Dean Wareham Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver BC November 15
Published Nov 16, 2010The thought of Dean Wareham playing an entire show of Galaxie 500 songs is met with equal parts excitement and suspicion. His long-gone late '80s/early '90s dream pop outfit are hands down one of indie rock's most celebrated acts. However, Wareham playing the band's tracks decades later -- and minus his two Galaxie 500 bandmates -- is more than enough reason to be wary of this trip down memory lane.
Alongside his wife Britta Phillips, as well as two of his Dean & Britta backing players, Wareham took the Biltmore stage looking very much his 47 years of age, making him a far cry from the fresh-faced college kid that once fronted Galaxie 500. But when the foursome began to slowly weave "Flowers" -- the opening track from Galaxie 500's 1988 debut, Today -- it was hard not get swept up by sweet and seductive rock'n'roll nostalgia. Following up with "Pictures," "Temperature's Rising" and "Snowstorm," Wareham and co. quickly gave the full house what it had waited years, if not decades, for, dishing out cult classic after cult classic.
Sounding a little rough around the edges, Wareham's voice at times had trouble reaching those old high notes, his guitar packing less punch than in his Luna days as well. But rough spots aside -- not to mention the whole non-reunion strangeness -- the songs came across as powerful and beautiful as ever, causing the crowd to slowly sway to a chill-delivering "Tugboat," close eyes to a sans-sax "Blue Thunder" and to even pogo during the heavenly pop hit "Strange." The set even hit its mark when Phillips took the lead for "Listen, the Snow Is Falling," the Yoko Ono cover sung by Galaxie 500's Naomi Yang, and for the gorgeous Dean & Britta number "I'll Keep It with Mine," the set's only non-Galaxie track but also one of its main highlights.
Closing on the timeless Joy Division/New Order cover, "Ceremony," Wareham ultimately proved he took Jonathan Richman's advice to heart -- "don't let our youth go to waste." Galaxie 500's songs sound as fresh and relevant as ever, and even with this all being one big nostalgia exercise, it was hardly a pointless one.