Saint Petersburg, Florida (July 11, 2018) – It’s Wednesday evening in Saint Petersburg, FL at Al Lang Stadium. Apparently, someone put a train station here as the Rock N’ Roll Express has pulled into town with three awesome passengers, Soul Asylum, Collective Soul, and 3 Doors Down. Tonight, these three bands are making a stop on their Rock and N’ Roll Express tour here in Saint Petersburg, FL. This tour features Collective Soul and 3 Doors Down for the full duration of its 30 city stops, with Soul Asylum featured at selected stops along the way.
With typical Florida summertime weather in the air, this means thunderstorms are out and about and can pop up at any moment anywhere. As I was making my way towards the stadium, off in the distance it was looking ominous. Al Lang Stadium is the home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the United Soccer League. While it is a great venue for soccer and concerts, it’s outdoors and storms were in the area; so, everyone had one eye towards the sky. As it got closer to show time it turns out that mother nature is a fan of live music outside and the storms skirted us just as Soul Asylum was getting ready to take the stage. Now that the sky was clear it was time for the show! With a clear sky and an audience that was hungry for music, Soul Asylum took the stage. Formed in 1981 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this alternative rock band has gone through several line up changes through the years with only founding member and vocalist Dave Pirner still in the group. The current line up has Ryan Smith on guitars, Winston Roye on bass, and Michael Bland the drummer, as well as Dave Pirner. Tonight, wasn’t about playing nothing but their hits, it was a nice mix of hits and deep cuts. The first song to open the night was “Misery” off their album “Let your Dim Light Shine”. From the opening note, Dave Pirner sounded great and new guitarist Ryan Smith brought his talents and a ton of energy to the stage. Continuing from their album “Let your Dim light Shine” they went straight into “Shut Down”. When they launched into their hit song “Somebody to Shove”, the audience joined in with David Pirner when he sang the chorus! From their 2006 release “The Silver Lining” came their next song “Whatcha Need”. Dave Pirner then lets the audience know that their next song was something they just put together in the dressing room. Then they launched into arguably their biggest hit “Runaway Train”. Everyone was on their feet and singing note for note with the band. It was one of those moments when you get caught up in the song and forget about everything else. Dipping back into their “The Silver Lining” release, they launched into “Bus Named Desire”. The Final song of their set came from “Grave Dancers Union” their biggest album, and another of their hits “April Fool”. Throughout their set, one thing was clear to me, these guys ROCK live. While they didn’t have time for a full set, they used every second of the time they did have to focus on their music and play an amazing set.
When it was time for Collective Soul to perform, the place was packed, and everyone was waiting for Ed Roland and company to hit the stage. Ed Roland, the founder of Collective Soul, had been involved in the Atlanta, GA, underground music scene for years before finally forming Collective Soul in 1992. Besides lead singer Ed Roland, he is joined on stage with his brother Dean the rhythm guitarist, Will Turpin on bass, drummer Johnny Rabb, and lead guitar player Jesse Triplett. Coming out on stage in a red wide-brimmed hat, Over-sized glasses and neatly dressed in a vest over his long-sleeved shirt, I was thinking that he was going to stay put near a fan in the Florida heat. Boy, was I wrong! From the moment he started with the song “Now’s the Time” he was a whirling dervish of energy! He never backed off for a second when they launched into “Over me”. When the song was over, he was exhorting the crowd to get on its feet, this was after all a rock concert! When the band launched into its first big hit, “Shine” the crowd finally caught up to Ed Roland’s energy. As Ed Roland continued to strut around the stage and dance with his microphone stand, he never missed a beat and his voice was spot on. If you thought they would take it easy, you’d be mistaken because they kept their foot to the floor when they played another of their hits “Heavy”. After playing “Why Part 2” they played “Better Now” with guitarist Jesse Triplett playing a particularly fierce solo. After the song, Ed Roland gave him his due when he said, “now that is a lead guitar player!”. They continued to play more of their hits like “Precious Declaration” and “December”. After the songs “Right as Rain” and “Observation of Thought,” they finally slowed things down with a beautifully performed version of “The World I know”. Now that everyone had their breather it was time to get the party started again when they played another of their big hits “Gel”. After this came “Where the River Flows”. They closed out their set in a beautiful fashion with Ed Roland simply playing an acoustic guitar and drummer Johnny Rabb playing tambourine while letting the audience sing the words, with the band walking off stage while Ed continued to play.
Now it was time for the last band of the Rock N’ Roll Express tour, 3 Doors Down to hit the stage. In 1996 3 Doors Down was formed in Escatawpa, Mississippi. The current members of the band are Brad Arnold the lead singer, lead guitarist Chet Roberts, Chris Henderson the rhythm guitarist, bassist Justin Biltonen, and on drums Greg Upchurch. As the band started to take the stage and began to play the first few notes of “Duck and Run”, at that point Brad Arnold came out and that’s when the energy level shot through the roof. As he prowled the stage while singing their hit song the crowd was loving it. Immediately afterward they shot right into “Time of my life” all throughout the song all the members worked every inch of the stage, including jumping up on risers on either side of the stage to the delight of everyone that was nearby. They kept pouring it on when they performed another of their hits “Not My Time”. As the crowd was singing along, you could tell that the band was digging it as Brad broke into a big smile. This was followed up with “Away From the Sun”, “Let Me Go” then “Going Down in Flames” during this song, there were some really cool flames playing on the video screens that were part of the stage setup. As the show continued, when it came time to play “Be Like that” from the album “The Better Life” the crowd was eating up what the band was serving. As they were getting ready to play their next song “Citizen Soldier”, Brad Arnold dedicated it to all the soldiers that serve the country. After that came “Danko”. The next song for the night was a cover of the Charlie Daniels song “In America” in which Brad he said “With everything going on in America, and all the media portraying this divided nation, that’s bullsh**! This is America. That’s what this song’s about”. When it came time for their hit “Loser”, it became another sing-along. The last song of their set was another of their big hits “Kryptonite” which at one point they changed things up for a bit with a funky reggae chorus towards the end of the song. As they left the stage the crowd was screaming for more and more they got. The band came out and delivered a beautifully delivered version of “Here without you”. The final song of the evening was a perfect choice to close out the night “When I’m Gone”.
What a night everyone was treated to. All three bands brought there best and all I heard as I was leaving was people buzzing about how good the concert was. From the rain avoiding the show at the last second, to a gorgeous sunset in the middle of Collective Soul’s set, to a great night under the stars listening to 3 Doors Down. If you want to see a great night of music, do yourself a favor and make sure to catch the Rock N’ Roll Express, it will be a rock n’ roll ride that you will love every second of.