Show Review: Sublime with Rome, Dirty Heads at The Fox Theater – Oakland, 4/23/10

by Dakin Hardwick on April 25, 2010

As most everyone knows, Bradley Nowell passed away in 1996, months before the release of their self-titled record that ended up taking the world by storm. Very few people actually saw Sublime live because of this. Which may have been to the benefit of the band, because Sublime were a terrible live band. Nowell was wasted about 90% of the time, and rarely was able finish a song. The vast majority of the people that are offended by this reformation of the band aren’t aware of this.  This version of Sublime is more than just a chance for the original rhythm section to hit the road again, this is a shot a redeeming Brad Nowell’s memory

Dirty Heads opened up the show. Their brand of classic rock-infused reggae was interesting, but nothing to write home about. The audience loved them, especially when they played their current radio hits, but my mind generally kept wondering throughout their set. They did to a pretty competent cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” The only other surprise from their set was the sheer number of people that left when they were done.

The people that remained, which was still a sizable crowd, were very excited about what was going to happen. The majority of the crowd have been waiting well over a decade to finally get to hear these songs played live. What they got was an experience even better than expected.

Sublime’s biggest strength, in my humble opinion, was always the tight rhythm section drummer Bud Gaugh & bassist Eric Wilson. Hearing them live is a truly earth shattering experience. The grooves were so solid that it was impossible not to move. It was a pleasure hearing this guys play together again, and this was a really strong performance by a pair of veteran musicians.

But, as the reader, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to know how these guys did. You want to know about replacement Brad, the 21 year old Rome Ramirez. Did he pay proper tribute to the fallen and revered singer?

The answer is yes & no.

I’ll start with the no. He did not try to impersonate Nowell. He didn’t duplicate any of his mannerisms, nor did he try to sound exactly like him. In fact, he actually managed to make the songs his own.

And that’s why I say that, yes, this is a respectful tribute to Nowell because this really feels like what Sublime set out to be during his lifetime. Ramirez is an excellent singer, he doesn’t sound like Nowell. Where Nowell had a gruff, world weariness to his voice, Ramirez has a sense of optimism that felt right. He was full of soul and energy, but it still felt like he really knew what he was singing about. This wasn’t a cover band, and it wasn’t karaoke. It was a refreshing take on an older band.

Ramirez is also a very competent guitarist, which is vital when trying to duplicate what is essentially a studio project that tried to incorporate as many genres as possible into a single measure. He could handle the classic reggae of “Smoke Two Joints,” then jump in to Descendents/NoFX flavored “Seed,” the 2nd wave ska of “Wrong Way,” and still handle the folk-flavored “Badfish” without breaking a sweat or feeling disingenuous.

The other element that seperated this project from the original touring Sublime was the inclusion of an extra member. They never introduced, and my internet research has proved inconclusive as to who he is exactly, but he helped fill out the sound nicely. He alternated between various different saxophones and keyboards to help recreate the layered sounds of the records. It was interesting to hear the trombone solo to “Wrong Way” replayed on a baritone sax, and also managed to take the place of the entire horn section for the bands sole hit during Nowell’s lifetime, the still scathing ska punk satire piece “Date Rape,” also the only moment of the night to transform the happy, yet mellow crowd in to an all out circle pit.

Another addition to the band that happened at this show was a special guest appearance by Miguel, Sublime’s producer, a man that had no small part in creating the band’s unique sound. His appearance was brief, but it definitely helped give the band a little more credibility. He played the acoustic guitar to “What I Got,” and if I might use an overused term, he totally killed it.

In whole, they played quite well, and it was a really fun show. The crowd was great, and there is something to be said about being in a room with 3,000 people singing along to every line of every song, with the single exception of the one new song played, which was a fine piece of ska-punk that is leading me to believe that we have more than just a one-off tour, but a band that will record and release new material, and hopefully will be around for years to come.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Joosjoos April 25, 2010 at 3:37 pm

The sax player was Todd Forman, a family physician, who played and recorded with the original sublime. He is awesome, but I agree doesn’t get the proper introduction! I saw the show that night and was blown away by their performance.

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Erik April 26, 2010 at 12:06 am

Yes, that was Todd on sax. He was one of two sax players on all the original sublime stuff. When you listen to the 40oz to Freedom album..that’s Todd on sax.

The manager on acoustic was not Miguel. It was Sublime with Rome’s current Manager. Miguel is a skinny dude with dark, usually buzzed hair.

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Russell April 26, 2010 at 6:15 am

That was not miguel playing, that was their new manager cheez.

You should check your facts!!! Anyone would know that wasnt Happolt playing on stage.

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KillerCali April 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Yep it was Todd on sax and Cheez played what i got with them The show was so awesome on 4/23 it was a day I will never forget every song was awesome I got chills when Rome played the solo for under my voodoo that never happen when I hear the CD. like most I never seen Sublime live and Sublime with Rome is amazing  3 sold out CA shows can’t be worng I was at all 3 and the 7hr drive and speeding ticket from socal so worth it  

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bob May 4, 2010 at 7:23 am

i just was at the show in ny on may 2, it was insane. Dirtyheads are going to be the next big thing and i wouldnt be surprised if they got bigger than sublime. Rome is awesome, he looks like an ugly fat kid but he sings just like brad. Seeing this concert gives me hope for the future of good music at a time where only fags get on the radio.

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Nasa999 May 5, 2010 at 7:59 pm

bob i totally agree with you on so many levels, dirty heads are going to break out their style is good but i don’t know about getting bigger then sublime, maybe in my mind they won’t. and i highly agree with the hope for the future of good music, but not just good music, talented music.

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Mlgjlopez November 6, 2010 at 5:06 am

I just went to the sold out concert at San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino on November 4th and let me tell you, it was awesome!!! The only part that sucked was that it was indoors in the casino and the Rent a cops were being asses but everyone let them know during the song April 26, 187 on a mutha F*cken cop!! haha! I never Listened to the whole Dirty Heads album just their singles and was excited just by that to hear them and they didn’t dissappoint. As for Sublime what can I say but I had chills when Eric played his first cord and Rome sang his first note all the way til the end when they let sanchito know what was good for him. lol Great Show!!!

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