The Suburbs and the Suicide Commandos at First Avenue, 11/19/10
The Suicide Commandos began the night with their brand of home-cooked punk rock and they sounded like they haven't missed a beat since forming in 1975. They are less active on stage nowadays, but guitarist/vocalist Chris Osgood still jumped on the monitors a few times to wail on his guitar and vocalist/bassist Steve Almaas still has the intensity of a 22-year-old ready to kick life in the teeth and claim it for himself.
Songs like "Fireball 500" have since become classics, locally, at least, and it's possibly because they all possess something that a lot of punk songs from their era did not: rhythm. There was a driving rhythm to all of the Commandos' songs, and while they all sound like their from a definite time (late '70s-early '80s), they have aged more gracefully than, say, the Sex Pistols' catalog or even the mighty Ramones. The songs, especially when played live, aren't just two-minute blasts of atonal noise made purely to frighten the old people; they're well-crafted, hook-filled gems with an odd stop or drum break thrown in every so often to keep everyone sharp.
Dressed as always in natty duds (including Steve Brantseg of the Phones' white, sequined suit), the Suburbs began a set that could easily be described as a showcase. Original guitarist Bruce Allen died last year and while his absence leaves more than a bit of a hole, they showed they can still absolutely crush from the stage, with Brantseg filling in on guitar and Steve Price holding it down on bass.
There was never any clear box to put the Suburbs into and while that was detrimental during their '80s heyday, it makes their diverse body of work that much stronger now. It's all built on a common new wave thread, but there are pieces of soul, art-rock, post-punk and more.
They brought out The Suicide Commandos for "Baby Heartbeat" and ended with a cover of "The In Crowd" that most closely aligned itself with Bryan Ferry's version of the song. There were roughly 14 people on the stage at that point, most all of them Minneapolis music royalty. There was a fortysomething man crowd-surfing and singing along. It was a powerful, poignant sight to behold as the night came to a frenetic, perfect end.
Critic's Bias: I just started listening to the Suicide Commandos a few years ago and could kick myself for not starting sooner.
The Crowd: Lots of people who have been listening to both of these bands for a long, long time.
Overheard In The Crowd: "This cougar in front of us is basically wearing just a sweater with a belt. Gross."
Random Notebook Dump: "It doesn't matter that the fame was fleeting for these bands, the songs are tight and they are holding the crowd."