Nada Surf @ Sonic Boom

. : : April 4th, 2012 : : .

After traveling across borders, both provincial and international, to see Nada Surf perform almost a dozen times in some seven years, Nada Surf was coming to town and I wasn’t buying a ticket. Their latest release, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy, didn’t strike a chord with me.

As the band has aged, I’ve noticed a keen drop in infectious melodies and guitar hooks, which have given way to wordy turns of phrase over an increasing down-tempo sound track. I didn’t love their last album like I did the ones before it. High/Low is a great 90’s alternative record, full of youthful vigor. The Proximity Effect sees the band strike out into darker and more experimental territory. Let Go was an indie rock masterpiece. The Weight Is A Gift has some of the band’s best, mature work to date, and is, in this reviewer’s opinion, is far and away the most overlooked album in the band’s oeuvre.

But Lucky was an album of peaks and valleys. Stand out tracks, such as See These Bones, Weightless, Ice On The Wing, and The Fox are right up there with the best of The Weight Is A Gift, and although I Like What You Say and Beautiful Beat are kind of catchy, they lack the urgency and immediacy that’s always been at the core of the best Nada Surf songs.

Their latest disc was, unfortunately, a further progression in this direction. Even within it’s positive review of the disc, Paste Magazine admits, “[The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy] won’t necessarily knock you out of your seat, but rather leave you wanting to lean back and stay a while.” Except I didn’t want to stay a while. I wanted to put on their old disc. Alas.

So, I was going to miss the band in Toronto for the first time in nine years. I could hardly believe it. That is, until, the band announced that they would be doing another free in-store performance at Sonic Boom Records. I was excited: I hadn’t been to what is, arguably, the best record store in the city since it was forced out of its location at the end of its lease, and relocated beside one of Toronto’s greatest landmarks: Honest Ed’s. This was the perfect occasion, and would ease the pain of completely missing the band on the tour, and breaking my impressive streak.

I got to Sonic Boom about twenty minutes before the show was set to begin, and the band was already setting up and soundchecking on the stage — now located at the far corner of the record store rather than the basement. The stage seemed to be easily twice the stage of the old one, underscoring Sonic Boom’s dedication to featuring exclusive, intimate performances from great talent. The new location is beautiful, and maintains enough of the appearance of its original locale that it’s instantly familiar. I found a spot across the the right PA, and within moments, the audience, until this point mostly local photographers setting up shop, began to swell.

I can’t say they attracted quite the crowd I’d expected. Whether it was lack of promotion or lack of interest is up to debate; I’d say roughly 50-60 people lined the aisles in front of the stage, all told, so still a decent turn out for a late-afternoon show.

The band themselves was barely recognizable. Lead singer / guitarist Matthew Caws once golden hair is now a striking silver, and the band size had nearly doubled! When last the band performed at Sonic Boom, they performed as the standard core trio. Now, the stage was filled, the band an official quintet of players. Matthew’s guitars were supplemented by another guitarist, and the addition of a keyboardist / trumpeter filled the remaining spot.

The band opened with gracious thank yous — they legitimately seemed overjoyed at the support the band has enjoyed in Toronto and were happy to give back. Opening with the first two tracks from the latest release, the songs seemed well-suited to the acoustic arrangements, but still left me wanting more.

The band was happy to oblige and pay respect to the older fans, culling at least one track from each but their first album. One of the real highlights was their oldest track, 80 Windows, which was updated to include a moody trumpet solo that sounded phenomenal. The band came full circle, closing the set with another track from the new album, and perhaps the best song of the set, the slowly building When I Was Young.

The half-hour in-store was exactly what I’m sure it was meant to be: a short and sweet appetizer to whet the appetite for the show later at the Opera House, and it definitely worked.

The recording sounds great. Some of the applause gets pretty loud, but never spikes uncontrollably. This is a great tape that Nada Surf fans will get a definite kick out of. Make sure you check out for more great photographs.

01. [introduction]
02. Clear Eye, Clouded Mind
03. Waiting For Something
04. [banter]
05. Whose Authority?
06. [banter]
07. Weightless
      > Popular [tease]
08. Happy Kid
09. 80 Windows
10. [banter]
11. When I Was Young
12. [outro]

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[ Request FLAC or MP3 Download ]

When I Was Young (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Nada Surf and Sonic Boom for a great early evening set of music.

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