Sugar Ray at the Silver Reef Casino
Silver Reef Casino Resort
4876 Haxton Way
Cascadia Spotlight: Sugar Ray
Mark McGrath knows how to give people what they want.
Possibly more important, the longtime Sugar Ray frontman also knows what people don’t want.
They don’t want be guinea pigs for new songs. They don’t want to suffer through the deep cuts of the band’s back catalog.
They want to hear the hits.
So, when Sugar Ray takes the stage of the Event Center at the Silver Reef Casino for a 7pm Fri., March 1 concert, the hits are what the audience will get.
It’s highly likely the Newport Beach, Calif. group wouldn’t have any hits at all to speak of were it not for a fortuitous fluke nearly two decades ago. The band had settled into a post-grunge, nu-metal sound, save for the more pop-influenced song “Fly,” which appeared on their 1997 sophomore album, Floored. With its bright, up-tempo beat and obvious nod to reggae combined with the stark imagery of its lyrics, “Fly” sounded like nothing else on Floored, and like no other song Sugar Ray had ever written or performed.
And it was like catnip to the radio DJs who discovered it, put it into constant rotation, drove it to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and helped sell more than two million copies of Floored.
Critics acknowledged the catchiness of the song (it’s among VH1’s top 100 songs of the 1990s), but doubted Sugar Ray could find continued success, dubbing the band a one-hit wonder before “Fly” had even dropped off the charts.
However, McGrath had a few tricks—and hit songs—up his sleeve.
If there was one lesson “Fly” taught McGrath and the rest of Sugar Ray, it was that nu metal was the band’s past and a more pop-tinged sound was the path forward. Evidence that they took that lesson to heart can be heard all over their follow-up to Floored, 1999’s cheekily titled 14:59, which was both a reference to Andy Warhol and a response to critics who were sure the band’s 15 minutes of fame were up (never let it be said Sugar Ray doesn’t have a sense of humor).
Turns out Sugar Ray’s fame clock was winding up rather than timing out. 14:59, which took the up-tempo sensibilities of “Fly” and ran with them, produced a trio of songs that, thanks once again to heavy radio play, charted in the upper reaches of the Billboard chart—“Every Morning,” “Someday,” and “Falls Apart (Run Away).” By the time Sugar Ray’s Billboard barnstorming was said and sung, 14:59 had outsold its predecessor, gone triple platinum and earned the band a prime performance slot at Woodstock 99.
The multi-hit wonders had proved all of the nay-saying critics wrong, but they weren’t finished yet. A couple of years after 14:59, Sugar Ray released a self-titled album, which spawned what would be their final hit song, the prophetically named “When It’s Over.”
Following what can only be described as a very good run, McGrath took a break from the music industry to see if he could make his mark on Hollywood. He was a television correspondent and dabbled in acting a bit before getting the band back together—but not to play those aforementioned new songs or deep cuts. Instead, he understands that Sugar Ray’s allure still lies in the old familiar songs, that audiences still want to sing along to “Fly” and “Someday”—and he’s only too happy to oblige.
For Sugar Ray, it’s all about giving the people what they want.
Sugar Ray performs at 7pm Fri., March 1 at the Silver Reef Casino’s Events Center. Tickets are $35-$55. Info: http://www.silverreefcasino.com