The primacy of the guitar as rock's instrument of truth was proven beyond a doubt Sunday night at the 9:30 club by the raging Minneapolis quartet Soul Asylum. From the funky riffs of "Little Too Clean" (and when did you last hear a grungy rock band play in 7/8 time?) to the quiet picking of "Nice Guys Don't Get Paid," to its trademark power chords of "Sometime to Return," Soul Asylum proved it could do it all as well as any band.
With energy to burn, the combo ripped through 18 songs with hardly a pause, and the set still seemed too short. Without resorting to flashy solos, guitarists Dave Pirner and Dan Murphy layered their parts with careful abandon, making the solid arrangements seem almost accidentally perfect. These two also handled the vocals, trading leads and building harmonies with ease, their tales of "Every kid grows up" ringing true without seeming forced or maudlin.
Drivin 'n' Cryin opened the show with a sonic tribute to hard rock bands of the '70s. Leader Kevin Kinney has jettisoned his folk tendencies, saving that side for his acoustic tours. In that sense, the band is more uniform in sound than on earlier tours, but the paint-by-numbers music doesn't hold up next to Kinney's literate lyrics and powerful melodies.