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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Blind Melon Shows Sweet Side at Show

March 29, 1994|LORRAINE ALI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With its long psychedelic jams and good-vibes attitude, L.A.'s Blind Melon has been lumped in with such young Grateful Dead disciples as the Spin Doctors and Phish. Headlining the Hollywood Palladium on Sunday, though, the quintet set itself apart by adding an acid-rock edge with its heavy guitars and hard bass line.

Most important, though, was a winning personality. Leading the group in its biggest L.A. concert yet (it was relocated to the Palladium from the outdoor Castaic Lake after last week's storm), singer Shannon Hoon displayed a relaxed and occasionally clumsy stage presence that made him all the more likable and approachable.

He tripped over his mike stand more than once, and danced like an uninhibited little kid during the extended instrumentals. Hoon plucked petals off a bouquet of roses and threw them into the audience, passed a monitor speaker into the crowd ("Here, this has too much boom in it") and handed his mike into a sea of fans to sing the words to Blind Melon's hit "No Rain."

That song (the one with the video featuring the dancing bee-girl) is typical of Blind Melon's free-form mix of hooky, laid-back rock with a slightly high-strung edge. Hoon's vocals ranged from bird-like noises to falsetto cries to less anxious tones that conveyed a winning vulnerability.

It added up to a sweet, celebratory sound, and the packed-in crowd was dancing rather than moshing in what seemed more like a big, happy festival than a typical high-security Palladium show. When Hoon stepped back from the mike and shook the tambourine, his hair hanging over his face, it could have very well been a scene from some long-gone, '60s love-in.

Those sunny qualities have been considered a weakness by some critics, who dismiss the band as ineffectually sappy, but at the Palladium, that light, carefree appeal proved refreshing. Blind Melon may be called an alternative rock band, but it's really an alternative itself to the screaming Angst that dominates that genre.

The opening act Dig, another L.A. quintet that's enjoying MTV success, unleashed a huge, all-consuming sound fueled by three guitarists. The layers of distortion and melody assumed an alluring, mantra-like quality, but the songs themselves never seemed to lift off. Singer Scott Hackwith added slight dynamics with his nervous, John Lydon tones, but with nothing more popping out of the dense set to grab you, the overall effect was more numbing than enticing.

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