Saturday, May 15, 2004

Jammin' rocks Central Parkway

Concert review

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

Hard-edged radio-ready rock was the predominant sound of Jammin' on Main's opening night.

Bands like Fuel, Switchfoot and Shinedown - all doing their thing on a Central Parkway stage - drew Friday's biggest crowds and riffed and stomped the loudest, often overtaking the quieter and more-eclectic performances on the Main Street stage around the corner, where singer-songwriter Howie Day, locals Cari Clara and piano song stylist Jamie Cullum played.

Meanwhile, the diverse procession of '70s survivors REO Speedwagon, kiddie classic rockers Rose Hill Drive, Irish up-and-comers Mr North and local punk-pop crew Denial entertained on a stage in a Walnut Street parking lot.

Fuel's headlining set was filled with crunchy yet melodic up-tempo hard rock, broken up by the occasional slower radio hit like "Falls on Me"CQ and "Innocent."CQ

Switchfoot and Shinedown offered similar takes on the Fuel formula, and there would have been even more rock on that particular stage had the fourth scheduled band, '70 hard-rock revivalists Silvertide, not dropped off a week ago to fill the opening slot on the hyped-up Velvet Revolver tour. Local R&B/funk ensemble Worldwide filled Silvertide's vacated spot.

Cullum, a Londoner who sells lots of records back home in England, is not as big a name in the U.S., so it wasn't a surprise that he played to a smallish crowd. But his dynamic and multi-faceted "jazzy" performance was the most memorable of the evening, as he came off like a bed-headed version of Harry Connick, Jr. CQ

Backed by the jazz instrumentation of upright bass and minimal drum kit, he opened his set with a bouncy reshaping of Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary," the finale of which he punctuated by a succession of acts that included: smashing his piano bench; head-butting his microphone; screaming; and pounding the ivory with his backside. Two songs later, he went into Harry mode - standing atop the piano, swinging through "I Get a Kick Out of You" a cappella, then descending into his replacement seat and capping off the tune with pretty piano melodies. Opening night was a soggy one. Rain began at 7:20 p.m. (five minutes into the first performances), and there was an off-and-on light drizzle until the show's end at 11:45 p.m.

However, most fans didn't seem overly bothered and easily coped with the conditions. Many people in the Fuel crowd stayed dry under the large marquee of the Hamilton County Department of Jobs and Family Services building to the left of the stage.

REO Speedwagon - to this day a clever bunch - began their set with the group's finest contribution to meteorological classic rock: "Ridin' the Storm Out."

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