Thursday, March 8, 2012

Concert Review: Urge Overkill, Auckland, March 6

Some bands will always take you to a certain time in your life. For me, Urge Overkill is the sound of 1993.

Urge were a bit of the odd man out in the mid 1990s, the era of grunge. I loved the whole grunge thing, but Urge's vibe were more old-school 70s arena rock - taking a tip from bands like Cheap Trick and Kiss, but with songs also steeped in the Husker Du/Replacements style of gritty punkpop. The band dressed like hipster dandies and never wore flannel. They even had a logo, for crying out loud - how un-grunge!

But I loved Urge Overkill, particularly the one-two punch of their great power pop albums "Saturation" and "Exit The Dragon," their last gasp before the band broke up in the mid 1990s. Their biggest popular hit was their cover on Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" from the movie Pulp Fiction, a great song but not really representative of the Urge's full talents. At their best, Urge were hard-rocking, witty, and slick in a groovy kind of way.

Because no bands ever break up forever any more, a reunited Urge Overkill came to the Kings Arms in New Zealand this week for their first show in decades - whippet-thin frontman Nash Kato looking barely aged a day since the 1990s, with his sunglasses and floppy hair. Eddie "King" Roeser and Kato traded off vocals and guitar licks in a fun hour or so set. Pal Bob and I went to check it out.

I remember listening to "Saturation" incessantly in 1993, living in this wee tiny trailer with cinderblock bookcases. At 22 or so, at a point when you have no idea where you're going to end up in life, Urge's "Positive Bleeding" was a kind of anthem for me -- "I live my life with no control of my destiny / I can bleed when I want to bleed."

There was a heap of 1990s nostalgia going on for the Urge's reunion show down here. Sometimes muddy sound and a smallish crowd didn't dim the band's terrific energy. Highlights includes a great show-opening turn on "Positive Bleeding," plus welcome takes on "Saturation" album cuts "Bottle of Fur" and "Heaven 90210," two of my favorites. Urge also dipped into their fun new "comeback" album "Rock 'N' Roll Submarine" a few times, which maintains the feel of their 1990s work very well. "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" was hauled out for the encore with a raggedy loose version, while the pounding "Sister Havana" wrapped things up. Urge put on a tight, good-natured show, looking happy to hit New Zealand on their second life. Glad to see you guys too, and thanks for making me feel like it was 1993 all over again for an hour or so.

Another review, with cool video here: The 13th Floor

And the great video for "Positive Bleeding":

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