The music we loved as teenagers is either lost to the world of radio mix tapes, or banned from our iPods from fear of a peer’s snide remarks. Yet, whenever one of those retro gems is Youtubed at a party, there’s no doubt that the whole group will burst into song, never missing a beat. When I heard that Sugar Ray, an obsession of mine in the late 90s, had rekindled and was going on tour to promote their new album, I knew I had to go. The opportunity to revisit my pre-teen years and sing along with my frosted-tipped idol, Mark McGrath, was too good to pass up.
Arriving at the vast Regency Ballroom on a Tuesday night, I was ecstatic to sing along with the tunes I cherished so many years ago. My first thought, apart from wondering what seductively delicious outfit Mark might be sporting, was where everyone was. The place was around half capacity, if that. While most may think it’s the music that makes a show, the crowd has a huge influence on the feeling throughout. While the mix of the group, just like the music of Sugar Ray, was eclectic, the big venue overpowered the concert-goers.
Regardless of my initial dismay, I stayed enthusiastic as the lights dimmed, ushering the band to the stage. The whole crowd was insane with energy, so excited to hear Sugar Ray live. The stage erupted with music as did the crowd with cheering. After only the first song was over, Mark McGrath asked if the audience wanted to hear a hit from 1999. “Every Morning,” the single off their second album “14:59,” started playing. I couldn’t restrain myself from jumping up and down, and neither could the rest of the crowd. The band definitely hadn’t lost what had made them famous.
As the show continued, it was clear that the set list was being overrun with too many “thank yous,” and McGrath rambled on about everything and anything. Maybe his stint as a TV personality on “Extra” had fried his brain a bit? In the middle of one of the longer rants some kids from the audience were called up on stage for a karaoke battle. Of course, neither of the two kids knew any songs that McGrath chose for them to sing. It wasn’t until the young girl mentioned Taylor Swift that the entire crowd erupted in laughter. Unfortunately, DJ Homicide, the band’s DJ, didn’t have any Swift, and the kids were let off stage after an awkward 15 or so minutes.
The band played all their hits, including “Answer the Phone,” “Fly,” and “Someday” all to the amusement of the crowd. The band also played a song off their new album, “Music for Cougars.” While weary at first, I was relieved when the music sounded just like the best of Sugar Ray. When asked about how the album’s name came about, Rodney Sheppard, the band’s guitarist, said that the band was playing at The Grove down in Anaheim and a lot of moms and daughters were standing around watching the show.
Someone commented that there were a lot of cougars there. I guess it all just went from there.
After the band’s set finished, we all waited for the encore that never came. Leaving slightly disheartened I concluded that a Sugar Ray T-shirt would quell anything the show didn’t do for me. The lack of a merch booth was the last straw. While the show was nowhere near what I had talked it up to in my head, reminiscing about an easier time was definitely worth the time.