Home / Music / Concert Reviews / Nada Surf @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Nada Surf @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Dec. 7, 2012

Dec. 10, 2012
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CJ Foeckler
Nada Surf is 20 years old, which means there are ostensibly a number of 40-somethings walking around with a well-worn place in their Walkmans for this band, an alt-rock mainstay that overcame one-hit wonder status to have a prolific and successful career. The group is still making albums, but Nada Surf is truly a vestige of the old guard, left over from a time when fuzzy guitars, catchy choruses and teenage sentimentalism were the simple, dependable pillars of rock. Based on Friday night’s show at the Turner Hall Ballroom, however, the band appears to have aged quite gracefully, maintaining a visceral conviction in songs they wrote 10 or 15 years ago. The band played a long string of hits from across its catalog, chatted with the audience, took requests and generally behaved like a bunch of giddy teenagers rather than the weathered rock vets one might imagine them to be. They’ve played an impressive three headlining tours this year, but nothing about Friday’s show felt routine. Singer-guitarist Matthew Caws was in awe of Turner Hall’s hospitality and seemed to be having a sincerely good time. Drummer Ira Elliot goofed around with a toy raygun in between songs. And they even broke down and encored with “Popular,” which Caws admitted they hadn’t played in a while.

After opening with the first two songs from new album The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy, the band delved into older material from mid-aughts favorites Let Go and This Weight is a Gift, including “Killian’s Red” and “Do It Again.” The surprising fan favorite of the set’s first half turned out to be “Looking Through,” a driving, up-tempo cut from Stars. This led into a string of three songs from the band’s second album, The Proximity Effect, including “Hyperspace” and “Amateur.” Lead guitarist Doug Gillard (formerly of Guided By Voices), who’d been quietly nailing his parts all night, broke out with a noisy guitar outro to “Paper Boats,” and a by-request performance of the down-tempo “Blonde on Blonde” was a late highlight. The band finished the night with a four-song encore capped off by “Blankest Year,” the “big audience participation song” during which Caws took great joy in getting the crowd to scream “fuck it” over the course of several reprises. 

In one of his new songs, Caws sings “it’s never too late for teenage dreams,” and on Friday night that wishful refrain had the ring of truth. At one point toward the end of the set, an older guy in front of me turned, lowered a satisfied gaze over the audience, and threw the ubiquitous, two-pronged symbol for “rock” high above his head. While this would have seemed lame at, say, last month’s Titus Andronicus gig, it wasn’t at all out of place at Nada Surf, where only yards away, a high-school-aged couple nuzzled noses during “Always Love.” Friday’s performance turned everyone into a teenager – the band, the audience, the sound guy unashamedly head-banging offstage. Nada Surf was the great equalizer for an audience of young and old alike, each group with its own legitimate claim to a band on its way to becoming timeless.




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