Time may not stand still, but sometimes -- with the exertion of enough will, collective desire, and suspended disbelief -- it can yield the illusion of being rewound like a watch. Such was the case with Sebadoh's marathon three-encore performance at the Paradise Friday night.
As strong (albeit typically scattershot) as the band sounded, the date -- which caught the onetime Western Massachusetts trio midway through a two-month reunion tour that features Sebadoh's original, instrument-swapping lineup of Lou Barlow, Eric Gaffney, and Jason Loewenstein -- felt more like a communion with the spirit of indie-rock's early '90 s past than a rock show rooted in the present. Not that there was anything wrong with that.
"It's been awhile," remarked Gaffney dryly at the outset of the evening, before the band embarked on a string of selections that pre-dated, and set the stage for, lo-fi pop avatars like Pavement and Liz Phair. The palpable nostalgia of a set strewn with rumpled lo-fi favorites ("Forced Love"), prickly outbursts of noise ("Sixteen"), and endearingly awkward if occasionally self-absorbed odes to youthful doubt, indiscretion, and screwing up (everything else), was unavoidable, inescapable, and absolutely intended.
Sebadoh is, after all, touring in support of last year's expanded re-release of its 1991 album, "III", and touting the return after more than a decade of its founding lineup with Gaffney (he left before the group's, and Lou Barlow's, semi-breakthrough success during the mid-'90 s).
Barlow is no stranger to reunions, having recently come off the road after successful nostalgia- and guitar-distortion-drenched jaunts with his previous band, Dinosaur Jr. (from which he was ousted prior to co founding Sebadoh). In spite of, or perhaps because of, how busy he's been of late, Barlow's turns in the songwriting spotlight shone the brightest. Selections such as "Mystery Man" and "Rebound," both songs from '94's seminal "Bakesale" disc, were knotty, guitar-driven tunes in a classic indie-rock mode that sounded simultaneously fresh and feverish, yet echoed through the amplifiers like a distant memory.
The night's closer was, fittingly, "Gimme Indie Rock," an early anthem spiked with noisy celebration, cheeky good humor, and a demand ultimately delivered upon. For 2 1/2 hours, Sebadoh did precisely that with renewed conviction and woolly affection, giving its audience exactly what it came for.