I have to admit, there was something very jet set about telling people that I was flying up to Seattle after work to catch a concert that night. (Not quite "I'm flying to New York for dinner and will be back in L.A. for a nightcap," but close.)
Actually, for me, it was better. I'd come into a spare ticket to see the indie pop band Nada Surf perform its near-perfect 2003 album, "Let Go," in its entirety, and I wasn't going to pass that up.
The New York-based band was celebrating two anniversaries: the 10th for "Let Go," and the 15th for its Seattle-based record label, Barsuk. It was party time at the Showbox, with three bands from the label (plus a surprise guest! More on that later) easing a surprisingly young Seattle crowd into the weekend a day early.
Because of the jet set thing, I missed the first band, The Prom, and only caught about half of the Mates of State set. I'm a romantic, so I love the idea of married-couple bands, but the duo didn't fire up the audience until the set was almost over.
The surprise guest fixed that. Death Cab for Cutie, possibly the biggest stars on the label (though I'm loyal to Nada Surf) came out to roars of approval. "This is, like, the best reunion ever," lead singer Ben Gibbard said. "Everybody loves each other."
Standout song: "Title and Registration."
Then, way past a midweek bedtime, Nada Surf came on stage and launched into a nearly acoustic version of the first song on the album, "Blizzard of '77."
Nada Surf is one of those bands that sneak up on you. You think it's a good band, sure. And then you realize you listen to its records all ... the ... time. One of the reasons is the layers of meaning in its seemingly simple lyrics, like this one from "Blizzard" that gives the album its name: "On the plane ride, the more it shakes, the more I have to let go."
Matthew Caws' sweet, high-register voice was in great form, especially on the most yearning song on the album, "Inside of Love." I loved watching the mutton-chops guy front and center singing, "I want to know what it's like/on the inside of love." He actually sang just about every single lyric on the album (I kept checking), but that moment, his face tilted up, either toward the band or some higher granter of wishes, seemed especially poignant.
You know how I described the album as "near-perfect"? For me, the one should-I-skip-over-it song is "La Pour Ca." Even though dreadlocked bassist Daniel Lorca sounded quite lovely as he took vocal duties for the song, its show-off-your-French rubs me the wrong way.
Maybe that is because at that point I'm impatient for my favorite -- and the last -- song on the album, "Paper Boats." To hear Caws sing this live is to be in a bit of pure-pop heaven:
As we pass by each other
Our heads all full of bother
We can't look
We can't stop
We can't think
We can't stop
Because we're stuck in our own paths.
The encores were lovely, especially the surprising choice of the low-key "When I Was Young" from last year's "The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy," but that's the moment I will remember. His voice, aching for something more.