Reunited Meat Puppets keep the torch burning

A review of the Meat Puppets at the Paradise Rock Club June 10, 2009

, Staff Writer

It was surprising that Wednesday’s Meat Puppets show at the Paradise Rock Club wasn’t sold out. It was sad that there were so few people there that they roped off the second level, but the loyal crowd was witness to a great performance by a band whose influence far outreaches their success.

Brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood (guitar and bass, respectively) share a spastic, punk-rock stage presence that is just awesome. Sporting a colorfully pattered polo shirt and bouncing around like a charged-up rocket about to take off, Cris manages to appear loose while keeping his playing precise. Curt sings most of the songs (or at least did on Wednedasday night) but makes use of his time away from the microphone by mimicking his brothers’ jigs or cranking out a vicious guitar solo. It was kind of like watching your uncle and his friends rock out a family barbeque. But awesome.

The Meat Puppets didn’t seem to really be following a setlist; they entertained suggestions from the audience and played material from throughout their lengthy repertoire. The steady fast rock of “All Sewn Together,” from their new album of the same name, was a great opener that you couldn’t help moving along to. After a couple new tracks, a guy in the crowd shouted “Play some ’85 shit!” They didn’t go back quite that far, but moved into the bluegrass jammer “Comin’ Down,” from their ’94 breakout Too High To Die.

Moving from grungy bangers to twangy rockabilly seamlessly, The Meat Puppets displayed incredible versatility as musicians. “Comin’ Down was a great example of their vocal abilities, with both Brothers Kirkwood pitch-perfect, quickly buzsting through the chorus “Comin’ down the mountain, I have seem the high and mighty, I will go again someday, but for now I’m comin’ down,” then instantly moving into “Oh Me,” which was one of three songs everyone knew.

It’s impossible to talk about the Meat Puppets without mentioning Nirvana, because the three most recognizable Meat Puppets songs are known mostly as covered by Nirvana on their MTV Unplugged disc. But at least Cobain picked three of their best, because “Plateau,” “Lake of Fire, and “Oh Me,” are truly great rock songs. The Puppets played all three anthems, proving that nothing beats the original. Granted, the girl next to me thought Cobain wrote “Oh Me,” which was annoying, but what can you do. It may have been a far cry from the crazy drug-addled days of the past, but a great, if underappreciated performance. Strangely fitting, when you consider that the Meat Puppets have always been a great, underappreciated band.

Openers Retribution Gospel Choir were younger, heavier, and more brooding. Playing prog-rock mixed with a dash of pop, their songs were good but they seemed a little off and sounded a little sloppy on some of the tricky rhythms. Overall they were a solid act with a totally rad name. That counts for something.

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