Bush at The Warfield, by Patric Carver
Bush (photo: Patric Carver)

“Gavin will be out shortly to sing like a man,” the Kickback lead vocalist Billy Yost called out to the crowd, “which is a real difference to what you’re hearing now.” Yost flashed a smile at the crowd, and cut into their third song of the night — pouring beautiful slog rock over the crowd — attracting listeners like a fisherman chumming the waters.

Despite the self-effacing humor (or maybe because of it), Yost and company played a thrilling set which was a combination of fun and feedback. South Dakota natives that moved to Chicago with the goal of making a life of making music, the Kickback has a very Midwestern sound. I can see why others have compared them to The Replacements, they have the same grit-under-the-nails, play-from-the-guts sound, but Yost says Westerberg and company weren’t their biggest influences. “I grew up admiring Prince. He’s not really what you think of when you think of ‘Midwestern,’ even though he’s a Minneapolis guy — and he’s not what you think of when you hear us, but I’d consider him a huge influence on my music. Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair…the band Chicago (laughs), these groups that people typically think of when they think of the Midwest just weren’t my thing.”

Whatever is pushing Yost to create music, I hope it keeps pushing him. Their opening set was tremendous, and was a good complement to the very polished rock show that Bush brought to the stage.

If you were even a marginal fan of Bush in their heyday, you would have been over the moon with this performance. I want to know what kind of mystic vocal-chord gymnastics go on in the throat of Marylebone native Gavin Rossdale’s throat to twist his rather diminutive speaking voice into the buzzsaw-commando strike force that he spits out on stage. Impressively dark and gravelly, Rossdale’s vocals charge towards audience members with such force that it is possible that the sound is not only transmitted to the brain via the ears, but, rather, in a whole-body experience in which every cell is forced to absorb the sonic wave being thrown its way.

The highlight of the evening was probably opening song “The Chemicals Between Us,” a powerful chance for those bodacious vocals to be matched beat-for-beat by terminal guitar playing that radiated throughout the halls of the Warfield. Of course, hit Everything Zen could also not be denied for its triumphant execution — Rossdale plays with the enthusiasm of a teenager in his or her first real band, but with infinite times the talent.

The only letdown of the evening was Rossdale’s post-divorce indulgent “Mad Love.” As look-alikes to his ex-wife were illuminated in the visuals projected on stage, Rossdale seemed to be trying to convince us (and maybe himself) of something. For such a powerful, commanding band, this tune was seemed limp by comparison. While I appreciate earnest songwriting, I do think not every story needs an audience.

All in all, though, Bush still blasts better than most bands out there. They challenge the audience to keep up while energizing them to do so. They’re a live show not to be missed.