How Sweet, Sweet Matthew Is His Show Flirted with Ballads and Then Rocked with Power Pop

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MATTHEW SWEET WITH FASTBALL

Mississippi Nights, Tuesday, Feb. 25

ON Matthew Sweet's albums, sluggish selections are intertwined with the muscular songs, sappy ballads sharing disc space with the power pop gems that have made him a modern rock success. Sweet varied the theme Tuesday night with a half-hearted first-half performance and an inspired second portion. At least he sent a capacity crowd home happy. Sweet's band came out swinging, but missing, with the aggressive "Dinosaur Act." As Sweet slashed out the surly rhythm guitar line that recalled Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla," lead ax man Ivan Julien stumbled about the number setting off colorful but haphazard guitar pyrotechnics. Then Sweet reached out and tried to touch the crowd with "Get Older" from his 1995 release "100% Fun." It was one of those cloying ballads flirting with insipidity that vie with the pugnacious material for control of Sweet's albums. Even "The Ugly Truth," the mighty title track and best song off Sweet's 1993 album, came off as an emasculated version of its studio rendition. Yo u expect scintillating material like this to get wilder live, but on this night a storm of tinny, minor guitar chords swamped the rhythm section. Timing problems dogged the five-piece act on a sludgy version of "Girlfriend," a Sweet hallmark and the platform for guitar solos that was devoid of crucial spontaneity. One-third of the way through a scheduled 23-song bout, Sweet seemed to be knocked-out standing, introducing one song after another with all the fervor of a sleepy bingo caller. The Nebraska-born musician rebounded with "Back to You," a peppy tune with a bright, "Pet Sounds" ambiance. …