Veruca Salt lives up to lofty expectations


November 8, 2005


In this season of reuniting Chicago alt-rock legends -- the Smoking Popes, Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill -- some bands will have an easier time coming back from the dead than others. Veruca Salt is likely to have more difficulty coming off life support and reconnecting with an audience. But the pioneering mainstream riot grrrls of the '90s are every bit as deserving of a successful comeback.

Granted, the revitalized Veruca Salt that played Sunday night at Metro is not the Veruca Salt that scored a major hit in 1994 with "Seether." Louise Post split from co-vocalist/songwriter Nina Gordon after the band's second album. Gordon pursued a stillborn and dreadful solo career, but Post continued with a new group (under the Veruca name) that released a great but underappreciated disc called "Resolver" in 2000. And then she disappeared.

Now, clearly benefitting from what Post describes as time spent "focusing on physical and spiritual health," she has a new incarnation of the quartet -- guitarist Stephen Fitzpatrick, drummer Toby Lang and bassist Mareea Paterson -- a new indie EP and a new album ready to go.

Clearly, Post had a lot to prove at Metro. She had to show that fans still care about the band's old songs, even without Gordon on board. The packed crowd was a good start, but she also had to convince us that her new material is strong, and that at age 38, she can still command the spotlight.

With the sweet but fiery attitude that she has always displayed onstage, powerful vocals that ranged from baby-girl cooing to a banshee wail, and metal-edged guitar chops that have long deserved a place next to another fine female shredder, Nancy Wilson of Heart, Post succeeded on every count.

The band's 70-minute set drew from throughout its career, with radio staples from 1994's "American Thighs" ("Seether," "Victrola," "Spiderman") joining tracks from the 1996 EP "Blow It Out Your A--," 1997's "Eight Arms to Hold You" and "Resolver" (including the furious "Born Entertainer," a slap at former boyfriend Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters) and several memorable new tunes, all of them passionately delivered.

Veruca Salt is back, and while no one could honestly say it's better than ever, Veruca Mach III comes close. Post is an electric performer and a hugely talented songwriter with plenty to say, and she deserves an audience.

Opening were Juliette and the Licks, a k a actress Juliette Lewis fronting four generic but spirited central-casting glam-punk musicians while attempting to channel the man she called "the master and guru," Iggy Pop.