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Smithereens infect excitement in FNX award celebration

Boston Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll Celebration
With The Smithereens, The Sugarcubes,
and Matthew Sweet.
April 15, 7:30 p.m.
Orpheum Theatre

By Chris Roberge
Arts Editor

The fourth annual Boston Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll Celebration, held Wednesday night at the Orpheum Theatre, began surprisingly strongly with a fast and loud set by Matthew Sweet. Sweet was backed by a very powerful band, which added a potent sonic punch to his songs. Too much of Sweet's music has the potential to drag and fall flat, but the live performance delivered at the concert breathed life into the melodies with aggressive playing and terrific solos. Particularly good was "Girlfriend," the title track to Sweet's latest album and a song whose studio version is not very impressive. Live, "Girlfriend" amazed.

The second act to take the stage was Iceland's The Sugarcubes, who used their strange sense of humor to add to their unique sound. The stage presence of the four instrument-playing band members left much to be desired, but the lead singers, Bjorg and Einar, had enough energy to more than make up for any deficiency on the part of the rest of the band. Bjorg had her jet black hair in two enormous buns that surpassed the Princess Leia look, coming closer to emulating Mickey Mouse. And Einar was his usual spastic self, bounding about the stage and seeming to have little or no control of his body.

The Sugarcubes' playlist consisted mostly of selections from the group's latest album, Stick Around For Joy, touching on Life's Too Good! and Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week only to provide great live versions of "Delicious Demon," "Coldsweat," and "Regina." Highlights from the excellent new album were "Leash Called Love," "Walkabout," and the interestingly titled "Hetero Scum," which Einar introduced as the band's lone sociopolitical song.

The Smithereens closed the concert with a wonderfully enthusiastic set. It's a valid complaint that perhaps too much of The Smithereens' music sounds alike, but the band performs so well and with so much infectious excitement that almost all their songs came off astonishingly well. Songs like "Top of the Pops," "Girl Like You," and "Only a Memory" take their simple but irresistible riff and hammer it into the audience's ears until they become senseless with admiration. And "Blood and Roses" and "House We Used To Live In" were executed perfectly, simultaneously playing to and manipulating expectations with well-honed craft.

Of course, providing a great concert was only one of the night's goals. During the intermissions between the three groups, the winners of the Boston Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll awards were announced. In local categories, the great band Tribe was named best rock act, and their album Abort won best new release. "Where Did You Go?" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones was named best local song by the poll's respondents. In national categories, U2 mirrored Tribe's local success by copping the awards for best rock act and best new release for Achtung Baby. Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was named best national song. For a partial list of Best Music Poll winners, see the box below.