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Sugar Ray and the Spin Doctors

A Strong Comeback and Unexpected Metal

By Pey-Hua Hwang


Sugar Ray

Johnson Athletic Center

April 26, 2002

This year’s Spring Weekend concert featured Sugar Ray and the Spin Doctors. Johnson was set up differently than it was for last year’s show, which featured The Roots and Blues Traveller with the stage front perpendicular to the bleachers instead of facing the bleachers. However, the crowd was nonplussed by waiting in the line which started right outside the building and stretched all the way down the football field for well over an hour in fall-like chilliness to get in.

The Spin Doctors played both of their radio hits, “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and “Two Princes,” and filled the rest of their set with songs that ranged from funk to hard rock. Plenty of time was also devoted to showcasing the talents of the guitarist, bassist, and drummer, who lead singer Chris Barron introduced repeatedly.

However, while the music didn’t lack in energy there seemed to be something missing. Perhaps the songs needed more lyrics and less chorus, the backgrounds needed more variation or the lead singer’s dance moves seemed more goofy than charismatic. However, one must give credit to a band that can sing “yo mama’s a pajama” with straight faces.

The Spin Doctors haven’t toured together for seven years, and their comeback certainly deserved of the positive audience response. In fact, some attendees of the concert left at the intermission saying that they had come to see the Spin Doctors and weren’t interested in Sugar Ray.

After a half-hour set change Sugar Ray took the stage. They opened with the lesser-known but energetic “Glory,” which had lead singer Mark McGrath bouncing about the stage like a pogo stick gone wild. Then after some obligatory acknowledgements to MIT and the Spin Doctors the band went right into “Falls Apart” with some not-so-subtle word changes such as “MIT’s wasted” and “the six’s are wasted,” provoking cheers and whistles from the audience. They continued with three songs from their newest album: “Answer the Phone,” “Under the Sun,” and “When It’s Over.” Each song was played with a hard-rock character that contrasted with the pop feel of the albums.

Between songs McGrath and the other members of the band acted out little skits and said things like, “How about some love for the dumb rock guy?” This ruse was rather comical the first time but started to get stale after being used multiple times throughout the rest of the show.

They dedicated “Fly” to the men and women serving in Afghanistan and also to Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC, who was recently killed in a car accident. Nearly all of the Johnson crowd was jumping, dancing, and waving arms in the air. During “Fly” McGrath also went into the audience and got two flustered audience members to sing into the microphone while the crowd around him screamed their support.

McGrath retired from the stage for “Waiting,” a completely acoustic number performed by the guitarist, bassist, and a drummer also on acoustic guitar. “Waiting” was well-done, and the calmest piece of the evening. One might go so far as to say the guitarist who did the lead vocals on this piece and all the back-up vocals on the other songs had a better voice than McGrath, if not the same charisma.

Following the calm, McGrath came back on stage and Sugar Ray performed “RPM” and “Mean Machine” from their older, lesser-known albums Floored and Lemonade and Brownies, respectively. These two pieces were as close to heavy metal as the pop band would get. “Mean Machine” had a brief interlude during which DJ Homicide came to the front of the stage and worked the crowd a bit, saying “Where my dogs at?” and “Where my ladies at?” before McGrath, who had left the stage for a breather, returned and joined him for a 30-second cover of the Bloodhound Gang’s “The Bad Touch.”

After the heavy metal interlude it was time to return to the tried-and-true hit, “Someday” after which the band exited the stage to raucous applause. They came back with an encore of “Iron Mic,” another hard rock number. Then they brought two audience members on stage for some impromptu karaoke and verbal smackdown by McGrath. The evening ended with a short version of “Every Morning,” during which Chris Barron joined McGrath in acknowledging each others’ bands and the crowd dispersed like a happy mob.

The Spring Weekend concert was a blend of jamming rock riffs and a more polished, choreographed performance style that featured more direct audience and band member interaction. At one point McGrath remarked to Barron, “We’ll be opening for you soon.” Sugar Ray may have had bigger set pieces and a high-tech turntable for their DJ, but watching the audience reaction to “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” would make one wonder if McGrath’s comment might not be true.