Supergrass Lights Up the Wiltern in Long-Overdue Return to the States: Concert Review

No one told the almost 2,000-strong audience at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles that Supergrass were never as big in North America as they were in their native U.K. After an almost decade-long break-up and reformation in 2019, the excitement for the band’s singular-sounding exuberant pop/rock, which never really went away, is reignited. The group was scheduled to perform at a few stops Stateside in April 2020, which, for obvious reasons had to be postponed. The upside to this was the heightened anticipation for this long-overdue Wiltern show.

Considering how many other shows were happening in Los Angeles that evening, not the least of which was Paul McCartney’s “Got Back” tour at SoFi Stadium, the dedicated full house turnout for Supergrass was even more impressive. And, the group’s “not-so-secret” show at No Vacancy in Hollywood the night before took nothing away from the official Wiltern tour date, one of only three scheduled stops , the other two being at Brooklyn Steel and Webster Hall.

Ironically, Supergrass signaled their entrance with “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” They kicked off with the title track from their second album, the slow-building “In It for the Money.” Vocalist/guitarist Gaz Coombes’ voice rang through clear and flawless, no sign of atrophy from the quarter century that has passed since the release of that album. Fast forward to 2008 with the punchy “Diamond Hoo Ha Man,” then back to the late ‘90s with the twisted nursery rhyme that is “Mary” and the multi-tempoed “Moving” from their self-titled album third album.

The setlist served as a career retrospective, covering Supergrass’ six-album discography, cherry-picking the best of their rich vault of material. No matter how many birthdays they rack up, Supergrass is permanently associated with youthfulness and exuberance. Their songs have lost none of their fizzy excitement over time. And Supergrass’ association with the glut of Britpop bands of their nascence, most of whom didn’t make a dent in the American consciousness, has no bearing on their music, which boasts a timelessness that is admirable.

The way Coombes, bassist Mick Quinn, drummer Danny Goffey and keyboardist Rob Coombes (brother to Gaz) lock in with each other is so tight, their musicianship so superior, their songs so much more sophisticated than they might seem on the surface, it’s a true artistic performance experience. At one point Gaz commented that the band were, “Playing too fast, fucking things up because we’re so excited to see you,” and that at this point in musical time, he realized it was, “Unusual to play all live instruments on stage.” No hiccups were experienced on the receiving end, however, with the crowd, primarily made up of GenX men, albeit with a generous sprinkling of women, pogoing and shout-singing the lyrics.

The simple stage set-up with only jewel-toned lights sweeping around kept the focus on the group’s performance, which, really, is the only thing Supergrass needs to offer. Gaz’s in-between songs banter was natural and winning. In contrast, Coffey’s input was unnecessary with his quips falling flat. Luckily, there was a lot more music to get through from the thrash of “Richard III” to the swing of “Going Out.”

At the 50-minute mark they had a brief intermission that was soundtracked by their song “Coffee in the Pot,” giving the audience members a chance to catch their breath. By the time Supergrass hit “Alright,” from their 1995 debut album, “I Should Coco,” the crowd was ready to shout the words back at the band. And when Gaz commanded “Sing it!” at the start of “Sun Hits the Sky,” everyone was happy to oblige.

It’s a particularly special moment in any Supergrass show when the group performs “Lenny.” The bottom-heavy song has a lot of bite and works up the group as much as it does their audience, which is partially why they have to leave it toward the end of the set. Quinn walked off the stage at the end of the song, not realizing they weren’t quite done yet. The rest of the group called him back for “Pumping on the Stereo,” which the audience ushered in with their rhythmic clapping accompaniment.

After this was the real gap before the encore, which did not last very long as the deafening noise from the crowd demanded more immediately. Supergrass returned to the stage with the lively “Strange Ones” and ended with their much-loved debut single, “Caught by the Fuzz,” a tale of teenage antics, which almost three decades after its release, Supergrass still embodies with energy and enthusiasm — matched only by the gathered faithful buoyed by their love for the band and two years of pandemic-sidelined waiting.

Set List: 

“In It for the Money”
“I’d Like to Know”
“Diamond Hoo Ha Man”
“Mary”
“Moving”
“She’s So Loose”
“Mansize Rooster”
“Late in the Day”
“Richard III”
“Going Out”
[“Coffee in the Pot”]
“St. Petersburg”
“Seen the Light”
“Grace”
“Alright”
“Sun Hits the Sky”
“Lenny”
“Pumping On Your Stereo”

Encore:

“Strange Ones”
“Caught by the Fuzz”

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