It was The Rome Show last night at Nautica, and maybe that's fine or maybe that's not fine. But that's what it was.
And that's nothing new. Sublime with Rome has been around for some five or six years now, and they've played Cleveland before. Sublime devotees will have their opinions, but it can't be denied that the band at the very least provides us with memories and those dynamic punk dub tunes we all sort of grew up on. Rome Ramirez doesn't have the connection to those tunes that the late Bradley Nowell did — obvs — but, hey, it's kinda like he's just there and we're all going to have to deal with that if we want to jam out to "What I Got."
Expect the problem now is that Rome has only halfway appropriated the nuances of Nowell's songwriting and vocal inflections as his own — he's contorted them into something new. He warps the cadence of some of 90s alt-rock's greatest hits, and the effect is... unsettling at times.
Nevermind that former drummer Bud Gaugh walked away from this project in what appeared to be disgust. This isn't Sublime, but the stage art forces the mind to contend with that cognitive dissonance and never fully get past it. You wouldn't be wrong if, gazing across the stage last night, you thought this was a solo show from Rome with, like, some backing musicians ensconced in fog and some stylized Sublime art hung from the rafters.
Still, the canon is a fun one, and we all ate up the band's nice renditions of "Pawn Shop," "Badfish," "Garden Grove," etc. When the band struck up "Doin' Time," it was impossible not to cast one's eyes across the river and give in to what we know best: "Summertiiiiiiiime, and the livin's easy..."
It should also be noted that the band pulled out a handful of original tunes. They sounded really great — very much of the Sublime family tree while putting some distance between Rome and Nowell's vibes. (One can't help but look over at Badfish with raised eyebrows — those guys found a way to separate their vision from the Sublime legacy.)
Pepper and Rebelution, for their parts, killed it. Both bands have been around the touring circuit for a long while, and they're both in top form. For my money, I'm not sure I've ever heard a crowd go as berserk as they did last night when Rebelution wrapped their set. The fans were terrific all night.
In the end, hey, this is a good summertime bill. It's a fun show. I realize it's a bit late in the game to sort of try to hash out the Sublime-meets-Rome challenges, but the band's posturing just makes it too hard to get around that.