Two things can happen when you catch a band at the end of a tour: you either get a terrific show that has been sharpened and improved for the whole tour, or you get a tired band, mailing it in because they know home base is just 60 feet away. Luckily for Steph and I last night, we got the former with Nada Surf here in Boston. Here’s a band we had been waiting at least three years to see and I had heard from more than one person that seeing them as a trio is good, but not as good as their records sound. Lucky us again – this time they were traveling as a quartet, with a keyboard and horn player (from Calexico) pitching in as #4. It made a hell of a big difference. I always prefer a fuller sound, especially live, so that made it all the better. I knew it would be good, but I could have never guessed how great they would be live. Wow.

After the show we were trying to figure out what our favorite song of the night was and we just couldn’t. Because other than our unanimous choice of worst song (“The Fox”), there really wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. Lead singer Matthew Caws (whom I interviewed here back in August of 2004) is a force to be reckoned with live – his voice, which comes off as more powerful and soaring than on record, truly carried the night. Plus he comes off as just a regular guy having a good time, which made the crowd participation numbers (“Inside of Love,” “Blankest Year”) seem not as cheesy as other bands tend to be with that stuff.

As mentioned, the band is super-tight and has everything clicking on all cylinders right now. Hard to believe for a group who had such a big hit in the 1990s with such a terrible song. Here’s one case where a one-hit wonder actually benefits the band – their work since that mid-90s success has been nothing short of sensational and their show last night only reinforces the notion. A true home run. For you fans, highlights for me (other than the whole damn show) were “Always Love,” “I LIke What You Say,” “Beautiful Beat,” “Whose Authority,” “See These Bones” and “80 Windows.” Thankfully, the big hit was left out of the set.

Way better than staying home and watching the Bruins lose!

Check out “I Like What You Say” from their new album: