As sad as it is that CBGB’s is closing its doors at the end of the month, there couldn’t have been a better way to say goodbye to the Home of the Underground than with my personal favorite, Pete Yorn. With his new release Nightcrawler just out, Yorn delivered riveting new songs along with a repertoire of amazing tunes from CDs past.
It was a totally interactive experience – like a wave pool with the ebb and flow of bodies swaying. Pete would send out the first surge of lyrics and the crowd would sing back with hands held high — reaching for the graffiti-plastered pipes that have witnessed punk, grunge and rock 'n’ roll over the past three decades.
Yorn paid homage to his first album, musicforthemorningafter, opening with “Closet” and segueing into “Life On a Chain,” revving the crowd into one single live wire. These were not fly-by-night fans – they, like me have probably followed him for years. Staples such as “Burrito” (from Day I Forgot) and “Murray” (morning album) made us true-blues feel right at home.
Nightcrawler not only crept in but beat down the door with “For Us” – if there were any skeptics in the crowd, this tune may have shifted some loyalties – intense chord shifts and plucking guitars were further complimented by the kinetic harmonizing between Pete and keyboard/guitarist Joe Kennedy. “Alive” aptly landed its name – another beautifully synchronized, string-driven tune with the backbeat hammering the lyrics home, thanks to drummer Malcolm Cross.
The Night only got better with “Undercover,” “Same Thing” and “How Do You Go On’’ — endearingly dedicated to his 96-year old grandfather. Speaking of endearing, Pete’s description of CBGB’s: “This place is a shithole. I like it!” He must have really liked it when he invited CJ Ramone up on stage during the encore to play bass for the Ramone’s cover, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”. The crowd went wild – after all, this is the birthplace of The Ramones. The very same venue I stood in twenty some odd years ago to watch cover bands I only wished were The Ramones.
The encore was another concert within itself – nine songs covering the morning, Day and Night trilogy. Starting with the very beautiful “Lose You” (a soulful sing-along), Pete worked his way up-tempo to “Maybe I’m Right” — a soft-spoken beginning that transcended into a powerful melody with authoritative bass work by Sid Jordan and equally commanding guitar by Pete. The very last song was his hit single “Crystal Village” from DIF. Over two hours of rock-solid music. This New Jersey native gave it his all and us New Yorkers took it in for probably the very last time at the “country, bluegrass, blues” establishment.
What stood out in my mind was Pete’s reverence for CBGB’s – a place he was too young to fully appreciate back in the ‘80s. Yet some of the most influential bands of his music career (The Replacements, The Smiths) were regulars at this very spot. It’s no wonder then that his second to last song was fittingly a Smiths cover, “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”… Let’s hope that's true. CBGB’s – it may soon be gone, but never forgotten.