Live: Candlebox in Indianapolis

After a two-year absence, Seattle-based Candlebox returned to Indianapolis, playing to a packed crowd in Deluxe at Old National Centre. The five-piece band, who describe themselves as “Face melting kinda metal but not really grunge yet close and VERY Blues based,” are undoubtedly icons of the 1990s Seattle music scene, and I was really stoked about seeing them again.

I was also excited to hear Brent James and the Vintage Youth. Although I knew the quartet from Cincinnati was more Muscle Shoals than Seattle Grunge, I was a little surprised when half the band appeared on stage barefoot. It started to make sense as they started jamming on their first song, “Fine Young Man,” which could’ve been on a Molly Hatchet album back in the day.

Skillfully blending blues, rock and rockabilly, frontman Brent James, accompanied by Ricky Veeneman on guitar, Matt Gandenberger on bass, and Nick Baverman on drums, performed a rollicking nine-song set that left the audience in a great mood.

As I waited for Candlebox to take the stage, I thought about the last time I saw them. It was 1995, and they were at the peak of their popularity, right after the release of their sophomore album, “Lucy.”
Their sound was fresh, and their performance was electrifying. After 23 years, a six-year hiatus and a few member changes, I wondered how they would sound. Would Kevin Martin’s distinct vocals still be strong? Would their music still be edgy and fresh?

The answer was a resounding, ”YES!”

They came out swinging with “Don’t You,” a high-energy hit from their self-titled debut album, which happens to be 25 years old now. They followed it up with “Change,” also from their debut album. I was relieved that founding member Kevin Martin’s distinct vocals were as strong as ever, and maybe even a little better – more mellow and less raspy than in Candlebox’s heyday.

He did a fantastic job of engaging the crowd, making constant eye contact, giving high-fives, telling personal stories, repeatedly expressing appreciation for their loyalty, and explaining the meaning behind many of the songs. I found his “HAS BEEN” t-shirt hysterically ironic given the amount of energy he put into the show, as well as the fan love that was bestowed upon him.

That love was shared by Brian Quinn and Island Styles on guitar, Adam Kury on bass, and Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Famer Dave Krusen on drums. Although Martin is the only member who’s been with the band from the beginning, they played Candlebox’s syncopated riffs as though they’ve all been together for years.

They jammed hard during their sixteen-song set, which included newer releases as well as older hits, along with some deeper cuts from their six studio albums, and extended versions of several songs. Nearly every song had at least a few people singing along, and I’m pretty sure 100% of the audience (including yours truly) was singing to the chorus of “You,” “Cover Me,” and “Far Behind.”

I was a little confused when the Martin took a survey near the end of the show to find out who all in the audience was Christian, then who was Catholic and who was Protestant. But then he explained that he doesn’t care what religion everyone is, and that we all need to respect each other’s beliefs and get along together.

I normally hate when artists get political in their shows, but this is one message I can get behind. He then picked up an acoustic guitar for “Cover Me,” bringing an entirely different vibe and meaning to one of their biggest hits.

Candlebox finished their regular set with an intense and passionate version of “Far Behind,” which left everyone clamoring for “one more song.” The encore selection, “Rain,” started out slow and bluesy and ended with an all-out jam, which was a perfect ending to an amazing evening of rock and roll.

-Laura Fox

Brent Jones and The Vintage Youth

Candlebox