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Luna - Bowery Ballroom (New York) - October 20, 2019

5 November 2019

To certain naysayers, and in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of them up to a point when I was younger, full album shows can revel in predictability, going through the motions and a general feeling of a show being work instead of something spontaneous. To those skeptics, I would point them in the direction of this absolutely remarkable full album performance of Luna‘s finest hour, that being 1995’s majestic Penthouse. For a good chunk of the set, the regular lineup of singer/guitarist Dean Wareham, guitarist Sean Eden, bassist Britta Phillips and drummer Lee Wall were joined by original bassist Justin Harwood. This allowed Phillips to occasionally and curiously make a foray into the crowd to watch her own band and also to perform as a backing vocalist for a few songs as well, adding to the joyous, celebratory vibe. Perhaps this is odd for an album full of such sad, pensive material, but it worked. In fact, Luna was on fire and they were firing on all cylinders. Songs from the album (which opened the show) that were a little jammy on record were extended further, but always with their heroes The Velvet Underground‘s sublime repetition in mind, never just mindless noodling. The highlights were many, but “Lost in Space,” “Rhythm King” and “Double Feature” (the album’s best songs) were even more astonishing in this live setting, played 24 years (!) after its initial release than they are on the timeless record.

For the encore, we got another full set of covers (including an additional encore) and material from other Luna albums. Starting appropriately with the Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot duet “Bonnie and Clyde” (here Phillips reprised Laetitia Sadier‘s role on the original recording, tacked on as a bonus track on the original album) and concluding with “IHOP,” in-between we got covers of Donovan‘s “Season of the Witch,” Roy Orbison‘s “California Blue” and The Monochrome Set‘s “Inside Your Heart,” all illustrating Luna’s influences and inspirations and acting as a second disc (or 2nd Lp) to accompany the original tracklist. What a magical night!