Rogue Wave, live at the Paradise Rock Club, March 1, 2010
There was a whole lot of zealous hand-clapping going on at the Paradise on Monday night -- and much of it was coming from the guys onstage. That night, all five members of the headlining band sported name tags pasted to their upper left thighs that announced, "Hello, my name is: Rogue Wave." Those badges might as well have read: "Hello, my name is: Super Stoked to Be Here," because clearly, they were. Boston was Rogue Wave's first stop on their first tour in almost two years; they kicked things off here just one day before their new album, Permalight, hit stores on March 2. Rogue Wave bounded onstage with what can only be called sheer delight, greeting the crowd like old friends they were pleasantly surprised to run into.
Lead singer and adroit crowd schmoozer Zach Rogue faced his fans with a grin that stayed in place for the entire two-hour show. They opened with "Stars and Stripes," a track off Permalight that was almost jarring in its unexpectedly poppy, chorus-driven sound. It soon became very clear that Permalight marks a drastic departure from the band's signature brand of atmospherically melancholy rock-- which is sort of a shame, because it's a sound Rogue Wave does well. But considering the rough breaks they've been dealt lately (drummer Pat Spurgeon has suffered from debilitating kidney problems; Rogue was temporarily bed-ridden after enduring two slipped discs in his neck; their friend and former bass player, Evan Farrell, died tragically in an apartment fire), one can hardly fault Rogue Wave for trying to infuse their music with a little sweetness and light. The first five songs the band cranked out -- all pulled from their just-dropped new album -- were marked by buoyant hooks and a distinctively beach-rock vibe. And the crowd quickly warmed to the new material, no doubt spurred on by Rogue's infectiously positive energy.
During a pause between songs, a girl in the back recesses of the club screamed out, "Show us your tits!" Rogue countered, "Where were you in high school?" In Catholic school, it turns out. Upon hearing her answer, he grinned and said, "See, in high school, I couldn't get any because girls wouldn't give me any ... and you couldn't get any because God wouldn't let you!" The crowd laughed as he lamented: "And never the twain shall meet." Props to Rogue for somehow using the word "twain" in conversation without sounding like a complete douche, and further props to the band for then rewarding the attentive audience by playing a succession of old favorites -- including "Bird on a Wire," "Lake Michigan," and "Love's Lost Guarantee" -- off Descended Like Vultures and Asleep at Heaven's Gate.
The band hit their stride mid-show, at their best when drawing upon older material. Rogue and guitarist Dominic East bopped around the stage with unbridled glee for the entire show, while Steve Taylor (a solo artist who's been playing the keyboard and the guitorgan for the band since mid-summer) manned the electric ivories while throwing back beers. At one point, the band jammed out for a spell, hitting amps and mic stands with drumsticks and clapping in time while Taylor put his collection of beer bottles to good use, blowing into the empties (and "tuning" the half-empties with measured sips) for accompaniment.
The boys came back onstage for a medley of encores, pulled from albums new and old. Rogue described their final song of the evening, "Permalight," as an ode to "feeling really good about the present ... which I am feeling really good about." To illustrate the point, Rogue beckoned audience members onstage. "I want to make it a dance party!" he said, as about 20 kids clambered aboard. That it was, albeit an extremely awkward dance party, replete with aimless hand-waving and jerky hip movements. Nonetheless, everyone up there -- musicians and uncoordinated dancers alike -- seemed to be feeling pretty fine. Mission accomplished, Rogue.
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