Concert review and set list: Silversun Pickups (with Cloud Nothings and Grouplove) bring back old tracks, old fire at Peabody Opera House, Wednesday, December 12
In August 2009 and June 2010 I thought I was going to see Silversun Pickups. They were on the bill for festivals I was going to, I had circled them on my schedule as a set to see, and then, for some reason, both times I opted for other options.
Admittedly, I don’t love Silversun Pickups nearly as much as I did when “Carnavas” and “Swoon” first came out in 2006 and 2009, respectively. In fact, upon arriving at Peabody Opera House for the show, I realized I only knew two songs from their most recent album, “Neck of the Woods,” released back in May. Still, I felt I needed to pay the band respect for how much I listened to it a few years ago and finally get to a show. The opportunity came on December 12, when the Los Angeles quartet headlined the final night of 105.7 The Point’s HoHo Shows.
Cloud Nothings started off the show, playing grungy rock that reminded me of Cage the Elephant, minus the over-the-top stage antics of Matthew Shultz. There was a lot of jamming and a lot of hair, but not much singing, which was a disappointment because the few times Dylan Baldi did sing it actually sounded pretty nice. The 3,500 seat Peabody, half filled at this point, wasn’t doing the Cleveland natives any favors. It was clear their show would have been much better off somewhere like the Firebird with a smaller stage to fill and a dance floor for jumping and sweating.
Grouplove played next and got the crowd on its feet, busting out a few new songs and making the most of the huge light set up the venue had. At one point, the lights took on a rainbow of colors and spun around in 360-degree circles to make a spectacular yet slightly dizzying pinwheel effect. It wasn’t until the lights were less prominent though that you could see that Ryan Rabin was playing with glow-in-the-dark drumsticks.
Silversun Pickups took the stage at 9:15 p.m., silhouettes in front of an icy blue-colored curtain. By the second song, “The Royal We,” all my ninth grade dreams had come true. Despite not having heard the song in probably two years, all the lyrics came back to me. The same happened throughout the rest of the hour-and-a-half-long set.
The crowd, which strangely consisted of a lot of 40-year-old men and 25-year-old women, seemed just as excited. The noise the man behind me made after the next song, a loud and emotional rendition of “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings),” could only be described as a wolf howl.
On stage, the band was spaced out with Joe Lester crunched over his keyboards on one side, bassist Sarah Negahdari, who was filling in for new mom of twins Nikki Monninger, on the other, and Christopher Guanlao in back. Guanlao’s long hair made him look like Dave Grohl behind the drums.
The massive stage posed a bit of a conflict for Silversun Pickups, too. Frontman Brian Aubert hurried around and covered a huge amount of ground when he could, but it’s hard to fill out such a wide stage when half your band is seated and you and the other standing member have to spend most of your time behind a microphone. What the visual side of the show lacked dynamically was made up for with the light show. The wrinkled, white backing curtain changed between blues, reds and yellows and even more color came from a row of ghostlike spotlights on stands draped with white cloth. The lights were some of the most vivid and colorful I had ever seen at a concert.
Throughout the greatest-hits set, I was happy to discover that Silversun Pickups still are the passionate, gleaming band I remembered from 2009. In “Lazy Eye, Brian still had his subdued Billy Corgan-esque growl. Of the cuts off “Neck of the Woods,” “The Pit” stood out with a bouncy opening rhythm and roaring chorus.
Every couple of songs, Aubert would banter for a few minutes; he had interesting things to say and good stories to tell. A story about an in-store in 2007 at Vintage Vinyl only made the anticipation for the next song, the band’s biggest hit, “Panic Switch,” even bigger.
After the encore of “Busy Bees” and “Kissing Families” from “Neck of the Woods,” and “Well Thought Out Twinkles” from “Carnavas,” I joined the 3,500 other audience members in leaving the massive theater. As I walked out, it hit me just how big of a mistake I made not putting in an effort to see Silversun Pickups on previous chances.
Silversun Pickups set list:
The Royal We
Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)
Little Lovers So Polite
Catch and Release
Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)
Well Thought Out Twinkles