Though it took Soul Asylum nearly 10 years to score a hit album, 1992's "Grave Dancer's Union," the quartet had long since established its reputation as a superior live band, having toured diligently since its inception in the same Minneapolis punk scene that produced such alternative-rock forerunners as the Replacements and Husker Du.
Soul Asylum lived up to that reputation and gave its all at the Hollywood Palladium on Monday, playing to a crowd that was sparse and somewhat staid--a reflection of the lesser commercial impact of its current album, "Let Your Dim Light Shine."
Material from that collection made up most of the set, and every song benefited from the band's live dynamic. Softer, country-tinged numbers such as "Promise Broken" and "Bittersweetheart" packed a more full-bodied twang than they do on record. "Misery" took on a raw, nervy edge as front-man Dave Pirner, all flying hair and frayed jeans, seemed to embody the wry frustration of his lyric.
Infused with the same energy, "Eyes of a Child" and "String of Pearls" became Springsteen-esque mini-dramas. It was more than mere adrenaline rush, however. Soul Asylum are seasoned pros who know the emotional center of each song and how to drive it home.
Though the crowd dwindled as the evening progressed, Pirner and company did return for an encore that featured an exuberant version of the Velvet Underground classic "Sweet Jane" and a raucous rendition of "Back Door Man," the Willie Dixon blues that was adapted by the Doors, spliced with a chunk of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Pirner's energetic rasp fired up "Sweet Jane," and he closed out "Back Door Man" with a vocal flourish that was a smirk at Jim Morrison.