show review

The Expendables @ The Agora 2/9/2014

(Sanchez 2014)
Lisa Sanchez
Sunday, February 9th, The Expendables rocked...no, that's not right...smoked out the Agora with an awe-inspiring showcase of musical diversity and much-needed chill outs. The Expendables are currently on their Winter Blackout Tour 2014, a super-appropriate name Cleveland fans can certainly sympathize with this winter.

Considering this was my first time at a reggae/ska/don't-have-to-risk-getting-punched-square-in-the-jaw kind of show I wasn't sure what to expect. Luckily, I had the chance to speak with guitarist/keyboardist Raul Bianchi from The Expendables before the band took the stage on Sunday night. "Have an open mind when you watch our show. We try and provide an escape with our shows. We just want people to have a good time, party, and chill," Bianchi commented.

If that's the atmosphere The Expendables try to cultivate, they certainly succeeded in Cleveland. With their first two songs "2 Inch Dub" and "Sacrifice" the crowd had securely left their winter blues at the Agora's door step and started the party. I've never seen so many Jamaican hats, drug rugs, and people dancing with strangers in my life. The Expendables released their mellow tones and Clevelanders picked them up with gusto.

However, the band are not simply relaxing groove machines, they dabble in a number of different genres including punk, hip-hop, and even integrating some metal guitar parts. Considering the wide range of styles the band taps into, "It's all just one big pot of goulash, there's no one sound" stated Bianchi. "Our music is always groove-based, so that just tends to go more to the chill side of music. But, switching it up is fun, too."
Guitarist Ryan DeMars on stage with The Expendables in Cleveland Feb. 9 (Sanchez 2014)
Their range was evident during their set at The Agora. The Expendables switched from the slow reggae tune "Last Call" to a fast-tempo, guitar heavy "Not Gonna Fade" within the span of two songs. I loved the diversity of the show, it was even better to see the band members effortlessly switch their performance style based on the song they were playing. Each member matched their intensity and posture, which created unique environments for each song.

The Expendables have been around since 1997 and have retained the same four-piece lineup since 2000. That's rather impressive considering the carousel of musicians that flow in and out many bands that have only been together a few years. In band years, The Expendables are seasoned veterans with an almost 15-year career, but the band's life span doesn't affect their attitudes. When I asked what the secret to the band's longevity is, Bianchi answered, "It's all because of friendship; we've had the same line up for so long it's made us tighter as a band. People get used to how others play and interact on stage and when you're constantly rotating members, it affects your stage performance; being together so long you get a sixth sense with each person on stage."

The Expendables also played a wide variety of new and old songs. Of course they included some of their biggest hits like "Down, Down, Down" and "Bowl for Two" the self-described stoner love song. As well as two new songs, and a crowd favorite cover of "Red Red Wine (originally by UB-40). In their more than 20-song set I was constantly intrigued by the band's stage presence, song selection, and feelings from the crowd. Even after their extensive performance, the band still came back and played a three-song encore. The Cleveland crowd certainly felt The Expendables, and Bianchi mentioned that Cleveland has been a highlight for the band in the past. "Our old guitar tech was originally from Cleveland, so his family would always come out we would have fun."

The Expendables were like nothing I had ever really seen before, they felt their music, their lyrics, and responded well to the crowds. Half of the appeal of the band is just watching them get into the mindset of their presentation and live through their music. If you listen to The Expendables and don't find a single song you like, you're just not trying hard enough. There is a little bit of everything for someone and the band ties their eclectic sound together with one massively killer performance. Bianchi had one final comment to the band's Ohio fans "Congratulations on your snowfall record, and I promise we'll have a new album out this year!"