Anticipation aptly expresses the evening of the November 23rd when Luna gifted a thunderous set to the North Star Bar crowd in the Fairmount/Brewerytown section of Philadelphia. It was the anticipation of Luna playing at a such an intimate venue, my personal favorite in the city, on their first return trip since May and following their second 2002 release, Close Cover Before Striking. By now, many curious folk had circled this date on their calendars, and many Luna virgins awaited their defrocking.
I arrived early enough to wolf a few pints of Lager while the North Star was still quiet and only the band stirred, offering a brief sound check in the hall next door (Mermaid Eyes and Black Champagne). However, while the band later feasted on NSB delicacies out-of-sight, the throngs began to amass into a line, with yet many other eager lunatics milling around in anticipation of the doorman's arrival.
The primary floor of the performance room quickly filled as show-goers spread across the apron of the stage and as far back as I could see. The front section of the room is several steps deeper than the rest, making the room slightly cavernous, which is also emphasized by the brick walls surrounding the stage area. The balcony is usually enticing to NSB first-comers, but it literally hangs over the front of the stage, making the show unobstructed only for those along the railing. All others strain around heads and in-between legs for a glimpse of the magic below.
The Trouble With Sweeney took the stage to a rather animated house, and initiated the revelry with a two-car garage lullaby. Joey Sweeney, ringleader of the eponymously-named ensemble, then guided us through a rather long-winded set, occasionally erupting with some hard line riffs and brawny vocals. Finally, a colossal drum solo, the highlight of the act, signaled the end of the aural torment (in my opinion).
The band change over took some time, considering there's little room to work with at the venue, but when the lights finally dimmed, the crowd howled with enthusiasm. They opening with Lovedust (ideal for the foreplay), and then glided into Black Champagne. First classic up for the newbies, Tiger Lily, which spawned much delight in those around me and fashioned a tone for the remainder of the night. A rocket boost from there into Astronaut blasted us much higher, in fact, I thought the band was going to blow the roof off of the club during the chorus.....it was splendid. What followed was a virtual treasure trove of classic anthems: Moon Palace, Tracy I Love You, a vibrant 23 Minutes in Brussels, the always declarative 1995, a driving California (All The Way), The Germanic- swathed Slow Song, and locking it all up with a slip into Chinatown.
An inadvertent stop in the tape machine delayed our roll into Black Postcards, but the quick acting of Sean and Lara, rewound us to the start of the rotation. Much like several other ardent shows in the past year, the band left us vibrating with Fuzzy Wuzzy, and Dean's added, little advertisement for their website (nice delivery Dean).
My anticipation returned prior to encore for the personal reason that I had requested Season of the Witch, a song that I had never heard live and never leaves my car stereo. After they retook the stage before the frenzied crowd, Dean strummed through the first few chords, striking my verve. Honestly, it was one staggering jam.....my only regret being that I didn't record it.
Band comedian, Sean, who always provides a good quip or two, noticed the people hanging over him from the balcony above. In his Edenistic manner, he remarked, "you people are weird," showing his ever evolving whimsical infatuation with fans.
After dropping the hammer with SOTW, Luna floated the crowd out onto a Tugboat, putting us all exactly where we wanted to be. In response to stomping feet and bawling lunatics, the band honored the invitation with a second encore, cutting back to Lunapark to leave us with Slash Your Tires. It was a frenetic, exciting, satisfying, and orgasmic evening. Not only were many Luna virgins broken and all mainstay fans delighted, but most everyone in the North Star Bar that night should've left a little more enlightened.
As usual, I wasn't completely satisfied leaving the show that night, but then again, I never am because I can easily take in the band's entire library and then ask for covers. One good thing - at least I was no longer feeling anticipation.