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Fastball – City Winery – Philadelphia (A Concert Review)

Updated: Apr 28

Fastball – City Winery – Philadelphia, PA – April 19, 2024

30 Years of Fastball were condensed into one action-packed night at the Philly City Winery, previewing the upcoming album Sonic Ranch and tapping their substantial songbook for an evening of terrific power pop-rock.

The band, formed in the early 1990s in Austin, Texas and featuring the same central trio – singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Tony Scalzo, singer/songwriter/guitarist Miles Zuniga and drummer Joey Shuffield. They were joined onstage by guitarist and keyboardist Dave Scher, a fellow Austin native.

Fastball climbed into the show with a burning take on “Fire Escape.” The power chords came out to play with the rocking midtempo jam “Warm Fuzzy Feeling.” Then they blew through a fun but slightly creepy version of the psychedelic-rock-tinged “Charlie, The Methodone Man,” which the band cheerfully acknowledged from the stage had their dumbest lyrics. Not that there is anything wrong with dumb lyrics, they insisted, as Scalzo demonstrated by singing a snippet of Manfred Mann’s classic single “Do Wah Diddy.” (“There she was just a-walkin' down the street, singin' 'Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do.'”)

They followed up by the scathing – but surprisingly tuneful – personal rebuke “Hummingbird” from the upcoming album, in which Zuniga derided the delusional beliefs of a frenemy over a wonderfully catchy folk-rock base. Similarly cutting was another Sonic Ranch tune, the reverb-heavy “America” which took a look at the American political divide over a spy-theme cool driving melody.

The band also took on the sweet harmonies of “All I Was Looking For Was You,” and played a cool medley of the band’s “Love Comes in Waves” matched up with rock classics by Led Zeppelin (“D’yer Mak’er”) and the Steve Miller Band (“The Joker.”) Fastball toyed with styles with the folk-rocky “I Will Never Let You Down” and country vibed “The Girl You Pretended to Be.”

The power pop was strong on a live version of their current single – and preview of the upcoming album – “Rather Be Me Than You.” Then they took on the soulful Stax feel of “Growing, Growing Gone” and “On and On” – another pop-tastic preview of the upcoming record.

Leading into the encore, Fastball pulled out their two biggest hits. Still packing a punch was the gorgeous love-lost ballad “Out of My Head” (which was not only a big hit for Fastball, but also had a renewed life with five-ten years ago when the chorus was extensively used as the base of Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello’s smash “Bad Things.”)

Then the main act closed out on their biggest hit, the whimsical “The Way,” about a true story of an elderly couple which disappeared. Although the real-life story turned out later to be more tragic, Scalzo’s lyrics imagined a sweet outcome for the heroes. (Also, am I the only person in the world who thinks the song is musically a dead-ringer for a sped-up version of Tom Jones’ old murder ballad “Delilah” – particularly in the intro?)

After a brief break, the band got back up for an encore, slamming the night closed with “Daydream” and a rocking take on “Sooner or Later.”

Thirty years of great pop came and went in the blink of an eye.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2024 All rights reserved. Posted: April 22, 2024.

Photos by Jay S. Jacobs © 2024. All rights reserved.

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