Was I too busy ranting with friends about music at these shows? Maybe I was spending too much time at the bar? (I did go through a phase where I was going to Metro all of the time and ordering nothing but tall whiskey drinks...hmmm) Whatever the case, Dean Wareham and his cohorts were coming to this fine music venue for one last time as the band Luna, and this time I was determined to behave, stand quietly to myself and concentrate on every last quirky lyric and fuzzy guitar note.
For the last show ever (in Chicago, at least) by a long-time indie/college rock institution, the crowd was amazingly thin. Not empty by any means, but hardly what I would call a full house. I felt a little bad for the band that their Windy City swan song wasn't in front of larger audience, but at least I would be able to find a good spot and devote my full attention to the stage.
Luna started the set with "Fuzzy Wuzzy," from Pup Tent. Not really one of my favorite tracks, but a nice slow-builder to open up the night. Not long into this slow Fuzzy jam, it dawned on me why my previous Luna experiences had been so forgettable. It's not that they sound bad live (or that I always too knackered), it's that they have never been (or should I say were) a very commanding live presence. The band just kind of rocks out at their own pace. You could almost call them lazy, but a more accurate description would be restraint and reserved. Wareham never begs for your attention or pauses dramatically to soak up audience admiration...he just snarkily belts out his lyrics and idly noodles the guitar solos. The music speaks for itself, and if you're not impressed...well, it seems they could care less. Wareham seems like a take it or leave kind of guy...I don't think he's loses too much sleep on the tour bus if the kids aren't dancing from the rafters or the press isn't showing them with acclaim in every city.
This is probably what I've always liked about the band. Always a bit cynical, never immersed in hype, and anything but hyper. Admittedly this isn't a great formula for a live rock show, but when actually concentrating on their show this time, I discovered that Luna are (were) a decent live act. Maybe I was felling a bit nostalgic, but overall I thought they sounded great. The set seemed to borrow a bit heavy from Penthouse, but I certainly had no complaints...it is probably the classic Luna album and it was also my introduction to the band back in 1995. (the "chasing girlies...go home earlies" rhyme from "Chinatown" never gets old!) Even the material from the new album, Rendezvous, (which I was a bit disappointed with) sounded great.
Wareham even gave old-school fans a bone by throwing in a classic Galaxie 500 song ("Blue Thunder") into the set. I especially enjoyed his anecdote afterward about the first time he played Metro back in 1989(actually known as Cabaret Metro back then, and apparently no one told Wareham that they've shortened the name since). He said that there were only 50 people there that night and some random guy kept harassing him all night and shouting "hey, you fagot!" Joe Shannon and the staff eventually booted the guy, and Wareham thanked Shannon for the help that night and all the years of hospitality at the venue.
My only complaint during the night was the lack of Britta Phillips vocals. I thought she really infused some much-needed energy for the band when she joined around the time of Romantica and was looking forward to hearing her live. However, much like the latest record, her presence was barely noticeable during this show. Technically, I suppose she's only a footnote in the band's 13 years of existence, so I guess I shouldn't have expected to hear too much from her in a farewell performance of "greatest-hits." Nonetheless, it seemed like she should have had at least one solo vocal...or at the very least she could have contributed to the classic Luna cover of "Bonnie and Clyde." However, it wasn't to be... (There were rumors swirling around the time of Romatica that Phillips and Wareham had become an "item," but the lack of her voice on the latest record and this final performance makes me wonder if perhaps there was a falling out between the two).
Despite the lack of Jem-worthy vocal contributions, all and all this was a good show and Luna will certainly be missed. However, I think it was a good time for Wareham to call it quits for the band before it became stale and predictable for both the fans and band members. I highly doubt this will be the last time we see or hear of Dean Wareham in the music scene and I won't hesitate to check him out next time he returns to Cabaret Metro.