Nada Surf at Electric Ballroom
It was the 23rd of October 1996, the Brit Pop storm was peaking and the grunge movement was losing ground. New York trio Nada Surf were making their debut on European soil in London at the Underworld, promoting their first album High/Low, owing to the success of the mini-hit Popular. 20 years, a few wrinkles and several shades of grey hair later, the American indie rockers are back, playing just a stone’s throw from where it all began.
Cold to See Clear, the lead single from You Know Who You Are, is an instant classic and serves as the opener for the show. Nada Surf have reached a perfect balance throughout the years, fine-tuning all the elements that make a group of people playing instruments a great band: an immediately recognisable sound, consistently good songwriting and lyrics fans can empathise with.
The setlist touches every album, it feels like a greatest hits but it doesn’t neglect the album that they are currently promoting. In fact, the beautiful Friend Hospital, New Bird and Rushing are all as good as their bests works; they don’t cause the “Do you want another beer?”/”I’m going to the toilet” effect that new non-single songs tend to have.
Matthew Caws’s on-stage personality reflects his heartfelt, personal lyrics: he still looks shy when he talks to the audience, but he tries to reveal the inspiration behind his songs and the new album’s title. Some anecdotes are a bit timeworn – he repeats them throughout the years pretty much with the same tone – but there’s always something intimate and fun in them; at times they are almost confessional.
It’s difficult to point out any highlights in a concert like this one, but Inside of Love, Blankest Year and Hyperspace – which UK fans haven’t heard live in nearly a decade – are tonight’s best moments. Or maybe the best moment comes last, when five minutes after the end of the show the band reach the Electric Ballroom’s entrance with two acoustic guitars to play Blizzard of 77 (video here) and I Like What You Say (video here). Perhaps it was for the best that the major-signing ambitions of 2003 never materialised. This perfect balance probably wouldn’t have come about.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
Fur further information about Nada Surf and future events visit here.
Watch a live performance of I Like What You Say at Electric Ballroom here: