Concert Review: Silversun Pickups @ 9:30 Club (3/8/20)

Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups (Photo from FB @silversunpickups)

‘Don’t f%@k this up, DC!’ – Brian Aubert, mentoring the 9:30 Club denizens on how to snap.

The tightly packed 9:30 Club crowd (with the stage pushed all the way back to maximize the volume of people) got their money’s worth on March 8th, as Silversun Pickups returned in glorious fashion!

Brian Aubert (lead vocals and guitar) was in fine form all evening, shredding the guitar so epically, he could have hurt himself. Indeed, the last time they came to DC in 2017 (also at the 9:30 Club) Brian was in fact injured, sporting a cast for a broken arm (and possibly taking full advantage of some meds to get through the show). You could tell the difference, as he was more spry and enthusiastic this time around.

Silversun Pickups is from Los Angeles, and the four members are Brian, Nikki Monninger (bass and vocals), Chris Guaniao (drums and hair floating), and Joe Lester (keyboards). Nikki sang a few lyrics throughout the evening, eliciting much cheering from the crowd, but for the most part simply rocked her shiny red and white bass guitar, with a mix of intense concentration and enjoyment.

They kicked off the evening with a new song, “Neon Wound”, with long moody strums on the guitar, that later transformed into a ear-melting break-down of guitar riffs.

They are touring for their fifth album, 2019’s Widow’s Weeds (via New Machine Recordings). They gave us six songs from Weeds, and of the 17 total songs that made up their kick-ass set, they peppered in two or three from each of their other four albums. They didn’t veer too far from the setlist from their show in 2017 (see that review), about 60 percent consistent, the new songs as the main difference.

Next came another new song “It Doesn’t Matter Why”, with the lyrics ‘you think about us all the time’, that somewhat rang true for many of us (me), as we did often wonder when they would return to DC. Many of their new songs trend towards a pop aesthetic, yet still manage to get in enough riffs and deafening drum beats to satisfy one’s rock desires.

They committed to liberal use of lights (seven light bars on the back wall), but not much else in terms of props or artistic features on the stage. Just pure rock, in the best way possible.

Brian enticed us with ‘Here’s a pretty one’ for “Freakazoid”, a single that could be the best track on Widow’s, about dealing with the paranoia of a loved one.

In the class of classics, we got “Panic Switch”, “The Royal We” (killer hook!) and “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)” early on, and the crowd was fully on board, shouting and cheering often. “Circadian” is always one where Nikki shares the vocal duties and got the loudest cheers.

At one point Brian admired the look and demeanor of the crowd, ‘except for the balcony’ which had ‘creepy eyes, so don’t get too close!’ He wanted to ensure we were up to the task of snapping along with “Don’t Know Yet”, and silver stars to us, we didn’t f%@k it up.

Brian pitched “Songbirds”, another from Widow’s, as a ‘9:30 Club kind of song, only for special occasions.’ Possibly, but we were fixated on the hypnotic dancing lights trying to melt our retinues.

“Nightlight”, from 2015’s Better Nature, has grown on me as my favorite Silversun Pickups song. This was the best version I’ve seen live so far. I’ve now enjoyed five of their sets over the years (three at festivals), and this show definitely ranks up there as the best I’ve seen live (2012’s Firefly set likely gets the edge).

They ended the main set with “Growing Old Is Getting Old”, from their 2009 album, Swoon. This hand clapper of a head nodder burned slow and steady against the eerie, expansive backdrop of red light, before (and at no point did you fear this wouldn’t happen) exploding into a rock anthem to end all rock anthems.

The encore gave us the heavier-than-normal sounding “We Are Chameleons”, and “Well Thought Out Twinkles”.

Of course they had to leave us with with a tour de force rendition of “Lazy Eye”, with its own lingering intro and a long exit strategy that allowed each band member to exit stage right one at a time to great fanfare. Brian out-lasted the others, playing a seemingly never-ending refrain that faded into the nightlight.

We hope Silversun Pickups don’t take another three years to return to DC. I don’t yet have a copy of Widow’s Weeds, so I will correct that immediately. I suggest you do the same!

Setlist
Neon Wound
It Doesn’t Matter Why
Little Lover’s So Polite
Panic Switch
Freakazoid
The Royal We
Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)
Don’t Know Yet
Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)
The Pit
Songbirds
Kissing Families
Nightlight
Growing Old Is Getting Old

Encore
We Are Chameleons
Well Thought Out Twinkles
Lazy Eye

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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