Monday, November 8, 2010

Tiger Army concert review

My review originally appeared in the Orange County Register and can be viewed here:
Photo by Kelly Swift, courtesy of the Register.

Tiger Army
Grove of Anaheim
Oct. 30, 2010

After covering the obscure Ramones tune “Slug” on Saturday, Tiger Army’s previously undetected similarity to the New York City punk rock pioneers became apparent. While the Northern California trio’s brand of punk is infused with rockabilly touches, it has basically stuck to the same formula (much like Joey Ramone & Co. always did) throughout four albums with only minor variations.

That tried-and-true method is common among artists in every genre, yet too much repetition can become tiresome in concert. The first of two shows for Tiger Army’s third annual Octoberflame run at the Grove of Anaheim was a prime example.

Still technically on hiatus as singer-guitarist Nick 13 continues the long process of making his countrified solo album (now tentatively slated for spring), the group’s O.C. dates comprised its only live appearances of 2010. Keeping in the spirit of Halloween weekend, young fans dressed in a variety of costumes (nurse, bride, vampire, skeleton, jail inmate, mariachi man, Bret Michaels). Others were decked out in the de rigueur rockabilly look you’d typically see at Hootenanny.

Male members of the Tiger Army faithful let out their pent-up frustrations by starting slam pits on the general-admission floor. Some drunken participants instigated fights and had to be escorted outside. I witnessed one guy bleeding from what appeared to be a broken nose. (A fire truck and ambulance were stationed near the entrance; haven’t seen that at the Grove in quite awhile.)

Following opening sets from Throw Rag and TSOL frontman Jack Grisham, then an instrumental prelude and the familiar chant “Tiger Army never die!,” the well-tailored musicians began their 65-minute set with “Afterworld.” Mindful that many enthusiasts would return Sunday to hear 2001’s II: The Power of Moonlite played front to back for the first time, this setlist was planned completely differently. Only one song came from that disc, a supercharged, defiant “F.T.W.”; the rest of the choices concentrated on the initial releases plus a few rarities.

One was “Jungle Cat,” off the Early Years EP, while the live debut of “Spring Forward,” from 2007’s more nuanced Music from Regions Beyond, was a highlight, with Nick 13’s tender vocals and stand-up bassist Geoff Kresge’s backing harmony coming to the fore.

“Rose of the Devil’s Garden,” sporting a chiming guitar effect reminiscent of the Cure, was equally enthralling. Nick 13 dedicated “Through the Darkness” to his mother in attendance and explained that “Wander Alone” is about “making choices that can’t be undone.”

Kresge had the unenviable task of bantering with the crowd every time Nick 13 took excessive time changing his guitar tunings. It was a valiant effort, but it led to several lulls that seemed to take an eternity. Drummer James Meza’s solid rhythms tended to blend into the woodwork because Kresge’s rickety instrument was more heavily emphasized in the mix.

Tiger Army’s most popular alt-rock radio song, the strident mid-tempo rocker “Forever Fades Away,” had everyone singing along loudly. Come encore time, the Ramones remake was transplanted back a few decades in the hands of these guys, while “Never Die” became a furious anthem. Still, despite some standouts, this sold-out Anaheim gig was a mixed bag.

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