Making peace 

Weather holds out for another On the Bricks show

CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK, June 22 -- The smell of barbecue smoke peppers the usually noxious Atlanta air as Centennial Park again provides a temporary oasis, as it has done for the past four Fridays. With the cooperation of the weather, the entrance gates (thankfully not the floodgates) are opened for the On the Bricks concert, which last week featured locals the Tender Idols, British band Doves and Canadians Our Lady Peace.

It has been reported that 120,000 people attended concerts so far, to see bands such as Better Than Ezra, Staind and Vertical Horizon on the Centennial Park lawn opposite the Disney-esque fountain show. When your free time is as short as the distance between bumpers during Atlanta's rush hour, it's easy to forget such a calming piece of green exists in the city.

With the CNN building to the back, Midtown's skyscrapers on the horizon and the sun reflecting off golden-green tinted-windows to the side, all types of underdressed and overdressed kids (hiking boots to high heels) file in the gates -- past beer stands, Marine recruiters and booths selling "Chicks on the Bricks" one shoulder-style shirts (how high fashion has fallen) as they stride down the rain-saturated hill toward the stage.

The 99X-sponsored On the Bricks -- Atlanta's version of a free concert series such as New York's SummerStage, without the eclectic thrill -- is frequented most heavily by the younger, Blink-182-loving segment of the 99X demographic. When tripping over blankets full of tan blondes who look like living Abercrombie & Fitch ads, it feels as though many kids are attending more for the event than to actually see the bands.

As mod-pop locals the Tender Idols take the stage, only 10 or 15 minutes after the gates open, many kids near the back remain seated or continue to wander while the glam sweep and charming chime of the music mingles with them. Having recently signed to E-Magine Music, the Tender Idols play many of the songs from their recent album, Distressor, including "Man Out of Season," "Washed Away" and "One More Life," while mixing in songs like the title track to their last album, Step on Over.

Next up are an actual British band, Doves, having another go at a North American tour behind the swooning psychedelia of last year's full-length debut, Lost Souls. Rather nonchalantly, the T-shirt and jeans-wearing band rip into a tight set list if not quite as tight a set. A hopeful request tossed on stage gets shot down as Doves launch into Lost Soul's most buoyant rocker, "Catch the Sun," the real sun sagging heavily overhead.

The set includes "Rise," the resounding, circular beats of "Here it Comes" and Lost Souls' highlight, "The Cedar Room," as the mood changes with the switch from acoustic guitar to electric bass. Doves only pound out five or six (albeit long) songs during their unceremonious set before closing with "New York," what appears to be a new song that points toward their future material having more of an upbeat, immediate and visceral impact.

After a short recess and the arrival of the bulk of the crowd, headliners Our Lady Peace take the stage. With a high-pitched slur reminiscent of Kurt Cobain, Our Lady Peace's vocals suggest grunge rock, while their music betrays more of the indulgent arena-rock influence from which Cobain's long-deceased Seattle movement would have shied. Chunky power chords pick up the crowd and the next thing you know, surfers are sailing overhead.

With a friend from L.A. filling in for their usual drummer, Our Lady Peace run through tracks off their new concept album, Spiritual Machines (based on a book about the gaining of consciousness and artificial intelligence of machines), as well as their modern-rock radio hits they have scored since 1995. The set ranges from new songs such as "Right Behind You" to well-known sing-a-longs like "Superman's Dead," and the on-stage antics include leaning at the edge of the stage to hanging off the scaffolding.

Finally, after crowd favorites such as "Car Crash" and "Starseed," Our Lady Peace relinquish the stage, the people file out and 99X returns downtown to the daring. That is, until next week's performance continues to lay the sturdy brick foundation on which to build years of successful and safe free summer concerts.

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