Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
San Francisco Fillmore Auditorium
They still love a drum solo round these parts...
Thankfully, the new album, 'Naked Self', shows no sign of middle-aged mellowing as a clutch of its melancholic tales opens the show. Johnson's chosen sound for this tour is guitar heavy, with not a pretty synth swirl in sight, driven by the percussive beltings of Earl Harvin. 'Global Eyes', the big Chems-on-K anti-corporate anthem, stretches out to show him off, to the delight of the audience. They still love a drum solo round these parts.
The acoustic numbers ('December Sunlight', 'Phantom Walls') work well in a determinedly low-key presentation. When they rock ('Boiling Point', 'Swine Fever') it gets a bit patchy. At best there are some Primal moments, at worst there are shades of Depeche Mode's embarrassing metal period.
All is forgiven as a simple acoustic strum and plaintive harmonium accompany the still-glorious 'This Is The Day'. Not sure, however, that anyone will forgive the truly horrible guitar solo that replaces the piano break in 'Uncertain Smile'. There is 'Infected', of course, and 'Heartland' and 'The Beat(en) Generation', but with predictably difficult arrangements.
Despite these attempts to shoot it down there is an air of nostalgia hovering around the chandeliers. The new album may be pretty good, but for most people the gig is about that moment in a long-gone night when a Matt Johnson line made things fall into place. This isn't the day, but a reminder of it.
The film adaptation of R.L. Stine's classic horror novels is shockingly enjoyable
A defiantly bangerless take-me-seriously-as-an-artist album that reveals new charms every time you spin it
The utterly gripping story of how The Boston Globe exposed child abuse within the Catholic church
Hitmaker-for-hire makes a silk purse out of songs rejected by Rihanna, Adele and others