Presidents of the USA triumph at the ‘dise

A review of the Presidents of the United States of America at the Paradise Rock Club on March 28, 2008

, Staff Writer

Presidents of the United States of America’s “Kitty” was my favorite song for a significant period of time in the 7th grade. I knew it was silly even then, but the easily memorable lyrics, infectious melody, and exaggerated dynamics were an irresistible combination. Plus, they said the f-word.

Fast forward to 2008 and the Presidents’ show at the Paradise on Thursday night. The crowd may have been more sophisticated (slightly), but it was made up of the same people who in 1994 thought the ninjas in the “Peaches” video were awesome. But this time we had Pabst Tall Boys in our hands.

From lead singer Chris Ballew’s greeting of “Good evening Boston, Massachusetts, my former home”, the Presidents had us in the palm of their hands. Opening song “Tiki God” from the band’s second album II got the hand clapping and singing going early, and it never stopped. “Kitty” came next, complete with a break into Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” which segued seamlessly back into the feline ode.

What normally plagues comebacks from bands like the Presidents is new material. But the band, who have professed that they don’t attempt to mature from album to album, provided the same feel-good easily accessible rock that their fans are accustomed to. “Rot in the Sun” took no more than 30 seconds to learn to sing along to as Ballew announced that “the rock show has started people, there’s no turning back now.”

The energy remained high through tracks like “Some Postman”, “Volcano”, and “Zero Friction”. The band was a well oiled machine, with guitarist Andrew McKeag sprinkling brief solos onto his power chord base and drummer Jason Finn pounding away.

“Dune Buggy” was celebratory, and the celebration was tempered only temporarily during the new song “Sharpen Up Those Fangs” from the band’s recent release These Are the Good Times People. Rejoicing resumed for the band’s smash hit “Lump”, after which the band thanked the audience but remained on stage for the obvious encore.

Ballew next introduced “Flame is Love”, a song that he claimed to have written in Boston in 1980. “Deleter” featured a drum solo and a little guitar jam, during which Ballew announced that “if you buy the new record you get the horn section.” He couldn’t help himself, following it with, “if you buy the record you get horny.”

That oh-so-welcome immature humor made its way into the next song, “Mixed Up S.O.B.”, a joyous, accessible pop song that Ballew said he wrote “20 years ago in Somerville.” The Boston connections kept the crowd feeling important and kept the band playing, dropping the hits “Mach 5” and “Peaches” back to back as the audience flipped out.

The high kept going through the fist pumping “Kick Out the Jams” and “Let the Good Times Roll” before the band left the stage, quickly returning and informing the adoring audience that “the truth is, over the course of the last hour, we’ve kind of developed a crush on you guys too.”

What followed was an encore that may have been a tad long, but the good feeling generated from the rest of the night carried the band through a spot on cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star”, complete with Ballew pinching his nose to sing the verses, “Boll Weevil”, “Munkey River”, and “Bug City / We’re Not Gonna Make It”.

“Not Gonna Make It” was broken up by comments from Ballew, who thanked “hometown number two for not letting us down” and gave the fastest band bio ever, an underdog story that led into “We’re Gonna Make It After All” for a perfect ending to a perfect show.

It wasn’t rocket science. It wasn’t high art. It wasn’t groundbreaking. But it was the most fun I’ve seen a crowd have at the Paradise in a long while. The sheer number of songs that have gone from “catchy” to “memorable” were impressive, and there are several more that are on their way to being classics of a generation raised on “Peaches”. And that’s totally fine by me.

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