The Feelies at the Roxy, October 11, 2008
JINGLE JANGLE: True to form, the Feelies wed new wave to the otherworldly.
Like the Velvet Underground, the Feelies have had a greater impact on other bands than on a general audience. That explains why — after 16 years and four albums together — the Jersey natives called it quits in 1992. Now, nearly 16 years farther on, they’re back — and it’s as if they’d never left. Their Saturday-night show at the Roxy, one of only a handful the band have played since reuniting earlier this year, proved a case in point. Although they were as tight as ever, bridging nervous guitar work and crazy rhythms to recall their 1976 punk origins, the size of the crowd reflected their continuing cult status: the Roxy was far from full.
Still, the Feelies played with true feeling, their laconic expressions and lead singer Glenn Mercier’s understated delivery enhancing the spiritual striving of their sound. As in some hybrid of Devo and “Pale-Blue-Eyes”–era Velvets, the layered guitar work of Mercier and co-founder Bill Million wed new wave to the otherworldly, evoking the jangly groove that inspired R.E.M. and their sort to create what we now think of as college rock.
They also showed a willingness to dig deep into their later catalogue; they focused less on their acclaimed debut, Crazy Rhythms (1980), than on The Good Earth (1986), It’s Only Life (1989), and, to a lesser extent, Time for a Witness (1991). It wasn’t till nearly an hour in that songs from Crazy Rhythms appeared, supplemented by covers of “Paint It Black” (also on that album), the Beatles’ “She Said She Said,” Jonathan Richman’s “I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms,” Wire’s “Outdoor Miner,” and the VU’s “What Goes On?”
By the end of the 90-minute set, the crowd was happy and the Feelies were as humble as ever. After waving goodbye, they drove back to their homes in New Jersey that same night, as if nothing had ever changed. What a shame that, in terms of popularity, nothing really had.
: Live Reviews
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