The members of 311 must have thought they had the whole rap-metal-ska thing nailed when their 1995 self-titled album sold more than 3 million copies and turned this Nebraska-bred quintet into suburban groove kings. What 311 didn't anticipate was that the sound they helped popularize would be forged into a harder, more confrontational cast, as Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit and company planted a stone in rap-metal's velvet glove and used the cross-genre as a vehicle for anger management and insurrectionary polemics. Suddenly, 311's party-time funk sounded harmlessly benign.
311 may not have the drawing power of old, but it's got a solid constituency of fans who demand little more than some good, clean fun from the band. At 311's sold-out performance at the House of Blues on Sunday, it was all about the beats. Like an ace hard-core band, 311 can make whipsaw transitions on a dime, shifting quickly from dancehall and ska rhythms to strident metal and bubbling hip-hop. Yet 311 wisely doesn't forsake melody; guitarist Tim Mahoney striated the songs with glistening minor chords that cleansed the grit.