File this under: moe.wars – A New Hope. moe. promised its fans a heavy dose of Star Wars for New Year’s Day and didn’t disappoint.
Opening with the “Star Wars Overture” while images of Imperial Walkers, X-Wing Fighters, Darth Vader and Stormtroopers flashed across the video screen, those in attendance who regretted not hitting up the Philadelphia Halloween show were given a treat.
A nice, relaxing version of “Recreational Chemistry” followed. The accompanying light show enhanced the cool vibe of the song, inducing shouts of approval from the crowd, many donning Star Wars apparel. The 30-ish minute jam was enhanced by the stellar light show, provided by Preston Hoffman and Justin Casey of Pulse Lighting. Guitarist Al Schnier shone throughout this version of “Rec Chem,” shredding only as Schnier does.
The brilliance in moe.’s work is the diverse styles it employs. In any given song, the band can meander among spacey jams, reggae themes and straight-up riff rock. The fact that each band member writes and sings invites the diversity as they incorporate their own likes into the repertoire.
A true example of this diversity was exhibited as the spacey funk of “Recreational Chemistry” began to fade out and the Calexico-styled Chuck Garvey song “Shoot First” began. Each song is well-loved in the moe. canon yet they could not be more different. However, each still contains a distinct moe. vibe. Speaking of vibes, Jim Loughlin’s mallets add a terrific vibe to this Garvey classic.
A quick return to Star Wars brought the lively “Cantina Theme” Garvey employed some dexterous finger-picking, while Derkak employed some effects pedals to mimic the familiar theme from Star Wars – A New Hope. Loughlin’s malletkat added to the feel of the song, giving the feel of being in the cantina itself.
The percussive “Spine of a Dog” segued into that song about a pig, “Buster,” keeping feet moving in the aisles and stage front. Schnier broke out his double-neck for the first set closer, “Buster” and abused it justly.
A quick look at the early New Year’s Day setlist showed a high prevalence towards tracks from the “Smash Hits” release from a few years ago, not that anyone was complaining. But first, a quick step back into the Imperial realm.
Long used as introduction music to the most badass of sports teams, “The Imperial March” from Star Wars is one of those themes known to almost all. moe. introduced the second set, stepping over to the dark side with a version of the march that would have made the Dark Lord himself proud. Again, the laser show and video images encapsulated the night’s theme to a tee and Loughlin’s mallets proved to be the game winner in this take.
A calm run through of “Captain America” followed, with Garvey lighting up the Palace with his fretwork skills on his solo yet again. The man was on point the entire run.
Schnier’s coming-of-age song, “Mexico” came next. The teases into it from “Captain America” had the crowd warming up its vocal chords, ready to join in at the first word. This one turned into a chill-inducing, whole-crowd sing along. Garvey’s solo take during this song had Rob Derhak sitting back smiling with pride in his bandmates. While “Mexico” isn’t one of the big jam vehicles die-hards yearn for, as witnessed Friday night at the Palace, it is certainly a crowd-pleaser, and one that deserves a spot among the great narrative songs.
“So Long” slowed things down with a tribal, almost “The End” meets “Three Days” feel to great effect. The entire run had been so high-energy that the slowed down vibe here was a welcome relief for the audience to just sit back and sway.
The bass influenced What Happened to the LA LAs track, “Paper Dragon,” picked up the pace again with wah-wah pedals wailing and Derhak, Garvey and Schnier riffing away.
Another smooth take on Garvey’s “Bullet” (familiarly known to moe.rons as “Assfinger”) moved smoothly into a solid Derhak bass solo, that thundered along for nearly five minutes before segueing into a particularly ferocious finale of the unfinished “Meat” from the previous night.
The final set of the first show of moe.’s 26th year came to an end with a rousing disco version of the Meco classic entitled “Disco Wars.” Schnier took a spot on his keyboard for this one, teasing a little bit of Van Halen’s “Jump” before going full disco. Check out the video below:
A round of Al.nouncements was followed by an encore of “Letter Home” and “Okayalright,” both tributes to their roots in this area and fitting for the place the band has called home for the past two New Years.
moe. has done something rare in the music industry. It has survived over 25 years with much of the original lineup in tact and continuing to push boundaries. This New Year’s run and the entire year have shown that this is a band that isn’t resting on past successes and is willing to push to the next level. This run of shows is sure to be one talked about by fans for years to come and for good reason.
Set 1: Star Wars Overture> Recreational Chemistry, Shoot First, Cantina Band, Spine Of A Dog> Buster
Set 2: The Imperial March, Captain America> Mexico, So Long, Paper Dragon, Bullet> Meat*, Disco Wars
Encore: Letter Home, Okayalright
*finished from 12/31