SANTA ANA — Collective Soul, a band from Georgia, gave rock 'n' roll a welcome shot of adrenaline at the Galaxy on Saturday night. The five musicians' low-key appearance (T-shirts, jeans, long hair) belied an explosive performance before a sold-out crowd.
Fronted by singer-guitarist Ed Roland, they stirred memories of the early Replacements as they rocked noisily and with abandon, rarely slowing down to catch their collective breath. Throughout their energized, 80-minute early set, the smoother sounds of their two studio releases succumbed to crunchier, more garage-like delivery.
With their critically praised second release ("Collective Soul"), they have shown a knack for catchy pop songs, guitar-driven rockers and a few spiritually-tinged meditations. Adding their refreshing everyman attitude to the mix, they came up in concert with a satisfying musical stew.
Setting the set's aggressive tone with a three-guitar attack, the group opened with a biting, beat-heavy version of the hip-hop influenced "Simple." Several ear-piercing numbers ensued, culminating with a fuzzy but forceful rendering of the excellent "Untitled."
Roland and company then unleashed their big hit, "Shine," catapulting the willing crowd out of the seats to clap, dance and sing along under the smiling bandleader's encouragement. It was good to see the band members still having fun with a song that is by now obligatory, projecting both a loose, playful quality and sense of pride in their most popular selection.
At mid-set, a disappointing but short stretch of weaker material threatened to sabotage things. Such underdeveloped tunes as "When the River Flows" and "She Gathers Rain" bordered on self-indulgence as repetitive choruses and the indistinguishable riffing of lead guitarist Rod Childress grew wearisome.
But the group recaptured its lost momentum and added some needed variety by putting its monolithic guitar assault in a pause mode as rhythm guitarist Dean Roland switched to acoustic: His unplugged strumming felt like a breath of fresh air during the opening chords to the band's latest hit, "December." Another gem surfaced in the pop psychedelia of the Robyn Hitchcock-influenced "Smashing Young Man," which showcased the guys' lighter, more whimsical side.
The instrumental charge of Collective Soul's hard-rockin' approach left a favorable impression. But more shifts in tone and style could help make for better pacing and allow the band's subtler, quieter side to shine too.
Last-minute technical problems with the Galaxy's soundboard caused a lengthy delay in starting the 8 p.m. show and as the 10:30 show approached, Rusty, the opening act, was canceled. The alternative rockers from Toronto remained slotted to open the second show.