Tuesday, September 28, 2010

KROQ Epicenter Fest review - Day 2

A slightly different version of my review originally appeared in the Orange County Register and can be viewed here:
Thirty Seconds to Mars photo of Jered Leto (above) by Kelly Swift.

Epicenter Twenty Ten
Where: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, CA
When: Sept. 26

Epicenter Twenty Ten boasted some heavy hitters on Day One, but Sunday’s lineup – focusing on punk rock, its various permutations, plus several fine alt-rock acts - was equally strong. 

The blistering triple digit heat continued and made trudging back and forth between the main and side stages a chore (everything could’ve been a lot worse; at Warped Tour and Coachella, the rosters and location sizes are multiplied). Early arrivals basically chose to stay put at the larger of the two areas. They ended up missing a few great groups in the process. 

Although an event spokesperson said the Auto Club Speedway attendance was near 30,000 people, waits for the concession and restroom lines were reasonable. A majority of concertgoers stuck around for blink-182’s event closing set.

Last year, the pop/punk trio reunited and toured for the first time in five years. Epicenter served as their only North American concert appearance of 2010 following a summer European trek. Singer/bassist Mark Hoppus admittedly fluffed a couple indiscernible notes and singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge seemed unusually screechy amid “First Date,” but overall the guys sounded tight.

Drummer (and Fontana native) Travis Barker proved particularly adept throughout, whether he was pounding syncopated beats (“Feeling This”), shuffling rhythms (“I Miss You”), intense workouts (synth-enhanced “Stockholm Syndrome”; the encore solo) or simply being a thunderous anchor (“Stay Together for the Kids”).

Back in the late ‘90s, before superstardom arose, Hoppus sang, “I guess this is growing up” on first hit “Dammit.” Not when it comes to performing their tunes live. While the blink-182 repertoire contains the occasional profanity, DeLonge, 34, still takes every opportunity to inject potty humor into the lyrics and between song banter.

Sometimes uncomfortably so: his crude sexual joke about President Obama last month at England’s Leeds Festival made the international music news rounds. Yet that irreverence seems to endear blink-182 to its fans. Indeed, a bunch of young guys next to me really enjoyed each time DeLonge did it at Epicenter. Lest anyone think blink-182 are lightweights, fast and furious takes on “Not Now,” “All the Small Things” and “The Rock Show” came across otherwise.

Each time the vocalists for Rise Against and Bad Religion asked the audience whether it was ready for the headliner, you could sense a slight derision in their tone. Both melodic hardcore bands make serious music that challenges the listener to ponder the world at large.

For its final gig of a mammoth world tour (and only one in California this year) for 2008’s “Appeal to Reason,” Rise Against turned in a razor sharp 75-minute set that rarely wavered in intensity.

Taking the stage to a female voice intoning “these people are nuts,” the Chicago foursome came out with all guns blazing on “Collapse (Post-Amerika)” and was riveting during an ebullient “The Dirt Whispered.” Raspy voiced front man Tim McIlrath roamed the stage with authority. Guitarist Zach Blair served up searing leads on “Long Forgotten Sons” as well as popular radio hits “Savior” and eerily intense “Prayer of the Refugee” (the latter two whipped concertgoers into a fist pumping frenzy).     

McIlrath also shone amid acoustic takes on “Swing Life Away” (fans should check out the amazing version on Rise Against’s DVD “Another Station: Another Mile,” due out Oct. 5) and realistic snapshot “Hero of War.”

Bad Religion, the elder punk statesmen on the bill, are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their first show (in Fullerton with Social Distortion). Solid studio album “The Dissent of Man,” which tweaks the trademark sound a bit, is in stores now. Among the new tracks performed, “The Devil in Stitches” found bassist Jay Bentley getting a prominent spotlight onstage, and the breakneck speed of “The Resist Stance” was prefaced by singer Graffin ruminating about changes in the punk scene. Elsewhere, the group - guitarist Brett Gurewitz was inexplicably absent from the lineup – delivered satisfying workmanlike punk takes on “Generator” and KROQ hits “20th Century Digital Boy,” “American Jesus,” “Sorrow,” “Infected” and “Los Angeles is Burning.” 

