311 turn back the clock in Mansfield

A review of 311 at the Comcast Center on July 23, 2011

, Staff Writer

Despite what the marquis and concert calendars look like, the 90’s are over. It was a decade that brought many of us the music the defined our young lives, and which remains an intrinsic part of us even more than a decade later. Hailing from Nebraska, 311 have weathered the storm. They’ve been recording and touring for well over 20 years now, and show no signs of stopping. But, as evidence by their show at the Comcast Center last Saturday, they have seemed to slow down a bit.

The band dropped into Mansfield as part of their annual Unity Tour, which this year featured guests Sublime With Rome (which isn’t really Sublime at all, but we don’t have to get into that right now), and delivered a show that was decidedly good, but not great. Musically, the band was spot on, and there was certainly plenty of energy to go around, but the whole thing felt insincere and way too planned in advance.

Opening with “Beautiful Disaster”, lead singer Nick Hexum quickly set the tone for the evening. He jumped around stage, making use of the entire space, waving his arms and encouraging the audience to do the same, which, throughout the course of the show’s 100-minute three-beer length, they did increasingly more of. It was a long show, to be sure, but the songs came and went so quickly that time passed pretty quickly. If one rock-rap groove wasn’t to your fancy, you could rest assured that 311 would be dropping another one soon enough.

With a new album out, 311 was sure to hit some of the new material. At just eight songs long, they managed to play about half of Universal Pulse’s new material, and if you didn’t know it had been recorded in 2011 you would have been forgiven for assuming it was more 90’s fare. 311 have been doing their thing for more than two decades now, and they’ve got the art form down pat. Hexum’s delivery on stage is impeccable, in spite of the fact that he spends so much time gallivanting about.

Naturally, the crowd ate it up. They seized every opportunity to participate with gusto, raising their hands and cheering ecstatically whenever they could. When 311 broke into some of their more beloved songs, such as “Saturday,” the Comcast Center absolutely erupted with excitement. The audience at this show was full of life, ready to make the most of their Saturday night, and 311 was with them all the way.

The only real problem with the show – which depending on how you look at it is either a huge one or negligible – was that it was hard to shake the feeling that it was all about nostalgia. 311 deserve praise for chugging along and continually putting out new material, but they’ll always be regarded as a 90’s band, for better or worse. To a certain degree, the whole show felt like an attempt to capture the spontaneity and outrageousness that the decade entailed, but ultimately those effort felt a bit shallow.

Objectively, though, the band can still play a good song. Towards the end of the set, the band yielded to bassist P-Nut and drummed Chad Sexton, both of whom took marathon solos that had the crowed in a tizzy by the end. They wheeled out a smorgasbord of percussion instruments, and before long the entire band was banging away in a complex rhythmic exchange.

The main set ended with “Down”, a bold-faced rocker that perfectly embodies the 90’s rock-rap aesthetic. 311 came back on to give a somewhat flimsy encore of “Trouble”, a new tune, and “Creatures (For A While)” to end the show.

311, ultimately, do know how to put on a show. They’ve been at it for a long time, so they’ve got the showmanship and the musicality to keep things entertaining. It’s just that their sound is a little tired at this point.

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  1. Pingback: 311 turn back the clock in Mansfield | Christopher O'Hare | I Hate Me Too

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