Welcome Home Collective Soul

Homecomings can be great. You can sometimes go home with much joy and celebration. That’s what Collective Soul did as they finished up their celebratory 25th anniversary tour in their hometown of Atlanta.  25 years… really? Yeah, I did the math.

I’ve been listening to Collective Soul since “Shine” was first played on college radio and still do whenever I hear one of their songs. Since radio isn’t what it used to be, ashamedly it’s not as much as it used to. You see, I still listen to the radio. If I listen online it will be to a station and not a genre or channel. I like to still hear a deejay whenever possible. In my weird opinion I have a closer connection to the song if someone (radio personality) is playing it for me than a computer program. Call me weird. You wouldn’t be the first – or last.

I was lucky when Collective Soul started getting radio play because I got to see them live a lot from late 1994 through the early 2000’s. I still remember going to see them at the National Guard Armory with a girlfriend and I actually shot their show at the 99x stage at the 1995 Music Midtown. One of those pictures is still proudly adhered to my refrigerator. The original Music Midtown was set up downtown and where the stage was set up it was literally across the street from the original Cotton Club. I remember the show being packed with thousands upon thousands of people. Ed Roland got on the mic and asked the crowd, “Where the hell were you guys when we were playing across the street last year?” He smiled and chuckled as the crowd cheered. On this particular night almost 25 years later I asked myself, “Where the hell have I been and why have I waited so long to see these guys again?”

I am embarrassed to admit it had been over 10 years since I’ve seen Collective Soul live. I am ashamed of myself. As I stood there watching the show my mouth dropped. “Wow” was the only words I could muster. I forgot what an eclectic and powerful front man Ed Roland is. Maybe it was the nostalgia or the fact it was a special show, but I don’t remember him being quite “on” as he was this night.

Dressed in a sparkly silver suit, cowboy hat and Buddy Holly specs, Roland ruled the stage. He reminded one of Mick Jagger and Steve Tyler in their prime as he literally pranced around like a young Elvis, spinning the mic stand around like a prop, high stepping, really working up a sweat. His long silver hair flew around and his rock star image was imbedded in my mind as well as the mutton chop he had grown. They threw me off a little to be honest. When Roland wasn’t literally dancing around the stage he was parked behind the piano pounding the eyes, pointing to members of the audience. When dancing around the stage he would come to the front and reached out and fist bumped one fan after another. It was a very interactive show considering it started out as a sit down show (This particular show had chairs set up instead of the usual open floor plan).

The band’s performance was very electric and as I looked into the eyes of the different members it was very obvious this was a special night. A well-oiled machine, everyone played off each other and despite Roland being the centerpiece everyone was featured. One of the highlights that was alerted of before showtime was of bassist Will Turpin. I was alerted to pay attention at the end of “Shine”. I was told to “wait for it” because despite what I might think the song is not over. The band did an extended version of the song and every time I thought the song was over, it kept going. I noticed Turpin go into the back corner of the stage. He started running toward the drummer. Turpin jumped on the drum riser than few forward to the front of the stage. Definitely worth the wait.

Song after song I stood there, “Yep, I remember that one. What a great song”. I’m really embarrassed that I’ve taken these guys for granted and for all intents and purposes stopped listening. Sure if a new song came on WAWL, the only station in the area to actually have Collective Soul in rotation – even when they are not coming to town (I think you local wanna-be rock stations know who I’m talking about). Even when they were in town last year I let one of my staffers cover the show instead of doing it myself. Collective Soul remains a gem and they continue to put out great music but they don’t fit into any terrestrial radio format any longer. It’s been almost 20 years since alternative rock was the mainstream – despite the fact I have always been and remain a listener.

This show was special. I’m glad I went. Honestly I was on the fence about going. I actually talked with Will Turpin earlier in the week and he asked if I was coming. I said I might and he told me I should be there. I glad I listened. I also apologize to him and the rest of the band for not staying abreast of their music as I once did. Still great stuff. Yep, the hits were there like the aforementioned “Shine”, along with “December”, Precious Declaration” and “The World I Know”. The band played an extended version of “The World I Know” as Roland invited his whole family on to the stage with the band, as eh talked about the great support his parents and whole family had been on this 25-year journey. Mom was grinning from ear to ear, as most of the family. The band followed that with a cover of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” as the band paid tribute to their neighbors from Athens, GA who they considered a great inspiration to them. They finished the night with “Gel”, “Where the River Flows”, finishing the night with “Run”.

Yeah, I know I’m sounding sappy, but very few bands make it 25 years and remain on top of their game like Collective Soul. The music, the classics as well as the new stuff remain relevant no matter how old you may feel or act. I’m glad I got off my couch and made the trip and look forward to many more shows during their next 25 years.

Collective Soul Setlist
Observation of Thoughts
Why, Pt. 2
Better Now
Over Me
Precious Declaration
Right as Rain
AYTA (Are You the Answer)
She Said
Porch Swing
The World I Know
The One I Love (R.E.M. cover)
Where the River Flows

– Dave Weinthal