Live Review: The Rentals, Copeland, Goldenboy…

Category: Blog — @ 2:46 pm August 11, 2007

The draw for The Rentals at Slowdown last night was disappointing, or as it was described by one of the venue owners, the place was half empty… or half-full, depending on how you looked at it. The management decided to close the balcony in an effort to make the crowd look larger and more compact. “You don’t like seeing bands play to an empty room, do you?” I don’t mind, as long as I’m not sitting on the floor, which was where I sat most of the evening between bands because there were no seats available (except up in that closed balcony area). I guess sitting on the floor makes it more like a “real concert experience” circa the 1970s and the days of festival seating. I suppose.

Goldenboy came on at 8:30 playing a somewhat vanilla set of adult-alternative rock. I wish I could tell you more about their sound, but the band left virtually no mark on my memory other than the fact that all the members wore hats. Apparently a number of people came to the show to see Coldplay…er, Copeland, judging by people walking around with Copeland T-shirts. Frontman Aaron Marsh mostly played keyboards, sometimes switched to acoustic guitar, and had a voice reminiscent of Bryan (not Ryan) Adams. They played the kind of unadventurous smooth-indie rock that compliments bland TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs. Bands like The Fray come to mind. Kudos to their drummer, who was a fill-in guy playing only his second show with the band. He was phenomenal. I can only imagine how their full-time drummer must sound in comparison.

Finally, there was The Rentals, all seven of them tumbling out onto the stage, taking their various positions that they’d switch throughout the evening. It wasn’t until they started roaring into their hits that it dawned on me what a flat, monotone voice Matt Sharp actually has. Think about it. Those songs off their first album had a natural charm to them because they seemed to be sung by a droning nerd. Actually, come to think of it, that’s also the charm of Weezer’s first album, too (There’s not a lot of vocal range on “Undone (The Sweater Song)”). The monotone drone is less noticeable and actually somewhat likable on The Rentals recordings, but live, Sharp just sounds like he can’t sing. To dress it up, he backs himself with three women, two of which really can sing, especially original Rentals member Rachel Haden, who’s vocals glowed above everyone else’s. Not surprisingly, the new material off their EP sounded better than the old stuff reinvented (which, at times, was unrecognizable). Sharp has said in a number of interviews (including one with me) that crowd response on this tour has been rousing, with people dancing and pogo-ing and singing along with the hits. Last night’s audience, on the other hand, while respectful, hardly moved despite Sharp’s aerobic efforts (along with viola/vocalist youngster Laura Chipman) to get them into the set. It just wasn’t happening.

A brief note about Slowdown’s sound system: This was the first national band that I’ve seen on their big stage, and as expected, the sound was impressive. It’s the first concert I’ve been to that was really loud without hurting my ears (In fact, hearing protection wasn’t needed). Sightlines are impeccable. As Teresa said afterward, this is the place to go to see a band you really like.

Tonight’s recap is below (or here). I’m still leaning toward The Stay Awake/Bombardment Society at The Saddle Creek Bar. Whatever you do, try to stay cool.

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