Anthemic radio staples (and smoke from many left-handed ciggies) filled the air around the Bell Stage tonight as Collective Soul brought the 2014 edition of Ottawa Bluesfest to a rousing close.
People went absolutely nuts for these guys...
Atlanta's favorite purveyors of heavy pop took the stage with Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" as their soundtrack. In what was a very astute move, they tore into two brand new tunes from their yet to be released, See What You Started by Continuing album (due out in 2015). Frontman Ed Roland addressed the crowd after they peeled off "This" and "Are You the Answer" (both solid, by the way) joking that, "we wanted a captive audience for the new stuff and wouldn't want to see you guys to run off and take a piss after we played the hits..."
On that score, they did not disappoint, following through with the crunching stomp of "Heavy". Pacing the set with all of the monsters that have garnered consistent airtime on rock stations over their twenty years as a recording entity, the volume of the crowd grew in proportion to that produced by the five musicians.
Highlights included "December", "Gel", "Better Now" and an intense reading of "The World I Know" which featured a huge sing-a-long section. Roland made special mention of the fact that "Gel" was the first one that they recorded "as a band" as opposed to the building of songs through arduous tracking in the studio. One big factor that really came across was how much fun the lads were having onstage. That translated to instant rapport with everyone in attendance and some fun detours like the brief drum interlude ("We hate drum solos, but we love our drummer, Johnny Rabb") and a snippet of Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" that gave everyone a chance to exercise their vocal chords.
Ultra-tight, melodic rock and pop, great harmonies and giant hooks kept the love flowing right up to the encores.
Then it became outright obsession
"Shine" featured a decorative piano intro (nice touch) before the band landed like a ton of bricks on a box of cupcakes on the riff. From my spot, close to the front/center stage, the screaming from the fans was unbelievable. It was pretty exciting to be absorbed in the electric current that ran through the masses. "Run" was the closer, with each member of the group abandoning their instruments, one by one, coming out front with Ed to say goodbye, leaving their singer to strum his acoustic and let everyone serenade him into the wings.
It was a fitting end to ten days of excellent music and showmanship.
For me, it was an absolute pleasure to be asked to document some fine and memorable sets over the last week.
In turn, I have to thank two very talented, professional photographers who diligently framed the festival through their own special lenses: Marc DesRosiers, whose work you may check out at frontpagenews.ca and Mark Horton at ehlistimages.ca
Huge thanks to all of you who actually take the time to stop in here and read my scribblings. I have some backlogged Bluesfest reviews to post. Stay tuned for Blondie, Slash, Third Eye Blind and more in the next day or so.