Better Than Ezra Is Better Than ‘Good’: Live At The Academy

Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin may well be Lemonhead Evan Dando’s heir apparent as pop’s newest poster boy. Scissor kicking and hip swaying in his red cords, suede Cons and gold Strat, Griffin peered through his curly mop top at the homogenous throngs of hair flippers and head bangers with apparent appreciation for the 800,000 units shifted to date. The New Orlean’s-based trio’s sardonic wit and playful name-that-tune sensability elevated the Post Wave pop of the band’s Elektra debut, Deluxe, to memorable heights.

Launching headlong into the clamour of “In the Blood,” drummer Cary Bonnecaze hacked feverishly at his set with an urgency lacking on Deluxe. The New Orleans-based trio whipped the floor into a fist-pumping frenzy in no time with a caustic run through “Summerhouse” and an irony-laced “Teenager.” And while “Cry in the Sun” (“This is a tender song,” Griffin mummbled) meandered into the Hootie Zone, the band quickly seized the reins, plowing through the punk attack of newly unveiled “Long Lost” and igniting the otherwise pedestrian college-ish audience into a seething mosh pit.

Bassist Tom Drummond — gesturing madly for more volume — drove “Rosealia,” Deluxe’s upcoming fourth single, forcefully into its Miriachi-meets-Mudhoney ending with a wide, maniacal smile. But it was Dambuilder Joan Wasser’s edgy, warbling violin solo on “The Killer Inside” that lifted the performance into the ether.

Rounding out the night with the yoddling “Coyote,” the band segwayed — distortion raging — into their mainstream anthem, “Good.” Spicing up the bridge with pop nuggets from every generation, BTE validated and vindicated their post-wave, anything-goes philosophy. From Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Prince’s “Sexy Motherfucker,” to R.E.M.’s “Radio Song” and Griffin’s Frampton Comes Alive riffing, it was an impressive and tight diversion from the radio-ready hit.

Champaign, Illinois’, Poster Children opened the show with a wallop. Lead singer R.N. Valentine led the kids through an under-attended but frenetic and feedback-spewing set, racing through Junior Citizen’s “Get a Life” and “Revolution Year Zero” with mock zeal.

This review first appeared on Rolling Stone Online

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