Theatre of Living Arts, Philadelphia, 2000-10-02
Written by Ron Swegman.
Elastica proved in one hour that five years of off time did not necessarily mean the band was partying away the profits from their debut record in some pub.
Their nineteen-song set at the Theatre of the Living Arts was loud, tight, and fun, and the six members of the band all looked and sounded as though they have practiced their chops as regularly as they have hoisted pints.
Three songs into the set, frontwoman Justine Frischmann declared: "We rather like it here." in reference to the city of Philadelphia. She then hinted as to why: "I hope we're sober enough to play a blast from the past."
The band was, slinging into a speedy version of "Annie" - a one minute and thirty second hurricane of an ode to bassist Annie Holland and "vodka, scotch, and lots of beer."
But this was not just a showcase of oldies from 1995. New songs from "The Menace" LP were slower and more electronic, but no less crunchy. Paul Jones's guitar work on "Human", "My Sex", and "Generator" was fat and noisy, in contradiction to his quiet onstage manner. Combined with Holland's icewoman-in-an-Alice-Cooper-T-shirt persona, they proved to be the band's musical anchor.
The expanded Elastica (the original line-up had only four members) did not weigh down the stage. There was plenty of classic rock n' roll rebellion and shenanigans to be seen: drummer Justin Welch's somewhat unsuccessful hurdling of his drum kit and keyboardist Dave Bush's (failed) center stage sobriety test were two of the more memorable examples.
Mew, keyboardist and backing vocalist for Elastica 2.0, spent most of her stage time at the TLA bouncing about the stage like a pomo punk cheerleader. It seems she was hired primarily to fill the harmonic void created by departed guitarist Donna Matthews, as her keyboard work consisted mainly of single note drones and some percussive noise. Still, she played her part well.
To state that this band enjoys one another's company is an understatement. There was a lot of onstage banter, as well as inside jokes and smiles. One song near the end repeated a telling line -- "The amps don't work!" - adding to the jock-like camaraderie of this band on the road.
This good show came to an end in an odd way -- with a promise. After the final squeal of feedback, Frischmann told the audience she shall be speedier in her future songwriting productivity. "Hopefully, you won't be sick of me," she said, coyly, predicting another record - gasp! - in maybe only a year or two.
If Elastica continues to perform like this, we'll be waiting.