One of the more unlikely entries in the rock revival sweepstakes of late was the 2006 reformation of Blind Melon. Known as one of the more radio-friendly entries in the early ‘90s grunge boom, the California band had a commercial lifespan that lasted for two albums and roughly four years before dissolving after the drug overdose death of lead singer Shannon Hoon in 1995.
That the renewed Blind Melon – with all its principal members on hand plus Rain Fur Rent singer Travis Warren in Hoon’s place – landed last night at The Dame was perhaps even more improbable. The show was booked a mere two weeks ago, so word never got rolling locally for the performance.
But this curious bit of pop nostalgia proved to be surprisingly lively. No disrespect intended, but Blind Melon in its heyday seemed caught in an identity crisis. The Melons yearned for rock radio accessibility, but were way too hippie in their sentiments to be a grunge troupe and far too heady and loud (at times) to qualify as a jam band.
Warren proved quite capable in forging Blind Melon’s stylistic loose ends into a cohesive whole. He came off as a more muscular singer that convincingly replicated Hoon’s hippie folk tenacity on Change as well as the more headstrong drive of the show-opening Galaxie. Though a more focused frontman than Hoon, Warren possessed enough vocal bravado to make him eligible for rock star status.
That was especially true in the more pop conscious material from Blind Melon’s new comeback album, For My Friends. On Wishing Well, which strongly recalled Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, right down to Christopher Thorn’s Jimi Hendrix-flavored guitar psychedelia, Warren wailed with impressive volume, range and confidence. But he was also up to meatier tunes like Hypnotized, a song supposedly inspired by Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan, although its glossier angst was more in line with a ticked off Bon Jovi.
The rest of the Melons, especially Thorn and co-guitarist Rogers Stevens, clicked very nicely for a band that was out of commission for over a decade. Indicative of Blind Melon’s renewed sense of performance invention was a psychdelic rumble designed by the two guitarists but piloted mostly by the smartly paced drumming of Glen Graham. It served as an engaging prelude to band’s 1993 breakthrough hit, No Rain.
No, this wasn’t the stuff of legends. But for 90 minutes, Blind Melon connected solidly with its storied past, wrote a fresh chapter for itself with new material and brought to life a merry rock ‘n’ roll beast. And for a band that, until recently, was no more that scattered ashes, that’s a pretty swift trick.
(above, Blind Melon 2008: from left, Rogers Stevens, Travis Warren, Brad Smith, Glen Graham and Christopher Thorn)