The 90’s came alive as a triple bill of some of the most memorable bands played Artpark in Lewiston, NY this past Tuesday night. Sugar Ray, Better Than Ezra and Emerson Hart of Tonic brought the songs that made them on constant play during that time. The artists played to lighter crowd which is unusual for the venue.
Hart opened the set at 6pm sharp. The rest of Tonic had other obligations this summer so he thought it would be fun to just play and do that with an acoustic guitar only. Hart was funny and charming. He told the story on how he wrote “If You Can Only See” which ended up about his impending marriage that his mother disapproved. He answered a member from the crowd when they asked what happened? Well it went down in flames he quipped! It was a nice soft rock set to get things opened for the next act Better Than Ezra.
The group from New Orleans took to the stage and it wasn’t a regular set that you would expect from a band who has 8 studio albums under their belt. Led by their vocalist Kevin Griffin, their set consisted of a heavy mix of mashed up covers and a few of their own tracks mixed in. I was surprised that they relied heavy on the covers since they weren’t supporting a covers record. They did play the area last year, but this was my first time taking in Better Than Ezra. If I was diehard fan of the band, I would have been a little disappointed by their choice of songs. Yes, it was fun mixing in snippets of Sublime, The Rolling Stones, Rush and Naughty by Nature but I’m sure the fans would like to have heard more originals. For an Elton John cover of “Tiny Dancer,” Griffin made his way through the crowd which I never seen done at Artpark. It was an up close and person interaction that the fans got to experience with an artist. I will add that I was extremely impressed by the skills of drummer Michael Jerome. He was on top of every beat and didn’t miss anything when he played the complex patters of Neil Peart from Rush.
Closing the set was Sugar Ray. They came on latter than what was expected (about 8:30pm). Vocalist Mark McGrath who also dabbles as TV personality (hosted various shows on VH1 and also participated in Big Brother last summer) came out and started the show from side stage looking over the rail. What should be said about McGrath as he is very self deprecating. He made jokes throughout as calling their new songs “bathroom breaks” and was well aware of what the crowd wanted to hear. He played along with them and had his partner in crime in guitarist Rodney Sheppard tease them with a few notes of “Fly.” He went on to say, don’t worry, we will play that 6 times tonight. All jokes aside, I really dug the back to back new songs in “Highest Tree” and Perfect Mornings.” they fit seamlessly within their set and will be officially released on July 26th when “Little Yacty” comes out. The heartfelt moment of the set came when McGrath asked where a certain fan was in the crowd and found her in the front row. He told her that he reads all of her messages and looks forward to them and lives for fans like her. It made McGrath more endearing to the Lewiston crowd (which by the way McGarth loved back tenfold). He talked about visiting their town and dining at Granny Apples before. “I can say their show was one of the most feel good sets of the summer so far at Artpark!
Sugar Ray setlist:
Words to Me
Answer the Phone
Make it Easy
Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes cover)
Mean Machine/Blitzkrieg Bob (Ramones cover)
Fly/What I Got (Sublime cover)
We would like to thank Dave Wedekindt and Maria Hays from Artpark for the credentials to review the show.