Friday, February 23, 2001

Concert review

Less Than Jake somewhat less than funny

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

        Less Than Jake was out of its element in the opening slot of Bon Jovi's November show at the Firstar Center. An arena full of holdover fans of '80s glam metal looked upon the wacky ska band with a dull stare, which in part took away any hope of a magical performance.

        But, as it turns out, we can blame neither Jon Bon Jovi himself nor the thousands of 40-year-old big-haired secretaries who adore him for the quality of Less Than Jake. Upon closer inspection, in the more intimate confines of Bogart's Thursday, in front of a loving, sellout, teen-age crowd, the band put on a show that was everything anyone would expect from a wacky ska band and nothing more.

        Ska is a Jamaican music, but today it's commonly aligned with punk, for whatever reason serving as the strain of punk for guys who think they're funny. And, boy, do these guys crack themselves up.

        Let's revisit the evening's comedy. Wacky cover songs? How about the Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You" and Kool & the Gang's "Celebration"? Wacky song titles? Every last one, my friend, including lots of inside jokes like "Scott Farcas Takes It On The Chin."

        They are also masters of visual, prop-assisted comedy. Watch your back, Carrot Top. Some of them wore wigs and masks and jumped around a lot, as ska musicians are known to do, and they brought to the stage a giant, inflatable body part — three guesses which body part. Isn't that funny?

        The only thing that came close to a saving grace was the forward motion of the music. They crammed who knows how many songs, one after another, some lasting mere seconds, into a 70-minute set. Everything was fast, and the three-piece brass section sounded good, even though the music as a whole bounced more than it ever rocked.

        Somehow, that wasn't the worst attraction on the four-band bill. Anti Flag, the band immediately preceding Less Than Jake, took itself so seriously that they, together with the headliner, formed a most unsavory lyrical yin and yang.

        Anti Flag combined obvious political sloganeering worthy of a third- or fourth-rate Clash with a musical mix of Fugazi and the Clash, though of course not as good as either.


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