Concert Review: 90's group Collective Soul stands out at Beloit Riverfest

Although its popularity peaked in the mid-‘90s, rock band Collective Soul is still playing its catchy post-grunge music to enthusiastic crowds. The Georgia-based quintet entertained local fans when it headlined Beloit Riverfest’s Big Lawn Stage July 16.

Led by dynamic lead singer and primary songwriter Ed Roland, the group played songs spanning its 11-year career. The band’s distorted, riff-oriented rock was well suited for the outdoor venue, but suffered from feedback problems at times. This did not hamper the crowd’s response as it sang along to former MTV staples including “The World I Know.” Midway through its hour and 45 minute set, the group revisited “December” from its multiplatinum 1996 self-titled release. With its addictive looping melodies, this well-known rocker showcased the band’s above-average musicianship and skill. The group’s former guitar tech, Joel Koesche, replaced original lead guitarist Ross Childress in 2001 and proved to be more than adequate in his new position.

Collective Soul, whose name comes from Ayn Rand’s book The Fountainhead, established a friendly rapport with the audience and even changed its set list at a fan’s request.

“You want ‘She Said’? We’ll do ‘She Said,’” Roland remarked to a crowd member’s call for the acoustic-tinged track. “Is that OK with you guys?” he asked his bandmates on second thought before launching into the 1998 hit.

Roland’s entertaining frontman antics added to the group’s performance as well. From mastering mike stand aerodynamics to climbing stage supports, he had the standard rock show staples down to a science. Although these could be construed as hackneyed gestures, Roland’s affable personality could win over even the most critical observers.

“I just like the attention. You know that,” he explained with a laugh.

Roland really connected with the crowd when he ventured into the reserved seating section to sing “Gel.”

“Thanks for letting me have a little meet and greet,” he said after returning to the stage.

While Collective Soul has drawn comparisons to other rock acts like Aerosmith and Live, the group paid tribute to The Who with a faithful version of “Squeeze Box.” The band also spotlighted selections from its 2004 CD Youth, which was released on its own record label El Music Group. The new material, including Roland’s favorite track “Home,” is similar to the band’s older work with crunchy guitar riffs, intricate solos and expressive vocals.

Collective Soul’s distinctive sound was most apparent on its breakthrough hit and show-ending song, “Shine.” Roland explained that the five-minute rock anthem is an old spiritual that the group learned about 12 years ago. Filled with intensity and emotion, “Shine” was a climatic conclusion to the band’s energetic performance.

From the July 20-26, 2005, issue

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