I used to get out and watch many more shows than I do now; age, responsibility, and the economy have curtailed that in the past few years.
Inevitably, every band I want to see comes to town in the same two week span. For example, this week I had to pass on Jay Reatard, The Beatings, and Grizzly Bear because of show conflicts, and work is probably going to rule out jumping down to New York to see The Black Watch in two weeks at CMJ (I am still holding out hope, though!).
The shows I did go to see were "must-see" shows. Lots of compatriots over the three days, although Scott was the only one brave enough to hit the trifecta with me (and he threw in a fourth show Thursday -- show-off). Let's start with Wednesday.
Bob Mould, The Paradise - Wednesday, October 7
I've seen Bob ten or fifteen times since 1995; this show was the noisiest of the bunch, and that's saying something. I've complained that Bob doesn't vary his setlist enough; he responded with a show that included six songs (by my count) he hasn't performed with a band in fifteen to twenty-five years. I counted only three missteps the whole night -- one new song and both songs of the encore -- but otherwise A to A+ stuff. Overall, this was more a noise and effort tour de force than a musical one, but in the best possible way. Bob was in a great mood, gave lots of energy to the crowd, and played his butt off. Hearing "Something I Learned Today," "In a Free Land," and "Poison Years" with this band was epic. Jon Wurster of Superchunk on drums: phenomenal technically and smiling the whole set. His positive energy was palpable, much like watching Matt and Kim. Jason Narducy of Verbow on bass, backup vocals, and the e-bow for "Sinners and Their Repentances": a pro all the way, a great compliment to Bob's vocals, and a luxury to have someone of that talent in this band. The (typically lethargic) Boston crowd: as enthused as I've ever seen at one of his shows; Bob really should have come out for a second encore, the crowd was really ready to stay all night. Lots of great energy being passed back and forth. I left with my ears ringing (despite wearing plugs) and I couldn't care less.
Merch rating: I bought a CD on the way out, and would have bought more if I didn't everything already. He's still the best.
The Manic Street Preachers, The Paradise - Thursday, October 8
The Manics' first show in Boston since 1992 (they didn't make it this way in 1995, canceled last minute in 1999, and haven't come to the U.S. since) also did not disappoint. Despite James Dean Bradfield complaining of a cold and this being the last night of the tour (which, for any band, is typically a toss-up between total brilliance and utter disaster), the Manics started strong and stayed strong. I was surprised how few songs I knew; the new songs sounded great. They started with "Motorcycle Emptiness," which seemed to go on for ten minutes; they could have continued for another thirty. They were ferocious, they gave everything they had, and the crowd responded in kind. A great show.
Merch rating: The merch table was pretty empty, as these are the final pickings of the tour, but I would have bought a t-shirt or album if one had been there. I will definitely be picking up the new album and reviewing it.
Built to Spill, Middle East Downstairs - Friday, October 9
This was the first of three shows in Boston, supporting their new album (which I've seen very favorably reviewed but have not picked up yet). BTS has the potential for all-time great shows (I've seen them put on a few) and for pretty average shows (I've seen them put on a few), as well as anywhere in between; but I've never seen them put on a bad show. Until last night, that is. We actually walked out 2/3 of the way through their set, and we weren't the only ones. Something was wrong with Doug Martsch's voice -- he was slurring his words and had some weird head motions throughout the show. I was happy to see him play some more of the leads (as he should) as opposed to old shows; he was giving it his all, but the rest of the band was very flat. When Scott and I agreed we'd prefer sleep to watching any more, that was it for us.
Merch rating: Technically, the merch rating for this show should be that "I'll turn my back on them," but I've got too much of a history with this band to not give them a second chance. I will pick up the new album, but not because of this odd mis-step by a great band.