JEEP WORLD OUTSIDE FESTIVAL
(featuring Sheryl Crow, Train, Tonic, O.A.R., Howie Day, Ziggy Marley, Maroon 5, Silvercrush, Pseudopod and Ben Taylor)
July 11, 2002
Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater-Atlanta, GA
As festivals go, this one was top notch. When the gates opened around three in the afternoon, only a handful of people were at the venue. I wandered all the way around to the second stage for the first act. Ben Taylor casually wandered up onto the stage with his acoustic and played just two songs. Maybe twenty people were listening. There was something about Ben. I kept thinking, "Where have I heard him? He sounds so familiar." He was so laid back and earnest. Finally, I put it together...Ben Taylor. That voice sounds like James Taylor! Could it be? Sure enough, Ben is the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon. I'm glad to note that while the voice bore a resemblance to his dad's, Ben is making his own path. The second tune was some whimsical, odd ditty about mushrooms.
After the set, he was wandering through the crowd (still wearing and strumming his acoustic guitar), so I walked up to him and asked him when he was coming back. He said he was planning to come out to the 40 Watt hopefully within the next couple of months with his full band. I'll be there. I'm intrigued to hear more.
As Ben walked off the stage, Pseudopod was walking on. Their music was a bit bland. You know the story. They were from the jam-band-with-saxophone mold thats so familiar these days.
The coolest thing I can say about them was that they had an old dog on stage with them. The very calm, relaxed, graying canine even had his own laminate pass with the name "Oliver" on it. He stood guard beside the drum kit for the duration of their set.
About this time, things were kicking off on the main stage. I rushed over just in time to see Silvercrush's last two tunes. While they could also be pigeonholed into the jam band category, they have something more going for them.
There was an electricity, grit and intensity to their material missing from most acts of that genre. They were tougher. The front man had a snarl and power that added an interesting kick to their flavor. They put some spice into a bland style. They actually managed to rock. I hope they can take it to the next level.
Back on the side stage, Maroon 5 was dishing out its fairly tepid brand of modern rock. They obviously had a few diehards in attendance. These girls swooned at every flinch or moan from the guys. The musicianship was tight and the vocals were strong, but there was nothing that I heard that would make them stand out.
On the other hand, Ziggy Marley was great. He can't help but conjure the spirit of his dad. He looked a lot like him and displayed a lot of the same mannerisms. The lyrics were even more pointed than his fathers were. Ziggy passionately took on environmental destruction, cultural and political issues and personal freedom as the band pulsed and throbbed around him.
Ziggy has gone beyond the Melody Makers and is about to release a solo album. If this set was any indication, the world better look out. The legacy continues to ripple outward. This was real.
Now I had a little bit of time to check out the other facets of the festival. It was pretty interesting to just sit and look around. I've never been to a festival where you could listen to a band like O.A.R. and go kayaking for a few minutes on the way to the second stage to see Tonic. There were Olympic athletes zipping through the air off of a giant makeshift ski ramp. Other athletes flipped and flew from trampolines. All the while, festival attendees watched the professionals as they themselves snow boarded on a mountain simulator. There was even a giant pool big enough for dozens at a time to go scuba diving. Wetsuits were provided and trainers taught the basic skills for each of the sports before turning loose the patrons. People were having a great time. I was thankfully distracted from a (to say the least) lackluster amphitheater dinner by all the cool stuff going on around me.
Newcomer Howie Day was next up on the second stage. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and a myriad of effects pedals, Day managed to create an entire orchestra of sound. Tap dancing on the pedals, he layered bass, drums and even backup vocals to accompany himself.It was a dazzling effect.
His CD Australia completely pales in comparison to his onstage charisma. It's a little sad. If he could capture the energy he has in performance, he would be huge. Hopefully, he'll get it on the next album.
A sludgy take on Simon And Garfunkel's "Feelin' Groovy" heralded O.A.R.'s show. Their fans were out in force and sat patiently until the band segued into more familiar tracks. After the cover, the audience of college-aged students began singing along in earnest.
O.A.R. was solid, but I've got to say that I couldn't see what makes them so special. It was just another night at GATH as far as I could hear. Who cares if I get it? Their fans already seem to have built a Dave Matthews like fanaticism for the group.
Tonicwas the second stage headliner. A few hundred people gathered to hear their handful of modern rock hits from the late '90s.
The band also pushed their upcoming record hard. The new material had a few strong hooks and should get 'em some airplay, but their older hits already sounded completely dated. I'll be surprised if they can get back to where they were.
As dusk began to gather, Train was the first act to get the majority of the audience in one place. While the songs themselves weren't so special, Train deserves a collective medal for musicality. The lead singer was the MVP. In addition to his front man duties, he played a mean sax, joined the drummer on percussion and even added some trumpet to the mix.
It was telling that the lead guitarist was a huge Zep fan even before they broke into a cover of "Ramble On." The audience didn't appreciate it as much as they did "Meet Virginia" or (of course) "Drops Of Jupiter," but they still did a hell of a job. The new songs that they introduced tonight prove that they've got an extension on their fifteen minutes. Train will be around a bit longer.They closed with "the song that made us want to do this." Aerosmith's "Dream On" was almost note for note. Sure, some of the rough edges were sanded off, but all was forgiven when the singer belted out the screams that Tyler does falsetto with a full-voice wail.
Never having been a big Sheryl Crow fan, you've got to understand my surprise at just how good a concert she did. One hit after another was tossed at an expectant crowd. A huge video screen augmented the kickoff tune Steve McQueen and the band was much more rocking than I had figured. "Every Day Is A Winding Road" and "My Favorite Mistake" set the mood early. Even the relatively sad lyrics of "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Strong Enough" weren't enough to quell the positive energy. "A Change Would Do You Good" was joyous and culminated in a run-through of The Who's "I Can't Explain" sung by the drummer.
Strangely, the personal highlights were songs I didn't even know. An amazing new song called "Weather Channel" featured footage of tornados as the drama of the lyric unfolded. That and "Safe And Sound" were touching counterpoints to "All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun, Soak Up The Sun" and a highly charged version of "There Goes The Neighborhood" that had the hi-tech light system so worked up that a couple of sets actually crashed together at one point. For her farewell, Sheryl and her band tore through Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll." She stood on top of the piano and nailed all of the hard parts as the guys in the group rocked like teenagers in front of their bedroom mirrors. The Jeep World Outside Festival was a well-paced, full day of music and adventure. The other touring summer festivals are going to have a hard time competing with this one. (Chris McKay/concertshots.com)
Sheryl Crow set list (7-11-02):
1. Steve McQueen
2. Every Day Is A Winding Road
3. My Favorite Mistake
4. C'mon C'mon
5. You're An Original
6. Leaving Las Vegas
7. Strong Enough
8. If It Makes You Happy
9. Lucky Kid
10. A Change Will Do You Good
11. I Can't Explain
12. Weather Channel
13. All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun
14. Soak Up The Sun
15. There Goes The Neighborhood
16. Safe And Sound
17. Rock And Roll