For a guy who only last year released two albums that seemed content to background the conversation, Pete Yorn on Monday night played like a man intent on being at the center of it.
Fronting a tight four-piece band on the eve of the release of his sixth album, Yorn delivered a crackling set at his old stamping ground, Los Angeles' Roxy Theatre, that underlined his latest manifestation: as an indie rocker who will roar, rather than mope, in the face of his chronically restless romanticism.
The 36-year-old singer-songwriter certainly has the album for it. Titled, appropriately, just Pete Yorn, the rawboned new music -- actually recorded in 2008 prior to sessions for the coffeehouse-mellow Back & Fourth -- bears the fingerprints of its producer, the Pixies' Frank Black, and more than a little bit of his brash, fun attitude. In fact, not since Musicforthemorningafter, Yorn's 2001 splashdown, has he sounded this (essentially) full of himself.
Monday's setlist might as well have been a marquee on the Sunset Strip that shouted "I've come full circle" -- Yorn played 10 of the 11 songs from his new album, five from his debut and one cover. The latter was a rather tepid take on "Theme From Mahogany," a fine song but an iffy selection for somebody Frank Black is touting.
Such hiccups were few in the 75-minute outing, which Yorn kicked off with the new single "Precious Stone" and two fresh '90s-leaning tracks, "Badman" and "Always." Their sharp licks and mild swagger earned a warm welcome from a capacity of crowd, many of whom were obviously already familiar with the material.
The momentum -- and the chops of Yorn's current touring lineup of guitarist Mark Noseworthy, bassist Zak Shaffer, and drummer Scott Seiver -- carried over to oldies such as "Strange Condition," "Life on a Chain," and "On Your Side."
The lightest moment arrived with the new number "Velcro Shoes," which Yorn described as "an old song that we dusted off and put on the album." It's scratchy guitar pop with a big build-up that feels somewhere between vintage Beck and Weezer's "Undone -- The Sweater Song." The song, intended as a quick glance over the shoulder at youth, is simply too catchy to be denied.
Which, after all, is Yorn's forte. His straight-ahead songwriting and straight-to-the-heart lyrics often come with just the right amount of rock 'n' roll payoff, and Monday it was nice to get the goods with some renewed vigor, if not a little rough round the edges.
Life on a Chain
Theme From Mahogany
On Your Side
For Nancy ('Cos It Already Is)