De Rigueur of Nostalgia: Collective Soul, Gin Blossoms and The Black Moods Deliver A Memorable Medley of Sentimentality
Words by Nick Gonzaga. Photos by Alisha DeCou
Photos and impressions from the Collective Soul and Gin Blossoms show in Phoenix at Comerica Theater on August 18th, 2019, with support from local group The Black Moods.
It’s a hot and muggy night at Comerica Theatre as the throngs of attendees stand single file for beers to cool themselves off from the oppressive heat radiating off of the asphalt of 4th Ave and Washington. The crowd is milling about the arena awaiting what can only be described as a night of nostalgia. Like a Jackson Brown song, the stagehands and roadies are setting up for opening act. Tempe’s own Black Moods are set to kick off the festivities and they do not disappoint. The Black Moods are unique; a band with a sound that is remarkably “Classic Rock’ with a twist. Having toured with the likes of The Doors’ Robbie Kreiger and Jane’s Addiction, the band has a special sound that is reminiscent of days long past in the music industry, like whiskey in a dixie cup with a couple lines of cocaine on the dashboard of a ‘74 Chevy Nova. Frontman Josh Kennedy, clad in maroon bell bottoms and sporting a weathered stratocaster not only looks the part, he exemplifies it. As far as opening acts go, these boys are professionals. Not long into their set, the crowd is definitely feeling them. At one point, to the audience’s collective delight, Gin Blossoms frontman Robin Wilson joins the band to help out with a chorus wearing his own Black Moods tee shirt. This singular event seems to set the mood for the remainder of the evening. The overall feel is lighthearted. Everyone on stage is having fun and seems to spill out into the pits before infecting everyone seated from the ground all the way up into the balcony. Shortly after the Black Moods retreat, the pit began to swell slightly in preparation of co-headliners, the Gin Blossoms.
Like the opening Black Moods, The Gin Blossoms are hometown heroes and true alternative pioneers to boot. With humble beginnings in Tempe more than 30 years ago, 1992’s New Miserable Experience skyrocketed them into the mainstream and solidified their status as Arizona legends. It’s difficult for Valley natives not to “fanboy” over this band. The Gin Blossoms helped shape the sound that defines college rock and arguably the 90’s. Their music was featured on the Empire Records soundtrack. They played Waynestock, man…Given all of this, it’s no surprise that this concert was no less fantastic than any other they’d performed at their peak. Wilson’s voice hasn’t aged a bit and guitarists Scotty Johnson and Jesse Valenzuela were pointedly precise. Well rehearsed and on point, the entire band was in tune and on time. Predictably, GB gave the people what they wanted; ALL of the hits. From “Allison Road” to “Found Out About You,” it’s highly unlikely anyone in attendance was unsatisfied with regard to the setlist. About halfway through their performance, between songs, Wilson pointed to someone in the audience and remarked “Hey, I went to high school with you!” Completing the sentiment with “Yeah, we’ve got a lot of friends and family here tonight. It’s so good to be home” and everyone seemed to appreciate the affection, reciprocating the love expressed by singing along to every syllable of every song. With nary a missed beat, The Gin Blossoms finished their set with the “Hey Jealousy,” the song that started it all. Watching them leave the stage, an appreciative audience gave raucous applause to one of the most talented groups of musicians to ever hail from the shaded lanes of Mill Avenue.
After a longer than usual intermission, headliners Collective Soul took the stage to finish the show in grand style. An integrally important band in the pantheon of classic 90’s rock, the crowd erupted as the lights dimmed before the first notes of “Observation of Thoughts” rings out from their latest and tenth studio album Blood. Adorned with overly large tinted glasses and a black brimmed hat, founder and lead vocalist Ed Roland resembled a snazzy Mugatu a la Will Ferrell from the movie Zoolander, only way cooler and unironic. After storming through “Heavy” as a second offering, Roland sat at a piano and began tickling the familiar melody of “Shine” and serving the audience with one of the most beautiful introductions of their first mainstream hit ever heard. As the song progressed, Roland eventually left the keys and gave a notably physical and animated performance to the rapt onlookers, pausing intermittently to push the microphone toward the crowd at every “YEAH!” for the remainder of the track. Upon the conclusion, with the audience in a frenzy, Roland calmly proclaims “Hi. We’re Collective Soul” without a hint of exasperation. Perplexing, given the intensity of his execution of “Shine.” Before moving on, Roland told a touching story about his then young son before bringing the same (now adult) son on stage to sing “Better Now” and surprisingly, the boy was actually very good. Much like The Gin Blossoms, Collective Soul touched on ALL of the hits, the most notable of which was an emotional performance of “December” that brought a few noticeable tears from some in the audience, all of whom sang along. One of the most memorable moments of the evening was an R.E.M. cover of “The One I Love” with Robin Wilson of GB once again jumping onstage to sing lead vocals, a few songs before the band closed the night out with “Run” from their 1999 album Dosage. A fitting finale to an incredible evening filled with fun and nostalgia until the next time these consummate masters of musical prowess cast their welcome shadows in the valley of the sun.