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Stockbridge natives return to rock Roxy

By Michael Davis

For a band that's been on hiatus for four years, Stockbridge natives Collective Soul aren't wasting time getting back in the step of being a multiplatinum rock band. But it's almost like starting over.

With a new label (their own El Music), a new record and a new tour, the band is back, and Wednesday, will be showing off in front of the hometown crowd, headlining a show at the Coca-Cola Roxy Theatre in Atlanta.

When Collective Soul hit it big, it was the mid-1990s, grunge was fading and Seattle was the waning throne of rock. But even for four guys from Stockbridge to go on to be a multiplatinum band was a little surprising, especially to them.

"We went from playing small clubs in Atlanta with nobody but our girlfriends in the audience ... to playing Woodstock with bands like Aerosmith," said 32-year-old Dean Roland, who along with his brother and lead singer Ed Roland, guitarist Joel Kosche, bassist Will Turpin and drummer Shane Evans make up Collective Soul.

"I was 20 years old at the time," said Roland, who plays guitar in the band. "I got to extend my teen-age years a little longer than I should have," he said.

After a four-year absence, the band that's had 19 singles appear on Billboard charts, sold 7 million records and played their music all over the world, is back at it. But they want to do things differently, this time. But that's the way they do it every time.

"It's different every time, it really is," Roland said of making records. "You're going in search of the place where it's effortless."

While his brother Ed, writes a majority of the music and lyrics and is much of the driving force behind the band, all contribute from time to time. "Other times, it is a total collaborative effort," Roland said.

But after a couple of "false starts," Roland said they finally got it right with "Youth."

"When you put a record out, you want to believe in it, and you've got to know that you're going to have to live with it," he said.

The new record, Roland said, is more raw and "back to the basics."

Beginnings

The band's first record, "Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid," was a collection of demos recorded over several years that just took off, Roland said.

"It actually caught on at a couple of radio stations," and "when the songs started catching on in 1994, it was definitely happening pretty fast."

Rolling Stone called the band "the thinking man's AOR band" that "continue[s] to release world-conscious music in the passionate vein of 'Zooropa'- era U2."

Over the years, the band has released eight studio albums, including "From the Ground Up," released last month.

The beginnings of the band, Roland said, is where the record "Youth" comes from.

"In my eyes, it's sort of a mixture of the second record (the 1995 self-titled record that included the ballad 'The World I know') and Dosage (released four years later and included the song 'Run')," he said.

"Lyrically, it's the first time we've had the positive tense to the lyrics," he said, making reference to the record's first track "Better Now," the current single.

"Our position is one that we really, genuinely appreciate the position we've been in."

Rocking the Roxy

On their current, 10-city tour, the band is bringing with it a little Vegas flare. Dubbed the "Road to Vegas" tour, the string of dates will culminate in a lavish party in Las Vegas July 2 to celebrate the city's centennial.

Wednesday's show at the Roxy is the last stop before the Vegas finale, which features several bands, including headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers.

"It's Vegas in a venue," said Michael McGaw, Vice-president/Managing Director of Clear Channel Entertainment Properties, which is promoting the shows. Each stop on the tour is ensconced in Las Vegas-themed dress, from Elvis impersonators to showgirls and gaming tables.

Collective Soul was a perfect fit for the tour, McGaw said.

"They had just put out a new CD in November. This is a band that has sold 8 million-plus records in the past 10 years," he said. "And the guys love Vegas themselves, so they agreed to do it."

The show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets are still available.