Egoramp – Denver – The Bluebird Theater, CO – 2000-01-25

Where: Denver – The Bluebird Theater, CO.

When: 2000-01-25

The first time I heard Matthew Sweet, it was right after Girlfriend was released. The sound of that wailing guitar rock, mostly acoustic, and Sweet’s heartfelt voice were completely new to me. His lyrics were so heartfelt, so intense that you could tell he was singing from his heart. It was unique and new power-pop, and he did it better than anyone.

Sweet’s music has changed quite a bit over the years, and he never quite matched up to the genius of Girlfriend, but his live show is still every bit as good as ever. At this show, Sweet was backed by five other musicians, and the over two-hour show was the best of his that I’ve seen.

This was the fourth Matthew Sweet live show I’ve been to. Two were after the release of Altered Beast, his follow-up to Girlfriend, and one was after the next album, 100% Fun. They were mixed events, one opening for In Living Color with a crowd there to mosh, another opening for Melissa Etheridge with a crowd of leather-wearing women, and the third an hour-and-a-half show that left something to be desired. But this show, this one was different.

Although Matthew Sweet is a one-man show for much of his albums, his backing band has always been impressive, allowing Sweet to play rhythm guitar and focus on the singing. His lead guitarist was amazing, and drummer Ric Menck was also stellar. The band also featured a bassist, third guitarist (acoustic mostly) and keyboardist, although Sweet did take over the keyboards on one song.

Sweet played almost all of his latest album, In Reverse, considered by many to be his best since Girlfriend. But he mixed up the set with enough older favorites to keep the crowd happy. Girlfriend turned into a sped-up jam about half-way through the show. Other highlights from Girlfriend were “I’ve Been Waiting,” “Divine Intervention,” “You Don’t Love Me,” (one of his best ballads) and, as the last song in the second encore, at least an eight minute version of “Evangeline.”

Speaking of longer songs, Sweet played the entire song “Thunderstorm,” from In Reverse. Measuring at almost 10 minutes, “Thunderstorm” is basically three songs put together, fast and furious at parts and slow and soft in others. “Millennium Blues” from In Reverse was another highlight.

Some other older favorites were “The Ugly Truth,” probably the single-most rocking song of the entire night, as well as “Someone to Pull the Trigger,” “Sick of Myself,” “Time Capsule,” “I Almost Forgot,” and “Going to California.” It’s obvious the crowd were fans, most mouthing the words along with Sweet.

My only complaint is that Sweet’s show was basically a greatest hits. I love hearing the old songs, but I would have loved even more to hear a few of the more rare tracks like “Speed of Light” or “Ultrasuede.” Still, he was obviously into this show, taking time to joke with the crowd more than I’ve ever heard him do and coming back for two encores. And Sweet always takes his songs to the extreme, jamming relentlessly, speeding them up or slowing them down in a bluesy style. It’s a thing of beauty.

Ego Ramp, the opening band, was pretty sad. Not bad, just boring, generic, Acme rock. I thought they were southern, but turns out they were from Boulder. Nothing terrible, sounding better after a few beers. But the venue was perfect due to a lack of smoke, and the night turned out pretty amazing.