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Our Lady of Peace revives past

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the music industry went through an upheaval with the arrival of digital file sharing. Fans could and did download hits via Napster from bands such as Third Eye Blind, the Goo Goo Dolls and Our Lady Peace with ease and burn them to a CD. For good or bad, it was a revolutionary way to find new music.

Canada's favored alt-rock sons Our Lady Peace anchored many of those mixes. Its tried-and-true themes of loneliness and alienation were always catchy and earnest. It was bottom-of-the-bottle moping at its best.

And while its albums were wildly popular, in this new digital era it was the hits that were passed around like candy. The deeper cuts got listens only from devoted fans.

Friday night in North Tonawanda's Riviera Theatre, the band's commercial breakthrough -- 1997's "Clumsy" -- got the love it deserves. The band joined a growing trend toward playing live full albums upside-down and inside-out.

For the most part, it was a treat. Opener "Superman's Dead" is a barn burner. The title track opens into a breezy major chord chorus that feels fresh as the spring wind with lead singer Raine Maida pleading "Maybe you should sleep / And maybe you just need a friend."

Between them was the slow burn "4 a.m.," which Maida prefaced by calling it an intensely personal song he didn't think he could share after he wrote it. Indeed, an early verse such as, "I blame my father for the wasted years," would suggest some underlying issues.

There was too little of this storytelling, though perhaps reflecting the album's somber tone and the band's scriptural name. It was cool to hear those deep cuts, which are never played live. But there was hardly the anticipation one had to hear "Growin' Up" and "Mary Queen of Arkansas" when Bruce Springsteen announced he would play "Greetings from Asbury Park" at his November show in Buffalo.

The band got down to business in its second set, which featured hits "Innocent," "Life" and "Is Anybody Home?" loaded with tremolo and delayed guitar effects. Maida was more expressive and animated during this set.

Maida always cut a better leather-jacket clad rock star than his contemporaries such as 30 Seconds to Mars front man Jared Leto. During "Life," which pushes disaffection to its limit, Maida had the crowd push past the pipe and drape barrier erected in front of the stage.

It gave the performance in the beautiful theatre a club-show feel.

Indeed, the Riviera (baby Shea's) was a curious venue for a rock show, with its ornate furnishings and small restrooms. The band is no stranger to Western New York, or even Niagara County, having played the Canal Concert Series in Lockport last summer to a packed courtyard.

OLP tackles another of its LPs today when it plays "Spiritual Machines" in the concert setting.

Judging by Friday night's attempt, the challenge is a suitable prelude to hearing a set list of hits.

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