The Verve Pipe
(Freedom Hill Ampitheatre, Sterling Heights, MI – July 27, 2002)
If only us mere mortals could control the weather, what a difference it would have made at Freedom Hill for an awesome set of bands. Although, the rain had let up for most of the day the humidity could have choked a cat for the first band of the night, Rubyhorse. The venue was only a quarter full for these extremely awesome lads. And just think, they came all the way from County Cork in Ireland. However, the lacking crowd made up of all ages, didn’t stop these guys from rocking the house with songs such as, “Anyday Now” and their radio hit “Sparkle”. Combine that with lead singer, Dave Farrell’s boyish good looks made it’s no wonder they made all of the girls scream. Dave’s raw and rich vocals could have been attributed to their heavy show in Minneapolis the night before, of which he apologized for being hung over. I don’t know, but whatever they did worked because the show they put on deserved a much bigger audience than was there.
As the sky was turning dark, Robert Bradley’s Backwater Surprise took, the now decent-sized, audience by storm. The band’s jazzy blues and funk would make anybody feel like getting down home and grassy. Robert Bradley, a fifty-year old blind Detroit man, didn’t have to see the audience to feel the love. With that itching voice and soulful guitar and drum beats, it would have been impossible for them not to make a connection with the crowd. Playing songs, such as “Ocean Motion” from their Time to Discover album, I have a feeling that a lot of people are going to take the time to discover their music and feel the vibe.
Bring on the rain should have been the chant at this point of the night, as all of us tried to take cover from an ungodly downpour (thank you Jesus that I didn’t wear white). This was one of those times that Freedom Hill might have wanted to reconsider their lack of a pavilion, as everyone scattered in a vain attempt to keep dry. Being directed by the workers, the audience took cover in the Hillside Club to wait for The Verve Pipe. All I have to say is that this was an MSU crowd, because even though we were all soaked, it didn’t stop the party. Classic rock tunes blared from the juke-box, drinks were being served at the bar and no one seemed even ready to leave. We were going to see The Verve Pipe come hell or high water, and water being the key word here.
The storm finally let up, and The Verve Pipe took the rainy stage to mammoth applause and cheers. Let’s face it, a lot of bands would have just cancelled. However, “hell no, we won’t go” seemed to be the theme of this performance. The band rocked out with a tenacious edge, which made it easy to see how these hometown boys made it big. Opening up with “Photograph”, they knew how to get the disoriented crowd going, and kept them going with songs like, “Happiness Is” and “I Will Never Let You Down”. Their set was short as they ended the night with “The Freshman” to which everyone sang along. Although, this was the last song, they didn’t want it to be as they tried to bring Griff from Botfly out on stage and jam one more. Freedom Hill wasn’t having it and enforced their strict 11:00 curfew by literally kicking the guys off of the stage. The music might have stopped, but that did not stop lead singer Brian Vander Ark from going right into the audience to sign autographs and thank everyone for coming out. This is just more proof of how humble and downright nice these guys are. I’m not sure when Detroit will get to see their next performance, but I wouldn’t miss the chance to see one of Brian’s solo acoustic performances (listed on their website) or A.J.’s band Miles to Mars shows. Solo or together, their music is always worth the trip.