Ska/punk band Sublime was fronted by singer/guitarist Bradley Nowell from its beginning in 1988 until his death in 1996. In 2009 the remaining members began performing again as Sublime, however Nowell’s estate issued a legal challenge over the use of the name Sublime without Nowell in the band. As a result the name was changed.
Sublime became Sublime with Rome in early 2010 (Rome being the name of their new singer/guitarist), with original drummer Bud Gaugh behind the kit. After a couple changes the current lineup is now Rome Ramirez on lead guitar and vocals, Carlos Verdugo on drums, and original Sublime member Eric Wilson playing bass guitar and some keyboard.
Knowing nothing more of Sublime than radio play (which I’ve always liked), and having not covered a major touring act since Diana Krall almost two years ago, I was excited to see their show. Showtime was advertised as 8 p.m., but the music started fashionably late at about 8:35 p.m., which was probably a good thing. As I looked around at about 8:15 p.m. the room looked to be only about a third full; not a good showing. However, shortly after they started, the room looked almost full.
The band started off strong with “Smoke Two Joints,” “Wrong Way,” and “40 oz. to Freedom.” The volume and the audience were through the roof. There was no shortage of exuberance as the crowd in the pit area, as well as a large portion of those in the seated area were on their feet waving their arms and singing along.
Joining them on this tour is Gabrial McNair contributing trombone, keyboard and backup vocals. Gabrial has played with such killer artists as Smashing Pumpkins, Lenny Kravitz, Green Day, and most notably No Doubt.
I wandered around the theater during the show to see what the feeling was like, and at one point I ended up at the very back looking down at the stage. GSR’s Grand Theatre still holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for the “World’s Largest Stage.” Sublime with Rome looked small on that stage, but they did fill the room with pounding ska-punk, and reggae sounds. I don’t see where it would fit as Ska, punk, or reggae, but I really enjoyed “Doin’ Time.”
They ended the set with their version of Journey’s “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’.” After a five-minute break to freshen up, they returned and encored with “Sirens” from their 2015 album, and a pair of Sublime’s biggest hits, “What I Got,” and “Santeria.”
I’m not a follower of Sublime, but I like a lot of what they have done. When a band that has achieved as much success as they did loses its leader to a tragic death, it’s typically the end. It was the end of Sublime for a while.
With only one member of the original trio in this version of the band, it’s hard for a lot of loyal followers to buy into Sublime with Rome. But my observation is that they did a great job. Having never seen the original incarnation, I have no first-hand basis for comparison, but I do know this: all of these musicians sounded fantastic, the crowd loved them and a good time was had by all.
Summertime, and the livin’s easy…
Nick McCabe is a Reno-based photojournalist and musician. He’s been shooting concerts in the Reno-Tahoe area since 2006 and writing articles and reviews since 2012, as well as doing interviews on occasion. His musical education and playing experience goes back to 1967. He is a founding member of the Reno Tahoe Forte’ Awards, and he still plays music locally for enjoyment. First concert: Jimi Hendrix. Last concert: we’ll see.