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Concert Reviews:
311's Rap 'N' Reggae Rock DTE

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2007

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Over the past 14 years, 311 has quietly but determinedly grown itself from a mid-'90s flavor of the moment into one of modern rock's enduring, rite of passage bands.

One only had to look around the crowd at the Nebraska-formed, California-based band's concert Thursday night (August 9th) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre to affirm that 311's footprint is considerably larger than its peak blast of "All Mixed Up," "Down" and "Beautiful Disaster." The original audience of high school and college kids are now young adults, maybe or maybe not still riding the skateboards of their youth, while a new generation that skews even younger is turning out and rocking just as hard to the quintet's slinky 3 R's blend of rock, rap and reggae.

311 served all constituencies on Thursday with a set that spanned from all the way back to its 1993 debut "Music" to the title track from its last studio album, 2005's "Don't Tread on Me." Ferocious as ever, with Tim Mahoney's biting guitar riffs and bassist Aaron "P-Nut" Willis' busy, fluid bass lines cutting through the vocals of Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez, 311 kept the DTE crowd hopping with a mix of favorites ("Come Original," "Don't Let Me Down," "Lucky") and more obscure choices such as "Eons" and "Taiyed." Opening act Matisyahu busted a quick verse on the group's version of the Cure's "Love Song," and drummer Chad Sexton led a full-group drum solo during "Applied Science."

There is a certain sense of dynamic template to what 311 does, of course, but the group incorporated enough different textures, including some deeper funk touches on "Sick Tight" and "All Mixed Up" and Black Sabbath-style lumber on "Eons," to keep things fresh.

Matisyahu's hour-long set had a somewhat smaller but still vociferous crowd jumping, too. The orthodox Jewish rapper's Jamaiccan-flavored style meshed well with 311's repertoire, and despite a too-loud bass mix that throbbed over the subtleties of the song arrangements, Matisyahu (real name Matthew Miller) was still able to convey the highly conscious and occasional ecstatic messages of "Chop 'Em Down," "Warrior," "King Without a Crown" and "Jerusalem."

Veteran ska rockers English Beat, however, were victimized by their 25-minute set. While able to incorporate hits such as "I Confess," "Mirror in the Bathroom" and "Sooner or Later" -- which returned a favor to Pearl Jam by incorporating a bit of its "Better Man" -- there was a sense the group was just gathering a head of steam when it had to bring things to an end. It was certainly better than nothing but clearly could have gotten even better if given the opportunity.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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