The alt-rock band played a summer homecoming show on Saturday that checked a lot of boxes and featured the return of Brad Vander Ark. The review and photos.
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For Brian Vander Ark, frontman for The Verve Pipe, Saturday’s return to the outdoor amphitheater at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park had the makings of “a spectacular night” for more than one reason.
It represented the platinum-selling West Michigan alt-rock band’s first Grand Rapids concert in more than a year after being forced to cancel more than 40 shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even more significantly, it marked the first time in two decades that Vander Ark’s brother, Brad, rejoined The Verve Pipe on a Michigan stage, performing “old-school” tunes as well as new material from a studio album set for release in October.
“My emotions range from relief to anxiety,” Brian Vander Ark told Local Spins ahead of Saturday’s concert. “I’ve always had butterflies before the show, which is why we always perform well. The key is, care enough to do something really special every night and don’t be afraid to get out of the box.”
The Verve Pipe checked both of those boxes on a sunny and humid Saturday for a crowd of 1,600-plus that was more than ready to embrace the amphitheater atmosphere again.
‘“What a way to get back into live music,” Vander Ark said as he waved to the cheering audience, a little more than hour after rainclouds had cleared away.
THE CLASSICS AND AN ENCORE OF ICONIC TUNES
With many family members and friends in the audience, the Vander Ark brothers and fellow band members reveled in the West Michigan homecoming, rolling out a mix over two sets that included everything from up-tempo rockers to acoustic ballads.
Backing singer Channing Lee even used a loop pedal for a mid-show a cappella song, showcasing her bright vocals that shined through the entire night.
The pleasant, relaxed show-goers stood up and danced to the band’s classics, including “Cup of Tea,” “Spoonful of Sugar, Colorful, and of course, their biggest hit — “The Freshmen.”
With the crowd sufficiently hyped-up, the band wrapped it up with an encore of two iconic songs: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult and “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac.
“It’s going to be rocking,” Vander Ark had predicted before the show.
The band and its fans on Saturday made sure of that.
PHOTO GALLERY: The Verve Pipe at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Anthony Norkus