The roots of Soul Asylum began in 1981 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dave Pirner had been playing drums in Loud Fast Rules, but when he stepped away from the drum kit in 1983 to become a lead singer and rhythm guitarist, the revamped band changed its name to Soul Asylum. The band hit nationally in 1992 with its sixth album, the triple-platinum Grave Dancers Union, which included the Grammy Award-winning single "Runaway Train." The music video for "Runaway Train" featured photographs and names of missing children in a public service video style. The video reportedly was instrumental in reuniting several children with their families. The next album went platinum, but Soul Asylum had no more hits. Soul Asylum's 10th and most recent album is 2012's Delayed Reaction. Pirner is the band's sole original member; the current lineup also consists of lead guitarist Justin Sharbono, bassist Winston Roye and drummer Michael Bland.
Headlining at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Soul Asylum's set was comprised mostly of songs from the 1990s. This meant that except for two new songs, "Can't Help It" and "Supersonic," the rest of the set predated Pirner's bandmates, all of whom joined Soul Asylum in recent years. Pirner remained the key to the songs and their delivery, singing his angst from the opening song, "Somebody to Shove" to the stomping closer, "April Fool." Although Soul Asylum predated grunge, the sound was very akin, with soaring vocal melodies knitting with the crunching guitar power chords and harmonic guitar leads. Even the softer "Misery" built up momentum and dynamics to become a passionate rocker with a sing-along bridge of "frustrated incorporated"; Pirner threw in a curve, however, ending the song with a verse of Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs." Long before "Runaway Train," Soul Asylum proved that 1990s alternative rock can still sound relevant in the 21st century.
Visit Soul Asylum at www.soulasylum.com.