Friday, 20 November 2009

740 NADA SURF, Rogue Wave, London Scala, Thursday 21 February 2008

My facebook status before this gig read thus; "David Rose is... looking forward to seeing Nada Surf on Thursday and maybe saying "hey" to facebook friend Matt Caws". Truth to tell, I was very much up for this one, as 'da Surf have been gradually and slyly becoming my favourite band currently actively touring, recording and making music. I love their unique blend of US college rock, which is open, honest, exciting, thrilling, touching, emotive and highly melodic, all in equal measure. So, Rachel and I hit the road at 6, parking at Shepherd's Bush and tubing it to Kings Cross, hitting the venue at 8.15 for the start of Rogue Wave's set. They had an angular, understated take on US alternative rock, veering between some alt-country stylings and quirkier Death Cab/ Wheat territory. The vocalist however wasn't great "live", and the tunes weren't as memorable as the atmosphere evoked. Promising, but some way short of the genuine article as yet.

Which of course were were about to see! Took a position on the floor, stage right, noting the big reflective cymbals onstage again! The 3-piece Surf, augmented by a guest keyboardist, sauntered casually onstage at 9.15 and broke into the New Order disco stomp of "High Speed Soul". However, no bass sound emanated from the speakers, so as Daniel tried frantically to fix it, Matt called a halt and rolled out an unscheduled solo "Blizzard Of '77" instead. Great save - and, technical problems solved, they parked "HS Soul" and went into "Happy Kid" instead.

Da Surf have been gradually turning the volume down of late; with new CD "Lucky" only 4 days old and initial listens proving it to be even more understated than the last one, it was no surprise really that this set turned out to be a lower-key, more considered affair than some previous Nada Surf shows. This be no bad thing, however; the sound, pindrop perfect, really allowed Matt's reined-in, conversational vocal style and confessional lovelorn lyrics to shine. It also meant that when the rock did rock, invariably in snatches of songs like "Happy Kid" and "Imaginary Friend", it was even more potent.

So, what of these so-say low-key numbers? Well, "Killians Red", not necessarily one of my faves, was utterly superb, soaring and sinister; "80 Windows" was, well, "80 Windows" ('nuff said); "Fruit Fly" was a sing-along delight ("if you all sing along, it'll sound even sillier," introduced Matt); "Inside Of Love" again featured the soulful audience sway-along; and the heartfelt ballad "Paper Boats" featured snatches of Echo And the Bunnymen's "Ocean Rain". Of the newies, set closer "See Those Bones" won the day, opening like a lamb, stripped back and coy, but gradually building to a lionseque roaring crescendo. But they all made a mighty impression "live" - this new CD is certainly going to be a sneaky grower...

After a swift 1 hour 15 minute set, encore "Stalemate" was as rock as it got tonight, the strident sing-along hook effortlessly morphing into the "Love Will Tear Us Apart" mid-section. Then Matt, as ever an open, engaging and occasionally very funny stage presence throughout, thanked the crew before a party-time finale of "Blankest Year" resulted in first the support band, then the front rows and finally anyone and everyone who fancied it joining them onstage. I sneaked up at the end to grab the set-list and join the throng to shake Matt's hand. He recognised me and greeted me with a, "hey man, what's up? Good to see you!". Facebook status mission accomplished!

Such a good set, even the lack of normal live favourites "Hyperspace" and "The Way You Wear Your Head" didn't detract from it, as we hit the road, enduring 9 sets of roadworks on the M4(!) and hitting home at 12.45. Another very special night from a very special band in Nada Surf!

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