Q101’s Jamboree 97

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
May 27, 1997

Featuring Erasure, Bush, Beck, Veruca Salt, the Verve Pipe, Echo & the Bunnymen, Jamiroquai, Social Distortion, the Cardigans, Republica, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Moby at New World Music Theatre.

If some of the teenage fans at Q101’s Jamboree 97 were a little distracted Sunday at the New World Music Theatre, it was understandable. Rather than basking in the sun at the first major outdoor concert of the summer, the kids huddled under blankets as if they were at a football game or, more often than not, shivered in their summer shorts and T-shirts. (The cruelest joke was that many had more clothes in their cars, but they weren’t allowed to leave the venue to get them.)

Nose rings twitching and goosebumps visibly popping out over their colorful tattoos, the fans’ desperate eyes said it all: “My kingdom for a pair of mittens!”

Most of the 12 groups that performed commented about the unseasonably cold weather, too.  But physical discomfort aside, the show was a success.

The 10-hour event included some of today’s hottest artists (Beck, Bush, Erasure), a local band made  good (Veruca Salt) and a highly anticipated reunion by a post-punk favorite (Echo and the Bunnymen).

Like Lollapalooza’s alternative music festival, Jamboree 97 featured a main stage and a smaller “buzz” stage, as well as an exhibition of in-line skaters and skateboarders. The drawback to this kind of set-up is that no band got to play a full set. The good news, however, was that some groups – such as the lazy Cardigans – were on   and off relatively quickly.

If Echo and the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch found it insulting that his band’s first Chicago area performance in a decade was relegated to the smaller stage, he didn’t let it show.  Looking just as pale as we’d remembered, the charismatic singer confidently kicked off their set with the sultry “Lips Like Sugar.”

McCulloch’s voice is instantly recognizable and has a rich resonance that slices through the taut musicianship. When he sang “Killing Moon” – vocals trembling ever so slightly – he sucked listeners into his dark narrative.  The Bunnymen also debuted a few cuts from their album “Evergreen,” which will be in stores in July. The audience instinctively responded to the beguiling melodies of “Nothing Lasts Forever” and “I Want to Be There (When You Come).” By the time their 30-minute set was over, the fans were revved for more.

They got it on the main stage when Veruca Salt rocked their world. Fronted by  guitarists-vocalists-songwriters Nina Gordon and Louise Post, the Chicago-based quartet had the chops to back their ’70s style glam-rock moves. From the breathtaking ballad “Benjamin” to the  guitar rocker “Volcano Girls,” Veruca Salt kept the crowd on its toes.

The three top draws couldn’t have exhibited more different  musical styles. With his pop-and-lock moves and  superb, eclectic songs, Beck was the most accomplished musician and won the evening’s strongest ovations for his performance, which bordered on the evangelical. Whether  performing his breakthrough hit “Loser” or  prepping the audience to sing “Where It’s At” with him, Beck was amazing.

But he had some stiff competition from the evening’s headliner, Erasure, which had fans dancing with its endless stream of stylized pop songs (“In My Arms,” “Always,” “Chains of Love”), and from Gavin Rossdale and Nigel Pulsford of Bush, who played an exhilarating set minus a rhythm section. Anyone who questioned Rossdale’s ability to command an audience’s attention without backup from his superb band needed only to hear him rip through “Machinehead” to realize he’s the real thing.

Here are some other observations from the Jamboree:

Cutest outfit: The teensy blouse-feathered boa jacket combo worn by Veruca Salt’s Nina Gordon.       

Coolest souvenir:  The jeans signed by Gavin Rossdale of Bush. The lucky teenage recipient swore she’d never wash her pants again.       

Best vocals: Erasure’s velvety smooth Andy Bell.       

Most catatonic: Nina Persson of the Cardigans. Drink some coffee already!       

Most envied items: Winter coats, blankets and hats.

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