Soul Asylum Bring Electroshock Intensity To Small Venue

Members Dave Pirner, Dan Murphy and Karl Mueller uphold 'Best Live Band' reputation at live date.

SEA BRIGHT, N.J. -- Up on stage and beneath the hot white light, Dave

Pirner was looking very much his old self -- hair hanging in his face, torn jeans,

a raggedly old T-shirt.

Though perhaps looking a little more tired around the gills, the deafeningly

potent sound he projected was classic Soul Asylum.

The lead singer in the disheveled blond hairdo, who has earned a reputation for

his all-out live performances, seemed clearly energized by the crowd at the

Tradewinds Nightclub on Tuesday evening. True to its name, the band played

with a soulful intensity that most rock groups save for gigs early on in their


Granted, for Soul Asylum, the current tour is something of a chance at a second


But after more than a decade of empowering pop music to be loud, hard and

melodic all at once, the band's core remaining trio -- Pirner, guitarist Dan

Murphy and Karl Mueller -- gave a packed house just what they came for: pure,

head-jolting rock 'n' roll -- nothing more, nothing less.

Opening with


m">"I Will Still Be Laughing" (RealAudio excerpt), the second song off

their third Columbia CD (their 10th album overall), Candy From a

Stranger, Soul Asylum wasted no time in grabbing the crowd's undivided


Touring in support of its latest release, Minneapolis' own performed a

convulsive set. After selling out Tramps in New York City last Friday night, the

band came close to doing the same at the larger venue on the Jersey shore.

The crowd at the ocean-front club was dressed for summer on this warm May

night. They included twentysomethings and fortywhatevers, casual fans and

hard-core Asylum-ites decked out in band-logoed hats and shirts -- and all

apparently ready to launch the Memorial Day weekend early, and with a bang.

The prevailing party mood seemed to be shared by guitarist Murphy, who killed

time during the two opening bands' sets by enjoying a drink and conversation at

the bar while catching the New York Yankees and Chicago Bulls games on

overhead televisions.

The warm-up bands failed in attempts to electrify the swelling crowd. But a

brawl at the Yankee game seemed to jolt the audience back alive just in time for

Soul Asylum's entrance. With Pirner and bassist Mueller dressed like street kids

and Murphy clad in his best baseball jersey, the band tore through three songs

off the new album before launching into the crowd-pleasing "Black Gold."

They followed it with a version of the new album track "Close" -- a rendition that

Steve Corin, 27, of South Amboy, N.J., said was "much better than the album

version, as are most of the songs tonight."

Corin's statement -- and the remainder of Soul Asylum's performance -- lent

credence to the "Best Live Band" honor bestowed on Soul Asylum by the

Village Voice in its prestigious year-end music awards.

After ramming through "Somebody to Shove" from their double-platinum

breakthrough album, Grave Dancers Union, Soul Asylum performed


(RealAudio excerpt), playfully adding a verse of Paul McCartney's "Silly

Love Songs" near the end. Pirner saw fit to mention that "that goes out to Frank

Sinatra, because he tried to fill the world with all those silly love songs."

The band ran the gamut of songs off the new album while making sure to

include crowd-pleasers such as its 1993 hit


way Train" (RealAudio excerpt).

Candy From a Stranger is the band's second album since Grave

Dancers Union -- Asylum's career peak to date. But many fans don't seem to

mind if the band doesn't return to that level of success. "I love the fact that I can

see such an awesome band in a small club for $14," said Kevin Conrad, 32, of

West Caldwell, N.J. "They are a great live band and I'm getting to enjoy them in

this intimate setting. This is what concerts should be like."

"In this type of setting, you get a pure rock 'n' roll show," added Kevin's friend

Matt Swanson of Chester, N.J. "The band feeds off the audience, and vice-