Jared Leto sure has the showmanship aspect down to a science with Thirty Seconds to Mars. He makes big, grand musical statements too: the alternative-meets-prog rock songs from last year’s “This is War” average five minutes in length and look to Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails for inspiration. At Epicenter, the stage was adorned with a large block symbol and six taiko styled drummers who pounded away to launch the dramatic “Escape.”

Looking sharp in bleached white hair and jacket to match (later, he would joke about sporting a “desert rat mullet”), Leto made audience interaction a priority, continually prodding people to jump, sing, etc. At times, he interrupted his own singing to shout commands. Vocally, he did well moving from a low croon to high wails.

Standouts included “Search and Destroy,” bolstered by the wavering Edge-styled guitar sounds of Tomo Milicevic (he wore a surgical mask for the first few songs; maybe the exhaust billowing from a Monster Energy Drink truck bothered him), a stripped down version of “The Kill,” dense and industrial “Closer to the Edge” (where Leto doused people with a water hose) and soaring, pseudo gospel closer “Kings and Queens.” Leto invited dozens of people onstage for the last song and it became a free-for-all.

Florida’s politically-minded punkers Against Me! utilized a more streamlined sound on their excellent latest album “White Crosses,” but it doesn’t diminish their usual fire and aggression. That was especially true live as gravel voiced leader Tom Gabel and company tore through several of those songs with winning results (“I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” “High Pressure Low,” “Suffocation,” “White Crosses”), not to mention the Social D-styled “White People for Peace” and “Thrash Unreal” off 2007’s “New Wave.” No wonder they are a favorite of Bruce Springsteen. Bonus points for the amps sporting lyrics.

Earlier in the day, pleasant Illinois punk/pop group The Academy Is… kicked off the main stage proceedings with a set hampered by a truly horrendous sound mix that drowned out most of the vocals. That didn’t stop front man (and Zac Efron lookalike) William Beckett and the musicians from doing energetic versions of “About a Girl,” “Same Blood” and “Slow Down.”

Biffy Clyro routinely sells out arenas in its native Scotland and acclaimed 2009 Mercury Music Prize-nominated “Only Revolutions” went platinum in the UK. The album finally arrives Stateside tomorrow. Unfortunately, only about 75 people wandered over to the side stage to witness the trio’s equally incendiary and heartfelt performance that often channeled Foo Fighters. Why these guys weren’t on the main stage is baffling. Still, scraggly singer/guitarist Simon Neil (hair completely covering his face) and his band mates gave it their all. The aptly titled “Bubbles” features Josh Homme on disc; here it soared with a circuitous guitar riff. “Mountains” and “The Captain” were equally enthralling. A pleasant surprise.

Frenetic Brooklyn-via-Copenhagen three-piece (yes, another one) New Politics came across like a cross between Beastie Boys and Weezer. And it worked. Playing to a sparse crowd, David Boyd did handstands and the splits between mini rap cadences and herky jerky moves. Fans started a small slam pit during the fast “We Are the Radio,” “Love is a Drug” and “Yeah Yeah Yeah” had a psychotic edge and “New Generation” showed their socially conscious side. One to watch.

Venice hardcore veterans Suicidal Tendencies drew a large, mosh-happy crowd during a harrowing closing side stage set that included signature 1983 song “Institutionalized.” Screamo group A Day to Remember had a huge following, who reveled in tunes from latest album “Homesick” like “The Downfall of Us All.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Steve Miller Band concert review - Corona, CA

Live photo and review by George A. Paul; backstage photo by Ron Lyon

On Friday night, the Steve Miller Band played a sold out benefit show for the Fender Center/Kids Rock Free music education program.

KLOS-FM/Los Angeles deejays Uncle Joe Benson and Cynthia Fox were both on hand to serve as emcees for the event. Plenty of money for the worthy cause was raised via admissions, donations and a music memorabilia auction (one unique electric guitar designed like an early Miller album cover went for $5000).

