Monday, July 2, 2012 | 2:35 p.m.
By Mark Adams
If you were at Mandalay Bay Beach on Saturday night, you may have been confused about what decade it was, as five notable bands of the 1990s gathered at the Strip hotel’s oasis for the third stop of their arena-heavy Summerland Tour.
The nostalgic lineup consisted of Marcy Playground, Gin Blossoms, Lit, Sugar Ray and Everclear. If you were a fan of Top 40 music from 1992 to 1999, this show was a must-see. Nostalgia has a powerful affect, as the venue was packed and the majority of the crowd was belting out lyrics with the rockers.
Considering the tour’s moniker, it was apropos that it landed at Mandalay Bay Beach. Many concertgoers donned pool attire, and those occupying the stage’s front rows were ankle deep in the venue’s expansive wave pool. Throughout the night, the sound of crashing waves complemented the musical trip down memory lane.
The crowd was diverse, but the majority appeared to be in their late 20s and early 30s, so they were in junior high or high school when the groups’ music dominated the airwaves. And it wasn’t just the live music that was a throwback to the era of grunge, flannel and Pogs; the music during intermissions included hits of the era by the Counting Crows and Barenaked Ladies, among others.
Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath put his “Extra” hosting experience to good use serving as a master of ceremonies of sorts in addition to providing his pipes during the band’s performance. The production ran smoothly, with no technical difficulties or long wait periods in between bands. This was no modern-day concert, either, as the performers didn’t have light shows, intricate sets and other production-value elements to impress the crowd.
The bands impressed with their music, and patrons were enthusiastic, energetic and excited no matter who was holding the mic. Smiles everywhere, the sea of people was dancing, clapping and singing throughout the evening. At times, it was difficult to hear the band over the loud chorus of fans.
Each of the acts was on point, as the live songs sounded nearly identical to recordings produced more than a decade ago. Introducing Lit, McGrath bestowed: “This band is what you call a no-brainer for this tour” and also called a song of theirs iconic. The rockers had great chemistry, and lead singer A. Jay Popoff commanded the stage.
Popoff interacted with the audience and even asked how many concertgoers had purchased their album (only a small portion of the crowd responded in the affirmative). Lit’s standout number was their biggest hit “My Own Worst Enemy”; the crowd jumped while screaming the lyrics, erupting into applause when the song was over.
The Gin Blossoms also put on a good show, playing a number of their notable tracks including “Follow You Down” and “Hey Jealousy.” The pool was full by the time Sugar Ray took the stage, and the band began oddly with the “Saved by the Bell” theme song. After the ’80s flashback, the group opened their set with “Someday,” a single from their third album, “14:59.” Although the band released an album in 2009, they knew that this was a nostalgic experience, so they stuck to playing their early hits.
Everclear also followed this formula, as they closed the concert performing their most memorable songs. The two crowd favorites were the top singles from 1997’s “So Much for the Afterglow”: “Father of Mine” and “I Will Buy You a New Life.”
Looking around after the stage lights dimmed, it was clear that the crowd had enjoyed the show. There was no rush to the door, and many were discussing their favorite aspects of the concert. After some four hours of nonstop ’90s hits, why wouldn’t a fan be nothing else but elated?
The Summerland Tour returns to Southern Nevada on Aug. 11 for its final stop at Edgewater Casino in Laughlin.