LIVE: Matthew Sweet @ Club Helsinki, 9/20/17

October 5th, 2017, 4:00 pm by Greg

Review by Steven Stock

Matthew Sweet’s chiming melodic brand of power-pop sounded great at Club Helsinki in Hudson last month. He’s touring in support of a strong new record Tomorrow Forever, Sweet’s first collection of original material in six years, and from those sessions he drafted a tight little band featuring Jason Victor on lead guitar and Velvet Crush mainstays Paul Chastain and Ric Menck on bass and drums, respectively. Add Sweet’s emphatic rhythm guitar, and this quartet definitely imparted some power to his lovely pop songs.

The new material was engaging and sometimes surprisingly ambitious. “The Searcher” combines the spiritual quest of Lifehouse-era Pete Townshend with a sludgy drum sound topped by soaring guitars reminiscent of Neil Young’s Zuma. “Music for Love” taps into a similar mystical wellspring with a bare minimum of words. “Trick” explores more conventional Sweet territory, as it’s a love song with an asterisk, asking if “it’s just a trick of the light/that only shows/shows us who want to be.” The muscular guitar attack of “Pretty Please” vividly underscores Sweet’s lyrical assertion that “it’s useless to resist.”

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Five songs of the set were initially heard on Sweet’s 1991 breakthrough album Girlfriend, and these performances certainly reaffirmed that record’s classic status. “Winona” was wistful and understated, Sweet gently crooning the chorus, “It’s true that I don’t really know you/but I’m alone in the world.” A lone couple swayed on Helsinki’s dancefloor as Sweet repeatedly sang “I feel alone, I feel alone” during the extended coda.

“Divine Intervention” provided a crunchy blast of near-psychedelic guitar, while opener Tommy Keene came back onstage to sweeten the harmonies on a lovely version of “I’ve Been Waiting.” Guitarist Victor (who’ll be touring with the Dream Syndicate after his sojourn with Sweet) broke out his slide to accentuate the abject pathos of “You Don’t Love Me.” “Girlfriend” was irresistible, the headlong rush of the music perfectly matched to the lyrical sentiment. It seems like a conventional love song, unless you pay attention to the closing couplet:

“And I’m never gonna set you free
No, I’m never gonna set you free…”

Tommy Keene played a very appealing opening set, solo until Paul Chastain came out for a rousing version of “Places That Are Gone.” An acoustic rendition of Big Star’s “Nightime” was sublime, and Keene also played a nice arrangement of Robyn Hitchcock’s “Raymond Chandler Evening.”

Time Capsule
Pretty Please
Divine Intervention
She Walks
Someone to Pull the Trigger
Music for Love
We’re the Same
You Don’t Love Me
I’ve Been Waiting (with Tommy Keene)
Sick of Myself
The Searcher
If Time Permits
Devil with the Green Eyes
The Ugly Truth

Laugh in the Dark
Raymond Chandler Evening
Highwire Days
Deep Six Saturday
Long Time Missing
Places That Are Gone (with Paul Chastain)