Thatâ€™s the resounding impression I walked away with from my first live experience with The Soundtrack Of Our Lives this past Wednesday on a dreary, poorly attended night in Santa Clara, CA. Thereâ€™s no accounting for taste but the flock was thin enough for TSOOL lead singer Ebbot Lundberg to mutter, â€œThe chosen few,â€ under his breath after blazing opener â€œUniversal Stalker.â€ Folks missed out because these Swedes are pretty much everything right about rock. They make hoary, seemingly antiquated terms like â€œgroovy,â€ â€œpsychedelicâ€ and â€œcosmicâ€ seem like proper, cool descriptors. Watching them turn it on at the Avalon â€“ quite simply one of the most depressing, grumpily staffed venues in the Bay Area â€“ one saw men who genuinely believe in rock â€˜nâ€™ rollâ€™s power, relevance and capacity to stir passion & joy. And if one opened up, even a little, their music and personal energy seeped into one like life giving water to hungry roots.
Does that sound corny to you? Well, you probably donâ€™t feel rockâ€™s importance on a fibril level like TSOOL and the handful of us hugging the lip of the stage, sweating and swaying as they knocked out one compelling, intensely engaging and simply well-made tune after another. TSOOL wraps their heads and hearts around the modern human condition, grappling with our changing social climate, technologyâ€™s impact, the afterlife and other high-minded notionsâ€¦while simultaneously churning out riffs and hooks that are simply classic and generally catchy as all hell. One can enjoy their music on several levels, but in concert, their sheer, visceral power is inescapable.
In many respects, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives is the grandchild of the folks that set up shop at the original Fillmore Auditorium and Winterland â€“ earthy explorers in love with life and music and eager to connect the dots with anyone down to share a night with them. Youâ€™d never have known the cavernous Santa Clara club was nigh empty based on TSOOLâ€™s sterling performance, though one wonders how much better the experience is for them with at least a few hundred frothing coconspirators and also what heights we might all have climbed with a smidge more collective energy. In any case, rock loving folks need to explore The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, and unlike myself â€“ a fan of their studio output for many years â€“ donâ€™t wait a minute longer than you have to see them in the flesh. Even though the circumstances may not have been ideal, the band should know they put the zap â€“ in the best of ways â€“ on this boyâ€™s head â€“ not just with their own material but also a pulverizing cover of The Stoogesâ€™ â€œSick of Youâ€ that conjured up both vintage Iggy and company but also The Doors in the quieter bookend sections. Iâ€™ll never miss this band again when they roll through town. (Dennis Cook)
Those uninitiated or only passing familiar with TSOOL can start with the new compilation Golden Greats No 1 (released March 22), a nice handshake, though their full albums are stuffed with great songs and subtle, overlapping themes, and worth exploring in their own right.
Itâ€™s a bloody treat to share photographer extraordinaire (and pal) Jay Blakesbergâ€™s photos from the evening. As usual, he captures the vibe and personality of a show better than almost anyone wielding a camera.