March 21, 2002
The Tabernacle-Atlanta, GA
Once again, the garishly painted former Baptist Tabernacle of Atlanta is overrun with heathen rock and rollers. Tonight, the teens and dorm dwellers lunged toward the stage with Default's opening flourish. Fortunately, the band packs much more power in concert than on their sounds-like-everyone-else recordings. Live, they managed to maintain a punk-like energy while dishing out more muscular riffs than any band I've heard in a long time. Fronted by a singer who looked disturbingly like Greg Kinnear clearly doesn't hurt with the teen appeal. Those of the female persuasion leaned toward the stage like a magnet was pulling them. Unfortunately, the vocals were the weak point. The singer's voice is virtually indistinguishable from all of the other muttering, occasionally, almost, semi, could be, but maybe shouldn't be powerful deliveries of radio ready rock today.
The band, on the other hand, was much more solid and threatening to the status quo. They stomped and staggered with aggression and post-Zeppelin furor. The drummer was solid and proficient and the bass player (even though he looked like Little House On The Prarie's Melissa Gilbert on steroids with those pigtails) was the root of Default's sound. Clearly, though, the guitarist was the star. While admitting and pledging his allegiance with a few bars of "Heartbreaker" early in the set, the axe-man also gets the subtlety in Jimmy Page's playing. Listening to this guy was like a tour through Page's styles over the years. The Zeppelin-era influence was obvious throughout, but one ballad sounded a lot like "Midnight Moonlight" from the first Firm album and another ventured into the Page/Plant style ala "When The World Was Young." Who cares? This is not meant to be a negative statement toward Default, but hearing a second rate Jimmy Page is a welcome relief from all of the 4th generation Kurt Cobains out there now (See the next paragraph). Regrettably, Default's closing two numbers reeked of Pearl Jam. The current single "Wasting My Time" was a new "Alive" and the upcoming release "Deny" was clearly "Evenflow." It was depressing that a band with such ability and potential would have to pander by bastardizing a long ago stripped mine for commercial consideration.
Speaking of which, what is the deal with Bush? How did they ever get as big as they are? They're exactly what I complained about earlier. Bush is just a British band hawking Nirvana-lite to the masses. Have they ever had a truly great song? So what if they were one of the first successful clone bands, the sad state of modern rock is that the second tier bands move up to first tier when the "originators" die out. (Thanks, Kurt, for leaving the world with this! If you were alive, Bush wouldn't have made a blip on the screen). That being said, Gwen Stefani's fiance, fashion magazine boy and Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale is at least worth watching. He does seem to care about entertainment value and delivering a passionate performance. I don't know that his voice was ever on key, but at least he gave us something to watch. On his knees, tossing his instrument around, spinning madly, leaping and looking generally emotive, he helped the audience to ignore the horrible mix and gratingly chainsaw sludge of the guitars. The rest of the band was mostly background. The lead guitarist and bassist were merely competent. The drummer was good, but couldn't save the night on his own. "Speed Kills" did manage to almost rock as did "Machine Head," but generally this was a mid-tempo distorto fest that was only made mildly interesting by the singer's antics and the occasional projected images and lighting effects.
About a third of the way into the set, I witnessed one of the scariest things I've ever seen at a show. A person in a full Superman suit leaped from the balcony onto the floor. It's a miracle that no one was severely injured. Seeing someone plop like a wet sack of cement looks different in person than the slow motion of TV and movie dives. Bush didn't even seem to notice. The cops did, though, and I saw Superman being dragged out of the back exit by several very angry looking security guards and police officers. My main question was only if the jumper was that inspired by the band or that disappointed in them. Later, Gavin Rossdale did the de rigueur into the audience bit. He sang a song from the balcony as (mostly women) clung to his sides and reached out to touch him like lepers to Jesus. What do I know? Maybe a bead of his sweat could heal their every problem. Of course, "Everything Zen," "Come Down," and "Swallowed" were communal sing-a-longs. By the encore, "Glycerine," Gavin's voice was pretty shot. The crowd didn't notice, they drowned him out with their own. Ending the night with "The Little Things That Kill" was a wise choice. The song was the highlight of the night. The flashing "kill, kill, kill" on the video screens was a little bizarre, but at least it added some edge to an otherwise by the numbers performance. Honestly, I go to a lot of these shows in an attempt to understand what people relate to and "get" from these big time bands. Tonight was a mixed bag. I get Default now (as long as I don't have to listen to their record). After more than a half-decade, the appeal of Bush still eludes me. (Chris McKay/concertshots.com)