MONTCLAIR, NJ—It was night of epic proportions for grunge fanatics. Bush was making their return to New Jersey at the Wellmont Theatre in support of their latest full-length, The Sea Of Memories, which was released this past summer. The band was eager to prove they could still deliver a raucous, high-energy performance comparable to their heyday. But Gavin Rossdale (vocals/guitar), Chris Traynor (guitar), Corey Britz (bass) and Robin Goodridge (drums/percussion) were supported by two bands that pumped up the trip down grunge memory lane.
Fellow ‘90s powerhouse Filter kicked off the night with a full-on rock and roll performance that contained an eclectic mix of fan favorites, new releases and a surprisingly solid cover song. Lead singer/guitarist Richard Patrick is the only original member still trudging on, but the quartet featuring Jonny Radtke (guitar), Phil Buckman (bass) and Mika Fineo (drums/percussion), who tried to amp up the crowd as they trickled into the theater, drinks in hand.
Towards the middle of the set, it was easy to see that only Patrick was desperate to win audience approval. He wailed and yelped to newer tracks “Drug Boy” and “No Love,” and sang with a demented earnestness to cult classics “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do” and “Hey Man Nice Shot.” The quartet seemed even more enthralled in the live experience when they broke into a metal-infused version of ZZ Top’s “Gimme All Your Lovin’.”
Patrick’s determination and thorough showmanship finally was rewarded at the end of the set when he decided to crowd surf across the general admission area. Hoots and hollers were heard throughout the room and fans in the balcony stood up to catch the action. Sadly, the only other time the audience responded so strongly is when the band performed a dance-inspired version of their biggest hit “Take A Picture.”
After Filter’s set came to a close, fans sprinkled throughout the crowd began to yell in excitement as the stage crew assembled Chevelle’s set. Contrary to their opener, Pete Loeffler (vocals/guitar), Dean Bernardini (bass/backing vocals) and Sam Loeffler (drums) took a more playful and friendly approach to their performance. Loeffler and Bernardini were snarky but not too in-your-face. They also were short and sweet with their delivery in between songs. During their hour-long performance, the trio touched on their most fan-beloved tracks, including “The Red,” “The Clincher” and “Forfeit.” Chevelle also gave fans a taste of new material with the track “Face To The Floor,” which has a cryptic and borderline hypnotizing guitar lick that perfectly complements Loeffler’s melodic vocals. As the Chicago-based trio tossed waters and picks into the air, giddy smiles formed on their faces. And who could blame them? The first mosh pit of the night broke out during their set.
But the night was only beginning upon Chevelle’s departure. Bush was making their triumphant return to the Garden State with a performance that featured a slew of top-notch interpretations of their best tracks. Waiting in limbo for the band, the stage banner ignited the typical chants of “We love Bush!” and “We want Bush!” Alas, even after approximately two decades in the scene, these puns seem inevitable.
When the quartet finally got onstage, they opened with one of their most-recognized songs, “Machine Head.” When the stirring guitar intro erupted through the air, the crowd immediately responded with piercing screams and cheers. It was a gutsy way to begin, but the band effortlessly delivered the tracks that are ingrained in them, including “Chemicals Between Us,” “Everything Zen,” “Swallowed” and “Little Things.” Selected tracks from Bush’s newest opus—“The Sound Of Winter,” “All Night Doctors” and “I Believer In You”—also made appearances. Although the response to these tracks seemed lukewarm, Rossdale performed with gusto that should be praised. He spent the whole night sliding across the stage, jumping around, pogoing and rushing into the audience to give his fans a show they won’t soon forget. Traynor, Britz and Goodridge also performed with credible energy, only to find themselves looking like laggards compared to Mr. Rossdale. However, the encore was Bush’s “pièce de résistance.”
Rossdale, Traynor, Britz and Goodridge ambushed the stage for a second round with a grimy, grunge interpretation of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” The band managed to make the legendary track their own, while still paying respectable homage to their fellow Brits. Next, Rossdale turned vulnerable with an amazing acoustic version of “Glycerine.” Goosebumps and chills were a likely outcome for the entire audience. The one track missing from the night’s retrospective of Bush’s career? “Comedown,” which, in fact, was the perfect track to close out the night. Fans rushed to get pictures and videos to remember the night one of their favorite bands played one of their favorite songs from their youth. And, man, they didn’t disappoint.