Sahara Hotnights: Live Review

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The END is one of the best/worst places in Nashville to see a band. On one hand, it’s a great size, the sound has been consistently improving, and it’s easy to hang in, out of, and around. On the other hand, during the summer it’s hotter than a whore on nickel night and it’s the kind of place to avoid when Great White’s in town — i.e. ventilation and fire exits leave something to be desired. Then again, who’s going to argue against getting the women of Sahara Hotnights all sweaty?

Taking the stage at 10.40, Sahara Hotnights wasted no time in heating up the joint. Their set drew largely from their forthcoming Kiss & Tell album and showed that they have expanded their repertoire to include 80s power-pop. Those expecting the Donnas-esque hard rock of Jennie Bomb might have been a little confused, but the fact is, the new material sounds like a hybrid of their first album, C’mon Let’s Pretend and Jennie Bomb. The former didn’t get a lot of play or even a proper release in the US. Its sound was more Euro than Jennie, its guitars more wiry, and its hooks less bombastic. Combine that with the quiet-to-loud dynamics of Jennie Bomb and you’ve got the lithe, hip-shaking, head-bobbing rock of Sahara Hotnights’ current set.

The END is a small club but that didn’t stop singer Maria Andersson belting out the songs like she was playing an arena. Sisters Jennie and Johanna Asplund, on guitar and bass, provided the gang-vocal shouts that likewise lent a big-club atmosphere to the room. But it’s Josephine Forsman’s drumming — tasteful and big but never over-powering — that keeps the quartet kicking.

There’s an unfortunate tendency for some bands to play small clubs as if they are dive bars — their loose sets and off-the-cuff manner make you wonder why you shelled out for the experience. But Sahara Hotnights succumbed to none of that temptation. Their show was professional and tight and delivered with a respect that few pay to the End. The show was out by 11.30 leaving us satisfied and not a touch annoyed.

One could whine, in retrospect, that they should have delivered more of Jennie Bomb since that was the record that got them noticed here and since their new album won’t be out for two weeks, but Sahara’s punchy delivery of their new material erased all wished-for setlists and assured us that their new record will eclipse Jennie Bomb’s formidable hooks.