Saturday, October 6th, 2012
Saliva, October Rage, Goon
Main Street Live, Murfreesboro, TN
Saliva has been my favorite band for years. This show marked the 9th show of theirs that I have been to, including five shows where I have driven out of state to see them. Way back when, I went to a concert of theirs without having listened to much of their music, and I instantly fell in love with them. The lead singer, Josey Scott, was an intense, energetic and passionate performer, the likes of whom I had never seen before. Through each one of the subsequent seven performances, I never saw Josey's performances falter. Each one was as good as the last, and each one cemented that, at least in my opinion, they were a live music powerhouse that was unequaled among else anyone I had seen. Truly no other rock band has even come close in comparison to the quality of the live performances they produce.
So needless to say, I was very concerned when Saliva announced the departure of Josey Scott last year. I had watched their albums go from intense rap rock (Every Six Seconds), to happy mainstream rock (Blood Stained Love Story) to something that was a cross of light rock and Christian rock (Under Your Skin). Knowing that Josey's personal life was leading down a religious road, it wasn't surprising to see their last three albums be completely devoid of profanity, and have a decidedly happier and more optimistic sound. But still, once it was announced that he had parted way to pursue his own Christian music career, I was left wondering what the fate of the band would be. Would I still be able to hang on as a fan, even with Josey gone?
Earlier this year, they announced that they'd recruited a new lead singer, Bobby Amaru. Not wanting to pass judgment unduly, I decided to wait until I made it to one of their live performances before I would decide if I was still going to be just as gung-ho of a Saliva fan as I'd always been. A huge part of me really wanted to hang on since I've loved Saliva as a band...Wayne (lead guitar), Dave (bass) and Paul (drums) are all incredibly talented guys, and individually I would be a fan of each one. But another part of me wondered if it was better to move on, and cordially cut my ties with them so I could remember them fondly as a complete band with Josey.
So when they finally announced a couple of dates near Nashville, I was very excited to finally see them again and form my opinion. The last time I'd seen them perform with Josey at the lead was at the Gathering of the Juggalos last year, which was an incredible way for Josey to go out with a bang. But this time, they'd be in a much smaller club in the next city over from me, where I had already seen them once before. I didn't have any company to go with me, so I made the hour long drive alone.
When I arrived shortly before 9:00pm, a local band was playing. I didn't catch their name, but I will call them "I swear we're not terrorists" since that was what they prefaced one song by saying. They were good enough I guess, and after their set, I grabbed a drink and settled into a spot right up at the stage. The next band to play was Goon, who were also apparently local and seemed to have a lot of friends in the audience.
Goon's lead singer
The guys behind me started to mosh...but you couldn't really even call it moshing since it was just some guys sort of pushing each other half-heartedly so they wouldn't spill their drinks haha.
The primary opening act for the show was October Rage, who are from Australia. The audience seemed very enthusiastic about them, and they fed off the energy of the crowd really well.
They were very entertaining, with the lead guitarist showboating around and the lead singer swinging his dreads. Overall they were quite good, which is just what I love to see when I go to shows!
When it was time for Saliva to begin, I overheard a guy near me talking about how excited he was to see them. Then he said something like "There's a guy in the band who spits water everywhere, so if you don't want to get wet, you better stand back!" Well, the guy was obviously talking about Jonathan Montoya, who had been kicked out of the band at the end of 2010! Oy! If this guy didn't know that Jonny wasn't going to be there, he certainly didn't know that Josey had been replaced either. So I braced for it. I had no idea if it was gonna be awesome or horrible, fantastic or abysmal, but I was hoping for the best.
Hmm....I wonder what song they're gonna use that for...:-)
As the guys took the stage one by one, they just sort of walked out with no fanfare, and almost looked like they didn't even want to be there. Finally, Bobby charged his way out and began to sing with all his heart. But the crowd just sort of stood there. Everyone was looking at each other in this puzzled sort of way. The three girls next to me all looked at each other, pointed at him and shrugged. Then one got on her phone and they all started to look at it, apparently Googling the answer as to why there was a new lead singer. I felt really bad for Bobby honestly...they really hadn't done a good enough job of letting their fans know that Josey was gone, and he was taking the brunt of it by people acting confused at his presence. But he kept going, as did the rest of the guys.
Pics first, then we'll get to my opinion...
