Music Reviews Supergrass

Diehard Supergrass fans are hard to come by in America. Your average U.S. rock fan might remember the band for its 1995 semi-hit “Alright,” but I’m stressing might. Unsurprisingly, the audience tonight is mainly made up of lager-drenched British youth.

After a grueling intermission between opener Pilotdrift and the main event, singer/guitarist Gaz Coombes treats the crowd to a mini acoustic set, starting out with a solo version of the laid-back, countrified “St. Petersburg,” from the band’s most recent album, Road to Rouen. Although the song gets a few hoots and hollers, it’s a little too slow for the ready-to-rock crowd. Soon after, bassist Mick Quinn (on acoustic guitar) joins Coombes onstage for rousing versions of crowd favorites “Caught By The Fuzz” and “Sitting Up Straight.” However, acoustic sets—when not properly timed—turn energetic fans into torpid zombies. Add a long wait between acts, and you get a half-drunk, antsy crowd champing at the bit.

Plugged in or not, tonight’s theme is definitely musical diversity. After the acoustic set, keyboardist Rob Coombes (Gaz’s older brother) and drummer Danny Goffey (who gets a huge welcome) emerge from backstage. The quartet jumps right into Rouen’s “Tales of Endurance, Pts. 4, 5 & 6,” a five-minute-plus, double-dropped-D twang fest, which shoots energy into the lethargic crowd. The set features other Rouen gems, which fit perfectly amidst the band’s back catalog. Gaz and Rob play “Roxy”—a tribute to their mother, who recently passed away—as a keyboard duet, under dimmed stage lights. Fans hold up a few cigarette lighters, adding ambience. “Kick in the Teeth,” with its jingle-jangle riff, sounds like a ’60s Byrds B-side and allows the movers and shakers in the audience to do what they do best. In an odd twist, a roadie hands Gaz a bass and Mick a guitar, and the two rewrite the phrasing and rhythmic turns of “Mary.” The cheering and singing reach a climax for “Sun Hits the Sky,” “Richard III,” and “Pumping On Your Stereo.” “Rush Hour Soul,” from 2002’s Life On Other Planets, loses a bit of its drive without the rhythm guitar framing the delicious opening riff (as on the studio recording), but the band’s spot-on renditions of “Grace,” “Strange Ones” and “Lenny” are evidence that Supergrass is an underrated band with massive musical talent.

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