In a Battle Royale of up and coming “The” bands (the et cetera for the Hives and the Strokes), the (much-hyped) Datsuns took on the (approaching-the-radar) Sights. The outcome of the evening at the Metro in Chicago on the night of the 3rd of April in the year 2003 was a win for the band from Detroit, the Sights. Ready for the cliché? A “sight” to see for sure. Want another? A “sight” for sore eyes, indeed. And here’s a headline for the headliners: The Datsuns “stalled”. The caption? “The Datsuns should have put on their ‘hazards’ during the show for they ran out of ‘gas’ about three songs into their set.”
All right, enough glib and pithy—we’ll leave that to Blender. The bottom line is that the Sights came in with a lot to prove to a crowd that barely knew who they were. It is a testament to their efforts that by the end of their set, the previously unknown group sold many a CD to hungry audience members. Group founder and lead singer-songwriter Eddie Baranek provides the blueprint for the band not only with killer hooks and the tuneful prowess of his guitar, but also with enthusiasm not seen since the beloved “Balki Bartokomous” came to visit “Cousin Larry” on Perfect Strangers. To be sure, “fun” is the main key for this young group from Detroit Rock City: they’re having it, their songs are filled with it, and their stage persona is it.
If Robbie Robertson were struck by lightning he’d sound like the Sights. By combining a Motown focus on song structure with an electrocuted jolt of classic rock on songs like “Don’t Want You Back”, the Sights have the chops to become something larger than the sum of their parts. So far in a short career, nothing they’ve created on record matches the abandon that makes their live show a must-see. Similar to peers the Mooney Suzuki, the studio is the next frontier. Credit must go to newly hired organ/piano player Nate Cavalieri for adding an original flourish to taut opener “Stop and Think It Over”. Drummer Dave Shettler also proves he has what it takes to match veracity with the sing-song quality of Baranek’s best tunes. By the end-of-set closer, “Sticks and Stones”, the Sights had set the bar high for what was supposed to be the evening’s highlight, the Datsuns.
Upon entrance, it looked as if Trent Reznor was the headliner backed by a young Motorfinger. However, the look of the Datsuns betrayed the music piping out from the amps. Having been lumped in with the “new-garage” movement and named “Best Live Band” by NME, the Datsuns have been inevitably set up for a fall by the hype machine. While it is true that the four men from New Zealand play their tunes with a lot of energy, the songs they hurtle and bound lack the fresh-air blast necessary to justify their commitment. Instead, what was presented sounded akin to a glam-metal fest that went out with Slash’s departure from Guns ‘N Roses. Appetite for Destruction this was not. Sure, there was zest, even a bit of gusto, but I will defer to the genius of one Mr. William Shakespeare for this one: The set was “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” In fact, the only song that approached a reason for the frothing at the mouth produced by the British press was the MTV-ready “In Love”, but even that was too little too late. Any thunder available had heretofore been stolen by the Sights. As it turns out, only one of these bands proved to be a cliché.