by Rob Crupper, photos by Michael Ervin
A sweltering summer night in Tulsa got even hotter inside the legendary Brady Theater in Tulsa as modern rock band Chevelle laid down their darkly sensual sounds on a capacity crowd who soaked up all the heat and fever that the band could radiate. A rousing set by the opening 3-piece combo Highly Suspect perfectly set the tone for an evening of Chevelle’s hard-hitting sound.
The tight 13-song set started with “The Clincher”, the first of two songs from their 2004 album This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In). Though the song deals with the subject of claustrophobia, the crowd had no problems pressing toward the stage and each other, bouncing and head-banging to the rhythms of bassist Dean Bernadini’s and drummer Sam Loeffler’s groove.
Following up with frontman Pete Loeffler’s song “for the ladies” as he has half-jokingly professed, was the love-starved rocker “Grab Thy Hand”, a raw-nerved request for a little bit of the old vertical mambo. The band had fun with the crowd, quizzing the couples if they had any “plans” for after the show and many assured them that they did. There’s nothing like a night of serpentine rhythms and wailing vocals to bring out those energies in folks, so I’m sure many in the crowd followed through with the feeling.
The first big radio single of the night came in the form of “Send the Pain Below”, from their highly-rated release “Wonder What’s Next”. Almost half of the show consisted of songs from this 2003 modern rock breakthrough for the band. The fans were quick to jump in with their own vocals, much to the obvious delight of the Loefflers and Bernadini. The breakdown bridge brought screams and cheers from the floor and started the build-up of the crowd’s energy which never waned for the remainder of the show. As the band hit the chorus of the next tune, “Sleep Apnea” (the sole song played from their 2009 release, Sci-Fi Crimes), the stage searchlights and strobes illuminated the pumping fists of the crowd (and the first crowd-surfers of the night!).
A crowd favorite of the show was “Take Out the Gunman”, from Chevelle’s newest release (and first rock chart number one album of their career), La Gargola. It sent everyone over the edge! A drape dropped behind the band revealing a stark industrial scene of smokestacks that perfectly highlighted the dehumanization and fear that we all face in today’s climate of gun violence perpetrated by mentally unstable individuals. Loeffler has said that, more frequently, Chevelle has been exploring social issues in their songs without the heavy-handed proselytizing that so frequently comes along with songs aimed at serious social concerns that affect us all. This song was the one I was waiting for (every time it plays on my local stations KMOD and Z104.5, I have to blast it!) and I was not disappointed. The concert rendition was spot-on, as far as reproducing the perfection of the radio version. Frontman Loeffler was pleased to see that Tulsa had some “crazy peeps” and the band truly seemed to enjoy the unsolicited crowd participation, as the audience sang along with a good part of the song. Obviously I’m not the only one in town who thinks that this may be one of the best rock songs of 2014! This was the first of 4 tunes selected from their chart-topping 2014 release, followed by “An Island”. The Loefflers were leaning into the crowd during this song, and you could tell the groove had taken its hold on the band.
“Forfeit”, a song “all about doing what you gotta do” according to frontman Pete, kept up the heat that had been building to this point. At one point Loeffler asks the crowd, “Who’s with me?”, as Bernadini’s bass rumbled so mightily that it literally shook the floor beneath us.
Loeffler dedicated the next song, “Vitamin R”, to a couple near the front who apparently were having an amazing time, saying “here’s a song about you guys having sex”, bringing cheers and laughter from the audience. A friend of mine told me before the show that this was one of his favorite Chevelle songs and now I know why. It was infectious and it convinced me that I would be purchasing a copy of This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) in the very near future.
I think I probably dated myself when the introduction to “Same Old Trip” turned out to be audio clips of the scene between Peter Graves and child actor Rossie Harris from the ‘80s classic film “Airplane”, because I was laughing heartily, and everyone around me was trying to figure out what the joke was. After Graves’ character, Captain Oveur, asks the kid if he’s “ever seen a grown man naked?” Loeffler responds to the crowd “Have you ever moshed naked?” I’m not sure the crowd caught the reference but I was laughing myself silly.
As the band played the slow jam intro to “Twinge” from La Gargola, the crowd began swaying while searchlights fanned out over the rapt and spellbound audience. All of the songs from the new album seemed to have an effect on the fans, including “Hunter Eats Hunter” which followed “Twinge”. Loeffler said of “Hunter Eats Hunter” – “That was my favorite.” I’m not sure if he was saying that it is his favorite song that they play, or that our reaction to the song was his favorite of the night, but the crowd ate it up.
My second favorite song of the night, “Hats Off to the Bull” was also one of the crowd’s favorites as it got one of the biggest responses with the crowd singing along, bouncing and dancing, pumping their fists and nodding their heads to the ringing guitar licks and bubbling notes of the bridge.
The final song of the pre-encore set was “I Get It” from 2007’s Vena Sera. A song for those of us who face the daily onslaught of haters, doubters, and takers. It was a great way to close the show before the obligatory (and much desired) encore.
As the opening chords of “The Red”, perhaps Chevelle’s most well-known single, played softly by frontman Loeffler who was on stage alone lit by dual red spotlights, the crowd joined him singing along word-for-word. Bassist Bernadini joined by the second verse and drummer Loeffler joined in by the second chorus, at which point the crowd erupted cheering all the way into the slow, soft fade out with Loeffler and Bernadini standing still in the dual red spotlights. The band finished the encore with “Comfortable Liar” and the raucous “Face to the Floor”, before throwing out souvenirs to the crowd and thanking us for an amazing time. Thank YOU, Chevelle, for making my first concert review one that I will never forget. We’ll see you next time you’re in town. Don’t keep us waiting too long! by Rob Crupper