SWERVEDRIVER LIVE at The Key Club, West Hollywood, CA, April 7, 2012
Along with many fans from across the United States, I had been talking up the Swervedriver tour on Facebook and Myspace. Just three days prior to the last date on their tour, it was announced that the Key Club show set times would be earlier for some unknown reason. But enough people were there early to see their favorite band in the world.
Locals Bixby Knolls were ecstatic to be sharing the stage with their heroes, performing a set of power pop for the early arrivers. Next up was Heaven, a trio who performed under saturated red lights, standing stock still behind their keyboards and guitar, the drummer the only one with any life to him. The dual monotone vocals and droney sound did nothing for me. While others were more polite, I took to the Sunset Blvd. night for some people watching.
The mighty Swervedriver entered the stage to yells and applause and tore into Never Lose That Feeling, Scrawl and Scream and new song Deep Wound, which you can find them performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It took me a while to calm down and really pay critical attention to the show, such was the excitement in the room.
Pile Up had the hot-aired atmosphere created by the long drawn-out chords of Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge, These Times, from fourth album 99th Dream featured Franklin’s lilting voice, held down by Steve George’s meaty bass, the melodic number a welcome change from the previous song’s string-bending heaviness. Deep Seat‘s dueling guitars drew the fans in as Franklin and Hartridge traded licks, between each spare line of lyrics building volume and energy, Franklin taking the lead each time.
Something became quite apparent throught Swervedriver’s set, and that is Mikey Jones’ confidence behind the drums. Jones also does a great job in Franklin’s Bolts of Melody, but he was nailing each and every Swervedriver song. The band broke out into a song so very much not their usual style: Guided by Voices’ Motor Away, a short, bright breath of fresh air.
Son of Jaguar E slowed things down, showcasing Franklin and Hartridge’s mastery of textures and guitar effects, pulling out hearty distortion and soulful jangles. Rave Down got the floor shaking as the audience jumped around to one of Swervedriver’s signature songs. Starting with slowly sang vocals and expectant guitars, the band soon broke into a powerful groove, Franklin crooning evocative lines like “Deep hot sun burns through the city/ Yeah, they’re havin’ to peel/ The pedestrians off the walls“.
Sandblasted was all about the ups and downs of the rhythm, psychedelic guitars and Franklin’s expressionistic lyrics, followed by Last Train to Satansville which was something much more direct and catchy. Franklin’s lyrics were a story about a no good woman set to the rhythm of a train on tracks and George’s pumping bass. The guitars shimmered and shook, tearing away after each verse until the exhulant instrumental second half, then fade out. To finish the main set Swervedriver destroyed us with a fiery rendition of Son of Mustang Ford, causing eardrums to ring and smiles to be seen and bodies to move.
The band left us breathless, took a minute to relax as the guitar techs turned the knobs of the amplifiers. Swervedriver returned for the dreamy Girl on a Motorbike, the refrain “Don’t want to be down at heel” breaking up the hazy mood, accompanied by searing distortion. Cars Converge on Paris was a mostly instrumental B-Side, a strange but pleasing choice, letting our minds wander with the melodic guitars on such a wonderful night.
Swervedriver finished their set and tour with Duel, Franklin and Hartridge created overtones and melodies that pleased the fans who sang along and seemed satisfied at seeing their heroes on stage once again. The band raised their hands in thanks in their humble manner, knowing their adoring fans are why Swervedriver keep coming back to the States.
(Review and Photos by Bret Miller)