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Pop Music Review

Fuel Ignites, if Only as a Flicker

November 16, 2000|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Rock 'n' roll can be faked. It requires no profound passion or musical ideas. Just follow the formula and take no chances. Which should explain the commercial success of such disposable modern hit-makers as Creed, Third Eye Blind, Vertical Horizon and Fuel.

But what is manufactured in the studio can sometimes come to life on stage. Opening a three-night run at the Whisky on Tuesday, Fuel frequently found something real, if not quite memorable, during a 90-minute performance, playing with an urgency that is lacking in the band's recorded work. It wasn't enough to make Fuel's songs distinctive, but at least they were momentarily engaging.

Singer Brett Scallions emerged in full rock-star regalia--a white, floor-length coat, a cowboy hat, shades, leather jeans and a Boz Scaggs T-shirt. He strutted, he spat, he banged his head. But for all the outsize posturing, there was undeniable energy on stage, with the occasional punk and metal flourish.

The crowd sang along on "Glimmer," the Pennsylvania band's 1998 breakthrough hit. And Scallions sang the weepy, Goo Goo Dolls-like ballad "Bad Day," from Fuel's new "Something Like Human" album. If the players tended to blend into a faceless whole, lead guitarist Carl Bell would sometimes step forward with a welcome solo of notable restraint and feeling.

The hits were catchy, but the band was easily at its best when it was loudest. At those moments, Fuel wasn't just another band of anonymous hit-makers. They were a rock band connecting with its audience. Or at least a tolerable simulation.

Fuel, with Nickelback and Full Devil Jacket, plays tonight at the Whisky, 8901 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 8 p.m. $15. (310) 652-4202.

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