Five Points, Atlanta, GA  
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I think I'm getting old. When I first heard that Superchunk were playing at The Variety Playhouse instead of The Echo Lounge, I have to admit I was relieved. I like the idea of concerts beginning at 9 pm instead of 11 pm; those 3 am concert experiences are just wearing me out. I don't like to think that my stamina isn't what it used to be, butů.if I'm honest, I don't party like I used to. I'm starting to settling down and mellow out.

For their last two albums, critics have accused Superchunk of mellowing out as well. Even most of my younger friends complain that Superchunk no longer rocks as hard. They mourn for the loudness of No Pocky for Kitty; they miss the screams of For Tension. Me? I like the most recent album, Here's To Shutting Up. Yeah, the recording isn't particularly hard, but I just knew that in concert most of those songs would be just as fast and loud as any of Superchunk's early output.

When I (and the rest of The Minions) arrived at The Variety Playhouse just before 9, I figured it would only be a short time before the opening act began. However, it was over 30 minutes before we saw the band sign - and The Glands took the stage. I've see the Glands before, and I thought they were fairly solid. On this evening, they didn't do anything to change this impression. The relatively sparse crowd seemed to react favorably to The Glands' jangly sound, which has a touch of 60s psychedelia blended with some strong pop sensibilities. Sure there are bands that do this stuff better, but The Glands aren't slouches. My only complaint (minor as it may be) is that the sound at The Variety Playhouse really emphasized the vocals and guitars so that I was reminded more of Tom Petty (and less of, say, The Flaming Lips). Anyway, The Glands were enjoyable enough and a good opening act, but I'm not sure that I would go out of my way to see them again.

After The Glands finished, the floor of The Playhouse quickly filled with people ready to see Superchunk. However, The Minions and I didn't rush up to the front (like we normally would during a Superchunk set); rather we remained seated in our comfy seats on a side-riser. In my mind, this was a good thing: I'm rather short, and the thought of having to fight for sight lines among the taller folk wasn't appealing. So I sat back and took a sip of beer as the band took the stage (augmented by Annie Hayden, formerly of Spent), and began to play material from the latest album.

From the first, Superchunk's performance surprised me. As I mentioned above, I was really expecting the band to rock out to the new songs, and give them an edge that wasn't present on the album. However, to my ears, they played this material pretty much straight: the acoustic guitars came out for the slower songs, the keyboards provided a counterpoint to the guitars, and even drummer Jon Wurster managed to sound restrained. Yes, the music was good, but it lacked something - that passion and energy I always expect from a Superchunk concert.

Still, after a couple of songs, I couldn't stand it anymore -- there was no way I could sit there and not react as I listened to one of my favorite bands. I slid under a rail, and stood up, dancing along to the music. And I continued to stand and dance as they worked their way through the majority of songs on the new album. I cheered along as the played slightly older songs (although the band more or less ignored songs off the albums prior to Indoor Living). And I was pleasantly pleased by the Elvis Costello cover in the encore. But overall, the experience seemed somehow hollow, even as they played older crowd favorites, such as Seed Toss. Maybe it was the seats around me or the somewhat sedate quality of the crowd, but I felt like I was dancing in a void, as if I were shimmying around my house listening to the CD player. I didn't get the rejuvenation I normally do from a live show; it's as if the excess energy wasn't there to feed me.

I suppose it was a good show: the band was tight, and the music was good. And maybe my expectation really did influence my enjoyment of the show. All I know is that when I left The Variety Playhouse, I was vaguely disappointed, and wanted a chance to see Superchunk again, only this time in a different, louder venue.

Related Links:

A review of the latest Superchunk album
A review of another Superchunk show from earlier this year.


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