Poster by Daykamp Creative
I usually try to avoid nostalgia shows and tours. While most people my age seem to adore them, it's not typically my thing. Many bands from the 90's come around once a year around the same time, play the exact same venue, and play basically the same setlist. It could be because I've seen a lot of these bands before, and usually for a lot cheaper than the shows cost now. I'm more into having a new or unique experience than I am having the same one over and over. Plus, you get a lot of middle aged people trying to relive their college and teen years, including trying to drink like they did twenty to thirty years ago. However, there are always exceptions to every rule, and mine is Letters to Cleo.
I've seen Letters to Cleo more than any other band. I'm not quite sure how many times, but I'd guess over twenty, maybe over thirty. Even though they play the Paradise every year, they always find a way to mix it up. This year saw a quick five song acoustic set to start things off. They were joined by Meghan Tracey on keyboards opened with one of their newer songs, "Back to Nebraska," which was surprising but somehow worked. One great thing about Letters to Cleo shows these days is that there are very few newbies. It's typically a diehard crowd who is perfectly fine with opening with a new song. The second song was a brand new song which sees Kay Hanley fantasizing about murdering her abusive high school boyfriend. Obviously that received a great reaction. From there we got "Step Back" and "Little Rosa," which are two obvious songs for an acoustic set. They closed this portion of the show with their cover of Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind."
After this, it was pretty much a greatest hits show. It's easy to forget just how many great songs Letters to Cleo have, but songs like "Go!," "Demon Rock," "Pizza Cutter," and of course the big hits of "Here and Now" and their cover of "I Want You to Want Me" will always be crowd pleasers. While many of their contemporaries can leave the impression that they're going through the motions for a paycheck, that's not the case with Letters to Cleo. Michael Eisenstein in particular seemed to be having the time of his life. This is the kind of band that has been playing to a lot of the same people for decades, and it's always fun to see them spot a familiar face in the crowd.
To help make this year's Homecoming shows a little special, they brought in a horn section for the encore. "Sparklegirl," "Rim Shak," and "Acid Jed" were particularly great with horns. It's definitely not a necessary addition, but a fun one to make this weekend's shows unique for the diehards.
Brooklyn's THICK opened the night. I've been a fan since discovering their album Happy Now back in August. It's a great album, but their live show is stellar. It takes all of the fun of the album, but with a more raw, noisy edge. Their pop side makes them a perfect opener for Letters to Cleo, but they're just a little more punk than I expected. Plus, they definitely love playing to a crowd. They definitely won over even those in attendance that just wanted to hear what they already knew. Seriously, get out to see these ladies while they're still in small venues, because they won't be for long.
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