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A Concert Review

December 20, 1996

The Metro

Chicago, IL

A Review by
The Dude on the Right
It was a Friday in Chicago and it was as cold as, well, let's just say it was really cold, and I was at The Metro to see Sponge. The few songs I've heard on the radio I liked, but really didn't expect too much from the show going into it. Why? Well, I've read a couple of reviews that didn't say the greatest things about Sponge, about their second album, about their riding the wave of the alternative hype of before and crashing into the rocks on the shore, and well, as I grabbed a seat in the balcony I was just thinking to myself that I should have just stayed home, started a fire, and snuggled with my girlfriend. Oh, wait, I don't have a girlfriend, so I guess being out wasn't such a bad idea after all, even if I would have to put up with an "over-the-hill" alternative band like I read they were. By the time the night was over I wondered what band called Sponge those critics were talking about because whoever it was, it sure as hell couldn't have been the band called Sponge that I saw that night. I'm glad I went out.

So, the stage is set, there are some candles on the guitar amps, a cute little Christmas tree, and the sax starts playing. I'm thinking to myself "What, am I in some crazy jazz bar?" The rest of the band makes it's way to the stage and "Death of a Drag Queen" fills the air. I'm listening to a jazzier, soulfuller Sponge, and kinda diggin' it. Now, it didn't take long for the band to kick it up a notch, and low and behold Vinnie Dombroski is jumping into the crowd by the time the third song comes around. In the meantime, while Vinnie is being transported around the crowd, the rest of the band is working the front of the stage, slapping hands, wailing on their guitars, and working the crowd into a frenzy. Vinnie makes it back on stage, the crowd lulls for a second, all until he says something to the tune of "we have a new CD out, it's called Wax Ecstatic, and we'd like to do the title track." The crowd is having a blast, and me, I'm becoming more and more impressed by this "over-the-hill alternative" band.

Now, Sponge changed a little with the times, and that's not always bad. Me, I was expecting just what these other critics were saying, but I saw a band that could take one of their first hits, "Molly," give it a groovy, bluesy, edge, and still have the crowd loving it. Alright, Vinnie did hit the line "16 candles down the drain," the band kicked into the recorded version, and the place went insane, but during that groovy, bluesy part the crowd was singing, clapping, surfin', and loving every minute of it. Then I saw a band that could take my favorite Sponge song, "Plowed," turn the crowd into a moshing frenzy, slow things down a little the next song down, and pick it all back up with a killer version of "Speed Racer" from the Saturday Mornings theme CD. And the crowd response the entire night wasn't just one of appreciation, wasn't just one of waiting for one song, it was one of loving everything this band did, and rightly so because Sponge has grown from Rotting Piñata and their fans are growing with them. And you know, even a cover of the Lou Reed classic, "Walk on the Wild Side" had the crowd singin' along, even if many of them have never heard of Lou Reed before.

As much as the fans love Sponge, Sponge seems to love their fans. From the working the crowd hand-slaps, to Vinnie diving into the crowd, to bringing half-a-dozen of those fans on stage to sing along, I was shown that this is a band that some critics might wail on, but their fans love them.

I will say that I was duly impressed by Sponge and am still wondering what the hell all of those other critics are talking about. Yes, Sponge may have added a little more soulful, a little more jazzier sound, but they do so by still keeping that guitar driven edge of before. And you know, when all was said and done, and I was leaving The Metro this cold, Friday night, two dudes were walking behind me. One dude goes "God damn they were good." "Fuck yea," said the other. What else needs to be said?

It's TWO BIG OL' THUMBS UP for Sponge!

That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right!! L8R!


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