July 30 saw the band welcomed by the Hollywood casino in Grantville, PA. by Ryan O’Malley

The early to mid 1990’s proved to be a launching pad for the grunge and alternative rock movements, with the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden leading the pack in terms of grunge. While grunge faded out throughout the decade, alternative rock persevered, and one act who has continued to carry on while continuously putting out new music is Georgia-based outfit Collective Soul. Along with a seemingly constant supply of new music, the band has been enjoying non-stop touring including a July 30 appearance at the outdoor stage at the Hollywood Casino and Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa.

When you think back to their heyday, you almost have to wonder how the band will incorporate new material into a set list that is already chalk-full of their radio-friendly hits. After nearly 30 years together, the band has found the perfect blend of new and old material that equates to a highly enjoyable 90 minute set. Taking the stage right around 9pm, vocalist Ed Roland greeted the medium-sized crowd with smiles and a wave before the band launched into “Precious Declaration,” a fan favorite from 1997’s “Disciplined Breakdown” album. The band has never really veered away from that infectious alternative rock sound that built their career, and it was clear to see with a lively “All Our Pieces” from their forthcoming release, “Vibrating.”

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Knowing that it can be easy to lose the crowd’s interest by including too many new songs in a row, the band kept the crowd in the palm of their hands with spirited versions of “Heavy,” and the single that helped break them into the mainstream in 1993, “Shine,” which featured Ed Roland doing a piano intro before the outfit kicked into the infectious power chord riff. “Undone,” another cut from the yet-to-be-released “Vibrating” album led into 2004’s “Better Now.” It is certainly interesting to hear the band’s early to mid 2000’s material, as the outfit stuck true to their roots, but unfortunately, alternative rock was being pushed aside at the time.

Roland – the sometimes eccentric front man whose stage presence pushes the performance art envelope – talked about how he recently wanted to write a protest song, but hit a roadblock when trying to pen the lyrics, so instead he paid tribute to who he feels is the master of protest songs, Bob Dylan, with an acoustic “Bob Dylan Where Are You Today?”

Showing just how popular the band was in the 90’s, they delivered a trippy “She Said,” a song that was written for the soundtrack to the teen slasher flick “Scream 2.”

When you’re at a Collective Soul show, one thing is guaranteed: singalongs. Such was the case with their enormously popular hit “The World I Know.” The band has been playing the song for the better part of 25 years, so some things might sound a bit different after all that time. For instance, Roland’s vocal inflection during the chorus was slightly different from the studio version, but bassist and musical director Will Turpin made sure it wasn’t that noticeable by having his band mates – drummer Johnny Rabb, lead guitarist Jesse Triplett and Roland’s brother, Dean, on rhythm guitar – make the song sound as fresh today as it did in 1997.

With the end of the show nearing, the onslaught of hits continued including a spot-on version of another massive hit from 1997, “December.” Longtime fans of the band know they hailed from near Athens. Georgia and Roland wanted to pay homage to one of the bands who helped Georgia’s music hit the mainstream. After jokingly trying to get Triplett to play The B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” Roland brought out opening acts Jade Jackson and Jon Foreman from Switchfoot for an enjoyable rendition of the early R.E.M. hit “The One I Love.” Jackson’s smoky vocals provided a unique sound to the chorus of the number which was well-received by the crowd.

After a one-two shot of the early hits “Gel” and “Where the River Flows,” the band wrapped up the night with a song most people probably weren’t expecting, “Run,” a reflective song that was written for the soundtrack of the teenage coming of age drama, “Varsity Blues.” It was a nearly perfect way to end a night of celebrating one of the prominent alternative rock groups of the last 30 years who show no signs of stopping any time soon.

Prior to the band’s headlining slot, Jade Jackson had a short set of sultry singer songwriter material, followed by a 75 minute performance from California’s Switchfoot. While the band did perform its two biggest hits – “Meant To Live” and “Dare You to Move” – their set list may have been a bit too long as some people in the crowd were leaving their seats to get beer or food; something that wasn’t seen during Collective Soul’s set.

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