Pure Rock Patroller
Thursday, January 10, 2002 @ 3:16 PM
Hoobastank Live At The Middle
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OK. There are a few things you have to know/accept about the California band Hoobastank up front. Yes, they are a blatant S.C.I.E.N.C.E era Incubus rip-off (yes, Incubus was a pretty awesome funky metal band circa 1997 before they became nu-metal's Beach Boys thanks to "Drive" and "Stellar"). Yes, they are becoming TRL's new cover boys thanks to the video for "Crawling In The Dark.” Yes, they do have N-Sync-ish good looks - on display in the aforementioned video (where lead singer Doug does the Brandon Boyd patented "look-at-me-I-have-my-eyes-closed-and shirt-off-with-the-mic-air" stance).
That being said, I have been intrigued by this band for what seems like well over a year now, thanks to their indie release They Sure Don't Make Basketball Shorts Like The Used To. Neat title, eh? I found myself really looking forward to their self-titled Island/Def Jam debut when it came out this past November. The album, with it's up-tempo beats, amazing harmonies, well-crafted melodies, and chop-filled rhythm guitar work (no Yngwie-esque pyrotechnics though - damn) can best be described as a guilty pleasure. You know - fun to listen to, easy to sing along with, easy to remember, undeniably catchy - and completely void of any real substance or originality.
That pretty much goes for their live show at the Middle East in Cambridge. The Middle East is one of the cooler venues in the Boston area - nice atmosphere, acceptable sound and (relatively) cheap beer. When I heard they would be playing here I was excited to check them out, having missed their two most recent Boston appearances - one that just so happened to be opening for Incubus. Hmm, I sense a theme here.
Anyhow, the show was 18+ and that definitely helped out as the place was packed with people old enough to get in, but not quite old enough to drink. That was a positive, as it meant next to no wait for beer. Opening with "Pieces,” Hoobabus, er, Incustank, er, the band, did their best to rise above a poor mix (the drum sound was so bad that either the sound guy was deaf or he just wasn't there - neither of which is a good quality in a sound guy) and they almost pulled it off, especially on the next tune, "Up and Gone.” One of their best songs, concerning someone's loss of their true self and blah blah blah, it's actually more powerful in it's acoustic form, which can be found floating around on the internet somewhere. The crowd was rather stoic for the most part -especially when they dipped into the Basketball Shorts era for "Earthsick" (new Hoob fans would do themselves well to find this tune as it remains one of their best). They did get the crowd a-moshing when they kicked in to "Crawling In The Dark.” However, as a veteran of many pits at Pantera, Slayer and Stryper shows (er, scratch that last one) these TRL-ers have something to learn about moshing. They can borrow my Among The Living CD any time.
One MAJOR problem that jumped out as they played "Better" and "Remember Me" - two of the standout tracks from their debut - was the complete lack of those amazing harmonies I mentioned. None. Zip. I noticed there were no mics on the stage, but I hoped they would have headsets a la Britney Spears or Bobby Brown. Hell, even Kip Winger and Chris DeGarmo from Queensryche wore one. That proved it was OK for rockers to use those, right? Right? Hello? This took a major bite out of the effectiveness of the band, and it's something they should address soon. Hell, hire a choir for Christ's sake. Also, the multi-tracked guitars on the album were missed as well.
Overall, Hoob is a band better served by listening through your headphones or in your car - at least until they address the harmonies issue. Oh yeah in case you were wondering, the lead singer did remove his shirt half-way through the set. This elicited a Leif Garret-esque shrill from the barely legal ladies in the crowd, but only a mumbled "son-of-a-bitch" and sip of beer from me. But I digress.