Saturday, October 09, 2010

Reel Around the Fountains

Day two of the week of concerts brought us to the Paradise in Boston and New York City’s Fountains of Wayne, named for a lawn ornament store in Wayne, NJ. Known for their slickly produced, expertly crafted power pop, they translated that to a live setting fairly effortlessly. The sound was a bit murky (at least where we were perched) so it was difficult to make out the between-song banter, but it didn’t really matter. When a band has only one hit (the rent-a-Cars-esque “Stacey’s Mom”) the rest of their discography is wide open (not the most prolific of bands, in 15 years they have only released four proper albums and one collection of outtakes), but they did seem to focus on those tracks that had been singles, even if some of the song selections were a bit (in my opinion anyway) a bit out in left field (opening with “I’ve Got a Flair”? Okay.), although most did turn up as singles. And there were some of my favorite tracks I wish they had played (“Red Dragon Tattoo,” “Leave the Biker,” “New Routine”) but they neglected to consult me when putting their set list together. (They are reported to be working on a new album, which explains the tracks I was unable to identify.)

The band is based around the core nucleus of songwriters/guitarists Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger (the former is the lead singer, the latter does most of the stage banter), with co-guitarist Jody Porter and drummer Brian Young, and in fact Collingwood and Schlesinger often tour as a solo acoustic duo. Their songs are usually story songs and character studies, usually done in a humorous, sarcastic, or satirical way, with great couplets and zingy one-liners, grafted onto songs with big hooks and catchy choruses. They can veer from style to style, and it can be said that if you don’t like their style, just wait a song. Even if “Stacey’s Mom” is the song they are most known for, it’s still a pretty funny track. And “Somebody to Love” is one of the few songs that mention Schenectady.

Fountains of Wayne have always been a distillation of the last 50 years of pop/rock and their songs have often included sly (or sometimes not to sly) references to those who have gone before them—and get inserted into the playlist. (A live version of ELO’s “Can’t Get it Out of my Head” appears on their outtakes album Out-of-State Plates.) Last night, they segued from “Radiation Vibe” (their first single) into Blue Öyster Cult’s “Burnin’ for You,” a snippet of a Foreigner song, and what I was told was a fragment of a Kiss song.

I had been kind of looking forward to opening act Marshall Crenshaw, another great songwriter who had been a one-hit-wonder back in 1982 (“Someday, Someway”) but we could barely hear him. True, he was sitting down, played solo electric guitar (that never stopped Billy Bragg from putting on a dynamic performance) with what looked like his own Fender Champ amp, and wore a hat, but still.

Set list:

“I’ve Got a Flair”
“No Better Place”
“Dip in the Ocean” [?]
“Somebody to Love”
“Valley Winter Song”
“Hey Julie”
“Barbara H.”
“It Must Be Summer”
“Mexican Wine”
“Radiation Vibe”

“Fire Island”
“Stacey’s Mom”
“Sink to the Bottom”

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