Janus / Sick Puppies / Chevelle
(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI - February 16th, 2010)
As snow fell outside the Royal Oak Music Theatre, the energy inside rose as fans filed in, ready and raring to get their socks rocked off by the likes of Chevelle and Sick Puppies. They would not be disappointed.
The first band to take the stage was a small, and, by their own admission, largely unknown act by the name of Janus. "We’re Janus. We’re from Chicago,” the lead singer informed us. For being a warm-up band, they received a warm reception from the audience. Song after incomprehensible song played on, with the guitarist‘s red streaked hair mostly stealing my attention.
Janus’ front man had a nice voice - when it wasn’t being overpowered by the drums and guitars. It also seemed that he lacked a certain stage presence, only occasionally moving about the platform, choosing to spend the majority of the time rocking back and forth in time with the music as though he had some sort of tic. By the time their set was over, I was willing to bet that this new little band would be successful, as long as the members took the time to share at least their names with those who came to listen.
After an equipment change that took an eternity to complete, Sick Puppies came on. Commanding the stage was the energetic and very handsome Shimon Moore and his band mates: Emma Anzai, and Mark Goodwin. From the very first number, ‘War,’ it was clear that the audience was in for quite an evening.
“We are Sick Puppies, from Sidney Australia!” Moore declared before they launched into their second song - and my personal favorite - ‘Cancer.’ During the song - and throughout the concert - bassist Anzai slapped the bass as though it were a naughty child. After a few more tunes, they announced that they have a new album out, and from it played one of their newer singles, ’Should’ve Known Better.’ The crowd was appreciative, but largely inactive until they were told to “Put your hands up if you’re having a good f**king time!” The fist-pumping continued on through ’Riptide.’ And when the command was given by Moore to “Turn the house lights up so I can see all my f**king new friends,” I couldn’t help but think what a strange sentiment that was; who cusses at their friends? But even the F-word sounds just a little sweeter when it’s spoken in an Australian accent!
Midway through the program, a banner was lowered down behind the band, sporting the name and an image of three interlinking rings. That image would later prove to be the album cover from their latest project, ‘Tri-Polar.’ Moore proceeded to introduce the number ’All The Same’ by explaining its involvement with the youtube Free Hug video movement. That slower song gave way to a more rocking tune, ‘Survive.’ Safely nestled in my comfortable balcony seat, I watched in amazed interest as a few people down below began to crowd surf - or at least attempt to before they were promptly thrown out by the giant security guards that patrolled the place.
The scene would replay itself at least five more times. A Battle of the Sexes shouting match was orchestrated, with the women coming out victorious. Then Moore conducted a poll of how many people in attendance had seen Sick Puppies once or twice before. The majority of the audience had not, a statistic I found surprising.
Drummer Mark Goodwin was relentless, pounding out the driving rhythms of ‘My World,’ a song that drew much audience participation at its chorus. It occurred to me at that point that, for as energetic as they could be, and as powerful as the instrumentals were, Sick Puppies was a very melodic band, a departure from my preconceptions of the alternative rock music scene.
"This is a song for everyone who wants to bounce up and down,” was the lead-in to ’Anywhere But Here.’ As the audience on main floor went absolutely bonkers, we in the balcony were mostly resigned to rhythmic head nods. It was, after all, a long way down, and some folks were dangerously close to flipping over the railing anyway. Sick Puppies played their set mostly against white light that sparkled off of Shimon Moore’s red Gibson guitar and Emma Anzai’s matching Warwick bass.
The end of the set was by far the highlight of the show, with Moore encouraging us to sing along with the second verse of a song he said we all knew. Sick Puppies continued to deliver a head-banging rendition of the American Idol one-hit wonder, ‘Pants On The Ground.’ Once everybody’s pants were pulled up, the band decimated the Destiny’s Child tune, ‘Say My Name,’ making it almost unrecognizable and therefore a million times better than the original version.
Part of the appeal might have been the mosh pit happening at the front of the theatre; I’m fairly certain not many people moshed when Destiny’s Child sang the song. Returning to their own material, the band dedicated ‘Pitiful’ to all the boys in the pit. During the number, I drew another conclusion: Though melodic, though energetic, though excellent in every other way - Sick Puppies is a band with rather negative connotations to their songs. Not that the audience minds.
‘You’re Goin’ Down’ was the high-octane set closer, after which Moore promised that the band would be out by the merchandise table approximately sixty seconds after the song ended. It was more like thirty seconds, as he jumped into the crowd and crowd-surfed all the way to the back of the theatre, channeling Jack Black in 'School of Rock.' That was the last we heard of Sick Puppies, with the exception of an announcement by the sound check guy that Shimon Moore had lost his microphone pack somewhere between the stage and the souvenir stand, offering an award for its safe return.
How do you follow up an act as electric as Sick Puppies? If you’re Chevelle, you do so with a background of a flying saucer and blue and white strobe lights that have the ability to instigate epileptic seizures. The crowd went wild as the platform on which the drums sat began to glow, illuminating the name of the band.
"Sounds like you’re all f**king fired up!” Chevelle’s leader observed. Dropping F-bombs is exponentially less appealing when an American does it. The majority of their songs sounded the same, except for ‘Well Enough Alone,’ after which the “one guy who actually yawned” in the audience was energized once more by the boos and jeers he received from the rest of the audience. And that left me wondering why Pete Loeffler and his band couldn’t leave well enough alone.
Three bands played Tuesday night to a near sold-out crowd. And in the end, if the price is right, I will certainly go to another Sick Puppies concert. Until then, their albums on my iPod will suffice.
Review by: Ashley Trombley
Looking to see a Chevelle in concert in your neck of the woods? Check out www.razorgator.com to see if they have any available.