Soul Asylum At The Troubadour
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By Crystal Larsen
West Hollywood, Calif.
While the calendar may reflect 2012, on Aug. 3 Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner looked as if he had just stepped off the bus from 1992. He was dressed head-to-toe in perfect '90s fashion, complete with strategically ripped Levi's, an Aquaman T-shirt and worn-to-the-core white Converse high tops. Strapped with a beat-up yet perfectly rock-worthy Fender Telecaster, on which was a seemingly random Holiday Inn sticker, Pirner, along with original guitarist Dan Murphy, bassist Winston Roye and drummer Michael Bland, took the stage and invited the packed crowd at West Hollywood's Troubadour into their Soul Asylum.
The crowd was about as diverse as it gets. But the fan who stood out was a young girl, not much older than 10, who stood pressed up against the stage, gazing up at Pirner with eyes that told me she was finally seeing a live version of the band whose posters she had pinned on her wall. As she jumped up and down singing along to every song, she caught Pirner's interest and he reached down and gave her a guitar pick and said, "Wait, how did you get in here?" They both smiled and the band, who seemed to be having just as much fun as the audience, continued on through a set that spanned much of their catalog, from 1986's While You Were Out and 1992's Grave Dancer's Union to their, according to Pirner, "hot new record," 2012's Delayed Reaction.
Sprinkled among classics such as "Black Gold" and "Runaway Train," the latter of which earned two GRAMMY nominations in 1993 for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best Music Video — Short Form, were eclectic covers of punk songs from Generation X, MC5 and Suicide Commandos. Proving he's a natural both onstage and onscreen (he had a small role in the 1994 film Reality Bites), Pirner delivered each performance with such energy and animation it was hard to take your eyes off him. Though he went through a period of sporting a shorter, more clean-cut look, his longish locks were nearing below his chin on this night and the band's hard-rocking performances brought Pirner to a bucket of sweat by the end of the night. Every time he whipped his head around, swinging his guitar the opposite way to emphasize a hard-hitting riff, sweat flew into the audience, while also dripping down his fingers as they moved effortlessly up and down the guitar neck. For a moment I felt as if I had traveled back to 1992 and was watching the band on the brink of success, especially when Pirner jokingly introduced "Runaway Train" as "something we worked out in the dressing room," and that he was "a little worried about it." The band clearly had nothing to worry about as the crowd, even the 10-year-old super fan, sang along with a level excitement that you can only get when hearing your new favorite song for the first time.
The only thing I had to worry about as I left the Troubadour that night was that it's not 1992. Reality does bite. Fortunately for Soul Asylum fans, even though the band's catalog dates back to another moment in time, their songs remain the same.
"Your Generation" (Generation X cover)
"Just Like Anyone"
"Little Too Clean"
"By The Way"
"Into The Light"
"I Did My Best"
"Without A Trace"
"Closer To The Stars"
"Somebody To Shove"
"Stand Up And Be Strong"
"Shakin' Street" (MC5 cover)
"Attacking The Beat" (Suicide Commandos cover)
To catch Soul Asylum in a city near you, click here for tour dates.