It’s not the ’90s heyday-era of Bush, but they played the big shed down in Mansfield late last summer and tonight they pulled a good number of people in the spacious MGM Music Hall, including more than a handful of parents with their sub-elementary school aged kids, noise-protecting headphones securely in place. Not sure if Tiger Beat was still publishing back then but if they were, I’m sure Gavin Rossdale adorned more than a few covers, and he still looks trim and ready to rock. The band has zero holdovers from the original lineup but that’s certainly not putting anyone’s nose out of joint as Rossdale is the main focal point for most of the fans. That said, his band was more than capable and guitarist Chris Traynor (hailing from Rosedale, Queens, natch) got some seasoning as part of NYC’s hardcore outfit Orange 9mm and later had a stint with Helmet.
VIPs who shelled out some extra bucks had a pre-show meet and greet with one fan about to turn a Sharpie autograph into a tattoo over the next few days but Rossdale decided to expand that quite a bit when about halfway through the show, Rossdale decided to leave the stage during “Flowers On A Grave” and mingle with the crowd. Nope, it wasn’t just a short wave from the other side of the security barricade; he wandered down and in and across pretty much the entire floor, flooded with a sea of upheld cell phones either trying to capture some shaky video or snapping a blurry selfie with the man as he passed on by.
The band played a decent chunk of stuff from last year’s The Art Of Survival as well as 2020’s The Kingdom and it held true to the hard rock template that’s been their stock in trade since the debut. “Heavy As The Ocean” had a decently catchy riff, “Identity” started the show off with a pretty emphatic push, and “Quicksand” had the band create an instrumental coda of Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave.”
Of course the hits came too; “Machinehead” is still their flagship song and the somewhat sappy “Glycerine” (I’m sure that was a prom theme for more than a few schools in the mid-90s) featured Rossdale alone with a guitar and mic. Nothing was played from their second record Switchblade Suitcase (Albini behind the board and Vaughan Oliver doing the cover art kinda makes this Bush’s Breeders record) and that was a bit surprising but no one really seemed to mind that. Rossdale and the band were energized and while the new material isn’t going to attain classic status like the Sixteen Stone material, it appears as they have some gas left in their tank. And the alternative of either starting a new band with zero name recognition or trying to leverage your surname as a musical career isn’t nearly as easy nor successful as relying on an existing brand.
Candlebox was another band who rode that pre-internet/post-Nirvana major label signing wave all the way to a lucrative payday, selling millions of their self-titled debut record. When singer Kevin Martin (and only original member left, though the four of them did a couple one-off hometown reunion shows for its 25th anniversary in 2018) said that a load of people bought the record and listened but if you hadn’t, go ahead and steal it, it’s out there to hear. (A slightly cringey moment was the pre-walk on medley of assorted Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana song snippets; yeah we get it, you’re a grunge band from Seattle).
Surprisingly they came out of the gates ready to rip, and though I won’t be rushing out to buy any copies of their records, stylistically it was a good match for Bush and Martin came across as a very likeable guy. Just before playing “Riptide” from their 2020 release Wolves, he mentioned the foundation that he helped start to help foster kids have a better life. Can’t do much better than carving out a good life for yourself and then actively trying to improve others’.
The best thing I can say about Devora is now I know what happens when ChatGPT attempts to make a country rock band.