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Matthew Sweet adds energy to songs in live performance

Matthew Sweet
With Uncle Green.
Paradise Rock Club.
Sepetmber 12.

By Chris Roberge
Arts Editor

Matthew Sweet has said of his current tour in support of his excellent new album, Girlfriend, "We're looking forward to doing club shows... We want to turn our volume up loud and be messy and throw our guitars around." Sweet and his band did just that at the Paradise Rock Club Saturday night, and it was great. Uncle Green provided a competent opening to the noisy and fun concert. The show's sound was slightly hampered by a faulty speaker and slightly out-of-tune guitars, which Sweet was constantly adjusting, but the emotional level was high enough to carry the band and the audience through a great show.

Sweet's set focused mainly on selections culled from Girlfriend, with his very talented backing players adding energy and intensity to the already powerful songs. Some of the quieter tracks, such as "Nothing Lasts" and "Don't Go," were passed over, probably in an attempt to maintain the generally faster pace of the show, but the wonderfully personal "Winona" and "Looking at the Sun" did fortunately find their way into the play list.

The strongest of the sets' more intimate songs was "You Don't Love Me." On the album, the song is sorrowful and pathetic. Live, it maintained its somber tone while gaining a bristling undercurrent of vindictive energy and animus. "Day for Night" also was given a boost of power in its transition to the stage, as Sweet's vocals stretched from a hushed whisper to a jarring scream.

The personal and intimate songs blended surprisingly well with the louder and more volatile ones, which often packed a tremendously powerful punch. "Holy War" and "When I Feel Again," both from Sweet's second album, Earth, shone. Two of Sweet's more hook-laden songs, "Girlfriend" and "Evangeline," were very good, propelled forward by very strong guitars and solos with more than just flashes of brilliance. The playing was also great on a John Lennon and a Neil Young cover and an amazingly loud and playful "Does She Talk?," which was one of the concert's highlights.

Opening act Uncle Green was energetic and enjoyable. The audience wasn't behind the Atlanta-based act as much as they were for Sweet, but the band still looked like they were having fun, and their stage presence refused to be dull. Their music didn't glow with originality or innovation, but they were certainly capable of offering a short, entertaining set.