Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back To Rockville - Review: Red White and Boom

David Cook stood at the lip of the stage to marvel at his audience several times during his headlining performance Saturday at Sandstone amphitheater. "This is a huge milestone for me," Cook affirmed.

Prior to winning last year's "American Idol", the former Blue Springs resident attended the annual Red, White & Boom concert as a fan. Over 14,000 people witnessed Cook's triumphant return to the Bonner Springs venue.

"I don't know about you guys," Cook said. "But I'm having a hell of a time back home."

Cook's voice sounded even stronger and more compelling than it did during his remarkable run on "Idol," and he retained his humble, everyman persona and was ably supported by an excellent band. Even so, the local hero's potential Achilles' heel was revealed.

A heartfelt cover of Collective Soul's "The World I Know" and a rugged version of Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died In Your Arms" were the musical highlights of Cook's performance. While the success of Nickelback has demonstrated there's a massive audience for the melodic hard rock Cook favors, little of Cook's original material is memorable.

A significant portion of his fans seem more interested in demonstrating their support for Cook rather than in actually enjoying his music. Songs like "Light On," consequently, have become hits in spite of their plodding qualities. His 70-minute performance dragged accordingly.

"A few years ago I bought a record called 'History For Sale' by a band called Blue October," Cook noted. "What the hell happened? This is a trip."

The men of Blue October may have been similarly disoriented. Cook's appreciation aside, the veteran rock band had almost no aesthetic affiliation with any of the other nine acts on the bill. Their anthemic songs recall the art-rock of Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel. Many of Cook's fans were visibly disturbed by the profanity-laced lyrics and patter of fervent frontman Justin Furstenfeld. Salty language aside, Blue October injected a welcome dose of substance into the day.

The eight acts that preceded Cook and Blue October specialize in frothy, disposable pop music. Three of them were delectable.

The Veronicas shone during renditions of their excellent hits "Untouched" and "Take Me On the Floor." Fronted by twin pop tarts,The Veronicas evoke a lurid version of ABBA. While their risque songs were slightly diminished without the benefit of a slick studio gloss, the Veronicas were still sinfully good.

Although they're utterly ridiculous, The White Tie Affair were the day's breakout act. Like ants swarming to a popsicle dropped on a scorching sidewalk, thousands of teenage girls found the band irresistible. Based on the youthful audience's feverish response, the Chicago band's fusion of T-Pain and Fall Out Boy is the next big thing.

Freshly scrubbed pop punk band LoveSick Radio didn't fare quite as well as the White Tie Affair, but thousands of their fans were willing to get drenched in steady rain to see them.

"A little rain is not going to stop us," a member of the Ohio group said. "We're going to have fun no matter how wet we get."

In a just universe, lightning and hail would have driven Kevin Rudolph from the stage. His abominable appearance was dull, derivative and dopey.

Assisted by a hype man, DJ and two outstanding dancers, Justin Bieber, 15, resembled Justin Timberlake's Mini-Me. While he represents a terrific marketing concept, the teenager has yet to become a compelling live performer. Feathery folk-pop singer Matt Nathanson also failed to make much of an impression. It's not a good thing when the best part of your set is a withering attack on a heckler. Nashville-based Safety Suit had the misfortune to play through the most severe of the day's intermittent storms.

Kick Kick, winner of a battle-of-the-bands contest for the right to kick off Red, White & Boom, opened the show about eight-and-a-half hours before fireworks greeted the conclusion of Cook's performance. Friends of the locally-based band might argue that their bracing set offered something for everyone. Others would be excused for thinking that they looked and sounded as if each member was playing in a different band.


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