The crowd that gathered inside The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA on May 12th to see Rogue Wave wasn’t large enough to fill the venue from wall to wall, nor were people elbowing their way to the front to get the closest possible spot, but it was clear that everyone in the audience wanted an excellent view to fully take in the performance. As soon as the lights came on and the band took the stage, a lull came over the crowd and all attention went to the front in a hypnotic stare to see one of Rogue Wave’s first stops on tour for their new album, Delusions of Grand Fur.
Over the past twelve years the two remaining original members, front man Zach Rogue and drummer Pat Sturgeon, have seen close to a dozen different musicians play for the Oakland based band. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the way they sounded live. Each song sounded just as clear as they do on the studio versions and I’d occasionally find myself with my eyes closed, feeling like I was listening to them for the first time.
Kicking off the show with the opening track from their newest album, “Take it Slow,” Zach’s melodic voice and sweeping acoustic guitar kept the crowd fixated. They continued with hits from the new album like “Ocean”, and “Endless Supply,” showcasing that the band’s distinct fragile vocals and echoing drums has stayed true even after all these years (minus the dance-pop period that was 2010’s Permalight.) Occasionally Zach would break from playing to interact with the crowd and express his gratefulness for everyone coming out, only furthering the theme of Delusions that success isn’t to be defined as playing to sold-out crowds in stadiums but rather to a room of people who appreciate your music.
One of the highlights came from when they slowed things down and played “Eyes,” the beautiful, romantic, crowd favorite that had everyone humming along. The creeping guitar gave me a sense of cautious optimism and was a welcome departure from the songs that came before. The rest of the set consisted of tracks off their newest album, each one warming the crowd up more until the excitement culminated in “Lake Michigan,” as the audience clapped and danced along to the unyielding drum beat, a far cry from the typical swaying that had been the status quo just minutes before. Rogue Wave kept the energy going with “Harmonium,” and by the end of the song even the band members were feeding off the energy of the crowd by making full use of the stage.
Their post-set break ended when the band returned for “Publish My Love,” another early hit off of Descended Like Vultures where the periods of hushed vocals were quickly followed by the sound of Zach’s roaring guitar. “Like I Needed,” was the second of the three-song encore and at this point it was clear that no matter how many albums Rogue Wave puts out, they’d always be brought back to the early 2000’s to hit all of the crowd pleasers.
Prior to the final song, Zach took a moment to address the crowd about how they wish they could just continue playing in Boston and forego the rest of the tour. That’s why the final song of the act, “California,” could not have been a better choice to leave us with. Maybe it wasn’t so much the lullaby style of song that had me reflecting on the show, but rather the line “Screw California…” that gets repeated as Rogue Wave will always have a home in that intimate venue in Harvard Square.