Urge Overkill: 20 May 2011 – Chicago

Urge Overkill

By the time Urge Overkill flexed their muscle with the I-can-die-happy energy of set closer “Positive Bleeding”, singer Nash Kato was nothing short of glowing with a beaming cartoon grin on his face and buttery heart-shaped sweat stain just below his ribcage—an ironic branding of the crowd’s passionate response to the homecoming of the Midwest’s pinpoint alterna act.

Although sound and equipment problems marred the hour-plus performance at the Bottom Lounge early on (leaving newish drummer Brian “Bonn” Quast instrumentally peg-legged and juggling with unexpected acrobatic timing as techs quickly tried to restore his kit), Urge Overkill recovered as precisely as Kato’s green T-shirt matched his neon microphone cap and as fine-tuned as the singer’s trademark Hard Day’s Night headbop.

Sure, the dynasty the band has paved since forming at Northwestern University in 1985 has been as full of highlighter passages as it has chapters that the foursome would have just as likely crossed out (opening slots for Nirvana and Pearl Jam, a quick rise to stardom from a perfectly placed Neil Diamond cover on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, band distress, label buyouts, droppings, and an ultimate breakup), but on this night Urge Overkill displayed a new regime of fortuity and unity. They took the stage in honor of an album that took half of the average audience member’s lifetime to make. And although Urge Overkill didn’t play many of the tracks off Rock & Roll Submarine (the first follow-up to 1995’s Exit the Dragon), the album nevertheless shows that out of the depths of the silent unknown can come brilliant noise.

On this night, Kato and his calgary, most notably founding member Eddie “King” Roeser, moved beyond satisfactory to symmetrical and symbiotic during their main set and two encores that were cushioned with plenty of padded pleasers like “Ticket to L.A.”, “Somebody Else’s Body”, and the grand finale of “Sister Havana”, which one could only hope was intentionally written for such a dramatic, bleacher-clearing response.

Tempered throughout the night were also welcome surprises including the travel wary “Vacation in Tokyo” and “Erica Kane”—perfect given the recent All My Children axe, yet much to the chagrin of one Denver fan who very vocally pleaded with an effusive Kato to strum mellow number “Emily”. But as she clearly didn’t understand, even with all the time spent traversing the country, this show was not about to say uncle with heartwarming reminiscing; rather Urge Overkill went for the kill with heart-pounding excitement and yes, even heart-sweating admiration.