Blind Melon | 03.24.08

live_melon_sm.jpgGuitarist Chris Thorn and bassist Brad Smith were asked to produce Texas singer-songwriter Travis Warren’s demo tracks a few years ago, and discovered that not only was he a diehard Blind Melon fan who know almost every song’s lyric by heart, his voice was almost chill-inducingly identical to Hoon’s.

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Pop’s Nightclub, Sauget.

Just one night after millions of Catholics all over the world celebrated Easter and the resurrection of Christ, several hundred St. Louis area music fans witnessed a very different type of resurrection— one that, admittedly, was much smaller in scale, yet still held great significance to all those who attended. For that one night, Pop’s was transformed into a very special and sacred church in its own right, hosting the much-anticipated rebirth of one of the more important and unique alternative-rock bands of the early and mid-’90s, Blind Melon.

Following the tragic overdose death of frontman Shannon Hoon in 1995, the remaining members pursued various other musical projects, the most successful of which was 2000’s amazing Unified Theory. After auditions for Hoon’s replacement went unfulfilled, it seemed rather unlikely that Blind Melon would ever exist again. But as fate often creates changes when they are least expected, guitarist Chris Thorn and bassist Brad Smith were asked to produce Texas singer-songwriter Travis Warren’s demo tracks a few years ago, and discovered that not only was he a diehard Blind Melon fan who know almost every song’s lyric by heart, his voice was almost chill-inducingly identical to Hoon’s.

After too long in the dark, Blind Melon was then, almost by divine intervention, given back its light, and with all four remaining original members intact, writing and recording for the band’s first CD in 12 years (due out April 22) soon followed.

The Pop’s show was the fifth on an extensive 30-date North American tour, and the now non-smoking venue was filled to a near-capacity level with fans primarily in their 30s. Local St. Louis quintet Red Water Revival warmed-up the crowd with their progressive bluesy-funky rock, which featured some stellar drumming, yet slightly weak lead vocals. After the break, and a brief introduction from DJs Tom and Jeff from The Point radio station, (where Blind Melon had played acoustically on-air that afternoon) the moment that everyone had been eagerly waiting for had finally arrived.

The 90-minute set was primarily a well-blended mixture of the best material off of the band’s three releases. The spacey, heavy “Galaxie” started off the set strongly, soon followed by one of the band’s biggest hits (and my personal favorite) “Toes Across the Floor.” Some of the highlights of the set’s first half included “Drive,” “Soup” and “I Wonder.” The new single, “Wishing Well,” is a catchy and melodic song that featured Warren on acoustic guitar, and bled seemlessly into a beautiful version of “Change,” during which much of the crowd sang every word.

The later part of the set became a bit more improvisational, and contained some tasty lengthy instrumental jams. The band’s biggest hit (which still receives moderate airplay today) “No Rain” started off with a slow and bluesy segment before kicking into full gear, and was followed by the set’s closer, an intensely powerful version of “The Pusher.” The three-song encore included the fun, spirited “Mouthful of Cavities,” which inspired more singing from the crowd. 

The new material, which was utilized sparingly throughout the evening (only four or five songs total), sounded very much like the band’s MySpace page biography described,  picking up exactly where the band had left off ten years ago.

Those years have apparently been kind to the original members; three of them still wore their hair long, and none of them looked as old as they actually are. Warren, a short yet well-built powerhouse of a man with heavily tattooed arms, strutted and swirled barefooted around the front half of the stage; often looking and reaching upward, as if he were attempting to connect with Hoon’s spirit for inspiration and approval.

Judging by this concert’s overall strength, I’m fairly certain that he received both. | Michele Ulsohn

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