Pete Yorn - 3/2 @ First Avenue
All day Friday, I was filled with doubts about going to see Pete Yorn's show at First Ave. I mean, I've had a crush on this guy since I was 14. What if he sucked? That would ruin my world.
Thankfully, that didn't happen.
Minibar opened up the evening. The name itself conjures up expensive hotel rooms with yuppies raiding tiny fridges for miniaturized alcoholic beverages. They definitely live up to the name– Minibar takes everything good about Whiskeytown, Son Volt and Wilco and sucks the goodness out of it. The guys looked like they were having such a good time, but at the same time, their music sounded so precisely calculated and polished that I have a hard time buying them as genuine alt-country boys.
The second opener was Aqualung. The concept of the band is similar to that of Minibar: get some good influences (Ben Folds, Death Cab, U2) and just squeeze the soul out of them. Aqualung and his backing band definitely had some chops, but unfortunately, said chops were rarely exercised during the show.
Pete Yorn was great, though. The interesting thing is that Minibar is Yorn's backing band, and they sound great with him. My complaint with his albums has always been that they're very produced, very perfect, but Yorn totally thrived on the rough edges inherent to playing live, proving that it's him and not just production that makes his songs great.
I don't go to many shows that have me grinning like an idiot the whole time, but this was definitely one of them. Yorn is mellow enough not to wear me out (by the way, my knees still hurt from seeing the Thermals last week.), but energetic enough to keep me totally enraptured the whole set. (Though, as one of the only people in the audience rocking the big black Xs, I have to admit I was often distracted by the horrible, middle- aged dancing occurring around me.)
Yorn structured his set list really well. He had three studio albums, the second of which (Day I Forgot) wasn't that good. I was kind of worried that his show would lose momentum when he broke out the DIF songs, but it didn't. Probably because he (mercifully) only played a couple songs from that album.
Instead, the Jersey-based folk rocker split the setlist between his first and third albums, both of which are very strong and very fun to listen to. The spacing of crowd favorites like "Life On A Chain," "Undercover" and "For Nancy" gave him time to give some face to lesser-known gems while still holding on to his drunken thritysomething fans who just came to hear the singles.