America broke Lush. The dreampop band that appeared on multitudes of mix tapes in the early- to mid-nineties was brought down by the land of the free, home of the brave. As bassist Phil King told The Quietus last year, “The label were trying to take us to the next level and ended up breaking up the band.” Being forced to open for the Gin Blossoms when you have as much in common with them as a mid-century ottoman will do that to a band.
Because of America’s hand in the destruction of arguably the best group to come out of the shoegaze genre, it was a lovely surprise to fans when Lush announced a handful of US dates as a part of their current tour. The shows came on the heels of a series of new releases from the band, including a retrospective box set and an EP of all new material.
The crowd waiting in line to file into Philadelphia’s Union Transfer last Thursday buzzed with stories of Lush opening Lollapalooza, playing the Troc in ’94 and ’96, and one guy swore he saw them play City Gardens in Trenton in 1992. The band might have had more than their share of critics in the UK, but being a Lush fan in the US was an indicator of cool. Oasis and Blur were great, but did you know about My Bloody Valentine, Pale Saints or Lush? No? It’s okay, I’ll make you a mix tape.
The show opened with nu-gaze performer, Tamaryn. The nu-gaze scene, which features acts like School of the Seven Bells, M83, and Joy Formidable, helped bring the ‘90s bands into the consciousness of a new generation of fans. The audience was filled not just with 40-somethings remembering days when staying up past 11 didn’t involve an overdose serving of Red Bull, but also a good chunk of Millennials, and more than a few teenagers.
Lush opened their set with “De-luxe” and “Breeze”, both from their first US release, Gala. Tracks from 1994’s Split album made up most of the first half of the set, which was somewhat surprising considering the album was notoriously difficult to make. If you consider that Gala was actually a compilation album of their previously released UK EPs and singles, Split got more stage time than any other record.
The band required more than a bit of rehearsal prior to hitting their road. While Phil King had been the touring bassist for Jesus and the Mary Chain on and off since 1997, guitarist Emma Anderson last worked with her band, Sing-Sing, in 2008 and lead singer Miki Berenyi hadn’t picked up a guitar since Lush disbanded in the late ‘90’s.
Despite having put Lush away for roughly 20 years, the band sounded as though they’d never broken up. Former Elastica drummer, Justin Welch, took over for the late Chris Acland, and he meshed well with the group.
The setlist featured two songs off of Blindspot, the new EP, and they fit nicely in with the classic Lush sound. “Out of Control” was reminiscent of Gala’s “Thoughtforms”, while “Lost Boy” was more quiet and introspective, not unlike Split’s, “Desire Lines”.
If there were any complaints to be made about the show, it was the lack of songs from the 1996 album, Lovelife. The riotgrrl anthem, “Ladykillers”, made its way into the setlist, but it would have been amazing to also hear, “Single Girl” or “500”.
There are rumors that the band will put out a full length LP sometime in the new future and hopes of more touring. In the immediate future, Lush is finishing up their tour with a stop in Portland tonight and then dates in Iceland and Manchester, UK. It’s been 20 years since the suits at Warner Brothers caused the band’s demise on our shores, but hopefully, this time around, we made a far better impression.