Music Review: The Feelies at the 9:30 Club

The Feelies, shown in a 2008 photo, played five encores Saturday at the 9:30 club.
The Feelies, shown in a 2008 photo, played five encores Saturday at the 9:30 club. (Courtesy Of Bob Torsello)
Monday, March 16, 2009

The reemergence of the Feelies -- pioneers of hyper-strum, masters of bittersweet indie-rock before it became a genre -- after 18 dormant years shouldn't surprise their followers too much. After all, the New Jersey band's '76-to-'91 career was marked by anti-careerist moves and general shunning of the spotlight. So, showing up at the 9:30 club Saturday night and blazing through an exquisite career overview that delighted fans and gave the impression that the band had never stopped practicing was almost par for the Feelies course.

Reunited last year to perform a Fourth of July show with Sonic Youth and having appeared Wednesday at a Carnegie Hall tribute to R.E.M., the quintet (guitarists Bill Million and Glenn Mercer, percussionists Stanley Demeski and Dave Weckermen and bassist Brenda Sauter) rose to the challenge of all phases of their sound. The totally wired pulsebeats of their classic debut, "Crazy Rhythms" -- "Fa Cé-La," "Raised Eyebrows" and the title track -- were lively and inspired. So were the prickly shimmer of 1986's landmark "The Good Earth": "Let's Go," "The High Road" and the haywire-guitar climax of "Slipping (Into Something)."

Songs from 1988's "Only Life" sounded better than ever; both "Deep Fascination" and "The Final Word" were highlights. The Feelies also played a wonderful series of closing covers, from the Beatles and the Velvet Underground to the Modern Lovers ("I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms") and Patti Smith ("Dancing Barefoot") to R.E.M. ("Carnival of Sorts") and Neil Young ("Barstool Blues"). Those songs came during a five-encore sequence that spoke to the Feelies' idiosyncratic brilliance, the longtime support of the 9:30 club and the perfect way to handle a comeback show.

-- Patrick Foster

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