Luna land from a Galaxie far far away
It's been a quarter of a century since I first fell under the spell of the marvellous music of Dean Wareham.
I count myself one of the UK's luckiest gig goers being fortunate enough to see Dean and his first band Galaxie 500 at Manchester University in 1990. I was 16. Too young to drink. But old enough to realise this night would stay with me forever.
It was only the second gig I ever been to. Way-back-then I was a sixth former doing my best to escape sixth form by any means possible. I was discovering music in a major way, first the recently disbanded The Smiths, then James, then The Sundays which led to Galaxie 500.
The memory of that winter night with Galaxie 25-years-ago remains clear: Blue Thunder, Decomposing Trees, Snowstorm, and a wonderful cover of Joy Division's Ceremony. For the uninitiated, Galaxie 500 were an alternative indie American threesome which lasted just four years but reached cult status.
Their music was relatively simple. Some of the songs just a handful of chords. But the simplicity of sound, the expansive bass lines and Dean's fragile-lived-in-voice made Galaxie a dramatic group. Lyrically Wareham sang of relationship break-ups, losing senses on subway trains, late night car accidents and cheese and onions. He also sang about love.
The impression Galaxie 500 made on the teenage me was a strong one. The first songs I ever learnt on guitar were Snowstorm and Oblivious. After the loss of Galaxie 500, Wareham formed Luna; a group which Rolling Stone Magazine described as "the best band you've never heard of”. Lou Reed was equally impressed: “I’ve always been a fan of Dean Wareham’s and have worked with him and Luna many times.”
Luna created eight fantastic albums in a 15 year thrust until their break-up in 2005. And their records have been every bit as impressive as what came before.
In the autumn of 2014 Luna reformed and played their first live dates in a decade in venues across Spain. This week Luna arrived in the UK for five dates.
Manchester’s excellent Gorilla provided the venue for the welcome return of Wareham and the wonderful Britta Phillips on bass, guitarist Sean Eden and drummer Lee Wall. Seeing such quality in such intimate surroundings is a joy.
Before Luna enter a few eager fans get sneak view of the setlist - a bit like discovering your Christmas presents before the big day.
Luna start with the wonderful California and the 300 strong audience melt. Wareham is dressed in Vans sneakers, tight fitting black jeans and a red strippy shirt. Essentially he could pass for the world’s coolest man.
The crowd, mostly in their 40s and mostly swaying through the slow songs, all have smiles on their faces. Almost like - “we’ve waited a long time for this…”
Musically and vocally, Luna are sensational. Wareham mostly on lead, Britta harmonising and Eden taking over singing duties on one song. It’s terrific song after terrific song.
Sometimes the lyrics are moving, sometimes they’re just funny: ”You know I'm trying to please yeh, you're under anaesthesia.” The gig provides rocky moments, which you want to go on forever. And more tender moments too.
My pal Latta quips: “This is music to drive too. Along the freeway. With the top down.”
Chinatown is one of the greatest pop songs ever and the audience go crazy for it.
The last song is a cover version of Guns and Roses Sweet Child of Mine. Perfection.
Afterwards I get to meet Dean - one of my musical heroes. Cheers for signing the book!