TheConnells, Satellite Lounge, Feb. 1, 1997
Opening Act - Tonic
The Connells represent my roots as a lover of music, making them ironically appropriatefor my first review. This band is from NC and got their start while I was going to collegeat the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I wasecstatic to hear that they were making the trip to Houston. As the owner of three of theirCDs, I spent a little time refreshing my memory and hit The Satellite ready for a greatshow.
First let me comment on Tonic. This was a very good act. I recognized their one radiosong, "Open Up Your Eyes", but was quite pleased to enjoy their entire set.Their lead singer had a very clear and rich voice and I liked the folksy nature of theacoustic guitar while still maintaining a generally heavy sound. The lead guitarist, JeffRusso, playing both Les Paul special and standard guitars, exhibited quite an accomplishedstyle, as well as being a real cutie :).
Next was The Connells. This is a big band. It consists of two brothers, Mike and DavidConnell, playing guitar and bass respectively, Doug MacMillan, lead vocals, GeorgeHuntley, vocals and guitar, Steve Potak, keyboards, and Peele Wimberly, drums. These guyshave been playing together since David and Mike were in school at UNC in 1984. Their homebase is now in Raleigh, NC. Their sound is unique, so it is a little hard to describe. Iwould consider it an alternative, pop/rock style with with hard edge at times. Theirlyrics range from light and fun to serious and introspective. Just my guess, but I wouldsay that they were somewhat influenced by some of the British pop bands during the 80's,while putting their own Southern spin on it. They produce a heavy guitar sound, which iscompleted by keyboards and percussion. Doug's voice sounds a little like Liam Gallagher ofOasis, but at times, he moves like David Gahan of Depeche Mode.
The band hit the stage with their most recent single "Maybe" which is on theCD Weird Food and Devastion. They proceeded to play several songs from this CD,which is a darker approach than some of their earlier material from Fun and Games, OneSimple Word, and Ring. During the set, they played old favorites like"Sal", "Motel", "Fun & Games", "74/75","Upside Down", "Something to Say", "Get a Gun", and, mypersonal favorite, "Uninspired". All in all, a night of complete nostalgia forme. I was lucky enough to squeeze up front and wearing my old Fun & GamesT-shirt, was able to get some nice smiles and quality eye contact from the front men. Ilive for this stuff!!
I was surprised, yet happy to see that many of those in the audience knew the words andrecognized even some of the older songs. I didn't realize we had that many NC transplantsin the area. I'm glad to see they reach this far. The crowd was generally in the 25-35 agebracket and was a mix of hard core music lovers and prepsters. Aside from the very tallguy that was obnoxiously flailing in the crowd and the preppy golfer that kept wanting tosit on the stage in front of me, the crowd was a pretty cool group.
The band itself is composed of quality musicians with years of experience. However, Idid detect a feeling of ambivalence, or a lack of the spark they once had back when Ifirst saw them in NC. But hey, I lack some of the spark I had back then, too. They seemedto have matured, but have not developed a stage presence to reflect this style. Theyseemed spontaneous with some of their song selections, but at times appeared disorganized.I will, however, favorably comment on Doug's singing of Elton John's "RocketMan" while a cable problem with the snare drum was being fixed.
The Connells are a great band and I will see them again and again as long as they keepplaying. For me, they represent a part of my past. For you, if you get the chance, checkthem out to see how a band that has over 12 years experience can still stay together andmake great music without having had a commercially monster hit. These guys seem to lovethis stuff, and I hope that continues to come through in their live show.
On That Note, I'm outta here......