Gin Blossoms Rock B.B. King Blues Club, NYC 2-22-17

Gin Blossoms may best be remembered for having a multitude of infectious Alternative Rock hits in the ’90s, but the band does much more than simply ride the nostalgia train.

Initially established out in Tempe, Arizona back in 1987, the hard working Rock band first rose to prominence during the early ’90s going on to release New Miserable Experience in 1992, an album anchored by major hits, eventually launching it into multi-platinum status. Then, in 1996, they released Congratulations I’m Sorry, so named because the band’s principal songwriter, Doug Hopkins, committed suicide following a battle with substance abuse and depression in 1993, just as the Gin Blossoms began to take off.

Calling it quits in 1997, thankfully for fans, Gin Blossoms decided to reformed in 2002 and have been active ever since. Sustaining several lineup changes, the current members of Gin Blossoms feature Robin Wilson on vocals, acoustic guitar, and a mean tambourine, founding member Bill Leen on bass, Jesse Valenzuela on guitar, Scott Johnson also on guitar, and Scott Hessel on drums. Together they unite to bring fantastic live shows to dedicated followers all over the world, and, after much anticipation, are set to return with their first album since 2010’s No Chocolate Cake.

With new music on the horizon, the guys are back out on the road doing what they do best, performing live. Amidst a list of shows, on Wednesday February 22th, Gin Blossoms took over the main at B.B. King Blues Club located in the heart of Times Square for a headlining show that drew in a slew of concert goers ready for a good time. 

Before fans could get a smooth dose of the Gin Blossoms, New York City natives Hide & Seek brought their unique blend of Funk, Soul, Blues, and Rock to warm up the packed house. Formed only in 2014, Hide & Seek have been making a name for themselves around the NYC music circuit since then. The band has yet to release any of their material, but a debut EP is in the works. Lead Singer/Guitarist Alex Newman, Vocalist Madeleine Miller-Bottome, Lead Guitarist Tony DePiano, Bassist Ryan Metosky, Keyboardist Adam Spiegel, and Drummer Tim Shortle took to the stage promptly at 8 PM while many fans were still enjoying their first criminally overpriced drinks of the evening.

The crowd paid polite attention as the band showed off their impressive musicianship. Each of their songs featured lengthy instrumental solos that showed off the talents of their band members, particularly Lead Guitarist DePiano. However, Hide & Seek’s eclectic mix of genres seemed an odd fit to be opening for the strictly Alternative Gin Blossoms, and during Hide & Seek’s few quiet moments, it seemed as though concert-goers were more concerned with their food and personal conversations. Able to win over some new fans, after a thirty-five minute set of Blues- and Soul-inspired tracks like “Be My Tour Guide,” everyone was ready for Gin Blossoms up next. 

Eager for the Rock veterans to take the stage, the filled up room was amped up by the time Gin Blossoms took the stage approximately at 9PM. After raucous cheers, the band began their set with one of their biggest hits, “Follow You Down.” Fans all around the room were overjoyed and sang happily along with the song’s chorus as Wilson held the mic out them, enticing more participation. While the darkened room was lit up with cell phones screens, as fans attempted to capture and record the moment, BB King’s excellent sound quality, as well as the the band’s impeccable musicianship, made it sound almost exactly like the studio recording. 

Moving on, the band dished out “Don’t Change for Me” and “Miss Disarray,” two deeper cuts off their most recent record, 2010’s  No Chocolate Cake. Sounding tight, Wilson’s vocals sound as good as they ever have, and the band seemed pleased to be playing a career-spanning set that mixed in newer cuts. A band that has performed live regularly for over a decade now, it is important to mix things up, and from there, they had everyone’s attention as the opening notes of “Until I Fall Away” rang in. Here, Wilson invited fans to put their hands in the air and clap along to the song’s pleasant Pop acoustic beat.

As “Until I Fall Away” came to a close, Wilson announced that he and the band had been spending time in the studio recording a new album before playing a new track. Musically, the song sounded just like past Gin Blossom’s material that fans love, and Wilson joked that there will be “fourteen more just like that,” hinting that the new album will have around fifteen songs. From there, once again, they whisked the room back to 1992 with “Pieces of the Night,” a rarer piece from New Miserable Experience that had the diehard Gin Blossoms fans dancing along. While more casual fans were most interested in the well-known hits, the band’s stage presence was enough to keep everyone’s eyes on them while they made the most out of the compact, plainly lit stage at B.B. King’s where the music was more important than spectacle.

Moving forward, every member of the crowd threw their hands in the air and swayed to the slow, heartfelt tune “As Long as It Matters,” before the night’s energy came to an all-time high when the first chords of “Allison Road” came in. The song’s infectious melody and chorus had the whole room buzzing, but that was almost nothing compared to the reaction to one of the band’s most successful track, “Found Out About You.” It was here when phones practically flew into the air as the crowd sang along to their favorite ’90s hit. Mixing it up, another new track came before the huge favorite, “Hey Jealousy.”

The energy of “Hey Jealousy” was a perfect end to the set, and on that high note, the band exited the stage with a wave. It seemed impossible to follow up the excitement of hearing “Hey Jealousy,” but shortly after exiting, Wilson returned to the stage alone with an acoustic guitar to perform a cover of Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey,” a song fittingly suited to Wilson’s higher vocal range, as the rest of his bandmates slowly filed onto the stage.

Still having some tricks up their sleeves, to everyone’s surprise, the band brought out famed Musician Marshall Crenshaw to perform “Til I Hear It From You.” A brilliantly catchy and heartfelt track best known for its being featured on the soundtrack of the 1995 film Empire Records, Crenshaw actually co-wrote the song with the band, so it was a treat to see him perform it with them. Continuing to show they were full of surprises, they actually ended their set with a fun, freeform cover of Johnny Cash’s famous “Folsom Prison Blues” featuring Crenshaw. Each member of the band, including Crenshaw, took turns freestyling instrumental solos that showed off their talents, making for a flawless, unique finale. 

Thirty years after coming together, Gin Blossoms are still able to put on a fun and high-energy set. Moreover, they genuinely seem to enjoy themselves as much as their fans while doing so, performing many cuts that are twenty-odd years. With new music on the way, and tour dates lined up through May, the Gin Blossoms show no signs of slowing down. 

Photos by: Aintellin Photography

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