Throughout the late '90s and early '00s, Milwaukee's the Promise Ring harnessed about as much buzz as any indie band trudging through the underground. Even so, one could argue that the band was, and still is, underrated. Or, if nothing else, it became a victim of its own press. The "emo pioneer" tag more than likely scared some folks away, but you wouldn't have known any better if you were at the sold out Metro in Chicago on Saturday night. Aging hipsters, pop purists and younger folks who missed the band its first time around crowded the building, buzzing almost as hard as the band itself during the Y2K days.
An obvious question to consider going into the show was whether the band would favor its late-era, spacious pop-bliss or wail through the disjointed-yet-infectious ruckus it leaned on during the early days. To the delight of everyone, the band managed to strike the perfect balance between the two -- relying most heavily on its mid-career albums Nothing Feels Good (1997) and Very Emergency (1999).
Having been, for all practical purposes, inactive since 2002, the band seemed as excited as the 1100+ in the building. Singer Davey von Bohlen was equal parts humbled and elated. "I don't even know how to relate anymore," he quipped between songs, as fans peppered him with requests. Fortunately, years later, von Bohlen's songs haven't ceased to relate.
Call it a cash grab, call it a stroke of nostalgia, or call it whatever you want. But you cannot knock the band for phoning it in. Drummer Dan Didier fevered through propulsive blasts -- keeping the band on point throughout the night. Jason Gnewikow noodled skronky guitar riffage, while von Bohlen wailed, moaned bobbed around almost every inch of the stage. The Promise Ring may have been gone for the past decade, but the songs still managed to hit as close to the heart as ever.
Size of Your Life Happiness Is All the Rage Emergency! Emergency! Jersey Shore E. Texas Ave. Is This Thing On? Perfect Lines B is For Bethlehem Wood/Water Skips a Beat (Over You) The Deep South Stop Playing Guitar Red & Blue Jeans Make Me a Mixtape A Picture Postcard ? Tell Everyone We're Dead My Life is at Home Get On the Floor Feed the Night Why Did We Ever Meet Red Paint Everywhere in Denver Forget Me