Sunday, May 23, 2010
Hum at the Old Rock House
It is no secret that Hum is one of my favorite bands of all time. In case you haven't been following along, Hum occasionally reunites for one or two shows in the Midwest. I was elated when I caught their New Years Eve and New Years Day show in Chicago back in late 2008 and early 2009.
After the announcement of their show on Memorial Day in Chicago, I suspected Hum might do a warm up show. It turns out the Old Rock House in St. Louis were the lucky benefactors of a Hum Reunion show. After weighing the options, I booked my flight and was ready to see Hum in action once more.
From the opening psychedelic swirl of "The Pod", I knew I made the right decision to fly to St. Louis. I was perfectly positioned in the center of the stage with Matt Talbott's Orange Amplifier stack to my left and Tim Lash's Hiwatt stack to my right. Hum live in stereo. It was pure sonic heaven.
Immediately, I noticed Hum sounded extremely well rehearsed compared to their prior shows at the Double Door. This is understandable given that they will play to a potentially large crowd next week at Millennium park on Memorial Day. Matt's vocals were stronger as he roared through "The Pod".
The deceiving quiet intro of "Iron Clad Lou" shifted into overdrive with its locomotive riff propelled by Talbott's Les Paul Studio and Lash's Jackson guitar. It seems that Lash finally retired his battered Fender Stratocaster that appeared to be falling apart when I saw them at the Double Door.
Hum have always gone against the grain and I wasn't surprised when Talbott started the hypnotic glossy chords of "Stars" as the third song of the evening. If you only came to hear "Stars", then you got a chance to go home early. The combined power riffing of Lash and Talbott was outstanding as they played screaming octaves. As much as I gush over the combined talents of Talbott and Lash, Jeff Dimpsey's rock solid anchoring of the bass and Bryan St. Pere's cymbal smashing are vital keys to Hum's trademark sound.
The guitar phaser squalls of "The Inuit Promise" from the highly overlooked Downward is Heaven kept the energy level soaring. It was beautiful to hear the nuances and dynamics of the song live. To hear Lash rake his guitar strings on his headstock at the end of the song adds extra spice that isn't in the recorded version. I had flashbacks to when I stayed up late on Sundays to watch 120mins on MTV when they started playing "Comin' Home".
Hum ascended into a hurricane of synchronized distorted harmonics before landing softly into the dusky daydream of "Afternoon with the Axoltols". The song oscillates between loud and quiet to pull the listener in closer in a way that only Hum can accomplish. The lighting technician got extra points for switching the lights to green during the explosive "Green To Me". Even though I have never heard the studio version of "Inklings", I can say that live version is astounding with its heavy palm muted riffing.
Dipping back into You'd Prefer An Astronaut, "Suicide Machine" made me think I was dreaming cause I still couldn't believe what I was witnessing. St. Pere looked at Talbott and asked him if he was ready prior to an ultra rare live rendition of "Scraper" from the more metallic leaning Electra 2000. Talbott adjusted the dial on his MXR Phaser 90 pedal for the intoxicating opening of "The Little Dipper". Even though it was denoted on the setlist as "G&D", the astral stomp of "I Like Your Hair Long" was stunning with Talbott stomping on his MXR Phaser again. The world needs more bands that can tastefully use a guitar phaser like Hum.
The whole setlist was amazing. I was secretly hoping for "Dreamboat" but was shocked when Lash and Talbott switched guitars for the one and a half step detuned gem "The Scientists". Easily one of my top 5 Hum songs which I don't remember hearing them play live back in the day. "I Hate it Too" was the finishing salvo to the evening that was punctuated by the entire crowd singing the opening lines of the song along with Talbott. The look of shock on Talbott's face was priceless. Needless to say, I can't wait for Chicago.
Hum setlist at the Old Rock House in St. Louis (05/22/10)
"Iron Clad Lou"
"The Inuit Promise"
"Afternoon With The Axoltols"
"Green To Me"
"I'd Like Your Hair Long"
"I Hate It Too"