Early VIP arrivals were treated to soothing music by classical guitarist - and Fender Center staffer - Lee Zimmer. The Fender Benders, comprised of teen musicians from the Kids Rock Free program, was the opening act. They played impressive rock covers by Journey, Heart and Pat Benatar.

The concert ran for more than two hours and was packed with plenty of classic rock radio staples, including a major chunk of best seller "Fly Like an Eagle" and ample R&B/blues covers (Bobby "Blue" Bland, Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, Jimmie Vaughn) - several of which are heard on new studio album "Bingo!"

In a brief interview beforehand, Miller told me it was a blast recording two albums' worth of covers that he used to play while growing up in Texas. Miller also said he initially approached the record company about putting them all out on a box set alongside the original versions (which still could happen). The follow up to "Bingo!" is due in 2011.

Miller and his band were tight as ever onstage, led by the singer/guitarist's sizzling fretwork and still honeyed singing. All the songs included smooth backing vocals from former '60s soul vocalist Sonny Charles (ex-Checkmates), a fairly recent addition to the touring band, who is also quite the dancer.

Toward the latter part of the set, Miller espoused the virtues of Kids Rock Free, future nationwide expansion plans and new coordinating efforts with Jens Moe of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Miller was presented with an official plaque by Corona City Councilman Eugene Montanez proclaiming it Steve Miller Week in the IE city. The Fender Center's outdoor stage - previous host to concerts by Paul Rodgers and many others over the years - was rechristened the Steve Miller TLC Amphitheatre.

Several teenage KRF guitarists joined the Miller Band on "Rockin' Me," "Fly Like an Eagle," "Swingtown," "Space Cowboy" and "Jungle Love."

Setlist: Jet Airliner/Take the Money and Run/Mercury Blues/Hey Yeah/Come On Let the Good Times Roll/Blues Without Blame/Further on Up the Road/Can't Be Satisfied/Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma/Seasons/Wild Mountain Honey/Dance Dance Dance/The Joker/Abracadabra/Ooh Poo Pah Doo/Tramp/Don't Cha Know/Serenade/The Stake/Living in the USA/Rockin' Me/Fly Like an Eagle/Swingtown/Space Cowboy/Jungle Love

Thanks to Lauren Mele, Paki Newell and Jean Sievers for their help with the review.

Charlatans UK tour postponed

For those of you not in the know: Yes, the Britpop band is still around. They've never stopped and just released a solid new studio album, "Who We Touch." Here's info on the tour situation, which included shows next week in Costa Mesa and L.A.

The Charlatans' US tour has been postponed, following the collapse of drummer Jon Brookes during a gig at Philadelphia’s Johnny Brenda’s club on Wednesday night.

Brookes is being flown back to England for further treatment, although is currently in a comfortable condition, and the band promise to keep everyone informed as and when the situation develops. The Charlatans are very upset at not being able to continue the tour but hope to reschedule the dates as soon as possible.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Bingo" tour brings Steve Miller back to OC

Tickets are still available for JACK FM's 5th Show on Saturday at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine.

Steve Miller Band headlines the radio concert, also featuring The Cult, The Fixx, Night Ranger, Skid Row, Modern English and Sweet. Prices are $35-$122.65 and available at The event begins at 2 p.m.

(To check out my OC Register concert review of Miller when he played Pacific Amphitheatre in August 2009, go to my blog archives and search for the date)

This past June, Miller released "Bingo!," his first all-new studio album in 17 years, on Space Cowboy/Roadrunner Records. It was co-produced by Miller and Andy Johns (Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix) and was the initial of two albums recorded at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch.

The sessions introduced newest band member Sonny Charles, a veteran vocalist of the Checkmates who is also part of the touring band. The live show stage design was done by acclaimed Broadway director Rob Roth.

