Review: Letters to Cleo live

Paradise Rock Club, December 8, 2008
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  December 12, 2008

LETTERS TO CLEO’s Kay Hanley no longer has to suffer grunge purgatory.

"I guess it's been a while and a long time too/Everything's still the same and so are you," sang Kay Hanley when her band, on the first of two sold-out nights, finally got around to breaking out "Awake." And I guess it was partly true. Letters to Cleo did pack the Paradise many times before disbanding in 2000. But was everything still the same? And were we?

Slideshow: Letters to Cloe at the Paradise

Watching Hanley sing now, without the baggage of comparisons to her more tormented contemporaries, you can see how timeless and ageless she is, like a shock-blonde Peter Pan freeing her inner 14-year old. The whole band seemed to get teenage kicks from Hanley's enthusiasm, especially the über-sweaty hair-flinging drummer. Stacy Jones is one of those Bonhamy power hitters who can give hard-rock oomph to even the tamest and blandest of ditties. Show closer "Rim Shak" found him rocking a hair-metal stripper-pole beat, and the song's jarring contrast with the rest of the set was a glimpse into what might have been if the band had tipped their hand more toward their rockist contingent.

Most LTC songs ride familiar waves of broadly stroked riffless major chords mixed with a few left turns and minor keys; the result is often a bouncy rock that you rarely hear in these more twitchy post-millennial 808-friendly times. Back in the day, these über-bounce moments would have resulted in moshing, stage diving, crowd surfing, etc. Monday's more, uh, distinguished audience opted to show its appreciation with mass head bobbing and the occasional thrown devil's horn. At their height, LTC were in a kind of grunge purgatory: their Melrose Place-y shimmer made them hard to rock out to, yet their slamming crunch and occasional almost-metal moments must surely have led to many an awkward dorm-room make-out sesh. In the late '70s, this purgatory was called power pop. And when LTC encore with their cover of Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me," it's like hand in glove.

Related: Boston music news: August 24, 2007, Kay Hanley, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things - side, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Cheap Trick, Peter Pan, Stacy Jones
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