Bush at First Avenue, 5/22/13

Bush at First Avenue, 5/22/13
Photo By Jennifer Gullickson

With Bloodnstuff
First Avenue, Minneapolis
May 22, 2013

In the mid-90's, most music fans who passionately experienced the rapid rise of the grunge movement firsthand viewed bands like Bush, Stone Temple Pilots and their ilk with skepticism, painting them as illegitimate knockoffs who were just capitalizing on a scene that they would forever be outside of. But there was ultimately no denying their commercial success and legions of fans throughout the world. And now that enough time and distance has passed, and those unsettled adolescent territorial fires have dimmed just a bit, the songs are ultimately what endure, not where you came from or when you broke big.

And Bush clearly have plenty of undeniable anthems that still resonate just as potently with audiences today as much as they did when they dominated U.S. radio and the pop charts nearly 20 years ago. The one-time London quartet, led by the exuberant Gavin Rossdale, delivered all of those hits and more during their entertaining 90-minute set which found the band finally making their First Avenue debut while connecting intimately with their dedicated fans who have stuck by them all of these years.

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Opening the night was Bloodnstuff, the Minneapolis metal duo who just came off of a high-profile tour supporting Alice in Chains. The potent pair were certainly road tested and well aware of what kind of set would go over well with fans of '90s rock with their combustible 35-minute set. After two blistering introductory tracks, which included an incendiary take on "Give Me a Call," and the song "Bloodnstuff" from the album Bloodnstuff, guitarist/vocalist Ed Holmberg playfully teased the crowd a bit, "We're fucking Bloodnstuff. We're from here -- but you should know that already." Sadly, most of the fans didn't know that already, but after this fantastic performance I'm sure they do now.

The well-paced set drew mainly from their self-titled debut full length, with "Diet Cola," "One Day Roses," and an absolutely scorching take on "Oh You Pretty Failures" all getting the crowd nodding their heads while priming them for the headliners. Holmberg again poked a bit of fun at the band and the crowd when he joked halfway through the set, "Once again, for any late-comers, we're Bloodnstuff and you're here for Bush, and we can't change your mind." Drummer Dylan Gouert was on point throughout the set, as his mountainous rhythms reverberated through the entire club, giving Holmberg the space to drop one sick riff after another on us. The set closed with a raucous version of "Fire at the Sea" which proved to be the best song of the performance, leaving most fans a bit stunned at what they just witnessed, and plenty of new converts to the evil church of Bloodnstuff.

After a lengthy 40-minute changeover, the room finally darkened and Bush took to the stage, with Rossdale waving excitedly to the packed house, wearing a camouflage jacket that he wouldn't leave on for very long. And the band certainly hit the ground running, kicking off the set with "Machinehead" that got the crowd into it straight from the start. Rossdale even worked in an homage to Allen Ginsberg's famous poem "Howl," as he shouted the first line "I saw the best minds of my generation" as the track fully kicked in.

The difference between Bush's hit singles and their more marginal other material is quite substantial, a point which was proven at the start when they followed "Machinehead" with the rather cringe-worthy macho buzz of "Testosterone." It was a trend that would continue throughout the show, but thankfully the band has plenty of hits which kept the momentum high for much of the performance. And, much to Gavin's credit, he plays his heart out on each and every song, working up a sweat whether the track he's playing was a number one hit ("Everything Zen"), or if it's a new song that the group hasn't released as of yet ("Loneliness is s Killer").

In fact, Rossdale earned quite a few indie cred points when he tagged Big Black's "Kerosene" on the end of a fiery take on "Everything Zen," which also featured Gavin, who was now sporting a loose fitting, cut-away tank top, grinding his guitar on the amp so hard they both fell over. Rossdale spoke with a genuine affection for Minneapolis throughout the performance, "I remember when we first played Minneapolis, they told us we were playing First Avenue, but then we got here and it turned out we were playing the small club downstairs (The Entry). And I came in here to the big room and thought maybe if we get things going someday, we can play in here. And it took us a while to get here -- after playing Target Center a few times, we finally convinced Conrad to let us play here."


A crunchy, guitar-fueled version of "Greedy Fly" got the crowd going, with both Rossdale and Bush's current guitar player Chris Traynor (Orange 9mm/Helmet) working the recognizable MTV theme cleverly into the track's riff. Traynor's inspired guitar work gave some teeth to much of the material throughout the performance, adding plenty of crunch to Bush's current sound. Rossdale then announced affectionately, "We'd like to take a moment to thank the band who opened up for us tonight -- Bloodnstuff, a local band. They were unbelievable." Indeed they were, Gavin -- was nice of you to say so. But again, the group followed with "Float" and "Heart of the Matter," which didn't measure up comparatively to the bigger numbers on offer throughout the set, and the performance started to lag a bit as a result.

But Bush, whose current lineup also features original drummer Robin Goodridge and bassist Corey Britz, picked things up with a moody, textured rendition of "The Chemicals Between Us." However, the energy once again sagged under the weight of another tepid song, "This House is on Fire," before the main set ended forcefully with "Little Things," which got a mosh pit going in front of the stage. Rossdale was full of Rockstar 101 moves throughout the performance -- repeatedly soloing on his knees being his most criminal offense. He then jumped on top of the drum riser to play along to the breakdown the band kicked into at the end of the track. Rossdale got the large, animated crowd clapping along to the beat before jumping down as they returned to the massive, recognizable chorus one last time.

After a brief encore break, the band returned, with Rossdale taking another moment to thank us, "Thank you for all coming out to see us tonight. Thanks to all of the new friends we made here this evening. We're going to go and make a new record, and we'll come back and see you again real soon." And with that, the band launched into a sinister take on the Beatles' "Come Together," which found Rossdale singing all of his lyrics from the balcony as he made his way around the club -- making the night/year of plenty of ladies in the house who were able to dance with/grind on Gavin. It was a certainly a personable way to connect with the crowd, and even if the cover itself wasn't all that good, it was still a memorable moment.

The band left Rossdale alone on the stage for the next number, and he further explained his deep ties to this city. "When I first met my wife, the very first time we had a moment alone together was at a coffee shop around the corner from here. So, this place has ruined me, in a good way," he joked tenderly. He then dedicated a solo version of "Glycerine" to all the lovers in the house, who helped him sing the affectionate lyrics. The band returned at the end of the track to give the song's close some added teeth, but it was the spirited, anthemic "Comedown" which brought the night to a triumphant end, and got fans were crowd surfing like it was 1995 all over again. Rossdale turned the microphone around and let the crowd sing the final chorus in full voice, as he and his passionate fans made one final meaningful connection on a night full of them.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: My 21-year-old self would be disgusted with me attending a Bush show, but I surprisingly enjoyed the show a lot more than I thought I would.

The Crowd: A mix of both old-school and younger Bush fans, all of them amped to see the band in an intimate club.

Overheard In The Crowd: After Bloodnstuff's opening set, a girl asked her friend excitedly, "Who were they again? Bloodsnake?"

Random Notebook Dump: During a couple songs of the set, a group of about 10 people were ushered on stage and got to watch the show (and take countless pictures) from back by the speaker stacks. That is some VIP treatment right there.




The Sound Of Winter

Everything Zen

Loneliness Is A Killer

Greedy Fly


Heart Of The Matter

The Chemicals Between Us

This House Is On Fire

Little Things

Come Together (The Beatles)(Encore)

Glycerine (Encore)

Comedown (Encore)

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