Soul Asylum, Local H still have a little life left

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, February 17, 2020

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Soul Asylum may be best known for a few songs from the '90s - "Runaway Train" and "Somebody to Shove" - but if Mr. Soul Asylum, Dave Pirner, had his way, he'd have his fans looking ahead.

As if to underscore that fact, Soul Asylum started the night off with the upbeat, hummable "Got It Pretty Good" from its upcoming 12th studio album, "Hurry Up and Wait," due out April 17.

"Got It Pretty Good" would be one of four new songs that Pirner and company would play over the course of the 80-minute show, and there wasn't a ton of difference between old and new.

The division tended to be whether Pirner played electric or acoustic guitar with the show roughly split in half between the two. Soul Asylum alternated between a hard rocking, sometimes punky sound and a far more commercial sounding, softer, more melodic touch. That was actually the case with "Runaway Train" and "Somebody to Shove" with the former a power ballad and the latter more thrashy.

Pirner went with a third route with a folk orientation on the brand new "Dead Letter" from the upcoming CD with a forceful vocal delivery.

Pirner's vocals have aged well over the decades. That's probably his strength as the focal point of what is essentially his band. He wasn't the most dynamic personality up there, telling a few not especially funny jokes about a bear walking into a bar. At least, Soul Asylum had the music to rely on.

Give Soul Asylum credit for not merely relying on its long past, but also looking to the future.

Local H, a three-decades-old group of guitarist/lead vocalist Scott Lucas and drummer/backing vocalist Ryan Harding, acquitted themselves well in a set that grew stronger and meatier as it went along. These guys rocked in nearly an hour of music that rarely let up. A few extended instrumental runs only underscored the musical power of the duo.

And a chunk of the crowd certainly came early to hear Local H, singing along or engaging in a call-and-response and no doubt giving the duo an extra dose of energy. Not that they needed it as it seemed as if nothing would stop this musical assault.

Give Local H credit for having a sense of humor by sporting stark white t-shirts with big black lettering that seemingly said "Choose Life." A political or religious statement? Nope. On closer inspection, the shirts said "Choose Lifers," with the latter being the name of Local H's album dropping in April.

On its face, one would think that this could be a night of musical nostalgia. Not so. Local H and Soul Asylum both have more than a little life left in them.


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