Location: Sandstone Amphitheatre, Bonner Springs, KS
Supporting Act(s): The Unity Tour featuring 311, Snoop Dogg, and Fiction Plane
In the Company of: Gregg H., Lucas H.
Opening the Unity Tour was England’s Fiction Plane. While fans are still learning of this band, the Unity Tour has given them mass exposure to American audiences. After opening the entire North American tour for the first leg of the Police reunion tour, Fiction Plane has received some well-deserved accolades from audiences around the country. Another tidbit of information is that bassist and lead singer, Joe Sumner, is the eldest offspring of Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting. Joe’s appearance as well as his voice are reminiscent of his father, but he has his own talents to offer and heads up an excellent live band. His bass guitar skills are apparent, while guitarist Seton Daunt plays with flashes of soul and brilliance not normally found in such a young artist. Drummer and sole American Pete Wilhoit is a virtual drum machine, playing with power and speed when necessary. Together, these guys can rock the house.
The band opened up the show with their latest single, “Death Machine,” in which they discuss a certain American president and his current war. And it’s not a pretty picture (“Don’t look so smug when we’re at war / You’re not the boss you’re just a whore / You keep yours shoes so clean / F*** you and your death machine…”).
A respectable crowd had gathered at the foot of the stage to welcome Fiction Plane, proving that they are building a fan base. “Cigarette,” from their poppier first record Everything Will Never Be OK, is a harsh anti-smoking, ex-girlfriend-inspired tune which was well-received (“Girl you smoking cigarettes / Rancid poison on your breath / Taste yourself you smell like death / To love you I must drink my meth”). “Two Sisters,” the first single off their second album Left Side Of The Brain, closed the show, with Sumner giving us a Rock God jump off the tower speakers.
Next up was the infamous Dogfather of Rap, Snoop Dogg. His well-known grand entrance was enough for a standing ovation from the throngs. Something new I learned about Snoop was his Canadian heritage. I had no idea. I learned this because of the gargantuan green maple leaf hanging above the drummer. Strangely, this was about the time the “fog” machines began pumping out smoke from the audience. Crazy.
He was very conversational with the audience, making many requests, mostly to the female fans in the crowd…if you get my drift. One high point for me was their cover of the Tom Tom Club’s “Genius Of Love,” possibly performed due to the influence of the Grandmaster Flash sample of the same song some years ago.
Although the vast majority of fans were there to see 311, Snoop Dogg was given much respect and put on a great show with a posse to rival that of Lawrence Welk.
By the time 311 took to the stage, the sold-out crowd was primed. By now, they had heard the alt. rock of Fiction Plane and the rap/hip hop of Snoop. Now it was time to hear those genres, in addition to reggae, funk, metal, and punk all rolled into one. 311. The Omaha natives were among friends here in Kansas City, jut three hours away from where it all began.
From their first song, “Beautiful Disaster,” the band had the crowd in a frenzy. Sharing singing duties, as usual, were Nick Hexum and SA Martinez. The band played most of their hits as well as many other selections that kept the crowd on their feet and jumping for much of the show. Driving the band was the rhythm section of drummer Chad Sexton and bassist P-Nut who showed off their excellent musicianship. Lead guitarist Tim Mahoney exhibited why 311 is unrivaled in their surf-punk-reggae stylings.
Some of the more well-known songs performed were “All Mixed Up,” the reggae tinged cover of the Cure’s “Love Song,” “Come Original,” “Don’t Tread On Me,” and the wonderfully smooth “Amber” (“Brainstorm, take me away from the norm / I got to tell you something / This phenomenon, I had to put it in a song / And it goes like…Whoa, amber is the color of your energy / Whoa, shades of gold displayed naturally”).
To close out the first set Hexum announced, “This one is for all the hardcore 311 fans!” The band then tore into what seemed to be an ode to their fans with “Down” (“We’ve changed a lot and then some some / Know that we have always been down down / And if I ever didn’t thank you you / Then just let me do it now”).
During “Applied Science,” drummer Sexton was joined by the other four members of the group all on stand-up drum kits. This “extended drum solo” thrilled the fans and showed the diversity of talents in 311. It was a marvelous detour from the norm.
The three-song encore showed us again what a green concert this was with “Who’s Got The Herb?” Although 311 has not released a studio album since 2005’s Don’t Tread On Me (a new release should see the light of day next year), they still have the unique ability of selling out concerts. This type of following from a dedicated fan base is rare these days and 311 let their fans know how much they appreciate it. The Unity Tour is one of the must-see shows of 2008.
311 Set List:
1. Beautiful Disaster
2. Freeze Time
3. All Mixed Up
5. From Chaos
7. Love Song
8. Wake Your Mind Up
9. Don’t Tread On Me
10. You Wouldn’t Believe
12. Applied Science
13. Stealing Happy Hours
14. Come Original
15. Beyond The Gray Sky
16. Feels So Good
18. Sick Tight
20. Omaha Stylee
21. Who’s Got The Herb?
22. Creatures (For A While)
(Thanks to http://setlist.com/311/2008/7.10.08.html)