Real Live Action

Dean Wareham

w/ the Shilohs

Biltmore Cabaret; November 15, 2010

Review By Andy Resto

Dean Wareham, photo by Steve Louie
Dean Wareham, photo by Steve Louie

A blast from the past? To a certain extent, but there was something missing. Sitting around waiting for a show which started half an hour later than expected never helps an impression, but there seemed to be a certain air of confusion, a lack of preparation or excitement in the
crowd. It began when the curtains opened on local opening act the Shilohs, who were greeted with a good ten feet of empty floor space, forcing the frontman to crack a joke about a V.I.P. section. They rolled through their set of indie-pop, encouraged by meager applause from a seemingly less than enthusiastic audience. They even attempted to increase the feeling of nostalgia with a cover of the Feelies; the subsequent disappointment foreshadowed the main event to come. The curtains now opened on Dean Wareham, and again there is a slight pause before scattered whistles and cheers can be heard. As he, his wife and two other band members began to glide through the classics, I couldn’t avoid a particular feeling of strain; I’m making an effort to convince myself that this is Galaxie 500, a band whom I assumed I would never be able to see. It’s been 20 years, isn’t this supposed to be special? But it wasn’t, and surrounding Wareham was the constant reminder that it just wasn’t quite the real thing.

There certainly were highlights and plenty of positives. The sound was good; the guitars
were mellow, simplistic yet beautiful; the progression of two or three basic chords which magically distinguished Galaxie 500—unique somehow in its simplicity—was certainly there, it all sounded fine.

Even Wareham’s voice still sounded great, the high-pitched whines and prolonged drawls contrasted sharply with the low—nearly incomprehensible—grumble heard in a few offbeat comments in between songs (“It’s a windy night in Vancouver,” “This is a song about trees turning into mud and mud turning back into trees.”) “Snowstorm” took on a new life in the live setting; its beauty seemed accentuated outside the context of the original album. These were all good things, and the set list certainly covered the most crucial tracks, but “Flowers” was just “Flowers,” “Blue Thunder” was just “Blue Thunder” and “Tugboat” was just “Tugboat.” The expected atmosphere of revival, nostalgia and novelty was lacking for me. This realization of the artificiality and strain of the show was solidified after a lackluster return to the stage for the encore, concluding the show with their cover of Joy Division/New Order’s “Ceremony.” I wish the connection with Ian Curtis, or the feeling of being within Galaxie 500’s heyday had been imparted to me, but I left primarily in a state of disappointment, by virtue of not being a part of Dean Wareham’s golden years.