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Surprise Opening Rusty Stole The Show From Collective Soul, Who Turned In A Dreadful Performance

Joe Ehrbar Correspondent

Collective Soul and Rusty Sunday, July 30, The Met

It’s not often that a concert’s opening band uproots the headliner.

But when it happens, it’s a wonderful surprise.

Sunday night at The Met, upstart Rusty knocked off Collective Soul with an explosive, raging set of rock ‘n’ roll.

Fueled by lots of youthful spunk and vigor, the Toronto four-piece rolled through songs from its major label release, “Fluke.” It even threw in a Replacements cover.

During the frenzied and swift “Punk” - and the song was just that - dreadlocked vocalist Ken MacNeil and guitarist Scott McCullough traded vocals, cranking out a song that brought to mind the Ramones as much as it did Motorhead.

Other standouts included the baiting “Groovy Dead,” the off-kilter “Billy Boy” and the crisp “Wake Me.”

Indeed, the group is another guitar band, another guitar band likely to be slapped with punk or alternative tags. And what the world doesn’t need is another guitar band.

However, Rusty belongs, and for several reasons.

First, the four musicians write meaty songs with snappy hooks. Second, they play hungry and strive to make a connection with the audience. Third, Rusty isn’t trying to be the next Pearl Jam, which numerous guitar bands are blatantly guilty of. Fourth, the members take their music seriously but they don’t take themselves seriously. (Rock would greatly benefit if more bands were to do that.) Fifth, they act sincerely and graciously when the audience applauds them. (MacNeil even applauded the audience for its applauds.) I could go on.

Whether Rusty will become a mainstream success is hard to say. But if the band keeps churning out performances like it did on Sunday, Rusty likely won’t be invited to open for Collective Soul much longer.

While Rusty was great, Collective Soul was dreadful.

Don’t be fooled by this band. Though the five members masquerade as alternative rock pinups, they’re nothing more than throwbacks to the cheesy, Sunset Strip, hair rock scene of the ‘80s.

With that, the Georgia quintet is bringing embarrassingly bad rock star posturing back to MTV. For example, guitarist Ross Childress stood by a fan onstage just because he thought he looked cool when the wind caught hold of his lush mane.

If that wasn’t distracting enough, the three guitarists and bassist changed their instruments nearly every song. For the most part, the changes were unnecessary. Unless it’s a faulty guitar or a hack player, the instrument doesn’t go out of tune after every song. I can understand trading guitars if a string breaks, which happened twice to guitarist Dean Roland, or if one of the axmen were looking to get a different tone from a different guitar make. But switching a red Les Paul for a brown Les Paul, whose tunings were in the same key, was ridiculous.

Musically, Collective Soul, which often boasted three guitars, wasn’t solid.

I would expect the band would construct a monstrous wall of sound with a three-guitar assault. Not so. Collective Soul could have relied on just one guitar and it would have ended up with the same wimpy result.

What’s more, the band doesn’t get any spring from drummer Shane Evans. Evans basically stuck to the beat and didn’t pound out any fill. He didn’t need half of his cymbals or his toms.

When performing songs void of challenging material, why is it that bands like Collective Soul make what they’re doing look so difficult? It’s kind of funny considering the bands that play incredibly difficult music make it look so simple.

Collective Soul won the crowd with its exhibition. For that, it deserves credit.

As far as offering up a night of considerable music, music that will transcend the years or even next month, Collective Soul fell short.

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