|photo by Armando Brown|
A version of my review originally appeared in the OC Register.
Despite a tendency to write brooding lyrics, Gavin Rossdale is hardly a sad sack. On Saturday night in Los Angeles, the Bush front man frequently conveyed his graciousness for being onstage.
“I’m so happy about this hometown show that I might burst,” Rossdale enthused at one point.
Originally from London, the alternative rock band celebrated the 20th Anniversary of its multi-platinum debut CD “Sixteen Stone” last year and put out sixth studio album “Man on the Run.” Recorded using pawn shop guitars and vintage amps to help get a garage rock aesthetic, the new material was also inspired by the live energy of EDM music. What results is among Bush’s best work to date. Half those tunes were aired live at The Wiltern.
Rossdale and company launched the 19-song, 100-minute set with blazing 2011 modern rock radio chart topper “The Sound of Winter,” elevated by Chris Traynor’s searing guitar playing. The push-pull dynamics of “Bodies in Motion” was equally memorable.
Best known hit “Everything Zen” was dispatched early. Fans sang along loudly as the backdrop screen pictured women in silhouette fighting violently. Traynor did some tantalizing slide guitar while Rossdale sang with arms outstretched and pogoed around. He was rarely still and seemed to be chomping at the bit to get to each selection.
A propulsive “The Chemicals Between Us” was a standout, with the axemen engaging in a mini duel and Rossdale doing a Pete Townshend-type windmill pose. He accidentally fell, then noted being out of control was “a beautiful thing. I love coming together as people and having a moment.”
During the seething intensity of “Greedy Fly,” the singer made his first foray into the audience as Traynor’s crunchy guitar tone led the way. The moody “Surrender,” about losing yourself in love, featured entrancing sounds, a riveting vocal and lyrics that slowly scrolled on the screen like a “Star Wars” movie intro (too bad chatty scenesters in back of the packed venue didn’t pay attention). The frantic, extended “Little Things” was powerful as ever: it was sung while Rossdale walked through the crowd and ended up on the balcony. Traynor looked bemused at his bandmate.
Come encore time, Bush had all guns blazing for “Machinehead” (one fan dared to crowd surf) and the ominous “Comedown.” Before Rossdale’s usual solo electric turn on “Glycerine” was a nice story revolving around meeting his wife Gwen Stefani and eventually relocating to LA to start a family. Sandwiched between them was a spirited take on Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” which was admirable, even if it didn’t quite gel together.
Theory of a Deadman opened the concert with a 45-minute set that went over well despite a plodding sound mix. The popular Canadian hard rock group utilized dialogue samples (“The Big Lebowski”) between a few songs, but otherwise, the Alice in Chains-leaning numbers (“Drown,” “Bad Girlfriend,” “So Happy”) came off routine. Singer Tyler Connolly’s constant complaining didn’t help. Melodic crossover hit power ballad “Not Meant to Be” and “Santa Monica” were the band’s only saving graces.