The tougher Supergrass got, the better they sounded. And they were far better the closer I moved to the stage, trying to get the full point of this very popular band, whose specialness kept eluding me in other parts of the big sold-out room. Gaz introduced the set with a solo acoustic guitar on St. Petersburg, from the bands latest album, Road to Rouen, and a chirpy Back of the Bus from the first album, I Should Coco; Mick, the bassist, came out with his acoustic, too, then he and Gaz did the first song they ever wrote together, the prettily harmonized Caught by the Fuzz. One by one the rest joined in, and the tone got more appealingly aggressive. Altogether, Supergrass play something thats wistful and plaintive and kind of nice, usually in an accessibly rugged way gritty and punchy, even, with a smoking version of Rush Hour Soul and a booming Pumping on Your Stereo, and best when skewed by minor-tinged bass roots in the riffier passages. For the longtime fans, all this amiability-rock went down a sentimental treat, but Supergrass offered little that strayed far from what any mildly interested Britpop fan ages 18-38 might desire. They didnt write the book, but theyve studied it well.
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Texarkanas Pilotdrift opened with a well-played run-through of the art-rock-aligned variety show heard on their recent Good Records debut, Water Sphere. The groups five multi-instrumentalists offer a grab bag, too, yet Pilotdrifts colors come off a palette where the quasi-operatic form and vocal delivery of Sparks and Queen loom fashionably large. They are hugely pretentious, and all the better for it, as their broad vector of styles comes with loads of engaging melody, modern harmonic design and a tempered grandiosity that focuses on mood-setting. Their waltzy sea chanteys and ghostly merry-go-rounds held darkish substantiality, yet rejoiced in a breezy light.