Towards the end of the first set at Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s sold out show at Mississippi Studios, frontman Alec Ounsworth made a pretty telling slip. Touring on the 10th anniversary of the band’s popular self-titled debut, Ounsworth accidentally called it a “reunion tour.” He promptly corrected himself, but it makes sense in a way. None of the three other men flanking him on the stage had anything to do with recording that record. All of the original members of CYHSY weren’t there.

CYHSY’s first record is best remembered for ushering in the dawn of blog rock, earning Pitchfork’s Best New Music stamp approval, forcing a run so great that the band had to repress the CD to meet the demand. It is also a very good record, one that looms large as Ounsworth and company released music with diminishing returns ever since. It makes sense that CYHSY sold out the show by playing that debut record from start to finish. A whole generation of hipsters grew up on it.

So what does that mean? Kids who were just entering college when the album dropped are now pushing 30, some married with young families, others still sporting waxed mustaches, bike commuting to work and still drinking PBR. A good mix of people filled Mississippi Studios, from a bouncy guy who desperately wanted to start a mosh pit to a woman in black leather pants, pushing middle age but still looking good. There were jocks, bros, dorks, young kids who were 11 when the album came out, hoping to catch a legend. It is a testament to the album’s strength that so many people still care.

But let’s talk about the performance. Would you go see a complete reading of Sticky Fingers billed as the Rolling Stones but featuring only Mick Jagger and some session players? What about R.E.M. playing Automatic for the People with Michael Stipe backed by some studio guys? Sure, the Sargent brothers, Sean Greenhalgh and Robbie Guertin may not have the same name recognition as Peter Buck and Keith Richards, but damn, there is something about the synchronicity of a band playing their own music. Unfortunately, the music just simply didn’t live up to the legend that night.

I understand that Ounsworth must be tired of these songs. Especially since nothing he has done has fed the zeitgeist since the debut’s release 10 long years ago. No more Best New Music stamps. No more pats on the back by the two patron saints of David (Bowie and Byrne). It must be frustrating to see your bandmates fall away, Guertin and the Sargents in 2012, Greenhalgh in 2014. So what do you do? You go back to the thing that made you hot in the first place.

But for fuck’s sake, do a good job of recreating it.

That is precisely what didn’t happen that night. The playing was sloppy. Ounsworth didn’t intone the right notes in the right places. Some of the songs were nearly unrecognizable. I understand the urge to experiment, change things up, but don’t do it during a show where you’re simply playing your album straight through. People freaked out during “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” and “In This Home on This,” but I guarantee they were freaking out because the song has been with them for 10 years, an important part of their personal musical journey. Hell, that first album is great. But sadly, the show was not. By the time the band finished with “Upon this Tidal Wave of Young Blood” and Ounsworth came back to thank us and play some other “favorites,” a good section of the audience bailed out. I don’t blame them. “Adam’s Plane” may be an unsung gem, but who really cares at this point?

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