Gin Blosssoms, Sugar Ray, Everclear, Lit and Marcy Playground at the Family Arena, 8/7/12: Reviews, Photos and Setlists
Summerland Tour 2012
Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath. Duh. Photo by Jason Stoff
August 7, 2012
"Everyone here will know at least one song by one band tonight," Art Alexakis, lead singer of Everclear, promised early in the evening at last night's Summerland concert at the Family Arena (2002 Arena Parkway, St. Charles; 636-896-4200). Alexakis was correct, although when he forgot the words to his band's 2000 hit "Wonderful" during the group's closing set, it was unclear if he knew at least one song by his own band.
The inaugural Summerland tour brings together Marcy Playground, Lit, Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray and Alexakis' Everclear, who, over four hours, play their biggest, now-erstwhile hits, with Alexakis and Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath playing emcees for the night of '90s alternative rock. During Sugar Ray's set, the second to last of the evening, McGrath, drinking from a Solo red, paused to comment, "There's no real order to the bands onstage," a sentiment of solidarity for certain, but little else. The Summerland lineup staggers bands by their popularity -- or, perhaps a better way to quantify it, the number of chart toppers they amassed at the height of their commercial success.
Thus, Marcy Playground started off the evening, playing nine songs from its catalog including "Devil Woman" and "Special," a bonus track, both on the group's 2009 album Leaving Wonderland...In A Fit of Rage, and songs from its penultimate 1999 self-titled release such as "Poppies," "Saint Joe on a School Bus" and, obviously, "Sex and Candy," which capped the set. Even by the end Marcy Playground, the crowd at the Family Arena had failed to fill out -- it was about 15 percent full -- but, as one would imagine has been the movement of each audience on this seventeen-city tour, people hooted, hollered and helped out with the words during "Sex and Candy," which quickly became the kind of sing-along that shows like this thrive in. It'd be easy for Marcy Playground to rest on the fame of that 1997 uber-hit, but it doesn't, and for those who were in attendance at last night's show, the band turned around a solid set of grungy, alt-rock without schtick or comment.
Marcy Playground. Photo by Jason Stoff
Lit followed Marcy Playground's understated, driving set with a decidedly more amped-up performance. The infectious energy and rock-star spirit of lead singer A. Jay Popoff and bandmates felt copied and pasted from a stage in 1999, which is a roundabout way of staying that Lit have still got it, maybe never lost it. Sponsored by Jagermeister -- and taking swigs of it throughout their set -- the band played fan-favorites from its first release A Place in the Sun, including "Zip-Lock," "Four," "Miserable" and "My Own Worst Enemy," and two songs from its new album View from the Bottom, "Miss You Gone" and "The Broken." Popoff's '90s alt rock meets punk stage presence saw him shirtless early in the band's set and running into the audience and all over the stage, its many platforms and speakers. Hyper-local nostalgia hits hard with Popoff, thanks 105.7 FM the Point for being the first radio station in the country to play the band's demo of "My Own Worst Enemy" and for, "believing in us." The group's sincerity and passion is palpable; they're not Lit from the '90s but just Lit from the now, here to have a good time and make sure the audience has the same. As the band prepares to exit the stage Popoff takes one more pull from the bottle of Jager before inviting the whole of the arena to party with him after the show.
Lit. Photo by Jason Stoff
Like most shows of its kind, Summerland is mostly a well-oiled machine. Within a few quick stage changes, McGrath and Alexakis are back to welcome the Gin Blossoms, which Alexakis says, "Pretty much defined the '90s. They had more hits than anyone." Maybe not entirely accurate, but there's something to the Gin Blossoms meandering melodies and lovelorn lyrics that does well capture that mid-'90s pop-rock sound. During 100.3 FM Gen-X Radio's brief stint in St. Louis listeners were unlikely to make it through one hour of programming without hearing "Hey Jealousy," "Found Out About You," "Til I Hear It From You" or "Follow You Down." At last night's show the band played their hits pitch-perfect and polished, with lead singer Robin Wilson sounding as crisp and crystal clear as he ever did. Before launching into its first song, "Follow You Down," made famous on 1996's Congratulations I'm Sorry, Wilson said, "We're the Gin Blossoms from Tempe, Arizona, and we're here to kick ass and chew bubblegum...and we're out of bubblegum." By itself, that Roddy Piper quote from the 1988 film They Live might be throwaway, but as "Follow You Down" ended, Wilson added, "Thank you so much. I've been doing that schtick for six years, and no one has ever thrown bubblegum onstage before." St. Louis Gin Blossoms fans also came to kick ass and party.
Gin Blossoms. Photo by Jason Stoff
Marcy Playground, Lit and the Gin Blossoms each managed to achieve a stand-alone feeling to their performances, each relying on nothing more than their own strengths and string of hits to define their performances. Not until the second to last act of the evening did it feel like the '90s-a-palooza that Summerland is billed to be, but man, oh man, did Sugar Ray do its best to change that. A departure for certain, Mark McGrath and co. offered as entertaining a show, yet one that erred more on the side of spectacle.