Music News Of The World
-- June 28, 1997 --
Soul Asylum Prove They've Still Got It
 
Chicago show was mesmerizing.
Addicted To Noise Contributing Editor Michael Lach reports:
When your movie star girlfriend dumps youDan, your widely anticipated follow-up album stiffs, and you've fired your tried-and-true drummer for a slick studio veteran, your back is up against the wall. Such is the case for Soul Asylum, a band with heaps of critical promise who rode "Runaway Train" onto the Nevermind-friendly pop charts of 1992 but then later hit a backlash at every turn. Their show at Metro in Chicago on Wednesday night was ostensibly to preview and try out new tracks, but given that Pirner went from a Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame groupie to an indie rocker wrestling with indifference, there was plenty of ground to regain as well.
And the beginning was rather worrisome--the feeble strains of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (the theme music from 2001) came through the sound system before they took the stage, and the lights moved in sync. Had they gone all the way in, to crass showmanship and heavy glitz? Was the syrupy sweet production of 1995's Let Your Dim Light Shine just a shadow of what's to come? Mid-way through the show, however, the pompous introduction seemed like a joke, as Soul Asylum played a solid set of unpretentious rock 'n' roll that was loud, catchy, and full of energy.
Beginning by drawling the acerbic "Guess I'll See You Later, Sweet Manipulator," over a slow grinding guitar, the set of primarily new material was remarkable for how little has changed. The new Soul Asylum still rocks like the old--Dave Pirner is still the wiliest of front men, even if his hair is now short and clean. Dan Murphy's good-old-boy enthusiasm was infectious, and controversial new drummer Sterling Campbell gave the old songs, particularly While You Were Out's "Closer To The Stars" an invigorating workout.
The new songs were loud and crunching, with little lost from Pirner's knack for connecting cliches with rhymes, pop smarts with punk guitars, and fit in well next to near-hits like "Black Gold" and the gripping "Without A Trace" from Grave Dancers Union. The new ones were tinged even more than the usual darkness and alienation--and everyone knows a sad song outdoes a happy one by 5 to 1--raising the expectations for their still-uncompleted next album release even higher.
By the time the sold-out crowd had sung the refrain to "Misery"--the confoundingly catchy "frustrated incorporated"--and then erupted in chants of "one more time!" the band knew that not only were back in business but that they'd regained much of the momentum lost over the past year.
For the encores, they showed their well-known sense of humor was still intact: a funk workout about taking "Candy From A Stranger" that had Pirner prancing all over the stage wearing a set of sunglasses with flashlights attached, and then after a medley of Howlin' Wolf's "Back Door Man" and Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog," things decayed in to a full-on rendition of "Rhinestone Cowboy" and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing."
Opening the show was Freedy Johnston, who played accompanied with just another guitarist. His set was quiet but mesmerizing, making his emotion packed songs, like "This Perfect World" hit even harder. Johnston played songs from his last few records, including this year's fine Never Home, and closed with a cover "Wichita Lineman." It wasn't surprising at all how well his originals meshed with the sound and feeling of that classic.
Copyright 1997 Addicted To Noise. All rights reserved. Please do not reprint entire Addicted To Noise news stories without written permission from Addicted To Noise. If you excerpt, rewrite, or in some way make use of portions of our news, attribute to: Addicted To Noise, the on-line rock & roll magazine - http://www.addict.com/

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