You know something’s up when an article titled “The ugly truth: Matthew Sweet draws puny crowd in S.F.” hits Google News. While one man’s irritation with Matthew Sweet’s show in San Francisco last night might not be terribly important, that man’s post does prompt the question of what we should expect from our minor alternative stars of the ’90s.
Not only was the crowd dismal at the Great American Music Hall last night (the author estimates 200 attendees at a venue that holds 600), the show didn’t wow those who decided to attend.
Given that it was just an intimate gathering among friends, it would have been nice to see Sweet cut loose, take some requests, maybe play a few Velvet Crush songs. Instead, he and the band just cranked out the same 13 songs they’ve been playing every night on tour, followed by the same two encores, followed by the same final encore. The evening began slowly with three from Sweet’s hit-and-miss new “Sunshine Lies” disc but peaked halfway through with, naturally, two songs from “Girlfriend”: “I’ve Been Waiting” and the title track.
Sweet’s singing was hampered by a respiratory bug — at one point he said, “I’m dying of pneumonia” — and that condition was all too evident on quieter numbers like “Someone to Pull the Trigger.” The rockers worked better, though the three-guitar/bass/drum attack got old. How ’bout bringing an acoustic guitar or a keyboard or a pedal steel out on the road to mix things up, Matt?
People get sick, so what can you do about that, but despite my undying love for Girlfriend (and even some of his material since), I probably would have felt a little cheated as well by that particular show, although I’m not entirely sure why. Sweet has released seven solo albums since Girlfriend and two other albums with collaborators, but even the tone of this post gives the sense that audiences feel like Sweet is still following up on a breakthrough from 1991. I was pretty psyched about PM Dawn’s debut back then as well, but seeing as they haven’t released much of interest since, if they came chugging through town, I wouldn’t give attending much of a thought.
Sadly, things might have worked out better for Sweet at this point if he would have given up on music for awhile and returned toting Girlfriend as a classic album and playing it from start to finish. Instead, he’s been plugging away since then, with the goodwill of power pop fans in hand, and that sadly brings a diminishing-returns effect–when you’re always around, it hampers the possibility of letting nostalgia kick in among former bands. (Even I have to admit that I would be more excited for a Velvet Crush bill at this point, which seems really unfair to Sweet’s own talent and discography.)
What are these acts supposed to do, then? Get desk jobs for a few years until they’re recognized as forgotten geniuses and can return to big crowds at an All Tomorrow’s Parties-sponsored show? Can Matthew Sweet types make it working smaller clubs instead of theaters?
The ugly truth: Matthew Sweet draws puny crowd in S.F. [A&E Interactive]