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Saturday, 17 November 2012 15:10

Concert review: The Urge (with Murder City Players and Disturbing the Peace) gets more than hectic at the Pageant, Friday, November 16

Steve Ewing of the Urge Steve Ewing of the Urge
Written by Will Kyle

On its first show of three, the Urge sold out the Pageant and provided a wild evening of ska-punk, reggae, sweat and booze.

Disturbing the Peace opened promptly and rocked the audience hard with the night's most metal set. "Mission" featured wall-of-sound guitar distortion. Rob Tweedie offered a set of pipes that sounded like Brandon Boyd from Incubus. "Hyperballad" rose from post-rock ashes and blew up with keys and a quirky self-reliant metaphor.

From the balcony of the Pageant, I watched the old-school, reggae-infused Murder City Players. The band consisted of a saxophonist, trombonist, trumpeter, keyboardist, bassist, drummer, guitarist and two vocalists.

The dual vocals provided a nice dollop of energy which complemented the instrumental skanking. Mark Condelliere (aka Tony Rome) appeared about halfway through the group's set to assist black-hatted Prince Phillip. Both men danced and cheered at the swaying crowd, happy to set the stage for the Urge with reggae tunes ranging between covers and originals.

Soon, after an introduction by Cardinals third baseman David Freese, lead-vocalist Steve Ewing appeared on stage with the rest of the Urge as the crowd chanted some unintelligible call to arms. Karl Grable's triumphant bass glinted under the house lights.

"Take Away" from 1996's "Receiving the Gift of Flavor" sparked the Urge's set as the packed mosh pit undulated. The song dripped with Grable's wandering bass, Matt Kwiatkowski's trombone and Bill Reither's saxophonist. The Urge galloped around the stage during the song's break downs, jumping wildly, pushing the mosh pit up toward maximum riot-swirl. "Don't Ask Why" was full of angsty power rock that chilled-out during the horn-lead verses.

Ewing's vocals remained crisp throughout "Brainless," which featured a Gravity Kills-style, stabbing, "siren" guitar part. On the OG track "Going to the Liquor Store" from 1992's "Magically Delicious," the crowd lit-up singing the chorus along with Ewing, reveling in the idea of getting majorly hammered and fucking shit up.

Ewing introduced "Hollywood Ending," a new song, which is planned to appear on the Urge's next record. The song played frenetic with a tight chorus that mirrored much of the Urge's work on 2000's "Too Much Stereo," which gave me the impression that the Urge plans to pick up right where it left off before its demise in 2001.

"Say a Prayer" from "Too Much Stereo" opened with vocals and guitar then morphed into a dubbed-out, existentialist, religion study complete with "Hey's" from Ewing and tight drumming from John Pessoni. "Dirty Rat" brought the show to total punk rage. The pit swirled, a couple kids got knocked out, the cops ejected the sweaty perps and the show continued, the Urge not missing a beat, pushing the crowd toward frenzy despite the dangerous spin of the pit.

Confetti exploded from the ceiling during "Closer" from 1998's "Master of Styles." Fans raised their arms during the chorus as Ewing sang, "She brings me a little bit closer, a little bit closer to heaven." Jerry Jost's funky guitar during the verses allowed the chorus to go into its distance into alternative rock, moving away from ska, an interesting balancing act.

"Divide and Conquer" set the stage with more heavy punk for the accessible radio hit "Four Letters and Two Words." During the song, fans threw fingers in the air to mimic Ewing's words, "Four letters and two words, words that mean the same...". After another new song, the Urge rolled out an impressive cover of Bob Marley's "One Love," which -- after the moshing, ejected fans and cops -- seemed sardonic and ironic. "Violent Opposition" followed "One Love," again feeling like a manic shift. Apparently hard-core-ska-punk doesn't chase Bob Marley very well, but I don't think any of the long-haired young thrashers in the pit gave a shit.

"Jump Right In" had everyone, both pit side and beyond, supporting Ewing's vocal sentiment. Here, the mix was perfect, and again Jost's guitar balanced the group's sound between punk and ska with deft brilliance. The Urge closed their set with "It's Gettin' Hectic," whereupon the group skipped, jumped and jogged around the stage, pushing the energy past 10, as if no one in the group had aged a decade or two.

The Urge encored with "Too Much Stereo." Ewing showcased his verbal talent one last time, dicing up the song's frenetic chorus with quick lips and excellent annunciation. The Urge's first Pageant show of three was an utter success, an evening of raucous energy and throwback fun.

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