On the type of double-header many would think came straight out of the 1999 Isle of MTV summer concert series, last week (as in July of 2012) I had the tremendous fortune to catch Filter and Fuel at one of New York City’s best venues – Irving Plaza. While you may have not heard much from either lately as neither band has put out an album in quite sometime (Filter in 2010, Fuel in 2007) nor is there a release date for either of their upcoming records, they both have incredibly loyal followings who will seemingly follow them to the ends of the Earth. The admiration is mutual and felt reciprocated, as this particular show was all about the fans.
First up was Fuel. Coming out to the “Family Guy” “A Bag of Weed” song, the band looked wholly unpretentious and just ready to have a good time. Lead singer Brett Scallions, now with long hair and the type of beard you can only get away with when you’re the lead singer in a multi-platinum rock band, really seemed genuinely excited and touched to perform in New York that night. Divulging that the band had first played the venue some 15 years back, and that he at one point lived nearby for eight years, he warmly added “it feels good to be home.” I was pleasantly surprised to hear “Jesus or a Gun,” one of their successful singles that’s been curiously absent from their most recent compilation releases, as well as Scallions’ introduction that it’s “not a religious song, it’s about right from wrong and rolling shit off your shoulders.” He then told the crowd that the setlists on the ground were merely suggestions and that he’d rather “fly by the seat of my pants,” asking the crowd what they wanted to hear and working requests into the set. While all the favorites got plays, Scallions also made sure to “pepper spray the set with a taste of the future” and worked in new Fuel material written since the birth of his children. Scallions employs some of the best banter in the business, really connecting with the crowd to the point where even the balconies were singing along with “Shimmer.” Near the end, Scallions deconstructed how stupid he feels “encores” are and said he’d much rather spend that time onstage playing, eventually closing with “Hemorrhage (In My Hands).”
Closing the show was Filter. From above, it was interesting to see how the Filter fans were closer to the back of the crowd during Fuel’s set and the two halves switched sides but didn’t leave. You could tell which kids were more into one group over the other, but they were all pretty respectful. Filter, easily the most photogenic band on the planet, opened with “Welcome to the Fold.” I don’t know if these guys practice in front of a mirror, but every second seemed like a postcard. While the harder numbers like “Fold” and “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do” (which singer Richard Patrick preceded with a disclaimer that he doesn’t do drugs anymore “but still writes songs about them”) sounded great, the volume of the guitars muddied the vocals on the slower numbers like “Take a Picture.” Patrick knows how to keep things dynamic, at one point jumping into the crowd and performing the bulk of “The Best Things” entirely held in the air by the crowd. After a tribute to East Coast/London punk rock and one of the five-and-a-half guys in the crowd’s mosh pit getting kicked out, the band closed with “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” satisfying an audience of longtime fans and sending everyone home happy. If you get a chance, even if you aren’t a fan of Filter or Fuel, their shows are an engaging reminder of what seeing a fun concert is all about.