The Wrens/The Postelles; May 21, 2010 First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia and May 22, 2010 Sonar, Baltimore
There are a fair amount of Wrens fans that are obsessed with when their next record will be released. Not me, the Meadowlands tour which began in 2003 is the only tour I have ever known, beginning in early 2004 with a show I basically went to because I knew the opening band. I have no doubt that when the new record comes out it will be amazing, the songs I’ve definitely point in that direction, but I’m certainly not holding my breath for the release date. I enjoy the songs from the Meadowlands far too much. Which is good, because the two shows on their amusingly titled “Two City National Tour,” which began in Philadelphia on Friday and ended the next day 90 miles away in Baltimore, had exactly the same set list and it was heavy on songs from their masterpiece. I don’t look forward to the day when I might not hear “This Boy is Exhausted,” “Hopeless,” “Everyone Chooses Sides,” and the always stunning “She Sends Kisses” in the same set.
I do love Kevin’s songs, but Charles’s are the ones that take my breath away. “Kisses” which smolders with passion for a lost love took its usual spot in the encore tonight. “Exhausted” (which always shows up early in the set as the perfect introduction to the band) and “Everyone” document the anguish that went into making the Meadowlands, and what makes it so great. Sadly, some of his best songs don’t ever make it onto the set list. The epic “Ex-Girl Collection” has only been played live a couple times, and it took a third guitar the one time I did see it. And as far as I know he hasn’t written a new one yet. But that’s the thing, I don’t mind at all. I find the Meadowlands start-to-finish brilliant but I’ve never been as big a fan of their previous release Secaucus (which in true Wrens form came out seven years before the Meadowlands). However, I do enjoy “Made Enough Friends” which I’ve heard Kevin say is the most requested Wrens song ever. Having seen them play it many times, I felt guilty when the man next to me exclaimed how happy he was that they played it tonight since he'd never heard it.
In contrast to the identical set lists, the venues couldn’t have been more different. The show in Philly at the First Unitarian Church was quite literally in a church basement. The only lighting was the row of recessed ceiling lights over the stage. Whether or not there was an air conditioner is debatable, if there was it wasn’t trying very hard. The band was drenched in sweat only a few songs in and claimed they play there just to lose weight. The one cool thing was that since they didn’t sell beer, you could bring your own. Unfortunately, being from out of town we had no idea. It was surprising to see a gaggle of small children gathered excitedly in front of the stage. Knowing that drummer Jerry O’Donnell has several children, without thinking I speculated that they were probably Jerry’s kids. As it turned out, the crowd did consist of two of his sons and their friends who excitedly joined the band onstage for a song. After the show as I asked the older one how many times he had seen the Wrens, “twice” he announced proudly. Ah, I remember my second Wrens show.
The next night in Baltimore at Sonar found us in a more traditional club, though it did mark the first time I saw a monitor on fire. As the Postelles started their set a thin ribbon of smoke curled out of the front most wedge. It was quickly replaced and they carried on with their set of generic Strokes light rock. While it was nice to see a band that wasn’t terrible open for the Wrens, if I had to see a band twice it would have been nice to see one that was interesting. It should be noted that everyone with me disagreed, thought they were great and bound to be the next big thing. The best thing I can say was at least they didn’t play very long. In addition to hanging out with Chicagoans Mark and his underage brother Luke (whom the Wrens have dubbed the twin towers, yes, they are quite tall) both nights, tonight I met a guy from Kenosha who had flown out to see the show and ran into a guy that I had met in Philly at a Wrens show several years back. I think I love Wrens fans almost as much as I love the Wrens.