House of Blues
San Diego, California
September 30th, 2009
Traveling for work this week in beautiful San Diego, I had to make time to squeeze in a show for the Music Binge. Feeling a little under the weather and tired from traveling, the thought of spending a late night at a show was less than appealing. Regardless, I scoured the local entertainment rags and quickly narrowed my options down to either seeing British indie rockers The Horrors at the Casbah on Tuesday night or radio rock staples Shinedown at the House of Blues on Wednesday. Quite honestly, my first choice would have been the former, but due to my work schedule, I ended up at the House of Blues. Bare with me on this one, I’ll try and be nice.
Before I even get to the bands that played on Wednesday night, I first need to mention a few things about the venue. Once I got inside the sold out building, I was quickly shuffled downstairs with the rest of the over-21 crowd as the poor youngsters were corralled into the upstairs, balcony area. Apparently at the House of Blues, you’re not allowed to inter-mingle those who are able to legally drink with those who aren’t, so the kiddies aren’t even permitted to be on the same floor as the stage...bummer for them.
After grabbing a drink from the bar and scoping out a good spot to watch the show, I pulled out my camera (point and shoot, not professional) to snap a few pictures of the interesting artwork adorning the walls. Within seconds, the security was on top of me, warning that there are no cameras allowed and that mine would be confiscated if they saw me taking anymore pictures. So, because of the Nazi security guards at the House of Blues, you won’t be seeing pictures of the opening acts from this show (Note: I did manage to sneak a few shots of the headliners…take that House of Blues…\m/).
My fears were realized as soon as openers Adelitas Way took the stage: I was in for a night of pure, unadulterated cock rock. This is the kind of band that you’d see on Cruefest or hear on Octane (for you satellite radio folks out there). Vocalist Rick DeJesus (I’m stifling a Big Lebowski joke right now) actually introduced one song as being played at WWE (that’s professional wrestling my friends) and on Monday Night Football. Ugh! Talk about selling your soul. DeJesus had all the typical rock star poses down pat as he repeatedly punched his mic stand into the air at all the right moments in the songs…the smell of cheese was officially in the air. One positive takeaway from the Las Vegas band’s set was guitarists Chris Iorio and Keith Wallen, who both managed to display some impressive chops. Adelitas Way, rounded out by bassist Derek Johnston and drummer Trevor Stafford, weren’t terribly inventive, but I’ll give them credit for being good at what they do.
Next up was four piece, CAVO from St. Louis, MO, who picked up right where Adelitas Way left off. Their set was chock full of chunky riffs, sprinkled with a couple of ballads. Vocalist Casey Walker had no problem pimping his band’s success by mentioning that one of their songs is featured on the Transformers 2 soundtrack. I don’t know which would embarrass me more, having a song on the soundtrack to a terrible, summer blockbuster movie or having one played on WWE…yikes! Bassist Brian Smith strutted around the stage playing a 5-string bass that I’m pretty sure was more for show than anything else, as I didn’t hear anything truly complex enough to warrant the extra string. CAVO, who's lineup also includes guitarist Chris Hobbs and drummer Chad La Roy, closed their set by introducing the song "Champagne" as their "current single". These guys are true salesmen! I hadn’t heard of the song before, but I am apparently out of the loop as the rest of the crowd seemed to know every word. Next…
Thankfully the next band, Sick Puppies from Sydney, Australia started to shift away from the monotonous radio rock that had permeated the House of Blues so far tonight. The three piece, made up of vocalist/guitarist Shimon Moore, bassist Emma Anzai and drummer Mark Goodwin, had more energy and emotion onstage than the previous two bands combined. The band plays an upbeat brand of rock with a rather obvious nod to Green Day (specifically when they used the music from Brain Stew during their hilarious cover of Destiny Child’s "Say My Name"), and at times, Moore’s vocals reminded me of the very distinct style of Raine Maida from Our Lady Peace. The singer demonstrated a lot of charisma on stage and did an amazing job of engaging the audience and really working the crowd.
The band wasn’t perfect however, as they too felt the need to hype their own success as Moore bragged that the Sick Puppies have "the number one song on rock radio", before they launched into "You’re Going Down". The band also committed the cardinal sin of rock shows (at least in my eyes) when the singer requested that the crowd hold up their cell phones during one of their slower numbers. If you haven’t seen this, it’s the next generation of holding up a cigarette lighter, and it looks about as asinine as it sounds. Despite the few missteps however, the Sick Puppies were far and away the highlight of the evening thus far.
When headliners Shinedown hit the stage, they made it evident that this was their show. The stage was packed with lighting rigs and amplifiers that looked like they belonged in a stadium, not a small theater like the House of Blues. With his straight, black hair parted down the middle and overdone eye makeup, singer Brent Smith bared an uncanny resemblance to Ozzy Osbourne. Guitarist Zach Myers and bassist Eric Bass weren’t shy with the makeup either and I’m not sure I understood drummer Barry Kerch’s decision to wear a bandana around his face. Images aside though, Shinedown sounded great.
At the conclusion of their opening song, Smith did something I’ve never seen before at a rock show. He stopped the music, had everyone in the crowd look left, then right and shake the hand and/or high five their neighbors. It was an awkward, yet hilarious way to open things up and I nearly heard myself say "peace be with you" as I shook the hand of the guy next to me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only time that Smith stopped the concert to address the audience. During the hit song "45", the singer noticed a fight breaking out near the front of the stage, stopped his band-mates mid-song and addressed the two would-be pugilists. After reminding us that "we’re all friends here", the band got back to business.
Shinedown were in full stride when, like Sick Puppies, they got derailed. For the second time tonight, I had to witness the woeful cell phone salute as Brent Smith asked the audience to hold em' up during the hit "Second Chance", which by the way I had no idea was a Shinedown song. The band recovered however, closing the show with another familiar tune, this time the hit single "Devour". This particular show wasn't necessarily my thing, but I witnessed a fun performance by a very talented band who obviously understands what they're audience wants and ensures that they give it to them.