Veruca Salt were one of those '90s bands that seemed, on paper at least, like they could have only existed between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1999 -- no more and no less. While their sound in quintessentially '90s, Wednesday's 95-minute set at the Varsity proved there is still plenty of gas left in the tank and that they are yet another holdover (actually they broke up and got back together a couple of years ago) that can still put on a face-melting, utterly grand show.[jump]
The band took the stage with little fanfare -- a small wave from Louise Post, a quick "hi" from Nina Gordon and barely a nod from either Steve Lack or Jim Shapiro -- and ripped into "Get Back," the opener from their 1994 debut American Thighs, with a fury that would wax and wane (but mostly wax) for the rest of the evening. Despite a small technical glitch (it seemed to be a bad cord on Post's guitar) "All Hail Me," unfolded with its snotty finger in the air still intact and as that gave way to "It's Holy." The thing that started to become the proverbial 400-lb. gorilla was this: Veruca Salt had two fantastic, well-deserved hits in the '90s, and while those hits both got played and played well, they are among the weakest songs Veruca Salt has to offer, mulling that over for a minute should give you a good idea of where this night was headed.
"Straight" from 1997's Eight Arms to Hold You is a top five '90s addiction anthem if it's anything at all and sounded better than the album version, while the onslaught of crystalline sludge continued in short order with "Forsythia," "Spiderman '79" and "Don't Make Me Prove It."
The band was running in overdrive at this point, the Varsity about 3/4 full (it was the only show on this tour not to sell out, sadly) and it seemed, despite the synergy and power spilling from the stage, the band was still warming up. "I'm Taking Europe With Me," a forgotten gem from 1996's Blow It Out Your Ass, It's Veruca Salt EP which was followed by a roll call of sorts, Post calling out names of her friends possibly in attendance from Minneapolis and parts north (her husband is from Hopkins). There was a lot of hollering back and then the formidable "Venus Man Trap" erupted from stage and the night clicked into the next gear.
Post called for a dance party in the form of a booty shake from stage and while this is Minnesota and we don't all dance in public (or very well when we do) it was slightly awkward but the band was finally loosened up and it made for an exciting second half of the set. "With David Bowie" and "Twinstar" were particular highlights, and Post shook her fist in the air through much of the latter. Then they announced they have a new album that's almost finished, which caused much chatter in the crowd. "Seether," by far their biggest hit, finally made its appearance and it was a testament to the strength of the band's material that it wasn't the night's highlight. [page]
"Shimmer Like a Girl" chugged past like an army of rogue elephants and then Gordon slammed on the brakes for the set's closer (and lone down-tempo song), "25." The dirge-y nature of "25" seemed like it would upset the show's flow at first, but to the contrary, it put a beautiful, delicate stamp on the entire set, a four-minute lament on age 25 -- easily the worst year of every adult's life.
After a quick break, the band reassembled, while Post ran to the front of the stage with a dozen roses and threw them into the crowd, one by one, with a huge smile on her face. The band raged through four more songs, the first "Shutterbug" and "Victrola" being particular highlights, the latter shaking out as the lead contender best song of the night. As the band quietly left the stage after a quick rendition of "Earthcross," it was hard not to see them as they were, because somehow, 20 years and untold amounts of drama later, they still are the same. The ragged, sparkling thunder is still intact and its beauty will never fade.
Critic's Bias: When they first arrived Veruca Salt's sound was too clean, too poppy for my taste. Now, two decades later I regret not blasting it at top volume every chance I had. Luckily, I still can.
The Crowd: Younger than expected and heavily female -- which was expected. Overheard in the Crowd: "What? How do I wash my hands? What the fuck is going on in here?" Someone was a first-time visitor to the Varsity's legendary bathrooms. Notebook Dump: You ever feel like you got hit in the face and then need to thank your attacker? This show is like that.
Setlist: Get Back All Hail Me It's Holy Straight Forsythia Spiderman '79 Don't Make Me Prove It I'm Taking Europe with Me Venus Man Trap With David Bowie Twinstar Celebrate You The Museum of Broken Relationships Hey Little Ghost Seether Shimmer Like a Girl 25
Encore Shutterbug Volcano Girls Victrola Earthcrosser
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