Just a word or two to the wise: Don't let your reputation precede you - unless you're Soul Asylum, that is.
The 8-year-old rock quartet from Minneapolis, Minn., has the unmitigated gall to call itself the nation's best live act (a sentiment The Village Voice evidently agrees with). However, after seeing the Monday night Bar and Grill set, I'd be hard-pressed to not agree with the hype to a certain point.
Blending the clever lyrical sentiments of pop smart-guys Young Fresh Fellows with the punkish and edgy rock snarl of the sadly defunct Husker Du, the band put on a show that left the crowd numbed - and, not surprisingly, asking for more.
Drawing early on from material off the cleverly titled album "Soul Asylum and the Horse They Rode In On" (how many other bands can you think of that would use their name as a pejorative?), Soul Asylum blistered one of the area's best-sounding venues with its loud, abrasive and intelligent rock.
Soul Asylum used its edgy twin-guitar attack best on its more rock, less pop numbers, like "Nice Guys (Don't Get Paid)" and "Easy Street," as well as the current single "Spinnin'," which does have at least enough pop hook to make it a college radio smash.
Also smashing is the band's sense of humor, best-evidenced by its sonic deconstructions of four excruciating hit singles: Kansas' "Carry On, My Wayward Son," Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon," Glen Campbell's abysmal "Rhinestone Cowboy" and Concrete Blonde's "Joey."
Of the latter two, the first - guitarist Daniel Murphy's "idea of a joke," according to singer Dave Pirner - metamorphosed into a headbanger's delight, while the second - featuring some of Pirner's more anguished vocals - turned the horrible Starship soundalike into the tortured anthem it should have been in the first place.
Consistent throughout was the band's energetic performances of each individual number, though bassist Karl Mueller was propped up in a chair, due to a broken leg. It's mind-boggling to think that a group could keep up the intensity level for so long during a show, much less throughout an entire tour. That's what their public relations guys - who tour with them throughout the states - say they do, though.
Admittedly, though I didn't really consider these guys to be my favorite band from Minnesota (an honor that probably will remain forever Husker Du's), I have to admit they recaptured the spirit one-time state mates (and former greats) the Replacements used to personify - without the drunken and sloppy overkill. Besides, how could anyone pan a group with such nifty personalized napkins?
If there's a minor quibble to be found with the show, it's that there just isn't enough room in the Bar and Grill, and as a result, you often leave with more than just a ringing headache from such a loud band. The area needs the Speedway Cafe back, and soon.
Is it just my imagination or are there a lot of Salt Lake-area bands with the words "bones" or "bone" in their name? At any rate, add local quartet Skin and Bones to the pot.
Opening the show, the foursome used a sometimes nifty blend of kinetic guitar rock and jazzy improvisations, which was pleasant enough. However, at times the band has the disturbing tendency to segue songs into one another, marring the otherwise gentle "Sink It Twice." Sometimes silence is golden, guys; come up for air every once in awhile.