Yeah, Collective Soul frontman E Roland went there.

And by there, I mean he inserted himself right into the middle of Rivalry Week smack at Tuesday's concert at Sandy Amphitheater.

Sure, in the lead-up to Thursday's season-opening, rivalry-stoking gridiron matchup between BYU and the University of Utah, you expect to experience smack talk almost anywhere. But, still, hearing it from the stage at a concert seemed a tad askew.

Roland had casually mentioned the word "Utes" a time or two during the earlier part of the concert, receiving decent applause mixed with a smattering of dissent. But he jumped into the fray with both feet between songs about halfway through the show.

"Come explain this to a hillbilly from Georgia," he asked some fans in front, in relation to the response he was receiving for name-dropping the University of Utah nickname.

After getting some up-front feedback from the audience, Roland said,"Go, Cougars!"

That, of course, divided audience loyalties even further.

"I love college football," Roland declared. "Oh my! I don't know what sand trap I got myself into for a minute there. I'm all confused."

It was at that point, the Atlanta native exclaimed, "Go, Dawgs!" in reference to his allegiance to the University of Georgia. "You didn't think I would let that go, did ya? I've got the microphone, and I might drop it!"

Well, Roland might not have actually dropped the microphone, but he and his fellow Collective Soul bandmates did drop the hammer with a typically solid, upbeat, 90-minute performance on Tuesday night. Those accustomed to seeing the band, which has made steady Utah appearances over the course of its 25-year history, certainly know what kind of concert they are in for at this stage: a straight-ahead rock show featuring outstanding musicianship and few frills.

The band played a handful of songs from its new album, "Blood," all of which sounded great and fit in perfectly well with the group's canon of radio hits. Single "Right as Rain" was a standout, and the band nailed "Crushed," which Roland noted was only the third time the group has played it live.

One interesting decision, in fact, was opening the show with "Observation of Thoughts," a song from this year's new album, but one which made an appearance in last year's set as well. The song is great, striking a plaintive and soul-searching chord with a deep message. But its very nature, and its presentation in concert is low-key, and quite unlike the usual bombast groups rely on to begin a show. It was effective, and interesting, and one couldn't help but wonder the thought process behind opening with it.

That rocking crowd energy was definitely achieved over the next stretch of songs as the band launched into rockers "Heavy," "Why Pt. 2" and career-breakthrough single "Shine." In the something-you-don't-see-every-day department, Roland approached the front of the stage during "Why Pt. 2" -- and whether he accidentally fell off the stage or attempted to jump down into the audience, the end result saw him momentarily sprawled on his hands and knees on the cement ground near a front aisle. He recovered nicely, however, popping back up and greeting fans in the front, before hopping back on stage and continuing on as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

Several songs featured audience participatory singalongs. These were not rote, "OK, we'll reluctantly play along" exercises, but enthusiastic, full-throated responses from the crowd. Especially noteworthy was the a cappella "Whoa, heaven let your light shine down" breakdown in "Shine," including the obligatory raised-fist shouts of "yeah" at all the appropriate times throughout the song. Other exuberant crowd responses came during "Better Now" and "The World I Know."

A surprising treat was a spirited cover of REM's "The One I Love" that featured lead vocals by Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms, who opened Tuesday's show. It was a fun, upbeat rendition, and it's easy to see why it's become part of the set.

Jesse Triplett and Dean Roland provided a dynamic double-guitar attack throughout the evening. Triplett injected a lot of energy into the proceedings with his exuberant stage presence and fiery lead guitar work. Dean Roland is a much more laid-back performer, preferring to casually hold down his area at stage left and grind out rock-solid rhythm guitar, laying down a template for Triplett to solo over.

Will Turpin (bass) and Johnny Raab (drums) were in lockstep rhythm all night. Turpin mostly hung out on a small platform back near Raab and a wall of amplifiers, but he occasionally came out front as well, interacting with the fans and his fellow band members.

A raucous delivery of "Where the River Flows" was one of the night's biggest highlights, before the band calmed things down with another impressive delivery of the beautiful acoustic-driven "Run," complete with the now well-known ending which sees the band leave the stage and continue playing a minute or so longer backstage as the audience -- Utes, Cougars and any other collegiate identifiers united as one -- sings joyfully along.

Gin Blossoms opened the show with 13 songs over the course of an hour. The band's music has been described as "jangle rock," and listening to songs like "Until I Fall Away," "Follow You Down" and "Allison Road" it's easy to understand why while buying into the band's breezy delivery.

New song "Break" was an excellent addition to the set as was a fantastic cover of Tom Petty's "Even the Losers."

"Found Out About You," with its intoxicatingly offbeat lead guitar lick was the highlight of the set, just ahead of popular single "Hey Jealousy," which lead singer Wilson performed on the sound booth roof in front of the upper section of fans.

Doug Fox is the Features Editor at the Daily Herald. He primarily covers rock music in addition to all things entertainment.

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