In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, Collective Soul get no respect, no respect at all. While the Atlanta-based quintet’s thick, brooding songs boast many of the earmarks that characterize critical darlings such as Pearl Jam, they’re usually dismissed as fluffmeisters of the first degree.
That probably has a lot to do with the fact that Collective Soul don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as they could. And as evidenced by this, the first show on the band’s ten-week North American trek, that’s not a bad thing at all.
Frontman Ed Roland has a contradictory quality about him, pouring his heart into sensitive-guy confessions (like the shimmering opener “Tremble for My Beloved”) one minute and breaking into undeniably geeky dance steps the next.
That dichotomy extends into the band’s sound as well: The oppressively grungy riffing of “Simple,” for instance, was leavened by some legitimately funky slap bass from Will Turpin, while the moody “Run” (their contribution to the “Varsity Blues” soundtrack) was punctuated by unexpectedly assertive soloing by lead guitarist Ross Childress.
Carefully paced 90-minute set scattered better-known songs like “Gel” and “December” amid material culled from “Dosage,” band’s recently-released fourth Atlantic album. The newer songs, for the most part, proved looser and more expansive, affording room (maybe a bit too much, in fact) for solos and assorted digressions.
For while such stretching may have added atmosphere –particularly in songs where Roland added a third guitar to the sonic mesh — it often undercut the unembroidered immediacy that is Collective Soul’s primary strength. Since Roland doesn’t so much write fully realized songs (aside from the sweeping melodrama “The World I Know”) as he does solder together galvanizing riffs, things tend to fall apart when those lapel-grabbing moments are spread too far apart.
But come crunch time — the set-closing rave-up on “Shine,” that is — Roland and company made sure to compress those riffs to maximum density. They may never garner that elusive respect, but Collective Soul played this show like a band that’ll make do by having a good time for a good long time to come.