Under The Sun Tour Lights Up The Paramount in Huntington [Concert Review]

Sugar Ray
Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath serenades the packed crowd at The Paramount Tuesday, July 29, 2014 during the band’s high-octane set on the Under The Sun Tour. (Nikki Donato/Long Island Press)

The second annual ’90s nostalgia train aptly named the “Under the Sun Tour,” co-headlined by multi-hit wonders Smash Mouth, Uncle Kracker, Sugar Ray and Blues Traveler, shook The Paramount to its core on July 29th, delivering an electrifying barrage of number-one hits, fan favorites and new jams that kept the energy level high throughout the evening.

Testament to the tour’s draw, although it was a Tuesday night, all the surrounding parking lots and streets were jam-packed with carloads of antsy time-travelers waiting to be transported back to the days of MTV and VH1.

First up to set the tone that would carry on throughout the whole show were late ’90s hit-single slingers Smash Mouth. In the standing-room only section of the theater, tons of patrons filed in tightly toward the front of the stage. After opening with their cover of the 1967 song “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby,” the party-time atmosphere was thick with memories and there was no turning back.

“Unbelievable!” exclaimed longtime fan Kelly Holst. “They rocked it!”

“It was like THIS,” declared his unnamed buddy, proceeding to jump up and down.

Next to step to the plate was Uncle Kracker, who fired off a playful mix of covers, hit singles of the ’90s, and guiltily cheated the tour intention a bit with his 2009 single “Smile.” He creatively toyed with his breakout single “Follow Me” by mashing it up with AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” to kick off his hour, and followed it in similar fashion for the remainder.

A delightful sing-along ensued at the first chord strum of “Drift Away,” as expected. Then shoving all egos further aside, Uncle closed it out with fellow summertime hit singer Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” to readily prepare the audience for upcoming kings of summer, Sugar Ray.

Once Sugar Ray’s forever-handsome front man Mark McGrath emerged, it was impossible not to take notice of his outfit choice—a clear homage to the Sugar Ray image he’d painted nearly two decades ago. Donning his usual blonde spiked hair, black short-sleeved button down collared shirt, form-fitting black jeans, bright red sneakers, and his signature jet-black sunglasses, he could have just as easily been ready for a TRL interview.

Still, Sugar Ray isn’t ready to hang up their recording jackets just yet, because they began their otherwise nostalgia-ridden set with a new jam called “Summertime’s Coming,” which plays to all Sugar Ray’s established strengths: a laid-back summertime tune laced with happy guitar chords and hyper-catchy lyrics about girls in bikinis.

Much like his ability to make women swoon, McGrath’s energy has yet to wither, even slightly. He ran nonstop laps to and fro, stopping only to hop up on speakers and shake his behind to every Sugar Ray classic, including: “Someday,” “Do It Again,” “Every Morning, When It’s Over,” and of course, “Fly.” Ironically enough, perhaps the highlight of the night as a whole was when they performed “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes. The place went bananas. McGrath later nodded to the bulk demographic of his audience “You can’t have the ’90s without the ’80s!”

After three high-energy set lists, it was hard to fathom another. Then Blues Traveler happened. Singer and harmonica player John Popper was sure to display his genius, captivating an exhausted room straight away with his fast talk and unimaginable harmonica wails in a rendition of “Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Once the Dosey Does subdued, they carried on in true Under The Sun Tour fashion with the hits, playing ’93’s “Run Around” to a warmed-up and possibly liquored-up mass begged an enthusiastic response, and “The Hook,” which had folks giggling as they fumbled through the fast-talked lyrics of another time.

Each set list was around an hour long and not one summer hit of the Nineties was spared. The between-periods were reminiscent of an NHL line change: smooth, efficient and swift, leaving just enough time to run to one of the three surrounding bars for a drink.

After all, it was a Tuesday night, and workday bedtimes were acknowledged. Thanks for that, guys.

For more information on future shows at The Paramount in Huntington, check out their page in The Island Ear