Metro - Chicago
February 6, 1998
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 1998, Volume 3, #3
Written by John Metzger
Nearly two years ago, Luna gained quite a bit of exposure opening for Lou Reed, yet, the group still remains a relatively unknown outfit — despite its cleverly catchy pop tunes. Since then, Lee Wall has taken over the drumming duties for the departed Stanley Demeski (who also played in The Feelies), and the band seems tighter than ever.
On February 6, Luna returned to Chicago's Metro for a 90-minute, 17-song onslaught in support of its latest disc — Pup Tent. Opening with the title track from the disc, the band quickly fell into a funky rhythmic groove with carefully crafted bursts of feedback-laden guitar chords.
A majority of Luna's songs are incredibly infectious, though they come wrapped in swirling, psychedelic guitar leads reminiscent of The Velvet Underground and The Feelies. The band blends this potent combination with a funky edge that at times recalls the higher points of the Stone Roses' short-lived career as well as the music of The Cure.
The result is a series of songs that are remarkably memorable. From Pup Tent ("and if you want me to I'm gonna cry you a river tonight") to Lost in Space ("I heard it all before") and from Tracy I Love You ("change your name and change your number") to Moon Palace ("it means nothin' at all"), these songs seem perfect for hits on any alternative rock radio station.
At times, singer Dean Wareham addressed the audience and embodied a rock star persona, but more often he looked a bit uncomfortable on stage, glancing down or away from the crowd with a shy toss of his head, choosing instead to become absorbed in the music. His vocal delivery matched the style of the songs perfectly. His subtly expressive vocals carried the dry wit and emotion of each tune, building the melody into a tug of war with Sean Eden's brilliant lead guitar work.
Each solo from Eden was handled with an animated and colorful flourish, often underscoring Wareham's vocals with funky rhythmic grooves. Wareham also stepped up to the plate on a few occasions, delivering a stunning blast of his own, most notably during Bobby Peru. On this song, he carefully handled the amplification on his guitar, straddling the fine line between sweet and electrified feedback.
Wall seems to have a great relationship with bassist Justin Harwood, and the two locked into a groove on each song, driving the beat with an amazing level of intensity. For the most part, Luna to hold back on most of the songs, allowing them to stand on their own rather than rocking them to a furious climax. But on the set-closing 23 Minutes in Brussels and the show-concluding Friendly Advice, the band really cut loose, channeling every bit of its energy into a swirling, cosmic kaleidoscope of sound.
On 23 Minutes in Brussels, Eden let loose a flurry of notes that at times recalled Roger McGuinn's work on Eight Miles High. Friendly Advice gave Luna a chance to show how tightly it could jam. The raw power of the music built to an incredible crescendo as the lyrics became more of an afterthought. It was the perfect ending to an amazingly powerful performance.
Apples in Stereo opened the concert, and its first song carried some promise, as it blended the sound of Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque disc with Wilco's hit Outtasite (Outta Mind). But the group's 45-minute set quickly became routine, as it drew a bit too heavily from the Ramones and Weezer.
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