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New Buzz - Live
Big Star
First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
by James Lindbloom

When Big Star played their first reunion show at Missouri University in 1993, indie rock fans found occasion to genuflect. Although their records sold in minute quantities during the band's original incarnation in the early 1970s, Big Star went on to become the blueprint for college rock a decade later. 

The regrouping seemed all the more surprising for the fact that Alex Chilton, Big Star's chief songwriter, had refused to play any of his former band's material in his solo sets. With other musicians, it could be chalked up to artistic integrity a wish to draw the curtain between past and future but, given Chilton's disappointing solo career, it seemed perverse. If Chilton has any distaste for his most beloved songs, however, he certainly didn't show it at this concert; he was animated and in fine voice. The set opened with "In the Street," which is currently enjoying a new, if largely anonymous, life as the theme song on That 70's Show (a television show that depicts an alternate reality in which teenagers actually listen to Big Star on the radio during their heyday). 

With two members of the Posies filling in for the late Chris Bell and the still-quit Andy Hummel, the quartet played more than an hour's worth of cult favorites. The band was loose as befits a unit that hadn't played a show in two and a half years but not sloppy, and they looked to be having as much fun as the audience was. It was only at the end that the excitement fizzled. Chilton introduced "Hot Thing," a new song which indicated that his muse hasn't made the trek back north yet, and then bid us goodnight. The lone encore, "Don't Stay Out All Night," was the sort of generic R & B/bar band song better suited to one of Chilton's solo shows. 

Whether Big Star's sporadic reunions are motivated by Chilton's love for the songs or his need for the money it brings is a matter of debate. The thrill of finally hearing his band perform these classics is unarguable. 

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