"Bingo!" evokes Miller's early days on the Chicago blues/rock scene and includes covers tunes by Jimmie Vaughn ("Don't Cha Know"), B.B. King ("Rock Me Baby"), Otis Rush ("All Your Love"), Lowell Fusion ("Tramp") and others.

Guitarist Joe Satriani (lately of Chickenfoot) does guest solos on "Rock Me Baby" and "Sweet Soul Vibe," a Vaughn/Nile Rodgers co-write.

The amazing album artwork should look familiar to classic - especially prog - rock fans, as it was created by the renown Storm Thorgerson, known for his work on album packages for Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

Bonus tracks on the deluxe version of "Bingo!" consists of tunes popularized by Jimmy Reed ("Ain't That Lovin' You Baby"), Bobby 'Blue' Bland ("Further On Up the Road"), Elmore James ("Look on Yonder Wall") and Junior Parker ("Driving Wheel").

Steve Miller Band to perform in IE for "Kids Rock Free"

Rock singer/guitar legend Steve Miller will perform a sold out show this Friday at the Fender Center in Corona, Calif. to spotlight a new donation by text campaign, which raises money and awareness for music education at the facility.

The campaign benefits Kids Rock Free programs at Fender Center, providing free and low-cost music lessons to students age 7-17. Miller, a trustee for the Fender Center KRF program, urged his fans and fellow artists to donate money to expand the Kids Rock Free school nationwide.

Steve Miller Band is expected to welcome Kids Rock Free guitar student Dillon Brown, a freshman at Santiago High School in Corona, onstage at the IE show during “Fly Like An Eagle.”

"In my opinion the Fender Museum and music school is the best designed and operated community music program in the country," said Miller in a prepared statement.

"It was built for a reasonable amount of money, it is self- sustaining and it focuses on teaching music by involving parents and children in a way that inspires and rewards good work," he continued. "That is why I have performed three benefit concerts for the school and donated substantially to the program. It works. It is the best community project I’ve ever seen and is a model for the rest of the country to emulate."

Supporters of Kids Rock Free can make a $10 donation directly from their mobile phone by texting ROCK to 50555. A one-time $10 donation will be added to mobile bills; messaging and data rates may apply.

The Fender Center for Music Education is a non-profit center dedicated to the music education of children. The 33,000-square-foot building is run by the Fender Museum of Music and the Arts Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 corporation.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stephen Kellogg & Sixers interview

My feature originally appeared in the North County Times newspaper and can be viewed here:

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers perform on Wednesday at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach and Thursday at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

Photo courtesy of Vanguard Records. To purchase the new live album and see the cool video to "Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts," go to

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers have a reputation for freewheeling shows where everyone onstage usually swaps instruments - and plays them well - at some point.

“The perfect storm of our personalities has always made for a loose and improvisational, but heartfelt mix,” explained singer/guitarist Kellogg, en route to a concert in Cape Cod. “It was one thing we all really agreed on, early on. We had slightly different ideas about where it would go, but over time, the sound evolved into an Americana/rock ‘n’ roll thing.”

A prime example is the new “Live from the Heart” album recorded last April in New York City during the Massachusetts quartet’s 1000th show. Many fans flew in from across the country.

For Kellogg, the special occasion represented “all the hours we spent together and the depth of friendship that I feel for these guys – it was a big deal…that night we all felt the love.”

Last year, more listeners than ever became acquainted with the group (commonly known as SK6ERS) thanks to jubilant, life affirming single “Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts,” which reached the top 20 on Billboard’s Adult Rock chart.

Kellogg first met bassist/keyboardist Kit Karlson when both were UMass Amherst students, but didn’t form the band until 2003 with drummer/fellow alum Brian Factor. The singer already put out a few solo albums independently. SK6ERS – rounded out by recent recruit Sam “Steamer” Getz on lead guitar - released an eponymous second disc through Universal Records in ’05; the critically acclaimed “Glassjaw Boxer” emerged two years later on O.A.R.’s Everfine label.

