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History in the Making

Vertugo, Crew
24/7, Tulsa, OK
January 29th, 2005

This one’s got some history, so hold tight.

I first saw Crew a year ago at a concert that had eight other people watching. I was highly impressed by their ability to rock out and yet still be melodic and technical. I resolved to see them again. I got a CD and memorized all the words.

I saw them again about 6 months later, and they were still pretty stinkin awesome. I knew the words this time, so I had even more fun enjoying their melodic rock.

Fast forward to now. I heard that Crew was going to be back in town on the 29th to play a show, and so -naturally- I was interested. For some reason though, I didn’t get all stoked. I usually flip out about concerts, but this time I didn’t. I almost didn’t go, in fact, until my two of my best friends convinced me that we should go.

Thus, at 8:00, I jumped in my car and drove over to the 24/7. My friends had never been there before, but they usually have a pretty good sense of direction, so I figured they’d be able to make the 8:30 doors. One hour and four phone calls later, they finally sauntered in (they have good senses- it’s just that I told them the wrong places. Go me!), looking none the worse for wear- although the driver was pretty ticked. I don’t blame her.

We walked in as Vertugo started playing. The easiest way to describe Vertugo is Dave Matthews Band without all the cool stuff and a tendency to rock out more. They weren’t bad at all- it’s just that their songwriting was inhibited by that major crutch of Dave-like rhythms, melodic ideas, and song structures. The musicians were technically quite proficient, although they could stand to mix up their music a bit more- the acoustic guitarist and the bassist looked downright bored. After mildly enjoying their acoustic-rock set with its hit-and-miss song effectiveness, they left the stage and let Crew get down to business.

Crew was performing the show for one reason- they were recording a live album off of the show. This immediately made me thankful that I came to the show- not only am I a part of history, I can review a part of history. They started up their set with some old favorites, and the crowd went nuts. They never stopped going nuts, either- they managed to injure someone with their moshing (I couldn’t see who or what), clear out a humongous space on the floor for the mosh pit, and invoke multiple nods from the band to ‘those crazies over there’. They sang, they danced, they moshed, they waved cell phones- it was the most electric crowd I’ve ever seen at a local band’s show. I ate it up. My friends looked more like they were on the ‘eaten’ side.

After Crew announced to the audience that they were recording a live album, lead guitarist Doug Brown carefully told the audience that they were going to play new stuff. In fact, they played new stuff for 3/4ths of their set- which made the show absolutely phenomenal. Their new songs bear a passion, a clarity, and a voice that isn’t present in their first recordings. All their new songs have the hallmarks of greatness attached to them, but two in particular stood out to me amongst the 12 or so tunes they played. “Shadow” is the song that is going to make Crew famous: angsty, tension-filled verses exploded into an anthemic beyond anthemic chorus that made me drop my jaw. His voice was already an amazing instrument on the independent [u]Day After Yesterday[/u], but with a new-found huge range, a good ear, and vocal preciseness, Brown’s voice personifies passion. Every note that comes out of his mouth seems to flow directly from the emotions the songs were built off. In “Shadow”, he lets his range rip on the chorus, sending a soaring, signaling, careening melody over a rocked-out instrumentation. The effect was nothing short of rapturous. The dynamic shifts and jumps in “Shadow” are just more proof that the song is the perfect rock song.

I didn’t even catch the name of the 4th encore that Crew did (yes, fourth), but it was the highlight of the night. With Doug Brown sitting behind a piano, Crew poured out its weary, traveling heart in a song about everyone’s enemy- leaving people and places behind. The piano was truly stunning, the arrangement was set up so that the band actually complemented the piano for once, and the vocals were just beautiful. They projected the words to the heart-wrenching chorus up on big screens, and had the audience sing along with them:

“I think I’ll be gone away awhile
Tell me all the things that I
will be missing here in this old life
cause I just don’t know… I just don’t know…”

The audience sang. The band smiled. The audience was amazed- the band was amazed. In the end, there is no way that I (or anyone else, for that matter) can argue against the claim that Crew is the all-American rock band. They know when to rock out, they know when to mellow out, and they know when to be in-between. They perform everything with passion, and they mean everything that they say. They love their fans- they love their home- they love life. They are the personification of the great American ideal of the rock band. Long live Crew.

-Stephen Carradini