Bush Fights Nostalgia-Act Tag as Hard as a Band Can
Gavin Rossdale still does the little things to enhance fans' experience.
Photos by Eric Sauseda
Bush, Theory of a Deadman Bayou Music Center March 13, 2015
Who among us knew that Bush released a new album last year? It's true: Man on the Run came out October and peaked at No. 33 on the charts. You probably didn't hear about it because it wasn't the type of album that gets a band press 20 years after their debut; simply put, it's neither a comeback album nor is it a return to form. It's simply a collection of songs most people will ignore.
This is not exactly a shame either. While certainly not a bad album, it's not particularly remarkable either. It's the type of album that might get a band a SXSW invitation if it was their debut release, but they'd end up playing at a showcase you'd never be caught dead at.
And yet, there's something respectable about Man on the Run existing. A lot of bands release albums two decades into their career as an excuse to get out on the road. They'll play a song from it to a mostly apathetic crowd somewhere in the middle of the show, and then it's back to the hits.
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That's just not how Bush operates. And by living and performing in the present, everything just sort of works.
There is a certain type of song that everyone knows by not knowing, that collection of non-single album tracks, B-sides and deep cuts that we don't have a title for but can be best described as Social Media Songs. These used to be the songs that people used for their bathroom breaks and now exist for people to check their Twitters, Facebooks, Instagrams, so on and so forth.
Bush play a lot of Social Media Songs. If you didn't know they released an album in October before going to see them, you knew by the end of the show. The hits may have been the spine of the set list, but the guts were the new tracks that the band clearly believe in.
Some of them, like "Man on the Run" and "The House Is on Fire" are nice additions to the live set. Others just kind of exist. None of them are bad, and they're all uniformly better than their studio versions.
By playing things straight, by treating these new songs as worthy of being in the same set as the hits, the show managed to hold its momentum all the way through. There was never a moment where it felt like they lost the crowd or that things went bad before getting good again.
The most interesting, most exciting part of the Bush experience remains that moment when Gavin Rossdale grabs his wireless microphone and tours the venue while singing "Little Things." It is where he is at his most charismatic and most masterful.
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Social media gives us the illusion of closeness with the musicians we like. Rossdale gives, if only for a moment, real, physical closeness. More and more artists are stopping to take selfies with their audiences; Rossdale stalks through the crowd allowing everyone to shoot their own personal live video. By the time he's on the second level, still belting out the song flawlessly, the atmosphere is something electric, something that you rarely, if ever, feel at a concert.
Perhaps it's just because it was the year I really started to discover music growing up, but I've always been fascinated by the bands that broke through in 1994. Green Day went from Dookie to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Weezer have risen and fallen so many times that every other album is their "return to form." Courtney Love is opening for Lana Del Rey. The Offspring are a band that exists purely to cash in nostalgia.
And Bush is Bush. They play lots of new songs. They change up the set list every night. They tour with bands whose new songs are on the radio with Bush's classic hits. And as long as Rossdale's voice holds out, those singles will give them an invite to radio festivals and medium-sized venues around the world.
And as long as they don't start going through the motions, everything will just sort of work.
Theory of a Deadman...eh.
So, How Was the Opener? True story: I am forever getting Theory of a Deadman and Shinedown confused. Unfortunately, Shinedown is the one that's better. In fact, in the world of butt-rock, TOAD is pretty far down on the list. Don't worry about the band that writes "Hate My Life." Worry about the people who listen and relate to it.
Personal Bias: Bush is perhaps my favorite band whose lyrics mean absolutely nothing to me. Seriously, I have no idea what Gavin is singing about ever, but it sounds nice.
The Crowd: If you told me I had accidentally walked into a 20-year class reunion, I'd believe you.
Overheard In the Crowd: "You mean I went down to Telephone Road for nothing?" I won't repeat what prompted that question, other than to say that the conversations in line for the men's room get pretty crass sometimes.
Random Notebook Dump:
Dear 45-year-old lady in mom pants and a Theory of a Deadman shirt trying to twerk to "Man on the Run": Do you. Dear husband of the 45-year-old lady in mom pants and a Theory of a Deadman shirt trying to twerk to "Man on the Run": babysitting adults is the worst, right?
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