Latest Vanguard Records album “The Bear” is the strongest SK6ERS effort to date. Coming across like a reflective mix of Wilco, Counting Crows and The Band, Kellogg said it was the first time their live energy was truly harnessed in the studio.

“We’ve always done most of our recordings playing live. The difference on ‘The Bear’ is we kept all the performances [and didn’t tinker with things]…sometimes it sounds like we’re rushing or singing off key. But it sounds like us, which was really satisfying.”

Crafted in NYC apartment and rural Maine farmhouse studios, “The Bear” includes notable guest appearances by Josh Ritter, Juno Award-winning Canadian vocalist Serena Ryder and former Whiskeytown multi-instrumentalist Mike Daly.

The old school recording style and tight budget led to economizing choices. “If you wanted to remix, there was no computer to call it up.”

Lyrically, the semi-autobiographical songs progress chronologically from adolescent to middle age concerns. “It’s about being between 20 years old - when you’re still a kid - and 40 – when you’re officially an adult - and reconciling that transition. Going from calling your parents for advice to being somebody’s parent, that’s a big job,” explained Kellogg, 33, a married father of two.

“It starts with the story of a hopeful couple and by the time you get to the last track, you’re taking stock of what’s happened.”

A distinct early 1970s singer-songwriter aesthetic envelops “Dying Wish of a Teenager,” sung from the perspective of a kid who commits suicide. Among several first time co-writes between Kellogg, his bandmates and Daly that took the singer out of his usual comfort zone, it has a “weird riff and groove. Those were choices I’d never make left to my own devices. What was exciting about writing with the guys was pushing myself and growing.”

Snappy, piano-led tune “All Part of the Show” revisits classic music hall territory. High flying countrified harmonies elevate the aging parent tune “My Old Man.” Then there’s “Lonely in Columbus,” a stark, atmospheric Springsteen-esque song about being stranded in a parking lot.

Folky “Mabeline” starts as a Peter Case-styled drug cautionary tale before morphing into an extended conclusion. “We fell off our stools at the end of that...we figured if you’re on track 12 of our [nearly] hour-long record, you’re invested enough that you can take a four-minute jam.”

Quietly dramatic closer “Born in the Spring” delves into rebirth and finds Kellogg singing about traveling across the country to spread the word about SK6ERS “from south San Diego to Portland, Maine.”

“You know the little joint Lestat’s? They gave us our first gig down there,” he said of this region. "We played for about 12 people. Not that we’re so huge now, but those tours were super modest in the beginning. Right out of the box, we said ‘we’re taking it everywhere.’

In 2009, the group embarked on some really long haul jaunts during a tour of military bases in the Middle East, Europe (including Germany with Sugarland), the American Embassy in Israel and NATO bases in England and the Netherlands.

“It was a great chance for us to let the troops know how much they’re appreciated. Politics aside, those young people in many cases are over there working really hard doing what they believe is the right thing. That adds so much value to what we do – to go over and entertain them…you feel like an ambassador to your country for a minute.”

Q&A with Stephen Kellogg

Here are more excerpts from my interview:

You have an open taping policy for your headline shows. Do you think that fosters a closer sense of community with the fans?
I hope so. I was a bit of a Deadhead growing up and I always liked that. There was never any question that we were going to do that. Now it’s easy to get music around. Rather than fight what is, I like the idea of just saying, 'we’re going to occasionally release official live stuff, by all means, tape it, spread it around.' If there are people that can be touched by the music, I want to make sure they hear it.

I recently caught Dave Matthews Band live and they have a similar attitude about taping shows.
I don’t know them personally, but they seem super cool. They [appear] to be really dialed into that in such a great way. Being able to reach out to a wider audience, but staying connected to your core fans - that’s what I think every band aspires to.

Last year, your band started a live tradition around Halloween in New York state where you played Tom Petty’s ‘Full Moon Fever’ in its entirety and plan to do so again next month. Whose idea was that?
[turns to band mates for answer] Nobody’s claiming it, so I will. The funny thing about that is we put it on sale started promoting it before we learned a single note on the album. When we sat down to [prepare], we were like, ‘Whoa. This is a lot of work.’ But it was super-rewarding and fulfilling work. Before we announced the [upcoming] Pearl Jam ‘Ten’ show, we decided to take a swing through the record to see if we were going to be able to figure it out. I’m excited about it. It’s sort of a labor of love.

