Theory of a Deadman Tear Up The Intersection Grand Rapids, MI 10-8-17

Theory of a Deadman Tear Up The Intersection Grand Rapids, MI 10-8-17

On Sunday, the 8th of October, 2017, fans filed into The Intersection in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan to experience the musical stylings of Theory of a Deadman. At the end of September, the Tyler Connolly-fronted crew kicked off a North American tour to support their forthcoming record, Wake Up Call, their sixth studio album from Roadrunner Records, which is set to be released on October 27th. Fresh off a sell-out show at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit the night prior, the band traveled cross-state to show off their musical chops to the west-side crowd.

For anyone unfamiliar, The Intersection is a venerable name in the Grand Rapids music scene: it has operated from its current location on Grandville Avenue in Downtown since 2003, and before that it had been a fixture in East Town since 1972. The club has seen an eclectic array of performances from up-and-coming acts including Jewel, 30 Seconds to Mars, Snoop Dogg, and many others. Thus far in 2017, The Intersection has presented shows from Taking Back Sunday, Blue October, and many more; and performing in the next few weeks are Third Eye Blind and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Though the vast majority of the crowd came to see Theory of a Deadman, an early highlight of the evening was the opener Ayron Jones and the Way. Arguably of the most talented performers to come out of Seattle in the last 30 years, Jones is a guitarist of monumental skill whose voice was hailed as “the real thing” by none other than Seattle O.G. Anthony Ray, aka Sir Mix-a-Lot, who produced Jones’ debut album, Dream, in 2013. The Way portion of the band consists of Bob Lovelace on bass and Ehssan Karimi on drums. Despite the fact that they are virtually unknown outside the Pacific Northwest – and that Jones and company were not the main draw for this show – they dropped the hammer early and, often, and made the best of their limited stage-time.

The band is a power trio in the truest sense of the word. Lovelace’s bass-playing is heavily influenced by the Blues and Funk, while his stage presence can best be compared with that of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Bassist Flea. Standing beside Lovelace, you quickly learn that the man cannot be more than five feet tall, yet his personality fills the room. Karimi drums with a heartfelt smile on his face: there were several moments during the set when he would light up with glee after Jones pulled off an especially hot riff, something that happened countless times during the opening set.

Jones’ set was electric from the start. They led off with “Boys from the Puget Sound,” a song about growing up in and around the reinvigorating of Seattle. About the song, Jones says, “For a while, when we first started, we were playing places that our band was way too loud for. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had the cops called on us because of a noise complaint. Being born and raised in the city of Seattle is super rare. I wanted to write a song that summed up my feelings on gentrification and gave people from my hometown a song they could call their own.”

Next, Jones and company played “Take Me Away,” a song about Jones’ “troubled upbringing and how music became my way out of the pain.”  The band followed up with covers of two Seattle legends, the first a surprisingly grungy rendition of Nirvana’s “Breed” that surprised the crowd a bit but ultimately won them over; they were in Jones’ pocket for the rest of the set. After the Nirvana cover, Jones took an opportunity to channel Jimi Hendrix on “Voodoo Child” and “The Star Spangled Banner;” the Hendrix covers showcased Jones’ virtuosity and he matched Jimi note for note. The West Michigan crowd writhed with near-orgasmic anticipation while Jones worked through the crunchy delivery of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and ejaculated with deafening applause around the second to last bar.

To end his set, Jones played another original song, “Take Your Time,” the slowest and most soulful song of his set. His vocals were on display on “Time,” though that did not prevent him from hammering out several wicked licks on the guitar. After announcing that they had time for one last song, Jones offered a tribute to the late, great Tom Petty with a cover of “Refugee.” Unlike his renditions of Hendrix and Nirvana, Jones added a bit of fuzz to his “Refugee” to great effect. When they finished playing, the entire crowd showed a lot more love than usual for an opening band.

After a slightly longer than normal intermission, Theory of a Deadman took the stage. Veterans of Rock at this point, the four-piece band with Connolly on lead vocals/guitar, David Bresner on rhythm guitar, Dean Back on bass, and Joey Dandeneau on drums, have accomplished a great deal over the past 15 years. Hailing from Delta, British Columbia, the quartet’s first major American tour – in support of their eponymous debut album – was in 2003 opening for 3 Doors Down. A great start, they would go on to experience their breakout success in 2008 after the release of their third album, Scars and Souvenirs. Since then, they have toured with some of the biggest acts in Rock.

Connolly, who, at 6’4” is on the other end of the spectrum from Bob Lovelace, immediately started the set strumming off power-chords on “Lowlife,” a song, ironically for Canadians, about being a trailer park cliché. Theory of a Deadman followed that with a track called “Blow” whose hook consists of the line “sometimes it makes me wanna blow my fuckin’ head off.” At this point, Theory of a Deadman were in full Post Grunge/Pop Metal form with the crowd fully engaged and the air in the club electric. Throughout the show, Connolly and company worked through a number of their biggest hits including “Santa Monica,” “Bad Girlfriend,” “Bitch Came Back,” and “So Happy.”

Theory of a Deadman’s set also featured songs from Wake Up Call to promote the upcoming release. The new album, from the two tracks that they played and that have been released via streaming services, seems to show the band maturing and becoming a bit more socially-conscious. In fact, “Rx (Medicate)” is about prescription drug abuse. Connolly said he wrote the song because: “I really wanted to discuss how messed up America is with this prescription drug thingWhen I got divorced, I went and saw a therapist and the first thing she said was, ‘I want to put you on some Beta blockers or some sort of anti-depressant stuff’ and I’m like, ‘No! No Way! . .  I just feel like something’s wrong and I felt like the song needed to be written and people needed to hear it.”

Moving on, they also performed “Echoes,” a catchy song with a tight hook and simple lyrics, but more heartfelt than the band’s previous tracks about love and the loss thereof. “Echoes” truly feels like a step forward for Theory of a Deadman, and it will be interesting to see what else the band has in store on the new album. During the encore, Theory of a Deadman closed the show with the second Tom Petty tribute of the evening by playing “Into the Great Wide Open” to the great pleasure of the audience.

Still exhilarated by Ayron Jones and the Way and Theory of a Deadman’s performances, the crowd burst out into the city streets fully-primed to go out and buy their album two weeks from Friday. As the road crew began to tear down the stage, it was off to Cincinnati for the tour and the end of another successful evening of music at The Intersection. For those in need of a Rock injection, the tour continues for another month, winding its way toward the West Coast and its final date on November 13th out in Seattle, Washington.

Tour Dates:
OCTOBER
13 Stroudsburg, PA Sherman Theater
14 Albany, NY Upstate Concert Hall
15 Portland, ME Aura
17 Philadelphia, PA Theatre of Living Arts
18 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom
20 Baltimore, MD Rams Head Live
21 Charlotte, NC The Underground
22 Asheville, NC Orange Peel
24 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
25 New Orleans, LA House of Blues
27 Tyler, TX Clicks
28 San Antonio, TX Aztec Theater
29 Houston, TX House of Blues
31 Dallas, TX Canton Hall

NOVEMBER
1 Tulsa, OK Cain’s Ballroom
3 Wichita, KS The Cotilion
4 Lawrence, KS Granada
6 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre
7 Denver, CO Gothic
9 Boise, ID Knitting Factory Concert House
10 Missoula, MT The Wilma
11 Spokane, WA Knitting Factory Concert House
13 Seattle, WA Showbox at the Market

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Allen J. Miller
allenjmiller@gmail.com
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