Monday, September 04, 2000

Plenty of smiles for Smash Mouth

Concert appeals to wide range of fans

By Jay Webber
Enquirer contributor

        It wasn't so much a concert as it was a party that modern rockers Smash Mouth threw Saturday night. Their upbeat outlook and surf-rock sound combined with lead singer Steve Harwell's attention-commanding performance to thrill a TimberWolf Amphitheater crowd.

        The extent of Smash Mouth's appeal was obvious: Grade schoolers, teen-agers, parents and every age in between danced and sang with the San Jose-based band for 80 minutes of flat-out fun.

        The evening did begin inauspiciously. For the first time in concert memory there was not a souvenir in sight, and many grew restless with an unexplained half-hour delay which combined rather miserably with the night's oppressive humidity and tight seating.

        All was soon forgiven. With excited youngsters climbing atop benches for better views, the crowd leaped to its feet for the show-opening “Radio” and “When the Morning Comes.” It was immediately apparent that Astro Lounge is not studio magic. Smash Mouth can play.

        “Flo,” from 1997's Fush Yu Mang, was the first indication to unsuspecting parents that perhaps the night would not be quite as child-friendly as anticipated. Just in case anyone missed that song's expletive, Mr. Harwell punctuated it with sign language.

        Of course, compared to other music the kids are likely hearing, mentioning a profane lyric or an excited “You (expletives) know how to party!” is probably petty.

        Especially petty, because the band's message is generally positive, and its musical stylings are the perfect complement. “Can't Get Enough of You Baby,” “Walkin' on the Sun” and “Diggin' Your Scene” were just three of he highlights from the fast-paced 20-song set.

        Midway through, the band previewed its next CD, due in March, with “Out of Sight.” With acoustic guitar out front, it is a different sound for the band, but it worked.

        For the duration, audience participation was a constant. Mr. Harwell danced with a preschooler during “Satellite,” invited dozens of girls onstage for “Road Man” and had everybody in attendance singing the final verse of set-closer “All Star.” As opposed to so many other concerts, very few fans were clamoring to get to the parking lot early on this night. This party was too much fun.


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