Good old Sunday nights – the street outside the Commodore Ballroom seemed a lot quieter than the couple nights before, but inside, the place was sweaty and packed with folks rocking out to an appropriately-turn-of-the-millennium rock-alt playlist in the venue while waiting for Collective Soul to hit the stage. I have seen these guys before, even gone (sort of) on tour with them for a day, but somehow, never had them in front of my camera before tonight. The band has gone through a couple personnel changes since its inception in the early 90s, but the core of brothers Ed and Dean Roland and bass player Will Turpin still anchor the group. If you’re anything like me, these guys soundtracked a lot of your teens, and talking to some people around the room before the set, that excitement of seeing a band that was pretty integral to your formative years was palpable.
That said, it’s not all about the classic tunes from these guys. They have been reasonably active over the years, with an album called See What You Started By Continuing released just this past October after a 6 year gap. I approached the stage to see the standard set list taped to the wide-open floor in front of a taped-down rug, but ahead of the set list was an array of other pieces of paper, also taped to the stage floor. Lyric sheets! Some of the music they were to play this evening was new enough that Ed Roland would need some prompting, and they did this old-school style with actual paper, which was a sort of interesting parallel after seeing admittedly-unrehearsed Richard Patrick from Filter the night before, three shows into their tour and using an iPad to cue his singing, and John Mann from Spirit of the West doing the same the night before that for a very different health-related reason. They finally emerged on stage, and pretty quickly, I could see why they gave Ed such a wide berth on that rug in the middle of the stage. He is off his rocker! He had a straight-stand mic that he pivoted around and off of, catching it with toes and hands as it dropped back and forth, shimmying up on his toes and whirling his hair around. He was an absolute tornado. Newer guitar player Jesse Triplett was outfitted in artfully shredded jeans and turned out to be super energetic. He’s taken the role on well. Will Turpin was sporting some very red shoes, coordinated with a red tie tucked into a vest, but was unfortunately kind of out of the spotlight on a riser adjacent to the drums behind which also-newer drummer Johnny Rabb was positioned. He did, though, take a massive flying leap of the drum riser late in the set, basically clearing nearby Ed’s head, and came out to the front of the stage a couple of times. One of those times, Ed commented that the people still loved him, even with the man bun, to which Turpin bowed down, displaying said bun more prominently. Ed’s younger, taller brother Dean (Ed pointed this out later – “he’s taller, but I’m older.”) hovered around the right side of the stage, frequently flinging his used guitar picks out to the crowd after each song.
It was the middle of their set before Ed finally spoke up between some songs. He simply stated that Vancouver is one of their favourite places on the planet. They certainly have been here a lot. After playing some of the new songs, he would pull the lyric sheet from that tune off the floor, ball it up, and chuck it in the darkness off the side of the stage. One of those tunes though, someone had neglected to put the lyric sheet on the floor, and Ed said, “[the songs are] actually so new, I don’t remember the lyrics. I’m waiting for them now.” A pause as he looked sidestage at someone. “Oh, he’s doing them on the computer? Fuck that, I’ll make it up.” Unwilling to waste time, they cranked into a new song. Afterwards, he spoke again. “Let me know if you have any stories and I’ll write a song about it, especially if someone pissed you off. I’m too happy a guy. I need to be pissed off sometimes,” he told the audience. Coincidentally, it was their third show of their tour as well, and they were still working out some kinks, but that wasn’t particularly apparent. Ed Roland seems a bit distracted sometimes, just bantering off with a sort of rock n roll flippancy, but it suits the character of the group. The rest of the band was all smiles. At one point, Ed left the stage entirely and I think it was just to get a beer refill. He introduced the middle portion of the set as them wanting to play a few new songs, some so new that no one had heard them live before. He asked for audience approval after many of them, and the crowd seemed to be on board, though clearly antsy for the hits. There was one great anecdote about him and Triplett going on a radio tour, and when he’s in Ed’s hometown, he stays at his place, usually in his son’s room which is full of 2000 LPs. This was brought on by a sort of cryptic line from Ed about how “We’ve definitely never done this before… we could do this.” He was referencing Led Zeppelin, and the story went on that the band’s attorney asked him to co-Godfather his twins, but hadn’t told him who he’d be co-Godfathering with. Imagine his surprise when he shows up at the church to see Robert Plant there as the co-Godfather! Apparently, Plant simply said, “Hi, you must be Ed. Welcome to the houses of the holy.” Ed’s response, as a preacher’s son, was, “You didn’t just fucking say that,” to which the attending priest replied, “Oh, yes he did.” That segued neatly into them playing the Zeppelin song “Going To California.”
That tune was pretty downtempo, and I think kind of killed the uppity vibe a bit, but the fans seemed to really like it. It led into a quieter section of the set with songs like “Needs” off 1999’s Dosage album and “The World I Know” off of their 1995 self-titled album. The crowd sang along, there was a huge ovation – it is a really nice song. It wasn’t long before they were back into louder rock n roll though, and played big hits “Gel,” Where The River Flows” and “Shine” back to back to back. After admitting they were exhausted but having fun and not wanting to quit, Ed got serious and started to talk about politics for a bit. This seems to be something that just comes up with American bands coming into Canada lately. Everyone is really embarrassed by their country’s political madness right now. The audience was not having it though – they wanted more music, not Ed’s chatter. The crowd got a really solid beat going with stomped feet and clapped hands, which brought Ed to silence and smiles. The band cheekily kicked in their own beat and licks, morphing the audience’s stomping into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall.” Ed mentioned that they used to actually play that song, but it had been a while. They began to play it anyhow, before trailing off. “We’ve recorded 10 CDs, 130 songs, and you expect me to remember the lyrics to a Pink Floyd song from 1979?” All right, Ed, you’re off the hook. I was kind of amazed that they didn’t choose to end the set with a song like “Gel”, but they also did no encore. They played a solid 2 hours, ending with the relatively gentle song “Run,” also from Dosage, then had a merry pile of cuddles with one another as the crowd got to its feet hollering. Triplett and Rabb left the stage, leaving the three founding members arm in arm for a final bow. Folks stuck around, expecting they would come back out for an encore. Even me, who had seen the set list ending with “Run” – I expected they’d have something else up their sleeves, but nope, house music and lights on. The show was over. It was overall superb – and encore wasn’t needed. I guess I just wanted a little bit more!