The Stems just strolled onstage, plugged in and launched into that drum beat from their first single Make You Mine. It was clear, right away, that the pre-gig discussions of Will they suck – Yay or Nay? – were going to be rightly stomped on and squashed. Within five minutes everyone looked at each other and went – YAY!. Make You Mine was undeniably catchy, and quite possibly an early evening highlight.
Six songs in and we get Love Will Grow. By this stage with the amount of great ideas, song-writing that The Stems profess in just six songs, I’m sure the audience could, and I say could have gone home feeling satisfied, but The Stems are having none of this. Love Will Grow is the ballad, but it’s not the obligatory ballad, deemed to be pushed into a live show, or on a record, just to slow things down. Love Will Grow is a terrific piece of Byrdsian whimsy, all toughed up with its fuzz-nut growling guitar.
We got the first of the two covers for the evening. The first one is Hey Joe, as interpreted by Love or The Leaves or The Standells. That fast, rollicking version, but The Stems added a great touch on the chorus, with a rousing, built-up pop explosion. Seems like it’s always fun to sing Hey Hey Hey in celebrated harmony. Later on they did a fairly standard cover of I’m Not Your Stepping Stone. Which was quite pleasant, but not interpretive enough, which begs the question – Why didn’t they do a freaking Stems song!?
The two best songs on this night were Move Me & Sad Girl. They were stripped of their lavish production, hit-single sound, that does at times annoy on their album. Here the songs were mammoth. They were spiteful as all good punk songs should be, but fanciful as all great pop moments have been.
They played, they had two encores, which some would say was too much, but c’mon The Stems these days only play once every fifteen years, and as the fella next to me said “Man, they got great hair.”
Dom Mariani is a colossal guitarist, and The Stems are a conduit for all fun times. They had too many magnificent tunes, and the sheer magnitude and polish of their performance was undeniable. It was one of those shows were afterwards most people I saw had big, dumb, goofy smiles on their faces. Part pissed, but mostly in part due to the entertaining gig from one of this countries best ever bands.