Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Review - The Verve at WaMu (Madison Sq. Garden)

When I was growing up, I used to mock any band that reunited. Most of these bands were baby boomer types and the reunions were either Spinal Tap-like or soulless exercises in extreme marketing (see The Who, Rolling Stones). Now, some of the bands that gave me the soundtrack of my life are doing the same - right down to doing promos with 50 Cent for Monday Night Football.

So, when The Verve announced that they were reuniting and coming out with a new album, I kept wondering if they were still relevant. I know some people HAVE to get back together to pay the bills, but dammit, other bands like The Clash and Sleater-Kinney have packed it in and kept their reputation intact (well, the Clash made the abysmal Cut the Crap - so one could argue they stayed around at least one album too late).

To cut bands that reunite some slack, we are not nearly as critical for writers and actors who do their craft well into their '60s and '70s. Could it be that rock will forever be thought of as a young person's game? Or is it simply that other actors and writers opt not to fall into the trap of saying "this is my last movie" or "this is the final book I'm writing" - and then when he or she gives it another go - the scrutiny spotlight is that much more intense.

So, at 9 p.m. at the WaMu Theater in Madison Square Garden, the reunited Verve took the stage and opened with "A New Decade." The audience roared in approval. Ashcroft, sporting a tightly-cropped haircut oftentimes gestured like a rapper, reaching his hands out to the audience, making stabbing gestures at each important lyric.

And then the band settled into its groove. "Sonnet" came on and by the fifth song, it looked like The Verve had never left judging by some of the audience behavior - some were going to get more beers, some were text messaging the event to friends. One person who was next to me even gave a 'so so' motion in response to one of the songs.

If the show was a bit on the predictable side, Richard Ashcroft can still sing like a wounded angel. And Nick McCabe's guitar work proves that while Ashcroft is a capable solo performer, McCabe gives him the psychedelic energy he so needs to give his songs additional heft.

The band closed with "Come On" before coming back with a three-song encore: "History," "Bittersweet Symphony" and "Love is Pain." Ashcroft, in his modest way, gave a brief introduction to the last two songs: "The first one's a classic and the next one's going to be a classic."

Time will tell. While it was great to say you were one of the folks who saw the Verve live, I'm still kicking myself that I didn't do more to scope out this band in their 1997 heyday. They put on a good show, but it was strictly by the numbers. For many in the audience, that was enough.

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12:45 PM  

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