Better Than: Actually regressing back to 1999.
For better or for worse, the Get Up Kids' reunion comes with no new album, just a tour (at least for now), behind the 10th anniversary of its now-classic album Something to Write Home About. As such, their show last night at Revolution was a pure nostalgia trip for their fans, who are perhaps too young for a pure nostalgia trip, but are still all at least a half-decade removed from their teen years. The band even appeared onstage, as the curtains drew back, to the strains of Prince's "Party Like It's 1999."
And thus both bands and fans managed to, uh, party that way, although the "kids" are looking more like cool dads. I realized I hadn't seen the band play in a good nine years and was a little taken aback. In the old days, keyboardist James Dewees always seemed in danger of acting toolish, with his goofy dances and overenthusiasm. Last night, though, he seemed sapped of all his mojo, which was actually more upsetting. His bandmates, however, were at damn near 100 percent, and the songs sounded as good as they did back then.
In fact, it's surprising how well the Get Up Kids repertoire has aged. The band gets lumped int the critical canon with the so-called second wave of emo -- the period in the mid-90s to the early-00s before the term got usurped by mall fashion. The Get Up Kids bear absolutely no musical resemblance to the screeching, overproduced Hot Topic rock that now bears the same genre tag. In fact, in retrospect it seems they were -- are -- an excellent pop-rock band with even, at times, just a hint of jangly roots rock.
What seemed like excessive emotion at the band's peak now seems quaint in comparison, and it becomes clear that if anything, the band was just very Midwestern in its earnestness. That's something that's sorely missing in the current overly arch, clever, ironic landscape of current-day indie rock. (No wonder critics go apeshit over bands like the Hold Steady.)
And if the band itself -- well, save for Dewees -- seemed ecstatic that in 2009, people still care about their music, the fans were ten times more ecstatic. A circle pit for punkish pop-rock seems stupid, sure, but one can forgive it as an outpouring of giddy enthusiasm. Nearly everything from the band's great catalog of hits got played -- they opened with "Holiday," and closed with an encore that included "Don't Hate Me" and "Ten Minutes." In between there was "Action and Action," "Red Letter Day," "I'm a Loner Dottie, a Rebel," "I'll Catch You," "Mass Pike," and even "Woodson" and "Off the Wagon."
It's funny how you might not hear a song for almost a decade, but at the first notes, every word and turn of melodic phrase instantly comes back. That's the sign of a damn good song, and in spite of myself I had several such moments last night.
Personal Bias: I would, personally, be more amped for a Promise Ring reunion, but hey, you can't always get what you want.
Random Detail: The Get Up Kids' merch looks basically the same as it did in '99.
By the Way: Oh yeah, the openers. In a nutshell: Kevin Devine > Mansions. Devine has gone electric and it works.