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Better’ than ever

Chris McGrady | Monday, December 5, 2005

After several years out of the national spotlight, Better Than Ezra is back. Although not on top of the charts quite yet, the New Orleans-based band is proving that it has the musical ability, the staying power and the charisma to make a run for the top.

Better Than Ezra played to a packed house Friday night. True to the band’s old form, it played a good show, proving to everyone there that the band had not lost anything with age.

The group opened with “Burned,” the first song from the band’s most recent CD “Before the Robots.” This high-energy ballad that showcased Kevin Griffin’s powerful lyrics showed the audience that the band meant business. In this lies the true beauty of Better Than Ezra – they are serious musicians who are seriously talented but who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Better Than Ezra continually joked around on stage, mentioning numerous times that “LSU-Notre Dame would be a great match up in the Sugar Bowl.” This joke stems from the fact that several of the band’s members went to Louisiana State University.

One detriment to the concert was the venue. Stepan Center is unfortunately one of the only places on campus available to host a concert the size of the one on Friday. The acoustics in Stepan Center are terrible. The opening act, Marking Twain, was talented, but from the back of the Stepan Center, the group’s lyrics were inaudible. The distorted guitar cut into the lyrics and caused each of the group’s songs to sound the same. Nonetheless, Marking Twain put on a good show and engaged the audience. However, as it should be, the headlining act stole the show.

Better Than Ezra played both new songs and hits from previous albums. Much to the crowd’s delight, Griffin called out, “We aren’t like some bands that will only play their new songs. We are going to play everything!” These were encouraging words and a far cry from many bands today that use concert tours solely to promote recent albums.

Better Than Ezra gave off the feeling that the group wasn’t just in existence to make money. They seemed to enjoy playing and making music and had a tremendous stage presence.

Perhaps the highlight of the concert was during “This Time of Year,” a song from the 1995 release “Deluxe.” Halfway through the song, Griffin called into the crowd for someone to come up on stage and play the guitar part to the song, making clear that this person would already have to know the song.

A student was pulled out of the crowd and was outfitted with Griffin’s gold Les Paul guitar. After some directions from Griffin, the student played along with the song before being instructed to climb the drum stand and finish the song. Much to the crowd’s (and no doubt the band’s) amazement, the student then tore into a solo that rivaled anything Griffin had played all night. After the song, the student was led back to his seat and was greeted there by thunderous applause.

The only mistake Better Than Ezra made was one of redundancy. The band never seemed to mix it up. There were no jam sessions of any kind, no acoustic sets and only a very brief encore.

Overall, the concert was a success. Part of the Student Union Board’s job is to bring big name bands to campus, and that is exactly what Better Than Ezra is. Although perhaps not as familiar to students as some other bands, Better Than Ezra put on a good show and proved that they will again ascend to greatness.