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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I can tell you I'm sorry, but I can't tell the truth

featuring Steven Page, David Archuleta, & Gin Blossoms
October 19, 2010

Altar Bar, Pittsburgh

The Fall Q Ball, a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation sponsored by local radio station 92.9, was a mish-mash of old and new pop artists that didn't quite fit on the same bill. I skipped out on openers Christina Perri and Ryan Star but arrived in time to see Steven Page, former Barenaked Ladies frontman turned solo artist. His album, Page One, was released on the day of the show, and the solo songs he played resembled everything I remember liking about the Barenaked Ladies--quirky, catchy lyrics and melodies mixed with honesty and a hint of self-deprecation.

Page mixed old and new material during his 45-minute set, opening with "Bull in a China Shop" from 2006's Barenaked Ladies are Me album. The song's lyrics paint a bit of an autobiographical picture as he describes himself as "a tired old metaphor" and "a public embarrassment," things I imagine he feels after his arrest for drug possession and the break with BNL. Personal circumstances aside, though, Page was in excellent voice and cheerfully took requests from the audience, including 1992's touching "What a Good Boy" and '95's upbeat "Shoe Box," my personal request.

Since the show was all ages, a temporary wall divided the room in half in order to keep kids out of the bar area. As Page introduced a new song, "Entourage," he explained, "For those of you on this [under age] side of the room, the album version sounds like Lady GaGa. For those of you on this [21+] side, it sounds like...Frankie Goes to Hollywood." Although "Indecision" is the first single off the new album, the heartfelt "The Chorus Girl," complete with singalong "la la la" chorus, was definitely the highlight of the set. Page wisely ended with Brian Wilson, a familiar track that had many singing along.

It was clear that the reason most everyone was at this show (15-year-olds and 50-somethings alike) was to see David Archuleta, who in 2007 earned the runner-up spot on season 7 of American Idol at age 16. While he's physically grown up a bit, he still has that cute, awkward, boyish appeal that many find charming. "Elevator" was catchy enough, and his voice sounded nice on his cover of Robbie Williams' "Angels," but Archuleta still lacks the depth of feeling and maturity you'd expect of someone singing such sensitive songs. After saying goodbye after a mere 20-minute set, it's clear he still has a lot of growing to do, both emotionally and musically.

The house dwindled down to about half as many people by the time Robin Wilson and Scott Johnson from the Gin Blossoms took the stage for an acoustic set. Not only did the guys appease listeners with slowed-down versions of classics like "Til I Hear It From You" and "Hey Jealousy," but they also performed a new single, "Miss Disarray" from their new album No Chocolate Cake, their first studio release in 4 years. Also from the new album, Wilson explained the tender "Wave Bye Bye:" I wrote the saddest song I could think of to impress the girls who work at Hot Topic." Wilson has taken care of his pipes and still sounded lovely, especially on "Pieces of the Night," which he called "probably the best song we ever recorded." My only complaint was that the set was pretty low-energy--or was it just laid back? Maybe the band was simply relieved that all the kids and their parents had left.

One big bonus to the mass exodus of people before the end of the show--fewer folks to claim the raffle prizes. Unfortunately I missed out on the autographed Carlos Santana guitar, but I managed to win an autographed Adam Lambert guitar--who knew? I guess I better list it on eBay as soon as I pick it up from the station, before he falls into obscurity...


Scott said...

Interesting, I didn't know Steven Page was touring on his own. BNL should just reunite already!

And that Adam Lambert guitar is pretty awesome!

Deena said...

Yeah, the new BNL album without Page is pretty lackluster. I still need to listen to the Page album, but I have a feeling it's going to be the better of the two.

Tommy said...

Thanks, nice review. I was at the show and was wondering what the last song that the Gin Blossoms played was - sounded like a cover? thanks!