Photo: Jim Hunnicutt Photography
Nov. 25, Juanita's
At 10:30 p.m., Nada Surf took the stage against a black backdrop with blue lights sparkling, reminiscent of the night sky illustrated on the cover of their latest album "Lucky." As they got situated, it was hard not to notice their individual style. Sandy-haired singer Matthew Caws kept it simple in a plaid shirt, loose jeans and clean sneakers. Drummer Ira Elliot rocked a Dylanesque hairstyle, slim trousers, pink blouse and snug vest. Bassist Daniel Lorca had the rock star look down pat, from his worn-in leather jacket to his snap-front western shirt to his polished shoes. A bundle of blonde dreadlocks sat atop his head and bounced into his face and down his back as he beat out the bassline to the first song "Hi-Speed Soul." As he swayed and strummed, he made nappy hair look nice and cigarette smoke smell good. While Caws' vocals were capable enough, the crowd gleefully lent their support, shouting lyrics and hurling fists into the air.
A quick peek at the set list revealed we had 24 more songs ahead of us. Caws' face glistened under the hot lights. Lorca shed his leather jacket and tied his hair up again. Collectively, the trio looked much older than their 18-and-up, at-capacity crowd, but each possessed more style and enthusiasm than all of the trendy teens combined, proving that: Yes, they've still got it. And, yes, they're just as relevant and hip and popular as ever.
Early on, we got a rare performance of "Treehouse," which Caws prefaced as a song from their first album that they had to re-learn before playing live. Next up, the trio offered back-to-back songs from "Lucky." On the pop-rocker "Weightless," Caws asked us to help him out with the song's ending. We gladly joined in on the sing-along, assisting him with a series of high-pitched "ah-ah-ah-ah-ah ahs." For "Whose Authority," much like "I Like What You Say" and "Beautiful Beat," the trio accelerated the tempo, playing hard and fast, which translated into danceable numbers for the hyper crowd. Even when they slowed things down on "Inside of Love," the band kept us into it by teaching us to two-step, side-to-side. Other oldies included "Zen Brain" and "Popular," which the audience proudly recited spoken-word by spoken-word. Requests for "Blonde on Blonde" and "Always Love" were answered by the end of the night. Among the highlights were skillful interpretations of "See These Bones," "The Fox" and "Killian's Red," for which the band was drenched in red light. The bond between artist and audience was strong throughout the two-hour set, especially on the fan-favorite "Fruit Fly." Closing with "Blankest Year," everybody chimed in on "Ah, fuck it, fuck it! I'm gonna have a party."
It's safe to say nobody expected a two-hour, 25-song set, but the band played like old pros whose uplifting melodies and catchy choruses are timeless. Engaging us in every song we had hoped to hear, Nada Surf sent us shuffling out into the cold November night feeling warm and happy, humming songs to ourselves into the early-morning hours.