Something strange happened during the '90s. Southern Rock as we once knew it all but disappeared. Charmed by grunge, drowned in amplification, bands began shedding the elements of blues and country that threaded that noble line from Lynyrd Skynyrd through the Georgia Satellites and the Black Crowes. Just as importantly, they abandoned lyrics that carried on the rich Southern storytelling tradition in favor of cheap radio platitudes and MTV-pandering nonsense. In that post-PC, not-so-brave new world, anything with a drawl was persona non grata. A decade and change later, Southern Rock still hasn't completely recovered, but there are signs of progress. Collective Soul is no one's idea of a Southern Rock band - and, the odd moment of boogie aside, still sound like they might as well be from southern Illinois or Pennsylvania rather than Allman country - but the band did manage to prove a point or two Tuesday at House of Blues. First, nostalgically speaking, the '80s are over. The '90s are where the money is; the show was sold out. Second, Kings of Leon hardly sprung from a vacuum. Let's hope the Followill boys give credit where it's due, because their stringy-haired sex on fire owes an awful lot to Collective Soul.
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Openers Black Stone Cherry are a more interesting case study. With blustery riffage and copious hair-flipping, they hinted at Molly Hatchet and Black Oak Arkansas (and certainly looked the part), but maintained a safe distance even though the drummer broke four sticks in the first three songs. They sounded like so many bands that have come and gone since alternative rock turned "heavy" around 1998 or so, it was hard to single out just one - but if we had to, we'd say Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam run through Skid Row's slave-to-the-grind machine. And just about the time we were thinking how awesome it would be to hire the Kentucky quartet for a private party so they could unleash their considerable chops on Blackfoot, Wet Willie, etc., they let fly a balls-out cover of ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid." Maybe there's still time.