The Next Great American Band, like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, is very simple. No frills on tonight’s show, no celebrity guests, no filler. A perfect reality show. The Next Great American Band rolled out its top 12 bands tonight and, quite simply, let them play. Each of the finalist bands, over two hours, played two songs each, one original and one Bob Dylan cover. Yep, the theme tonight was Bob Dylan covers. Some were good, some were all right, a couple were great. Overall, FOX has corralled an impressive group of bands.
Denver and the Mile High Orchestra – “Freight Train Blues” and “One Time Show”
Denver is a really good singer. A big band like this will always have a much easier time adapting to covers, and making them work in their own genre. They completely transform the Dylan song into a rocking swing tune. These guys are good at what they do. But, the problem is that what they do (play swing music well) is not very desirable in today’s culture. These guys might become the highest paid swing band in the country for corporate gigs, birthday parties, weddings, etc., but I don’t think they’ll sell records or get close to winning this contest. Dicko thinks they’re a little too corporate and he doesn’t like Denver’s zoot suit. Dicko has to criticize something, I suppose, after the first two judges have only good things to say.
The Hatch – “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “Stretch Out the Time”
This Brooklyn quartet is more impressive here than they were on the first episode. They all play their instruments well and the sound is really tight. The lead singer isn’t great, but he gets the job done. He’s got a lot of energy and is very comfortable on stage. Their original song isn’t anything special, but it’s rocking enough and shows off the lead guitarist and the lead singer well enough. These guys should make it quite a ways in this competition. They played the Dylan song better than the original. Rzeznik liked the band’s cover, not the original so much . Sheila, the opposite. Dicko wants a pop song from their originals, theirs was meandering and hook-less. They have potential, though.
Light of Doom – “All Along the Watchtower” and “Eye of the Storm”
The heavy metal 13-year-olds are pretty much a gimmick at this point. Give them five or ten years and they should be incredible. The lead singer is in the throes of puberty and you can tell. Their songwriting is advanced for their age, yes, but still not good enough for the radio. They play the hell out of their instrument, but it’s just not enough.
The Likes of You – “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Love and Gravity”
The lead singer is in love with his own falsetto. I liked their slowed down version of the Dylan song, but the falsetto becomes too much. The lead singer IS this band, but he’s got a lot of talent, especially in song writing. The judges kind of echo my sentiments, especially on the falsetto front. But, they are a really good band.
Rocket – “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “Mean to you”
This band is just not very good. All girls and, believe me, I’d love for an all-girls band to kick ass, but Rocket does not play good music. Their Dylan cover was poor, and loosely played. Their original song was actually a little better, kind of catchy. One of their biggest problems is that the lead singer’s voice is quite annoying and shrill, often out of tune. Rzeznik is mostly positive, way too much actually, but says that the lead singer needs to work on her vocals. Sheila is positive as well. So is Dicko. What the hell are they talking about? Maybe I just secretly hate punk music.
Cliff Wagner and the Ol’ #7 – “Don’t Think Twice, it’s All Right” and “Old Fire”
Their cover of the Dylan song is the best of the night so far. They make it really melodic and, I don’t know, it just has a gravitas that none of the other bands were able to achieve. Their original is a song about love and diesel fuel. It’s not bad. The band is really good at what they do, but is a bluegrass band really going to win the hearts of America. I love these guys, but I don’t want to get too attached, because I don’t think they’ll last all that long. John and Sheila love it, Dicko didn’t like the Dylan cover, because he didn’t think it conveyed the level of spite that the original did.
The Muggs – “Meet Me in the Morning” and “Slow Curve:
They turn the Dylan cover into a sweet blues riff and it works almost perfectly. I say almost, because the lead singer’s voice leaves a little to be desired at times. But, he’s also a ridiculously good guitar player, so all is forgiven. Their original is self-described “greasy Detroit rock” and it most certainly is. I love this stuff and the lead singer here is easily the best guitar player in the competition. His voice works great given the song, and their original is perfect for it. Dicko loves them, but wants the lead singer to commit with his voice. The other judges have nothing bad to say.
The Clark Brothers – “Maggie’s Farm” and “Billy the Kid”
I fear that all of the Brothers songs are going to sound similar. Until people start realizing this, things will be OK. I enjoyed their stringy, high-intensity Dylan cover. Their original is a recreation of Billy the Kid getting shot in the Old West. The fact is this: these three brothers are young, the ladies are going to love them, and they play incredibly well together. I think there might be some genre problems going forward, but I think they’re going to get a bunch of America’s votes. The judges are all very high on these guys.
Tres Bien! – “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Easy to Love Me”
This was probably the most straight-forward cover of Dylan tonight, but was maybe my favorite. First, it’s one of my favorite Dylan songs, and it’s a really, really hard song to play and sing. Their original is even better. This band just plays awesome, retro pop music. Like I said in a previous article, their like a more melodious Strokes. Tres Bien is definitely one of my two favorite bands in the competition. The judges mostly like them, but Sheila is worried about their musicianship.
Franklin Bridge – “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Incredible”
The best band on the show. They decide to play one verse of the Dylan song and then just rock out, which they do better than everyone else. I have nothing more to say. Their original song was awesome and these guys are the band to beat. Sheila predicts that they are going to win the whole thing. Dicko thinks that maybe they should keep things simpler.
Dot Dot Dot – “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Another Stupid Love Song”
“Like a Rolling Stone” is an impossible song to cover, and they somehow made a pretty cool rock version of it. I’m not a big fan of this band, but that really impressed me. Their original song isn’t my favorite. I don’t like this band very much, I’m sorry. The judges don’t like the Dylan song. Here’s the thing: that really is an impossible song to cover, they did the best they could.
Sixwire – “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Good to Be Back”
I don’t like country, but even I can recognize how big these guys could be. They are radio-friendly, they play very well together, and if tonight’s original was any indication, they can write great music. The judges have exactly zero negative things to say about them.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of FOX)