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Urge Overkill Live!

| August 16, 2006 | 0 Comments

Urge Overkill
West Fest, Chicago
Saturday, August 12, 2006

If you gloss over the lineup for the 10th Annual Hideout Block Party, a fest organized around Touch And Go’s 25th Anniversary celebration, you’ll notice there are a number of bands from the label’s past and present. One notable exception, still banging around, would be Urge Overkill.

Urge, for what it’s worth, were also-rans in the ’90s major label/alt-rock swoop, but were also a steady third to the Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair city score. But their tale, before it was destroyed by infighting, took a hit from Chicago’s indie elite because they tried to skip out on their Touch And Go deal by signing with DGC for the release of Saturation. Never mind UO’s best albums were on the majors — and are now out of print — they opened an unhealable wound within certain circles, relegating them to a street festival for an unofficial neighborhood as opposed to the hero’s welcome they could have entertained.

The fact Urge have been swatted had little in reality to do with their performance Saturday eve, yet in the grand picture it made all the difference. Ed “King” Roeser and Nash Kato might be reunited physically, but they have been made to play the part of dinosaurs and ply their deleted major label wares. Fully aware, Roeser introduced “Take Me” as “from our latest album,” 1995’s Exit The Dragon.

But even before that self-conscious admission, Urge were fighting their mini-saur status. A band once intent on underlining the pathos of overgrown and irrelevant rock were faced with the spector of being an aging, irrelevant beast themselves, and responded sloppily — granted this was a street fest, so they were entitled to be drunk. Opener “The Candidate” was an exception, as Kato and Roeser began a set that avoided their early (mostly Touch And Go) material and concentrated on their would-be glory era of The Stull EP, Saturation, and Exit The Dragon. “Sister Havana,” “The Break,” “Positive Bleeding,” and “Take Me” rattled through with considerably less panache than they were conceived.

The traditional UO get-up — medallions, matching outfits — was relegated to the logos covering their cabinets and Kato’s silvery phallus (his Ibanez Iceman guitar), while Roeser is slowly becoming a Southern rocker on par with Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell. As predicted, former drummer Blackie Onassis’ material was omitted as was less predictibly their praise-won cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon.” In its place were surprises “Heaven 90210” and Stull‘s “What’s This Generation Coming To?” though the real crunch came in a blistering “Last Night/Tomorrow” and brisk “Erica Kane.”

What was most disappointing was a denial of the future. In September 2005, the band had recording studio news on their homepage, yet if anything ever came of it they didn’t share it. Their early success banked on their retro/future image, Urge Overkill’s constant overtures and invitations to their timeless, ultracool realm. But at West Fest they simply fit the bill of a block party headliner, while the fete they aren’t invited to builds across town.

— Steve Forstneger

Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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