Posts Tagged ‘No Doubt’

Live shows give fans a front row seat to the passion, the focus, the energy of their favourite musicians. Live shows can also be unpredictable. Bands can change the album version of a track by making it louder, slowing it down, playing it acoustically, or doing it a cappella, for example. To elevate the show further, some bands will call on other musicians to perform with them on stage, giving fans a rare glimpse into the true art of collaboration. Here are some of my favourites.

“Under Pressure” – Queen, David Bowie and Annie Lennox. Wembley Stadium, London. 1992.

Queen and Bowie originally recorded this track in 1981. In 1991, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury passed away. He was most well known for his eccentricity in his stage presence, in his fashion, in his music. In 1992, the remaining members of Queen held The Freddie Mercury Tribute concert, where all proceeds went to fund AIDS research. They teamed up with a number of musicians, including Bowie and Lennox, who are both quite unique in their own right. From Lennox’s theatrics, to Bowie’s really green suit and oddly mismatched eyes, they gave one hell of a performance.

“Stan” – Eminem and Elton John. Grammy Awards. 2001.

Eminem surprised fans and I’m pretty sure the entire industry when he agreed to do a duet with Elton John. It was such a big deal because at the time, Eminem was being heavily criticized for his homophobic lyrics/attitude. To quiet all the naysayers, in lieu of Dido, he chose openly gay piano-playing Elton John to accompany him on his track “Stan,” at the 2001 Grammy Awards. It was a big moment for everyone, and they even hugged it out and held hands at the end. Take that haters.

“All Along the Watchtower” – Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. St. Paul, Minnesota. 2004.

In 2004, a slew of musicians got together for the Vote for Change Tour. The purpose was to play in all the swing states to encourage them to vote. The line up was different in every city, and St. Paul was the only one lucky enough to see these two rock Gods tackle rock legend Bob Dylan’s eternal classic. They share a mic, play guitar facing each other, and just seem like they’re having the best time ever. It’s kind of bromantic. Not to mention, they’re both over the age of 60, and manage to rock out like they’re still teenagers. Impressive.

“Crush” – Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. Radio City Music Hall, NYC. 2007.

Dave Matthews of Dave Matthews Band is a genius on the acoustic guitar. Tim Reynolds is even better. He can master that instrument like nobody’s business. When you put the two of them together at Radio City Music Hall, what you get is pure ecstasy. Reynolds’ solos are fantastically fanatic, yet it’s as if he’s not even trying. Possibly one of the best versions of this DMB track I’ve ever heard; gives me chills every time.

“Glycerine” – Bush and Gwen Stefani. Gibson Amphitheatre, Los Angeles. 2012.

Gavin Rossdale of 90s post-grunge band Bush married Gwen Stefani of 90s rock band No Doubt. He was probably the sexiest man alive at the time and she, the sexiest woman. They created two gorgeous children, and after a ten year hiatus, Rossdale reunited the band and went on tour to support 2011’s The Sea of Memories. At a stopover at the Gibson Amphitheatre in L.A., the darling Gwen Stefani joined them on stage and she and her dear husband performed together. And it was adorable. They gushed over each other but it wasn’t gross; it was just so darn cute because everything about this couple is perfect. For someone who grew up in the 90s, this is a treat and a half.

There are many famous sidekicks out there: Robin, Dr. Watson, Goose. In music, it’s the supporting band members. Sidekicks may not be front and center, they may not be the voice or face of the band, but without them the band can’t exist, it isn’t the same. They’re the backbone, the behind-the-scenes, they bring songs to life. Hats off to a few of my favourites.

Boyd Tinsley.

Most of you may not recognize this name, but you should. He’s the bad-ass violinist for Dave Matthews Band. He takes each song to the next level while rocking out on his violin. During live performances he solos often while the whole crowd listens encouragingly and in awe. In a band with several other instruments, it’s challenging to stand out, but Tinsley has no problem rising to the occasion. Dave takes a step back, gives Tinsley the spotlight and they feed off each other in a beautifully symbiotic way. They need each other, their combined energy and charisma ignites a spark that runs through anyone present, automatically giving everyone chills. When he’s on stage, he can’t stop smiling; he’s not just happy and excited, he’s completely head over heels ecstatic to be doing what he’s doing and it shows in a magnificent way. There’s no greater pleasure than watching a musician become his music. Everyone needs a dude like him in their life.

Flea.

Bassist for the legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers. There’s never a dull moment with him on stage: he’s always jumping around, buzzing all over the place like a, well, flea. He enjoys partial and occasionally full nudity, he wears all sorts of costumes/outfits on stage and isn’t afraid to use his flexibility to his advantage. A lot of their tracks have a strong bass presence and that’s because Flea is an animal on it. Slapping, plucking, popping, tapping, you name it. He makes the most complicated solos seem easy as pie and often jams with drummer Chad Smith or lead guitarist (currently Josh Klinghoffer.) He’s the perfect sidekick to lead singer Anthony Kiedis because he entertains without overshadowing – all eyes don’t need to be on him, though they often are. Other than Kiedis, Flea is the only other original band member still standing, even in spite of Kiedis’ substance abuse issues. Talk about loyalty. Who wouldn’t want this Flea around?

