Verve Pipe vocalist

A Shiny Happy Monday

The Verve Pipe
with Tonic and K's Choice
The Rage
Vancouver, B.C.
Monday, July 21, 1997

Review by Darren Kerr
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

I really hate college rock. It's not even so much a genre of music as it is an insult. It conjures up visions of Joe meets Judy: they get married, have 2.4 kids, buy an Astrovan and reminisce about how they fell in love to the Goo Goo Dolls. It's bland, nauseating and nothing to recommend as a home game.

K's Choice vocalist I also hate everything that the band Tonic stands for: hook-by-numbers songs for death-by-repetition radio stations playing to a demographic whose idea of an obscure classic is Golden Earring's "Twilight Zone." Having said that, I enjoyed this show far more than I should have...

You couldn't help but be engulfed by the good feelings and smiling faces in the crowd, tonight. I walked in late, smack K's Choice guitarist and bassist dab in the middle of K's Choice's set. How many times have you seen a huge turnout in Vancouver at 9:00pm?!? On a Monday. For a little-known band from Belgium!?!

K's Choice were excellent performers. Whether they were headbutting each other, jumping about the stage, or just having a good ol' jam in a triangle formation à la CSN&Y, the audience ate it up with a spoon. The blowing fans at the foot of her mic stand made singer Sarah Bettens look like a wind-blown Kim Carnes, as she possessed us with her voice and natural, unpretentious presence. The rest of the band harmonized beautifully, with meaty songs, damned fine arrangements and hooks that could snag a marlin. Best Belgian band since... since... hmmm.

Tonic vocalist "Everyone with Irish in them raise your hands. Oh, look, everybody at the bar's got their hands up!" So spoke Tonic's lead singer, just before the band ripped into a traditional kind of number called "Irish." The Rage was a veritable love-in for Tonic's part of the evening, with people jumping up and down and grinning at people they don't know. Said vocalist resembled an amalgam of Andy Kaufman and Star Trek's Colm Meaney and was flanked by the pretty-boy bass and guitar players, who looked they were in Girls Against Boys and smirked the women in the crowd into a frenzy.

Tonic guitarist Tonic played song after song, hit after potential hit -- and I didn't hate it. It was a pleasant diversion that got my head bouncin' and my feet shufflin'. The songs themselves had oomph, and you could also tell the band had put a lot of work into the vocal arrangements. Some parts were ferocious, with the drummer thrashing the drums like grannies pound rugs. Other songs saw the band enter a Jayhawks-type vibe, with chiming acoustic guitars and gentle sliding bass.

The crowd was really digging everything the four-piece did, tonight. I probably won't spin their record very often, but anyone who says this band doesn't give good live show, well, we're going to have to fight. You and me, behind the school at three o'clock.

Verve Pipe bassist Now, whaddya mean the Verve Pipe aren't British?!? The guitarist looks like he escaped from Deep Purple, or even Slade, the drummer looks like Bob Hoskins playing Ronnie Corbett, and the singer even put his hands behind his back like Liam Gallagher. They sound like they're from Michigan, though. American stadium rock with lyrics about legendary highways, alienation Verve Pipe vocalist and girls. The guitarist played large, with Jeff Beck flash and David Gilmour feel, all melody amongst the feedback, whirling and slashing. (And, between Tonic and the Verve Pipe, there must have been at least thirty guitar changeovers.) The bass player looked like he's been transplanted from a punk band, and his low-to-the-ground Ben Shepherd-ish stance kept the band from looking like Crowded House. The lead singer has the urban grit/rural balladeer voice that drips with Americana in much the same way that, say, Bruce Springsteen's and John Mellencamp's voices speak to the real, everyday people. And all of these everyday people sang along to the band's radio hit, "The Freshmen." The second half of the set picked up the pace and really rocked. Guitars and bass feeding each other, making for some great feedback-injected jams.

The encore saw all three bands onstage for an awe-inspiring rendition of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Everyone knew by now this show was an event, and there just aren't enough true events in the world, are there?

First published in Drop-D Magazine on August 9, 1997

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