Riding the Coat Tails of Girlfriend
Sometimes you go to the well once too often. Last night was a painful example of making a left turn through the doors of Music Box Supper Club, bypassing Parker Millsap downstairs, and heading upstairs to the concert hall for Matthew Sweet. I heard from one of my usual suspects that I missed a wonderful 100-minute set from the rising Americana artist from Oklahoma, who spun stories with his song selections. But I instead opted from a trip down memory lane, to revisit a show I saw some 20 years ago featuring Sweet, Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, and Victoria Williams. Of the four, the best of the bunch would be The Jayhawks, who became one of the torch bearers of Americana and alt-country.
Playing a mere 75-minute, 15 song set, Sweet opened the show with the appropriate song: “Time Capsule.” There’s no mistake that the jangly guitar and pop hook-driven songs recorded by Sweet are his signature stroke. Half of the show centered on his classic Girlfriend LP, released back in 1991 with “Winona,” “Evangeline,” “I Wanted to Tell You,” “Divine Intervention,” and the lush harmonies of “I’ve Been Waiting.”
The beautiful “You Don’t Love Me” started as a slow ballad and turned into a nice extended jam with lead guitarist Dennis Taylor, bass player Paul Chastain, and longtime drumming partner Ric Menck. “Girlfriend” was electric and would have normally had the table-seated crowd dancing and jumping. But there were no acoustic songs and not much banter from the stage except for an occasional “hey.” Sweet threw a few other songs in, like “The Ugly Truth,” “We’re the Same,” “Someone Pull the Trigger,” “She Walks the Night,” and “Byrdgirl.” All of those just kind of blended together with the exception of Taylor’s guitar playing. Then, after “Sick of Myself,” the house lights went on and it was over.
The packed house exited from the room and caught a glimpse of Millsap, who was meeting fans wearing a baseball t-shirt with a reference to Cleveland on his chest. As for Sweet, he just didn’t live up to expectations. He rode the gravy train of past glory instead of giving it his best effort.