REVIEW: The Verve Pipe

The sold-out show last night at The Ark was sold out for all the right reasons. The Verve Pipe’s performance was one of the best concerts I’ve seen, hands down.

In an age where much of the top hits are auto-tuned and live concerts expose artists for their true skills, it was definitely a heartwarming treat to hear The Verve Pipe sound exactly like they do on their records—if not better, as the power and passion radiated off the stage in a way no CD could ever justly capture.

Brian Vander Ark’s voice was tantalizing, and I’m sure it was just as beautiful and magical back in the 90s when the band first formed. He didn’t seem to have aged one bit, bringing a charisma and energy to every note he sang, whether he belted it out powerfully and held it for ages or whispered it with a rawness that touched the soul.

With Lou Musa on guitar, Brad Philips (who is a University of Michigan SMTD grad—Go Blue!) on violin, Channing Lee on tambourine and backup vocals, Joel Ferguson on bass, Randy Sly on keyboard and accordion, and Sam Briggs on drums, The Verve Pipe captivated the entire room with its spunk and rock. Musa and Philips had some unbelievable solos that just blew everyone away, and Lee’s soft yet powerhouse vocals beautifully complemented Vander Ark’s, with her occasional moments to show everyone what she’s got. Mark Byerly made several guest appearances on trumpet as well, which was just a cherry on top for a stage filled with incredibly talented musicians.

The band seemed to be having a wonderful time, smiling and laughing and rocking on stage, and the audience was absolutely loving it. This crowd of old-school fans definitely were past their youth, but the old hits brought out this energy in them that was just as youthful and lively. The ability for this 90s band to hold such a loyal and excited fan base is a true testament to the music they have created—music that continues to evoke emotions that never die with time, and the band’s continued presence by touring and creating new albums even today ensures their fan base is ever-expanding, which now includes yours truly.

I surprised myself by knowing almost all the words to 90% of the songs played, as I didn’t realize just how much I’ve listened to The Verve Pipe since I first stumbled upon them back in September. With the top 13 requested songs in the first half, pieces from their newer albums in the second, and encores that only left everyone screaming for more, the entire night was filled with enjoyable, quality music that is rare to find today.

One of my favorite moments was during their hit song, The Freshmen. They performed the original version as Vander Ark and Musa took the stage with this raw classic. Everyone was singing along from the beginning, and there was a moment when the chorus came around where Vander Ark stopped singing and let the crowd carry the song. It was so pure and powerful and beautiful, and Vander Ark was clearly touched by it. I’d be lying if I said tears didn’t come to my eyes during that moment.

The Verve Pipe was everything I imagined them to be live, and more. In an unforgettable night, I suffered a pop smear so great, I would be more than happy to “suffer” again and again with this group of humble, talented, just absolutely amazing people.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to The Verve Pipe some more as I’m sure I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life.

PREVIEW: The Verve Pipe

Twenty-five years. Three million albums sold worldwide. A Michigan-native rock and roll band formed in the 1990s, The Verve Pipe’s music explores heartbreak, family, love, and loss that is as real now as it was back then. Filled with soul-searching lyrics and layered instrumentals, their work tackles problems and evokes emotions that is rare to find in contemporary alternative music today.

Still touring and still going strong, the band is bringing back all their hits from their first two albums and fan favorites from their entire discography with an exclusive, personal show at The Ark that will surely live up to its reputation of dazzling live shows.

I’ve become a huge fan of their music and I’m really excited to see them perform in such an intimate venue. Join me as The Verve Pipe performs their show “I’ve Suffered A Pop Smear” at The Ark on December 2 at 8:00pm. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Michigan Union Ticket Office or online at