Soul Asylum
Boston, MA
June 25, 2016

Soul Asylum

I’m a 90’s kid, even though I am suppose to be a 80’s kid.  The idea of dirty blonde hair, Converse sneakers and flannel over-shirts brighten my day! When the chance to see Soul Asylum arose, I jumped at the opportunity.

We know them best for their smash hit, “Runaway Train”.  It reached number 5 on Billboard top 100, and number 2 on the US top 40 mainstream.  Tonight they were touring in support of  their latest album, called “Change of Fortune”. It was released on March 18th, 2016. I listened to a little bit of it before the show, and I was really impressed with the overall quality. They still have their nineties look, but their sound has evolved to something more modern. It might be because the current line up of the band consist of only one original member, the lead singer Dave Pirner.  Michael Bland (drums), joined in 2005, and Winston Roye (bass guitar) and Justin Sharbono (lead guitar) both began in 2012.

When I arrived at the Royale it was very different than the last time I had went there. I was there about 15 minutes early and expected a line at the door, but there was no line. 10 minutes later a line started to form, and now there were about 10 of us there. Not only was I the youngest person in this small crowd, but I seem to be the only one there for Soul Asylum.  From listening to conversations around me, I think I was the only one who had heard of them.

The other band, the English Beat, seem to be the main draw of this crowd. Nevertheless, I was still excited and quickly ran up the stairs when the door opened. A girl around my age flew past me, and ran to the front of the stage. Finally someone else was just as excited as me, and my age! The crowd seemed to be mostly in their late forties and fifties and most of them headed directly to the bar when we got upstairs. When Soul Asylum took the stage there was a loud applause, but the floor was still empty. Like true rock stars, the boys from Soul Asylum didn’t care. Dave rocked out to his music, danced around the stage, and acted as if we were a crowd of thousands instead of in the tens. And of course there was the long dirty blonde hair, over-shirt, and a pair of beat up Converse sneakers. Even the bass player had on Converse sneakers!

Soul Asylum

As the night went on they played a good chunk of their new music and the crowd really started to enjoy it.  More people left the bar area and got much closer on the floor. The lead singer told jokes and really got the audience involved in the performance. I had a hard time hearing the vocals when I was up in front of the stage,  so around the halfway point I went and stood in the back. Though I could tell how much effort they were putting into the performance when I was upfront, it was great to be able to step back and take in the sounds.  All the notes and melodies sounded right.  Dave sounded just as good now as he did back then.  If they made any mistakes, no one was the wiser.

Towards the end of the set they played “Runaway Train” and you could see the light bulbs going off around the place. I saw people lean into each other and I assumed they were saying “Oh yeah! I remember this band now!”.

The stage might have been half empty when they first started, but it was full when they left.  The other band that played, the English Beat, is a reggae/ ska band. I asked my editor why would they pair these two together? He told me that when you have two bands that different, you appeal to two different audiences.  You then have the opportunity to sell more tickets and to make new fans.

I may be wrong- but if I was a betting girl,  I’d say Soul Asylum left that place with a bunch of new fans.

The English Beat

The English Beat was up next. The band formed in Birmingham, England in the late seventies, with Dave Wakeling and Rangking Roger as the lead vocals.  They combine the sounds of reggae, pop, ska and funk for a really fun sound. Their songs are upbeat, and are about unity and love.

The English Beat

The English Beat

My Soul Asylum experience was reversed. I had been up close to the stage, and now I was stuck in the back.  I did feel a little like I had changed clubs when Ranking Roger, took the stage. Dave Wakeling, began to play his guitar and sing with a very tropical island sound. The crowd around me was dancing. Not just the lazy dance where you sway side to side, they were kicking their legs in the air, and spining around.  They were throwing their hands are in the air, and holding their drinks tightly while they danced and sang the night away.

When I finally made it through the crowd, I remember how short I was.  Taking pictures would not be an easy feat. A woman about the same height as me noticed me and offered for me to stand in front of her stating that she “understood”.  As happy as the crowd was, the band was happier!  I had the hardest time getting a picture of the keyboardist as he kept popping up and down grinning from ear-to-ear. The lead vocalist, in his casual button-up white shirt, looked so pleased. The night included some cover songs, like “Rough Rider” and “I’ll Take you There”. They also played their own tracks, like “Twist and Crawl” and “Save It for Later.”  Halfway through “Save it for Later,” I realize I knew the song and most of the words.  Everything had truly come full circle for me.

The night ended around 9:30, and since the Royal is also a nightclub they emptied it out quickly. As we flooded the streets of Boston, I found myself texting my editor to tell him that that he was right. Having two different bands was a great way to gain new fans. Also, that I would love to see Soul Asylum OR the English Beat next time either of them came around. 

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