MusicMusic Review

Review: The Verve Pipe at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

The Verve Pipe’s Brian Vander Ark.

Brian Vander Ark may be the last original member of the ’90s alternative rock band The Verve Pipe, but he has smartly surrounded himself with a new group of talented musicians for his band’s re-energized tour.

They were certainly all in fine form during the excellent concert that took place on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at the Tobin Center’s Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater.

Along with the essential performances of such earlier hits as “Faces,” “Photograph” and “The Freshmen,” the band also played songs from recent material such as “Overboard” (2014) and “Parachute” (2017). In a nod to the ever-expanding history of rock and roll, they also delivered an exciting cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” along with an intriguing, art rock rendition of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.”

The group sounded wonderfully resonant, with its mixture of guitars, keyboards and percussion. Brad Phillips’ sizzling violin, featured in several songs, particularly slayed the audience.

Vander Ark’s distinctive vocals were also solid, bringing back memories (to those of the right age) of the Verve Pipe’s first go-around in the early- to mid-1990s. This isn’t a retro show by any means, however. Unlike other groups that are touring to cash in on the thirst for nostalgia longed for by Boomers and Millennials, The Verve Pipe is continuing to make new music — and to win new fans.

Since last year, the Grand Rapids-based Vander Ark has been touring with some of Michigan’s top talent for the “Parachute” tour, including Randy Sly, Lou Musa, Sam Briggs, Channing Lee and Joel Ferguson, as well as special guests guests Mark Byerly, Craig Griffith and the aforementioned Phillips.

As for the Verve Pipe’s recently refreshed line-up, Vander Ark told Local Spins: “No one is bored — that’s for sure. We’re more energized than ever before.”

It took a while to get the mojo back, though. After releasing several studio albums and touring for about 10 years, Vander Ark said that the band felt “stale” in the mid-2000s. Taking a hiatus from rock, he embarked on a solo career with his “Lawn Chairs and Living Rooms Tour. The band also performed on two children’s albums, and Vander Ark collaborated on “Another American Down” with the actor and singer Jeff Daniels.

The clarion call of rock and roll beckoned, however, and the band returned to form with 2014’s “Overboard,” and now are coming back as fixtures on the concert scene.

The Verve Pipe has several U.S. dates scheduled through Jan. 16, 2019. Information and tickets can be found on the band’s website.


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