Collective Soul reportedly chose to come to Vancouver to play two shows at the Commodore Ballroom not only during the Olympics, but on opening night! With little pre-promo about the shows, and with most locals attending the Opening Ceremonies or staying home to watch them on TV, tickets for Friday night’s show were still available up till show time. Doors opened just after 8pm and once inside, 2 large screens enabled us to watch the Winter Games festivities in real time. The opening act was delayed until the Olympic Torches were lit, and the Opening Ceremonies concluded amid cheers from the concert goers inside.
Local band, The Veer Union, jumped on stage in high octane, and put in a solid and extremely energetic set; however, as much as I love to see a band move around the stage (instead of standing in one place all night), I found it difficult to watch anyone in the band except for drummer Neil, due to almost too much back and forth. It was dizzying at times, but the energy was sincere and the vocals crisp and clear, and they had the audience eating out of their hand from the very start – singer Crispin, guitarists Eric and Fid, and bassist Roots all engaged audience members with looks, smiles, finger pointing, and the tossing out many guitar picks, free CDs, etc. It was a treat to watch a band playing ‘with’ the audience, not ‘to’ the audience.
A short interlude to break down the equipment and set up for the next band, and suddenly it was ‘Welcome All Again’ as Collective Soul came out in the darkness to a loud response from a somewhat impatient and inebriated crowd. ‘Heavy’ was next, followed by one of my favourite oldies I’ve not seen the band do live before – ‘Listen’. By the time they broke into ‘Why Pt 2’ a small group of 20-something males decided that body slamming to Collective Soul was the order of the day (and I’ve got the bruises to prove it), and they didn’t settle down until after softer song ‘Tremble for my Beloved’ (from the Twilight Soundtrack) was almost done. As one older fan near me put it – Collective Soul adding their song to the movie soundtrack gained them a new generation of fans, both a good and bad thing depending on how those fans act in concert settings.
Front man Ed Roland spent a few moments introducing guitarist Joel Kosche at this point, then gave up the spotlight completely (he actually moved out from under a spotlight and into the darkness by the drum kit) while Joel sang the song he wrote for the band’s Afterwords album, ‘I Don’t Need Any More Friends’. Kosche has come a long way both with his vocal abilities and his lead guitar playing in the last few years, and has really learned how to enjoy being on stage without being as shy or nervous as he was previously. The joy on his face as he plays is infectious.
Ed grabbed his ‘famous’ blue acoustic from a road tech, strummed it and nothing happened. He tried again, still nothing – speaking directly into the mic he asked for his ‘other acoustic’ without missing a beat. A new guitar was brought out and he launched into ‘She Does’, a moving love song written about his wife Michaeline. “Who can light the sky with no sun, no moon, no stars above, who can give me cause to speak, to wish or to believe in love? I tell you my baby she does.”
Back into the heavier rock songs – the band started ‘December’ but Ed had issues with his in-ear monitor to the point he stopped the band, asked the road tech to bring him a new pack, and asked for our indulgence saying he wanted to “get things right.” Sound issues seem to dog this band at every show I’ve been to the last few years… He had to strip off his jacket and scarf to replace the gear, but instead of getting frustrated or embarrassed, tonight for the first time, he treated it as no big deal and his attitude carried over to the band and to the audience. I really believe it was this event that suddenly drew the audience (and the band) together – the rowdies seemed to settle down or disappear altogether and the rest of the audience started to sing along, which pulled the band into wanting to interact with the fans instead of standing in their respective corners simply playing a show. Audience participation and reaction really does determine the tone of what we receive back from a band!
‘Shine’ followed and by this point, band and audience found themselves mutually infatuated with each other – at one point Ed hovered the mic stand over top of us to let us sing “Heaven let your light shine down” for them, his grin a mile wide as we exceeded his expectations.
The blue acoustic appeared again, working fine this time and ‘You’, rumoured to be the next single from their new Self Titled album was up next. Introduced as “the first song the band has written together”, ‘You’ is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard and I did not expect to hear it sung live – it was a rare treat for me and I’m sure for many others in the audience. This song stirs something in me; I don’t know if it’s the music, the lyrics, the promise of love and commitment perhaps – “new sunrise, new sunsets, new promises I haven’t made quite yet to you, it’s always been you” – I will never tire of this song no matter how many times I hear it.
Another oldie ‘Precious Declaration’ from the Disciplined Breakdown album, then ‘Hollywood’ was introduced as “the song we wrote while on tour with a heavy metal band” – a Pop song they were reluctant to let the other band hear in case they were laughed at for singing ‘Pop’ (they weren’t, Ed assured us . The heavy metal band quite liked it). ‘Hollywood’ had the audience jumping in sheer exuberance causing the floor of the Commodore to bounce and shake, and it was good. Deep cuts ‘Needs’ and ‘The World I Know’ provided a small respite for the band, including bassist Will Turpin, drummer Cheney Brannon, and rhythm guitarist Dean Roland, all of whom were sweating from the intensity of their performance. ‘Needs’ is a profoundly emotional song, and both Dean Roland and Will Turpin stood with eyes closed for most of the song, feeling whatever memories were incorporated into the writing of that song.
‘Better Now’ was the last song of the set with us singing ‘the world’s done shaking me down’ as per the usual Collective Soul audience – Ed Roland encouraging us to sing louder by directing us with his hands. Near the end he took his ear monitors out to listen to us sing it for them. The band left the stage together, with us singing their exit song. The lights went out amid cheers for more, and the noise on the wooden venue floor was thunderous.
The band returned for a short encore ; ‘Where the River Flows’, and ‘Run’ and the signature ending to a great show – the band coming out to smile and wave, and shake hands with people in the front row while a glowing Ed serenades us all on the blue acoustic one more time. Ed was the last to leave the stage, singing all the while to finally end the song off stage. Saying goodbye without having to say goodbye face to face.
February 12, 2010
By Donna Mair