Sugar Ray took the stage in downtown Stamford, CT as rain threatened to pour. The band performed as part of the city’s weekly summer Alive@5 concert series. The band’s frontman, Mark McGrath, promised the crowd filling the closed off Main Street that rain would not scare the band away. This show took place in between McGrath’s stops on the I Love the 90’s Tour, which features an eclectic variety of 90’s groups including TLC and C + C Music Factory. The full band has now played the city’s Alive@5 event for the third time. McGrath, as a Connective native, celebrated being back in his birthplace. The singer referred to the audience as brothers and sisters and thanked them for their support of the band after more than 20 years of touring. It’s been a busy week for McGrath, who released a music video earlier this week for his new single with John Stamos and Mike Love of The Beach Boys. The trio put a new spin on The Beach Boys 1968 single ‘Do It Again.’
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The set opened with one of McGrath’s solo EP tracks, ‘Summertime is Coming,’ from the 2015 album of the same name. As the remaining founding members of the band, McGrath and guitarist Rodney Frasier acknowledged Sugar Ray may not be at the height of popularity, but they bring back a strong nostalgia for the 90’s. Along with bassist Kristian Attard and drummer Dean Butterworth, the quartet played a string of hits from the band’s two most popular albums, ‘14:59’ and ‘Sugar Ray’, released in 1999 and 20001, respectively. This part of the set included beachy pop/rock songs ‘Someday,’ ‘Every Morning’ and ‘When It’s Over.’ McGrath added commentary in between each of the hits, including his self-fulfilling prophecy of writing ‘When It’s Over’ and a resulting breakup. The set also included McGrath playing a green shamrock-covered guitar on the punk-influenced 2002 song, ‘Answer the Phone.’ McGrath joked to millennials that the song came about in a time before texting when people called on the phone and left answering machine messages.
As the clouds behind the stage cleared and an orange sunset was behind the stage, McGrath announced the band would finish out the set with a 20-minute blues instrumental set. The band jokingly cut in several times during his speech and launched into The Violent Femmes’ 1982 song ‘Blister in the Sun.’ The group honored other bands during the set, paying homage to their early punk influences. They played ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, a 1976 classic by The Ramones. Sugar Ray honored their own band’s roots, playing ‘Mean Machine,’ a heavy metal rock song from their 1995 debut, ‘Lemonade and Brownies.’ McGrath ended the show with a different kind of tribute. He honored his recently passed friend, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington. Bennington committed suicide the morning of the concert. McGrath emphasized that there are people to help if you are going through a difficult time. He cheekily referenced the band’s 2009 cover of the Weezer song, ‘Love is the Answer.’ For the final song, the band and audience alike celebrated Bennington’s life while swaying to the band’s 1997 hit, ‘Fly.’