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Fast moving Clarks

Observer Scene | Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Clarks proved on Saturday night that much of its well-deserved success comes from its ability to put on a fabulous, energy-infused live show.

For an hour and a half, the Pittsburgh-exported rockers tore through a set list that included mostly fresh material from their latest album, “Fast Moving Cars,” which was released this year. Longtime fans were also lucky enough to hear older favorites that have become concert staples from popular earlier albums like 2000’s “Let it Go.”

Even though members of The Clarks have not yet gained the recognition they truly deserve for their ability, they have a distinctively hardcore fan base. What they lack in fame, they make up for in listener loyalty. Devoted fans began lining up for the 10:30 p.m. concert immediately after the Irish defeated Michigan State, to secure spots at the front of the crowd.

“The Clarks always give a great concert,” said sophomore Pete Lavorini. “They’re from Pittsburgh so they’re awesome.”

Other early fans echoed the sentiments.

“The Clarks are awesome, and I’ve never been to a show in Pittsburgh that wasn’t sold out,” said senior Eva Garon.

While the Pittsburgh natives showed up in full force, cheering loudly at any mention of Notre Dame and even more at any mention of their home city, other fans had jumped onto The Clarks’ bandwagon after hearing a live show. Law student John Moore saw them when they opened for another band and has been following them since.

“I showed up at 5:30 to see the game so I could be front and center,” Moore said. “Everyone who just randomly makes their way in is in for a treat.”

Ahead of schedule fans were also in for a treat when lead singer and guitarist Scott Blasey took time before the show started, and before most of the crowd was admitted, to mingle and autograph shirts.

“It’s awesome to be here,” Blasey said. “I’ve never been here, and you grow up hearing about Notre Dame so to finally get to be here… Luckily it was a beautiful day today too, we walked around some and it’s beautiful here.”

Blasey and the rest of the band burst into the show with their hit “Better Off Without You,” which made it onto MTV’s extremely mainstream Total Request Live when most of the crowd was in high school. The song demonstrated the band’s mysterious ability to make things like breaking up sound like fun.

The Clarks kept up the cheery tempo for the entire show, pounding through new songs like the punk-driven “You Know Everything” and the infectious “Shimmy Low.” The crowd clapped along to “Gypsy Lounge” and “Hell On Wheels,” which the band performed on the Late Show with David Letterman.

The first song to slightly slow the rapid pace at all was the title track “Fast Moving Cars.” Once again, potentially depressing lyrics were woven into a bright melody: “And thinking I could right all these wrongs/And drinking till the pain is all gone” never sounded so enjoyable.

One of the highlights of the show came when Blasey put down his guitar to sing and dance to concert favorite “Boys Lie” from 2002’s “Another Happy Ending” album. At this point in the show, Robert James on guitar and Greg Joseph on bass were coming out toward the crowd as drummer Dave Minarik broke a drumstick from rocking out so hard.

Another high moment came when Blasey turned soprano as the band roared through a cover of “Kiss” by Prince. Throughout the show, all the band had to do to excite an already energized crowd was mention a certain city in Pennsylvania, at which point everyone cheered louder without fail.

The Clarks always seems to genuinely love performing, with Minarik smiling almost the entire time and Blasey posing for fans’ cameras during songs like “Let it Go,” which was featured in the 2001 movie “Summer Catch.” The band members also want their fans to have as much fun as they do.

“Fun will keep you alive,” Blasey told the crowd, taking time later to laugh and high-five front row fans.

After dancing along to “On Saturday,” The Clarks bowed out to return backstage. A raucous “Here we go Steelers” chant quickly brought them back out to play a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”

When one fan wrote a request on a piece of paper and put it onstage next to the set list, Blasey leaned over to read the handwritten note before offering congratulations to an engaged couple, much to the delight of those who heard.

The band closed with the stellar Clarks classic “Cigarette,” its first hit. Fans threw a cigarette and Pittsburgh Pirates hat onstage; Blasey picked up the cigarette and put the hat on, dancing around stage. The singer, who has a penchant for smoking during concerts and taking shots of Jagermeister from fans, politely declined a light from a girl in the non-smoking environs of Legends.

After the show, the audience seemed only disappointed in the ineffectiveness of a “one more song” chant after a fantastic set.

“The Clarks are extremely down to earth and put their all into every show,” said Pittsburgh native and senior Megan McCormick. “They may not be mainstream according to the music industry but fans from Pittsburgh love them and to them, they’ve already made it. They are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen; sometimes they sound better in person than on their albums. The show was incredible.”