Rockin' at the Knox returned to the grounds of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery with a vengeance Thursday night, following a seven-year hiatus.
The event – which sold out in advance – was populated by enthused participants eager to simultaneously welcome the series back to Buffalo and to indulge in the pleasures offered by a top-tier trio of alternative rock bands, all born in the early '90s.
The 2017 edition of Rockin' was headlined by Our Lady Peace, the multi-platinum, Toronto-born band fronted by singer Raine Maida, whose relationship with Buffalo audiences runs deep and has proved to be enduring. Georgia's Collective Soul co-headlined, and Tonic provided opening act support.
Thursday's show was missing the curated approach applied to previous incarnations of Rockin', when promoters would hand-select artists and place them together to create a new hybrid – see the uber-successful 2005 pairing of Wilco and My Morning Jacket.
[Gallery: Rockin' at the Knox]
Instead, we were offered an alt-rock package tour that is making the rounds this summer. This did not prove to be a problem, for the music of OLP, Collective Soul and Tonic meshed well, creating an atmosphere that in some ways functioned as a portal back to a time when the music of seminal alternative rock musicians like David Bowie, Bauhaus, the Smiths and R.E.M. met the volcanic guitars and arena-friendly vocals of the grunge movement.
Nostalgia in itself is not an evil thing, but it must be transcended in order for a show to function on a higher level. Happily, Thursday was not all about living in the past, particularly when it came to OLP, whose music has dated incredibly well.
The marriage of pop smarts, alt-rock leanings and a sweeping grandiosity combined to make the Canadian band one of the finest of its genre and cemented the status of albums like "Naveed," "Clumsy" and "Happiness… Is Not a Fish That You Can Catch" as perennial alt-rock radio favorites on both sides of the border.
But it was always singer Maida whose efforts separated OLP from the pack of alt-ish bands filling the landscape in the wake of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden's early success. Thursday's gig proved that this is still the case – the riveting counter-tenor, the invigorating falsetto leaps, the passionate commitment to the moment that made Maida great 20-plus years ago are still in full evidence.
Collective Soul also proved to have endured the decades in style. Though I won't forgive Roland for the skin-tight white pants – never cool, in any decade – the band delivered, as did its front-man, who sang as if not a day had passed since tunes like "Shine," "Where the River Flows" and "Run" were brand new.
But the night belonged to Maida and OLP. Props must be given to guitarist Steve Maxie, whose playing recalled Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead throughout – which is to suggest that he ripped it up without resorting to noodle-ish cliches.
Rockin' at the Knox house is back, folks. Let's keep it that way.
Rockin' at the Knox, starring Our Lady Peace, Collective Soul
Thursday night outside the Albright-Knox Art Gallery