Years ago, Aaron was relatively new to Saskatoon. Perplexed by his new local music scene, we discussed whether Saskatoon was where music came to die or where music lived forever. I think this was in reference to Glass Tiger or Gowan or Loverboy or someone, but we could have had the same conversation about Collective Soul as well.
Collective Soul is a bit of a phenomenon. A radio-friendly rock group from the mid-90s, they have proven remarkably enduring and beloved in Saskatoon with a string of sold-out shows. Legend has it that they’ll even fly into Saskatoon, do one show, and fly back home, just because they’re guaranteed to get a great reaction. Case in point: they sold out this show and added a second date.
We go way back, Collective Soul and I. I liked them a fair bit when they were first popular. Then they disappeared for a few years due to problems with their label or management or something. They came back with an album and single called Precious Declaration; I was quite excited for this, but wound up unimpressed with what was delivered, and, well, we went our separate ways after that. But I always had a bit of a soft spot for them, so when Dave asked if I wanted to go, he didn’t find it too hard to talk me into it. Mostly because he offered to pay for the ticket.
Our tickets were for the sold-out Friday night show. The second show was added for the night before. Because the new show was on a work night, they announced that the doors would open at 7:00 and the show would start at 8:00. Foolishly, we thought that the same times would apply for our show as well. With the show at Centennial Hall, we decided to hit Midtown and wander around before heading over. It turned out that there wasn’t much to see at Midtown, so we wound up at Centennial at 7:00 – just in time for the doors to open! – and stood in line for an hour. This gave us plenty of time to people-watch. It was an eclectic mix of university students, farmers, young punk kids, and forty-year-old women in sparkly shirts.
It was a long time in line, but to the credit of the venue, the doors opened right on time (not the time we thought it was supposed to be, but the time the tickets said), they got people inside in a hurry, and they didn’t let latecomers sneak in front. It was quite well-organized, which is both appreciated and rare.
Once inside, we had another hour to wait before the opening act, which was Jonas. Jonas appeared to be the name of both the band and the lead singer. I had never heard of these guys before, but the lead singer sure acted like he thought he was a big rock star. Dancing and hollering and posing and preening and holding the mic out to the crowd to yell along. He had energy, I’ll give him that. Struggling for a way to describe their music, I decided that they sounded a lot like Wide Mouth Mason, if a worse singer was singing worse songs. Then the lead singer introduced the band, and the bass player was none other than Earl Periera from Wide Mouth Mason. So that explains that.
The evening’s best moment was right at the start. Collective Soul has what sounds like religious undertones to their music, so Dave and I had been debating whether or not they counted as a Christian rock band. When Jonas took the stage, the singer yelled “Are you ready for a rock and roll party?” Everyone cheered. Dave leaned over to me and said “But first, a few words about Jesus.” “AWWWW SHIT,” yelled the singer. We decided that these might have been the most hilarious words about Jesus ever. Later on, the singer yelled “SHIT DAWWWG” for no apparent reason, and we figured that those would have been even better words about Jesus.
All in all, they were perfectly tolerable but nothing that I’d go out of my way to see again. They’re no Wide Mouth Mason.
Some DJs from the local rock station came out between sets. One of them said a dirty word in order to demonstrate that he wasn’t a corporate shill. These were three of the most annoying people I’d ever heard and three of the most unattractive people I’d ever seen. They said that Collective Soul would take the stage in only ten minutes time, so we can add “inability to tell time” to their list of flaws.
When Collective Soul finally did show up, they were pretty good, made better by the sold-out devoted crowd. Really, there were no surprises, apart from some random AC/DC riffs stuck in the middle of one of their new songs. Some people actually seemed to recognize that new song. I did not. Most of the old singles (Gel, Shine, Better Now, Precious Declaration, The World I Know – pretty much what you’d expect) got great reactions and most of the new songs got very little reaction. I did react when the lead singer stepped back and let the (guitarist? bassist?) sing lead for one song. Specifically, I reacted by leaning over to Dave and saying “wow! He’s really awful!” Dave agreed.
Do people bodysurf to Collective Soul in other cities? Do people normally bodysurf to Collective Soul? Do people even bodysurf at all anymore? I have no answers to these questions. I do know the answer to “who is the best human being ever,” for that man was at Collective Soul. Little tiny man, bowl cut in the front, mullet in the back, giant glasses, tiny mustache.
So yeah. It was a pretty good show. I really don’t have a lot to add. Everyone knew what they’d be getting and they were ridiculously appreciative for it. If you missed the show, I’m sure they’ll be back every six months from now until the end of time. I don’t think I’d go see them every time they were in town, but you could find a lot worse ways to spend a Friday night, especially if you can con someone else into paying your way.