While the members of Luna may no longer reside in New York City, with Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips living in Los Angeles, Lee Wall in Austin, TX, and Sean Eden finally moving away last year to San Francisco, they will always be inextricably linked to our fine city and considered a New York band. I imagine their deep ties to the Big Apple keep them coming back to play sold-out shows after all this time, including three nights last week at the Bowery Ballroom. Their shows consistently draw devoted fans coming in from all parts of the United States and beyond; there were international travelers from countries such as Sweden, Germany, the UK, and even as far as New Zealand, though that last one might stretching it a bit since I am referring to Wareham’s parents, who sat in the balcony for nights 2 and 3. I mean, I’m sure they are very proud of their son and could be considered fans, so I’ll count them…
Anyway, these three nights that Luna played last week served as an informal anniversary of sorts. The band played the same venue for the first time on September 10, 1998, 25 years ago, and a few fans in the packed crowd could be heard affirming their presence at that show when Wareham made note of the date. The band acknowledged the Bowery Ballroom as part of their history, and gave thanks to the staff including longtime security worker Kevin, whose handsome face should be familiar to regulars. He proudly sported a Luna t-shirt while working his post on stage left on the third night, as you can see in a photo below.
While I did not get to see Luna during their heyday, being a student on a budget in the ‘90s, and I missed out on their last Bowery Ballroom show in 2005 right before they disbanded because I was in the midst of a breakup myself, I became determined to see them regularly once they reunited in 2015, and it’s been a sincere pleasure hearing so many of the songs that I’ve loved for decades being played live.
The first two nights of this recent run had completely unique setlists, with the exception of their cover of Television’s “Marquee Moon,” which was especially poignant with the passing of Tom Verlaine earlier this year. Speaking of Verlaine, we also heard the tracks “Moon Palace” and “23 Minutes in Brussels” from 1995’s Penthouse LP, which Verlaine played on. I believe the last time Luna played the Bowery Ballroom was in 2019 when they played the aforementioned album in its entirety.
On night 1, Luna also covered “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” by the Talking Heads, which is timely given the recent re-release of Stop Making Sense in theaters. My personal favorite moment occurred during the second encore on Friday, when Britta Phillips performed Nico’s lead vocals on the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale,” a song the band said they had never performed live before. Night 3 had a less unique setlist, with nearly half of it repeating songs from Thursday, and “23 Minutes” from Friday, but it was also the only night with an unplanned encore, as the audience coaxed out the band for one last hurrah. They opted to close the three-night run with a cover of “Strange” by Wareham’s old band, Galaxie 500.
I’ve probably heard most of the 40 or so different songs played by Luna for these shows over the numerous times I’ve seen them since 2015, but no matter, they have a timeless and yet nostalgic quality to me, and I thought they sounded really tight this time. I so rarely get to experience an entire run by a band, let alone photograph it all, and I’m thankful I had the opportunity to attend all three nights, which are represented in my shots below. We also were introduced to some interesting up and coming openers each night: Ryder the Eagle on Thursday, waveform. on Friday, and Jana Horn on Saturday.
Luna finished their mini-tour with a stop in Boston last night, and will head to Spain for a number of dates in October.
Photos by me, Ellen Qbertplaya, from all three nights at the Bowery Ballroom, including the openers, plus setlists, continue below.