Review and Photos by Steven Hatley
Corporate rock shows are more times than not synonymous with the casino rock circuit. Bands like Styx, America, and REO Speedwagon tend to lay their roots in these circuits. The new breed of corporate rock seems to be the 90s acts. These shows tend to expand the band’s longevity, a prolonging of eventual retirement. CTIA – The Wireless Association who held the annual conference last week here in New Orleans (the largest convention the city has seen post-Katrina), hosted its Third Annual Unplugged Event at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. Headlined by Third Eye Blind, the show also featured Better than Ezra opening with an equal length set.
Fresh off their Jazz Fest gig, Ezra was visibly filled with a sustained energy from playing to a monster crowd only a few days before on the festival’s main Acura stage. Moreover, one great bonus of this gig, in addition to a close proximity to their Jazz Fest date, was the inclusion of polished players like John Gros on piano, Mark Mullins on trombone, and Eric Lucero on trumpet. The truncated set covered the basics with the addition of their newest song “Insanity (Oh Oh Oh)” that was debuted at Jazz Fest and a rip roaring cover of The Rolling Stones “Bitch” which utilized and took full advantage of the additional horns. The set was familiar to the experienced Ezra-lite and accommodating to the casual or first time listener. Shout outs to the music world’s sad recent passings included the Beastie Boys “Sure Shot” as well as “The Weight” by Levon Helm, a continuation to the outpouring of tributes the weekends prior at the Fairgrounds. The show, even though predictable, was still a great deal of fun. One can never tire of Michael Jerome’s cowbell breakdown in “In the Blood.”
After a quick set change, Third Eye Blind took to stage to an eerie vibe set by blue light and fog. Admittedly, I was not expecting much from them as I have heard several live songs and was never really that impressed. I was genuinely surprised. They put on a solid set comprised of material off all their albums. Stephan Jenkins was a showman, running around stage barefoot, playing to the crowd and genuinely enjoying every minute of it. “Motorcycle Drive By” was definitely the highlight of the evening for me. They closed their set as expected with “Semi –Charmed Life” and a tease of Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”
If these bands are the next in line to take over the corporate/casino circuit, it saddens me, mainly because I will have to admit I am getting older, not because they are washed up and trying to hold on to their glory years. Let us keep the circuit to my parents’ music so I can enjoy myself a little while longer.