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Savage Garden blooms with varied pop bouquet

SHARE Savage Garden blooms with varied pop bouquet

Start with Richard Simmons, Austin Powers and Jon Bon Jovi, add a dash of Spice Girls, then blend and bake for a delicate pop combination.

Combining power chords, danceable rhythms and swooning ballads, Australian pop rock band Savage Garden strutted into the E Center Tuesday night.Opening the show with manic strobe lights, the band burst onto stage after an extended intro to "Tears of Pearls," quickly whipping the already pumped, mostly teenage audience into a dancing frenzy.

A good portion of the challenge of performing live - getting the crowd energized - slid to the wayside for Savage Garden before they hit the stage. Even with the house lights up, many of the fans remained standing and dancing in their seats, with some venturing to the aisles. Not exactly the Jazz dancers, but as far as half-time entertainment goes, far better than most concerts.

Although billed as a two-man band, seven members actually hit the stage, with singer Darren Hayes the obvious leader. Except for the fact the other official member, 24-year-old Daniel Jones, stood alone at the left-center of the stage, nothing else set him apart.

Hayes provided much of the entertainment. Running the gamut of rock star cliches, he bounced around the stage like an aerobics instructor hyped up on caffeine (Australian for coffee), resting only for the dramatic ballads.

Despite the band's sometimes biting lyrics, cheese proved the order of the evening for the band, especially Hayes. In the end, how-ever, it proved to be some of the more entertaining cheese to hit a stage in quite awhile.

The weakest moments came during the four ballads, during which Hayes slipped from rock-star excitement to drama best left to Celine Dion.

Highlights, however, included the high-energy "Carry On Dancing" and "Break Me, Shake Me." Throughout both, Hayes roamed the multitiered stage, dancing with nearly every band member at some point and often stopping to encourage the crowd to clap with the beat.

Following "Break Me, Shake Me," the band left the stage briefly for a costume change and reappeared prepared to provide an extra dose of cheese. The band burst into an orchestrated jam session, with Hayes tossing in a medley of pop culture sound bites from Spice Girls lyrics to the Austin Powers' line, "Do you find me sexy, baby?"

Don't think the cheese stops there. Hayes also draped a towel around his shoulders during a couple of songs, then kindly threw it into the crowd. He brought a chair onto stage, treating the crowd to a performance unseen since "Dirty Dancing." He pointed to sections of the audience, convincing every screaming girl that he sang to them.

Cheez-whiz may not be the healthiest choice of a meal, but who doesn't enjoy a can now and then?

Due to the band's limited library, covers were to be expected. What covers were chosen, however, were not expected. Neither the Joan Osbourne hit "One of Us" or En Vogue's "Free Your Mind" seemed to work for the band. Strangely enough, though, the Smokey Robinson hit "Sugarpie Honeybunch," which the band mixed into their song "Universe," worked quite well.

Opening act Chantal Kreviazuk, a new artist from Canada, took a much bolder approach to performing, coming on stage alone and remaining at her piano throughout her set. However, by the time she broke into her final song, John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane," she had the crowd singing along and departed to a rousing ovation.