August 11, 2014 Under The Sun Tour 2014 brings summer fun to The Paramount Huntington, NY 7-29-14
In recent years, 1990’s alternative rock has been getting a lot of attention with some of the scene’s biggest hit makers actively touring. Following the success of Summerland Tour, Mark McGrath debuted the Under The Sun Tour in 2013 with a lineup that included Sugar Ray, Fastball, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon, and Smash Mouth. Received warmly by audiences around North America, the Under The Sun Tour returns in 2014 with some the familiar faces of Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray along with fresh editions Uncle Kracker and Blues Traveler. Begun on June 27th in Omaha, NE, the Under The Sun Tour returned to The Paramount in Huntington, NY Tuesday July 29th for the second straight season ready to party with Long Islanders. Excited to experience some of their favorite bands of the 1990’s era, fans of all ages gathered as many others across the world were able to experience the show with live online streaming in fifteen different countries.
First to the stage was Northern Californians Smash Mouth. Celebrating their twentieth anniversary as a band in 2014, the line-up consists of mainstays Steve Harwell (lead vocals, piano), Paul De Lisle (bass, backing vocals) and Michael Klooster (keyboards), along with Jason Sutter (drums), and Sean Hurwitz (guitars). Receiving success with platinum selling debut album Fush Yu Mang (1997), the band became mainstream favorites in 1999 with the pop radio hit laced Astro Lounge.
With a condensed list of bands on the bill this year, Smash Mouth, as well as others to follow, had the chance to play full sets. Opening with “Can’t Get Enough of You, Baby”, an animated Harwell sang at a high level as the band provided an energetic, loud sound that had The Paramount bouncing. Moving into hits like “Then the Morning Comes” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”, the audience was reminded of just how much fun a Smash Mouth live performance is. Mixing in deeper tracks from their discography, “Diggin’ Your Scene” was followed by an excellent drum solo by Sutter. Applauding and whistling in respect of the hard hits, the noise level escalated with the performance of The Kinks “All Day and All of the Night”, landmark hit “Walkin’ on the Sun”, “I’m a Believer”, and “All Star”. Two decades in Smash Mouth’s raw garage rock influenced sound still shines bright.
Next up was Michigan’s Uncle Kracker. Beginning as a DJ for friend Kid Rock, his solo career lifted off in 2000 with his chart topping album Double Wide. Interjecting pop, rock, and country sounds, Uncle Kracker’s career has been colorful and full of memorable songs while releasing five studio albums.
Attracting a large amount of fans to the Under The Sun Tour, everyone gathered close to the stage as he began with “Heaven” and newer track “Nobody’s Sad On A Saturday Night”. Complemented by a solid supporting band with thick instrumentation, Uncle Kracker moved around the stage singing enthusiastically, including “In a Little While”, sing-along “Follow Me”, and the feel good tune “Smile”. Uncle Kracker’s soulful delivery and clear love for performing made his set spectacular as he closed with Kid Rock cover “All Summer Long”. His latest single “Endlessly” is out now via Republic Records.
At the midway point in the night it was time for the Under The Sun Tour hosting band Sugar Ray. Forming in California back in 1986, the band experimented early on with their sound; ranging from punk to metal to funk. Finding their niche with the 1997 album Floored, Sugar Ray became radio superstars with the massive 1999 album 14:59. Led by the charismatic frontman Mark McGrath, Sugar Ray’s current configuration consist of original guitarist Rodney Sheppard, Good Charlotte drummer Dean Butterworth, and Jason Maraz bassist Kristian Attard.
Kicking off with newer song “Summertime’s Coming”, McGrath and company had the upbeat vibes flowing; spreading smiles which are contagious. Going right into hit “Someday”, everyone sang along losing themselves in the memories. Sprinkling in “Answer The Phone”, the roof blew off The Paramount when they broke into “Every Morning”. Moving about the stage like the spectacular frontman he is, McGrath gave the song all the attention it deserves. Following up with another hit in “When It’s Over”, McGrath also mixed in personal attention to the audience speaking of the 1990’s era along with all the fond thoughts. Evoking the spirit of summer, they went into a cover of Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun” before closing out with classic track “Fly”. McGrath, inspired by the crowd reaction, jumped off the stage and greeted fans with high-fives while those in the handicap seating area received hugs; a warm gesture from a humble man, still rocking and rolling.
Concluding the evening of music was Princeton, NJ band Blues Traveler. Together for nearly three decades now, the band’s rise to fame gradually built until erupting in 1994 with the six times platinum album Four. Weathering adversity and loss, Blues Traveler’s music lives on with singer and harmonica player John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, drummer Brendan Hill, bassist Tad Kinchla, and keyboardist Ben Wilson. Known for blues style grooves, The Paramount crowd eagerly awaited the Under The Sun Tour finale.
Coming out with calm mood-setting blue and purple lighting, Blues Traveler was relaxed and ready to go. Paying tribute to fallen bassist Bobby Sheehan, a photograph of him sat on an amplifier; assuring long-time fans his bandmates will never forget him and play on in his memory. Showing intense emotion, Popper was dazzling on his harmonica with amazing breath control and ability to make each note sound so full of soul. Playing a great cover of The Charlie Daniels Band “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, featuring an epic harmonica solo, along with fan favorites “Run-Around” and “Hook”, everyone’s hands were in the air while singing to each word. Allowing each member to showcase their strong instrumental skills, the tone and texture of Blue Traveler’s set was second to none through their lengthy jams. To the audience’s delight, they even played older song “But Anyway” as they recognized their past. Blues Traveler definitely captured the attention of this audience and put on a delightful performance that ended the evening.
The Under The Sun Tour 2014 is more than a nostalgic trip into the past, it is a show filled with music for memories of summer’s present and future. The selection of bands and pace of the show is a perfect tribute to the 1990’s and should become a regular celebration each year after.Photo credit: Charles Eames Photography