COSTA MESA, California — As strange as it seems, it's fitting 311 named their summer tour after an album they released independently 12 years ago.
The hip-hop- and reggae-flavored rockers played the same number of songs from Unity at Friday's Pacific Amphitheatre show as from Evolver, which hits stores Tuesday.
And along with "Feels So Good" and "F--- the Bullsh--" — which were later included on 1993's Music (the latter as "Fat Chance") — the second stop on the Unity Tour included three other Music favorites, plus five songs from 1994's Grassroots.
In other words, 311's latest outing is more a celebration of the band's history than a typical supporting trek for a new album. After opening with "Freak Out" and "Lucky," singer Nick Hexum dedicated "Down" to the band's old-school fans, but he might as well have dedicated the whole set.
With a few exceptions, like the perfect outdoor summer-night sing-along "Amber," 311 avoided their most recent albums, From Chaos and Soundsystem, even setting aside hits like "You Wouldn't Believe" and "Come Original."
The enthusiastic audience members, several of whom sported T-shirts from past 311 tours, ate up the set list, dancing in the aisles the same way Hexum and rapper S.A. Martinez were bouncing on their new glossy black custom stage.
With all the nostalgia, fans eagerly welcomed the new songs "Reconsider Everything" and "Creatures (For a While)," especially the latter, a radio hit in Southern California, where the band now lives.
Judging by Friday's show, the new material fits in nicely next to 1995's 311 (a.k.a. the "Blue Album"), which featured 311's biggest hits, "Down" and "All Mixed Up" (see "New 311 Album Aimed At Old-School Fans, 7-Year-Olds Alike").
Another highlight was "Applied Science," which featured a classic rock-inspired drum solo from Chad Sexton. Like 311's last tour, the rest of band joined in on the fun, bringing giant floor toms on the stage for a drumline routine, except this time around they each had cymbals as well.
311 later voyaged fully into the more atmospheric rock of Transistor, jamming through "Running," "Beautiful Disaster," "Rub a Dub" and "Prisoner" as clouds of marijuana smoke filled the air. It was clearly guitarist Tim Mahoney's chance to shine, which he did with subtle solos.
Ending the first set, 311 played "Omaha Stylee," which Hexum dedicated to their hometown (sending a fan in an Eric Crouch jersey into a frenzy), and "Feels So Good," which began as always with Hexum asking bassist P-Nut to "beat that thing."
To kick off the encore, S.A. broke into "All Mixed Up," which he remixed on his hardly used turntables, while the crowd rapped along. And, in what has become a tradition, the show ended with "F--- the Bullsh--," a simple but energetic party anthem.
In the opening slot on Friday's show was Orange County's Something Corporate, who brought fans of their own, including girls holding up "American Idol"-like signs professing their love for the group (see "Something Corporate Take Down The Shermanator, Take Home A Playmate").
Singer Andrew McMahon proved a captivating performer, pounding his piano and singing passionately like a punk-rock Billy Joel.
With its infectious melody, "I Woke Up in a Car" was the biggest crowd-pleaser, even getting into ears so deep, people were singing it on the walk back to their cars after 311.
The band mostly played songs from its debut, 2002's Leaving Through the Window, but a new song from their upcoming fall album was equally engaging and a bit heavier.
O.A.R. and/or G. Love & Special Sauce are joining the Unity Tour on future dates. 311's next stop is Monday in Oklahoma City (see "311 Hitting The Road To Push New Material Down People's Throats").
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.