Soul Asylum Strips Down in Santa Monica: McCabes Guitars in Santa Monica is more than just a store, although it is a very, very good musical instrument store. They also tune and repair instruments, and offer lessons. Best of all, they regularly host acoustic concerts. On Sunday evening, one such McCabes show was headlined by Minneapolis alt-rockers Soul Asylum.

After a touching set by Louisiana singer and songwriter Victoria Williams that saw her play crowd favorites “Crazy Mary” and “Frying Pan” among others, Soul Asylum’s David Pirner and Ryan Smith (who has been in the band since 2016) took to the stage.

It was wonderful to see them in a relatively intimate environment, and Pirner was in a chipper mood. The singer and guitarist told one bad dad joke after another, each one generating cheerful groans from the crowd.

Musically though, they were magnificent. Pirner and Smith’s chemistry is relatively fresh but tangible. The pair playfully play off of each other, trading licks and smiles. The setlist, while acoustic, was almost perfect and still rocked. Longtime fans would have preferred some of the early material maybe, but we did get “Closer to the Stars” from 1986’s While You Were Out and that was great.

Naturally, we got a lot from the hit Grave Dancer’s Union album. The set opened with “Somebody to Shove,” closed with “Get On Out” (before the encores), and of course there was “Runaway Train” in the middle. “Misery” from 1995’s Let Your Dim Light Shine was another highlight, and when the band remerged with Victoria Williams for the encores — “My Ally” and “Summer of Drugs” (the former co-written by Pirner and Williams, and the latter covered by Soul Asylum years ago) — the set ended on a magnificent high.

McCabes is a wonderful place to watch a show and we’ll be back.

Soul Asylum Strips Down in Santa Monica: For more info, visit

Soul Asylum Setlist McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, CA, USA 2023


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(Brett Callwood)









































































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