Gavin Rossdale and company take the stage at the Wiltern in Los Angeles with the kind of energy and enthusiasm to make you think this was a new band trying to win over its first audience. But this is Bush, a band with two decades worth of hit songs up its sleeve, many of which still get played on rock radio – and all of which will get played before the night is over.
There’s a brand new album in tow called Man On the Run, but Bush instead opts to open the show with Sound of Winter, the hit from their four year old comeback record The Sea Of Memories. After that reminder that the band is still fully capable of scoring radio hits in the 21st century, Rossdale and the gang proceed to give fans what they came for: a swath of familiar songs like Everything Zen, Glycerine, Machinehead, Swallowed, Comedown other hits like them. The night end up being a reminder of just how many there have been.
Bush also sneaks in new tunes like The Only Way Out and Bodies In Motion, and while they may not be as familiar as the classics, they end up fitting in well. The band compromises by running lyric videos on the back screen to compensate for the fact that some in the audience don’t know the words, ever aiming to please.
The setlist also ends up being a reminder that the band’s sound has evolved over the years. The first album was rawer, the second album was more complex, the third more electronic, and so on. But the performance itself is all about Bush consciously acting as if this already-won-over audience still needs to be won over, and seemingly getting a kick out of the self imposed challenge.
This is no more evident than during main set closer Little Things, which sees Gavin Rossdale not only hopping down into the crowd but spending the entire song performing from different spots within the audience. This isn’t a cursory visit either. At one point he’s belting out the lyrics while trudging through the rear portion of the general admission section, then later he’s up in the balcony finishing out the final verse over the rafters as the crowd eats it up.
Maybe Bush is still making up for lost time. They were broken up for much of the previous decade, after all. But even five years into the reunion, this is clearly no nostalgia act. These guys appear to be genuinely loving performing live in a way you can’t successfully fake. That could have something to do with the fact that despite never having been embraced by most critics, these guys are getting the last laugh. They’ve won – indeed survived – and judging by the crowd this night, they have no trouble drawing in new fans under the age of thirty who wouldn’t have been old enough to buy Sixteen Stone when it came out.
The encore consists of three of Bush’s biggest hits, but also a surprise cover: Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads. As the rest of the band launches the opening notes, Rossdale is hopping sideways back and forth across the stage in a manner which could perhaps most accurately be described as gleeful.
When I sat down with him for an interview a few years ago during his attempt at a solo career, he expressed regret that his band was no longer together. Accordingly, I wasn’t surprised to see Bush end up reforming. And they sure do seem to be trying to make the most of it. Their U.S. tour runs now through at least May 2015.