Better than Ezra is that band where everyone knows their song, but no one knows the artist; the silent musicians who continually churn out catchy, radio-ready music every few years, only to go completely unrecognized as they walk down the street. Don’t call them one-hit wonders, though – while their 1995 hit “Good” off the Deluxe album skyrocketed to the #1 position on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart seemingly overnight, the band has had plenty of other successful songs. It seems as though Better than Ezra’s notoriety problems stem from bad timing: it took seven years after their formation in 1988 for the post-grunge, alternative rock band to release music with a label. By that time, styles and tastes changed and celebrity remained elusive. Luckily for fans, the lack of recognition for their deep discography never seems to slow the trio from Louisiana. In fact, it seems as if the band revels in only having a select, loyal fanbase – the result of which is a more personal performance with fans. Despite having not released new material since their 2009 album Paper Empire, Better than Ezra has been touring across the US, entertaining and satisfying those who matter most to them: their devoted fans who know them by name.
The band opened the performance at Center Stage in Midtown with “Burned,” a song that musically epitomizes the band as a whole. Featuring memorable lyrics, with an especially catchy chorus, interlaced with strong musical backing, the song energized the crowd for the remainder of the night. The opener seemed to energize the band, as well. Lead singer and guitarist Kevin Griffin and bassist Tom Drummond often interacted with fans while on stage jamming Pete Townshend-style.
Sampling from all six albums in their discography, fans from any time frame of the band’s fourteen year history were not left disappointed. While most bands tour to show off new music, Better than Ezra doesn’t forget their roots. They understand the majority of their fans are from the band’s glory days of the 1990s, and so much of the night’s set list focused on deeper tracks off Deluxe and 1996’s well-received Friction, Baby. And, it wouldn’t be a Better than Ezra concert without hits like “Good,” “King of New Orleans,” and “Desperately Wanting,” which were performed to much appreciation.
The band also acknowledged their strong connection to the Atlanta area, notably how many of the band’s early performances were in Atlanta venues. Throughout the night, the band would randomly play – often by ear, an unrehearsed song by a Georgia artist – ranging from “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by REM to “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s. At one point, Griffin jokingly explained that the band has interchangeably had an impact on Atlanta’s music, as he was born in Piedmont hospital, where he explained to the audience, “there’s a plaque in the lobby” commemorating his musically historic birth.
After a short break the band returned to the stage for an encore performance featuring an acoustic version of “I Just Knew” off their most recent album and another radio hit, “Extraordinary.” Griffin’s distinct vocals coupled with the bands exceeding musical talent resulted in an extremely memorable performance. And while the band still clings to what little air-play and recognition they receive, Better than Ezra seemingly never fails to satisfy their loyal followers: the self-titled Ezralites. Friday night’s performance was more than “Good,” it was “Extraordinary” – and it left fans “Desperately Wanting” more.