I love when opening acts are so fantastic that I want to run out and buy their music at the merchandise stand. Such was the case with Royal Bliss, a band that I did not know existed prior to seeing them open for Puddle of Mudd at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey. After their blistering opening performance, I will be paying more attention to the band.
When Royal Bliss took the stage, I was willing to give them a chance, as I am with any opening act I see. However, I couldn’t help thinking that the lead singer was out of shape and that there was no way this band was going to be good. Boy, am I glad that Royal Bliss proved me wrong. Lead singer, Neal Middleton not only energized the crowd with his amazing front man abilities, but the man can also sing his ass off!
Middleton won over the crowd from the first song. As the Royal Bliss set went on, he got the crowd signing along. It was quite a moment and as an opening act, Royal Bliss was astonishing. If you get the opportunity to see them live, I highly recommend that you take advantage of it. You will not be disappointed.
Rev Theory was out next and I was looking forward to seeing their performance. I like the band and had never witnessed them in concert, so my expectations were high, but perhaps a little higher than they should have been.
Lead singer Rich Luzzi, who hails from New Jersey, burst onto the stage, guns-a-blazing. He was looking to whip his hometown crowd up immediately. There was only one problem. His microphone was not working too well. The vocals were hard to hear and the rest of the band did not seem to bring as much passion as Luzzi did.
Rev Theory’s set was pretty weak, which was a disappointment, because I really wanted to like their live act. Yet, between poor sound, and Luzzi’s voice appearing to be road weary, the band just couldn’t get me excited. However, that doesn’t mean the rest of the crowd wasn’t excited, because they were. The New Jersey fans loved Rev Theory and when the band kicked into “Hell Yeah,” from 2007’s Light It Up, the ballroom went bananas.
After Rev Theory, it was time for the purpose of the evening. Puddle Of Mudd performing two sets, with the first being a set of covers. When the lights went down, I leapt to my feet and roared. I was excited to see what this band could bring live. Knowing their first batch of songs were covers found me ripe with anticipation. What cover songs would they perform? How would they sound?
The band started the night with The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” which is not an easy song to cover. Armed with additional musicians to compliment the core players from Puddle Of Mudd, the full band did an exceptional job on their rendition of the Stones classic. I was singing along like it was a Puddle of Mudd original. It was quite impressive how well the band performed “Gimme Shelter.”
The covers set was a quick one, totaling seven songs in all. And while there were plenty of high notes, there were also some lows. The biggest low of the night was backup singer, Tyra Juliette. It was hard for me to identify the purpose that she served other than being the second vocalist on “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.” Juliette did not sing well and overall, Puddle Of Mudd’s rendition of the Tom Petty classic was pretty sour.
The band closed their covers set with the Elton John classic, “Rocket Man,” and when Wes Scantlin introduced the song, I was uncertain. I did not think that the band was going to do the song justice. They proved me wrong, however, and closed the first set in style. Their version of “Rocket Man” was amazing and just might be worth buying their covers album for. I was thoroughly impressed.
The second set, the set of hits, kicked off with “Out Of My Head” from the band’s debut album. Hit after hit would follow including “Control,” “Away From Me,” “Famous” and “Psycho.” While the second set was short, it was jam packed with some of the best cuts from Puddle Of Mudd’s history.
Guitarist Paul Phillips was incredible on lead guitar. He looked great and played even better. His solos were spot on and his ability to work the crowd was stellar. I’ve always felt that he’s a bit underrated and after seeing his live performance, I know that he is. He was absolutely sensational.
Wes Scantlin did a great job on lead vocals, and left most of the guitar work to Phillips and Dizzi Devereux. While he did play guitar on a few songs, Scantlin is focusing mostly on being the band’s lead singer these days. Scantlin sounded just like he does on the record. His voice was crisp and sharp and he nailed every song that was performed during the second set.
The band closed the second set with their massive hit, “Psycho” which drove fans over the edge. The entire floor was jumping up and down during that performance and it’s a wonder the floor didn’t collapse. The crowd was into it and so was the band. “Psycho” made for the moment of the night.
The expected encore consisted of “She Hates Me” and an amazing version of “Blurry” that everyone in the building sang at the top of their lungs. After that, the night was over. While I was a bit disappointed in the length of the show, I am willing to forgive the band because I left the Starland Ballroom happy. Sure, I would liked to have heard some more Puddle Of Mudd songs, but their willingness to take a chance on the two set format scored them high marks.
Puddle of Mudd’s Setlist
SET ONE (Re:(disc)overed Cover Set)
Gimme Shelter, Shooting Star, Stop Dragging My Heart Around, T.N.T., Old Man, The Joker, Rocket Man
Out Of My Head, Control, Stoned, Away From Me, Drift And Die, Famous, Psycho
She Hates Me, Blurry
Puddle of Mudd’s new cover album, Re:(disc)overed will be released August 30th. You can pre-order it here!