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The Show Goes On

Despite a Bad Cold, Lifehouse’s Jason Wade Sings Strong for the Crowd

By Pey-Hua Hwang

Staff Writer


Paradise Rock Club

April 21, 8 p.m.

F iction Plane, a newcomer to the alternative rock scene, took the stage at the Paradise Rock Club opening up the show for Lifehouse. They played a six song set that included five tracks from their new album. Their style ranged from eerie, to power pop, to punk. My favorite song in their set was titled “Cigarette,” an ironic look at love played to a catchy tune. I couldn’t help but wonder why they had chosen “Hate,” which I didn’t find nearly as radio friendly as “Cigarette,” their first single.

However, I did appreciate the fact that all of the harmonies in “Hate,” between lead vocalist Joe Sumner and bassist Dan Brown, were dead on in tune. “I would be ashamed if I wasn’t [in tune],” commented Sumner after the show. He explained he has good relative pitch because he relates everything to the highest note he can sing. Sumner also had good crowd dynamics and was even comfortable enough to say, “Glad you don’t think we totally suck,” in response to loud cheering.

When their set finished, they helped with the removal of all their equipment and, after about a twenty minute interlude, Lifehouse took the stage. Jason Wade’s new hairstyle was what I would term “ugly.” It looked like bed head crossed with a Mohawk. Enough said.

I had high hopes for the music. Some of them were met, some were definitely not. Wade had been struggling with a cold since last week so his voice was still weak. It was clear that he was having difficulties on many of the high notes, and the amazing vocal control evidenced on his last tour was considerably lacking, as far too many portions of songs seemed just off enough to grate on this reviewer’s ears. However, with the aid of a pot of tea, plenty of audience participation, extended instrumental interludes, and proper song placement -- interspersing the heavier numbers with more relaxing ballads to give his voice time to recover a little -- Wade successfully finished a 15 song set.

Surprisingly enough, one of the strongest pieces was actually a heavier number from Lifehouse’s first album, No Name Face. “Quasimodo” took advantage of the grittier, cold-induced quality of Wade’s voice and gave the song a more serious edge. This song was also preluded by a long instrumental set that sounded like spy movie theme music and kept the audience trying to guess what song was next. I actually felt that the renditions of all of the songs from the first album were the stronger pieces during the show. The old adage that muscle memory kicks in when all else fails must have been true for Wade, as his vocal strength kept betraying him. Though clearly fatigued, Wade still conveyed an easy relationship with the audience, relating the background behind some of the songs to his audience and urging any guy looking for a social life to “go get a guitar at Guitar Center and start writing songs.”

The newest member of the band, lead guitarist Sean Woolstenhulme, was technically proficient but seemed almost reserved during the guitar solos in comparison to the high octane set of Fiction plane. His brother Rick, Lifehouse’s drummer, was featured much more prominently in both the music from the new album and in the updated versions of the music from the old album. This heavier style seemed strangely out of place considering the lack of the band’s energy. Even the acoustic pieces were eventually burdened with extra layers of electric guitar, bass and drums. However, perhaps the extra instrumentation would have seemed more balanced if the vocals had been stronger.

The standout song for their evening was a reflective piece from their second album called “How Long,” which built slowly from very sparse instrumentals to a full set. This piece was both well planned and executed. Overall, it was the songs from the old album and the singles off the new album that had the crowd singing along.

This phenomenon was most apparent in Lifehouse’s choice of closing song. They ended the show with the song everyone had heard at least a million and one times on the radio, “Hanging By a Moment.” It was a failsafe crowd pleaser, but it left the feeling that the show had much more potential than it delivered.