Gin Blossoms Familiar

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
July 3, 1995

It’s difficult to believe it has been three years since the Gin Blossoms released their  breakthrough album “New Miserable Experience” – until you attend their concert and realize you know just about every song. Nonetheless, the familiarity of the Blossoms’ music did nothing to detract from the enjoyment of their well-crafted  pop-rock songs when the musicians headlined Sunday at the Taste of Chicago.

Vocalist Robin Wilson won a rousing ovation when he promised early on that they would have a new CD out soon.

With that, the five-man band launched into a quick-paced set that included all their hits, with the notable exception of their gentle ballad, “Until I Fall Away.”

The band from Tempe, Ariz., is relatively laid-back  on stage. With the exception of boyishly handsome guitarist Jesse Valenzuela, who gamely worked the stage and won the most vocal approval from the young women up front, the musicians took a less-is-more approach. Wilson stoically stood in the center of the stage, holding a tambourine that he rarely shook.  He also uttered the afternoon’s funniest line after singing a botched version of the jaunty “Mrs. Rita.”

“I almost forgot the words,” he said about a verse that the band remembered, but he didn’t.  “Some guy back there pulled down his pants and showed his big, hairy butt.”  The hairy man pulled his drawers down again, this time so the rest of the audience could get an unwanted look.

As good as the Gin Blossoms are at telling  three-minute stories, they would not make as much of an impact without Wilson. His is a voice that is instantly recognizable.  You don’t have to hear the lyrics to understand what the songs are about.  Wilson’s emotional quavering conveys heartbreak, joy and loss.

Two of their most popular songs (“Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You”) were written by former Blossom Doug Hopkins, who killed himself in 1993. There has been speculation that without him, the group will not be able to match the success of “New Miserable Experience.”  But the band has strong songwriters in Valenzuela and Wilson, who are responsible for “Until I Fall Away,” “Mrs. Rita” and “Allison Road.”

If there was anything wrong with the Gin Blossoms’ set, it was that at just over an hour, it was too short.

The same thing couldn’t be said about opener Alanis Morissette. Currently enjoying success with “You Oughta Know,” Morissette hasn’t mastered the subtlety of nuance.  Sometimes a whisper conveys so much more than a shout.

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