I’ll admit up front that Nada Surf is one of my all-time favorite bands. Their catalog, especially since 2002′s Let Go, is stellar. Each album is better than the last, and their new one, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy, is already one of my top 10 of 2012. To say I was pumped to see them play at Deluxe Saturday night would be an understatement.
The band has always been a core trio — I’ve seen them a few other times with added musicians like Gavin Guss on keyboard — but the addition of former Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard added a new level of muscularity to their sound. New songs like opener Clear Eye Clouded Mind and Teenage Dreams, as well as older gems like Weightless, had a new element of crunchy bliss that was even more rewarding. (Additional note: Need convincing of Gillard’s impact? Listen to Skills Like This from GBV’s Isolation Drills.)
The set list was spectacular and drew from their entire history, including Treehouse from High/Low and Amateur from The Proximity Effect, two songs I’d never heard live before. Another surprise was the haunting Your Legs Grow from The Weight is a Gift, a song I last heard lead singer/songwriter Matthew Caws play solo acoustic at an in-store at SXSW about 8 years ago with the Long Winters John Roderick providing back-up vocals from the back of the store.
Nada Surf standards like Hi-Speed Soul, Always Love, and Happy Kid still sounded as electric and fresh as the first time I heard them. New songs like the powerful When I Was Young and the jaw-dropping Jules and Jim fit in perfectly with the flow. Paper Boats is still epic; See These Bones still builds beautifully and explodes.
Further proof of the night’s magic: After the show was over and fans were hanging around the merch table, Caws showed up with an acoustic guitar and sang Blizzard of ’77, unexpectedly fulfilling a crowd request. It’s those moments that take a great show and make them legendary.
Opening band Waters delivered an incredible set in Indy two months ago playing with Delta Spirit at Radio Radio. The room was different this time but the outcome was the same — further proof that they’re one of the best new bands out there. Waters has that perfect dynamic blend of melody and rugged noise. Abridge My Love and For the One are perfect bursts of pop energy; Mickey Mantle, which lead singer Van Pierszalowski delivered acoustically from the foot of the stage, is a dramatic quiet/loud gem. Seriously, people need to lock in to Waters now or risk getting swept away later. They’re fantastic.
The whole show was amazing and has an easy slot in my top shows of the year. Were you there? What did you think?