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.