Live review! Dean Wareham, The Garage, London (16/03/23)

Galaxie 500-heavy set suspends time

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There is mild confusion ahead of time as to whether this is a regular Dean Wareham show, as suggested by his own tour itinerary, or whether it’s one of the ‘Dean Wareham Plays Galaxie 500’ sets he’s been doing recently, which is how it’s billed on the venue’s website (it doesn’t help that they’ve then embedded a Spotify playlist by an entirely different artist called DEAN).

When Wareham ambles onstage with his four-piece band (including long-term life and musical partner Britta Phillips on bass and BVs), he embraces the ambiguity, starting with Galaxie 500’s “Flowers” before playing three songs from his excellent 2021 album I Have Nothing To Say To The Mayor Of LA. Despite more than three decades of separation, there’s no great schism between the old and new material. The recent songs are marginally tighter and more assured, with Wareham’s disillusionment now manifesting itself as wry humour rather than spooked introspection.

But when he returns to the Galaxie 500 songs, he resists the temptation to imbue them with accumulated wisdom or superior chops. Sometimes these retro-focused shows don’t quite work because the musicians have become too accomplished over the years and can’t find their way back to the awkward desperation of their youth. The great hair certainly helps, but Wareham (59) seems unusually in touch with his 24-year-old self.


You certainly couldn’t accuse him of overplaying. “Snowstorm” and “Tugboat” are still dreamy, fragile things. When he takes a solo he almost never breaches the limited confines of the song, on a mission to hypnotise rather than to excite. There is a brief moment of concern when it looks like he might be about to swap his guitar, but that would be far too much of a decadent rock move – he’s just taking off his jumper. The spell remains unbroken.

After an aborted crack at Sex Pistols’ “Submission”, the band return for an encore to play two covers that Galaxie 500 made their own: the awed wonder of Joy Division/New Order’s “Ceremony” and the poetic pleading of Jonathan Richman’s “Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste” turned into a celebratory thrash. Go to waste? Dean Wareham’s still eking out his youth 35 years later. May he never grow up.

As Much As It Was Worth
The Last Word
Under Skys
Temperature’s Rising
Robin & Richard
When Will You Come Home
Another Day
Victory Garden
Listen, The Snow Is Falling
Submission (aborted)
Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste


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