A whirlwind summer of shows around Atlanta winds down for me with what seemed to be a can’t miss lineup. Two strong bands that I’d seen previously, known commodities, both with ample material that I both know and enjoy. What could possibly go wrong?
You know that saying about baseball, about how you could see something different every day? I really figured that didn’t apply to concerts at this point in my life, not after three decades of shows big & small. Silly me. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
First up, surprisingly, Seasons After. I’m happy to report that, contrary to the last time I saw them, everyone appeared healthy & no one was bleeding. That’s always a plus. From top to bottom the band is solid instrumentally and vocally, the material is good, their performance on this night illustrated those things just fine. I’ll be honest, I could have done with a little more material from their 2014 album than from their 2016 release which I thought didn’t quite reach the high bar they set with the earlier project but maybe that’s just me. This is just a likable band that I can’t say much more certainly about than I wish them continued and increased success.
The break between bands gave us a chance to sort out one bit of confusion. Contrary to having Gears open the show (as anticipated based on billing) with Seasons After in direct support of headliner Bridge To Grace, we discovered (by asking at the door) that Gears had been shifted to the “headlining” spot. I use that term in the loosest manner possible because, well, it’s a BtG tour and you’re just minutes away from their home. Any notion that they aren’t the headliner here is simply silly.
A relatively swift turnaround and Bridge To Grace hits the stage. In three and half years since I first saw them some things really haven’t changed. They’re still loaded with talent and charisma, they still don’t really have a particularly notable weakness. The biggest change perhaps comes simply with time. Between 2014 and 2017 the band has doubled in age as a unit. I don’t mean the back to back birthdays of the members that were noted last night I mean that more time has passed since I last saw them than they had been together as a band on the initial impression.
What that time has done is, I think, improve their fluidity. Each member seems to have improved in their role with that repetition and experience. It just looks, I guess, like it all just comes to them a little more easily now, more comfortably.
Another change of sorts last night was the inclusion of four (?) new songs that haven’t been released yet. Of those, at least two felt like they have significant potential as future singles and the other pair were not weak by any means.
The set was structured fairly well, spacing out the best known and best response tracks to give them several peaks. The one surprise (for me anyway) was the absence of long-standing cover “Jump Around”. The House of Pain song has been a frequent part of their set but, on this night, maybe it would have been asking too much for the crowd on hand. Yes, I’m going to get to that.
On the whole, two good bands, two good performances. As far as the performers go, I don’t really have anything but good to say about the evening.
That brings me to my traditional review closing, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Unfortunately for me, GBU includes the most notable aspects of the night.
The Good — I managed to find parking easily enough. Pulled straight into a space just a couple blocks down the street despite a reputation for the area being notoriously parking challenged.
I also want to say that my interactions with venue personnel were largely positive, no real issues in that regard.
The Bad — I almost hate to include this here because it might unfairly single out one band when it’s a comment based on the combined experiences at a number of recent shows. So — point blank — this is NOT directed entirely at Seasons After, but … I’ve noticed a trend in recent weeks of bands removing some of their strongest AND best known material from their set lists. While I acknowledge time constraints, promotional considerations, and even the flow of a set & position on the bill all play a role in laying out a set at some point I have to figure that if bands with enormous catalogs like Iron Maiden or Metallica can manage to hit a large percentage of their highlights then bands with more limited material to choose from should be able to do the same. Even ONE of the three glaring omissions (“Weathered & Worn”, “Lights Out” or “Gettin’ Even”) from the Seasons After set last night would have made for a noticeably more enjoyable show for me. Again, this is NOT just about SA, it’s at least the third time in recent weeks I’ve seen the same disappointing choices being made. At some point, you take away enough of the highlights from a show, it’s going to take a toll and I’m not sure that bands may not be losing sight of that a little bit.
The Ugly — Remember how I mentioned getting a surprise last night? In my entire history of concert experiences never before has a crowd and/or venue be such a miserable dud that it really sucked away my ability to enjoy the actual show. This might have been the most ill-suited combination possible. You could have gotten a better response from a room full of atheists at the southern gospel quartet convention than was evidenced by a crowd so disengaged that I wondered whether they’d been kidnapped from a Branson, MO tour bus and forced into the venue at gunpoint. A HEAVY dose of table seating is comically unsuitable for a current-based harder edge rock show. The room is arranged for a Borscht Belt comic or dinner theater, and it apparently attracts locals/regulars that wouldn’t recognize rock if you hit them with one repeatedly.
imagine trying to enjoy a show, to get that live music vibe and energy … while having a couple of hundred corpses propped up behind the two or three dozen people who actually wanted to be there.
I honestly don’t have all the words to describe what an utterly dismal situation for live original rock the combination of aging suburbanites with too much money and too little motivation to find entertainment they actually care about & sedentary seating arrangements created. You could not pay me several times over ticket price to ever endure another rock show at MadLife, you could not plumb the depths of my vocabulary enough to find adequate disdain for the sad collection of pablum chewers the venue apparently attracts, and I could not in a million years find strong enough terms for me to discourage any band with a pulse from even considering performing there.
Ugly? That doesn’t even scratch the surface.