Concert Review: Pere Ubu at the Beachland Ballroom

Modern dancing, crankily
  • Modern dancing, crankily

“We’re only doing this because it’s the Beachland,” said Pere Ubu singer David Thomas as the band began to play its 1978 debut The Modern Dance in its entirety before a capacity crowd on Friday in honor of the club’s 10th anniversary.

Thirty-plus years later, the album still sounds sharp, as the careening “Non-Alignment Pact” and the title track resonated right from the start with proto-punk/new wave power, amplified by Thomas’ menacing vocals.

Despite arguing incessantly with the soundman and constantly asking for more vocals in his monitor, Thomas was in a particularly good mood. He cracked jokes about how, over the course of his career, he’s dismissed everyone from pop singer Sting to “some Goth girl” who once told him she liked a Pere Ubu song because it reminded her of an Einstürzende Neubauten tune.

Between songs, he explained how “Street Waves” was inspired by a tire store on Detroit and 78th Street and joked that the sound problems reminded him of “what it was like at Pirates Cove, standing around waiting for people to patch things.”

Looking creepy and sinister in a long black trench coat, Thomas’ theatrical performance turned tunes like “Over My Head” and “Humor Me” into postmodern tragedies. And during a brief, four-song encore, the moody “My Dark Ages (I Don’t Get Around)” really amped things up.

While Thomas is the only remaining member from the original Ubu lineup, the current band (guitarist Robert Wheeler, synth player Tom Herman, bassist Michele Temple and drummer Steve Mehlman) did the group’s old material justice and sounded tight — even more impressive considering The Modern Dance isn't a part of its regular repertoire. —Jeff Niesel

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