Matthew Sweet @ the 20th Century Theatre (10/16/11)

So I went to see Matthew Sweet perform a concert at the 20th Century Theatre last night. He and his band played the entire Girlfriend album in celebration of its 20th anniversary. They opened the show with “Divine Intervention” and then proceeded to perform the album’s other 14 songs in order. They closed out the set with “Sick of Myself”, a song from 100% Fun that probably ranks as my favorite Matthew Sweet song. Then there was a brief break before the band came back out for a three song encore consisting of “Time Capsule”, “She Walks the Night” (the new single off Modern Art), and “We’re the Same”.

So basically what I got to hear over the course of the evening was the best Matthew Sweet album played in its entirety, my favorite Matthew Sweet song, two more “hits”, and a pretty good new song. Here’s what it looked like all spelled out:

Main set: Divine Intervention/I’ve Been Waiting/Girlfriend/Looking At the Sun/Winona/Evangeline/Day For Night/Thought I Knew You/You Don’t Love Me/I Wanted to Tell You/Don’t Go/Your Sweet Voice/Does She Talk?/Holy War/Nothing Lasts/Sick of Myself

Encore: Time Capsule/She Walks the Night/We’re the Same

If you’re just looking at that setlist, then you’d probably think this was an awesome show. Well, it wasn’t. It turns out that there’s much more to a successful concert than just song selection; there’s also sound quality and this show was a sonic disaster. Everything was way too loud. It was so loud that listening became physically painful at times. I had to listen to a couple of the songs from the lobby.

I don’t normally mind loud shows. What I don’t like is when it gets so loud that the sound becomes muffled.  That’s what happened at this show. I couldn’t make out what Matthew Sweet was singing half the time. Due to this strange combination of excessive volume and muffled sound, I could only appreciate the quieter songs like “Thought I Knew You” and “You Don’t Love Me”. Even those didn’t sound right to my ear.  I wandered around the venue all night trying to find a location where the sound actually worked, but I couldn’t find one. It was sludge turned up to eleven everywhere I went.

It was still sort of fun to hear Girlfriend and “Sick of Myself”, but that’s definitely the last time I go see an electric show at the 20th Century Theatre. Every single electric show I’ve seen there has been a catastrophe. There’s just something about that place. That’s too bad as Drive-By Truckers are playing there later this week and I’d really like to see them again. Oh well.

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10 Responses to Matthew Sweet @ the 20th Century Theatre (10/16/11)

  1. crankypants says:

    Well that stinks. You should write them a letter and maybe they will overhaul their sound system for you. But really, you can’t be the only one, and I’m sure the artists notice it.

    • M-----l says:

      Nobody onstage made any reference to sound quality. It probably sounded just fine to them. I kept looking over at the sound guy expecting him to grimace, or run his hands through his hair in frustration, or call a better sound guy for advice, but he was just bopping along oblivious all night long.

  2. Reading this post drove me to look for my copy of “Girlfriend,” but damn, I couldn’t find it. Either my son walked off with it, or I sold it for pittance at Half Price Books. I don’t even have it in my iTunes folder, which means I didn’t have it back when I bought my iPod. I guess this is one argument for buying albums in MP3 format: I can store them in the mysterious cloud and never have to worry about losing the CD.

    But have you ever considered asking for your money back if the sound in a theater is bad? The last time I went to see a movie, the sound was so loud I had to get up and leave. I later wrote a letter to the management complaining about it, and a few days later they sent me a free pass for another movie. Unfortunately, there were other issues I had about that theater—like someone trying to break into my car in the parking lot— so I never went back.

    • M-----l says:

      I’m sorry that you can’t find your Girlfriend. I don’t know about the mysterious clouds all the kids are talking about these days, but maybe she’ll show up in there some day.

      No, I’ve never asked for my money back. I prefer to suffer in silence and then whine on the internet when I get home. I did give serious consideration to leaving after the first three songs, though. I decided to stick around for “Your Sweet Voice” and the possibility of “Sick of Myself”. I’m glad I stayed, but it was still a very frustrating evening.

      On a mostly unrelated note, I don’t go to the movie theaters anymore. Cincinnati is the Bedbugs Capital of the Midwest and I’m scared that I’ll pick up a flock of them if I sit down where some infested person sat.

  3. M-----l says:

    Oooh, this is how I wanted it to sound…

    • homebody says:

      [this is good] I like the John Deere cap and “That’s how you make rock.”
      Sorry you had such a crappy experience hearing someone you were so looking forward to seeing play there. Maybe the sound guy has so much hearing loss that he can’t tell the difference… or the acoustics of the venue are really lousy and it has to be too loud to be heard.

      • M-----l says:

        I’d guess it’s something about the acoustics of the venue not lending itself well to electric guitars. This show was opened by a guy named Miles Zuniga (from the band Fastball); he played an acoustic guitar and sounded fine. It wasn’t until Matthew Sweet and his band plugged in that things fell apart.

  4. hotrod says:

    I appreciate this post, because now I have tickets to Matthew Sweet play in Virginia next week. I hope the venue gets the sound right for my show.

    • M-----l says:

      The 20th Century Theatre has a long history of crappy-sounding electric shows. I can’t imagine that Matthew Sweet and his band are going around sounding that bad every night. I hope your show works out well. I’m betting it will.

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