The brothers Kirkwood and drummer Ted Marcus were at their finest playing a 25th anniversary show of their Minneapolis debut Sunday night,before a packed like sardines crowd at the First Avenue Nightclub's smaller room the 7th Street Entry,and an instore at the Electric Fetus Record Shop Monday evening. Alternating between songs off their latest album Sewn Together and a nice selection of tunes from throughout their career, the Pups gave inspired and inspiring performances both nights.
Opening Sunday's show with the title track from their latest release Curt and Cris wasted no time in reaching the touchstones of the Meat Puppets sound. The warped psychedlia of Curt's guitar tones, the high and lonesome harmonies, and Cris's insistent, darting bass runs combined with Marcus'solid drumming in setting the pace for the rest of the night. The high energy charge of Touchdown King was matched by the poppy,chiming guitar of the new discs' Rotten Shame which was augmented by the rock steady work of the rhythm section in propelling the crowd into the first of many raucous ovations. The Monkey and The Snake featured Curt's whistled intro and breaks just like the album's version, no small feat in the swelter of the club's rising heat factor.
A letter perfect rendition of Plateau seemed like it may be the night's best tune until the band just destroyed the crowd with their high intensity deconstruction of Lake of Fire. With a pleading, impassioned vocal by Curt and some fine background vocals by Cris, Lake of Fire took the audience a step or two higher than it already was. The lightning fast vocal delivery of Sam was matched by Curt's swirling effects laden and feedback drenched solo. Up On The Sun showcased the best of the band's strengths with the circular guitar riff expanding and contracting to match the song's impressionistic lyrics. Coming Down and a stellar cover of The Tenneesee Stud featured some of the band's best playing of the night, tight and loose at the same time. The many influnces of the band were borne out in these songs which highlighted their melding of psychedlic guitar around country western based rhythms and riffage.
The encore of their biggest commercial song, Backwater, sent the crowd out into the night on a positive note, leaving the room in a sweat drenched pool of happiness. The intimacy of the Entry, along with the energy of the crowd, combined to make this one of the best shows I've seen in that venue in my twenty plus some years of seeing shows there.Curt's switch to a Strat Sunday and his use of an acoustic Gibson Monday at the instore, did little to alter their overall sound which was evident by the positive audience response they garnered both nights.
Monday's instore featured many of the new songs played Sunday night plus an absolutely jaw dropping performance of the new album's sublime ballad Smoke. With its haunting and evocative lyric, and its sense of forboding and warning, Smoke showed the growth of Curt as a songwriter and the band as a whole in delivering its tale of growth through loss. A stellar Lost on the Freeway Again sat nicely amongst the songs from Sewn Together(title track, Monkey and The Snake,Rotten Shame) in a generous almost hour long performance at Minneapolis' finest record emporium.
The Meat Puppets two night stand in Minneapolis spoke well to both the future and the past of one of America's most unique and iconoclastic ensembles. As the brothers and their fans come together again through the music it speaks to the shared sense of time and space that has always been a constant in the Meat Puppets music. As the band continues on into their next phase of music making, it seems content to make their music on their own terms with the only constant being their sense of adventure and musicality which these shows proved was still fully intact.
Thanks for the review. I love the Pups, but the last couple of releases just didnt get me ya know? I definitely gotta give the Kirkwoods another try.
Also gotta get my ass back to Electric Fetus someday, glad to hear it's still alive!
for nyc area folks, they are playing at mexicali blues cafe on 11/21