Fans wondering why Fountains of Wayne’s performance Sunday night in Northampton moved from Pearl Street to the Iron Horse Music Hall got an explanation of sorts from bassist Adam Schlesinger.
“Turns out Pearl Street was built on an Indian burial ground,” he cracked early in the power-pop band’s set.
Actually, the switch had more to do with putting the band in a crowded small room instead of a sparsely populated larger room. Sound reasoning: with a comfortably packed-in audience, Fountains of Wayne got to play an intimate show as it mixed tunes from its latest album, last year’s “Sky Full of Holes,” with earlier songs during a 70-minute performance.
The foursome’s catalog consists of one catchy song after another, often featuring misguided or sadsack characters trying alternately to get by, to get over, or to reconcile a certain sense of workaday futility.
Singer Chris Collingwood, a Northampton resident, does cocky as well as he does wistful, and the arch yearning of a tune like opener “Little Red Light” or new song “Richie and Ruben” can quickly turn earnest, as on the gentle, acoustic “Valley Winter Song” or the long-distance love song “I-95.”
Schlesinger and lead guitarist Jody Porter sang plaintive backing vocals on another new song, “Cold Comfort Flowers,” and Schlesinger sang close harmonies on the absurd statement of affection “Red Dragon Tattoo.”
The band invited three women from the audience up to help with percussion on the lilting, wry “Hey Julie,” and took a detour on set-closer “Radiation Vibe” with a medley of classic-rock tunes — calling them “favorites” is probably overstatement — by Billy Squier, Foreigner, Billy Idol, Yes, Peter Frampton and Paul McCartney.
Fountains of Wayne returned for a six-song encore that included the band’s biggest hit, “Stacy’s Mom,” before ending with “Sink to the Bottom” from the band’s 1996 debut.
Northampton band Winterpills opened the show with 45 minutes of songs drawn mostly from the band’s gorgeous new album, “All My Lovely Goners.” Singers Philip Price and Flora Reed swapped low and high harmonies on the rollicking “Rogue Highway,” while lead guitarist Dennis Crommett added elegant electric guitar lines to “Amazing Sky” and peeled off a stinging solo on “Dying Star.”
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