Everything Zen at Brixton Academy for Bush

Review byJack Foley

ONE has to feel sorry for Bush. After several hit singles - most notably Swallowed - three highly successful studio albums and a daring remix album (Deconstructed), the British band which has struck it big in America, have still to make anything like the sort of impression they deserve in the UK.

Written off by a significant majority of the media as Nirvana wannabes at the time of their first album, Bush went on to emerge from such shadows to become a massive band in their own right, States-side. Yet, even as they celebrate the release of a superb third album, Golden State, in Britain, they continue to struggle - only just managing to fill the Brixton Academy even though US pretenders to their crown, such as Sum 41, did so just weeks earlier.

Ask any true Bush fan, however, and you will be told that you write them off at your peril. Like any truly good band, they have shown durability, an ability to diversify while remaining true to their roots, and - in Gavin Rossdale, their front man - have a lead singer with the stage presence to rival many of the rock greats.

Take Brixton on Thursday night (November 22nd, 2001) for example. The band was in mercurial form - churning out track after track from their latest album as well as the best of their back catalogue. Rossdale, in particular, was in the mood for a party, playing up to his fans as they jumped up and down before him in one heaving, and very sweaty, mass. It came as little surprise, therefore, that the first genuinely slow song of the evening (and Bush have a few to choose from) wasn't played until the start of the encore; such was the intensity of the earlier numbers.

Also predictable, given that this was the Golden State tour, was the fact that the band started the evening with the opening track from the new album, Solutions, which was the ideal way to ease fans into the groove. Slow building, and even thoughtful, it eventually unleashes the Bush trademark sound - loud guitars, loud chorus - before easing off for each verse.

Tracks such as The Chemicals Between Us (another classic), Everything Zen and Come Down followed, to remind fans of earlier work, but even during the majority of the new numbers, the crowd seemed content to dance, party and sing along; almost as though the album had been around for ages.

Superman, Land of the Living and the most recent single, The People That We Love, all stood out among the new material, which while still heavy in principle, also display a more layered approach to the band's song-writing. Not content merely to just thrash around, much of the new material is more meticulous; delivering its pay-offs in stages.

After an hour of some terrific stuff, the band duly departed for the near-obligatory encore, before Rossdale re-emerged to perform Glycerine - another timeless classic from the first album - solo in front of a euphoric crowd. Lighters came out, the mood mellowed out and the crowd swayed as one, as Rossdale delivered an unforgettable and near faultless rendition of the track. This was followed by Alien, yet another first album classic, which allowed the proceedings to slow build back to the previous frenzy.

With the slow stuff behind him, Rossdale could begin to party once more. He had already taken time out to crowd surf, with microphone still attached to his hand, during the first part of the show; but now he orchestrated proceedings, encouraging people to party and occasionally joining them in the 'mosh-pit' for the three track, grand finale. Headful of Ghosts, from Golden State, set the mood perfectly, before the band played out with blistering versions of Swallowed (obviously) and Little Things - thus combining the best of all three of their studio albums.

Rossdale even alluded to the band's treatment by the media as he toyed with his audience before the start of Little Things, and screamed on several occasions that this was his home town - the place he had lived all his life. Perhaps this was evidence of his frustration, or merely poking fun at the critics. For he knew the band was on top form and, judging from the crowd's enthusiastic reaction (women, especially, seem to worship him), that they would revel in whatever was dished up. Needless to say, they Swallowed it whole.