Veruca Salt | 09.26.06

The highlight of the show was the encore, which included a bold a cappella rendition of "One Last Time," prefaced by request to the crowd to join Post in singing happy birthday to her mother, who was in attendance.

 

w/Agent Sparks
Pop's, Sauget, Ill.

It was a homecoming of sorts at Pop's this fine Monday night, as 25% of each of the evening's two headliners returned to St. Louis to perform in front of loyal friends and family. Agent Sparks drummer George Purviance and Veruca Salt front woman Louise Post both excitedly bonded with their hometown crowd during their performances, which provided an interesting showcase of rock's past, present, and potential future.

Agent Sparks is led by former Audiovent bandmates Benjamin Einziger and Paul Fried, though their sound is a much more eclectic mix of pop-rock styles than the slick, straightforward rock of their former group. Though the fellows put forth plenty of effort, the star of their show was easily singer/keyboardist Stephanie Eitel (the "gimmie, gimmie" girl of Weezer's "Beverly Hills" fame). Eitel's youthful, dynamic vocals and European soccer schoolgirl attire earned her the ears (and eyes) of the crowd for the duration of their set. The dual vocals of Einziger and Eitel were hit or miss, as Einziger (younger brother of Incubus guitarist Michael Einziger) proved stronger on the axe than on the mic. Each song was distinct, but this was a double-edged sword, as most sounded reminiscent of other bands and gave Agent Sparks a bit of a multiple-personality disorder. From the Vines-style yelping in "It's Not My Time" to the Of Montreal-like dance feel of "Choke" to the headliner-invoking "Mr. Insecurity," their performance showed great potential, but revealed a band still seeking identity in its early stages.

Veruca Salt, on the other hand, has been around for 12 years and has a clear understanding of their identity: '90s-style alt-rockers. Though a smattering of songs from their new album IV showed bits of evolution, the band seemed comfortable in their well-worn skin. Post (rumored to, in fact, be the "Seether") is a persistent and oddly charming front woman, pulling through both a band eruption and the changing of the times to continue rocking exactly how she wants to. Drummer Kellii Scott, bassist Nicole Fiorentino (who appeared to be more of a protégé than a peer like former co-leader Nina Gordon), and guitarist Stephen Fitzpatrick all put in solid performances, but Post was clearly in charge. Though her angry-chick shtick came with the territory (and was particularly successful on concert staples "Shutterbug" and "Straight"), she couldn't help but crack smiles and show a softer side in front of her home crowd. "It's nice to be home," she whispered shyly as a lone spotlight shone on her during the breakdown of "Spiderman '79." The set list included old standards ("Don't Make Me Prove It" and "Victrola") and impressive new tunes ("Blissful Queen"), as well as a few pleasant surprises, such as the interweaving of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" into the hard-rocking "Born Entertainer." Though her own songs dominated the set, Post was unafraid to break out Gordon-written fan favorites "Seether" and "Volcano Girls," which are coincidentally the band's biggest hits.

The overall performance was better than expected for a band that has been out of the limelight for half a decade, and it was partially due to Veruca Salt's ability to adapt through complications and play to their strengths. Sound mix issues dampened the early going, but were quickly resolved through Post's coaching and compensating. In addition, the band sprinkled their slower material evenly throughout their set to prevent their typical soft-loud-soft-loud rock sound from becoming monotonous.

The highlight of the show was the encore, which included a bold a cappella rendition of "One Last Time" (wherein Post's strained vocals seemed to be relying on emotion alone to carry through), prefaced by request to the crowd to join Post in singing happy birthday to her mother, who was in attendance. Though Mama Salt was touched by her daughter's tribute, her greatest moment would be moments later when she could be seen covering her ears during the band's fitting finale of "Hellraising." It must have been the volume levels, because with the quality of this night's performance, she was the only one without ears wide open.

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