(The Shelter, Detroit, MI - March 9, 2003)
With their latest release, Head on Straight, and two Grammy nominations under their belt, L.A. band Tonic has set off on tour once again. Embarking on their first ever acoustic tour, which kicked off on March 3rd of this year, much of February was spent doing television promotions with appearances on 'The Tonight Show,' 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' and 'Last Call with Carson Daly,' just to name a few. After, some much needed relaxation and regrouping from their mega-tour with the Goo Goo Dolls, it is no surprise to see the band taking steps in a new direction this time around, taking a more intimate approach with their fans and playing smaller venues. What may be surprising to some is their choice to play acoustic at the Detroit club The Shelter, a venue most associated with hardcore and punk, on March 9th. The choice couldn't have been more perfect, as the Shelter is also notorious for booking bands that are usually on the rise, not to mention the sound system is hard to touch for a site of their stature. And, although they have been together for almost ten years, Tonic is definitely on the upswing again.
The first show of the Head On Straight tour began in Wisconsin, which appears to be no coincidence, considering their opening act Goran Kralj, the lead singer of the Gufs, is a Milwaukee native. Kralj, who must be an underground secret in Detroit, began his set at the early hour of 7 p.m. to an almost packed room. This came as a shock to me, never hearing of Gorin before, that an opener could bring such a draw. However, after hearing his knock-out set and witnessing his rapore with the fans, it was easy to see why Tonic's manager made a point in telling me to check out his talent. The highlight for me, and from what I could gather from the rest of the crowd, was his cover of "Come Together", because not just anyone can cover the Beatles and bring out something that wasn't already there. At the end of his set and conversation with the audience, it became clear that Goran Kralj will be someone that won't go unrecognized in the future.
After a brief intermission and a refill of Sunday cocktails, Tonic hit the stage with full force. Their connection with the crowd was instantaneous and in everyone's eyes could be seen the notion that they were their biggest fans. Emerson started things off with "Open Up Your Eyes" from 1996's Lemon Parade and it was plain to see that a sing-along would be inevitable as I couldn't help but notice the drunk girls next to me straining their vocal chords in hopes of Emerson giving them some even more personal attention. And, believe it or not, it was not even an annoyance as Tonic put on such a performance that eyes could not easily be averted from the stage. Singing songs from all three albums, including the American Pie Soundtrack hit, "You Wanted More" from the album Sugar and "Take Me as I Am" from Head On Straight, the band also included a medley of songs from other artists, including Weezer, Pearl Jam and even Whitesnake, which really sent out the vibe that the night was all about having a good time with the music and leaving behind the hype.
It was hard to believe when the show ended that it was only 9:30, as we had all received a full night of total entertainment. The guys went backstage after their encore and prepared themselves for the show in Cleveland, but if I could take a guess, it won't be long before we see them again in the motor city - Tonic is a band with staying power, not only because they keep their music fresh, but also they are real people sharing in this human experience. Keep an eye out for the next time they are in town, you won't want to say you missed out.
Interviewed by G.M. Pasfield for Exclusive Magazine
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