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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stereolab @ Showbox at the Market

posted by on October 18 at 14:54 PM

Seeing Stereolab in 2008 should almost be like catching the Rolling Stones in 1981 or something. Stereolab should be a sagging shadow of their former selves by this point. But no. Stereolab in 2008 are as buoyant and charming as ever. Their songs have aged as well as Barack Obama.

A six-piece for this tour—two keyboardists, a bassist (Simon Johns), a drummer (Andy Ramsay), Laetitia Sadier on vocals and Moog, and Tim Gane on gjuitar—Stereolab coolly and calmly rocked the near sell-out crowd’s world. I could bitch about them leaving out some of my favorite material (“Golden Ball,” “Metronomic Underground,” “Trippin’ with the Birds,” “Fuses,” “Blue Milk,” “Jenny Ondioline,” etc.), but that would be churlish. For nearly 90 minutes, Stereolab defied the deleterious effects of aging that afflict most rock groups. Even this late in their career, Stereolab can draw several Seattle techno heads who rarely attend rock concerts, at least two members of U.S.E, and folks approaching retirement age.

Sadier, looking MILFy, as always, dorkily danced and sang in her smart, measured way as she and the boys rummaged willy-nilly through their vast back catalog with robust authority. The ’lab rock much harder in person than on disc, but they also show nuance with their space-age bachelor-pad output and morose continental ballads, too.

The new Chemical Chords album received much attention (including “Neon Beanbag” and “The Ecstatic Static”), of course, but Stereolab reached way back for “Ping Pong” (Meghan McCain’s favorite Stereolab tune; more urgent and purgative than on record), “Stomach Worm,” “Mountain,” “John Cage Bubblegum,” and “Super-Electric,” too.

The slower numbers still carry a sweet, swaying brilliance and the midtempo ones still radiate a cosmopolitan suavity, but Stereolab excel most when they accelerate. The set’s eighth song (title escapes me now) boasted that classic motorik groove and Gane went wild on his Fender. It was an über-krautrock jam that made everything old seem Neu! again.

The night peaked during the encore’s fourth and last tune, “Stomach Worm,” which sounded like the Velvet Underground’s “Run Run Run” and the Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner,” but trebled in speed and intensity. Stereolab extended the song into stroboscopic, speed-freak rock that kept on cresting like the sonic equivalent of Tantric sex. I glanced back at one point and noticed a 30ish Caucasian couple furiously simulating doggy-style copulation. Oh, hell yeah. This is how you end a motherfucking show…

This 1996 video of “Stomach Worm” doesn’t come close to capturing the majesty of last night’s version, but it’ll have to do.

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