The Gunga Din, The Connection, and Eugene Iowa

At Grog Shop on March 8

The Civil War Palace Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue, Playhouse Square through March 19. 216-241-6000 or 800-766-6048
The Boys, raising the roof in their Slim Goodbody suits. - Walter Novak
The Boys, raising the roof in their Slim Goodbody suits.
Driving halfway across the country to play to an empty bar is every independent musician's worst nightmare, and the New York City-based quintet Gunga Din, which has received much acclaim in its hometown, came to the harsh realization that it was a long way from home as it played to the half-empty Grog Shop. Led by the shaking tambourine and sensuality of former God Is My Co-Pilot frontwoman Siobhan Duffy, the Gunga Din opened its set with a noisy 10-minute space-rock prologue, making it very apparent that it was going to do its own thing.

Playing a majority of tunes off its new album Glitterati, the group ripped through a set of haunting, surf-rock-meets-sci-fi love songs. Answering the smattering of applause between numbers with a breathy and suspiciously sugary "thank you," Duffy's persona was nothing less than enrapturing. Powered by the destructively aggressive drumming of Jim Sclavunos (one of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds) and supported by Bill Bronson's reverb-heavy guitar lines, the Gunga Din started the first show of a two-month U.S. tour with an incredible amount of confidence, especially when you consider the less-than-enthusiastic crowd. Highlights included the outrageous set-opener "Mama," which featured space-aged hooks from the band's 1960s Farfisa organ that might have been more appropriate for a Buck Rogers soundtrack than a rock club; and the uptempo "Love Has Another Slave," which showcased the sexier-than-thou attitude of Duffy -- which doesn't come through with nearly enough potency on Glitterati.

Opening the evening was Cleveland power-pop trio the Connection, a band that has developed into one of the area's most accessible pop acts in the last year and brought an interesting mix of Attractions-style tunes to the show. Eugene Iowa, an inappropriate act for this bill, played tired Nirvana-style rock, and band members' poses were particularly unwelcome, even if there was no one there to see them.

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