As is the case most any other year, the first night of the 2002 KROQ holiday fest was packed with an impressive roster of many of the artists who’ve ruled the station’s playlist of late, topped by the heaviness of San Diego’s spiritual rockers P.O.D. and Chicago’s metal-heads Disturbed.
But the real interest for most attendees Saturday at the Universal Amphitheater was found in the middle of the 10-act lineup — namely the big-show debuts of Billy Corgan’s new band Zwan, and Audioslave, which features Chris Cornell from Soundgarden and three former members of Rage Against the Machine.
The 5½-hour show opened with decent turns from Taproot and Trust Company, both of which enjoyed their first radio success last summer with “Poem” and “Downfall,” respectively, followed by the animated and physical pop-punk of Florida-based New Found Glory and the tightly wound, anxious fury of Salt Lake City’s the Used.
Fans of the first two albums by Smashing Pumpkins who grew weary of the band toward the end no doubt will take a liking to Corgan and the guitar-rock of Zwan. Band also includes guitarist Troy Van Leeweun and Paz Lenchantin from A Perfect Circle.With multilayered, heavy guitars employing lots of feedback; with Corgan — nasal vocals still sharp — singing again about loving and losing and self-esteem; and with a crack band behind him that boasts former Pumpkins skins-basher Jimmy Chamberlin, Zwan certainly is one of the bands to watch in the new year.
Queens of the Stone Age — one of many bands on the bill who have played a headlining L.A. show in the past few months — offered its solid brand of psychedelic stoner metal, in the tradition of Masters of Reality, Black Sabbath and Screaming Trees; latter’s vocalist Mark Lanegan guested for two songs. Sum 41 followed its recent Troubadour sellout with a fun KROQ set that included members of Pennywise appearing for a cover of their tribute song “Bro Hymn.”
Audioslave sounded great in its proper live bow, following an unannounced Roxy show on Friday. The quartet’s sound can be described as Soundgarden meets Rage; however, each player seems intent on bringing new musical variables to the equation.
Guitarist Tom Morello continues to add new sounds and playing tricks to his bag, while the rhythm section used a less-is-more approach and generated a thundering assault with simple yet powerful lines and fills. Singer Cornell has stopped shouting, and his vocals have settled into a very suitable place where grace beats force.
The KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas benefits a number of SoCal youth charities and organizations.