There is an inherent risk in seeing any band two nights in a row in the same venue – some bands will change up the set list so as to not repeat the same show, but most won’t. Some bands don’t even change clothes! I had no idea what to expect from Collective Soul’s second Commodore Ballroom show, but the first noticeable difference was the age of the crowd. Less 20-something males, and many more 40-something couples. Even the house music was different – Tom Cochrane, U2, Loverboy – many older tunes were played before the show, tailored by the venue I’m sure, to the crowd’s overall age category.
The Veer Union opened again for the main act, and tonight’s show was better – the energy levels and crisp vocals were superb both nights, but tonight they less resembled ‘ants in your pants’ nervousness; less indiscriminate jumping around and more solid, lasting contact with the audience. All band members had perma-grins on their faces the entire night, and they finished to prolonged applause.
The change over between bands took forever. I could see Collective Soul in the wings waiting – waiting – and still waiting… as was the audience. A drum tech seemed to be tweaking the kit for an eternity but obviously they wanted no repeat of last night’s sound difficulties. Finally, ‘Welcome All Again’ began and the band arrived on stage to thunderous appreciation.
‘Heavy’ and ‘Listen’ followed as they had the previous night, but there was a distinct difference in the energy of the band, in singer Ed Roland’s presentation of the songs – there seemed to be more passion, more feeling about the lyrics than I’ve seen from him in a long time. ‘Tremble’, ‘Why Pt 2’, then Joel Kosche’s time to shine with the song he wrote, ‘I Don’t Need Any More Friends.’ As he had done the previous night, Roland retreated into the darkness to give the spotlight entirely to his lead guitarist, only coming back to the stage front at the end of the song to add his own kudos to those of the audience, encouraging us to cheer and clap even louder. Kosche fairly glowed with pleasurable embarrassment.
Next, a pleasant surprise – Collective Soul is not known for switching up their set list, even when playing two shows back to back in the same geographical area – it’s always been a bit of a sore spot with me as I almost always go to both shows. Tonight ‘She Does’ is replaced with ‘She Said’. One is a tender love song, the other, a commentary of looking back at a life with some regrets, and an understanding that is only gained with maturity… and it’s a song that has lately held special significance to me for a variety of reasons. It’s also another song that has obvious emotional significance to Roland.
‘Shine’ follows, and although the audience again sings the chorus ‘Heaven let your light shine down,’ the overall feel of the song is as different from last night’s rendition as apples are to sushi – and it strikes me that most of the songs chosen for both night’s set lists are the ones that reference the band’s spiritual/Christian background/beliefs. The band has long fought being labeled ‘Christian’ but has never minded speaking about their upbringing within the church; Ed and Dean Roland’s father was a Minister, and the other band members all share a similar childhood. Lately though, the elder Roland has seemed irritated in interviews when asked about his spiritual side, almost to the point of brushing it off as unimportant to him. The songs chosen both nights speak of Heaven, forgiveness, the state of one’s soul, love, Faith, Salvation, Hope when all is hopeless – and tonight Ed sings about all of this unabashedly and without reserve.
‘December’ is next, then another switch up in the set list – ‘Dig’ from their latest Self Titled album keeps the audience participation going with spontaneous fist pumping at the ‘Hey Hey’ parts, as well as singing to the catchy chorus, “first you say you’re up, then you say you’re down.” Ed leads the charge on this purely fun song, using hand signals to let us know which direction we’re going.
‘Precious Declaration’ takes on new meaning tonight; when Ed hits the part “I was blind but now I see, Salvation has discovered me,” it’s obvious he’s holding strong emotions in check. The younger Roland is mirroring the same emotions two steps over from his brother.
‘Hollywood’ doesn’t elicit the same response as the previous night; we sing louder but jump less (our age showing?). It’s still a fun song and tonight there is a twist – Ed prolongs the chorus while the band halts, and tells us that we’d be amazed how many songs share the same three chords. While playing those three chords, drummer Cheney Brannon kicks into a different beat than ‘Hollywood’, and Kosche picks it up on lead guitar amid cheering and whistling – they’ve turned those three chords into an AC/DC song… “well, two of them at any rate,” Ed laughs, before finishing his own song.
