Veruca Salt – Webster Hall, New York, NY 7/31/15 (SHOW REVIEW)

2015 – the year in which Sleater-Kinney, Veruca Salt, Babes in Toyland, Garbage and L7 all reunited and toured after lengthy hiatuses. Surely, this female-fronted rock reformation zeitgeist is more than circumstantial; five of the most iconic and influential bands of the last 20 years all getting back together at the same time must signal a critical lack in the musical landscape. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a lot of other rock outfits fronted by women.

Veruca Salt’s long-awaited reunion is perhaps the most unlikely among the bunch, as their breakup after two commercially and critically successful albums was acrimonious and public. Louise Post carried on the name with a criminally underrated subsequent effort (Resolver) then the lackluster VSIV, both with new backing bands. Nina Gordon released one moderately successful solo release, then one so saccharine as to be virtually unlistenable. The moral: the whole was better than the sum of their parts.

Ghost Notes, their first album of new material in 18 years, is terrific, and feels like a natural continuation of a band who hadn’t quite matured into their best work. It contains the pop harmonies and roaring riffs of their best work from Eight Arms to Hold You, and some brooding epics on par with some of the best stuff from their breakout American Thighs. It’s a tight, consistent record, and one whose presence highlights how sorely missed this type of music is. In a culture of pop insta-stardom, rock as a genre seems ill-suited for breakout success.

This is partly why Veruca Salt’s reunion is so welcomed, and why it feels earned rather than a contrived cash grab. Onstage at a packed Webster Hall, Post and Gordon seem thrilled to be making music and playing together again. Often grinning at each other in an “how cool is it that we’re doing this?!” kind of way, the women ripped through material new and old. The show consisted of new material warmly received between rapturous applause for older album cuts like Spiderman ‘79 and the epic 25. When playing both, Post and Gordon couldn’t have looked happier.

Like Sleater-Kinney, whose reunion and album release this year was greeted with universal warmth and acclaim, Veruca Salt occupy a somewhat a niche market (rock music fronted by women) but one with a feverish audience waiting for a new generation to step up. This reminds of the neverending debates about the inequity of women in film, and the unwarranted surprise whenever a female-fronted film performs well at the box office. These aren’t niche audiences at all, actually, but rather a population underrepresented despite growing consensus that they cannot be commercially viable. They can, and are.

Veruca Salt Setlist Webster Hall, New York, NY, USA 2015, Ghost Notes

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2 Responses

  1. Hey, I see me in this video! Great show! looking forward to the next one already 🙂 Hope you guys keep it up, new album, tour, etc. Keep moving forward!

  2. Couldn’t agree more about the first post-breakup album. It is criminally underrated and has the most emotion of any of their releases as it focuses almost completely on the breakup and the rage that went along with it. It’s dark, seething and beautiful. But you still miss Nina so very badly. The concept as well as the music are perfect poetry.

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