Last night the iconic Gin Blossoms stopped by the Artsquest complex for a very special show in the Musikfest Cafe located upstairs. The crowd was mixed bag of all ages, both seated and standing, who came out for what will certainly be one of the more intimate performances the band has put on in recent memory.
The Musikfest Cafe’s layout allows fans to get as close as they want to, even leaning on the stage directly in front or from either side as the venue offers no barricade to keep the crowd restrained. The vibe in the venue is certainly one of a kind and it was a fitting venue for the Gin Blossoms as they took the stage promptly at 7:30 to numerous cheers from the crowd.
As the five members took their places on the stage a quick glance to either side showed the sun setting over the SteelStacks located directly outside creating a stunning visual backdrop before the exterior illumination kicked in. Once everyone was in their place with their proper instruments, Robin Wilson grabbed one of the many tambourines on the stage and started the night off with a shouted hello as the band dove into “Lost Horizons.” It became clear very early that fans were going to be treated to many deep cuts from the band’s multi-decade career as well as a performance full of energy and passion.
Both Jesse Valenzuela and Bill Leen were in top form for the Musikfest Cafe crowd, adding a new-found intricacy to some songs while breathing a new life into others through out the night. The Gin Blossoms have certainly been around long enough to have perfected their live sound and they have begun to do what so many great bands do in their career, evolve. By this I mean the classic songs that everyone knows them for such as “Follow You Down, “Hey Jealousy,” and “Allison Road” are still very much a part of their setlist every night but the performances are slightly different than the studio versions and this was for the better. Robin Wilson’s voice truly shined all night as he demonstrated a level of vocal control that far surpassed their recorded songs, this allowed the songs to become alive and added a level of rawness back to the songs.
Throughout the night Wilson urged the crowd off their feet and expected them to be apart of the performance, even at one point in the front handing a fan a tambourine to play. One of the struggles of seated shows at the Musikfest Cafe is convincing people to leave the seats and tables that they paid good money for, while it took a few songs the Gin Blossoms eventually drew the majority of the audience to the front of the stage for a much more intimate view of the show. That being said the fans who opted to stay in their seats were no more than 30 yards away from the stage and were singing along just as much as those who rushed the stage for a closer view.
The night certainly was full of memorable most of which came from the band’s performance of some non-radio hit tracks such “Wave Bye Bye” and “I’m Ready.” All of the radio songs that the band is known for from the 90’s made into the set of course and drew some of the loudest sing-alongs from the crowd to no surprise. A few fans certainly got out of hand, one even reached up towards Wilson at one point, and another flipped him off unexpectedly but non of this brought him or the rest of the band down. There are a large number of bands that would have been turned off by moments like that and made a big production about them but the Gin Blossoms pressed on without even batting an eye which showed just how down-to-earth they were as musicians in my opinion. I think it is time however the the Musikfest Cafe invests in a barricade to keep fans back from the stage a bit when standing sections are offered at shows, a lot of these incidents would have been prevented if they implement a barricade like so many other venues do.
All in all the Gin Blossoms put on a more than memorable show at the Musikfest Cafe and were certainly one of the biggest names to have graced the stage there. I am excited to see what the band has in store for the rest of 2015 and beyond, their current line up is incredibly solid performing live so I am curious how that energy would transfer into a studio setting for recording some new material. Whether they go that route or continue touring on what they have now I’m sure the Gin Blossoms will continue to bring fans into any venue they play for a good, solid night of rock music.