Review of their gig in The Village, 6 September 2005
Nada Surf play only the second ever Irish date of their career at The Village. It seems that absence has made the heart grow fonder for their Irish fanbase as they play a selection of songs, old and new, to a throng of enthusiastic fans.
The CLUAS Verdict?
7 out of 10
There are a few approaches that touring bands can take to the gigs they play when they've got a new album out. One is to pack your set with unfamiliar material and shove the new record down the throats of your audience; another is to appreciate that the people that come to see you live have old favourites that they'd like to hear and to build your gig around them while skilfully dropping the occasional new number into the set and taking care to announce that these are new songs that are/will be on the new album that's out now/coming out soon.
Thankfully New York alterna-pop trio Nada Surf took the latter approach to things when they made only the second Irish appearance of their career at the Village. Opening with "The Blizzard Of '77", one of the stand-out songs from 2002's "Let Go" it's a good 15 minutes and another 3 songs from that album later before Matthew Caws, the band's affable singer and guitarist, announces that they've got a new record out (called "The Weight Is A Gift" for those keeping track) and there's a song on it called "What Is Your Secret" and that they were going to play it right there and then. As it happens of the 19 songs that Nada Surf play tonight only 4 are taken from the new album and 2 of them are only played when the band appear for their first encore. And they go down well, they're good songs.
But that's always been Nada Surf's problem, they consistently write good songs, don't write any bad ones (well they don't record them anyway) but rarely do they write truly great ones. "Hyperspace", "The Way You Wear Your Head", "Blonde On Blonde" and "Robot"; which wasn't even given an airing tonight, are all wonderful but some of their other material is distinctly average. If average was as good as Nada Surf got that'd be fine and this would be a decent gig but considering how good they can be their occasional lapses into mediocrity are deeply frustrating.
Although I appear to be one of the few people present tonight that feels that way, they've drawn a very healthy and enthusiastic crowd to The Village that sings loudly for "Fruit Fly" and dances wildly for a rare live performance of "Popular", the wonderfully sarcastic paean to teenage conformity which is the closest thing that they've ever come to having a hit (if you don't know it you've probably heard it on an old episode of "Daria" and not realised) and now hangs around their necks like a lead weight in much the same way "Creep" does for Radiohead. It's an issue that Caws addresses from the stage: do you play your "big" song even though you've moved past it and it's no longer representative of who you are as a band or do you try to erase it from history and deny its existence by steadfastly refusing to play it? In the end they play because they don't come here very often and if you wanted to hear it then there it is, if you didn't then Caws asks that you please forget that it ever happened. As it happens there aren't that many who wish to forget it.
The band could have finished right there but instead used to the momentum gathered by that song to launch into "The Way You Wear Your Head" to send the crowd into a frenzy before sending most of them home happy.