Sublime with Rome
Navy Pier Grand Ballroom
December 31, 2010
The crowd milling around before the opening riff of Sublime with Rome were either decidedly supportive of carrying on the legacy of Sublime’s music with Rome Ramirez standing in on vocals and guitar, or (despite their presence at the concert) vociferously opposed. Whatever one’s feelings, the music of Sublime is capably rendered by this new adaptation of the band; a band which shuttered its doors in 1996 following lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Bradley Nowell’s untimely death.
It was New Year’s Eve in Chicago and the crowd was over one thousand strong, filling the impressive, eighty-foot-high-domed Grand Ballroom on Chicago’s Navy Pier. From the sheer intensity of the fans, one definitely got a palpable sense of the unrequited yearning for Sublime’s music left in the wake of the band’s tragic demise in the mid-nineties. The opening act, southern California’s The Dirty Heads who recorded the hit "Lay Me Down" featuring Rome Ramirez last year. The Dirty Heads provided a rhyme-heavy and highly energetic set that forced the crowd out of any lingering malaise. By the time Sublime with Rome took the stage, the place was primed.
As they ambled over to their instruments, raucous applause greeted original members, drummer Bud Gaugh and bassist Eric Wilson. Rome Ramirez charged up to the microphone, looking extremely youthful compared to his band mates and launched straight into "Smoke Two Joints." His delivery on vocals and guitar were a perfect mimicry of the late Nowell’s. And though much of the set consists of Ramirez covering another musician’s work, he exhibited a style and forcefulness of play which left the impression of strong and original musical talent while exuding a humble respect for the music he has been tapped to help resurrect.
There could be no doubt that the original rhythm section which came to define the LBC Sound: a fusion of ska, reggae and rock were in the house. The band was right-and-tight behind Rome. The army of giddy girls and rowdy guys strained the gate keeping them from tumbling into the security/photo pit. Popular offerings of "Santeria," "Date Rape," and "What I Got," served to satisfy many concert-goers appetite for the brand of Sublime they haver known and loved for many moons.
As the clock struck midnight, Rome stopped the performance by saying "Let’s get two-thousand-ten over with everybody." Almost immediately, local deejays from the Chicago radio station, Q101 FM, a sponsor of the concert, trotted on stage and led everyone in a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, as several large air-cannons launched thick clouds of confetti from the stage- blanketing much of the audience. After a brief intermission, Sublime reappeared onstage and launched back into their set.
"Badfish," and "40 Oz of Freedom," elicited huge cheers and brought to mind an interesting dynamic occurring all around me at this performance. It seemed that half of the audience was around when Sublime first emerged on the radio waves and MTV, and were in a sense "returning" to enjoy the music of their youth. But, the other half were toddlers -at best- when Sublime was enjoying their heyday and this was their very first chance to venture out to a live setting and enjoy the songs they’d grown up with. The sheer conflation of these energies made for a wildly responsive audience.
Sublime with Rome are as close as fans will ever get to the original Sublime, and their work apparently brings a great deal of joy to multiple generations of people. With a new album slated for release sometime this year, one new track from the upcoming album entitled "Panic," was performed this night and the crowd seemed to ooze with collective acceptance. Of course, the as-yet-unreleased album will in many ways serve as a litmus test for this bold and new incarnation of Sublime. Based on the upcoming album’s material, Sublime with Rome will either be seen as serious players on the modern music scene or be forever branded a world-class tribute band. If the performance on this eve of a new year is any indication, the smart money says that it will be the former.