Russell Crowe’s Garage-band sound goes over big at House of Blues

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
August 15, 2001

He came out in a thong and little else.

Unfortunately for the capacity crowd of (predominantly) women who came Monday night to see actor Russell Crowe in the first of two sold-out House of Blues shows, the thong wasn’t on the studly Oscar winner.

It was worn by an aboriginal dancer who seemed to scare some members of the audience with his jolting moves.

Crowe’s rock band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, also was preceded to the stage by an unintelligible Australian comic and a barbershop quartet from Milwaukee. But the wait didn’t seem to bother fans.

Beth Catalin, 24, of Evanston said, “I never heard him sing before, but I won’t feel cheated if he sucks. I just want to watch him and be close to him.”

Crowe could’ve had three lemons, two cats and a treehouse precede his act and they would’ve elicited the same reaction. Let’s face facts: the women, er, audience waited all day long in line to see him. Some even knew the words to all his songs and mouthed them back at him.

Finally, Crowe and his five-piece band hit the stage and delivered a perfectly entertaining two-hour show that would’ve been suitable in a garage near you. Kind of sloppy and not particularly well-rehearsed, the band’s strength came from its tight rhythm section.

As the lead vocalist and a sometime guitarist, Crowe is an amiable fellow who chatted easily with his fans–most of the songs were introduced with vignettes from his love life. Crowe appeared genuinely enamored with his audience (then again, we’re talking about a first-rate actor who’s a professional charmer).

As an actor/singer, Crowe falls closer to the vocally challenged Keanu Reeves (who plays bass in Dogstar) and Kevin Bacon (of the Bacon Brothers) than the delightful Ewan McGregor—who should seriously think about pursuing a singing career. But he fared no worse than frontmen such as Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins.

TOFOG’s original songs are tinged with country twang and jangly, rockabilly guitars. The songs are pleasant, but not particularly distinguishable from one another. The standout track was a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”  They may want to consider adding “Ring of Fire” to their set list as well.

Crowe was as nonplussed when a man (of course) shouted, “You can’t sing!” as when the women begged him to take off his shirt, pants or any combo thereof.

Crowe thanked the critic and responded by kicking it up a notch. And, in typical fashion, he ignored the crowd’s wishes.

He kept his clothes on.

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