Review of Feb. 9 Reunion Show

By David Menconi. No Depression website, March, 2008.

Parish (Austin, Texas)

February 9, 2008: Forget Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, the Police. For the generation that came of age with mid-1980s college radio, arguably the biggest band on their reunion wish list has been the Reivers, who broke up the month Nirvana’s Nevermind hit the charts. It’s been so long since the Reivers dissolved that a reunion seemed a remote possibility.

Thus it was a surprise when they agreed to reconvene in February to play a weekend of shows in their hometown of Austin, selling out two nights at the 500-sized Parish (with some attendees traveling from as far as Toronto, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.). Also in the audience were the individual Reivers’ kids, almost all of whom were too young to have seen the band in its first go-round. They looked as impressed as everyone else at what a rock spectacle their parents put on.

The Reivers left behind four excellent albums of pure-pop jingle-jangle, each a perfect microcosm of the musical spirit of the age. Those records (the first one, 1985’s Translate Slowly, released under the name Zeitgeist before a deal with Capitol Records resulted in a name-change) are still quite fine to listen to, but they can’t convey what an immensely likable bunch the Reivers were onstage in their prime.

All four members were visibly older, and the energy level was a few notches lower than it used to be — and yet the band’s onstage chemistry remains entirely intact, with the rhythm section of drummer Garrett Williams and bassist Cindy Toth driving the songs and the signature blend of John Croslin’s drawl and Kim Longacre’s soaring voice taking them higher.

Not surprisingly, the opening stretch of the first show was a bit tentative. “Ragamuffin Man” began the proceedings, followed by “Electra” (from their very first single in 1984) and a funkier-than-before “Lazy Afternoon”. But with an enthusiastic audience singing along on every chorus, the band seemed to gain confidence as the set progressed.

Things kicked up a notch with “Almost Home” (jokingly introduced as “a Hootie song” in reference to Hootie & the Blowfish having covered it on an album) and a new number called “All The Drunks Say Amen”. If it’s a good sign that they played a new song, it’s an even better sign that the song was pretty decent.

They dusted off a few of their trademark covers for old time’s sake, including the old Charlie Brown theme “Linus And Lucy”, their inventive reworking of the Willie Nelson hit “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”, and Thin Lizzy’s “Cowboy Song” as a rip-it-up show-closer.

But the best was a mid-set stretch of indie-pop perfection that went from strength to strength: the jaunty instrumental “Hill Country Theme”, the overdrive “Araby”, Croslin’s Fort Worth love letter “Star Telegram”. All of which led up to a version of “Things Don’t Change” that was so good it was chilling. The front-of-stage mob jumping up and down included the editor of this magazine (as well as this reviewer), and it was as if the song had been written twenty-some years ago to encapsulate this very moment:

“Things don’t change/They never have.”