While it may be consistent with our reputation to arrive late for shows, we were pretty pissed when we walked into The Ryman at 7:35 p.m. to find Superdrag already in mid-set. Don't get us wrong, The Ryman's musical heritage and antique charm is undeniable, but sometimes it's just not the most ideal venue for a rock show. This was made evident by the fact that, while nearly all in the house were rocking out to Superdrag, they were doing it sitting down. WTF? Don't people realize that this is a rock 'n' roll show and church pews are uncomfortable as fuck?
Nevertheless, the history of The Ryman stage wasn't lost on the band. As they gave props to all who've graced it before them and thanked the night's headliners for the opportunity to play, it was obvious that the band were giddily beside themselves with excitement to play this gig. And they're a band we love to see happy. It should go without saying that they rocked like it was 1996. Not one to miss an opportunity, singer John Davis had his Ryman moment as he briefly sang off mic. By the time they hit us with their classic closing one-two punch of "Sucked Out"--complete with a snippet of Guided by Voices' "Echos Myron"--into "Destination Ursa Major" (the former inspiring an inhibited sing-along that brought smiles to band and crowd alike), it felt like their 40-minute set had gone by all too fast. Our only complaint: The front-of-house mix was too quiet and uber-muddy. Seriously, this band deserves better than to have the snare drum mixed to sound like a set of Venetian blinds getting hit with chopsticks.
Unfortunately, the setlist was a little spotty. Aside from a rarity or two and the predictable handful of hits, the band spent too much time playing unfamiliar new material. We were a little disappointed not to hear many of our favorite songs and (if we remember correctly) nothing off the first album. "He's a Whore," "Big Eyes," "Taxman, Mr. Thief," "Oh Candy," "On Top of the World" and even "Southern Girls"--which we thought was a lock for Nashville--were all missing. When you're a band with a discography stretching back 30-plus years and your headlining set is a mere 75 minutes long, you've got to either lengthen the show or give us more killer and less filler.
Seriously, this show was way too short. At $66 a ticket, you're paying almost a dollar a minute. At that rate, no setlist should include a performance of "The Flame" Reminded that a flame is what's used to light a cigarette, we briefly headed for the smoking section and left the cougars to have their moment. We returned to our seats to find the song still going amidst a sea of lighters and waving arms. There may even have been tears. "The Flame" brought the house down, much to our chagrin. Luckily it went straight into "Surrender," during which we jumped out of our skin and sang along with all the life-affirming vigor we could muster. Man, what a fuckin' song. The version of "Dream Police" they played in the encore was just as good, as was the cover of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life." Still, it just wasn't enough. If only we could've gotten a bit more, this show would've been a perfect 10, which is what time it was as we exited the building.