Fastball : Live

<img src="" alt=" " />The high seas were a-rockin’ when Fastball took to the ocean aboard the Half Moon as part of Rocks Off Concert Cruises....

  The Austin, Texas-based band is actually a better fit for a ‘booze cruise’ than you might first think: there’s their 2000 single, “You’re an Ocean”, and when they launched that record, The Harsh Light Of Day, their label actually had them play on a boat in Los Angeles.  Now they’ve “come full circle”, like the Half Moon circling The Statue of Liberty, with a set replete with both classics and a galley full of new material.

Currently shopping their untitled new record (on their MySpace page, they challenged fans to name it – win, and you get an autographed copy, plus a pair of backstage passes), Fastball nicely mixed it in among their older tracks.  This was effective from the get-go, going new-old-new-old with “Little White Lies”, “Fire Escape”, “She’s Got the Rain”, and “Ocean”.  “Lies” and “Rain” both had a nice blues/funk feel to them, and were given an anthemistic nature on the boat, with the close-up crowd.  “Fire Escape” was as catchy as when it was a single from 1998’s All the Pain Money Can Buy (it’s video featured Entertainment Tonight’s Pat O’Brien, pre-“Let’s get some hookers; let’s get some blow…”), while “You’re an Ocean” played more rocking, standing up tall even without its great piano (some things don’t make it onto the boat…).

Fastball playing You’re an Ocean live on Rocks Off Concert Cruises’ Half Moon, NY:

Playing two hit singles so early on in the set could have been a bit risky, but it got the crowd early (and you know it would have just been a matter of time before people started jokingly shouting for “Ocean”…).  Fastball did another good move, simmering things down with Harsh’s “Vampires”, which surprisingly got more emotional power without its orchestral back up, and in the seemingly not-too-serious setting.  And then the band hit it with two of their best new songs, “Rampart Street” and “All I Was Looking For Was You”, a pair of fun blues/rock/pop tracks that worked well on the crowd of mostly first-time listeners (“Looking” is featured on their MySpace page).  As one might expect, the Rocks Off Concert Cruises generally tend towards the more straight-up rock ‘n’ roll, and Fastball’s more touching songs, like “Vampires”, Pain’s “Out of My Head”, and Harsh’s “Don’t Give Up On Me” played more rockin’.  “Lou-ee Lou-ee”, the European single from the band’s last record, 2004’s Keep Your Wig On, didn’t need any help in that department, however…

Fastball playing Out of My Head live on Rocks Off Concert Cruises’ Half Moon, NY:

In the second half of their set (which impressively played at over an hour – and singer/guitarist Tony Scalzo said they could have covered the entire three-hour tour, even if there hadn’t been an opener), things did slip a bit, first with a pair of new tracks.  “The Modern World” was more of a haunting rock piece, which didn’t really fit with the setting, and the blues/funk “Always Never” wasn’t quite as strong as “Lies” or “Rain”.  And the crowd seemed a little perplexed by Wig’s “Til I Get It Right”, which was a shame, as the country-twang road-fun piece is one of the band’s best (though, for some reason, Scalzo messed up the references to Gang of Four and The Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady…).

But everything was brought back when the band found “The Way”, their first hit single from Pain, which had the (admittedly getting steadily drunker) crowd going nuts.  New piece “Mono To Stereo” had some twang-y blues/rock fun, though the following new “White Noise” was a little unremarkable.  Scalzo also broke a string, but the band didn’t miss a beat, as fellow singer/guitarist Miles Zuniga answered appeals from the crowd and the rest of Fastball did Pain’s slower “Slow Drag” while Scalzo re-stringed.  The piece kept up its grand nature, and that flowed well into the new “Soul Radio”, whose grand rock was amped up by a guitar solo.

The encore break was just long enough to get yourself another beer – it’s not like the band, or the crowd, had anywhere else they could go…  Fastball returned with their contribution to the soundtrack of Freddie Prinze Jr./Jessica Biel teen baseball flick, 2001’s Summer Catch, “Every Time She Walks” (“You ever seen that movie, Summer Statue of LibertyCatch?”  “If you have, I feel bad for you…” – Zuniga) – luckily, the pop/rock love song is Catch-y in any Summer.  As The Half Moon roared back into port, the band likewise finished with a nice, upbeat, blues/funk/rock cover of a Small Faces song.

Rocks Off Concert Cruises’ Half Moon (QRO venue review) isn’t the perfect place for a show, given the middling sound system, lack of any stage riser, openness to the elements (the top above the second level stage area is really just the top of the boat with a sophisticated tent/tarp above it; the windows are clear plastic that can be rolled up and down), and, oh, yeah, you’re on a boat.  However, the sound system is still better than you might think, the crowd is capable of creating a semi-circle around the band, giving more viewpoints, the rain stopped by the time Fastball went on (though the fans had to be the ones to re-open the windows), and the shaking is really just limited to when in port.  The view of New York is also quite impressive, headlined by The Statue of Liberty (which nicely first appeared while Fastball was setting up), and, thanks to the darker skies upon returning, on the return trip one sees a different, nighttime lights New York City.

And Fastball played it just right, working with the crowd and outright enjoying the unusual surroundings.  Scalzo proclaimed, “Our next gig will be even further out – our next gig will be in international waters” (with which a few people quickly cried out for “joy of a monkey knife fight”, as was featured on Homer’s party in international waters on The Simpsons).  Just please release the new record before you head out for the open waves…

Fastball playing Fire Escape live on Rocks Off Concert Cruises’ Half Moon, NY:

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