Collective Soul and Gin Blossoms filled the 2,500 seats at the Cowlitz Ballroom on Sunday at Ilani Casino in Ridgefield, WA as the two bands close in on the end of their summer long Now’s the Time Tour in near peak performance.
Both acts got their footing in the 1990s with smash albums but arguably the two floated around the music scene in the early 2000s while finding a core following with regular touring and releasing new material, but this show was hardly a nostalgic act to remember the past.
Actually, you can’t ask for much more when two bands deliver an uncompromising performance that thoroughly satisfies everything you know and love about music.
Simply put, Collective Soul and Gin Blossoms were awesome.
The Tempe, AZ based Gin Blossoms took the stage first, just five minutes past the start time, and though Now’s the Time was billed as a co-headlining tour, they served as the opener including a shorter set (my only compliant) that lasted just an hour.
Gin Blossoms showed a clear benefit functioning as a “working band” as their touring schedule keeps them on the road of much of the year, especially since late 2017 for the 25 year celebration of the multi-platinum New Miserable Experience. They were fully dialed in for their 13 songs that included five off NME, a couple from Congratulations I’m Sorry , including the very welcome surprise “Competition Smile” and solid selections from the acclaimed Mixed Reality, their latest from 2018.
Gin Blossoms have an alluring way to wrench your soul and grab your heart but keeping you hopeful and optimistic throughout. They opened with “Here Again” off the new record giving guitarist Jesse Valenzuela the solo spotlight and followed with “Competition Smile” that proved once again singer Robin Wilson has the more serene vocals in rock today. Another great new song in the harmonic “Face the Dark” and the band finally hit some past singles with “Until I Fall Away” and “Follow You Down” for which even Wilson proclaimed “Nailed it!”
Indeed they did.
Gin Blossoms know how to effectively counterpunch their upbeat pop rock like “Still Some Room in Heaven” with a dreamy “Wonder” then drop you on “Break.” And all this wrapped up on the new album! Valenzuela and guitarist Scott Johnson regularly trade off on solos, sometimes in the same song, as the other holds rhythm, and their now longest tenured drummer Scott Hessel brings solid energy behind the kit.
Gin Blossoms may not illicit a stand up and rock trajectory but their softer approach works very well and tends to keep you deep in thought. They seem to have a lot of fun these days too. Songs get extended with strong guitar work, others get a brief instrumental introduction but overall Gin Blossoms sound tight and on-point.
After a 30 minute stage set change, it was Collective Soul’s turn. Understand, these southern rockers not only were up against personal history but a stellar performance from Gin Blossoms and, well, I’m a bit lost for words.
Collective Soul rolled the throttle from the start with “Observation of Thoughts” to set closer “Run” which they easily cruised to the finish line on. The 90 minute, 17 song set celebrated their 25 year career and the exceptional new album Blood released a few months ago.
Singer Ed Roland came out first, stepping behind a piano for a short piece before the rest of the band emerged. It was all rock and guitar from there as Collective Soul hit “Heavy” next which unloaded out of the speakers (got chills!) and Roland absolutely shined vocally on “Why Pt. 2.” No one else sounds like Roland, one of three who remain from their 1992 start, with his southern rock drawl that leaves Collective Soul without the need for an introduction. He’s got a solid core backing him in brother Dean Roland on rhythm guitar, bassist Will Turpin and “newcomers” Johnny Rabb on drums, now seven years in, and lead guitarist Jesse Triplett who joined in 2014, (replacing longtime guitarist Joel Kosche) whose shredding work on the fretboard helps fully anchor this band.
The Atlanta-based quintet kept the gas on with a momentous “Shine” from their debut album Hints, Allegations & Things Left Unsaid and Turpin’s bass fully delivered “Better Now.” Collective Soul took selections off eight of their 10 studio albums and featured five off Blood including the fantastic “Right as Rain,” a better than the studio version of “Now’s the Time” and “Crushed” which they played live for just the fourth time, and crushed it. They had little trouble despite Ed Roland suggesting he needed the lyrics, just in case.
Their popular “December” got extended play thanks to a great Triplett solo and even more solid guitar work on the popular “The World I Know” one of four from their 1995 sophomore self-titled release. They brought Wilson on stage to take lead vocals for the R.E.M. cover “The One I Love” and closed out the evening with “Gel,” the heavy “Where the River Flows” and finally slowed the pace for a thoroughly satisfying “Run.”
This was an evening of musical fine art with two veteran bands owning a solid foundation and a promising future.
Gin Blossoms Setlist at Ilani Casino:
- Here Again
- Competition Smile
- Face the Dark
- Until I Fall Away
- Follow You Down
- Still Some Room in Heaven
- Alison Road
- Even the Losers (Tom Petty cover)
- Found Out About You
- Till I Hear it From You
- Hey Jealousy
Collective Soul Setlist at Ilani Casino:
- Observation of Thoughts
- Why Pt. 2
- Better Now
- Now’s the Time
- Over Me
- Precious Declaration
- Right as Rain
- AYTA (Are You the Answer)
- The World I Know
- The One I Love (R.E.M. cover)
- Where the River Flows