Review by Dorothy Parvaz
Photography by Rodney Gitzel
(Okay, this isn't meant to be an I'm-a-critic-give-me-special-treatment rant -- going to free shows isn't a bad gig, is it? -- but in all fairness, it's hard enough to enjoy a concert when you're sitting miles away from the stage, let alone critique it. Anyway, on with the show. )
First up was Wellwater Conspiracy, lead by ex-Soundgardener Matt Cameron on drums and lead vocals. WWC really didn't sound so good. Maybe they would've sounded better in a smaller venue, or maybe they would've sounded better if Cameron wasn't singing, as their best song, "Farside," was one without any vocals. Cameron's a good drummer, but his voice just doesn't sound right. Then again, thinking about Soundgarden brings to mind Chris Cornell's kick-ass voice and generally gut-wrenching lyrics, so maybe WWC can't but fall short of expectations. Their music is surprisingly spacey and psychedelic in parts, but there isn't much there beyond some heavy-handed guitar work ("Trowerchord" sounded like a high school boy's first tryst with guitar rock -- although there were some twangy Neil Young moments). Perhaps the band was just having an off night. Still, why not have just Everclear for an opener?
Everclear. Boy do those guys look like they're having a good time on stage. Unlike WWC, the boys from Portland joked around with the audience, and despite my lo-fi tendencies, I have to say, Everclear rock. They performed all of their big radio hits ("Heroin Girl," "So Much for the Afterglow," "Heartspark Dollarsign," etc...), an acoustic version of "Strawberry," and a sing-along version of "Santa Monica." But dammit where, were "Nahalem," "Loser Makes Good" and "The Fire Maple Song"? Guess you can only expect so much from an opening band, but maybe if they would've been the only opening act, they would've had time to do more songs.
I'm not an Our Lady Peace fan. Vocalist Raine Maida's voice tends to grate on my nerves, but my best efforts to dislike the band seem to be foiled every time. The first blow to my anti-OLP stance came when I interviewed Maida a few months ago. Everything I'd heard about him up until that point had totally prepared me to dislike the guy, but, lo and behold, he was nice. Really nice. And sincere. He even explained his strange singing style: See, as a singer, he is most influenced by female singers, like Sinead O'Connor; singers who use their voices as instrument.
The second blow to my anti-OLP-ness came at this concert -- OLP actually put on a decent show! They had this big screen behind them, and they spliced creepy black and white footage with equally creepy shots of an old man reading poetry (was it poet Marc Van Doren?) while they played tunes off their debut, Naveed, as well as their somewhat unsettling second album, Clumsy. While Maida sang songs about a girl drinking herself blind, grief-stricken neurotics and other generally miserable characters, the crowd of mostly high school-aged girls sang along (some even flicked their Bics during the piano-accompanied version of "Naveed").
Our Lady Peace are at their best during faster, harder songs, with drummer Jeremy Taggart going full force and Maida wailing. There's always a tender sadness beneath Maida's angry voice, and tonight, there was even some hoarsness, which is understandable, given that they've been on tour since October sometime. If you can handle Maida's voice (it's not for everyone) catch them next time they're in town. And don't forget to take your Bic lighter along for those special audience/band bonding moments.
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