Rock fingers were finally waved in the air at the Red Deer College Arts Centre Saturday night, as Collective Soul performed a sold-out show that started with fans politely singing and swaying in their seats.
The restraint had everything to do with over-vigilant ushers rather than a lack of excitement about the band’s exuberant, transcendent performance.
After all, 600 young to middle-aged fans had showed their devotion by giving the U.S. group enthusiastic standing ovations after nearly every song.
At last, a brave audience member spoke up after fans were prevented from dancing in front of the stage or standing in the auditorium by ushers. The man asked Collective Soul’s frontman, Ed Roland, was it OK if people stood and danced?
Roland looked like he could kiss the guy for finally addressing the issue.
“Yes! You can dance — and stand up!” the grinning singer proclaimed. (The musicians must have been thinking, geez, what does it take to get a Red Deer audience pumped at a rock concert?)
Fans immediately jumped to their feet while the band pulled out the stops for Gel. The delighted Roland, sporting a greying mane of untamed Gene-Wilder-style hair, ran back and forth brushing palms with audience members.
After 23 years of putting on rock shows, the singer really knew how to work a crowd. Like a bandmeister, he began shaking hands, giving a newly engaged fan a peck on the head, and drumming up applause with a one-armed peace sign. Fans roared in response.
Although the RDC Arts Centre is more associated with button-down symphonic concerts than howling electric guitars, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Live Two Five album was recorded in the same venue in 1991. “I used to listen to that all the time,” said Roland, “it’s kind of cool we’re now on the same stage!”
The Georgia-based musicians, including Dean Roland (Ed’s younger brother) on rhythm guitar, bassist Will Turpin, lead guitarist Jesse Triplett and drummer Johnny Rabb, had entered the stage to a recording of Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music. (An in-joke about a quarter-century in the music business… ??)
They dove right into a smashing rendition of Smashing Young Man, a strobe light-accented Heavy, from the 1999 album Dosage, and Precious Declaration from 1997’s Disciplined Breakdown.
Fans went wild over December, which included a very cool guitar solo that Triplett delivered downstage.
“Thanks for inviting us to your party!” responded Ed Roland, before introducing a trio of songs from Collective Soul’s new album, See What You Started By Continuing. The guitar hooks and catchy melodies the band became known in the 1990s were evident in the tracks Hurricane, about a bleak period in Roland’s life, This, and the jangly AYTA (Are You the Answer).
The audience sang the chorus to Why, Pt. 2, from 2000’s album Blender, and Roland crooned a powerhouse Better Now. But one of the evening’s most deeply felt songs was Needs. Whether about God or a woman, the tune is incredibly stirring.
The 52-year-old singer’s casual, quirky stage presence involved doing microphone tricks. At one point, he exclaimed “Let’s slow down boys,” after noting 10 songs were performed within 45 minutes.
“We’re going too fast. We’re just too excited! Calm down!”
Collective Soul performed a mesmerizing cover of the vocally difficult Led Zeppelin song Going to California, a brand-new tune (Rule #1), as well as a spectacularly showy Confession. The latter song from the band’s new album runs the entire emotional gamut, from quiet and introspective to loud and brash.
The biggest hits, Where the River Flows, Shine and a slightly slower version of the emo-anthem The World I Know, were saved for near last. By the time the concert was wrapping up with Run, it was clear, the musicians didn’t want the show to end. Roland kept reprising verses, getting the audience to sing along.
When group members reluctantly left the stage more than three hours after the concert began, it was still too soon for many fans.
Collective Soul proved its exceptional talent twice at local concerts over the last two years. Not every band can still give 100 per cent and writing songs that hold up some 23 years. No wonder they sell out in Red Deer.
Energetic Edmonton rock quintet Royal Tusk opened the show with grooving tunes such as DealBreaker, the title track from a new album coming out May 6. Curse the Weather was an appropriate selection, considering the weekend snowfall.
With that song title, you just know they must be from Alberta…