Bands Turn Triple Play: Spin Doctors, Gin Blossoms, Cracker Show Old Team Spirit

sBy Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
August 15, 1994

In a perfect triple bill for a beautiful summer night, the Spin Doctors, Gin Blossoms and Cracker played to a capacity crowd Saturday night at the World Music Theatre, and the band’s diverse musical styles couldn’t have complemented each other better.

Bassist Mark White was the first Spin Doctor on stage, gently blowing bubbles into the audience.  The rest of the band followed, starting the show off with a rousing rendition of “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” from their breakthrough album “Pocket Full of Kryptonite.”  As on the majority of their numbers, Christopher Barron didn’t sing so much as perform a vocal seesaw, with his pitch undulating from verse to verse.

While his style grows old fast, the band’s strong musicianship and songwriting skills more than make up for it.  OK, so sometimes they pen a clunker like “Big Fat Funky Booty” (“Gotta love it, it’s my duty/She gotta big fat funky booty”), but more often than not, their songs are clever and funny (“My girlfriend’s cat is smarter than me”).

Frontman Barron is a hoot to watch.  His onstage antics were as animated as his voice was droll.  Wearing what looked like a baseball uniform – except that on him,  it was baggy – Barron obviously was having a great time being himself.

Though his version of dancing looked not unlike Martin Short’s spazzy characterization of Ed Grimley, Barron proved quite agile, executing perfect roundoffs, back walkovers and somersaults.  He proved to be quite the gymnast, hoisting himself on a makeshift balance beam (the 2-inch-wide barricade separating the first row from  the stage) and walking tightrope-style from one end to the other.

But just as last year, when the Spin Doctors were overshadowed by opening act Soul Asylum, the Docs were outdone again, this time by the Gin Blossoms. The fans appreciated the Spin Doctors, but they showered adulation on the Blossoms.

The Tempe, Ariz., band confidently kicked off its 55-minute set with  “Until I Fall Away.”  Like their other hits (“Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You” and “Mrs. Rita”), the song is instantly recognizable at the first sound of Robin Wilson’s voice.  You don’t have to hear the lyrics to understand what the songs are about; Wilson’s quavering vocals instantly convey heartbreak, love and loss.

The Gin Blossoms are a great pop band, with songs full of catchy melodies and chiming choruses.  They also know how to have a good time on stage.  Wilson took Polaroids of the audience and gave them to the fans.  He nearly set off a riot when he took a picture of boyishly handsome guitarist Jesse Valenzuela and tossed it to the crowd.

Earlier, Cracker opened the show with a solid set of smart rock. Vocalist David Lowery looked amused by the crowd’s initial indifference and gave them what they weren’t expecting – a great concert.

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