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Rooney disappoints packed crowd at Legends

Paul Serafy | Monday, September 4, 2006

Rooney has something to prove, but the biggest obstacle standing between the band and success is the fact that the group doesn’t realize it. This L.A. based quintet has talent bursting through the seams of its trademark bell-bottoms, but it surely fell short of displaying it to its fullest capacity this Saturday at Legends.

Though Rooney enjoyed a mediocre degree of success with its 2003 self-titled release, it is by no means a seasoned veteran of the music industry. At this point in a band’s career, it needs to treat every show that it plays like it was their last. Rooney failed to do so, however. The onstage attitude of lead singer Robert Carmine could be expected from a front man with several albums released, not to mention years of nonstop touring under his belt. But Rooney can not yet enjoy that comfort on stage.

After playing for an audience of 20,000 in Seattle, an audience of more than 700 fans gathered at Legends, many of whom lined up two hours before the concert. Those numbers would surely seem to be a change of pace for the band. Most artists live for this level of intimacy with their fans.

SUB and Legends both did their part to attract fans to the concert, as the venue brimmed slightly over capacity. However, Rooney’s performance was sloppy – plenty of screws needed to be tightened up for a smaller, more intimate venue, where musicians are under a microscope. Rooney sat on its last release for three years, touring sparingly and overestimating the amount of anticipation among fans that its sophomore album would build.

Given the aptitude that Rooney has, the band should have taken this performance seriously. Its audience expected it to – but it didn’t. Carelessness and technical hurriedness were present at Legends Saturday evening.

A fairly new band like Rooney should care about building and reinforcing its reputation in all circles of music lovers, especially among fans at a venue as small as Legends, but the desire to do so was not apparent from start to finish. The band seemed to rush through songs, struggled with keyboard arrangements and probably could have used another hour of sound checks to achieve an instrumental balance that it sorely lacked.

Elements of Rooney’s performance that should have shined and ignited the small space between the group and its fans were overshadowed. Guitarist Taylor Locke is one of the best in the industry, but Saturday’s audience would not know this unless they had listened to the band’s studio recordings.

While most rock bands showcase and take pride in their guitarist’s ability, Locke was pushed aside by the band, deprived of the opportunity to display his incendiary ability. His slide guitar on the band’s opening song, “Blueside,” added flair to the Beach Boys inspired pop-rock song, but solos on unreleased material like “She’s Got Everything” and “Paralyzed” were hurried and short-winded.

Carmine’s vocals and high-energy performing style were largely inconsistent. He proved to charm the girls in the audience out of their minds on songs like “Daisy Duke” where he nailed the lyrics and melody, but had to work hard to hit notes correctly on “Terrible Person.” Vocal harmonies that typically tie band members’ talents together – one of Rooney’s usual assets – were rendered ineffective by Carmine’s failure to hold certain notes in an attempt to experiment with melodies throughout the set.

To his credit, drummer Ned Brower kept the band’s energy alive throughout the concert, adding rhythmic elements to the performance that redeemed the band during build-ups before choruses when verses were weak. He proved to fill holes where his band mates made mistakes like, the frail beginning of “Sorry, Sorry.” The performance lacked the strong, catchy synthesizer-based riffs that play a key role in many of Rooney’s songs.

Perhaps Rooney’s biggest shortcoming on Saturday could be found in the performance of its new songs. “Paralyzed,” “I Don’t Think So,” and “Not So Easy,” were run of the mill, guitar-based arena rock anthems that seemed to be inspired by Styx and Whitesnake. This resulted in a downward turn away from the Electric Light Orchestra-influenced rock that gave them their unique California sound.

Rooney seems to have tragically lost its identity on new songs. With this loss of identity, it risks losing its audience. The harder-edged sound that it strives to achieve may prove to hack away at a core fan base that appreciates Rooney’s catchy rock songs and the band’s ability to evoke memories of summers spent on the beach. Conversely, it just wrapped up a tour headlined by pop-princess Kelly Clarkson, but expects credit as a rock band.

The biggest question Rooney faces is, “What’s next?” It acts like an established rock band on stage, but the group has yet to arrive. If Saturday’s performance is any indication of what fans can expect from Rooney’s new release in October, it’s likely that the band will continue to juggle mediocrity and arrogance.