The last time I saw Fountains of Wayne I was not impressed, granted I missed half the set for a volleyball game, but I felt like they really didn’t want to be there. Whether that was true or not, it didn’t make me run out and buy a ticket for the show this time around. I waited till day of to make my decision, only to find out that it was supposedly very close to selling out. Those rumors were exaggerated, but it was a good sized crowd on a Sunday night. The truly surprising thing wasn’t that it was a big crowd, no, the surprise was that they were so old. And I’m not talking old like I am, I’m talking thinking about retirement old. Apparently, the main crowd for the band whose biggest hit was about a crush on the mom of a schoolmate turns out to be not the kids from whose point of view the story is told, but their parents.
Fountains of Wayne started their career with a string of three nearly perfect pop records, their self-titled debut (1996), Utopia Parkway (1999) and the truly sublime Welcome Interstate Managers (2003). The records since have been hit or miss, I haven’t listened to the disappointing Traffic and Weather (2007) more than a handful of times, but last year’s Sky Full of Holes marked an improvement. It seems they agree with that assessment, because they picked their set list perfectly, leaning heavily on those first three records and picking the best from the new release. I couldn’t have been happier. The set included such great songs as “Denise,” “Leave the Biker,” “Bright Future in Sales,” “Winter Valley Song,” and “Little Red Light.” They chose wisely from Sky, especially since the sweet “A Road Song” name checks Wisconsin and Green Bay, while the cautionary “Richie and Ruben” may be the catchiest on the record. The ridiculously infectious “Hey Julie” from Interstate featured three audience members doing a very good job on the percussion that drives the song.
They turned their big hit “Stacy’s Mom” into a very different, lounge worthy version with crooning vocals from lead singer Chris Collingwood. Bass player (and co-songwriter) Adam Schlesinger remarked snidely that they would be playing that song at the Ramada Inn for years to come. The whole night was pretty great, but the song that made me the happiest was the ballad “No Other Place,” with its perfect line, “It may be the whiskey talking, but the whiskey says I miss you every day.” They ended the set with their first hit “Radiation Vibe,” and as I have seen them do before turned it into a medley of 70’s and 80’s classic rock. Guitarist Jody Porter, who I didn’t remember looking so amusingly Spinal Tap before, took several of the songs while opener Nicole Adkins returned to the stage for a verse of “White Wedding,” which was more interesting than her sleepy set.
Despite going in somewhat pessimistic, I didn’t stop smiling the whole night. Next time I won’t wait to buy a ticket.
Fountains of Wayne