In a last minute venue change, Silversun Pickups brought their Redmond show at Marymoor Park downtown to the Moore Theatre for an evening of excellent tunes and (thankfully for us) not as much driving. Understandably, the Moore was packed to the brim with people - seated areas were hosting one or two people to a seat, and the crowds in the stage pit didn’t leave a square inch for fresh air. While some of the crowd may have seen Silversun Pickups play recently at Sasquatch! Music Festival this year or the free acoustic set they performed at Easy Street Records not too long ago, it’s been a while since SSPU brought a headlining full band tour our way. But whatever hopes and wishes may have been present were filled. With a great balance between new tracks from 2012 release Neck of the Woods and plenty of classics, Silversun Pickups played one of the stronger sets the Moore has seen in a while.
Silversun Pickups are a great live band, and for anyone knowledgable of the SSPU catalogue, there is just way too much good stuff to pick from. But this evening, compared to the prior dates on this tour especially, the band completely spoiled us. New tracks included the singles “Skin Graph” and “Bloody Mary”, the born-to-be-live “Mean Spirits”, riff-heavy “Simmer”, and a live premiere of “Here We Are (Chancer)” (on which drummer Chris Guanlao plays a smooth acoustic guitar) among others. With “Mean Spirits” and “Simmer” especially, the band has cultivated their massive arena sound into the more progressive and challenging material on their new record. In turn, it gives new light and new expression to tracks that may not have caught a listener’s ear on first pass.
As the frontrunners of the group, Brian Aubert and Nikki Monninger are always a joy to watch. This time around, Monninger was very pregnant (which Brian lightly poked fun at), but this didn’t stop her from totally shredding out her relentless lines on “Mean Spirits”, “Panic Switch”, and otherwise. With every smile cast her way or whoop from the audience, Monninger was all smiles. She provides a wonderful balance to the emotional weight of the SSPU sound and lyrical material. On the other hand, Brian is a total schizophrenic onstage. One second, he’ll be throwing down an unspeakably awesome line on guitar or howling out his painstaking lyrics, all business. The next minute, he’ll be making faces at the audience and making fun of his own quirks onstage. It’s reasons like these that make SSPU such a fun band to see live. They aren’t afraid to be superheroes, but they can also relate to their very human audience who just wants to see a good show.
As the set went on, the band started pulling further and further back in their repertoire. First came Swoon classics like “The Royal We”, “Substitution”, and “Catch & Release”. Then, the Carnavas game-maker “Lazy Eye”. But with their encore, the band gave everyone present the wonderful surprise of Pikul classic “Kissing Families” (the track that put them on the grid!), one of the few where Nikki and Brian actually trade off on the vocals rather than harmonizing. Old school fans in the audience were drooling - it was glorious. After Neck of the Woods closer “Out of Breath”, the band bid everyone good night and were followed offstage by wild applause. The lights came up and the sound guy killed all the stage mics, but the applause kept going. Finally, Brian ran back onstage and motioned to the sound guy to turn his mic up. “Fuck it,” Brian says as he picks up his guitar and the rest of the band comes back on stage. He pauses and smiles, takes a breath, and then whispers into the microphone, “Well Though Out Twinkles”. The crowd loses their mind one more time as the band kicks into the Carnavas favorite. They dance harder than they have for the whole show.
Did Silversun Pickups really need to hash out these old as dirt songs to feel good about their new record and the current state of their musical career? Hell, no. Their new album is awesome and, quite honestly, might be the most progressive foot they’ve put forward so far. But Silversun Pickups are a band that truly cares about their audience, and they let you know that, both verbally, and with little gifts like their performance this evening. And for that, we are very, very thankful.