If you were alive and listening to rock in the nineties, it’s unlikely you could have missed Soul Asylum’s biggest hit, “Runaway Train” However, even music lovers who managed to escape hearing that tune in its heyday still rocked out in the rain at the band’s free show on the New Haven Green July 28.
The Grammy award- winning group, which got together in ’81, played with just two original members since bassist Karl Mueller passed away in 2005. Still, lead singer Dave Pirner and drummer Dan Murphy reformed the band and didn’t disappoint the sparsely populated crowd that stormy day.
Despite promises from event organizers that the concert would cease if lightning struck, the band members stuck to their guns and delivered a more than decent rock performance after a half hour delay. They greeted a drenched and antsy audience with one of their lesser-known singles, “Somebody to Shove,” while we all sought shelter under umbrellas or nearby trees.
Perhaps sensing the audience’s need for a recognizable song, they delved into weather-appropriate covers like “I Can See Clearly Now” and the first minute or so of CCR’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” If they’d hoped for Mother Nature to take the hint, all efforts were in vain as fat, persistent drops steadily fell on our heads for the rest of the show.
They played “April Fool,” Misery,” and a track off of their latest album, which was met with a collective groan from the green, as we were growing tired of waiting in the rain to hear “Runaway Train.” Pirner was determined to impress us, though, and at one point even fell to his knees to get soaking wet during an ear-bending guitar solo.
Finally, it was time for the one Soul Asylum song most everyone knew the lyrics to; clearly, ‘Runaway Train’ was the highlight of the show. It also sounded just like it did on the radio, but I know I was fine with hearing that one just the way I’d remembered it. Once they’d wrapped up their ’92 hit, it’s fair to say that we’d had enough of Soul Asylum. We packed up the cooler and trudged through the mud and back towards the car with strains of “Gone ‘Til November” following behind us.
Overall, the show was satisfactory. The rain may have even added an element of excitement, as if it were daring us to stay for what we came to hear. And we did. I don’t know that I would have paid actual money for that show, but the scene on the New Haven Green seemed to work well for a band like Soul Asylum. They proved themselves to be stand-up musicians who aren’t afraid of a little rain and truly wanted to give us reason to have a great time.