Camper Van Beethoven - Deaf Institute, Manchester

I'll tell you a truth: until I moved to the UK a few years ago I thought 'Pictures of Matchstick Men' was a Camper Van Beethoven song. We didn't know about Status Quo (pronounced in that weird British way with the elongated A) in the U.S., or if we did, we didn't care that much. CVB's rendition remains, for most, the definitive version (and if it isn't, it should be).

Anyway, I find myself cogitating all this as the familiar tinny violin notes of said song ring out. I also realise that I am standing on the same side of the stage as I was when I first saw them during the Key Lime Pie tour at Portland's now defunct Pine Street Theatre - except then I was yelling at a bunch of pseudo skate-punk kids from the suburbs to stop slam-dancing into me.

Another big difference is the crowd was a lot younger back then. Friday's crowd at Manchester's Deaf Institute is as grizzled as the band now are. CVB did not enjoy the same success on these shores as they did back home, playing to much smaller (and not sold out) venues than they are no doubt used to in the States, but the response is warm (and I can hear a few ex-pat Yanks in the audience) and as the night progresses the indefatigable British reserve soon dissipates and the cheers get louder.

Otherwise nothing much has changed. There is still that laid-back nonchalance, the same irrelevant banter from the band. "Is it true this was once an operating theatre?" asks bassist and founding member Victor Krummenacher. "And if it was did it have that cool bird wallpaper? That would look fucking cool under ether." The set is a mixture of tracks from their excellent new album La Costa Perdida and a handful of classics from their legendary back catalogue. 'Summer Days' is introduced as an epic concept piece ("Soon to be a major motion picture!" jokes guitarist and violinist Jonathan Segel). We also get 'Eye of Fatima I and II' from 1988's Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, 'Sweethearts' and 'All Her Favorite Fruit from their '89 major label debut Key Lime Pie, and a joyous rendition of the cult college radio classic 'Take The Skinheads Bowling'.

All in all it may have been a lot more chilled out and well-behaved than when I first saw them, but the feel-good factor of their sensational music can't help but lift the spirits. This band's legacy has survived countless musical fads, continuing to influence many young bands, both here and in the States, and it is always an honor to be in their presence.

Set list: Northern California Girls, Too High For The Love In, Pictures of Matchstick Men, Seven Languages, Sweethearts, Eye of Fatima I and II, All Her favourite Fruit, Summer Days, Mao Reminisces About His Days in Southern China, Take The Skinheads Bowling, Skinhead Stomp, Peaches In the Summertime, Come Down To The Coast, La Costa Perdida, She Divines the Water.

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