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THE WEEKEND MUSIC TOURS | POP MUSIC

Bush Is a Scream at Forum

Pop music review: Band's one-note performance produces an astonishingly affectionate display from the audience.

June 09, 1997|NATALIE NICHOLS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For much of the young audience, Bush's concert Saturday night at the Forum was all about lead singer-guitarist Gavin Rossdale.

Gavin emerging on the darkened stage in a puff of smoke . . . Gavin jumping up and down with his guitar . . . Gavin flipping his unruly, blond-tipped locks . . . Gavin rolling on the floor with his guitar . . . Gavin singing his heart out in that throaty, sigh-inducing growl, his face projected 20 feet high on the video screen.

Gavin! Gavin! Gavin!

All dressed in black, Rossdale and whoever those three guys were behind him took the adulation in stride throughout the nearly two-hour set, even when the screaming threatened to drown them out.

It was an astonishingly affectionate display from the audience, considering the band hit one musical and emotional note all night, and it underscored how well Bush has worked its formula.

The English quartet shot straight to the top of the U.S. pop charts in recent years with its interpretation of the modern Seattle sound purveyed by such American alternative-rock giants as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Such Bush hits as "Glycerine" and "Comedown" offer the kind of angst-riddled introspection and self-torment for which late Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain was so adored.

*

But the band brings little of its own vision to the form--and, absent of original personality, their work has its limitations. Guitarist Nigel Pulsford, bassist Dave Parsons and drummer Robin Goodridge capably delivered Bush's driving minor chords and low percussive rumble as they mined the group's two albums. Yet there was little emotional drive behind each carefully crafted musical noise storm.

Still, the true believers sang along to every word, while casual listeners marveled at how much the group seemed to play the same song over and over--with different lyrics.

Perhaps because each number was so similar in tempo and intensity, the set had little dramatic arc, but there were subtle mood shifts. The driving angst was occasionally broken by a brooding ballad, and Rossdale offered a brief solo set on electric guitar.

His agile voice ably carried both "Burn Driven" and "Glycerine" (which he wryly introduced as a "Turkish love song") above the teenage screams, but he could've been singing the phone book off-key and still been worshiped.

Bush itself inadvertently summed up the proceedings by including among the encores "Pretty Vacant," the Sex Pistols' 20-year-old paean to cluelessness. It probably wasn't an ironic comment on either themselves or the audience, but the tune--itself a hoary punk concert cliche--represented the show's most appropriate choice of material.

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