The historic Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, welcomed multi-platinum recording artists Better Than Ezra to town on Wednesday night. Built in 1930, this 1,800-capacity venue was originally designed in a Spanish baroque style and has a general admission floor setting with an upper, seated balcony area. Better Than Ezra, now in the final week of their Legends of the Fall 2022 tour, continued to be supported by Nashville-based musician Bones Owens.
The Missouri-bred Owens, self-described as having “a powerful sound deeply inspired by ’60s garage-rock, Hill Country blues, and the swampy roots-rock of bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival,” took the stage shortly after 8:00pm. Fronting a trio, Owens performed a rocking, in-your-face set of original tunes that certainly had some Tennessee swagger and anger to it. My personal favorite was “Rambler,” a track off his 2021 self-titled release that was produced by five-time Grammy Award nominee Paul Moak. Owens music was probably a bit of a sound departure for the BTE-era audience, but we are in the South, so I am sure he picked up some new fans.
Having graduated college at the height of Better Than Ezra’s popularity in the mid-90s, I believe I am qualified to state that the crowd patiently waiting for the show to begin definitely had that vibe of a fraternity house 30-year reunion party. Then, as the clock just passed 9:15pm, the BTE logo illuminated behind the backline instruments and the band kicked off their set with the song “Turn Up the Bright Lights” from their seventh studio album, the 2009-released Paper Empire.
Anchored by founding members Kevin Griffin (lead vocals, guitar) and Tom Drummond (bass), Better Than Ezra was rounded out by long-time guitarist/keyboardist James Arthur Payne Jr., along with Michael Jerome on the drums. Now, while I had fully expected to come to this show and enjoy live performances of BTE’s hits like “Good” and “Desperately Wanting,” what I didn’t expect was how musically dynamic the evening would become, nor how pleasantly charming Griffin was with the crowd. This show literally felt like a backyard jam.
In fact, the 54-year-old Griffin was born in Atlanta, and recounted to the fans how he spent the afternoon breaking bread with fellow Georgian Ed Roland from Collective Soul at the Atlanta Fish Market. While eating, as Griffin’s story goes, they were approached by a fan that asked if BTE could play “This Time of Year” at the show for his birthday. Griffin asked him his name, which also turned out to be Kevin, so he said “I can’t turn you down now.” I believe Griffin inserted it either before or after “Grateful” in the setlist.
A few other memorable moments from BTE’s performance included when Griffin said, “I think we are the only ’90s band left that is still together, so now we have to play all their hits, too,” to which they then played a Sublime melody and a perfect, full cover version of “Wonderwall” by Oasis. Better Than Ezra also showcased a brand new song called “Mystified,” which Griffin said would be part of a new album release in March 2023, their first since 2014.
Better Than Ezra will wrap up their fall 2022 touring schedule at the House of Blues in Houston, Texas, this coming Sunday, November 6.
Better Than Ezra
Tom Drummond – bass guitar, backing vocals
Kevin Griffin – lead vocals, guitar, piano
Michael Jerome – drums, backing vocals
James Arthur Payne Jr. – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
1.) Turn Up the Bright Lights
2.) King of New Orleans
5.) A Lifetime
8.) Extra Ordinary
10.) Wonderwall (Oasis cover)
13.) Sincerely, Me
14.) Desperately Wanting
15.) Laid (James cover)
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