Velvet Crush

Rock Concert

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In the mid-'90s, Providence, RI's ace power pop hopefuls were riding high after a few tough indie years, constantly on the road promoting their major-label debut, 550/Sony's Teenage Symphonies to God. They'd added respected pro Tommy Keene to augment a sharp power trio. And a hot club act reputation was successfully being put to test on bigger-barn touring, first with the Jesus & Mary Chain and Mazzy Star, and then with the just-breaking Oasis. (This March 1995 Chicago cabaret Metro gig was likely on that Oasis tour, since the Metro holds 1500-2000, and the set is only 27 minutes!) Such lofty days proved to be ephemeral, however. 550/Sony abused and abandoned them like tacky trinkets, an embattled third LP was poorly distributed and disappointed, and a session work-related relocation to L.A. meant the loss of guitarist Jeffrey Underhill, leaving old mates Paul Chastain and Ric Menck to limp on alone. All the better reason, then, to appreciate this document of the group at their apex. As tough and heavy as Teenage Symphonies but more breathless, like its terrific predecessor In the Presence of Greatness (the opening of "This Life is Killing Me" here is so much harder and faster, it sounds like the start of the Clash's "Complete Control"!), Rock Concert exudes their Byrds/Raspberries/Big Star mix of weighty backbeat, fervid vocals, and mellifluous melodies. Longer sets then accommodated more of their emerging, pre-alt-country pop, found here on "Time Wraps Around You," but Rock Concert slams through "My Blank Pages," the smokin' "Atmosphere," and their classic "Ash and Earth" with lit-up desire. No doubt their infrequent appearances nowadays still emit this grit and spit, but this is a kicking reminder of what most old fans miss.

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