American underground legends prove that their fire still burns bright...

After 39 years – give or take the odd hiatus – and 15 studio albums, it’s clear the Meat Puppets have lost neither their taste for eclecticism nor their ability to melt minds. The brothers Kirkwood, now reunited with original drummer Derrick Bostrum, saunter casually on stage for a set that takes in acid-fried cowpunk choogles, flowing psych jams and Grateful Dead-style explorations of texture and melody – it all fits together, and the results are rarely less than utterly captivating.

Opening with 1994 album cut ‘Comin’ Down’ (think Credence Clearwater Revival with their pupils chemically dilated), the set pulls from all corners of their career, including cuts from this year’s ‘Dusty Notes’ opus. Of those, ‘Warranty’ is pensively pastoral yet overlaid with foreboding strafes of guitar scree, while the title track is a rootin’-tootin’ good time.

They’re both upstaged, however, by ‘The Great Awakening’, which slowly unfurls across its five-minute duration before revealing itself as one of the most beautiful pieces of music the band have yet put together – not bad after nearly four decades – and then slamming into a dramatic chorus with more verve and vigour than on its recorded counterpart. The live band is bolstered by Curt Kirkwood’s son Elmo on guitar and keyboardist Ron Stabinksy, and their often subtle contributions go some way to adding to the sense of sheer bliss.

Old favourites get the biggest cheers, of course: the coda to ‘Plateau’ remains an astonishingly transportive piece of subdued psychedelia, and ‘Up On The Sun’ comes augmented with a thrilling lurch into improvised chaos. The somewhat mature crowd takes some time to warm into the set, perhaps mindful of the fact that it’s a Tuesday, but by the end (via an absolutely molten take on the sludgy ‘Lake Of Fire’) they’re dancing and even attempting to stage dive.

As the room joins 60-year-old Curt in screaming ‘where do bad folks go when they die’, it’s clear that the inimitable and delightfully weird Meat Puppets still have a lot to offer. Too high to die indeed. 

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Words: Will Fitzpatrick

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