Has it really been 28 years since Soul Asylum first broke wide with “Runaway Train,” a sappy but effective Roots Rock ballad that transcended the band’s punkier beginnings? A lot has changed since the song and the breakthrough album it appeared on, 1992’s Grave Dancers Union, surfaced — the most obvious being that frontman and main songwriter Dave Pirner is the lone founding member still in the current incarnation of the band, which continues to tour on the clout of that breakthrough record that sold about as much as the rest of their discography combined.
Pete Buttigieg wasn’t even born yet when Soul Asylum formed in the early 1980s as disciples of fellow Minneapolis rabble-rousers The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. Bob Mould produced the band’s first two albums and, in 1986, Soul Asylum and the Dü tied for "best garage band" honors at the Minnesota Music Awards.
Soul Asylum dropped a series of scrappy, guitar-driven records in the run-up to Grave Dancers Union, all marked by Pirner’s distinctive rasp and a shambolic melodicism that would become more polished as the years went on.
Case in point is the band’s most recent effort, 2016’s Change of Fortune, which sprinkles keyboards, peppy rhythms (courtesy of former Prince drummer Michael Bland) and high-gloss production into a curious mix of styles and moods, from the 1970s Aerosmith pomp of “Can’t Help It” and the odd genre-jumping riffage and processed vocals of “Make It Real” to the contemporary Soul stylings of “Change of Fortune” and, perhaps best of all, The Hold Steady/Bruce Springsteen crossbreed that is “Moonshine.”
Soul Asylum — which played a stripped-back show at Urban Artifact in 2018 — will be joined by another beloved (if not quite as successful, in terms of mainstream success) band, Local H, when they return to Greater Cincinnati this weekend. The show was originally scheduled for Riverfront Live for Saturday, Feb. 15, but according to the venue's website, it has been moved to Thompson House in Newport due to anticipated flooding in the area. Fans are reporting that they received notification of the move overnight Wednesday. (The Valentine's Day Riff Raff concert has also been moved to Thompson House, according to the site.)
Tickets for the Soul Asylum/Local H show are still available via ticketweb.com.