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Soul Asylum's return to the stage
"Thank you; thanks," Dave Pirner told a half-full First Avenue Monday
night; "(I've) been saying that a lot lately."

Pirner has been through the sort of year that forces a guy to either
quit or count his blessings. June saw the death of his friend, Soul
Asylum bass player Karl Mueller, and August saw the probable
destruction of Pirner's home in New Orleans. He will see the damage
first-hand next week, but first he and the revamped Soul Asylum took
to the stage for the first time since Mueller's death.

In November of 2001, Mueller told the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Our
first show was Friday, Oct. 13, 1981. It was in the old (7th St.)
Entry. The old layout. We opened for Husker Du. I was 18 years old,
wasn't even old enough to be in the bar, and I was playin', and it
was really fun, and (the Huskers) were in their early glory."

I suggested to Mueller that Soul Asylum might be like the Ramones,
who named one of their albums "Too Tough To Die." This is what he
"I think it might be that we're more stubborn than tough. It's
something that we all got comfortable with at some point. That took
over 10 years, probably. We just enjoy it. There are a lot worse ways
to make a living, and we've been lucky."

Soul Asylum showed their stubborn streak Monday, playing a 80-minute
set that incorporated new songs from a forthcoming album with old
hits, including an especially poignant "Runaway Train" and "Closer To
The Stars." On bass was Tommy Stinson, the former Replacement; on
drums was Michael Bland, and on guitar was Dan Murphy.

Missing was Mueller, and everyone in the place felt it--even though
Pirner gamely tried to conjure him with a chant of "Karl, Karl," and
suggested that his spirit was alive and well and in the house. But it
was Murphy's body language that reflected the gig's surreal nature,
which caromed between survivor's guilt and workmanlike epiphany.

While Pirner and the animated Stinson did their best to whip up
energy, goof around, and go on with the show, Murphy spent much of
the night with his eyes shut tight, concentrating on his playing, and
avoiding eye contact with his bandmates and the audience. Near the
end, Murphy tried to muster some enthusiasm by climbing on top of his
amp riser and bouncing to the front of the stage, but it was clear
that he dearly missed his friend.

He wasn't alone. Even though the band in question would blow away
most comers, and even though Karl was buried months ago, many found
themselves saying goodbye-to both Mueller and the band he started-
because on that stage last night there was a hole in the Soul.

Posted by Jim Walsh at October 25, 2005 09:15 AM


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