I've got a whole city to hold down

April 18, 2005

Punch & Judy -- and Paul

"I haven't had this much fun at a rock concert in months," Tribster Greg Kot says of seeing Paul Westerberg on Friday at the Riv. "[T]his was the kind of spontaneous combustion that used to be called rock 'n' roll: Kids in garages wired on electric guitars and whatever they could find in their parents' liquor cabinet, making it up as they go along."

In the Sun-Times, though, Jim DeRogatis goes bananas on the performance, scalding Westerberg's approach, his band and his antics. Those antics - "pathetic bursts of stupid playacting," in Jim's parlance - included "attack[ing] a television set with a guitar, destroying both the TV and the Fender axe. He later reprised the bit by smashing an old telephone.

"At least," DeRo concludes, "he could have updated the Who routine to include an iPod, laptop and cell phone. And he should have tipped the stagehand who dutifully swept up his mess."

Here's the whole piece. It's definitely an entertaining read - or it is until the conclusion, which underscores exactly why I tend to avoid this sort of show. "Delivering more than two hours of utter mediocrity from the 15 years that followed his heyday isn't a brave step forward," DeRo writes. "[I]t's a sad reminder of a great talent that has either been squandered or lost to the passage of time."

If you went, what did you think? Do you come down on Greg's side, or Jim's?

Might note that Kot also checked out Elvis Costello at the Auditorium Theatre, finding him "in amphetamine power-pop mode .... It was a throwback to the British singer's new-wave era, when words somersaulted across dense, speedy arrangements that conveyed the restlessness and anxiety of younger men deprived of sex, sympathy and cash."

That's nice writing, no doubt. But Greg's similar thumbs-up to Westerberg's similarly retro show - and DeRo's pie-in-the-face routine following same - beg the questions: Is Kot being too soft on a couple of increasingly irrelevant oldsters? Or is Jim too eager to bash?

Have at it in the comments.

Update: "Old geek" Dave Hoesktra on Elvis Costello in the Sun-Times.