Live music review: Grandaddy, Vicar St

****

Criminally underrated, notoriously over-bearded, Grandaddy were one of the finest bands to emerge from the American indie scene in the late 1990s.

With a distinctive sound that uniquely blended keyboards and guitars, their songs swooned constantly between euphoric power chords and glitchy, synth-laden melancholia, the latter quality underlined always by singer Jason Lytle’s wonderful falsetto.

Despite the astonishing beauty of 2000’s The Sophtware Slump and 2003’s Sumday, the band never quite found the acclaim they deserved and so split up in 2006.

A reunion tour in 2012 has since sown the seeds of a new album, however, and ahead of its release, the bearded skatepunks — now notably less bearded — have hit the road again.

In Vicar St they wasted no time reminding us all just how good they are. Kicking off with ‘Hewlett’s Daughter’, the opening section saw them tearing their way through ‘El Caminos in the West’ and ‘Laughing Stock’ before a pulsating run-through of ‘The Crystal Lake’ brought the house down.

As much as the band’s songs are marked by Lytle’s melancholy refrains and lovely wordplay, in a live setting it’s the simple stuff — ie. their way with a crunching guitar riff — that really stands out. Classics like ‘AM 180’ and ‘Chartsengrafs’ thus had the crowd sent into a joyous frenzy.

The highlights on the night, however, arrived during the more downtempo moments. ‘Jed’s Other Poem’, ‘Fare Thee Not Well Mutineer’, and ‘Lost On Yer Merry Wa’y are not quiet songs exactly — the latter finishing in a maelstrom of noise — but the irrepressible sadness at their centre is hugely affecting, and all the more so live, with Lytle catching every high note perfectly.

A welcome new song, ‘Way We Won’t’, is somewhat in this tradition. The set closed with another quieter tune, the band’s brilliant ballad of techno-anxiety, ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot’, before an encore of ‘So You’ll Aim Toward The Sky’ and a typically demented spin through ‘Summer Here Kids’ capped off a fantastic show.


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