Say what you will about the grandiosity of a rock concert in a stadium, but there is no better place to see a real rock and roll band than late at night in a hot, sweaty bar packed with people. Hot and sweaty is just about right for a description of both the band and the crowd for this night, where Superdrag made a convincing case for their status as one of those “real” rock and roll bands.
After energetic sets by a pair of local bands who were obvious crowd favorites, Don Bravado and Love Apple, the night’s main event wasted only enough time for a quick on-the-fly sound check before roaring to life. Some bands save their best songs for late in the evening or even until the encore, but Superdrag came out swinging in the opening round with, “Baby Goes to Eleven”, which John Davis, the band’s singer and principal songwriter, introduced Cheap Trick style, “Here’s the first song off our new album.” Even without the extra help from Guided By Voices’ Bob Pollard that the band gets on the recorded version, they still managed a wall of sound throughout the tune.
Not letting up an instant, the second song, “I Can’t Wait”, rode a Stones-like swagger that shows just how much this band has grown since their day in the sun with the 1996 hit, “Sucked Out”. Other signs of growth and maturity were more subtle, as when a fan leaned onstage early in the show to hand out cold beers to each of the band members—the newly sober Davis passed his along to his bassist Sam Powers with no hesitation.
After duplicating their new CD, Last Call for Vitriol, through its first three songs, the band began to loosen up. The matching checked blazers they wore were stripped off, already soaked through with sweat—revealing matching black shirts underneath, equally soggy. On “Keep It Close To Me”, they began to realize the crowd was undeniably theirs as it roared back a sing-along part.
The band reached all the way back to their first album with versions of “Slot Machine”, and “Phaser”, with new guitarist Mic Harrison (of the V-Roys and The Faults) all over the stage, egging the crowd on with both instrumental and physical histrionics. The inevitable crowd-pleaser emerged, also, as they turned “Sucked Out” into another sing-along.
While John Davis is the consummate front man, the strength of Superdrag is in their utilization of the other member’s talents. Bassist Sam Powers sang a couple songs that he contributed to the new disc, “Stu”, and “Remain Yer Strange”, and even Harrison got into the act with a new, as yet unrecorded song of his own, “Saving the Widow”.
The set continued to a 15th-song climax with all three vocalists harmonizing on, “Rocket”, leaving the crowd chanting their name, begging for more. The obligatory but well-deserved three-song encore served up yet another highlight, a scorching cover of Hüsker Dü‘s “Celebrated Summer”, which was a fitting way to close out this hot, sweaty, end of summer show.