Thanks to Five for Fighting's show at the Kent Stage Friday night, we know frontman John Ondrasik is from California, a mustang sits in his driveway, and he and his wife vacation in Lake Tahoe. And he butchers his own songs.
While you don't want to come down too hard on a guy who regularly produces free “For the Troops” compilations for U.S. forces, it’s impossible to sugarcoat his acoustic performance on Friday. There’s something to be said for having your band backing you up.
Five for Fighting's mega-hit “Superman,” which has been drilled into the mind of every American with a radio over the past ten years, was almost unrecognizable as Ondrasik pounded quickly through the song. Lyrics rose and fell in all the wrong places. He basically refused to reach the high notes, talking through them instead.
The more recent “100 Years,” which can usually make an audience misty-eyed, was cold and quick, without any of its drawn-out and emotional pauses.
Ondrasik’s most passionate singing came during “65 Mustang,” which he prefaced with a story so long and detailed, I was sick of the song before he played the first note.
Any show is tolerable at the Kent Stage, however, which is an audience's dream venue, with plush theater seating, so all was not lost. Up-and-coming artist Ben Rector opened the all-acoustic set with good songs and self-effacing humor, and put the crowd in a great mood. Unfortunately, he showed that an artist who’s still trying to make it big can be way more entertaining than one riding on the frayed coattails of fame. —Crystal Pirri; photo by Mark Pirri