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The Fountains of Wayne: Caught live at The Astoria


Review: Jack Foley

STACY’S Mom has been getting around a bit, it seems. Her popularity is such that her biggest fans, The Fountains of Wayne, had to move their London gig from the tight confines of the Islington Academy to the far more high-profile of The Astoria, on Wednesday, March 3, 2004.

Yet the new-found notoriety that Stacy’s Mom has brought to the New York-based quartet stood them in good stead for their first capital date in years, ensuring that the vibe was as hot as the radiation they occasionally sang about, throughout their tight set.

The Fountains of Wayne are often credited with being the masters of the three and a half minute power-rock pop song, and their flair for song-writing was gleefully in abundance at The Astoria - even if the same sense of cheeky individualism and fun doesn’t always translate to the way they carry themselves on stage.

Lead singer, Adam Schlesinger, adopted a very work-manlike approach to proceedings early on, almost looking overwhelmed by the masses in front of him. Yet it didn’t detract from the quality of the music, or the sheer joy contained within most of their music.

The Fountains of Wayne, while seemingly on the cusp of wider popularity than ever before in the UK, have actually been delivering the insanely catchy likes of Stacy’s Mom since 1997, and have sporadically appeared in the limelight, with singles such as Radiation Vibe and Troubled Times.

And while they may hail from America’s East Coast, their sound is more commonly associated with the West Coast vibe of the Californian dream, eschewing the values of middle America with an effortless breeze.

Many of their records seem tailor-made for the soundtracks of American college movies, such as American Pie, given their ability to perk you up, and make you feel good about yourself.

And yet, with the most recent album, last year’s Welcome Interstate Managers, they also hinted at darker material, discovering an acoustic intimacy, with a hint of 60s psychedelia, and even country.

It is a credit to their versatility that, in spite of their singles, the band is difficult to pigeon-hole; proving equally adept at Oasis-inspired anthems, as they are at the type of record that is Stacie’s Mom.

Anyone who has heard their latest album will appreciate what I’m talking about, while anyone who hasn’t, really ought to rush out and grab it.

The album, much like the band, is an over-looked gem. Needless to say, the gig was a little classic.

Kicking off with the rousing rock anthem, Bought For A Song, the concert then took us on a whirlwind tour of the new album’s finest moments, as well as some choice cuts from both their eponymous debut, and Utopia Parkway.

Mexican Wine and Bright Future in Sales were their self-confessed drinking anthems, laced with irony, while Hackensack was a heartfelt lament about a lost love, inspired by the personal experience of living in their hometown.

The gig flitted between fully plugged in and electric with an effortless abandon, even calling on the musical talents of the road crew, for the more expansive Hey Julie, which required the use of too many instruments for the band themselves.

Guitarist and co-writer, Chris Collingwood, demonstrated a nice line in deadpan humour, at certain points, announcing that the band would be getting ‘intellectual’ at some stages, while Jody Young’s guitar work and Brian Young’s drums never missed a trick.

From the back catalogue, an extended, even mixed-up, version of Radiation Vibe, as well as classic tracks, Barbara H and Sink to the Bottom, got the biggest sing-along reaction, while Troubled Times, at the start of the first encore, was a sublime demonstration of acoustic brilliance.

At the end of the evening, the band promised that their return to the UK wouldn’t take so long - a pledge which brought a delighted reaction. Let’s hope that they stick to their word, for we are all in love with the band behind Stacy’s Mom.

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