Fountains of Wayne overflows with acoustic goodness
Fountains of Wayne played an acoustic show Saturday night at the Paradise and the kings of power-pop cheek didn't pass on the opportunity to poke a little fun at themselves and the concept.
The quartet opened, naturally, with "Please Don't Rock Me Tonight," goofed on a guy for bellowing out a request for the bittersweet break-up ballad "Troubled Times" with a brawn better suited to an Iron Maiden show, and played a comical yet still quite lovely, lizard-lounge version of its anthem "Stacy's Mom." Following the unctuous, piano-driven take, bassist-keyboardist Adam Schlesinger quipped that this would be the version the sold-out crowd would be hearing at the Brookline Ramada in a few year's time.
The hotel lounges of the world will have to wait as the group proved its continued vitality with a splendid 75-minute show that brimmed with bright tunes and clever couplets. There was also a sense of discovery as the band previewed a handful of promising songs in progress for its new album.
Of the sneak peeks, "Cold Comfort Flowers," with its instantly ear-catching chorus, and the funereal ballad "Cemetery Guns" made the strongest impressions.
While the gifted popsters don't exactly try to pass for Slayer when wielding electric guitars and synthesizers, some songs suited the stripped-down translation better than others.
A song like "Red Dragon Tattoo" didn't lose an iota of tunefulness, but the wheedling new wave keyboards and harder-edged electric thrum were missed. But the thumping disco jam "Someone to Love" worked surprisingly well as the warbly, needlepoint guitar riff picked out nimbly by Jody Porter stood out even more starkly and Brian Young's speedy drum fills received equal credit for creating the wriggly energy of "Bright Future in Sales."
The songs that already live in acoustic form on Fountains of Wayne records performed well, including the sunny singalong "Hey Julie" - for which several members of the audience were called upon to add percussive shake, rattle, roll - and the wistful cowboy road song "Fire in the Canyon."
About halfway through the show frontman-guitarist Chris Collingwood - in great voice and spirits - pointed out that a representative of L.L. Bean was in attendance. The famously cozy New England apparel company used the group's minor-key ode to white-out conditions "Valley Winter Song" in a recent ad campaign but, alas, Collingwood told him, the song is about seasonal affective disorder.
That may be, but Saturday night that song and Fountains of Wayne's abundance of mirth, melody, and meditation were much more like the cure.
Simpatico local pop purveyors the Everyday Visuals also went acoustic with similarly pleasant results.