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Despite technical problems, Ocean Blue aims to please


With John Wesley Harding.

Cambridgeside Galleria, Sep. 8.



AS PART OF THE BACK TO COLLEGE Homecoming, WFNX and the Cambridgeside Galleria presented the Ocean Blue and John Wesley Harding in concert last Sunday at the Lechmere Canal Park on a floating stage located in the lagoon.

No kidding -- the stage floated completely in the lagoon, and was connected to solid ground only by two rather thin and precarious catwalks. A police boat sat serenely in the middle of the lake, along with several paddleboats rented out by some imaginative fans who came too late to get decent seats. Occasionally, a tour boat even joined the collection.

As John Wesley Harding walked on promptly at 2 pm for his solo opening act, he quipped, "I usually try to separate my water from my electricity." Throughout his hour-long performance, he entertained the audience with similar wry comments on MTV, VH-1, Don Henley, "political correctness" and the lagoon. After hearing "The People's Drug" and "The World (and All its Problems)," it was clear that this witty, cynical style was his trademark.

Harding then sang a few songs from an upcoming new album to be released late September on Rhino Records. He started off with "This Song isn't Any Good," which was dedicated to the MTV music awards, and contained such lyrics as "This song won't make you dress in all black / This song won't make you get a new wave punk haircut."

After that, he covered Madonna with "Like a Prayer" and attacked the Live Aid benefit with "Live Aid," a song containing a revised version of "We are the World":



We are the world

We are rich bastards

We are the ones who drive flashy cars and don't pay taxes.

This is crap we're singing

Because we all are stoned

And this is the only line that rhymes . . .



Harding finally acquiesced to the screams of "Beatles in America!" from several persistent members of the audience and played "When the Beatles Play in America" to enthusiastic clapping. He finished the song with an imitation of Paul McCartney and a jab, saying "Paul McCartney's last concert was sponsored by Visa and Greenpeace. Isn't that like being supported by both Hitler and Churchill?"

"The Devil in Me" supplied a rousing ending. Refusing encores, he said in true John Wesley Harding style, "I don't want to get to the good part just as the Ocean Blue comes on."

The Ocean Blue, the lilting band from Hershey, Pennsylvania, arrived around 3:15 pm, intent on promoting their new album, Cerulean. Although technical problems continually plagued their hour-plus set, they still managed a fine performance.

They concentrated mainly on several promising songs from their new album, but garnered the most positive audience response from singles "Vanity Fair," "Drifting, Falling," and "Between Something and Nothing," all from their eponymous debut album.

In the middle of "Ask Me Jon," from the same album, lead guitarist David Schelzel announced that his amp wasn't working. He switched guitars constantly afterwards, but the lead guitar was inaudible for some time. He thanked the audience for their continued patience, citing problems such as the blinding lights and sun, the malfunctioning amps, the slipping microphone stand, and "guitars acting funny."

The surprise of the day was the Ocean Blue's cover of the Smiths' "There is a Light that Never Goes Out," perhaps spurred on by the plethora of Smiths and Morrissey T-shirts visible in the audience. It seemed an extemporaneous decision because Schelzel skipped over the second verse and repeated the first twice. But for the first time during the concert, the audience sang along, and they cheered wildly. It was probably the closest thing to hearing the Smiths live in concert today, and a fitting ending to an enjoyable afternoon of music.