‘Needs’ and ‘The World I Know’ see people breaking out cell phones instead of lighters and I wonder how many lives this last song has saved over the years, how many people it has prevented from committing suicide. Scores I would imagine. A testament to the Hope infused into each and every Collective Soul song. Ed finishes the song and I find an arm around my shoulder from the lady beside me that I have just met a few hours before – the power of a shared experience.
As the band falls silent Ed shares a piece of his heart with us. He tells us about growing up a preachers kid, about his father being a minister – a Southern Georgian minister – and how he and brother Dean grew up listening to their father preach not just on Sundays, but nearly every day, as he wrote his sermons and practiced them in that ‘minister’s voice’ that he used. Ed tells us how, when he read the lyrics to one of the very first songs he wrote, he realized that he had written a sermon, and how he was excited to share it with his father. And he wanted to share it with us, but in his father’s voice – that Southern Georgian minister’s voice. And so he did!
“Color me any color,” comes out in a rush, in the voice of an impassioned preacher at an old time gospel revival tent meeting, as Ed speaks the lyrics of the song.
“Speak to me in tongues and share,” said quieter, slower, introverted.
“Tell me how you’d love to hate me, tell me how you’d love to care,” the words fairly spat out with feigned contempt.
“Well I just want to shake us up, shake us up,” complete with hand gestures out over our heads, and it is electrifying.
The song of course is ‘Gel’, the one Collective Soul song that I have never felt connected to and have wished they’d retire from the set list for quite some time. As Ed and the band pick it up musically, I am still in semi-shock. Stunned not only by a new appreciation and understanding of the song, but by the intimate and unreserved way in which he shared this song’s beginnings, shared a piece of his faith with us. For the first time ever, I am singing this one along with the band.
One song left in the set, ‘Better Now’ and the band’s energy doesn’t falter; in fact, they kick it up a notch, most notably rhythm guitarist Dean Roland who fairly dances through the entire song much to the delight of those on his side of the crowd. In fact, Dean has been dancing off and on all evening and moving around on the stage to interact with bassist Will Turpin and drummer Cheney Brannon and it’s been good to see him not rooted to his pedal board.
The band comes back for a three song encore – last night’s encore was cut short due to late start after the Olympics. Ed asks us if we can whistle and I know ‘Fuzzy’ is up first. They played this one in Kamloops last year and the whistling at the beginning of the song was lost in the cavernous arena. At the time I didn’t think it translated well live. Tonight however, the sound is spot on, sharp and loud, and I can hear Ed and Will’s whistling as perfectly as if I was standing beside them. Even when Will forgets to chip in with the whistles in the chorus, I can still hear Ed strong and clear. The end of the song is a kick – literally. A kick ass drum solo by Brannon and finished by a ‘yeah’ from him from behind the plexi, and ‘Fuzzy’ is a bonus song I’m glad I got to hear again.
‘Where the River Flows’ and ‘Run’ round out the encore. Before ‘Run’ Ed talks to us one last time, telling us how much he loves Vancouver, how much they all love Vancouver, and thanks us for giving them a good life. “God bless you,” are his parting words as he strums the blue acoustic to start the song. As we sing the last chorus for the band, they say their goodbyes. But where last night they smiled, waved and left quickly, tonight they linger, shake hands with as many people in the front row as they possibly can, toss a few guitar picks to people further out in the crowd, and seem reluctant to leave the stage. Cheney comes out with drumsticks, tosses two out to the audience, sees the lady beside me and smiles in recognition then leans out as far as he dare, and hands the third stick to her personally. I won’t say who got the fourth drum stick.
I’ve seen many Collective Soul shows in the last four years. While the odd few have missed the mark, most have been really good, some spectacular; this band always tries to do their best for the audience at hand despite the hectic travel schedules, despite fighting the flu, despite sound issues on venue systems or their own – they are conscientious about giving as much as they can, as often as they can. This show was different though. Intense. Unique. The lyrics to the songs were being felt, not just sung – you could see it in the faces of each band member, in Ed’s face – and I’ve not seen that for some time. Ed spoke openly of his upbringing and his faith, with no embarrassment, and the audience listened and responded back with warmth and acceptance. I think this band has found themselves… has embraced their roots and come to terms with the contradiction between ‘rock and roll’ and spirituality/faith. Whatever it is, it’s the best Collective Soul show I’ve ever seen – one of the best experiences of my life.
February 13, 2010
By Donna Mair