The The gave a live performance worthy of its reputation but not of its audience size. The real disappointment of the night was ticket sales - sparse enough to fill only half of Saltair. Rumor has it the band's highly rated performance was its last in Utah.
If so, the band left the state with a bang. The The connected with its audience, offering a focused performance with audible instrumental detail. The group managed to overcome the mish-mash sound that can expected with most live modern and rock performances. The live performance was a step up from studio recording - with a few exceptions.Some of The The's best-loved songs were not played up to par.
Opening with its hit single "Infected," the group attempted to stir up the already restless audience. However, the band played at a tempo too slow for the fast-paced song. An innovative version? Maybe. But for many, it was a drag.
"Uncertain Smile," a heavily requested encore, slipped in and out of indiscernable mix. Lead singer Matt Johnson and the lead guitar - the key elements that made the song a hit in the 80s - were drowned out by drums and guitar chords.
Redeeming itself from its opening and closing songs, The The's performance was stirring. Johnson's energy and the band's musical variety captivated fans. "This is the Night," a change of pace from the band's other genre, was evidence of the band's musical range. Pianist D.C. Collard intensified the song with a sensational acoustic keyboard performance.
Harmonica player Jim Fitting is a valuable new addition to the band. The American has recorded albums with Boston band Treat Her Right and joined The The for this summer's "Lonely Planet" tour, the band's second concert tour.
Johnson knew his audience well; or rather the audience knew enough of him to appreciate his climactic performance. Johnson, a living legend in modern music, was the focal point of the program. His musical biography reaches back to his childhood in London's East End. His intense vocal performance Tuesday let a lack of stage antics go unnoticed - a refreshing change.
As founder of the group, Johnson has withstood the short stays of various band members and remained as the invariable soul of The The.
Johnson's philosophy, which is evident in such songs as "Lonely Planet" ("If you can't change the world, change yourself . . . "), takes a bitter turn toward theism, expressed in the sarcastic "Armageddon."
Johnson's unspecified experience with AIDS formed the emotional base for "Love is Stronger than Death," which was selected as the soundtrack to a new AIDS awareness video to air on MTV. The song is available on The The's newest album, "Dusk," which triggered the "Lonely Planet" tour.
The Obvious, a local band, opened for The The. The band began with a stage act familiar to Seattle grunge bands, but saved itself with almost innovative and rather humorous interjection - proof that lead singer John Stockham was actually conscious. Stockham's vocal maturity was additional evidence that the upward moving band has grasped musical legitimacy.
Bass player Shane Sorensen was another noteworthy contribution to the band's performance.
The Obvious types its genre midway between grunge and modern music, or what it calls "funk rock." The band is 1 1/2 years old and will begin its own Western states tour in October.