Letters to Cleo triumph in return to Boston

A review of Letters to Cleo at the Paradise Rock Club on December 9

, Editor-in-Chief

Letters to Cleo – oh, how we have missed you. On Tuesday night, at the band’s second of two reunion shows at the famed Paradise Rock Club, the 90’s pop rockers restated their claim as one of Boston’s all-time favorites (as if we needed any reminder). Led by lead singer Kay Hanley, the band were given a hero’s welcome and returned the favor with a 90-minute set of pop-rock gems. They didn’t stray too much from the formula, and of course there were a few expected hiccups, but for the band and their fans, it proved to be a very fun and memorable night.
Despite an eight year hiatus, the band’s communal chemistry was clearly evident, fueling a relentless energy on stage. Lead singer Kay Hanley has always been a dynamic frontwoman, boasting great vocals and awesome energy, as well as the looks. Age has not slowed her down at all, in fact, it might have made her even better. Perhaps it was the chance to take center stage under the spotlight once again, but she beamed with confidence and seamed as happy as could be. Those vibes were equally shared by her bandmates: lead guitarist (and husband) Michael Eisenstein, guitarist Greg McKenna, drummer Stacy Jones, and bassist Joe Klompus (who replaced original bassist Scott Riebling after he opted out of the reunion), all of whom displayed impressive chops.

Much to the delight of the hometown crowd, the band’s set covered all assets of the Letters to Cleo catalog. There was the early gem "I See" off their 1991 debut album Sister, handfuls off 1993’s Aurora Gory Alice& (including "Big Star" and "Mellie’s Comin’ Over") and 1997’s Go (including "Disappear" and "Co-Pilot"), and a plethora from 1995’s Wholesale Meats and Fish (including "Demon Rock" and "Jennifer"). Surprisingly, they failed toplay& much off When Did We Do That?, a collection of b-sides, soundtrack hits, and other rarities that the band released to coincide with the tour,& though they did throw in their comical seasonal favorite "WTFAMP Xmas Song".
Letters to Cleo soared through their breakthrough hit and crowd favorite "Here and Now", which after maximum levels of feedback flowed into the more grunge rock boom of "Rim Shak", the main set closer. Hanley returned with hubby Eisenstein to start the encore by themselves with a run through "Little Rosa". The rest of the band returned and quickly launched into crowd favorite "Awake". The sing-along continued with their signature cover of Cheap Trick’s "I Want You To Want Me" off the Ten Things I Hate About You soundtrack, which sparked shouts from the ladies in attendance. It all came to a close with "Pizza Cutter", though the party spilled over to the ‘Dise lounge where the band held an open meet and greet.
The idea of a Letters to Cleo reunion was brought to life when the majority of the band made a very impromptu and brief performance last fall during a benefit for longtime bartender and booking agent Jeanne Sheehy at TT the Bear’s Club in Cambridge. On Tuesday, Hanley recalled that night and humbly informed the crowd that $5 for each ticket would be donated to a fund for Sheehy.
Of course, the success of the band’s reunion begs the question: What’s next? The immediate answer was New York, where the band wrapped up their very brief reunion run last night (the 4-show/3-city run began in LA in November). The long-term answer is a bit more complicated. New material is a pretty safe negative for now but more shows is very possible.& Here’s hoping that LTC returns home again soon.

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