Venerated memory lane for decibel-upped, jangle-pop powers that be, Maxwell’s vibed unmistakably fogey this Monday night—save, of course, for the faux-hawked late-twentysomething Asian dude quasi-thrashing to smiley openers Roman Candle, whose super-blond lead singer channeled Steve Buscemi, plugged “modern radio,” and choir-preached on pop music’s merits. But pop’s strayed a ways from the sweetness and light of yesteryear; ’80s big-hair big-fun philosophies seldom still fly, and lovestruck dB’s-style innocence has gotta go the way of paradise (i.e., lost) sometime; only question is, when? If there’s a lesson to be learned from reunification mania among the old new-wave set, it’s that old guys can still rock impressive: Technical bellyaches and monitor cop-outs notwithstanding, reunited dB’s still sounded as great as they probably did in the Reagan era, back when Peter Holsapple still had hair.
No matter: Holsapple’s got a quasi-handlebar now, and still trades off lead duties with Robert Forster mini-me Chris Stamey. Combined, Holsapple’s pop smarts and Chris Stamey’s emo tendencies (Carabba wail, belligerent teacup fisting, flower stickers on guitar) are sweet, sweet manna from heaven. Stamey-sung “Ask for Jill” opened; sugar-high “Big Brown Eyes” followed; come “Black and White,” nary a soul was not paralyzed, paralyzed (props to the wonderfully nebbish Woody Allen—look-alike drummer).
Problems arise with the occasional pummel into adult-contemporary-type honky-tonk; still, when recapturing lost youth like it’s your job, run-ins with reality are bound to rear their ugly head: You can still sing songs about hanging out with girls in Santa Monica, but it won’t be the same. Before lapsing into more markedly less impressive “new stuff,” Holsapple tears through “Neverland,” the frenetic stuff of ragtag lost boys. Kids don’t grow up in Neverland, and it’s a shame the dB’s had to. But at least they aren’t playing comb-over rock (thank you, mustache). There won’t be any noise complaints from these codgers: dB’s still stands for decibels.