by Matt Kelchner
It’s been a long time since Matt Sharp and The Rentals were an active band. Prior to this year’s release of Lost in Alphaville, their last full length album was released in 1999. The last time the group played a show in Philadelphia was during their 2007 tour, a tour that Sharp described to the crowd at Union Transfer Thursday night as a “nuclear tornado mushroom cloud of shit.” Things could not have been any more opposite for Sharp and The Rentals on their latest visit to the city of brotherly love.
The Rentals were joined Thursday night with current label mates Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (SSLYBY) and Polyvinyl alums Mates of State. Both opening bands expressed great gratitude for being able to play The Rentals. SSLYBY singer Philip Dickey joked that it only took them 16 years to tour with them.
Dickey’s band, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin kicked the night off. A band who has a lengthy discography of their own, SSLYBY played a well rounded set. Between hits like “Young Presidents” and “Back In The Saddle” the Springfield, MO group also shared a new song from an album they are currently working on. They even reached as far back to play “Oregon Girl” from the 2005 album Broom. The evening started off with a bang in SSLYBY and it would only go uphill from there.
Midway through The Rentals seet, Matt Sharp was not shy to admit that when the tour was first announced, Mates of State immediately asked if they could be a part of it. He then went on to say there was little hesitation in saying yes. The husband-wife duo of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel ran through their catalog of catchy, keyboard driven indie pop hits like “So Many Ways”, “Now” and “Ha Ha”. They also worked in two fantastic covers. The first, dedicated to Matt Sharp and The Rentals, was a fantastic rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop”. The second was their set closer, Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End”. The crowd was left buzzing as Mates of State began to strip down their gear, reeling from the excellent set they just witnessed and eager to Sharp and company take the stage.
The road version of The Rentals has always been a collection of friends of mastermind Matt Sharp. While this can lead to a disjoint feeling amongst talented musical individuals on stage, The Rentals felt like a band that had been playing together for years. The lineup featured Keith Murray of We Are Scientists, Ryen Slegr of Ozma Shawn Glassford of STRFCKR, drummer Jared Shavelson, singer Nedelle Torrisi and long time collaborator Lauren Chipman. In middle of all this group was Sharp, as eager and excited as can be.
Throughout the entire night, Sharp kept the pedal floored. The level of energy never dipped from the first song to the final one. While giving much of Lost in Alphaville the spotlight, a healthy selection of both Return of The Rentals and Seven More Minutes were played as well. Old hits like “Please Let That Be You” and “Barcelona” fit in perfectly with the likes of “Stardust” and “1000 Seasons”. The crowd sung along as their favorite hits were played and danced along to their new favorites. All the while Sharp left no part of the stage untouched.
The night ended with an incredible trio of songs, starting off with the lead track off their newest album, “It’s Time To Come Home”. The duo of females vocalists in Torris and Chipman shined their brightest as they sounded perfect in harmony. This was followed up with the lead track off Seven More Minutes, “Getting By”. The third and final song was their big hit from Return of The Rentals, “Friends of P.”. Fans sung their loudest and danced their hardest as The Rentals ripped through their late 90s hit.
As if things were not enough, “Friends of P.” turned into a flawless rendition of “Pop Muzik”, which then turned into Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters”. The mega jam wrapped back into one final chorus of “Friends of P.”. It was a perfect ending to a night celebrating The Rentals and their newest album. As the band said their goodbyes, the chemistry on stage Thursday night though was clear and undeniable. But with such an incredible group of musicians joining together with Sharp, it’s hard to tell how future tours may happen. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the stars will somehow fall into place again and let us have this night repeated.