Ex-pat Gavin Rossdale rang in the New Year with his band Bush in the Long Island, NY suburb of Huntington to a packed house at The Paramount.
Bush is perhaps the most enigmatic musical curiosity of the transatlantic cultural exchange. In the right place at the right time, Rossdale, who left London for LA in the early 1990s, captured the grunge zeitgeist ushered in by Nirvana, whose Kurt Cobain was dead by April 1994.
Bush's debut album released in December 1994, Sixteen Stone, sold six times platinum (6 million copies) in the US and a slew of hit singles. In the UK, however, the album sold 60,000 copies and peaked at No. 42, not very fitting for a favourite son. (The band's first four albums were recorded in London.) Some might say there's a thin line between homage and opportunism.
But you can never take away what Rossdale achieved. Sixteen Stone was commercially and artistically one of the best albums of the 1990s, and most of the songs' head-banging, catchy riffs that dominated American FM radio back then still hold up. No wonder those early tracks still make up nearly half of the band's current set list.
Bush performs "Machinehead" at The Paramount New Year's Eve 2016
Bush's five studio albums after Sixteen Stone sold collectively a fraction of its predecessor. Two decades on, a humbler Bush with a new lead guitarist and bassist plods away on the road at a much smaller scale than the arena rock draw it once was. The Paramount has a capacity of 1,693. Bush also played there this past May.
These days Rossdale is best known for being the ex-husband of Gwen Stefani (her band No Doubt opened for Bush back in their heyday; their divorce finalized last spring after 20 years of being a couple) and judge on the UK edition of The Voice than his own music.
At a pre-concert interview with a local radio station, whose studio adjoins The Paramount in a storefront that allows passersby see and hear who's being interviewed, Rossdale told the DJ he's looking to get into more acting (having already done a few films and episodic television). Here's a link to Rossdale's appearance at the station.
A new Bush album is coming this spring, recorded at his home studio in southern California, Rossdale reported. On the non-music horizon, there's a horror film awaiting a green light, and a reality cooking show in which he'll be the chef for a guest. Among those he'll cook for is his co-judge on the British version of The Voice, Tom Jones.
Rossdale's celebrity persona permeates the live show several times with remote mic in hand the lead singer leaps of the stage, roadie in tow, making his way through an adoring SRO audience on Sixteen Stone's "Little Things," in which Bush perhaps sounds most like Nirvana, to the far reaches of the Huntington venue. (I can't imagine Cobain doing that.)
The audience composition on this particular New Year's Eve ran the gamut of fans who had been there from day one, couples and girlfriends who no doubt (pun intended) fancy the still fit, 51-year-old Rossdale's photogenic looks. About a third of the revelers were probably in nappies when Sixteen Stone ruled the day.
Less than an hour into the set, the band gave way to a simulcast of Ryan Seacrest's televised New Year's Eve show to watch the Times Square ball drop.
Among Rossdale's most endearing compositions is the power-pop ballad
"Glycerine." One wonders if he could have been approached for a TV commercial by the mouthwash brand Listerine, but thankfully that did not occur.
During the show, intriguing, futuristic, sometimes apocalyptic videos played on the backdrop as the band pumped out the songs, such as the levitating dead bodies on "Comedown."
Two covers, an ominous read of The Beatles' "Come Together" and REM's "The One I Love" filled out the set. Rossdale fared better on the latter, in which vamped and stretched out the more than two-hour satisfying show.
Here's a footnote about Sixteen Stone's iconic cover image - prophetic considering the continual news of rampant hacking - which adorned t-shirts on sale at the merchandise table. London-based photographer Paul Cohen tells Huffington Post exclusively he was a struggling art student when the album's designer saw a project he was working on at St Martins College of Art and Design, circa 1993-94.
"I got a nominal fee for the cover photography of what became such a big album, it would have been easier to accept if they hadn't also used the image on t-shirts," Cohen reflects. "It's normal for photographers to get 'points' on their images when used on merchandise ... It's amusing me to think about it now, but I got shafted ... and the image is still 'uncleared'."
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