Stephen Kellogg rocks Matoaka

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September 14, 2007

4:57 AM

Continuing their streak of hard-core touring, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, the Massachusetts-based quartet of self-proclaimed rock ’n’ rollers, delighted a tightly packed and energetic audience Friday night at Matoaka Amphitheater. Theirs was the first concert of the new school year in the recently renovated space, and the highly enjoyable, if not highly polished performance of the four musicians did the spiffy new surroundings justice.

p. Ironically, the year’s first show at Matoaka would be the last show for one band member. Frontman Stephen Kellogg announced early in the show that Chris Soucy, the mustachioed, trucker hat-festooned guitarist would be hanging up his Sixer mantle after the night’s show. Kellogg proceeded to explain that, in honor of the occasion, he had let Soucy compile that night’s playlist — a playlist which, coincidentally, called for the bandleader to change guitars after every song. “Well played, sir,” Kellogg remarked with a grin on his face as he changed his instrument yet again.

p. Despite the frequent changes in instrumentation, the band played a rollicking set which brought the audience out of its seats and up to the edge of the stage halfway through the show. “Now it’s a rock concert!” an obviously delighted Kellogg exclaimed. In fact, there were few things which did not seem to delight the rockers, who laughed and joked and jostled each other across the stage all the way through their two-hour set. This enthusiasm, oddly enough, was the source of the scattered, rough-hewn technical moments which pestered the band, such as when a power jump led to the entanglement and disconnection of a keytar cord. Still, the band never lost its momentum or its spirit and continued undeterred, even allowing their frontman to indulge in his frequent, seemingly out-of-nowhere tangents. These included a particularly amusing anecdote about a boyhood trip to Colonial Williamsburg “to see the pilgrims.”

p. But ultimately, the night belonged to Soucy, and when the time came for the Sixers’ traditional lap around the stadium at the end of the show, Kellogg offered to let the guitarist do the honors, on the condition that he do so shirtless. Soucy was quick to oblige, prompting Kellogg to joke, “Okay, now the pants.” Soucy, again, was quick to oblige. After a speedy circle around the pristine rows of grass that provide the new amphitheater’s upper seating — clad only in boxer-briefs and socks — Soucy returned to the stage to play the rest of what is arguably the band’s biggest hit to date, “Thirteen.” The song, like most songs dedicated to 13-year-old girls and French kissing, is inherently blissful and innocent. It marked a fitting end to the band’s good-natured, good-hearted and thoroughly adorable set.

p. The audience was quick to call the band back onto the stage, and the quartet readily obliged. An obviously moved and overjoyed Kellogg thanked the crowd for the encore before launching into one more original song, followed by a superlative cover of the Billy Joel classic “Piano Man,” dedicated to a once again fully clothed Soucy. The guitarist was even given a portion of the song all to himself, before being rejoined by his band mates for a reprise of the enthusiastic comradery which had been the theme of the show. Music aside, it was this sense of jovial brotherhood and the accompanying ear-to-ear grins that ultimately carried the show. Nothing makes a concert better than a band in which every guy on stage is truly enjoying himself.

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