Once upon a time, about 15 years ago, the missus and I heard Hi Speed Soul for the first time on XFM in London, hastily downloaded a dozen assorted Nada Surf songs and got ourselves tickets to what would be one of the best gigs of our lives. That tour was promoting Let Go, still my favourite album of theirs (and anyone else’s, for that matter) and one that I will never, ever tire of hearing. The albums since then have all contained at least two or three that blow my mind but Let Go is the definitive Nada Surf. After the tour in 2003 they steadfastly refused to play in the UK again until after my emigration to NZ in 2005, so I pretty much abandoned all hope of ever seeing them again.
Fast forward a decade and a half and I’m standing outside the Fleece in Bristol, waiting to go in and experience ‘An Evening With Nada Surf’. This is almost surreal. They’re touring to celebrate 15 years since Let Go and they will be playing the album in full. The planets truly have aligned for us, conspiring to coincide a once-in-every-15-years concert with a once-in-every-10-years UK visit.
Nada Surf fall into the category, these days, of indie veterans. Matty Caws has grey hair and Daniel Lorca has very much ‘spread’, in the middle-age sense of the word. Haven’t we all. We’re literally on the barriers at the front when the elderly gentlemen take the stage – we’re 10 feet from one of the best kept secrets in indie music. Yes it would be nice if they were popular enough to warrant a tour to Australasia, but at least this way we get to see them in a cosy club, albeit once in a generation.
Matty strums the opening chords to Blizzard… and we’re away. I can’t think of a concert I could possibly go to where I would know every word to every single song. But here, I know every single word to every single song. They do the whole of Let Go in order, plus the extra one that only appeared on European releases, and it’s just magic. They sound so good, so tight, and Matty’s voice is still crystal clear after all these years. Possibly one of the reasons I like this band so much is because Matty’s vocal range is the same as mine, which makes for fantastic sing-along music. Strange though, that the best one in this hour set is not any of my favourites (Fruit Fly, Happy Kid, The Way You Wear Your Head etc) but the curious album track La Pour Ça sung in French by Daniel. Never been a huge fan of this one in my lounge, but it was oddly haunting and really works live.
After a 20 minute break they come back for another set, of “other stuff.”
The “other stuff” is incredible too, obviously. The old standards like Hyperspace, Stalemate/Love Will Tear Us Apart, and Popular are interspersed with new stuff like Cold To See Clear and New Best Friend. The best is saved for last though. An encore of Always Love and Blankest Year from The Weight… is pretty much the best way to end a concert of this magnitude. Always Love might be my favourite song of theirs, with the possible exception of No Snow On The Mountain (and unless I’m very much mistaken, they played nothing from The Stars Are Indifferent… WTF guys!?). And of course, they knocked it out the freakin’ park.
All over too soon. Ears ringing, cameras full, hearts soaring, we wander out into the Bristol night. I once resigned myself to the fact that I would never see Nada Surf again. I was wrong, luckily, but I really can’t see the gods of rock’n’roll allowing this outrageous piece of good fortune to take place a second time.