Friday, May 11, 2001

Canadian Pumpkins knockoff nearly smashing

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

        There were plenty of Smashing Pumpkins knockoffs five years ago. Today, to sound like that band is to carve a singular niche in the modern-rock marketplace.

        Our Lady Peace is a Toronto five-man band that sells out Canadian arenas with U.S. stars like the Red Hot Chili Peppers serving as the opening act. This side of the border, neither their records sales nor radio play measure in Chili Pepper mega-terms. And neither do their ticket sales, although they drew a big crowd to Bogart's Thursday, a crowd that sang along to every word — plus some lead singer Raine Maida didn't bother to sing — as if each song had been a huge American radio hit.

        The band's 1 1/2-hour show featured many songs from their new album Spiritual Machines, an album marred by two qualities very Pumpkin-esque in nature — its ultra-slick over-production and Mr. Maida's whiny, Billy Corgan-style approach to singing.

        Live, those attributes were dulled by a murky sound mix that softened Mr. Maida's vocals. This resulted in guitars and bass coming to the forefront, as did a handful of catchy melodies that can be heard on the album, if the listener can bear to play it through all the way.

        A third Pumpkin-esque quality of the album is its "concept," partly influenced by the book The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil. Mr. Maida told the crowd the album had no concept at all, but conceded that some of the songs have something to do with human relations.

        Whatever. The lyrics shared some common ground with Mr. Corgan's tragic world-view, but who was turned on to the Pumpkins by the lyrics? The same goes for Our Lady Peace, who would be advised to leave deep thinking to the book-writing types and instead come up with some more of those crunchy-guitar melodies.

        The audience loved it all. Mr. Maida seemed genuinely awed by the crowd's response, promising the band would return to Cincinnati. He was most surprised by what occured during "4am," an older song and the first of the encore.

        The band began the slow acoustic song, but Mr. Maida never joined in. Instead, the crowd started singing and carried through until the end. When it was over, the band applauded the crowd and the crowd applauded back. It was an intimate and spontaneous moment, the kind that's more likely to happen at a Midwestern rock club than a sold-out Canadian ice rink.


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