Spain @ Hard Club, Porto (19.05.2012)

There’s something heartwarming about this first couple of years off this decade. To make up for the absence of new groundbreaking albums released on this period, grandiose bands who were kinda dead for more than 10 years decided this was the right time for a comeback. Bands like Swans, Superchunk, My Bloody Valentine, the Afghan Whigs, At the Drive-In or Refused started/are starting to take over all the summer festivals that matter.Spain, quietly reformed by frontman (and only permanent member of the band) Josh Haden back in 2007, might not be following their trail into the big stages, but they’ve just embarked on a full European tour after releasing The Soul of Spain, their first full length record since 2001’s I Believe. Last Saturday, at Porto’s recently renewed venue Hard Club where they last played 13 years ago, Haden and the new band proved that not only his songwriting remains as good as it was back then; Spain’s live show is still rock solid.

 

(Honestly, I have no clue about it as I was just 11 back then. The only Spain I knew back in the day was Tui (that lovely border town where I bought my first Final Fantasy game), Vigo and A Coruña.)

(due to the lack of a decent camera, here’s a picture of the soundcheck via the band’s twitter account)

Haden knows everyone loves The Blue Moods of Spain. Haden is a crowd pleaser. Haden decides it’s a wise choice to play their 1995 iconic debut album on its entirety in the first part of the concert. He’s totally right: four songs into the show and the band’s playing everyone’s favorite song, the not-so-wisely-titled “Untitled #1” (watch some footage below, recorded by someone else. Thank you, by the way). From the hardcore fans paying €25 to see them to the broke but awesome people who could only afford to be there thanks to a lovely website who was handing out tickets for the show, everyone felt that was money well spent. The sound quality was so pristine that it looked like you were listening to the album on your living room using a million dollar sound system, except that yesterday you had an opportunity to do it while looking miserable around everyone else, asking the bartender to pour some more of that ol’ whiskey bottle on your glass. That’s the wet dream of every 40 year old depressive/depressing man who never got over that heartbreak from over 15 years ago, right?

After a 20-minute break, which I bet they required in order to watch the Champions League final’s penalty shootout, the band returned to the stage for a regular set comprised of songs from the rest of their discography, including the latest LP: “I’m Still Free”, the first song released by this new incarnation of the band, was one of the highlights here, with Haden repeating the somewhat basic but powerful lines on the chorus over and over again: “I’m still free/I’m still free/And I tell the world about it/’Cause I got no doubt about it” while keyboardist Randy Kirk had his moment of glory, elevating the song into the instant-classic-song-pantheon through his Hammond.

Of course such a crowd-pleaser band knew how to end a show on a high note: “Our Love Is Gonna Live Forever”, She Haunts My Dreams’ wallowing closing track was played just before the encore, which consisted of arguably the best song off it, “Nobody Has to Know”. Too late: now everyone who was there knows Haden and the band are still on top of their game. Like in every single year’s Eurovision song contest, here are the results of the Portuguese voting: twelve points to Spain.