The Feelies
The Bell House, Brooklyn, May 13
by Stephen Slaybaugh

As the Feelies began “When Company Comes,” the first song of the first set of the night (as they’d done in the past, they would play two sets in lieu of an opener), I was thinking that I could probably see the reunited band play every week and never tire of their idiosyncratic jangle. Haledon, New Jersey’s most celebrated band (not that that’s saying much, I suppose) long ago perfected a naturalistic mix of VU riffs and college rock effervescence, but even after taking a 17-year break, have never lost a step. That was evident from the second selection for the night, “Bluer Skies,” from the group’s recently released Here Before, their first album in 20 years. Here, Glenn Mercer’s pliant Telecaster tones and intoned pleas about not waiting too long mingled with guitarist Bill Million’s guitar strumming in a way probably not all that different from when they first played out some 35 years ago.

As with past shows, the first set seemed like something of a warm-up, with its 45 minutes made up of material pulled from the mellower portion of the Feelies’ repertoire. Not that songs like “Invitation” (from 1991’s Time for a Witness) were any less compelling. The spritely guitars of “On the Roof” (from 1986’s The Good Earth) were particularly lively, if somewhat subdued, and Million was the most animated I’d seen him since the band’s resurrection. Indeed, “Again Today” (also from the new record) was one of the night’s highlights, as was the cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Cry No Tears” that closed this portion of the evening.

Beginning with “Deep Fascination” (from 1988’s Only Life), the second set quickly picked up speed. “Higher Ground” and “The Final Word” (from the same record) proved particularly buoyant, with Mercer bounding up, down and about in between verses. Again, the new record fit in with the band’s back catalog, in this instance with “Time Is Right.” The set’s fevered pitch continued to climb, eventually climaxing with the knockout combination of “Too Far Gone” (also from Only Life) and then “Raised Eyebrows” and the title track from the band’s 1980 debut, Crazy Rhythms.

But the Feelies rarely end their shows abruptly (I’ve seen them return to the stage as many as six times before), and they soon re-emerged for the first of four encores, which consisted of the Stones’ “Rocks Off” and “Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars),” the REM song they’ve long covered. Subsequent encores included covers of “Take It As It Comes” (Doors), “Paint It Black” (Stones), “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)” and “She Said, She Said” (both by the Beatles), and Velvet Underground rarity “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together.” When the show did finally come to an end (after “She Said” and nearly three hours of music), everyone was more than satisfied, even though as I said before, perhaps not completely satiated, if only for want of more of a good thing. The Feelies will be playing more shows this summer, and those dates can’t come soon enough.