Friday, Oct. 7
One of the perks of Fountains of Wayne's having been together for 15>"/>
The Crocodile Friday, Oct. 7
Fountains of Wayne, Mike Viola
Friday, Oct. 7
One of the perks of Fountains of Wayne's having been together for 15 years is the muscle memory that allows them to play their catalog without much rehearsal. Starting their tour in Seattle, the NYC power-pop purveyors seemed slightly under-rehearsed for the start of a brief U.S. run that will warm them up for Europe next month. But it didn't matter much--FOW were in fine form anyway, playing a cavalcade of hits while injecting a handful of spontaneous moments to keep the set from feeling too routine.
Since Fountains of Wayne have never been overly concerned with being contemporary, they've had the luxury of making the kind of records they want to make--sing-along, tongue-in-cheek affairs, all of which are great listens, including their latest one, Sky Full of Holes. And the band's songwriters, Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger, are more skilled at penning old-school radio-ready pop-rock songs than perhaps anyone else of their generation (sorry, Butch Walker). MTV may have caught on to "Stacy's Mom" in 2004, but the band has avoided becoming a one-hit-wonder cliché on the strength of the rest of their material. If, for a few years, their shows were littered with casual fans enamored by their Top 40 hit, the crowd at the Crocodile on Friday night showed no signs of being fair weather, singing along word-for-word to virtually the entire set, a testament to the power of the pair's partnership.
Like their heroes the Cars, Fountains of Wayne have never been the most exciting live band, relying instead on their well-crafted songs, polished musicianship, and the easy chemistry between them. Though Schlesinger had to occasionally turn to drummer Brian Young and guide him through the end of a bridge, the band was relaxed onstage, even jamming on some classic-rock selections into the middle of "Radiation Vibe," including parts of "Jet" from Wings, Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' for You" and the mondo guitar riff that anchors "Carry On My Wayward Sun."
"This was a big hit in Japan," singer/guitarist Collingwood said before starting "Red Dragon Tattoo," the sole entry Friday night from the band's sophomore album Utopia Parkway. The band focused mostly on songs from their latest record, as well as their gold-selling 2003 LP Welcome Interstate Managers, including a piano-driven version of "Stacy's Mom," which placed Schlesinger behind a keyboard and guitarist Jody Porter on bass. It was the only song that took on a substantially different arrangement from its recorded version, and it seemed like a subtle fuck-you to anyone who'd come to the show hoping to hear that song--or at least the MTV version of it.
Ex-Candy Butcher Mike Viola opened the show, playing a similar but more personal style of power-pop, just him and his Gibson acoustic guitar, a guitar which gave his set a rough start thanks to some technical difficulties, but which yielded perhaps the best impromptu sound-check song ever. Viola is a longtime friend of FOW, and even provided the lead vocal on the Schlesinger-written theme to the 1996 Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do! It would have been neat to see the pair pull that one out--or any of Viola's other Hollywood work, which also includes Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Get Him to the Greek--but Viola instead focused on songs from his solo records, which he belted out in his best Bryan Adams rasp. Viola even channeled the Canadian hit-maker at one point by playing the first verse of "Run to You." "It feels really good to play," he confessed afterwards.
The Fountains/Viola pairing provided a blissful double bill of pop, and fans of the genre had plenty to keep their ears happy Friday night. If there's any criticism to offer, it's that Fountains of Wayne's set list was fairly predictable (though they apparently changed things up the following night in Portland), and the band never strayed far from their original arrangements. They also didn't offer any covers, like their once-timely version of Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time." Then again, FOW are so adept at nodding to their influences without aping them that perhaps a cover or two would simply seem like overkill.
Extreme Makeover: Crocodile Edition: Both acts mentioned the Crocodile's semi-recent renovations. Collingwood mentioned the new layout and décor were a big improvement, while Viola couldn't exactly put his finger on what had changed. "Wait a minute," he asked. "Did the stage used to be over there?"