A night of good ol' Arizona pop filled the University of Utah Union ballroom Tuesday night - make that Tempe, Ariz., pop.
The Gin Blossoms, Dead Hot Workshop and the Refreshments are all jewels of the booming Southwestern sound. Though all the bands have their good points, it was the headlining Gin Blossoms that brought the house down.The Blossoms' hourlong set featured hit after hit. Opening with the driving cut "My Car," the band - drummer Phillip Rhodes, bassist Bill Leen, vocalist Robin Wilson and guitarists Scott Johnson and Jesse Valenzuela - woke the mixed audience.
"Thank you and good night," Wilson joked before the band kept the adrenalin rush through another tune.
The mix was crisp. The Gin Blossoms' harmonies and musicality came through loud, clear and in tune. But it was far from boring. The band's energy fed the audience and vice versa. The stage was so low that Leen, Wilson, Johnson and Valenzuela appeared to be stamping on the heads of the front row.
Throughout the night, the Gin Blossoms offered tunes including "Day Job," "Not Only Numb" and "Virginia." And since the band is a bona fide concert draw, for the first time in eight years, the equipment is its own.
"See all these guitars?" an excited Wilson asked. "They're ours and so is all the equipment."
Contagious energy bounced around from one fan to another as the windows fogged over with steam rising from their body heat. In fact, the heat became so intense, Wilson left the stage during one of Johnson's solos to retrieve some water for the front row.
"My Hands Are Tied," the popular "Found Out About You" and "Allison Road" also got the crowd dancing around. The energetic "Hey, Jealousy" is still the fans' reigning favorite. The Gin Blossoms jammed that one out as well as a new hit "Follow You Down" from the new and recent Top 10 album "Congratulations, I'm Sorry."
The encore featured "Competition Smile" and "Mrs. Rita." Johnson and Valenzuela took turns grinding out melodic and emotional leads, while Leen finger-picked the bass line which coincided with Rhodes' frantic and dynamic drumming.
And to add more dimension to the arrangements, Rhodes and Valenzuela harmonized backing vocals to highlight Wilson's leads. The Gin Blossoms delivered well and the crowd slammed and body surfed to show appreciation.
The Refreshments, a recent winner in the much-talked-about South By Southwest music competition, kicked off the show with a good tight set that contained the familiar Gin Blossom jangle.
Drummer Paul Naffah, bassist Buddy Edwards and guitarists Roger Clyne (who also sings lead) and Brian Blush, warmed the antsy crowd with straightforward tunes. The band's mix was also clean with little feedback. The Refreshments held its own and paved the way for Dead Hot Workshop.
The Workshop's set, however, wasn't as tight and refreshing as the prior band's list. It was a little long and not as exciting.
But give the band credit. Guitarist/vocalist Brent Babb, guitarist Steve Larson, drummer Curtis Grippe and bassist G. Brian Scott, played all out. But the energy was inconsistent and the audience could feel it. While some songs were greeted with raucous screams and frantic dancing, others were received with haphazard applause and sporadic cheers.
All three bands jingled around with their distinct sounds. While the Gin Blossoms were obviously the crowd's favorites - with its pop rock sound and sometimes far away vocals singing of restlessness and such - Dead Hot Workshop lacked the Blossom's commercialism. But that's good in terms of originality.
The Refreshments is right on target where it should be. If that band keeps plugging itself through gigs such as the one Tuesday night, it will be around for quite a while.