Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The best concert I ever saw

The Living End was the opening band and it's always been wild to me that they aren't the biggest band in the universe. Pop, rock, punk and rockabilly in a blender. Chris Cheney is one of the planet's best songwriters and guitar soloists. The bassist plays a stand-up, for fuck's sake. They tore through hit after hit. "Prisoner of Society." "Who's Gonna Save Us." "Roll On." And on and on. The crowd went nuts.

Time to rock and roll.

Next up was Jet. This is the band most of the people in the audience came to see. They were riding high on the success of the singalong classic "Are You Going To Be My Girl." And with just one major album under their belt, pretty much everybody in the audience could chant the chorus to every song they played.

Jet wrapped up their set with an extended rock and roll jam. From out of nowhere, Cheney walked back onstage, guitar in hand, and started positively shredding. You could feel how much the two bands liked and respected each other. It was the perfect end to the show.

Except it wasn't the end. Because the headliner that night wasn't Jet. It was The Vines.

Now, The Vines debut album was a goddamn landmark. Grungy and raw, yet polished and hooky. They were the messiahs come to save rock and roll. But their just-released follow-up felt totally different. Frontman Craig Nicholls had taken the group in a spacier, dreamier direction.

As soon as Jet unplugged, half the audience and all the energy left The Ogden. And as The Vines creeped into one mellow groove after another, more and more people filtered out. The few that remained began heckling the band. The guy behind me screamed, "For the love of god, why won't you rock?" But unbeknownst to the audience, Nicholls' marijuana habit, fast food addiction and Asperger Syndrome (thoroughly documented on Wikipedia) were all peaking. He had zero interest in playing the songs that made him famous.

After the fourth song, the band began to bicker. Nicholls stamped his foot, threw his guitar at his bassist, and stormed offstage. After a few seconds of whispering, the rest of The Vines followed.

Confusion. Was the concert over? Did anyone care? Were the lights going to come on? We stood there awkwardly for several minutes. Then the band reappeared, strapped in, and just fucking exploded through "Get Free" louder and faster than anything you've ever seen.

Oh my god, it was so awesome.

Then The Vines walked back off and the lights came on. Show over. "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

I've seen some great shows. The White Stripes on the Elephant tour. A double bill of The Pixies and The Cure. The one and only Rage Against The Machine. But only once did I ever see anything that felt unrehearsed, unpredictable and unrepeatable.

It was a fucking mess. And it was easily the best concert I ever saw.

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