By Chris M. Junior
Pennsylvania-bred +Live+ and British-born Bush have something else in common: Their breakthrough albums were released in 1994. Throwing Copper, the second +Live+ album, arrived that April, and Bush’s U.S. debut, Sixteen Stone, followed in December.
The dual 25thanniversary is the hook for what’s been dubbed The ALT-imate Tour (also featuring opener Our Lady Peace). And at the second New Jersey stop, which took place June 15 at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, those albums were of course in the spotlight but not the only standout material in the identical-length sets.
Headliner +Live+ began with three straight Copper tracks: “The Dam at Otter Creek,” “All Over You” and “Selling the Drama,” during which singer Ed Kowalczyk matched his roar with intense expressions. The band made a quick detour with a cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” that was faithful to the original but also saw Kowalczyk, guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer and drummer Chad Gracey (supported throughout by a percussionist and extra guitarist) interjecting a personal touch. The same occurred later in the set during a rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It, Black.”
“The Dolphin’s Cry,” from 1999’s The Distance to Here, was a highlight (and deserves to be revisited by fans who’ve forgotten it), as was the Copper hit “I Alone,” during which Kowalczyk ventured into the orchestra aisle for the second chorus. Alone on acoustic guitar, Kowalczyk was especially soulful on the Birds of Pray track “Heaven,” and he tackled the Secret Samadhi single “Turn My Head” sans his bandmates before they returned to close with Copper’s “Lightning Crashes,” their highest-charting Billboard Hot 100 entry to date.
Rossdale gets close to the crowd
Looking a decade younger than he is, Bush’s Gavin Rossdale was a match to Kowalczyk in terms of vocal strength. But as far as connecting with the crowd and exploring the venue, Rossdale did something rarely seen at the PNC Bank Arts Center: He basically did a lap around the entire seating area, reaching the back of the lawn section (making periodic stops along the way and with security staying close), and never sounded out of breath.
Addressing the fans often, Rossdale encouraged them to sing with him and, at times, in place of him. Midway through Bush’s set, he started Sixteen Stone’s “Everything Zen” by singing the first line of the chorus over his blistering guitar, then stepped back so the crowd could take over, before the entire band kicked in.
There were no covers in Bush’s set, but Rossdale, guitarist Chris Traynor, bassist Corey Britz and drummer Robin Goodridge did deviate from the familiar with “The Disease of the Dancing Cats,” a nonsingle from 1999’s The Science of Things. To the crowd’s credit, there wasn’t a mass exodus to the restrooms during that song, and an equal level of interest was paid to the subsequent “Bullet Holes,” which appears on the soundtrack to this year’s John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. The band wrapped up with the Sixteen Stone trifecta of “Little Things,” “Glycerine” and “Comedown.”
Bush has a show in Canada in July, while +Live+ has dates in Europe and elsewhere into next month. They’ll be back together when the ALT-imate Tour resumes on July 26 in Wisconsin; it’s scheduled to conclude Sept. 8 in Michigan.