Concert Review: N.E.R.D., Secondhand Serenade, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

I always dug the Neptunes sound, Pharell’s falsetto, and was a big fan of all three N.E.R.D. albums that have been released thus far.  I am now officially a hardcore N.E.R.D. fan.  Last night’s show at SUNY Oswego was flippin’ awesome.  At first, I was nervous because Pharell came out on stage (finally at 11:10pm after SIX opening acts) with one arm in a sling and the other in serious bandages (apparently he got tattoos removed from his arms by “extra crispy” lasers, ouch) but then he smiled and invited as many people on stage as he could allow with his 5-piece backing band.  Then they tore the roof off, dancing, singing, shouting, jumping, rapping and rockin’ so hard that my face melted off.  I still have the songs “Brain,” “She Wants To Move” and “Everyone Nose (All The Girls Standing In Line…)” stuck in my head and I love it:

:::makes the vulcan sign with his hand, the official N.E.R.D. salute:::

Seriously, it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and if I had just paid to see N.E.R.D., it would’ve totally been worth it.

But no.  There were six opening acts that, to tell the truth, really didn’t fit well together (who books punk bands to open for Secondhand Serenade, I mean, really?) but definitely added more bang for our bucks.  The first band Drive A was disappointing, playing like a fourth rate Anti-Flag (and looking a bit like the Jonas Brothers) with an embarassingly mid-90s-esque logo that incorporated an Anarchy symbol into a flag.  I was surprised to say that I actually did like the second band, Madina Lake – great energy, they kicked giant beach balls into the crowd, and had fun on stage.  It was just weird to hear yet another hardcore band that would’ve fit better on the Family Values Tour than in a college spring concert.  Check out their music at

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus was the first big name to take the stage and they sounded great but looked… well, like Bo Bice’s inbred cousins.  They weren’t exciting to watch on stage, either, but if you closed your eyes it was a damn good show.  They played great versions of “Face Down” and “Guardian Angel” – click here to watch their HOT 107.9 exclusive stripped performance of “Face Down” and two other songs.

Then the energy level was shot to hell with Secondhand Serenade taking the stage, whom I’ve always had a problem with.  Are they a Dashboard Confessional tribute band or what?  By the way, I’m talking about Dashboard’s post-“Vindicated” material, too.  Secondhand Serenade sounded great, but in a 45-minute set I couldn’t tell the difference between one song and the next.  Are they singing “Vulnerable,” “Fall For You” or a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You”?  I couldn’t tell.  It was cool, however, how the lead singer and the keyboardist both hung out on the main floor for autographs and pictures after the show and were totally relaxed about it.

I could’ve done without MC Mr. Napkin, the Jewish comedian rapper who actually compared smoothies to manual gratification… but I did like DJ Don Juan who managed to keep the crowd’s spirits high between all the acts, mixing everything from Snoop Dogg and flavorful twists on Top 40 hits to Jay-Z/The Verve mashups.

What a great show – serious props to SUNY Oswego for putting together a great lineup.  No one Ever Really Dies, truly.

N.E.R.D. performed Sunday, April 26th, 2009 at SUNY Oswego with Madina Lake, Drive A, Secondhand Serenade and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.