Live Review: Matthew Sweet; Yo La Tengo tonight at The Waiting Room…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 8:15 am February 19, 2024

Matthew Sweet at The Waiting Room, Feb. 17, 2024.

by Tim McMahan,

If it wasn’t a sell-out, it was dang close, as The Waiting Room was crazy-packed Saturday night for Matthew Sweet. Just moving around in the crowd was a challenge – a crowd that consisted of people in their 40s and 50s (and older), big people, mostly dudes, many carrying two drinks at a time because they didn’t want to deal with the bar situation. I didn’t even try to get my usual Rolling Rock, knowing I would never get it in time.

Instead, with no clear path in sight, I pushed my way through the cushion-like mass of humanity toward my usual perch at stage left, only to find that the bar had set up a four-top table in that small niche on the other side of the bathrooms, making things that much more crowded. At the table, two post-middle-aged couples dressed as if attending an awards program chatted and laughed in what was probably a rare night out for them. They didn’t seem bothered that tall people stood right next to their table, blocking their view. 

Sweet and his band took the stage a little after 9 p.m. Wearing a Greek sailor’s hat and mustache, he looked like a younger version of George R.R. Martin, a guitar slung over his shoulder, with wee lead guitarist John Moremen to his right, Velvet Crush bassist Paul Chastain on his left, young guy Adrian Carter between them on acoustic guitar and legendary Bangles drummer Debbi Peterson glowing perched behind her drum set. 

With no fanfare they tore right into opening song “The Ugly Truth” and kept on playing the hits, mostly songs off Girlfriend and Altered Beast, with newer song “Pretty Please” from the Tomorrow Forever thrown in for good measure. Sweet was in great voice and the band was tight.

It was right after playing “Winona” that things took a bit of a turn. Sweet launched into what felt like a 20-minute story that covered everything from Valentine’s Day to his second career making cat art (bronzes, now paintings) to his new tattoo to his love for the film MIdsommer to ideas for his next album and on and on – a speech that seemed even longer for me having already heard most of it a few weeks earlier during our interview. Sweet knew he was going on too long because he said so a few times during the monologue while his band wandered about adjusting their instruments, this wasn’t the first time they’ve heard these stories, either. 

I like stage patter as much as the next guy, and even feel offended when a band rifles through a set without acknowledging the audience standing right in front of them, but this massively long monologue killed the momentum the band had built up to that point in the evening, and felt like it would never stop. 

But it finally did stop and the band tore right back into their performance with “Devil with the Green Eyes” and continued for seven or more songs, ending their set with favorite “Evangeline,” wherein Sweet closed the song standing alone on stage with his back to the audience creating feedback with his guitar and pedals. I could hear him start to explain what he was doing as I left the Waiting Room, missing an encore that no doubt included “Girlfriend” and “Sick of Myself,” which he’s been playing as encores throughout this mini tour. 

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The Waiting Room has another terrific show queued up tonight – Yo La Tengo. This show was rescheduled from last fall to allow Georgia Hubley to recover from knee surgery. Promoted as “An Evening with Yo La Tengo,” expect to hear two sets filled with songs from throughout their career followed by an encore. The band played 22 songs at their Fort Collins show this past Saturday (the set list is here).  Good thing there’s no opener. 8 p.m. start time and $35. How will it do on a Monday night? 

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