Monday, May 01, 2000

Sugar Ray fans get up-close look

By Jay Webber
Enquirer contributor

        “Did you touch him?”

        “I touched him!”

        Mark McGrath risked his life Saturday night. The lead singer of Sugar Ray stunned the audience-and perhaps some of the security detail-by climbing down from the Paramount's Kings Island Timberwolf Amphitheater stage and into an audience of swooning girls.

        “Don't crowd, and I'll walk all the way through” the heart throb promised. And surprisingly enough he managed to do just that, parting a sea of anxious hands and delighted screams.

        For the fans clamoring to touch their hero, it is unlikely they noticed Sugar Ray's performance clocked in at a mere hour or that they played only 10 songs. The 5 man band interacted with the audience and played the clean hits appropriate for a family setting.

        The Timberwolf show certainly showed the band's evolution. Merely a few years ago, Sugar Ray was playing punk and rap-influenced hard rock to wild audiences and releasing albums with Parental Warning labels.

        Today's version would be barely recognizable to those who remember that early Sugar Ray, the band seen inthe film Fathers Day and heard on 1995's Lemonade and Brownies.

        The group makes no qualms about the shift in strategy. Their latest release, 14:59, pokes fun at the notion of their 15 minutes of fame and in concert they do enjoy the pop icon gig.

        As such, though they did tear through “Mean Machine” and “RPM”, the show was otherwise filled with newer selections. “Glory”, “Falls Apart”, “Someday”, “Every Morning”, and a lively “Even Though” comprised half the set list.

        Undoubtedly a future player in Hollywood, Mr. McGrath flashed his remarkable charisma throughout the show. He alternately danced and ran around the stage, climbing on platforms and stopping occasionally to ham it up with a cheesy grin for a crowd which loved every moment.

        Tongue firmly in cheek, Mr. McGrath introduced a new dance move, adding that “(after seeing this) You're gonna wake up tomorrow saying "My god I had a fun time at Sugar Ray last night.' ”

        For all the show's shortcomings, he was probably right.


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