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Recap: Nada Surf @ First Unitarian Church

I must admit: I love seeing 90s bands. There’s something about seeing 30- and 40-something middle managers and accountants let go of their daily trudges through corporate hell to swill cheap beer, inappropriately grab the asses of their lady friends, and sing along to rock tunes as if they just went back to the local pub that conveniently never, ever carded.

And while there were certainly some younger fans in attendance since this was an all ages show at the First Unitarian Church’s basement space, last night’s Nada Surf was overwhelmingly about nostalgia, focusing heavily on dusting off those old records rather than playing all of their newest tracks. A smart move, indeed.

The first half of the set was heavy on their 2012 album, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy, and they were strong openers that set a great tone for the rest of the night. Played well (aside from some preliminary sound balance issues with the mic), they got the crowd moving. The set really took off though, in the second half.

“When I Was Young” feels like a breezy afterthought of a tune on record, but played live it was pretty evocative of the feelings that many of the older fans could probably relate to immediately, and you could feel the pulse of that kind of emotion running through the crowd. It was also the first track that had a sick guitar solo, which didn’t hurt one bit.

After that, the band played quite a bit of Let Go, which seemed to put everyone in a good mood. I was hoping for a bit of “Blonde on Blonde,” but they seemed more intent on playing the more uptempo tracks. Even “Always Love” got an upbeat treatment, courtesy of a quickened tempo that made everyone’s feet move just a little more.

For super fans, I’m sure the set was a god send. Filled with back catalog gems, and songs that they rarely play anymore (“Popular,” anyone?), it was like one of those fancy, $200 box sets come to life. But for casual listeners and those plus ones accompanying their hubbies and boyfriends to the evening rock show, it bordered on too long. I was pretty exhausted once the clock struck midnight, but once they began the opening chords to “Blankest Year,” I decided to get hell over how late it was and joined in the crowd’s chorus. “Oh, fuck it…” — Darren White

Nada Surf @ First Unitarian Church – Philadelphia, PA – Wednesday, December 12, 2012
01 Clear Eye Clouded Mind
02 Waiting for Something
03 Do It Again
04 Weightless
05 Whose Authority
06 Jules and Jim
07 Looking Through
08 Killian’s Red
09 Hyperspace
10 Amateur
11 80 Windows
12 When I Was Young
13 Hi-Speed Soul
14 Paper Boats
15 Beautiful Beat
16 No Snow on the Mountain
17 Inside of Love
18 Teenage Dreams
19 Yer Head
——encore break——
20 Deeper Well
21 Popular
22 See These Bones
23 Always Love
24 Blankest Year

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