Santa Barbara’s Dishwalla had the most played song on U.S. rock radio in 1996, the infectious “Counting Blue Cars.” But the band, now a five-piece, was only able to push its debut album, “Pet Your Friends,” to gold (500,000 copies) sales in the wake of that enormous airplay, partly because the group wasn’t able to establish much of an identity for itself beyond that one tune.
In concert, many of Dishwalla’s earlier, somewhat inconsequential rock songs tended to fall into the slow-dance-at-the-prom category, shiny and happy tunes that didn’t offer much to, or demand much from, the listener. But three years on the road and a batch of edgy new songs later and Dishwalla almost looks like a different band.
Singer J.R. Richards must have taken plenty of inspiration from the three years the group spent on the road supporting its first album, because aside from the synchronicity now evident between the five players, his involving presentation was the most obvious improvement at the sold-out Whisky.
Some of the 16 songs, which mostly touched on themes of coping in the modern world, did get bogged down in middle-of-the-road blandness and predictability.
But more often than not, a clever hook or sweeping crescendo would appear and keep things humming along. Many of the band’s better moments, though, were lost on the half-hearted crowd, which much of the time stared back at Richards like a bunch of zombies.
Impressive cuts from the quintet’s new A&M release “And You Think You Know What Life’s About” — like U2-ish show opener “Stay Awake,” the incisive “Pop Guru,” which shouts down the false prophets of the world, and the anthemic “Bottom of the Floor” — indicated that, though this bunch may still be looking for their place in the world, they are moving in the right direction.
The 90-minute perf could also be heard on the Internet.