Collective Soul channels Peter Gabriel-era Genesis at the Commodore in Vancouver

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 21, 1995

It’s a good thing that the folks who own the Underground—that slightly twisted clothes and accessories shop located underneath the Commodore Ballroom—had the foresight to install loosely secured windows that give with vibration, because those big panes were given a serious shaking by Vancouver rock fans last Thursday (September 14).

Folks cruising Granville Mall during Collective Soul’s sold-out show were stopping to watch the dancing glass in wonder; it may have been the closest they’ll ever get to the effect of a real earthquake (touch wood).

The actual fault line was located one floor up, though, somewhere between the rowdy, sweat-soaked crowd and the stage occupied by singer-songwriter Ed Roland and his four bandmates.

Taking the stage in shades and a black leather jacket—I guess he’s used to the heat, being from the South—Roland led the band through “Simple”, the aptly titled opening track from its sophomore CD, and seemed genuinely surprised and pleased by the wild bouncing the tune’s snaky guitar riff immediately provoked in the frantic floor crowd.

It’s nice for a change to see a “rock star” who’s not afraid to smile as if he means it, and the broadly grinning Roland appeared overjoyed throughout a set highlighted by killer versions of the hits “Shine”, “Gel”, and “Smashing Young Man”. On some of its newer material, Collective Soul creates a sound that is weirdly reminiscent of Peter Gabriel–era Genesis, with melodic guitars taking the place of Tony Banks’s layered keyboards. The band’s progressive touches are smartly entwined with AC/DC-ish headbanger riffs, and the result is a highly potent rock brew.

The gig also benefited from one of the most impressive light shows ever seen at the Commodore: well-choreographed spotlights combined with psychedelic images flashed on a background sheet to keep the visual highs on a par with the aural ones.

My only complaint about the show has to do with certain portions of the crowd. I don’t know whether it was mostly beer-crazed college kids letting loose after the first week back in class, but there were more hooligans than usual carousing about. Maybe the grating noise of opening act Rusty had loosened a few bolts upstairs; maybe they were celebrating the fact that they managed to score coveted tickets to the show in the first place.

Whatever it was, I had to dodge one oversize dork pogoing brainlessly in the cramped men’s room (“I was up there goin’ like this!”), then witness two other semihumans violently banging their foreheads together in front of the upstairs bar. I figured a clever band like Collective Soul would attract a slightly more sophisticated crowd; as it was, it seemed as if I’d taken a wrong turn and wound up at a Lee Aaron show or something.

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