Dave Pirner/ Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler
A few thoughts after seeing Soul Asylum Friday at hot and humid First Avenue:
• New bassist Winston Roye – playing maybe his eighth gig with the band – fit right in. No, he wasn’t as animated or energetic as predecessor Tommy Stinson, but his performance was solid. He and drummer Michael Bland clearly have an affinity.
• Soul Asylum is justly proud of “Delayed Reaction,” its first album in six years, but is playing five songs from a new CD too much? That was about one-quarter of the 90-minute set.
• Doing Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was a cool change of pace. Dave Pirner got to exercise his seldom-heard Bowie-esque voice. Doing Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms” seemed more of a goofy change of pace for an encore. Plus, Pirner’s delivery was totally Cave-like.
• As is their wont to do, Soul Asylum came across as professional rockers. Although his voice remains passionate, Pirner wasn’t as physical as he used to be. He didn’t dance much or seem to get lost in his performance. He did laser his anger at his guitar tech, who apparently brought the wrong guitars or wrongly tuned or did something wrong. Pirner kept rejecting the guitars or tossing them aside in mid-song and finally he just kicked over his electric guitar in its stand near the end of the night. A hardcore fan told me that Pirner apparently had similar issues with his guitar guy the night before in the rare 7th Street Entry gig.
• Bland’s drumming really drives this train. He consistently impresses no matter what style – or in what band – he’s playing.
• Guest Tommy Barbarella had some key keyboard fills throughout the night but it’s Danny Murphy’s guitar – whether punky or poppy – that defines Soul Asylum’s sound.
• Even though he’s pushing 50, Pirner can still rock a pair of thoroughly shredded jeans. Loved the way he shook those shreds (which are almost fringe-like) on “Closer to the Stars.”
• “Stand Up and Be Strong,” which closed the main set, feels like it was designed to be an anthem but it never really catches on with anthemic-like impact in concert because it never caught on at radio.
• Highlights: the one-two punkish punch of “Attacking the Beat” and “Somebody To Shove”; the impassioned “Without a Trace” with Murphy’s jangly guitar and Pirner’s dedication, as always, to late bassist Karl Mueller; “Did My Best,” which sounded like a tribute to the Band’s Levon Helm; and “Closer to the Stars” during which Pirner performed like the classic lost-in-his-performance Dave Pirner.
Here is Soul Asylum’s set list from Friday:
Your Generation/ Just Like Anyone/ Marionette/ Pipe Dream/ A Little Too Clean/ Gravity/ Take Manhattan/ Black Gold/ Ran Off and Left Her/ By the Way/ Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)/ The Streets/ Into the Light/ Did My Best/ Without a Trace/ Runaway Train/ Closer to the Stars/ Attacking the Beat/ Somebody To Shove/ Stand Up and Be Strong ENCORE Into My Arms/ Shakin’ Street