Nada Surf - London Electric Ballroom
The world's best kept secret (outside of France; they're big in France) Nada Surf, return to London and celebrate twenty years since their first Camden show, though that was the more humble location of the Underworld and now they get to perform to a packed-out Electric Ballroom just across the street.
Over the years these New Yorkers have picked up a wide array of fans, ranging from the ones who discovered the Weezer-esque Popular through to fans discovering their tracks by word-of-mouth, or on various films and How I Met Your Mother - as they seem to be generally ignored by the UK media - a travesty when you look at the band's back catalogue, that would stand-up to the quality of acts like Teenage Fanclub, Neil Finn and The Lemonheads. Their new album You Know Who You Are may not be their best, but it still contains a handful of classic songs that need to be heard, and the Electric Ballroom audience most certainly were grateful they got to witness these live. Although they shockingly chose to omit current single 'Rushing', the band played an almost perfect set-list playing the best tracks from their past seven albums - including a seldom played 'Popular' (the band have similar feelings to this as Radiohead have to 'Creep').
Each four band-mates (the trio are a quartet with the addition of former- Guided By Voices guitarist Doug Gillard) stand on stage united, but dress as if they are from four separate groups. They play in a buoyant mood, trading smiles with each other and enjoying the audience participation. Front man Matthew Caws and Gillard throw guitar shapes at each other, drummer Ira Elliot seems trapped behind his drum kit and stands to attention after each drum fill to lap-up his applause, whilst bassist Daniel Lorca sticks to his corner chain smoking throughout (what smoking ban?). Caws occasionally entertained us with anecdotes when introducing their new tracks, taking pleasure in reminding us that we are all just animals when not in the safety of our homes, and we need to remember that before going into, you guessed it, 'Animal'. His stage chat is always heart-felt and behind his suited appearance lives the soul of a hippie. But cheesy stories aside Nada Surf have always sounded more fierce live and when they are allowed to rip into tracks like 'Way You Wear Your Head' or 'Do it Again' they showcase a side that they have struggled to capture on record. Elliot is a player who would feel more at home in The Who and fills every break with a drum-fill or solo, that is missing from their records.
The new material is greeted politely as the band generally attract more studious crowds, who are given a wide berth during their attempts to po-go. The band only really get excited when they play older material, 'Inside of Love' and set highlight and closer 'See These Bones'. The band enjoyed some more polite applause, that was becoming a bit too gentle as they came back on stage for an encore which included fan favourites 'Hyperspace' and 'Always Love' the former being the hit single that was never actually a single, and the latter oddly evoking the bigger boys to run from the shadows to dance out of time down the front, to the bemusement of many short French girls. The night ended like so many of their concerts before with 'Blankest Year' and we were all taught how to sing along to the profanity-filled chorus.. but who doesn't secretly enjoy singing " fuck it" at the top of their voices in unison? After a few false-endings the band leave the stage to a much loved applause, and would make a sneaky second encore acoustically by the exit doors for those lucky stragglers.