Spearheaded by what was actually a pretty entertaining set of interviews with Ed Kowalczyk and Gavin Rossdale seeing each frontman hone his chops at buttering the other up, LIVE and Bush have embarked on an American tour in Summer 2019 dubbed “Altimate.” To take in one chosen selection from Bush’s album Razorblade Suitcase, then, “Greedy Fly,” which the band dusted off for the leg opener June 6 in Mashantucket, Connecticut (yes, that is apparently an actual place), is to realize just how ridiculously identical these bands can sometimes seem, with that Pearl Jam electric guitar sheen and the slower, more dramatic approach to songwriting showcasing that thick, pummeling bass.
Well, let’s remember, Suitcase follows LIVE’s Throwing Copper by two years and ascension into fame by at least one full, so we know where the bulk of the credit should be allocated. And it’s sad to say, but more and more as I get older Bush’s general operating procedure just starts to play as larceny, with not only this sonic reference to the mainstream but what’s also these reductive lyrics which seem to always baldly vilify a fictitious or abstract figure, as if to put Gavin Rossdale’s self on a sort of pedestal. To be honest, I remember getting through all of Razorblade Suitcase one day around this time last year on Bluetooth at work, but I have no idea how I did that, if the stagnant approach to lyricism and whiny disposition of “Greedy Fly” are any indication.
Luckily, Bush go pretty Suitcase-light in Mashantucket, even skimping on the big hit “Swallowed” and preferring to go through all four successful singles from their debut Sixteen Stone, “Everything Zen”; “Comedown”; “Machinehead” and “Glycerine.” “Machinehead” is by and large a decent enough song but to open the concert with it seems like sort of a cop out, as it’s definitely an obvious selection that everybody expected to hear and even its pace and mood are just so median within alt-rock that it doesn’t embody much freshness. To make matters worse, by only playing 12 songs (two fewer than LIVE did, all this according to the excellent source setlist.fm by the way), they closed the night with “Comedown,” easily their best song but sort of a cheesy one to position last, sort of ending a prom with a slow song as to summon up a really obvious, trite sort of mental concept. In general, I’m just not sensing a lot of inspiration emanating from Bush as pertains to this tour.
LIVE is a band whose music video for “Freaks” I named the top spot of all time on this website and whose “Lightning Crashes” came in at somewhere around #35, if memory serves me correctly. Their DD reputation precedes themselves, in other words, and not that they’re doing all that much to AUGMENT their stature in the eyes of this music journal, they are letting the energy flow in a way that’s a little fresher and even edgier than Bush, what’s more with lyrics like “I speak of freedom / You speak of the flag” in “White, Discussion” and the beautiful familial sentiment in “Heaven” seeming to speak to our current political times more than Bush’s mopey diatribes against “Testosterone” and his “a**hole brother,” et. al. It seems to be LIVE even having more fun, doling out a couple of cover versions, of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” and The Rolling Stones’ “Paint it, Black,” which setlist.fm erroneously punctuates in the conventional way, “Paint it Black.” There’s a version of the former available on Youtube and although I didn’t find it groundbreaking, nor is that one of my favorite R.E.M. songs (I go gaga for Automatic for the People and New Adventures in Hi-Fi), I did get through it and have to say Ed Kowalczyk was having fun performing it. What’s more, if Kowalczyk’s choice of covers rears its head as something a little more tepid and less intense than some of the band’s older work, I give him full non culpa and even relish that his muse has him something more comfortable than cathartic, in these troubling political times in which we’re currently submerged.