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Concert Reviews:
Modern Rockers Make Big Rock Star Moves at Meadow Brook

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, June 29, 2006

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ROCHESTER HILLS -- Don't let anyone tell you that alternative bands -- at least not the ones that played Thursday night at the Meadow Brook Music Festival -- don't want to be big rock stars.

With extravagant lighting and flamboyant showmanship, Taking Back Sunday and Angels And Airwaves -- and, to a lesser extent, Head Automatica and the Subways -- were loud, proud and certainly anything but shy of the spotlight. While the punk-based community from which they come may purport to eschew such flashy trappings, these groups embraced them with unrepentant enthusiasm, whether it was TBS singer Adam Lazzara swinging his microphone like a young version of the Who's Roger Daltrey and strutting like Mick Jagger or AVA's Tom DeLonge -- who really WAS a big rock star with blink-182 -- delivering Bono-esque sermons and gestures.

That wasn't necessarily a bad thing, of course. Every generation does need its icons, and the near-capacity crowd at Meadow Brook, who braved a brief rain shower during AVA's hour-long set, was happy to participate in the fist-pumping, lighter- and cell phone-waving exuberance. The key difference, however, is the bands also offered music to mosh to, which about 1,000 members of this audience was able to do thanks to an open area created by the removal of the first 19 rows of seats in the pavilion.

They were tumbling over each other from the start of TBS' 70-minute set, as the New York quintet charged out with "What It Feels Like to Be a Ghost," the opening track from its third and latest album, "Louder Now." Surrounded by scrims, platforms and multi-colored light rods, and performing under a large, lighted marquee bearing its name, TBS kept the energy high throughout its show, with Lazzara and guitarist Fred Mascherino sharing vocals on propulsive songs such as "Makedamnsure," "Set Phasers to Stun," "You're So Last Summer," "Error: Operator" and "Cute Without the E."

Lazzara, whose semi-sarcastic preacher-style stage patter provided a light counter-balance to songs' lyrical angst, brought things down to earth with a solo acoustic performance of "Divine Intervention," the first encore number before the anthemic "A Decade Under the Influence" closed the evening.

AVA's nine-song set -- drawn mostly from the group's debut album, "We Don't Need to Whisper" -- was as expansive as TBS' performance was tight. Long, droning arrangements of the songs were built from dense walls of guitar noise by DeLonge and Boxcar Racer bandmate David Kennedy as the quartet lumbered through its own hand-wringing anthems such as "It Hurts," Valkyrie Missile," "The War" and Boxcar Racer's "There Is." DeLonge took a long walk from the stage to the Meadow Brook lawn during the later, and his between-song comments -- including a penis joke -- showed that the smart-aleck personality from his blink-182 days hasn't been completely subsumed by the serious tenor of his new music.

With only a half-hour each, Head Automatic and Britain's Subways didn't have much time to flex, so both smartly stuck to making lots of noise in their allotted times. Head Automatic never let the throttle off full as it charged through "Graduation Day," "Beating Heart Baby" and "I Shot William H. Macy, but the Subways left a little room for repartee, introducing the British word of the day ("arse") and offering gracious props to the other bands on the bill and to the fans who were there to see the trio's opening set.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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