If you’re of a certain age, say, you were in high school or college in the mid-nineties, when you saw the band Nada Surf in the title of this article, your first thought was probably “That’s the band who sang that Popular song!” While that’s true, what you might not be aware of is that this band, who’ve been around for twenty years now, is on their sixth album and know how to put on a great live performance - no “Popular” needed.
Wigwams, a local Philly act, opened the evening with an excellent twenty minute or so set. If you get a chance to see these guys live, do it. Vocalist Daniel Morse admitted to the audience that it was a real honor to open for Nada Surf, as the first CD he bought as he left cassette tapes behind was Nada Surf’s High/Low. They were followed by Australian duo An Horse, who played songs off of both 2009’s Rearrange Beds, as well as 2011 release Walls. For future reference, if you ever meet An Horse’s Kate Cooper on the street, don’t tell her she looks like Princess Di.
Nada Surf opened their nearly two hour set on the penultimate night of this tour with “Waiting for Something” off of current effort The Stars Are Different to Astronomy, going into “Clear Eye Clouded Mind” off the same album. The first thing that struck me is that, again, if you’re of that certain age, the sound is remarkably similar to what you heard on the radio so much back then. It’s a throwback, for sure, but a comforting one, and it seemed the audience in the TLA agreed with me. Lead singer Matthew Caws noted that they were the largest audience they’ve played for in Philadelphia, and was amazed that this was the case on a Monday night no less. He said the support “warmed [their] hearts.” But it didn’t end there. Numerous times during the set, audience members would shout out words of encouragement - “You guys are doing awesome!”, and Caws seemed genuinely appreciative for the kind words. Not a few people were singing along during the show, and when time came to call for an encore, there was collective foot stomping and hand clapping, asking - begging - for a few more songs. When Caws, drummer Ira Elliot and bassist Daniel Lorca reappeared, the audience was asked to do a simple two-step for “Inside of Love”, and nearly everyone - on the balcony, in the bar area, on the main floor - happily complied. The night ended with everyone singing out loud in support of night closer “Blankest Year.”
Early on in the evening, Caws said that you need “volume to get the right flavor” for their show. He was spot on with that ingredient. Nada Surf know the recipe for a great night of rock n’ roll.