Brixton Academy

by John Aizlewood
The Guardian Newspaper
November 24, 2001

It’s difficult not to feel at least a smidgen of sympathy for the multi-million-selling Bush. Not only are the Londoners a 21st-century Foghat – big in the US, object of ridicule over here – they are also saddled with the burden of being seen as Nirvana with a better looking singer. The rejection by their homeland still burns: when singer Gavin Rossdale announces, “I was born in this town. I live in this town”, it’s less about pandering to his audience than a clear confirmation that he just can’t let it go.

Rossdale has written every note of every song on their four albums. Live, the imbalance remains uncorrected. Rossdale, all David Bowie cheekbones and Hugh Grant hair, is a star – and doesn’t he know it? He changes his shirt after two songs, his banter is risible, his guitar-playing at best rudimentary, and his gesture of choice a limp-wristed wave. And yet the man is mesmerizing. Impressively backlit, he pogos like an energetic kangaroo, diving into the audience on two occasions, and when he stands on his own personal stage, towering above his colleagues – guitarist Nigel Pulsford and bassist Dave Parsons are allowed one brief turn – it seems somehow fair and just.

Bush are not US stadium staples by sheer good fortune; Rossdale’s music is as all-encompassing as his aura. The Nirvana comparisons are irrefutable: it would be better if they simply covered Smells Like Teen Spirit and had done with it. Even so, Rossdale has mastered the slow-fast-slow grunge template, and the formula remains unchanged from the opening blast of Solutions to the singalong finale of Little Things. Few touches deviate, but nothing is less than thrilling and little is indulgent.

The band are tightly drilled but, like Kurt Cobain, Rossdale is covertly a man of pop. Each Bush song, particularly The Chemicals Between Us and the mighty Swallowed, has a chorus worthy of the Lightning Seeds. If Rossdale leaves a legacy behind him, it will be to have seamlessly merged pop and grunge.