by Bob Mcmahon
The Urge Pointfest September 10, 2011
"We have an announcement: The Urge is back!" While it was nice of singer Steve Ewing to mention this midway through his band's first set in six years, it was also totally unnecessary. From the moment Bill Reiter and Matt Kwiatkowski blasted the staccato intro of "Violent Opposition" out of their horns, it was obvious that the Urge was back and sharp as ever. The local funk/ska/metal heroes powered through a crowd-pleasing eleven song performance that, aside from two barely noticeable slipups, showed no sign of the sextet's layoff.
The Urge unsurprisingly devoted half of its set to material from Receiving the Gift of Flavor, the band's most up-tempo and aggressive album. If it's tough to sustain that record's energy level, the band didn't show it. Ewing, Reiter and Kwiatkowski jumped, flailed and somersaulted as if the process of aging didn't exist. Underneath this chaos, the rhythm section locked into a tight groove that established a strong foundation to build upon. John Pessoni's fill-centric drumming perfectly complimented Karl Grable's slithery bass lines while Jerry Jost alternately chimed in on the offbeat or led the charge with a hellacious thrash. Somehow, Pessoni also sang perfect harmonies while nailing his complex drumming.
Ewing, of course, remains the perfect frontman. He sounds at ease whether he's indulging in soulful hollering, screaming or smooth rapping. He also knows how to control a crowd, as proven by the theater-wide sing-along at the end of "Closer." The audience was under the group's sway throughout the night. From the lawn to the seats, everyone was dancing, and the pit was a hotbed of moshing. Veteran fans in particular went crazy for old-school ska jam "Tell Me What's Going On." Everything came to a climax in the last three songs: "Jump Right In" (the band's biggest hit), "Brainless" (its breakout hit) and "It's Gettin' Hectic" (a souped-up Brand New Heavies cover that became a live anthem over the years). Saving the heavy hitters for last may be one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it paid off beautifully here. Each song built in intensity until everything burst in the pounding finale of "Hectic."
If there was anything to complain about, it was that the concert could have been longer. Maybe the Urge should have switched time slots with Bush, who headlined the evening with a generally competent show that suffered by comparison ("Glycerine" still gets the lighters out, though). Given the restraints of playing at a festival, the short set was understandable, but it was tough to be left wanting more after six years between shows. Still, any and all griping is irrelevant. The Urge is back and at the top of its game.
Notes setlist and more photos on the next page
By the way: Ok there was a little more to Ewing's announcement. He also mentioned that The Urge is playing at The Pageant on November 11 and 12.
Overheard: "Play that motherfuckin' Urge shit!" - 17,000 something people before the band played
Personal Bias: Like many St. Louisans, I was obsessed with The Urge in middle and high school. They were the biggest factor in getting me interested and involved in the local music scene.
1. Violent Opposition 2. All Washed Up 3. Where Do We Go 4. Say Yes 5. Open All Night (Going to the Liquor Store) 6. Tell Me What's Going On 7. Closer 8. Four Letters And Two Words 9. Jump Right In 10. Brainless 11. It's Gettin' Hectic