On June 10th, British grunge-rockers Bush made a stop in Baltimore, Maryland, at the renowned Power Plant Live outdoor stage. The performance was part of the band’s ongoing US tour promoting their latest album Black and White Rainbows.
Opening act, The Kickback, who had been touring with Bush for the majority of their stops, commanded audience attention from their first note. If grunge sees a true revival, these guys will be the ones to kick it off. They presented themselves as a wild bunch of writhing misfits whose shenanigans truly encompass true ‘90s expression. Their set was great, albeit all too short; well-executed, yet loose and jammy as though it was entirely improvised at times. All in all, they are a band to keep an eye on for anyone who is a fan of The Strokes or early White Stripes, albeit with a true devil-may-care execution not seen since MTV had an obsession with Sandy Skoglund aesthetics and actually played music—what good times those were.
Once the Kickbacks ended their set, a half hour window of time passed before Bush took to the stage. Though this was a minor annoyance, it is to be expected, since outdoor shows may require more prep against unexpected risks. However once they had, the venue radiated with an amazing energy.
The performance was divided into two fairly distinct sections. The first half was a mixed bag of old and new featuring early tracks such as “Everything Zen” and “Little Things” from their debut Sixteen Stone, “Swallowed” off Razorblade Suitcase, and “The Chemicals Between Us”, from the album The Science of Things. Yet is also included newer, less recognizable songs including “The Sound of Winter” off 2011’s Sea of Memories, and their latest single “Mad Love” off this year’s Black and White Rainbow.
Though some songs were heavier, this first half felt like rather a mellow set. However, this is not a bad thing. It showcased the band’s dynamic evolution, with their early work being of the harder post-grunge verity and later tracks exploring more pop-rock territory. Nor did it feel like anything of a lesser performance.
In terms of aesthetics, the entire band hasn’t aged a day since the ‘90s, still looking exactly as they did back then, and their overall performance has only gotten tighter. Gavin Rossdaleis still an impressive frontman as well. Not only has his voice not weathered at all since their early recordings, but he is still able to Jagger his way around the stage just as well as in his youth. At one point, he climbed into audience and moved from very front to very back and then back to the stage again, allowing his fans to get up close and personal. This level of intimacy with fans is not uncommon among indie and underground shows, yet for a mainstream act to do this is nothing short of impressive.
The second half was harder, more intense, the band playing primarily songs off Sixteen Stone—their most recognizable album since nearly all its tracks became radio hits still circulating airwaves today. From the opening riff of Machinehead, the band was met immediately with uproarious applause. This was the set fans were waiting for, and the band seemed to know it as they played with such passion, such raw joy one would think the songs were new!
Next came a surprise hard rock cover of REM’s “The One I Love” which had the whole crowd singing along; yet what excited onlookers most was when the music slowed to a crawl only to transition into a brief serenade of the late Chris Cornell’s Blackhole Sun, a moving send off for a beloved comrade and founding father of the grunge genre.
Glycerine came next, played solo once again like on the original recording, unlike their usual stage renditionas of late in which the full band would join for the last part. And though the guitar Rossdale was using sounded out of tune, he didn’t falter, muscling through with the same painful, crooning delivery that first set the song into public consciousness more than 25 years ago. Yet this was only the calm before the storm.
Bush saved the best for last. The grand finale was arguably their greatest radio hit, “Comedown.” The audience exploded with cheers upon first hearing the familiar intro’s buzzsaw guitar swell from dual axemen Rossdale and lead guitarist Chris Traynor. As the rhythmic tidal wave washed over us we became a gyrating sea of fists and devil horns. Though it may be hard to believe, the performance was even better than the recording: harder, more raw and powerful, and sung with twice the emotion.
After this, the band said their thanks, reminding the crowd to keep love in their hearts in trying times. I suppose that’s the overall message of the band throughout. Though the songs deal with difficult themes on occasion, they are delivered with such joy that all we can do is get carried away. As the band too their final bow, smiling ear to ear, we see a group immortal, able to play the same songs for decades without feeling tired yet still have something new to offer.
Bush continues their tour June 30th and transitions to a European tour starting early November.
Check out the band’s official page for dates and tickets.
Check out the new video for Mad Love below!