Poster by Daykamp Creative
Just about every year I go see Letters to Cleo's annual homecoming run of shows at the Paradise in Boston, and every year I have a great time. Despite that, I always assume that I've seen them enough times, and I can take a year or two off. But... I keep getting sucked back in the next year, and I end up yet again having a great time. This year's run of shows featured the thirtieth anniversary of their debut album Aurora Gory Alice and the return of Gigolo Aunts, so I simply could not resist.
Gigolo Aunts have not played a show in ten years, and I don't think I've seen them since their original run in the 90's (probably playing with Letters to Cleo). For a band that hasn't played together in a decade, and played as a full time band in probably two decades, they sounded great. Songs like "Where I Find My Heaven" and "Gun" (which they said they haven't played in about thirty years) have not aged at all and sound perfect live. It could be that the mainstream has caught up with their sound, but their entire set sounded like they could be hits from the past five years. Singer Dave Gibbs joked that the green room was very different when they used to play with Letters to Cleo in the 90's but drinking warm tea was still rock and roll, and how weird it was to play songs you wrote in your early 20's when you're now in your late fifties. Gigolo Aunts definitely brought in some fans just to see them, so let's hope they don't want another decade before playing more shows.
Letters to Cleo took the stage and played the ten songs off Aurora Gory Alice. We knew it was coming, but it was still great to hear all of the songs off the album live. By the time they got to "Rim Shak," I was fully on board and making plans to get back next year. The most surprising aspect of the show was that this might be the best Letters to Cleo have sounded since reuniting. Part of that is the return of Stacy Jones behind the drums. He's always been a severely underrated drummer, and his presence adds an extra oomph to the band's live show. Plus, Kay Hanley's vocals were divine, and she has never sounded better than she did this past weekend. ("Get on With It" was particularly fantastic live this time around.) When Letters to Cleo first started doing these shows together, they almost sounded too polished at times, but on Saturday night they played with a looseness they haven't had in decades. You could tell they were playing for fun and just the love of these songs. I was personally hoping they'd bust out the Cherry Disc version of "Here and Now" to truly mark the thirtieth anniversary, but it wasn't to be.
After the Aurora Gory Alice portion of the evening was over, they played a mixture of songs off Wholesale Meats and Fish and Go!, along with a spattering of newer songs. Along with long term favorites like "Demon Rock" and "Fast Way," I was surprised that "4 Leaf Clover" off 2016's Back to Nebraska now feels like an old favorite, and was the song stuck in my head all day Sunday.
Closing out the encore, Letters to Cleo were joined by Gigolo Aunts for the obvious cover of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" and The J. Geil's Band's "Angel in a Centerfold." I think I saw them play "I Want You to Want Me" once during their initial run, but nowadays if they didn't play it live half the crowd would be shocked and disappointed. Fun covers are sometimes the best part of Letters to Cleo's live shows, and these were the perfect choices to end the night. For once, I'm already planning on going again next year.