Mocked as Nirvanawannabes nearly a decade ago, the British band was seen as a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies to grunge. As the years passed, however, Nirvana buckled tragically under the weight of its own anti-heroism, Alice in Chains went on a hiatus that rivals that of Guns N' Roses and Pearl Jam sank into self-parody - even worse, possibly, than a Weird Al parody (Yankovic's "My Baby's in Love with Eddie Vedder" bursts with the humor the band lacks).
Meanwhile, Bush quietly soldiered on, releasing a solid fourth album in late 2001 and watching it get pummeled by the likes of Linkin Park and Britney Spears before "Golden State" slipped off the Billboard charts altogether.
Has-beens like their peers? Don't think so. Ask the capacity crowd Saturday at the Eagles Ballroom why they braved a snowstorm to see the band. The answer is simple. Bush rocks.
The British quartet may be quiet at the cash register these days, but the band brings a raw, pure rock 'n' roll energy to its live shows that feels all the more vital in this era of lip-synching Barbie dolls and mopey nu-metal mooks.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Bush is fronted by the famously handsome Gavin Rossdale. His band mates, credible musicians all, are virtually anonymous onstage. Rossdale isn't just a pretty face, however.
Saturday, even more so than at previous Milwaukee dates, Rossdale managed to be both Everyman and rock star. He chatted between songs about the dismal weather like an ordinary guy. Then he dashed offstage and up the stairs to the balcony to finish "Everything Zen," enlisting the help of a fan to hold his cordless mike as he played guitar.
The shortness of the band's 75-minute set was balanced by its pacing. With virtually no downtime, Bush managed to perform all its radio hits, including "The Chemicals Between Us" and "Machinehead," and still introduce the crowd to much of "Golden State."
Opening with the punkish new "The People That We Love," the band also performed its current single, "Headful of Ghosts," early in the set. The song, with its haunting chorus of "Where are my bones/Why are my days so far from home," easily joins "Come Down" and "Glycerine" (both in the evening's set list) as some of the band's finest material.
A pair of new songs, "Solutions" and the slightly creepy "Inflatable" ("You're so pretty in white/pretty when you're faithful") brought the energy down mid-set - perhaps fortunately, calming an Ozzfest-intensity mosh pit in the center of the ballroom.
Some classic Bush songs got a live update: "Chemicals" lost its techno leanings for a more muscular rock sound; and "Zen" began with a slow, teasing intro.
By the time the encores, including "Glycerine," began, Bush's greatest achievement was obvious. The band once dismissed as derivative has cultivated its own distinctive sound - and a fan base loyal even though it's no longer the flavor of the month at MTV.