Sublime, Live With Rome,
New Variation On The Bradley Nowell Classic Fails To Deliver At A Phoenix Appearance, Victim To Poor Audio And A Show That Was Bland And Amateurish
Eric Wilson is the sole original member of Sublime in the Sublime with Rome lineup.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
Nov. 5, 2012 — Sublime is one of the most iconic bands to come out of Southern California in the past 20 years.
Besides the legend that has become Bradley Nowell, Sublime is one of the biggest ska-punk bands of all time having sold more than 17 million albums. Along with No Doubt, they reached mainstream success and began a wave that is still inspiring bands throughout the country.
But if a show at the Arizona State Fair last week is any indication, the touring legacy of the band — Sublime with Rome — is little more than a shell of that success.
Rome Ramirez has displayed on recordings that he does resemble Nowell as far as vocal range is concerned and that he is an accomplished songwriter in his own right. But at the concert last week, it was hard to even hear him.
To be fair, it was at the Fair. In talking to some who have seen Sublime with Rome when they have had their whole audio setup and have been on tour for awhile — Ramirez said the concert last week was the first time the band had played together since September — they are usually audible. Last week, though, that was definitely not the case.
The mishmash of sounds made the bass lines inaudible as well as the lyrics. The biggest example of a sound system that let the band down happened on “Doin’ Time,” as Eric Wilson’s work on the keyboards kept breaking in and out. It ruined the melody of the song completely.
To be even fairer, Sublime’s huge mainstream success was found on the albums Sublime and Second-hand Smoke. They never headlined an arena tour and were fairly close to a garage band when they played Vans Warped Tour and the SnoCone Tour.
They never reached the level of live sophistication that No Doubt would reach a decade later.
The fact that the self-titled Sublime was produced by David Kahne and Butthole Surfers' guitarist Paul Leary, and engineered by the legendary Brian Gardner is testament to the fact that albums and live shows are two separate things. Expecting a band to sound in concert exactly like they do on the record is difficult.
And there was Sublime with Rome last week, with Rome Ramirez out front, as close to a garage band as any of the other acts that appeared at the Arizona State Fair.
While Rome sang all of Nowell’s hits, there was no mention of the passed innovator and no images of him anywhere. That is probably as likely to be due to the fact that Nowell’s estate forced the Rome fronted lineup to stop touring under the name Sublime and add “with Rome.” Original drummer Bud Gaugh, who had been part of the Sublime with Rome project and even appeared on the Yours Truly LP released last summer, has left, saying to budztv.com in January, "It was really good for the first few months, after that, it just felt wrong. Not playing the songs but playing them with the name Sublime, without Brad."
Ramirez, while relatively competent, shouted out, “Phoenix,” after almost every song, a tacky tool that should be limited to only one or two times per concert. Otherwise, it just proves a point: that the audience has no other reason to cheer.
To be sure, a large majority of the kids that were there got into the biggest hits, reserved for the encore, like “Santeria” and “What I Got.” But by the time they got to “Wrong Way,” it became clear that Sublime with Rome, while a gallant idea, is the “wrong way” to celebrate the real Sublime.
As Gaugh said almost a year ago, and although most fans who attended were grateful for the opportunity to hear some of their favorite tunes from Sublime live in concert, something about it, “just felt wrong.”
John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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