‘The Bear’ came out about a year ago. Were you totally satisfied with how it turned out and was received?
Yes, I’m happy with how it turned out and was received. I always try to put the music out and not worry too much about how it was received. Once you’ve done what you’ve done, you have to accept what people want to say about it – good or bad.

I wish more people had heard the record and it had found a larger audience. I can’t imagine not feeling that way about a record...if I have any regrets, it’s that I wish more people had gotten deeper into the record...I see the statistics that a lot of singles sell. That doesn’t necessarily mean people are hearing all the record. There’s all these songs that might not jump off the page at you, that I think people would enjoy.

What is the story behind the brief phone conversation snippet at the conclusion of the song “Do” on the album?
My wife happened to call while we were tracking it. None of these songs were done in proper studios. In one case it was an apartment and in another, a big farmhouse. My wife called and my favorite line in “Do” is the part where he doesn’t call the girl back for 11 months. Then he’s wondering why the hell the thing didn’t work out. The whole idea of a phone call amused me. When we got this call right at the end of the take we ended up using, I thought it was serendipitous if we left it in there.

How did singers like Josh Ritter and Serena Ryder end up guesting on 'The Bear'?
Josh checked in with me to see how the recording was going. We’ve been friends for quite a few years. I am one his biggest fans. I just think the world of him. He said, ‘let me know if there’s anything you want me to do.’ I said, ‘How about coming over right now while we’re working on this song?’ So he came and sang on "All Part of the Show." We had some fun with that.

We [previously] toured together with Serena. That was a little more of a recruit job. I really wanted a female...She came in and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up when she was singing. She’s a close personal friend as well. That’s how they wound up there.

My friend Ari Hest is on there too. One day I was walking around the studio and said for “Adeline,” I need a voice that’s as high as a girl’s but I don’t want to bring a female onto this track because I felt it would change the meaning of it. I thought what guy do I know that can sing like that? Of course, Ari Hest. He came in and was a great sport about it.

One of your collective musical influences as a group is The Band - as in Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and company. What quality about their music initially drew you in?
The authenticity. Even when they’re doing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and they’re inhabiting characters, I believe every single word of what they’re playing. It comes through their music and lyrics. There’s a rawness.

It’s very much our goal and dream to capture that – American rock ‘n’ roll music that just feels super real. That’s how we see ourselves; that’s what we’re going for. Once upon a time that was rampant. When The Band played music, there was a lot more than there seems to be created right now. Our goal is to do that in a way that’s relevant to 2010. We fell in love with what they were doing. Certainly with our next record, we’re taking another swing at doing that in a way that’s super relevant to the times we have right now.

Early on, you were influenced by ‘70s singer/songwriters. Did you have that AM pop radio style back then in mind when making “Do” and “Dying Wish”?
Yeah, it’s taken me years to get over the fact of when I was born. ‘The Bear’ helped me get over it. That was a record where we did that and I was so proud to have that out on vinyl and I get to listen to it [that way]. I needed to see that whole thing through.

Got any more recording plans in the near future?
We did the pre-production this summer. The songs are basically written and we’re going to start recording in November. We’ll do a little holiday tour and the record will come out next year.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Something Corporate concert review

A version of my review originally appeared in the OC Register and can be viewed here: Photo by Kelly Swift.

Something Corporate
Where: Grove of Anaheim
When: Aug. 27

“It’s good to be back home,” said singer Andrew McMahon, while standing atop his grand piano at the Grove of Anaheim. During a simultaneously energetic and introspective 90-minute, 20-song set on Friday night, Something Corporate displayed why it was among the more unique and successful local bands (total cumulative music sales have surpassed 1 million) to emerge from Orange County over the past decade.

