After three and a half years, the Portland, Oregon-based Menomena made their welcome return to Cleveland (and the Beachland Ballroom in particular) last night. When we last saw the three multi-instrumentalists, they were supporting 2007's Friend and Foe and surprised by their rising popularity.
This time, the band was glad to return backed by another strong album — Mines, which released two months ago. If that wasn't enough, Menomena played eight of its 11 tracks last night. In recent interviews, the band sounds wounded, and the album's lyrics reflect personal resignations. But they killed it onstage.
To augment the onslaught, Joe Haege of 31Knots and Tu Fawning has joined Menomena on tour. With Haege on guitar, the band no longer needs to juggle instruments onstage with looping. Danny Seim’s drumming is tighter than ever, but “Dirty Cartoons” packs his true release in the resolutely anthemic refrain “I’d like to go home.” If this band is in trouble, the audience couldn’t tell, because it sounded like a moment of clarity and relief.
“The Pelican” provided the night’s largest singalong and collective sigh. Justin Harris’ rolling vocals led the crowd along. The sigh came when we realized this was it, and there were only a few tunes left before Menomena vanished for what could be another three years. The encore, “Strongest Man in the World,” was the only song played from Menomena's debut.
Fellow Portlanders Tu Fawning were a perfect match to open. Their live show was wildly more impactful and smile-evoking than their album Hearts on Hold. They are poised to gather steam along with Brooklyn’s Suckers, who tried to shake down the audience with their set but only succeeded occasionally in getting people moving. —Michael Tkach
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