“It’s strange standing up here knowing that every single person in the audience is smarter than you,” Sister Hazel frontman Ken Block told a Georgetown University crowd October 10. Laughter ensued.
Soon after, while the band was in the middle of one of its jangly country-pop tunes, a large dildo was lowered from the overhead light fixture. Sister Hazel finished off the song with a wicked guitar solo, and the precocious, little-but-large gadget dangled in front of the bald-headed lead singer, Block, who was powerless to respond to this curious development. Then it got dark, and a lone spotlight illuminated both Block and the hanging dildo.
“I don’t know how they got a mold of me while I was asleep,” he remarked.
Perfect. The crowd exploded into loud cheers and laughter. The dildo triumphantly retreated back up toward the light fixture.
Sister Hazel continued on without further incident, performing one fun and inconsequential song after another. The formula began to wear thin by the end of the set, so the band finished with its most recognizable tune, the fantastic 1997 hit “All for You.”
Next up was Vertical Horizon, best known for its 1999 smash “Everything You Want.” Frontman Matt Scannell, his bald head glinting sharply in the blue and white lights, used his magnetism to effortlessly engage the crowd as the band pummeled through a barrage of gratifying tunes. Scannell’s power as a great frontman was as obvious as the band’s overall chemistry. It all coalesced into a very tight, energetic and entertaining performance.
During each song, Scannell milked the crowd’s enthusiasm fully, stopping the band for a few moments to allow the audience to sing a cappella.
Finally, we come to Train – the very same band that brought the overplayed and generally awful “Drops of Jupiter” to our unsuspecting ears in 2001. Despite this grievous charge, these guys are definitely very good performers, but are seriously lacking when it comes to band chemistry.
The main problem here was that everything focused on frontman Patrick Monahan and his overwrought, grating faux spirituality. At the end of “Calling All Angels,” this summer’s hit, he commanded the audience to raise their hands in the air, and then he joined in, standing on a speaker and leaning his head back in a Jesus pose. All this for a cheesy, supremely terrible pop song.
But Monahan does have positive attributes. He belted his heart out during the entire set, sounding just as he does on his records – a feat not easily accomplished. But the sub-par quality of the rest of their material seriously undermined the performers’ whole endeavor.
The audience did not seem to notice any of Train’s shortcomings, though, and the band was somehow better received than the openers. That’s MTV for you. But in truth, Monahan and his full head of hair could not compete.
This article appeared in the October 23, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.