From top: Charlatans UK, Aberdeen City, Aberdeen City, Nada Surf. All photos (c) Carina Mastrocola.
(Second in a series of reports from last night's Phoenix/FNX Best Music Poll blowout on Lansdowne Street.)
The Charlatans haven’t really had the chance to jump the shark — not here, and not in the UK, where their songs never managed to plug into their homeland's gigantic hype machine. Still, last night on the Street Stage, the Charlatans weren’t holding any grudges. Tim Burgess, with his warm voice and sexy swagger, certainly does a decent Mick Jagger impression — or was he going for Liam Gallagher? Couldn’t be sure. Doesn’t matter. Unlike Mick, the Charlatans still look pretty cool for a bunch semi-aged rockers, all aviator shades and leather jackets and killer floppy hairstyles. No craggy faces, either. They’re comfortable — god knows they’ve been at it since 1990 — and they’re good at their own thing: lush, bluesy Britpop. Judging by the girl standing in front of me, who was slamming Coors Light and shaking ass, the Charlatans were living up to their underappreciated name by midset. The more Burgess thrust his hips and urged the crowd into a hand-clapping session, the more she loved it. “Blackened Blue Eyes,” off their latest, Simpatico, and You’re So Pretty – We’re So Pretty,” the first cut on 2001’s Wonderland were piano-drenched and danceable, especially on a warm (dry!) night in the middle of Lansdowne Street.
Outside Axis, a couple of kids were screaming “ABERDEEN CITY!!” at the top of their lungs — a sweet reception for this year's Best Local Album winner. For what it’s worth, the band certainly appreciated the support. Bassist and singer Brad Parker was sweet and appreciative when he talked about how nice it was to be back in Boston after their tour. Awwww. I felt like a proud Mom welcoming my son back home from a grueling semester at sea or something. Unforch for his real Mom, lucky for us, that whole schoolboy act was dropped as soon as he started howling. Abcity's melodic, post-punk angst-rock is clever and dark, and Parker leads the group in a sounding desperate and elegiac but big and grand at the same time, not to mention completely orchestral — I can only imagine how good they’d be in Symphony Hall. (NEMO: be good for something and hook this up.) Their behavior might not be apropos for a night at the Pops, though: during “Pretty Pet,” Chris McLaughlin dragged a floor tom away from Rob McCaffrey’s drum kit and pounded his brains out — in between making some insane noises on his guitar that were somewhere between an electric violin and a screeching baby. All in a night’s work, of course. The crowd was loving it most during “God Is Gonna Get Sick of Me,” one of the standouts on The Freezing Atlantic, though set-closer “Mercy” was an orgiastic conclusion to their musical restraint. I watched Parker and guitarist Ryan Heller bang the hell out of what looked like a neon cowbells while McLaughlin humped a huge amp so fast and so hard it nearly fell over. Then he tried to climb a platform on the side of the stage, and the security guards yelled at him. Then they threw drum sticks at us. Wow. I was spent.
All night I’d been looking forward to Nada Surf at Avalon. When I got there around 11 pm, the band had already ripped into "Hi Speed Soul," one of my faves off 2003’s Let Go. They sounded great, and Nada Surf are nothing if not a talented and oft-underrated pop band, but on stage, they are just short of foolish. They were so dull in the flesh when compared to their music, which is gorgeous and catchy and made perfect by Matthew Caws’s pretty croon. Except I was more obsessed with how long it must have taken bassist Daniel Lorca to grow out his waist-length dreads than I was with watching the boys play. Maybe I was just tired out by Aberdeen City, because during “The Blankest Year,” which has so many hooks it takes my breath away, the random dude and chick in front of me were practically swing dancing. She was an Emily Strange goth girl in pink fishnet sleeves, he was Josh Jackson during the best years of Dawson’s Creek, and maybe they were drunk, but Nada Surf was probably delivering them into the same cab that night. If the band couldn’t bring themselves to fling sweat or smash guitars, it was the least they could do to play the musical score to the weirdest concert hook-up I have ever witnessed. I think we all went home happy.
— Sharon Steel