Wednesday, 16 December 2009

686 NADA SURF, John Vanderslice, Bristol Fleece, Sunday 23 November 2005

Thanks to a handful of exemplary, incendiary shows and a gloriously melancholic yet uplifting album in "Let Go", Nada Surf elevated themselves to the ranks of the very very special bands last time out. That, however, was a couple of years ago. What could we expect from 'da Surf, 2005?

Well, a delicious new album, "The Weight Is A Gift", a real grower rather than an immediate hit, whetted the appetite for more. So here we go, another Sunday night down to the Fleece! Hit the venue at 8 - a sell-out show but quiet early doors, so got the drinks in, Rachel got a t-shirt and we took a good spot stage right.

Surf vocalist Matt Caws spotted us and came over to say hello, which was cool! He then hopped onstage to provide an effusive introduction for support John Vanderslice, a fellow US Barsuk Records recording artiste. We'd checked out his website earlier, concluding he was a cracked, introspective singer-songwriter in the Elliott Smith mould; however with drummer and back-up tape machine in tow, he kicked off with some countrified powerpop licks a la Paul Westerberg or Tommy Keene. This then evolved into quieter, quirkier Americana, similar to 80's REM, including one number from this San Francisco native which totally recalled "Losing My Religion"! Overall a very favourable impression.

Took a spot stage left as the Surf boys gathered offstage, then hopped on to little fanfare at 9.15. After a sing-along "Blizzard Of '77" intro, they kicked into a clutch of openers which despite their efforts (especially the kinetic Daniel, deadlocks flying in all directions) sounded introspective and a little flat. Strumming along merrily they may have been, but they just weren't catching fire, which wasn't helped by a static, seemingly uninterested Bristol crowd.

"80 Windows" changed all that. The high watermark of their canon, it was glorious, heartbreaking and uplifting, and marked a sea change in the set. Thereafter, they went from introspective Sebadoh-like naval gazing, to power, pomp and pride, the quiet beauty of their music now layered with more oomph. New one "Always Love" led the charge, the rallying cry of "Imaginary Friends" kept the momentum, and the bare confessional of "Do It Again" was the summit.

A lovely "Paper Boats" featured Matt borrowing lines from Echo And The Bunnymen's "Ocean Rain", before "The Way You Wear Your Head" and final encore "Hyperspace" spat with venom and soared with power. Nada Surf are well and truly back!

Got my set-list signed too as the house lights came up - apart from Daniel who doesn't do such things, but who offered a beer and gave me a pick and a hug instead! Fair enough. Also, Matt stopped packing away to play "Bacardi" to a small group of after-hours hangers-on, including Rach and myself. They're back in the Spring - so are we!

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