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It’s been six years since Minneapolis alt-rockers Soul Asylum last released an album, their last with bassist Karl Mueller, who passed away from cancer in 2005. Now on tour supporting their 10th release, July’s Delayed Reaction, the band that reached its heyday with 1992’s Grave Dancer’s Union and 1995’s Let Your Dim Light Shine, has a decidedly different look.
Supporting singer/guitarist Dave Pirner and guitarist Dan Murphy are ex-Replacements/current Guns N’ Roses bassist Tommy Stinson and Prince drummer Michael Bland.
The good news for nostalgic fans, children of the ‘80s, is that Pirner still has the scratchy vocal chops he had back in the day, and the new songs fit right into the pantheon that is ‘90s alt-rock. If the album fails to break through with sales, this ‘90s sound will be the reason why; many music fans have moved on.
Friday at the Independent, Soul Asylum sandwiched six of the new album’s 10 songs into a set of classics from the big two, such as “Runaway Train,” “Just Like Anyone,” “Devices,” “Black Gold” and “Misery.”
Though it was difficult to tell how much Pirner cares for the older songs – he introduced “Black Gold” as “a song I really don’t want to play, but you want to hear it, so, whatever” – the entire performance was solid.
“Runaway Train” received a low-key performance. Introduced by Pirner as a single off his upcoming spoken-word jazz album, it was clearly meant not to be evening’s highlight. That honor would belong to Dim Light’s “Somebody to Shove,” and the following “Stand Up and Be Strong,” off 2006’s The Silver Lining. The musicians’ joyous interaction, especially that of Bland, was infectious.
New songs like “Gravity” and “Into the Light” may not have induced sing-alongs, but will induce nostalgia among Soul Asylum fans.
The Minneapolis band was preceded by Milwaukee southern rock quintet Trapper Schoepp and the Shades, which successfully shifted gears through several genres, including blues, Celtic punk and even a bit of country.