I had the pleasure of attending the incessantly hyped Star 98.7 Fan Nation 2 concert this past Saturday [April 27, 2002] in Irvine, California. Overall it was a damn fine show. The afternoon unfolded as follows...
Wading through the crowd of bling-bling teen girls and Orange County folk, our party of 4 - my wonderful girlfriend Micah, my old band-mate Chris, and my friend Deanna - filed up the concrete path to the amphitheater on this muggy-turned-sunny afternoon. One could not help but notice the gargantuan billboard of Jamie (Jamie and Danny show) lying face up, back arched, wearing nothing but a Hawaiian lay and lingerie, with her hands on her, well, you knows. Alrighty then. Only in OC.
After purchasing our respective ten-dollar (yes, ten) alcoholic beverages, we found our row in the orchestra section, which was surprisingly close to the stage. Feeling like the luckiest peeps alive - these were free tickets, a gift from one of the performers themselves - we settled into our seats.
Having missed the band Ruby Horse (they have a single, Sparkle, which personally does jack for me musically), and ignoring the mostly irritating - with the exception of the most amusing Ryan Seacrest - commentary from the Star DJs between acts (although the T-shirt launchers were legendary), the show unfolded, in this pecking order... if my faintly fogged memory serves me correctly.
His charisma, wit and a Dave Matthews-esque style rocked. His neck was bobbing like a turtle the whole time he jammed. He actually looks just like the character David Jillespie from the now-discontinued WB teen series Jack and Jill. Good looking kid. So much so that my girlfriend seemed to be watching the performance a little too closely. What really surprised me was how well-educated and bright he came off, for a guy as laid back as he seemed. He offered extremely funny commentary and explained his songs and lack of abilities to pick up girls (riiiiight). The crowd response seemed almost rehearsed, and everyone remaining seated during his set. They ate it up. His label must be loving him right about now, the guy covers every angle. Good songwriting too, although he could venture out of his breathy vocal comfort zone (mostly chest voice) more often e.g. as he does during the line, "at the top of my lungs."
Whoops, missed this full-fledged rockstar, although I hear that Elton John loves this kid, at least that is what every press mention says. He came out again briefly to join Sheryl Crow, looking like Mr. Tough-guy, cocky swagger, without uttering a word, smoking a cigarette the whole time. What a great example to the kids. As I returned to my seat, I did catch the Strokes - or rather Ryan Adams covering the Strokes - play one last song, proceed to throw down a guitar (apparently the crowd response was not up to par), proclaim that "this is the future of rock 'n' roll," and storm off stage. Did I miss something?
Five For Fighting
An outstanding songwriter, John Ondrasik gave a heartfelt, emotional performance. He was my personal favorite, although it was too early in the day for the crowd to appreciate his sincere tone. They remained seated during this set as well. It was still fairly bright in the amphitheater, and the sun was just beginning to set. I was particularly impressed by the consistency of the vocals, especially the strength of his headvoice (higher notes). He explained a few songs, and one about divorce from the standpoint of a small child stood out. His skills on the ivories (well, maybe it was a Korg Keyboard, hehe) left little to be desired. At times he whirled the guitar, still on it's strap, behind his back to play piano lines. His more upbeat songs could use a little variety, however, in terms of chord changes. No breakthrough chord patterns here. Still, it was a memorable and moving set.
Goo Goo Dolls
Ala Sugar Ray, these guys know where they fit in, and do not take themselves too seriously. I respect that. I actually caught the band earlier (strategically missing Ryan Adams' set) on a side stage, during an interview with Seacrest (the DJ was getting mobbed himself… I literally saw security save him from a sea of chikas). Answering questions, including "will you kiss my lesbian girlfriend," Johnny Rzeznick (frontman) of the Goo Goo Dolls goofed around and had a blast, which is probably exactly what I would have done in his shoes. As a whole the band were very much humble guys. Back to the main stage...
Per usual, the Goo Goos' set was flooded with hooky sing-along pop rock ballads and mid-tempo songs - the crowd chimed in on almost every one. This band cranks out the hits, nothing new in their formula, and it works. Well, a little cheesy. Of all the acts, these guys appeared to be having the most fun, especially the bassist who scampered around stage like a loose animal. Even in the midst of technical problems - the acoustic guitar was barely audible at first - Rzeznick played it off like a pro. People were up out of their seats the whole set. Dusk had settled in by this point, and the smoke machines were in full effect as well, a true rock concert. One thing my girlfriend noticed, which greatly amused me, was the fact that anyone (e.g. stunt body doubles) could have been on stage claiming to be the Goo Goo Dolls. This was due mostly to the fact that their lengthy glam-rock bangs revealed very little of their faces. Think Cousin It.
Having taken many a stage myself, I feel that I can sense a bad vibe. Although the audience was more than gracious - I suspect most fans were there for Sheryl or just drunk by that point - something did not vibe. She had a flattering introduction from the starring character (Will) of Will and Grace. She had multiple guest musicians, including Ryan Adam, who literally looked like Austin Powers with a trying-really-hard rock makeover, join her onstage during her set. She even had instruments like Cello and violin backing her up. And still, amidst her numerous recognizable radio hits, I just was not feeling it. The performance felt forced. With a cape-like throw wrapped around her as she played her set, she explained that she co-wrote one song with Lenny Kravitz and then jokingly said he could not be here to perform it with her. Bad delivery. Not funny. Well I have to give her some credit, someone chose her to headline and everyone (including me) was standing and half-dancing by this point. Alas, where was Jewel, scheduled to perform until she broke a rib and her collarbone, when Star 98.7 listeners needed her most?
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