Few things can make rock ‘n’ roll more boring than when married musicians sing on and on about their presumed blissful lifestyle. Yet that’s the tack of Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson, whose relationship-oriented songs are potential fodder for prom night dances, but whose approach to songwriting fails to truly ignite the passions he attempts to describe.
At the sold-out House of Blues on Tuesday, Wilson and his two Minneapolis bandmates (as well as a fourth touring utility member) ably played some 15 songs from Semisonic’s three MCA albums, including many from the recently-issued “All About Chemistry.”
Despite occasional efforts to expand their band’s simple sound, with samples, synths and even trombone, the 80-minute concert never rose above lukewarm.
“I’d love to believe, there’d be one of us for everyone,” the bespectacled Wilson warbled during the sleepy new song “One True Love,” an overwrought ode to his hyper-romantic notions.
Many in the packed house clearly were lured to the show by Semisonic’s big 1999 hit “Closing Time,” and justifiably so, as the anthemic tune’s timeless sense of hope and its catchy hook stand apart as the best song these guys will probably ever record. Mellow closer “Matador Beach” was notable as Wilson’s three bandmates all played keyboards on the song.
Support act Pete Yorn, an L.A.-based singer-songwriter who also contemplated affairs of the heart, was a far more compelling and exciting stage presence, and he and his band made the most of their 35-minute opening slot.
After a surprise start of “Panic” by The Smiths (that’s the songs that suggests to “hang the deejay”), Yorn impressed with soulful and folky songs like “Strange Condition” (from the Farrelly Brothers film “Me, Myself, & Irene”) and “Murray,” a driving rock number that celebrates independent thinking and individuality.
Yorn, whose excellent Columbia debut “musicforthemorningafter” was just released, will open for Blues Traveler at L.A.’s Ford Theatre on May 18.