Concert Review: Hurtsmile at Showcase Live in Foxboro, MA
Reviewed by: Roger Scales
There is something to be said for chemistry and brotherhood. It was obvious to me after watching the Cherone brothers perform as part of their Who tribute band Slipkid over the past few years that there was a definite bond and rapport that they had with each other on stage. It was inevitable that at some point an all original project would come of this partnership; timing being the key element. Writing and recording all new material between 2007-2010, their new project Hurtsmile (Gary and Mark Cherone along with Joe Pessia on bass and drummer Dana Spellman) finally saw the light of day with a self-titled debut on Frontiers Records in February 2011. With Extreme on ice as Nuno Bettencourt currently tours and records with Rihanna, Hurtsmile was able to start planning a tour. Their debut show was in May at the M3 Festival, followed by some dates with Sammy Hagar and a tour in Japan, but I’m sure the guys had July 22 circled on their calendars for long time as the band would be able to perform in front of their home town fans for the first time as a collective unit.
The nervous energy, family, friends and all the other intangibles usually bring out the best in Gary judging on past Boston area gigs with Extreme, Van Halen, and Tribe of Judah, but this was the first live performance with the new band and how would the “Hometown Gig” affect the band? Is the home crowd a true advantage or just added pressure? Distractions were rampant I’m sure, but I can honestly say the band delivered a solid performance in spite of it all and rocked the house at Showcase Live with a terrific set mix of original material, some Extreme songs and a Van Halen “3” song to boot! Patriots Place shook..even though NFL football is still in doubt (boo!)
Opening with “Just War Theory” you knew the band meant business as they ripped through the opening track with reckless abandonment and a collective attitude of “Let’s Do This”!! I have to say that watching drummer Dana Spellman (from the first song to the closing number) on stage is like a full workout!! I had to go back to the bar and ask if they had Gatorade instead of another beer.
Maybe not an obvious choice of covers “Pump It Up” (Elvis Costello, 1978) sure did get everyone on the floor moving and some really solid harmonies from Joe and Mark as well. Gary then proclaimed how good it was to be home and to be back in “Title Town” before going straight into “Stillborn” (the heaviest song on their album by far). The band gave the crowd a collective kick in the teeth with a killer drum intro from Dana and a classic Mark guitar riff that had my earplugs pop out! Also in the early part of the set was “Love Thy Neighbor” (the standout track from the album) complete with doo-wop intro that had Gary’s best vocal of the night along with some more electric harmonies from Joe and Mark.
The middle part of the set had some softer material including ‘Painter Paint” which has a Queen feel to it and was the perfect precursor to “Hole Hearted” which had the crowd participating in one big massive Extreme sing-a-long. Mark then had a chance to sing lead on “Wonder What”, a brand new Hurtsmile track, and the band carried on well as a three piece. “Slave” (at a tad over 6 minutes) was the longest song in the set and probably the toughest to pull off live with additional harmonies from Joe and Mark along with some demanding time changes complete with a very grand 70’s style Aerosmith type over the top ending. “Jesus Would You Meet Me” is a gospel influenced sounding studio track but live it had a bluesier feel to it – which was a good thing. I found myself singing along to this one similar to what I did earlier during “Hole Hearted”. The set ended with “Over There”, a song written in 1917 and was popular with the US troops during WWI. The track had a hit your hand on your knee and hum along feel to it. I know I recall hearing it on an early episode of “Tom and Jerry” and also seeing it sung on an episode “The Simpsons” so it has stock in American animation as well. The wealth of my high class and history comes from cartoons..go figure!
The encore brought the Dylanisque “The Murder of Daniel Faulkner” which was inspired by the murder of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. The song featured a Massachusetts State Trooper on Bagpipes and proved to be very moving. The real treat came next when Gary called out for his old friend and birthday boy Pat Badger to join the band on “Tragic Comic” and the Extreme fan in me just about jumped up and hit the ceiling! One of my all time favorite Extreme songs, the band nailed it and Pat even hit all of those tough harmonies..nice! Also two birthday cakes were brought out as Gary celebrates his next big day on July 26. The set ended with ‘Without You” from the VH III album of 1998, a treat for the long time fans for sure.
Overall I thought the night was a huge success for Hurtsmile. The band was tight, fun and played just enough of a mix of Gary’s career without making it a Gary Cherone solo gig; it felt like a Hurtsmile show.. This is a well oiled machine that hopes to carry the wave and get a second CD recorded and released sooner rather than later. “Carpe Diem” to my friends in Hurtsmile. If Extreme continues to have down time I say stay down and let Hurtsmile grin its way to a bright future. Special thanks to Rob Hoffman, John Corrao and the staff at Showcase live for their hospitality.
Just War Theory
Pump It Up
Love Thy Neighbor
Hole Hearted / “Holly”
“Wonder What” (Mark sings)
Beyond The Garden
Jesus Would You Meet Me
The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)
Tragic Comic (with Pat Badger)
For more on Hurtsmile follow them on Facebook