The Dana Point-area musicians were just out of high school when they crafted a versatile alt-pop sound on independent debut disc “Ready…Break” in 2000 and major label debut album "Leaving Through the Window" two years later. McMahon’s raucous ivory tickling brought Ben Folds and Jerry Lee Lewis to mind; Josh Partington’s edgy guitar style and the pair’s increasingly mature lyrics equaled widespread appeal.

Following an attention-grabbing, Vans Warped Tour stint, heavy headlining roadwork, another well-received album ("North"), plus modern rock radio airplay on KROQ /106.7 FM and elsewhere, Something Corporate went on hiatus.

McMahon formed Jack’s Mannequin in 2005 and fought off leukemia with a life-saving bone marrow transplant. That group became his main focus and put out two excellent full-length releases.

This past spring, Something Corporate finally played together again at Bamboozle festivals in New Jersey, Chicago and here at Anaheim Stadium, where it wowed the crowd (see review here). The latter marked SoCo’s first complete gig since the time apart.

New career retrospective, “Played in Space” (its title refers to the band’s song “The Astronaut,” used as a wake up call for space shuttle commander Steven Lindsey in July 2006) also came out recently. The accompanying EP contains new mixes (one by Owl City’s Adam Young), a couple rarities and one fresh recording.

Something Corporate graces the September cover of Alternative Press magazine. The in-depth feature reveals that a future album isn’t entirely out of the question, though McMahon definitely plans to make another Jack’s effort first.

Arriving at the end of a month long, nationwide tour, the band came across tighter than ever in Anaheim, where the venue was more than three-quarters full. Taking the stage to the smooth sound of Peaches & Herb’s 1979 chart topper “Reunited,” the guys came out with all guns blazing.

"21 and Invincible” launched the concert on an invigorating note. Drummer Brian Ireland’s clattering, punkish rhythms were impressive. When McMahon sang about marriage, he updated the lyrics to reflect the fact he’s been hitched awhile; the line “today’s gonna blow us away” was probably what many fans anticipated before the show. They weren’t disappointed.

The hard-hitting “Hurricane” was just that – a gale force rocker - until they took the mood down several notches for the pensive ballad “She Paints Me Blue.” Partington did some menacing licks amid the blazing “Space” and fans pumped their fists to the chant worthy chorus. He and second guitarist Bob Anderson engaged in menacing runs on the ominous “Only Ashes,” where Ireland steadily increased the rhythm.

McMahon didn’t stay tethered to his mahogany Baldwin piano. Often, he’d start singing a song while working both sides of the stage, play, then get back up again. A fine example of his mature, vulnerable side came via “Wait,” done acoustically. Partington’s lyric “days are numbered here” took on heightened resonance when sung by McMahon in 2010. The sweeping “Cavanaugh Park” was totally dramatic and moving.

Although the frontman - who turns 28 next Friday - described freewheeling party song “Drunk Girl” as “a little immature,” he still had a good time with it, appending a new mini ragtime intro then stood while pounding the keys. Young concertgoers sang along loudly. “If You C Jordan,” where McMahon played the piano with his feet, had a similar high school hijinks theme.

Bassist Clutch was content to contribute solid bottom end sounds throughout the gig, but perked up toward the show's conclusion and actually pogoed on the giddy, frenzied “Punk Rock Princess.” Come encore time, McMahon played “Konstantine” - his emotional epic ballad about life and love – solo until each musician gradually joined in. Finally, Something Corporate wrapped up the impressive set with a fun, syncopated “I Woke Up in a Car.”

Setlist: Something Corporate at the Grove of Anaheim, Aug. 27, 2010
Main set: 21 and Invincible/Hurricane/She Paints Me Blue/Space/The Astronaut/Fall/Watch the Sky/Me and the Moon/Straw Dogs/Only Ashes/Wait/Cavanaugh Park/I Want to Save You/Drunk Girl/As You Sleep/If You C Jordan/Punk Rock Princess
Encores: Konstantine/Ruthless/I Woke Up in a Car