A big, wide open, brightly room lit stage, with Paul waaaaay in the back
So as I stood there, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was a worthy replacement for Josey, I found myself disappointed. Despite giving it his all, Bobby just didn't have that energy or stage presence that Josey had. He moved around the stage a lot (probably more so than Josey ever did, since Bobby is skinny and Josey was "teddy bear sized"), but I never got that feeling that he was enchanting the audience and drawing them into the performance. The whole thing just sort of felt...flat. Dave and Wayne barely moved at all...which is the way it always was with Josey...but this time it exacerbated the fact that the stage just felt a little empty. It just wasn't the same, in a bad way.
A few times, the reality of this "change in the weather" for Saliva hit me when Bobby would start to sing songs that I felt were uniquely Josey's. The first time I noticed this was when he started to sing Superstar. I've heard Josey sing that song 8 other times, and it always seemed like such a personal song about the struggles in his past. So when Bobby started to sing it...it just sounded so wrong and almost disrespectful in a way. Like...that's not YOUR song...that's not YOUR emotion...that's Josey's song about his struggles with cocaine and becoming famous. It just felt wrong to hear someone else sing it, and I hated that it felt that way, but I had to be honest with myself about it.
Before it sounds like I'm bashing poor Bobby to death, I want to make it very clear that I didn't think Bobby did a bad job with his performance. He was energetic and fun, and seemed to be very happy while he performed. He just had VERY big shoes to fill in replacing Josey, and I didn't think he was an appropriate choice as a replacement at all. At the very least I think they should have gone with someone older since Bobby seemed very young in comparison to the rest of the guys in the band.
Through the show, the crowd seemed to warm up to them well enough, but not nearly like any of the other Saliva shows I've been to. There was also a lot of sloppy drunkenness going on in the crowd, which is never a good time for those of us who are actually there to see the band. The most disheartening point though came when Dave and Paul both left the stage, leaving only Bobby and Wayne. And Bobby says "Now we're gonna play you an Alice in Chains song!" Um...WHAT?! You're freaking SALIVA. I came to a Saliva show to see Saliva sing Saliva songs, not to see Saliva halfheartedly sing an old Alice in Chains song. BAD, BAD move on their part. It sounded like they were just trying to be a cover band...as though they don't have enough good music of their own to fill up an entire show. What in the world were they thinking with that one?? Sad.
So as the show ended, I ended up catching one of Paul's drumsticks, which was a first for me, remarkably. I greeted him briefly after the show, but was afraid to say too much since I was quite underwhelmed with the show overall. When I made my way back out to my car for the drive home, I didn't even want to listen to the Saliva that was playing on the stereo. The drive home was just weird, and I had this awful, sad feeling since it just wasn't as good as it used to be. It felt like sending your long time boyfriend into the "friend zone" because you're just not in love with him the way you used to be. Things have changed, and while you'll always have fond memories of the way it was in the past, you're not so sure that you'll have many more memories together in the future. Honestly it affected me a lot worse than I ever imagined that it would.
The following night, Saliva had another show in Clarksville, TN, which is about 45 minutes north-west of where I live. And I chose not to go. It was sad and unfortunate that someone that I've driven three hours to see before now couldn't even garner a 45 minute drive out of me.
The best analogy I can find for Josey being replaced with Bobby is this: Imagine your mom trying to make you a Big Mac. She could make the burgers, and make a three tiered bun, and pile it with lettuce and onions and sauce. But at the end of the day, it's just not gonna be a Big Mac. That special something that made you want a Big Mac in the first place simply won't be there unless you get it directly from McDonald's. Such is the case with Saliva now. That special something that always made me love Saliva was Josey and his uncanny ability to enchant any crowd he was in front of. Removing him and replacing him with someone else means that it just doesn't feel like a Saliva show. Bobby might know all the lyrics, and might be energetic with his performance and might yell "Hell yeah!" into the mic, but at the end of the day, he's just not Josey. And apparently that is a much bigger deal to me than I was hoping it would be.
I'm not sure how my adoration for Saliva will go from this point. Obviously it won't be the same, and my love for them won't be so automatic anymore. But in and of themselves, I'm very willing to give any future albums a listen and possibly hang on as a fan of the music. But as far as live shows go, I think the heyday of Saliva will be relegated to Yesterland.