While it seems with each passing year more old favorites reunite to relive past glories and/or receive the wider recognition they deserved but didn’t get in their youth, the really remarkable thing has been that so few have disappointed. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of one that’s been ill-advised. Nonetheless, the most welcome ones have been those like The Jesus and Mary Chain (see last week’s live review) and The Dream Syndicate who have gone beyond merely totting out their greatest hits to make new music that lives up to their legacy, which certainly hasn’t been the case with many of the records spawned by reunions.
Opening for The Dream Syndicate show was Richard Lloyd, who he himself is no stranger to reunions having reunited with his Television bandmates in the ‘90s and who took part in the first Rocket from the Tombs comeback in 2003 as a fill-in for departed guitarist Peter Laughner. Of course, many fans wish that he was taking part in the current Television reunion, and it’s easy to understand why. The majority of his performance was comprised of high-grade blues rock that while not insufferable, certainly wasn’t particularly riveting even when he segued into “I’m Waiting for the Man” (by the Velvet Underground). As such, the highlights of his set were “Marquee Moon” and “See No Evil” from Television’s seminal debut Marquee Moon album. Whether or not Television is worse off without Lloyd remains to be seen (I’ll be seeing the band without Lloyd for the first time in a few weeks), but he probably would do better playing the songs on which he made his name.
The Dream Syndicate—singer and guitarist Steve Wynn (pictured), drummer Dennis Duck, and bassist Mark Walton, along with guitarist Jason Victor from Wynn’s Miracle 3 band—are on tour for How Did I Find Myself Here?, their superb new album which manages the difficult trick of exhibiting the hallmarks of the band’s sound without coming off like a simple rehashing. With Green on Red’s Chris Cacavas, who produced the record, sitting in on keys intermittently throughout the night, the album would dominate their set (they played all of it except one song). But they first began with a classic, “Halloween,” from their own seminal debut, The Days of Wine and Roses. New and old worked seamlessly together, the only noticeable difference being that Wynn’s voice has gone higher as he’s gotten older. He now sounds a lot like Dean Wareham, which is ironic, given that Wareham’s bands (Galaxie 500 and Luna) have always sounded a lot like The Dream Syndicate.
Anyway, perhaps the only other difference for those who have heard the live recordings of the band in its prime is that they are somewhat more tame in terms of sonic dissonance. Victor was given some room to go off during “Out of My Head” and a couple other songs, but generally the etheric noise was kept in check. However, their set didn’t suffer for playing it straight. New cuts like ”Filter Me Through You” and the title track bloomed into a wondrous blend melody and mood, while classics like “Burn” and “That’s What You Always Say” have only gotten better with age. Returning for an encore, it’s telling that they ended the night with “Glide” from the new album and not the apt “Tell Me When It’s Over,” which preceded it along with “When You Smile,” also from their debut. With a new record every bit as good as the songs on which they made their name, The Dream Syndicate showed they’re able to successfully stand with one foot in the past and one foot in the present without disappointing anyone.