Those who headed out to the Arts Centre on a grimly damp June evening were repaid handsomely with a gig that scaled the heights of greatness from headliners Meat Puppets on what, I believe, was there first appearance in Norwich.
It was only a few minutes past 8pm when I arrived but already Bleedin’ Noses appeared to be closing what I hope and assume was their first number. There was a lot of music to be crammed in tonight. I’d heard them described as “speed banjo” which didn’t exactly fill me with hope but they are so much more than that and their set on the NAC was superb and a lot more electric than I’d been expecting. Great passion, energy and connection with the audience, whom they quickly won over. This most enjoyable set passed by quickly in a blur of great guitars, keys and drums. This band from south Wales play a blend of folk and country with a big dose of punk rock. Playing as a five piece they are usually apparently a six-piece so it would be interesting to hear them again with their bassist. A wonderful surprise and a bonus discovery, I enjoyed them a lot and heard many complimentary comments about them too.
The turnaround for the next band was barely ten minutes and I’m not sure I was ready for Dublin’s Munky which probably explains why I was not really enjoying their indie-funk and the snare was doing my head in. Not my thing or not in the mood so soon, I wanted a breather before the main event of the evening and so joined friends who were smoking outside in the drizzle.
With already two sets played before Arizona’s Meat Puppets were due onstage at 9:40pm after another quick turnaround the hall was nicely full without feeling too rammed. My favourite NAC scenario. It was interesting chatting to a few people as we excitedly awaited them, this was very evidently one of those gigs that really meant something to a lot of people. It meant a lot. Sure, some present may have been introduced to them via Nirvana’s Unplugged session where the two bands performed Meat Puppets originals Oh Me, Lake of Fire and Plateau together (and they played all three of those here tonight) but most of the fans were clearly diehard and passionate Meatheads familiar with the back catalogue.
Over the course of 100 mighty minutes or more Meat Puppets played a powerful and very varied set spanning their near 40 year (on and off) career taking in rock, grunge, country, psych, prog, punk, with some Neil Young and even jazz influences. It was a delicious melting pot every bit as impressive as it was enjoyable.
I only have a couple of Meat Puppets albums in my collection but this gig struck home just what I have been missing, they were, quite simply, phenomenal. In a set of well over an hour and half the quality didn’t dip for a second. A few jokes aside there was not much chat, just a stage full of amazing musicians performing outstanding songs, letting the music do the talking, and quite clearly enjoying themselves doing it. The audience were spellbound throughout in what felt an extremely special show.
Towards the end of the set they played an epic ten minute, immense version of Lake of Fire, midway through the song tearing it apart and exploding into a psych-out jam which was quite something to experience.
Several times I heard people say “I can’t believe I’m seeing the Meat Puppets! And in Norwich!” People who were in this same venue to see Nirvana some thirty years ago rightly still talk about that gig. Those here for Meat Puppets will also remember this one for a long, long time. One of the truly outstanding gigs in Norwich Arts Centre’s rich history that will surely go down as a classic. I’ve seen some gems this year but this is undoubtedly the best so far (setting the bar very high ahead of Starcrawler‘s visit next week!) Quite appropriate that this was in a church were the very mixed audience congregated audience and were quietly and respectfully worshipping some absolute masters and musical wizards. It was a wonderful and almost spiritual experience, all the more so for it being at NAC. Sterling work from the sound crew too.
Over the past few days I’ve been listening a lot to their latest album, Dusty Notes, which is a fine record with some excellent songs on, especially Warranty and the title track itself.
“We are super psyched to announce that for the first time in over 20 years…..
The original line up of the legendary Meat Puppets are back together and playing at Norwich Artscentre on the 19th June 2019.
Legendary Arizona alt-rockers Meat Puppets returned with their first new album since 2013, and their first featuring their original lineup intact since 1995. Though brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood reunited in 2006 and have toured and recorded together since then, the band’s original drummer, Derrick Bostrom, has not recorded with the band since 1995’s No Joke! The original Meat Puppets first reunited for a performance at the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2017, and subsequently began work on a new full-length. Now Dusty Notes, their 15th studio album, is due out March 8 on Megaforce Records. Also joined by Keyboardist Ron Stabinsky and Curt’s son Elmo (guitar).”
On Thursday, with ears still ringing and not being able to see much due to eye drops at an NNUH Eye Clinic visit for a morning appointment, my senses temporarily blurred I immersed myself in the memories of this special evening. Big thanks to Norwich Arts Centre for this precious gig. The 40/40 Regeneration campaign continues and there will be a music quiz fundraiser from Tilting Sky on Monday.