Monday, April 28, 2008

sebadoh live at the concorde 2

I should have known better than to be fooled by the fact that Lou Barlow, whose reformed Sebadoh played a great set at Brighton’s Concorde 2 last night, arrived on stage with an acoustic guitar – I’d forgotten that he plays with so much distortion it scarcely matters what instrument he's playing. The acoustic guitar, then, was monstrously loud and Sebadoh were Sebadoh – sloppy, uneven, occasionally rubbish and mostly utterly brilliant.

The lastest band to climb upon the reunion bandwagon (Lou's got form here, of course – the reignited Dinosaur Jr played an amazing set at the same venue last year), Sebadoh look an awful lot more content in each-other's company now than they did fifteen years ago. The spirit of the group has always been profoundly democratic, but they've always been pissy and intense onstage, so it's odd finding them in a good mood. So much so that you wish Lou would politely remind Eric Gaffney who we’re really here to see, and pile him back behind the drum kit. Over the course of the set Eric and Jason take turns behind the drums, ensuring that all three musicians get a chance to sing their own tunes, but the consequence is that we get far more of Gaffney's melodic but uninspiring rock than we do Lowenstein's furious and brilliant punk. Barlow remains the main draw, of course, and songs like ‘It’s So Hard to Fall In Love’ and ‘Brand New Love’ still sound incredible, although I’m a bit disappointed to find the band drawing on so much material from their weaker later albums; although in fairness the band – and particularly Jason – make a blistering racket throughout.

Qualifications dispensed with, then, the essence of Sebadoh is thrillingly intact – Barlow’s lovely voice, ear for discordant but beautiful sounds and habit of strumming his bass are as evident as ever and the set is punctuated by extraordinary bursts of noise. I'm particularly taken with Jason's songs, which sound astonishing. Eric’s drumming, meanwhile, remains superb, and the band clatter through over 30 songs with nary a pause for breath , although they’re momentarily dumbfounded when a few of us down the front spot that Eric is drinking real ale on stage, and start shouting 'Bombardier' at him. "Do we have a song called Bombardier?", Lou asks. "We’ll play it if we do".

Instead, they play a blistering, joyful take on 'Freed Pig' and finish with an even better take on the hilarious, magnificent 'Gimme Indie Rock', which gets a predictable roar of approval when Lou sings "Getting loose with the Pussy Galore / Cracking jokes like a Thurston Moore / Peddle hopping like a Dinosaur…". Best of all, the sense remains – just as it should – that anything might happen – Sebadoh still sound crooked (crooked rain); stoned, furious, romantic and thoroughly unpractised.

Having them back is much more than an exercise in nostalgia; they remain one of the best bands ever. I hope they never get it together.

No comments: