Few bands stay broken up anymore, even those that sucked the first time: Witness the return of Creed and Third Eye Blind.
But like the best of their peers--Mission of Burma, Wire and the Buzzcocks--New Jersey art-punks the Feelies avoided the taint of nostalgia at the Pritzker Pavilion on Monday, their first Chicago show in 18 years.
One reason the quintet's return is so welcome is that it left a lot of unfinished business. After four brilliant albums that paved the way for acolytes such as R.E.M., the Feelies disbanded in 1991--broke, frustrated but far from creatively spent.
More importantly, their sound--a frenetic version of the Bo Diddley/Velvet Underground beat propelled by Bill Million's frantic rhythm guitar and adorned by Glenn Mercer's tubular leads--was always timeless, and it remains as unique and energizing today as it was circa their debut, "Crazy Rhythms" (1980).
The Feelies are set to perform that classic, all jagged edges and jangled nerves, at New York's All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in September. But befitting their return to the Midwest, some of the strongest material Monday came from the more organic follow-up, "The Good Earth" (1986), with songs such as "On the Roof" and "The High Road" evoking long drives through the plains as the rhythm section of bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stanley Demeski and percussionist Dave Weckerman rode those inimitable grooves.
Also noteworthy were two aggressive but tuneful new songs, "Nobody Knows" and "Time Is Right," which showed that the Feelies of the new millennium are every bit the band they were two decades ago, and we're lucky to have them back.
What's more, a new generation of fans seems especially eager to lose itself in that Feelies undertow. Through much of the night, the crowd in Millennium Park stayed politely glued to its seats. But the intensity slowly built over the course of a 90-minute set, and as it reached a peak with the one-two punch of "Raised Eyebrows" and "Crazy Rhythms," a lone dancer hurtled toward the stage and started frantically pogoing.
Security moved in to shoo him off, but before they could, swarms of twenty-somethings who were likely seeing the band for the first time suddenly bounded down the aisles, and the mass of perhaps a thousand twitchy, hyperactive and joyful dancers continued to lose themselves in the swirl of "Fa Ce La" and two encores that included covers of the Velvet Underground, R.E.M. and the Rolling Stones.
It definitely was a moment worth waiting almost 20 years for.