Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Live Show Review: Blind Melon

Blind Melon
The Independent
San Francisco, CA

It's a cool, windy night in San Francisco as my brother-in-law Paul and I circle around The Independent for a much prized, but seldom found parking spot on the street. Twenty minutes and many laps around the block later we are briskly walking to the venue with visions of Irish whiskey to warm our insides and lay the proper foundation for the rest of the evening.

By all accounts, I shouldn't even be at this show. My ticket is a result of the generous nature of my bro-in-law and his enthusiasm for Blind Melon. This last minute decision to attend removed any expectations other than to have a good night out and enjoy some music.

If someone had told me I'd be watching Blind Melon perform 14 years after the death of lead singer Shannon Hoon, I probably would have ordered another round of Irish whiskey and laughed at the absurdity of idea. When a band looses a charismatic frontman that the public largely identifies as the face and emotional center of the band, (see The Doors, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone, etc.) that's usually when the fat lady steps up to the microphone to start singing.

Stranger than fiction, but here it is 2008 and Blind Melon's tour bus is parked in front of the Independent and ready to hit the stage with new singer Travis Warren. After meeting Warren back in 2006 the band spent some time reconnecting with each other and writing new material with Warren. Small tours in 2007 proved successful and now the band is riding a wild wave of resurgence that will culminate in the release of their new album For My Friends on April 22, 2008.

After a solid performance from openers Leather Underground, die hard Mellonheads flooded into the Independent to find their spot on the dance floor and wait for the return of a 90s rock band that got its legs chopped with the passing of original lead vocalist Shannon Hoon. Talking with folks around me, fans expressed a range of emotions from elated to have their band back to knowing it wasn't the same and wondering whether or not they could accept the situation.

The house lights dimmed and the band hit the stage to loud applause. Glen Graham - Drums, Rogers Stevens - Guitar, Christopher Thorn - Guitar, Brad Smith - Bass, soaked in the moment before Travis Warren joined them and the band launched into opener "Galaxy".

A grenade of energy went off in the venue as Blind Melon reconnected with it's fans, one song at a time. "2x4" and "Toes Across the Floor" followed and continued to build the energy levels in the crowd right off the Richter scale. Bassist Brad Smith grinned like a Cheshire cat as he vibed with the music and the fans all night.

After some hellos to the audience, the band went into a new song, the appropriately titled "For My Friends" and the love fest continued. At this point, we should probably acknowledge the elephant in the room (or in this case, the review).

Lets just get it right out there: Travis Warren admirably handles vocals on the old Melon songs, as well the insane expectation of filling Hoon's cosmic shoes. Warren sang the classics by diving right into the heart of them and never looking back, and both band and audience approved.

If I had any criticism of Warren, it is his reliance on adding reverb to his vocals, much like Perry Farrell did in Jane's Addiction. While this addition was used to good effect throughout the set, I would have liked to hear a handful of songs without it so I could really hear his vocal abilities. Warren sounds like he’s got a set of pipes on him so maybe an acoustic song or two would have quieted my criticism.

But hey, that's just me and the majority of the crowd could have cared less about whether or not the vocals had too much reverb. With everyone in the house on board, Blind Melon took fans on a journey through the past with songs like "Soup", "Wilt" and "No Rain" and to the present with several cuts from its new album including "Hypnotize", "Cheatum and "Sometimes".

Much in the way early Pearl Jam and Jane's Addiction utilized a song's ebb and flow to ride a wave of tension to its ultimate detonation, Blind Melon surfed the peaks and valleys of its catalog, allowing fans moments of stoked-out bliss to be tempered by the darkness of it's quieter, more introspective songs like "Mouthful of Cavities".

To the fans delight, Blind Melon seemed to play forever, performing well over 2 1/2 hours. After a rousing version of "Time", the band left the stage at 12:30 AM, pushing everyone back into the crisp city night air, only this time with shiteating grins on their faces. Against all odds (and lets face it, death really can crush your odds) Blind Melon has returned, and where they go from here largely depends on the fans' ability to focus on the now and not the past.

At the very least, tonight fans got their favorite band back.

Photos courtesy of BeeMelon.com


Galaxy, 2x4, Toes Across the Floor, For my Friends, Soup, Drive, Paper Scratcher, Sleepyhouse, Sometimes, I Wonder, Last Laugh, Wishing Well, Change, Make a Difference, Hypnotize, Skinned, Soak the Sin, Wilt, No Rain, Pusher

-encore- Mouthful of Cavities, Cheatem, Time

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