If you’re on the wrong side of 30 like I am, you know that a lot of the music we listened to in high school in the 90’s is a fading memory. Some of those bands broke up years ago, others have key members who are deceased, and others bounce around the country jukeboxing their hits from yesteryear. But a few of those groups have kept both the touring and the writing at a feverish pace over the last decade or two. Collective Soul is one of those bands, and they brought their high-energy tour to The Pageant in St. Louis Monday night.

Opening the night was Ryan Star, and his name tells the tale. Star is a frontman through and through, but his band is immensely talented as well. They are upbeat and energetic on stage, and Star has a very strong singing voice. He alternated between guttural screams and a classic vibrato with ease. Even though Star is the namesake of the group, he showed that he doesn’t take himself too seriously by mixing in a song called “Psycho Suicidal Girl” while trying to fit all the songs from his new EP Last Train Home into the 30 minute set. It’s easy to see Star and his band headlining its own tour in the near future.
The second act was Safetysuit, a band beginning to gain national notoriety courtesy of VH1. They are as much about show as they are about music…the drummer is the only member of Safetysuit to stay in one place for the entire set. Dancing, jumping, and spinning around are all a part of the Safetysuit live experience, and all the movement is contagious; the entire audience seemed to be bouncing in unison with the band. Their songs were just as catchy, with gems like “Annie” and “Someone Like You” highlighting the set.

 As good as these opening acts were, they were merely setting the table for Collective Soul and its sonic and visual assault.

The relevance of Collective Soul is undeniable. They exploded onto the music scene in 1994, the height of the grunge/alternative revolution, with their anthemic hit “Shine.” If you were within earshot of a radio at that time, you know this song. Although colored with the angst-y traits of the era, the heart of “Shine” was still pure, straightforward rock. And their show Monday night proved that the heart of Collective Soul on the whole is pure, straightforward rock.

The show started off hot and heavy, like any good rock show does. And because any rock concert worth paying attention to has to have a great visual presence to go with the music, Collective Soul plays in front of one hell of a lighting rig.

Lead singer and guitarist Ed Roland assured the crowd that the band would be playing the older songs we all knew, but that they’d also be playing a few off of their new self-titled album due out August 25th.

Out of nowhere, in the middle of the show, the band started busting out the classics. A harder, almost unrecognizable intro kicked off “Shine.” Roland let the crowd do all the “yeah’s” between riffs, and the trademark guitar solo was spot on. Following were extended but flawless versions of “December,” “World I Know,” “Gel,” and “Why Pt. 2.”

“Lighten Up” is one of the new songs that really stood out, with its thunderous rhythms and driving guitars. But the first single off the new album, “Staring Down,” is a mid-tempo rock song that almost felt a little out of place in this hard-rocking set. It’s not a bad song, by any means, but for a band with so many unmistakable riffs and Roland’s familiar vocals “Staring Down” was a bit pedestrian.

Getting back to the hits, the band rolled though a strong rendition of “Where The River Flows.” Hearing all these songs definitely took me back to high school and the years immediately after. I almost forgot how many great songs Collective Soul had. And, frankly, they play so well to this day that you’d think it was 1995. Lead guitarist Joel Kosche absolutely tears it up on his solos, and Roland keeps the crowd’s attention with his mic stand antics and participation requests. These guys still know how to do it, and with a new album just over the horizon it appears they’ll keep doing it for a while. Definitely a can’t miss show.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010 11:02 PM

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