Tony Kanal.

Born in London, raised in Anaheim (with a brief stint in Toronto) and of East Indian origin, Kanal plays bass for uber successful band No Doubt. The whole planet knows Gwen Stefani’s the face, the voice, the star; what most people don’t know is Kanal is too. He’s a songwriter, record producer and also plays keyboard, sometimes on the same track he’s playing bass. He’s a hell of a performer, rocks a faux-hawk like nobody’s business and his fashion sense is at par with Stefani’s. Kanal and Stefani have been friends since high school and dated for years, well into the band’s early days. Eventually they split up and Kanal not wanting to make things awkward, volunteered to the leave the band. What a guy. Thankfully, Stefani didn’t let that happen, but instead wrote “Don’t Speak” to commemorate their demise. Years later, she wrote “Cool,” alluding to the state of her relationship with Kanal. I’ve been saying it for years: Tony Kanal is so freakin’ underrated.

Every member in a band has a specific role based on where they talents lie. Some are meant to play instruments, others are meant to sing; each one is key in bringing the band’s sound together. They consider themselves a family, a team, in which all members contribute and have a say. Yet we often hear about lead singers starting solo projects, venturing out on their own. With their band they already have fame, fortune and fans; so what then compels these lead singers to cut the cord and move forward?                                                                                                                                                                                                             Reason #1
Because they need a side project.
Lead singers in this category have every intention of continuing to make music with their band, but need to take a break to explore other musical directions. It’s not an ego trip or a diva moment, they just want to do their own thing for a while. Clear their heads. Gwen Stefani did it with No Doubt. They were at the top of their game with the release of Rock Steady in 2001 and then Gwen decided to follow her own inspirations and explore her creative mind. By herself. So she went out and got herself some Harajuku Girls, put out two solo albums, launched a clothing line and had two kids somewhere in there. In September 2012, No Doubt is finally set to release their next album. This is a classic case of having your cake and eating it too. Stefani wins no matter what: not only does she remain the face of the band, but now due to all the extra exposure as a solo artist, there’s even more attention on her. It becomes distracting and as a result, the rest of the band fades into the background.

Reason #2
Because they can do better.
This is most common in groups that feature more than one lead singer, because they inevitably end up competing with each other so they don’t get replaced. Justin Timberlake is a perfect example. As ‘N Sync gained popularity, it was abundantly clear he had the best voice. The division of vocals started to work in Timberlake’s favour and he became their unofficial lead singer. Although they were doing incredibly well, he knew (or at least his people did) he could do better on his own, no sharing required. Like he used the rest of them as supporting acts to launch himself. Well we all know how that turned out. As for the the rest of the group they all sort of fell apart and only re-appeared on reality television and as a wannabe astronaut. This comes off as a clear decision, no confusion, no looking back. Everyone appears to be amicable about the situation, everyone has moved on, gone their separate ways. Timberlake’s the only one left in the music industry and let’s face it, he deserves to be there.

Reason #3                                                                                                                                       Because they think they can do better.                                                                                                    A lot of the time lead singers will go off and do their own thing seemingly to make a statement. To irritate band members, because of their own egos, because they think they are the band. The break up is usually unfriendly, chalked up to irreconcilable differences, too many differing opinions and no one getting along. It usually involves storming out of a room and dramatically slamming the door. Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, fits right in here. During the 90s, they were one of the top grunge bands to enter the scene. They dropped five albums in eight years and then broke up abruptly in 1997. He’s a talented musician who thought he could do better, thought he was better. Since then, Cornell released a solo album in 1999, followed by three albums with a new band Audioslave, who broke up in 2007. Next he put out three more solo albums, last of which was released in 2011. But last year, Soundgarden decided to reunite and go on tour. So many years gone by and he decides to crawl back to his original band. Like his temper tantrum was finally over. This displays signs of a fickle mind, uncertainty, regret; like he doesn’t know what he wants or where he belongs. He needs to figure that out.

Lead singers will pursue a solo career for a number of reasons: more attention, more fame, more money, more freedom of expression, and so on. Some thrive, some fail and some don’t make any mark at all. What remains consistent is the original band is forever changed. No Doubt has become that band Gwen Stefani sings for on the side; ‘N Sync has been removed from everyone’s vocabulary; Soundgarden is now that grunge band Chris Cornell came back to. They lose their identity as a band and fans lose interest and move on. Flying solo has its rewards, no question. Too bad the rest of the band ends up alone too.