Brad, an occasional side project featuring members of Seattle bands Pearl Jam (guitarist Stone Gossard) and Satchel (singer/keyboard player Shawn Smith, drummer Regan Hagar), appears on the verge of morphing into a real band. They've released a second album, "Interiors" (Epic), that's a marked progression from their debut four years ago, and they're now touring for the first time. But before this bunch decides to make a permanent go of it, they need to find more common ground than was displayed at this first of two sold-out Troub shows. The new album rocks much harder than its predecessor, 1993's "Shame," but in concert the band fumbled awkwardly when attempting anything that approximated hard rock.
The band’s strength lies in the rich voice and folksy piano playing of Shawn Smith, a Leon Russell-Dr. John descendent whose dreamy style elevates the group’s otherwise perfunctory rock approach. But in an unwise attempt at branching out, Smith also is asked to become the front man, a role he wilts in.
But back at his piano on such melodic and comparatively mellow tracks as “Nadine” or “Buttercup,” he was pure singer-songwriter magic. (He also vented some of his frustration at those who were noisily handling their beer bottles. “What’s up with the garbage man over there?” he barked.)
Gossard’s role in Brad is surprisingly subdued, considering that his membership in this club-level band, away from the distractions of his megapopular primary group, is one of Brad’s biggest points of interest. In contrast, hired-hand guitarist-keyboardist James Hall — a Geffen Records artist himself — provided much of the evening’s energy with a series of tasty guitar parts, albeit from the shadows of the back of the stage.
The 90-minute show ended with a seven-song encore, one of which featured Brad bassist Jeremy Toback, who chose to tour as part of Lollapalooza’s second stage lineup to promote his solo career rather than the band.