Live Music + Gig Reviews

Supergrass @ Theater Of The Living Arts, Philadelphia

11 February 2006

Brit-rockers Supergrass played the Theater of the Living Arts on South Street in Philadelphia, on Saturday night. Texas prog-rock band Pilotdrift opened.

Supergrass singer Gaz Coombes opened their set with an excellent solo, acoustic rendition of St. Petersburg, from the band’s most recent release, Road To Rouen. Bass guitarist Mickey Quinn then joined in for a surprisingly effective, acoustic version of the early single, Caught By the Fuzz. I have to say that Coombes’ voice was pretty stunning on both. I knew the man could sing, but here he sounded so good that he had me thinking of a Martin Sexton or even, dare I say it, a Jeff Buckley. Pretty impressive for a bona fide rocker. This is also a really nice dimension for a band that already melds the best of power-pop, punk-pop, and rock-piano.

Road to Rouen, their sixth, solid release, could perhaps be seen as a merely good album that lacks the boisterousness that has been Supergrass’ trademark. After all, the band is best known for youth-oriented party anthems, like Pumping On Your Stereo (one of their encore numbers) and Alright (conspicuously absent from the set list), a highlight of the stellar, 1995 soundtrack for the teen film Clueless. More accurate, I think, is that this is a very good, chilled-out, and smartly produced CD from a band that is now twelve years old and that is no longer comprised of the nineteen and twenty-year-old kids that brought us the I Should Coco debut.

And the more mature sound fits them pretty well. For this show, the handful of newer songs they played, like Kick in the Teeth, set a nice groove that helped build momentum until they hit Moving, when the party really started. There was little patter from Gaz Coombes and the songs were all presented in a pretty straightforward manner. But the band also showed itself to be very slick, super tight, and they sounded great throughout the hour-and-a-half show.

A full house of several hundred, relatively young fans were more than appreciative. I don’t know if I necessarily prefer the newest direction, but they did sound like a veteran band that is simply growing and not one that is hitting any kind of creative dry spell.

Basically, Supergrass know how to party hard, but not to the point where they fall all over themselves, or punch someone, or something. They’re a great time. With their shaggy haircuts, swagger, talent, and Hard Days Night-ish sense of humour, they are perhaps the quintessential British rock band. Major pop hooks, but the trio (including drummer Danny Goffey), plus one (keyboard addition Rob Coombes), also plays with the abandon of a great bar/pub band, such as on Richard III and the fine, British blues number, Lenny, which closed their main set.

Yet Supergrass is also one of those confounding bands that should be big in the U.S. but instead is only well known by a lucky minority. I don’t know why this is but, based on this show, it definitely does not appear to be due to any fault of the band.

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Supergrass @ Theater Of The Living Arts, Philadelphia
Supergrass – Road To Rouen
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