By: David Basteri
Blind Melon :: 04.27.08 :: The Other Side :: Tulsa, OK
Without a doubt, Blind Melon is back! The much-loved, often-maligned psychedelic rocking folksters have finally put their trepidations about reforming minus their departed, iconic frontman behind them, while rediscovering the magic of their all-is-one music.
The near capacity crowd of "Melon Heads" was honestly quite surprising given the breadth of negative press and cranky attitude of many hardcore fans. There is a vocal group of folks who are angry at their former heroes for having the balls to reform THEIR band a dozen or so years after the sudden death of lead singer Richard 'Shannon' Hoon due to a cocaine overdose just months after their sophomore release, Soup. Well, Blind Melon's brief catalog was always credited as written by "Blind Melon as One," and while one might be gone, the other ones, the four left standing, holding the proverbial "what the fuck do we do now?" torch are still, quite alive and kicking.
In fact, founding member Brad Smith brought the whole "balls" thing into perspective right before the second song of the night, "2 X 4," announcing to the crowd, declaring really, just who had the biggest balls in the room that night. Those juevos belonged to new Blind Melon singer/uber-fan Travis Warren, the man with the unenviable task of replacing one of music's favorite sons. Taking the stage to a raucous ovation, much love and smiles from wall-to-wall, the band wasted no time in assailing the fervent crowd with "Galaxie," fittingly a song about settling comfortably into one's own shoes. Given the state of the apprehension surrounding their reformation, the song was a perfect opener and set the tone for the evening.
Four songs in and the band unveiled the title track from their new album with Warren, For My Friends, and by the time they belted a gut-wrenching version of the mesmerizing "Soup" it was more than clear that the band and their legions were tunneling into a sustained, "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family" vibe!
The drums, Wurlitzer, strings and lap steel were in full force, as was the "new guy" who sweated, channeled and rocked the stage. He evoked his idols Maynard Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle) and Hoon, of course, more than once throughout the two-hour-plus set with his presence and mannerisms - talking back to the crowd (a lot), disappearing behind the drum kit whilst singing songs about serial killers ("Skinned"), bad breath ("Wilt"), drug detox ("2 X 4") and simplicity ("Sometimes").
And when you're deepest thoughts are broken
Keep on dreaming, boy
Because when you stop dreaming it's time to die
Blind Melon were truly pioneers, yet the untimely loss of their leader seemed to steal back much of their power and allow space for the world to forget the alt-rock-folk-freak trail they blazed. Widely credited with helping to foster the atmosphere that led to the emergence of a "jam band scene," Blind Melon is more than willing and capable these days of shredding with short (two-to-four minute) psychedelic, country rock jams, like a less hairy version of The Black Crowes with way shorter songs.
Blind Melon - 2008
It's been said before and I'll say it again: the humility and "big balls" on the new guy is just what the doctor ordered for the fans and "their" band. Warren's humility took shape all night, but never more so than when he was telling the crowd that he too would rather be in the stands watching Hoon onstage rather than taking his place.
"I understand that everyone is not going to get this and doesn't agree with Blind Melon reforming," Warren wrote on the band's MySpace page. "And believe it or not, I honestly understand and I don't look down on them."
In one of Warren's more warming and open moments with the crowd, the singer-guitarist led the enthralled masses in that sunny, catchy song about a girlfriend's confusing depression "No Rain." A rousing rendition of "Pusherman" from the posthumously released Nico followed, reminding us that the pusherman don't really care if you live or if you die. Fitting, methinks.
The three-song encore began with a spot-on revisit to the classic "Mouthful Of Cavities" ('Your soul's a bowl of jokes') complete with female accompaniment true to the album version. I'm pretty sure this young lady, with only a hint of nervousness apparent was a local from Tulsa but she bolted for the exit as soon as the house lights went up before I could get her name.
The faithful devoted (and maybe even some newcomers) saluted their fallen, and now risen, saviors well after the show was over.
I can't tell you how many ways that I've sat
And viewed my life today, but I can tell you
I don't think that I can find easier way
So if I see you walking hand in hand in hand
With a three-armed man, you know I'll understand
But you should have been in my shoes yesterday
You should have been in my shoes yesterday
4.27.08 :: The Other Side :: Tulsa, OK
(Intro-Hello Goodbye), Galaxie, 2 X 4, Toes Across The Floor, For My Friends, Soup, Drive, Paper Scratcher, Sleepyhouse, Sometimes, I Wonder, Last Laugh, Wishing Well, Change, Hypnotized, Tumblin' Down, Skinned, Soak, Wilt, No Rain, Pusherman
Encore: Mouthful Of Cavities, Down On The Pharmacy, Time
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