Dean Wareham’s Luna is a band blessed with the gift of being fantastic in concert. Since their 1991 inception (some nine months after the breakup of Wareham’s previous outfit, Galaxie 500), Luna has released five studio albums and several EPs. And while they’ve achieved only slightly more notoriety than Galaxie 500 over the past ten years, performance is the thing that has kept them going.
Touring off of each album, along with numerous off-shows each year, has garnered them a loyal fan base…not to mention a reputation as a strong live act.
Their newest release, Live! , is the first attempt to document the band’s in-concert experience. From the album’s outset, you can hear how their Velvet Underground-esque dream pop sound re-creates itself into a vibrant live show. The previously low-key “Bewitched” has the reverb turned down and the drums turned up, and an electrified guitar solo carries the song to a close. In the end, it winds up sounding a hell of a lot livelier than the studio version, without sacrificing any instrumental parts or restructuring the song. Similar results occur with “Tiger Lily”, “Anesthesia,” and the Galaxie retread “4th Of July.”
The band has toured throughout the United States and Europe, playing most often in New York, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia.
Live! was culled from three shows last year at The Knitting Factory in NYC and the 9:30 Club in DC. Wareham says the band plays venues anywhere from tiny 200-capacity holes-in-the-wall, to larger 1300-capacity clubs; their local date tomorrow night sees them at the 900-capacity Troc.
“We alternate between the Troc and the TLA [when we play Philadelphia],” Wareham says. “I like playing at both of them.”
Luna has been in label limbo since their unceremonious dump from Elektra in 1999. This is part of the reason for the live release, as no contract equals rights to any live recordings the band makes.
“We couldn’t release any live recordings we made when we were on Elektra, since they own the rights to those,” Wareham says.
An independent label, Arena Rock Recording Co., is distributing Luna Live!, but Wareham isn’t one to idealize either major or indie labels. He describes his experience with Elektra as “they just gave us money and left us alone,” but, citing past bad experience, concedes “There are crooks at indie labels too.”
Live! does a decent job of translating the Luna concert experience to CD. But there isn’t a great live band that has put out an album that truly captures their actual concerts, and Luna is no exception. It’s better to just witness it for yourself.
If you go:
Luna with Matt Pond PA
When: Fri., February 9, 8 p.m.
Where: Trocadero, 10th and Arch St., 215-922-LIVE, www.thetroc.com