Wolf Trap understands it’s audiences. The Under the Sun 2013 Tour was a fun, well structured, family-friendly concert that suited the venue perfectly. As Gin Blossoms front man Robin Wilson put it “We’ve played everywhere…. this is one of the top ten theatre’s of it’s kind on the planet.” With both the lawn and the pavilion seats packaged full, it’s clear that the DMV agrees with him; and the programming that goes with it..
The concert featured 5 bands that exemplify 90’s era pop rock: Fastball, Vertical Horizon, Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray, and Smash Mouth. Hosted by TV personality Mark McGrath, each band played a short set including their most popular hits from the 90’s, and one or two of their current songs. While these bands maybe past their heyday, it’s clear they’ve grown into their musicianship. Playing earlier in the evening, Vertical Horizon and Gin Blossoms in particular performed as seasoned professionals. Their songs were clear, well mixed, and they brought a maturity to their performance they didn’t have back in the 90’s
Sugar Ray followed, and while McGrath’s explosive presence was a crowd-pleaser, his voice certainly was not. After singing the same songs for over 12 years, one would think he’d be able to get the tune right, but sadly not the case. Much of his performance was off-key, and his new songs were just down right bad, as if manufactured to be used in children’s television commercials. The upside is that McGrath seemed to be aware of this, focusing instead on his ability to entertain the audience, he teased, joked, and even flirted with the ASL interpreter. Despite his poor musical talent, he managed to ramp the audience up for Smash Mouth, who was a perfect closer to the evening. High energy and joyful, Smash Mouth had the audience bopping around and singing along to it’s hits. Even with lead Steven Harwell’s somewhat pitchy singing, there was some true talent on stage, exemplified by a red-hot 5-minute drum solo performed flawlessly by Justin Sutter, who was returning to the band for the first time in years
Overall, it was a really fun show. The build and order of the bands was right, and they managed to find the appropriate line between a family show and a rock concert, keeping things clean while still giving the occasional nod to the beer lovers in the house. Playing to the nostalgia of the 90’s is a really smart choice. The lawn seats drew 30/40 somethings with their children, while the seats drew 30/40 somethings with their parents. The result was a pretty expansive age-range of people that wanted to see rock music without the loud, booze infested hookup scene that most of the modern clubs provide. This concert will be back again next summer, with lawn seats available for under $30, if you rocked along to “All Star” on Napster in your dorm room, no doubt you’ll have fun seeing this show.
Running Time; Four hours, with breaks between bands.
Under the Sun 2013 Tour played for one night, August 6th, 2013 at the Filene Center at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts – 1645 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future events, check out their Calendar of Events.