*Picture of Gavin Rossdale and Nik Hughes of Bush at the Midland Theater May 7th, 2023 taken by your intrepid blogger
I was lucky enough to see grunge stalwarts Bush last night at the majestic Midland Theater and man, was I glad I did. I was lucky enough that one of my favorite new bands, Starcrawler, was the opener. I was talking to a friend of mine at brunch this Sunday who had the previous evening seen Anthony Gomes, one of his favorite acts. I remember saying to my friend, “Is there a better feeling than that buzz and elation you feel the morning after a great, great concert?” And here I am, just a few days later and I have to tell you I’m feeling that today. What a great night, what a great concert.
People forget how big Bush was back in the middle 90s. Their name was never whispered in those same revered tones as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice In Chains but they were huge. Their debut, Sixteen Stone, kicked off 5 hit singles. Bush’s lyrics were as dark as anything AIC or Nirvana put out but I guess since they were being sung by frontman/rhythm guitarist Gavin Rossdale who is a handsome dude, they weren’t heard as clearly. The last time I saw Bush was in the summer of 1997 after I’d escaped a harrowing journey to Jamaica with a friend of mine. We managed to talk our way out of the country – no police were involved, thankfully – and got back to KC early. With time left on vacation we went out and scalped tickets at Sandstone Ampitheater to see Bush and I was duly impressed that night. I went out and bought their 2nd LP, Razorblade Suitcase the next day. “Cold Contagious” remains a favorite of mine.
But like most people, after that I sort of lost touch with Bush. I’d hear the stray single like “The Chemicals Between Us,” but I wasn’t buying LPs. They disbanded after 2001’s Golden State because the lead guitar player didn’t want to tour. I told that story to the Rock Chick and she merely asked, “Why do musicians join bands if they don’t want to leave the house?” Bush reformed in 2011 and have been putting out great records ever since. The line up today consists of: vocalist/guitarist Gavin Rossdale (the only original member left), lead guitarist Corey Traynor, bassist Corey Britz, and drummer Nik Hughes. The current line up is responsible for the last two Bush albums which have really signaled a return to form for these guys. The Kingdom (2020) and The Art of Survival (2022) are great albums, especially The Art of Survival. If you haven’t checked that one out, you need to. Bush is so much heavier rock now. It was no surprise to me last night that over half the songs Bush played were from those two albums. When I discovered The Art of Survival, I played it for the Rock Chick and it’s now one of her favorite albums. When I saw they were coming to town on the tour I knew I had to get tickets, not just for me but for her…
Bush took the stage and started off the evening with one of the new songs, “Identity,” and it was a great kick off. Immediately I realized that this rhythm section – Nik Hughes and Corey Britz – are a rumbling thunder and lighting engine for this band. They’re so heavy and so wonderful. The drums and bass felt like they were hitting me in the chest. The second track of the night was from Sixteen Stone, one of my favorites, “Machinehead.” I was on my feet screaming. There were so many highlights. “The Chemicals Between Us” was a punchy, rocking favorite. I was actually very surprised how much Gavin eschewed his rhythm guitar and danced around. His dancing is a little idiosyncratic, he’s no Jagger, but he was into it and it fueled the crowd. “The Sound Of Winter” is another personal favorite – it’s a track the Rock Chick turned me onto and it didn’t disappoint last night.
“Flowers On A Grave” is a fabulous tune off of The Kingdom and last night’s performance was a show stopper. While the band riffed, Rossdale jumped into the crowd and sang from the floor… oh and from the balcony on the third floor. He ran a full circle around the entire theater, singing all the while. Not to go all “fan boy” on you but I actually high-fived him as he passed right by my aisle seat. Afterward he complimented the theater saying, “You can tell a lot of care went into building this theater.” After that he brought the house down again with “Everything Zen.” That song has one of my favorite lyrics that my brother probably wrote, “Should I fly to Los Angeles, find my asshole brother.” They brought it down after that for a lovely ballad from the new record, “1000 Years” that I just loved. I’ll admit “Quicksand” lost me a bit but then they launched into the two best tracks from the new album, “Heavy Is the Ocean” (about the environment) and “More Than Machines” (that he dedicated to the women in the audience). Those were absolute highlights and should remain part of Bush’s live shows for the rest of their career. The main set ended with “Little Things” which drove the crowd into a frantic scream for more.
The encore was three tracks. They rocked “The Kingdom” and I have to admit, it’s a great song. Then it was a slow track with the hit ballad “Glycerine.” They wrapped it up with “Comedown” and they jammed on that one. When the show was over Gavin, who seems like a nice, charismatic guy, thanked the crowd and wished Kansas City “good luck in the Super Bowl.” He even said “Go Chiefs!” I couldn’t help but notice that on the encore bassist Corey Britz had donned a Chiefs stocking cap. Hey, call me cheesy, but as a Chiefs season ticket holder, those kind of gestures really win me over.
As I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite new bands Starcrawler were the opening act. I just saw Starcrawler back in August and they put on a great show that night. They’re still touring behind their third, very strong album She Said. Starcrawler played a taught, rocking 13-song, 45 minute set. They opened with “Goodtime Girl” a track I’ve always liked. They played a number of tracks from the new album, “Roadkill,” “Stranded” and the title track. Lead singer Arrow de Wilde and lead guitarist Henri Cash seemed to delight in having such a big stage to move around on. Those guys are developing a great Jagger/Richards singer/guitarist chemistry on stage. They played a cover they’ve been doing “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough,” that for some odd reason I just love. Cash introduced “I Love L.A.” as “a song about Kansas City.”? They did their raucous cover of “Pet Semetary.” Other highlights were “Ants” and “Bet My Brains,” the show ender. Arrow dances on stage like shes’ a mix of ballerina and rubber band. She’s a truly charismatic front woman. However, she clearly disappointed with the KC crowd last night. She seemed unhappy they weren’t getting into them more so she decided to make them angry. She said, after different songs, “It even smells like the 90s in here…” (not sure what that meant), “Kansas City, your BBQ sucks” (those are fighting words in this town), and the big winner for me was “Thank you for having us at the Boring Convention, I hope you’ll have us back next year.” About the only thing she didn’t say to incite the crowd was, “Go Eagles.” Arrow, we love you in Kansas City, as was proved when you played here last August, but this was Bush crowd.
While Starcrawler will not be opening for Bush any more, it doesn’t matter who is opening, you need to see Bush when they come to your town. They were so good last night I was thinking about gassing up the car and driving to Toronto for their next show… although I’d have to find my passport somewhere… Bush is on a roll with two great LPs in a row and are red hot on stage right now. Rossdale has discovered the right chemistry with this band and people should hear them immediately!
Cheers! “Heavy is the ocean, cracked but we don’t break….”