30 Odd Foot of Grunts
Stubb's, August 11
Before we begin, let me be frank: I went to this show to see Russell Crowe cuss, sweat, and peel off his shirt. I don't get the 30 Odd Foot of Grunts brand of earnest, big-sky rock & roll, and I know nothing of their work. Hence, I'm incapable of writing an objective review. However, if I don't try, one of those black-hearted, cynical pricks from the staff will, and since my Crowe crush is so debilitating and delusional, I'm risking the actor's Romper Stomper
-like wrath to shield him. Besides, in this libidinous and partial way, I embody the duality of the show's insanely female crowd, half of whom were breasty, backless, and lustily curious, while the other half foamed rabid, protective, and musically empathetic. The former were merely voyeurs, while the latter proved themselves the real fans, born and bonded on the Internet (www.gruntland.com
). They're the reason the band was playing; they crocheted the pillows, they made the signs, they knew the words. So they got his full attention. The most entertaining aspect of the show, in fact, was Crowe's good-natured and playful interaction with these folks. At one point, he even took a fan's cell phone and chatted with the obviously ecstatic girl on the other end. At another point, he took a rag from a fan, mopped the sweat from his brow and chest, and as an amusing afterthought, stuck it down the front of his trousers, laughing and tossing it back. He was funny and gave the fans what they want, delivering his songs (co-written with the dodgy-haired guitarist to his left) with a dramatic sincerity the music intelligentsia outlawed years ago. In this regard, he provoked some people, especially those who believe in the integrity of Rock. Overheard: "This is like Rick Springfield," "This crap should stay in a pub," "Sure he's a babe, but can he rock? No." On the other hand, the emotional candor of the music sent the majority of the crowd into a rapturous state. In truth, if TOFOG is merely a glorified bar band, they superceded their limits with strong harmonies, non-wanking guitars, interesting trumpet lines, and a more-than-competent lead singer, who, incidentally, sings just like he talks and swivels his hips whilst playing guitar. The pre-show mix tape suggested Crowe admires both Tom Waits and Crowded House, and in a way the music falls somewhere on that continuum, aspiring to both the broken-down romanticism of Waits and the craftmanship of Neil Finn. It was neither poetic nor seamlessly melodic enough to meet those goals, of course, but some of the songs worked, especially the one about wanting to be inside "her" eyes -- mine! mine! -- and another about his overqualified father applying for a job ("What Do You Want Me to Forget"). Okay, there were some clichés about gypsies and rivers, and some overstatement -- apparently politicians and critics are bad, and the common man is good, as is beer -- but the show was no more riddled with hyperbolic rock bollocks than -- and I'm taking a bullet for you here, Russell -- Springsteen's show at the Erwin Center a few months back. I understand that it's fine for Bruce to sprout clichés and clench his fist with rock ardor, because he can rest on his poetic laurels and proven integrity, and Crowe can't since, as far as we know, he only acts like he has integrity, but I believe in him. Then again, I believed in Eddie and the Cruisers too, so don't look to me for answers.