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Collective Soul Live

Blast from the Past Plays Providence’s Lupo’s

Not bad for the one-hit wonder of 1994!” was one of Collective Soul frontman Ed Roland’s many exclamations that brought a sweeping roar from the crowd of about 200, all packed into Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, a mid-sized club in downtown Providence.

Roland was explaining that Collective Soul was taking a break from touring for a couple of years, after five albums and five world tours in the last six years. Collective Soul was a well-recognized name for a time, with their smash hits in 1994 and 1995, such as “Shine,” “December,” and “The World I Know.” However, even with eight number one rock hits, they have left the limelight. Their fan base has not increased dramatically with the release of either of their latest two albums, but the fans they do have are very loyal.

The band is comprised of frontman Roland on vocals and rhythm guitar, his brother Dean also on rhythm guitar, Ross Childress on lead, Will Turpin on bass, and Shane Evans on drums. The band’s sound is very guitar-oriented, with three of them playing simultaneously in several songs.

They have many distinctive riffs and solos, and obvious hooks in almost all of their popular songs. Childress even had an interesting device which seems, when held over all the strings, to amplify very small vibrations so that he can play some of the more complicated solos without worrying about his right hand. The fans all appreciate the guitar-heavy sound, bringing to the concert signs that read “Ross is God” and the like.

The audience was tense in anticipation, jumping up and down, waving their signs, and ready to be entertained. The band had planned for that, and was quite ready to respond. Suddenly, out of the darkness, the opening riff of “Where the River Flows” came blaring from amplifiers, met by the first round of deafening cheering and applause. When the lights turned on, the first image seen by all was Roland crazily swinging the microphone stand in circles, soulfully singing the lyrics to the well-known song.

All night long, they expertly worked the crowd and kept them on their toes. They had a brilliantly planned set almost purely alternating between singles and other great songs. At one point, early in the set, they made a point of saying that they were tired of just playing the singles, and followed it with an amazing song from their third album, which they intended to release, but were prevented from doing by Atlantic Records.

A few songs into the concert, they played “December,” a song instantly recognizable. Roland laughed and asked the audience if they all knew that one. Then they proceeded to cover Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” and just as people were really getting into it, they stopped the song, saying, “Yeah, you knew that one, too,” leaving the audience eagerly awaiting the next song.

The rest of the set was masterfully laid out. They even threw in a song that they had just written, untitled as of yet, right after “The World I Know,” (possibly their most famous song). At a couple points during the set, they started doing some improv in the middle of a song, much as Pearl Jam is known to do every time they play their hit “Daughter” live.

During “Blame,” for example, they held off on the highly recognizable ending, and Roland and Evans, onstage by themselves, jammed on one chord, alternating playing their instruments with Roland’s singing of lines from The Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” and the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

When their main set ended, every fan in the audience was screaming for them to come back and play more. They had obviously planned to, because they saved for the encore the song that made them famous, “Shine.” They built up to that song by talking, waiting, and even playing a well known song right before it to prime the audience. The tension was almost enough to knock people over, and it was released in one bit rush as soon as the first riff began.

They didn’t actually close with “Shine,” but took a small break, and then in the one-song second encore, they explained that they would be taking a break from touring, and opened the final song with the words: “Like I said, it’s gonna be a few years.” With that, they began “Reunion,” a soft song that lets people slowly down as the band exits. They understood this, and walked off stage one by one, still playing the song until the band was gone, all the lights were off, and the audience descended from their collective cloud to realize that their emotions had just been very expertly manipulated, and that they loved the band so much more for it.

The opening band was Seven Channels, a new band out of Dallas, Texas. Perched dangerously on the edge of punk, they had unbelievable amounts of youthful energy, such that the lead singer had to take his shirt off and crowd surf at the end. Between the bald, hulk of a guitarist, the inaudible lyrics, and the lead singer’s frantic jumping around, they gave every impression of an incredibly hard band. However, their music somewhat belied their appearance, as if they were trying to be hard, but just couldn’t get there. Their music was pretty good, and they were quite talented musicians. The songs began hard, but became more mellow as their set continued, to the point where lighters were waved in the crowd. Their last song that they played, “Breathe,” is the first single off their album, coming out soon, and one might do well to fulfill the lead singer’s appeal that people request the song on local radio stations.