There were two concerts (among others I didn’t know about) in Seattle last night: ‘The Chameleons Vox’ (meaning the singer/songwriter Mark Burgess from the ’80s alternative group The Chameleons) and The Cult (likely no explanation required – they lasted beyond the 80s even though they also started back then). On the one hand, TCV was only $10 – The Cult was $30+ (which is more than ‘current’ bands like Ozomatli and others charge these days, making it a hard sell) – we opted for TCV – The Cult just seemed way overpriced for its potential rock value (and if that’s not a lame way to describe even lamer 40-something concert decisionmaking, I don’t know what is ).
There were three opening bands, we missed the first and the other two were largely forgettable (sorry guys). I give Romance (last opener before TCV) an A for effort and they were definitely good musicians, but not super-distinctive otherwise.
Then, on to TCV. They started with the song ‘Swamp Thing’ – the band was playing several measures of the song intro before Mark Burgess (the main original member/singer) came onstage in a ‘grand entrance’ – Uh….yeah. They powered through several more songs – all played well – but the show got progressively weirder for me the longer it went on. We left before they were done, near the end of the set (I would presume they played a few more songs, maybe an encore, not sure). Some impressions:
1) When MB came out on the stage – the first thing I thought was ‘here’s young Ozzy’ (meaning Ozzy Osbourne). For some reason he just struck me as a younger version of Ozz – maybe the face? Not sure. When he talked a bit between songs, he SOUNDS like Ozzy’s normal speaking accent, although I’m not sure if they are from similar locations in England. He is also sporting a Moe Howard hairdo – not the most complimentary? Finally, I couldn’t help also thinking of many Mike Myers parody characters as he danced around during many of the songs – sorry Mark.
2) There was too much ‘unbalance’ for me between most of the band (20-somethings) and MB’s obvious age. It was like a father playing music with his kids or something? When we saw X, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Queensryche, Living Colour, Madness, etc. over the past several years – whether or not they reach the heights of their glory days (some do, some really do, some are slipping) they all look older – but they also all look ‘correct’, because the band are all the same age. This show just seemed weird to have an older guy playing with such a younger band. I wish he had been the bassist like before, that might have avoided it a bit, but oh well. The band was very good, as far as playing – definitely no issues there.
3) Could there be any MORE delay pedal/voice effects? On albums, fine – I listened again to a few Chameleons songs on the bus this am going to work and yes, delay effects are all over the place – but live, it just seemed to wash everything into mud – and it was distracting (at best, annoying at worst) as regards the voice? It really served to date the music quite a bit for me, unfortunately. Throwing in a few Beatles and Clash verses mid-song on at least a couple occasions didn’t help either – cheese!
4) A positive – Mark B’s voice sounds largely fine. He’s no Boy George, Rob Halford or Bono, but for his historical range he largely achieved it. He was a bit quieter on a couple songs he would have likely belted out years ago, but whatevs. And you don’t need the delay effect to sound good – just be yourself….
5) Another positive – MB was putting himself out there. He was definitely not phoning it in. That counts for a lot, especially when you consider The Cult playing across town in not much bigger a club at 3x the price, and the comparative obscurity of The Chameleons even back in the 80s(?) – MB’s not getting rich on this tour most obviously, but cared to put on a good show, and he seemed to be having a good time.
6) A weird thing – in one of the songs (can’t remember the name) there is a long guitar mellow ‘exit’ at the end – which this time around was modified by actual drums in it, unlike on the album – but MB took the opportunity to head offstage while the band played for several minutes without him. When he came back, it *seemed* (can’t say for sure) if he had taken an 80s ‘coke break’ in the back – he was sniffing it up a bit. Weird, and I could be imagining things, but my buddies noticed it too. There goes the profits on the tour if so….doh!
7) Finally, after the first several songs I just kept increasingly thinking – ‘you can never go back’. I hope the tour works out well for him and the band, and The Croc was pretty full, definitely as full as seeing Manooghi Hi there a month or two ago. But the songs really sounded dated and lacked oomph for me. It seemed like every time they were cranking it up to really ‘rock’ – the sound would kind of smooth out at the top end and they would proceed – kind of like a ’70s Caddy trying to punch it up a hill and then gliding along without incident once there.
By way of comparison, when we saw X at The Showbox last year – they really *rocked* and were one of the tightest bands in recent memory, despite their age. And the fact that all their songs (being a punk band) are only about 2.5 min. long, so they have to play a LOT of them to fill an average show-length set – no ‘coasting’ allowed there, to be sure.
Here is another review of the show, from Glen Boyd – he obviously saw a much different show than I did. I’m glad he enjoyed it – but I really don’t think TCV were ever in danger of tearing the roof off at any point. Now…..had the mighty Fishbone made a surprise appearance….hmm….
If you were there, feel free to comment/agree/disagree/etc. I guess the show left me with mixed feelings, but I don’t regret going (despite being all but asleep in my cube today for lack of sleep).