March 01, 2004

A SECOND CITY BAND'S SECOND COMING

Urge Overkill photo.jpg

Revamped Urge Overkill shows promise on club tour

Urge Overkill/The Shazam
Maxwell's -- Hoboken, N.J.
Feb. 5, 2004

Constant pleading from fans in their native Chicago apparently convinced Eddie "King" Roeser and Nash Kato to bury the hatchet and reform Urge Overkill seven years after the band's tension-filled flameout.

But the look, sound and feel of the band, at least as evidenced on its recent reunion tour of small clubs, is quite different from a decade ago, when it stood as a hipper-than-thou darling of rock’s alternative nation.

The most noticeable difference was the absence of drummer Blackie Onassis, who was not included in the reunion for reasons that are not entirely clear ("We didn't need another personality in the band," was Roeser's reasoning after the show). Also gone was the element of kitsch from Urge's heyday -- there were no matching jumpsuits and nary a "UO" medallion in sight. But perhaps most glaring was that the band -- a five-piece on this tour, with singers-guitarists Kato and Roeser backed by bassist Mike Hodgkiss, drummer Nate Arling and keyboardist-percussionist Chris Frantisak -- still had some major kinks to work out, before closing with a flourish.

A few rhythm section glitches -- most notably on "Bottle Of Fur," the shimmering, shoulda-been hit from UO's 1993 record, Saturation -- marred the first half of the set, when things threatened to resemble Urge Over-The-Hill. Even the irresistible alterna-hit "Positive Bleeding" proved to be a bit rocky. Fortunately, things turned for the better after Urge unveiled its only brand-new song of the night, "New O," which was promising even though it nearly copped the guitar melody from Saturation’s "Sister Havana."

From that point, the band made the previous half-hour seem like an extended warm-up. It soared on the rollicking "Erica Kane" and breathed new life into "Take Me," "The Break” and "Monopoly," three songs from 1995's forgettable Exit the Dragon. Roeser displayed some wicked fretwork, particularly on the set closer, "What's This Generation Coming To?" During the encore, on Urge's romp through "Sister Havana” (the evening's highlight), Frantisak pounded the cowbell like he was getting paid by the hit.

The grand finish to the 65-minute set suggested Urge Overkill could have plenty left in the tank as the label-less band aims to release a new record by year's end. And in another good sign, lest we believe that Roeser, Kato and Co. are now taking themselves too seriously -- they did have a conspicuous red and blue "UO" logo planted on the side of their tour bus. How far Urge Overkill gets down the road to a full-fledged comeback, however, will be determined by how well Roeser and Kato are able to stabilize things -- irregardless of whether they take their leisure suits out of mothballs.

Openers The Shazam melded glam-rock chords with heavy-metal poses during its brief half-hour set, and proved mediocre at both. Inane choruses, such as "I'm gonna rock and roll with my rock and roll rock and roller/I'm gonna roll away the boulder" (from "50 Ft. Rock"), didn't help. Ultimately, the Tennessee quartet came off like Spinal Tap -- singer Hans Rotenberry did sport a Nigel Tufnel-esque haircut -- but without the irony and, presumably, with no armadillos in their trousers.

-- By George Henn

Urge Overkill on tour (schedule subject to change):

March 19: Fox and Hound (South by Southwest showcase) -- Austin, Texas

Posted by medleyville at March 1, 2004 02:50 PM
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