While it’s still not quite over, a really cool ’90s package tour has been making its way across the US, featuring the Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray, Fastball and Tonic. The tour performed at the Chevalier Theater in Medford, Massachusetts on September 14, 2023.
It is no understatement to refer to Fastball as one of the best pop trios of the past 20+ years. They have a keen knack for crafting songs that are “intelligent” ear-candy, and contain a depth that many bands have seem to lost sight of. Fastball (Tony Scalzo, vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar; Miles Zuniga, vocals, guitar; and Joe Shuffield drums, percussion) was, unfortunately, only able to play a limited set…but what a set it was! It is impossible to not get caught up in the vibes of “Fire Escape” (concerning someone who is comfortable in his own skin, and not wanting to be the hero in a relationship) and “Sooner or Later” (about a man who is quite determined to win the heart of the object of his affection).
One of the coolest moments came when they launched into “Love Comes in Waves” and threw in a good sampling of the Steve Miller Band’s, “The Joker”, before reverting back to the initial song. “You’re an Ocean”, which the band performed several years back on the TV show “Charmed”, is still quite alluring, as were their set ending mega-hits, “Out of my Head” and “The Way” (which is based on a news article concerning the 1997 disappearance of an older married couple), which were incredibly well received by the packed theater. “The Way” is undoubtedly one of the best songs of the ’90s, and was even voted by VH1 as one of its “100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s”. The trio has a greatest hits package, “Smashed Hits”! coming out on October 13th.
Tonic was one of the biggest surprises of the night. While they are mostly known for their 1997 hit, “If You Could Only See The Way”, they opened with some rockers as “Open Up Your Eyes”, “Take Me As I Am” and “You Wanted More”. They even slipped in a cool cover of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”. After great renditions of “If You Could Only See The Way” and “Casual Affair”, the quartet tore off a dizzying version of Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days”, putting to rest any question that Tonic is a legitimate rock act.
Mark McGrath has been seen a lot on television shows over the past few years. So much so that some may have forgotten he is the leader of Sugar Ray, a hugely successful ’90s outfit. McGrath is a fun showman who does not take himself too seriously, making him a most likeable frontman.
Belting out the hits from the latter days of Bill Clinton’s second presidency, “Every Morning”, “Someday” and “When It’s Over” have aged well. One humorous moment came when McGrath wanted his band (Rodney Sheppard, guitar; Kristian Attard, bass; and Good Charlotte drummer, Dean Butterworth) to play songs to try to stump McGrath (in a “Name That Tune” fashion). McGrath was not fooled at all and the band did short covers of OMC’s “How Bizarre” and Len’s “Steal My Sunshine”. Finally, McGrath was joined onstage by the Gin Blossoms lead singer, Robin Wilson, and they performed the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want it That Way”.
The Gin Blossoms (who were a constant presence on mainstream radio stations in the mid-’90s) ended the night with a near-hour set. Opening with “Follow You Down”, the group (Wilson, vocals, tambourine; Jesse Valenzuela, rhythm guitar, backing vocals; Bill Leen, bass; Scott “Scotty” Johnson, lead guitar, backing vocals; and Scott Hessell, drums) tore through the hits that were the soundtrack of the decade where grunge didn’t really rule “everything.” The band reminded the excited crowd just how fantastic their catalog is and they recreated classics such as “Allison Road”, “Found Out About You”, “Til I Hear It From You” and the iconic “Hey Jealousy” (one of the greatest pop songs of the past three decades).
The Gin Blossoms ended the show with a fantastic cover of The Plimsouls’ 1982 track, “A Million Miles Away”. While this night was all about ’90s nostalgia, it was unexpected, but cool, that they concluded the show with a cult classic from the ’80s.