Who: Now’s the Time Tour 2019: Collective Soul
Where: MECU Pavilion, Baltimore, Maryland
When: May 31, 2019
To some, the 1993 debut single and post-grunge smash hit, “Shine,” might be all that comes to mind when the band name “Collective Soul” is mentioned. On the other hand, those who have followed Concert Crap’s annual coverage of the Atlanta, Georgia rock quintet’s recent summer tours know just how pervasive their stealthy-yet-steady stream of songs have been in both American pop culture and rock radio.
The only thing more contagious than an ear-worm written by frontman Ed Roland: the energy and chemistry all five members of Collective Soul exhibited at MECU Pavilion, as they played over a quarter-century’s worth of hits for thousands of eager fans in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor!
The headliners’ set began as Roland sauntered on stage, solo, in a sparkling metallic gold blazer, sunglasses, and a royal blue gaucho hat, flashing a wide grin and peace signs a-plenty to the crowd. Sitting at a piano on Stage Left, he began playing the opening chords to the mid-tempo boot-thumper “Observation of Thoughts,” the first of many new tracks introduced to the audience over the course of the evening from the band’s upcoming LP, Blood. The remaining members of the band were slyly beckoned on-stage by the lead singer, who jumped into the rest of the opening number with the full group on-board.
Many of Collective Soul’s peers shy away from a task as daunting and risky as kicking a set off with a song unfamiliar to fans that anticipated a night packed with nostalgic sing-alongs. These Atlantans, however, refused to rest on nostalgia.
“Observation” was the first of six new tunes from what will be their tenth studio album, each being evenly placed throughout the night. The clever arrangement made the contagious melodies of each new song — such as the twangy lead single “Right as Rain,” and the attitude-server, “Crushed” — feel right-at-home among the time-tested riffs within “Heavy,” “December,” “Why, Pt. 2,” and, of course, “Shine.” Roland even joked about their strategy early in the set: “‘Was that on Hints? Was that one on… Collective Soul? Disciplined Breakdown?’ Nope, it’s on our new album called Blood, out June 21st!”
Ed Roland’s honed songwriting craft wasn’t the only thing Collective Soul brought to Baltimore. The showmanship, refined vocals, and, shall we say, “unique” dance moves of the lead singer served as an appetizer for the full-course meal of chemistry and musicianship that the rest of the band dished out to the hungry crowd.
Lead guitarist Jesse Triplett, unlike his quieter companion on the rhythm guitar (and the frontman’s younger brother), Dean Roland, shared the eldest Roland’s habit for letting the music move him about the stage. Mid-solo, Triplett was usually found rocking back-and-forth near the front of the stage, swaying to the beat, legs kicking the air like a pirate ship ride from a theme park!
The younger Roland stayed closer to his pedalboard for most of the evening, but he never missed a chance to jam out with his brethren. During the double-time portion of “Shine,” the Rolands and Triplett locked eyes with bassist Will Turpin and drummer Johnny Rabb. The non-seated members slinked their way towards Rabb’s drumkit with grins on their faces. Their energetic kinship-beyond-blood was just as contagious as their riffs!
The love for their fellow performers soon grew beyond the headlining lineup. The final act of their set began as Ed Roland invited their co-headliners, Gin Blossoms, to the stage. What resulted was a surprise cover of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love,” with singer Robin Wilson taking over the lead vocals, the eldest Roland revisiting the piano, and guitarist Scotty Johnson jamming alongside the Soul men on acoustic guitar.
The harmonies between Wilson and Turpin on backing vocals were an unexpected blend of tones that naturally fit the soaring vocals of the original. When Ed returned to the mic, he asked the audience to throw up a peace sign if they liked their new rendition. Thousands of hands shot into the air with positive reviews! The frontman was so stunned, he turned to Wilson and Johnson and said, “OK, they voted, it’s officially on the tour!”
The “Now’s the Time” Tour made it evident that, from 1993 to 2019, Collective Soul have played equally for the devoted crowds and for each other, resulting in a show that fans of rock music of any era will enjoy. The tour continues now through September 1st in Irving, Texas. Tickets for all upcoming shows can be found via collectivesoul.com.
Post and photos by Elizabeth Owens
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