His third album, “Girlfriend,” delivered Matthew Sweet from underground obscurity and turned him into an indie-world hero. Released in 1991, the album simmered and brimmed with power-pop riffs and melodies, and the title track became a ’90s standard, making guest appearances in movies and places like “Guitar Hero.”
Tuesday night before a crowd of about 250 people at Knuckleheads, Sweet and his three-piece band revived some of the best moments from his best-known album, interspersing them with tracks from more than a half-dozen of his other albums, including his latest, “Tomorrow Forever,” showcasing a career that has been defined far beyond one album.
They opened with “Time Capsule,” a jaunty lament from “Altered Beast,” the excellent follow-up to “Girlfriend,” and followed that with “Byrdgirl,” a hooky track from the under-appreciated “Sunshine Lies” album.
Throughout the set, his band mates added warm, crisp harmonies to Sweet’s keen melodies, starting with the first two “Girlfriend” tracks: a gritty, down-tempo version of “Winona,” a song widely misinterpreted as a stalker-ish ode to actress Winona Ryder, then “Divine Intervention,” the album’s raucous opening track that was embellished with a few fits of guitar mayhem.
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Sweet would perform four tracks off “Tomorrow,” including the dandy jangle-fest “Music for Love,” and each fit seamlessly among the rest of the set, even classics like the “100% Fun” standout “We’re the Same,” a sweet pop ballad laced with a heavy sprinkling of Big Star-dust.
If there was a peak in the 90-minute set, it was the three-song run that started with the title track to “Girlfriend.” They followed that with another track from that album, “I’ve Been Waiting,” during which the night’s opener, Tommy Keene, added another layer to the lustrous, lockstep harmonies.
They closed with a three-song encore that started with “The Searcher,” a heavy-pop anthem from “Tomorrow,” then “If Time Permits,” yet another sweet-pop ballad. The finale was the noise-fest “Devil With the Green Eyes,” a lovelorn “Altered Beast” anthem with some psychedelic rock trimming and a few feedback tantrums. Like much of what preceded it, it was melodic and larded in harmonies and it proved that Sweet is no one-trick, one-album pony.
Time Capsule; Byrdgirl; Pretty Please; Wynona; Divine Intervention; She Walks the Night; Someone to Pull the Trigger; Music for Love; We’re the Same; You Don’t Love Me; Trick; Girlfriend; I’ve Been Waiting; Sick of Myself; The Searcher; If Time Permits; Devil With the Green Eyes.