Friday, October 1, 2010

Superchunk : Live at the Trocadero

Initially published here

I don’t know how many Superchunk shows I’ve seen over the years (a dozen? twenty? more?), but their recent performance at the Trocadero may have been the best one yet. On tour for the first time in eight years promoting their first new album in nine years, there was reason enough to expect little more than an exercise in '90s nostalgia. But said new album (Majesty Shredding) is on par with anything in their catalog and the six new tunes they sprinkled throughout their 90-minute set were greeted just as enthusiastically as their classics.

You could sense that the band was truly appreciative of the warm response to the new material. Frontman Mac McCaughan’s frequent gratitude never seemed less than genuine and hard-won. Alluding to a slightly less-than-excited Boston crowd the night prior, he suggested that perhaps drummer Jon Wurster was just a little goosed to be playing in front of his hometown crowd (Wurster is in fact from Bucks County, but we’ll let that slide). Whatever it was, his propulsive playing pushed every song just a little bit harder and his bandmates responded in kind. My initial disappointment at getting “only” 90 minutes was quickly forgotten as I acknowledged that it would have been damn near impossible to sustain such a high level of intensity for much longer. Even the handful of slower tempo songs (“Like a Fool," “Fractures in Plaster," “Kicked In”) were played with a rigor and forcefulness rivaling the most manic moments in the set.

And there were many manic moments -- “I Guess I Remembered it Wrong," “Hyper Enough," “Slack Motherfucker” and “Precision Auto," all rivaling any prior performance I’ve ever seen. In the eight years since the band last played Philly they have done sporadic one-off shows, several of which I’ve caught (two South by Southwest showcases and "The Daily Show"’s 10th Anniversary party come to mind). But I suspect that playing night after night, even if just for the two weeks of this relatively short jaunt, has brought them back to the peak of their powers. Let’s hope that more shows like this one at the Troc will encourage them to keep Superchunk going as something a little more than just the part-time endeavor it has become.

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