The Go-Go’s & The B-52’s (Cincinnati_6.26.13)

20130627-094453.jpg
The 80’s were in full effect here in Cincinnati last night as I took my daughter to her first live concert! The B-52’s and The Go-Go’s were in town and what better way to introduce my 8-year old to the concert scene than with 2 groundbreaking bands from my youth? So…on a drizzly, swampy night down at Riverbend’s PNC Pavilion, we walked through puddles and the rain to get to our seats before the B-52’s took the stage. Despite the weather, both bands were fun and on top of their games and were a genuine pleasure to see live!

The B-52’s, one of the quirkiest bands to ever grace the stage, came right out and got into the mood with “Planet Claire,” a track from their 1979 self-titled album. From there they ripped through song after classic song, with the highlights being “Roam,” “Rock Lobster” and (obviously) “Love Shack,” their biggest hit from 1989. My personal favorite was “Whammy Kiss,” a song that sounds MUCH better live than it does on their album, “Whammy!” from 1983.

After a 30 minute layoff for set changes, The Go-Go’s came out and opened with “Get Up & Go” and the title track from their 1982 album, “Vacation.” From there they did mostly songs from the groundbreaking 1981 album “Beauty & The Beat” as they ripped through “Tonight,” “How Much More,” “Automatic” and “Fading Fast.” After a brief interlude where they mixed in lead singer Brenda Carlisle’s big hit “Mad About You,” the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” and Jane Weidlin’s “Cool Places,” they proceeded to finish the album off with “This Town,” “Skidmarks On My Heart,” Our Lips Are Sealed” and a cool mashup of “We Got The Beat” and Kiss’ trademark song “(I Wanna) Rock N Roll All Night.” It was at this point that my daughter & I left the show. Despite having a good time, Ava was getting a little tired and so…we decided to beat the rush. At the point that we left, they had done most of their hits anyway (although I have to imagine they did “Head Over Heels” in the encore) so it didn’t bother me to leave a little early.

I can say this about both of these bands…they have aged very well. Despite not having hits for many years, they both definitely have a great setlist from their past. The B-52’s, being one of the quirkiest acts in the history of music, still have a stylish sense of who they are and what their sound is. They have always been the odd band out from Athens, GA but seem to relish the fact that they helped develop the alternative pop scene from their era. Their unique brand of music mixed with their flamboyant wardrobe (Kate Pierson wore a 60’s throwback one-piece polka dot outfit last night, Cindy Wilson had her trademark beehive hairdo) and Fred Schnieder’s unique vocals have made that band hard to dislike through the years. They are the ultimate party band and EVERY college student from 1978 through today know who the B-52’s are.

The Go-Go’s, despite not having the flourishing history of the B-52’s, still have enough personality and hits to keep your attention during their hour and 45 minute set. I know “Beauty & The Beat” almost by heart (that album and REO Speedwagon’s “Hi Infidelity” were on constant rotation at the local video arcade) and all of the bandmates have gone on to have success in one form or another. Belinda Carlisle is absolutely captivating as she dances around on stage. Despite her attire (she was simply dressed in a black top and jeans and sported a ponytail. Not that there is anything wrong with that but she could have very easily blended in with anyone in the crowd!), she has a certain flair that keeps you watching her even when she’s not singing, much like Stevie Nicks. Jane Weidlin wore a hat with cat ears and her signature outfit. She also had a brace on her knee from her surgery a couple of years ago but that didn’t slow her down as she walked the stage and had fun with the crowd. A few times during the show, Gina Schock came out from behind her drum kit to joined the band in front of the stage. It is obvious that she is very much a leader in the band and an entertainer who likes to joke around and have fun. Guitarist & keyboardist Charlotte Caffey also had her moment when she mentioned that it was nice to see such a large crowd that WANTED to see live music…not the recorded lip-synching bands of today. This made me chuckle a little bit as they went to start a song and then flubbed it up. I don’t know if that was on purpose or not but it was a funny moment and it was nice to see the band having such a good time together despite some hard times both individually and as a group.

Overall, both bands were exactly what I expected to see. Neither over-extended their song lists and they seemed to be having a good time. This translated over to the audience which sang along to their bigger hits, clapped along to some songs they probably didn’t know and remained standing through most of their sets. I would have liked to have seen the Go-Go’s perform more of their solo songs such as Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” or Weidlin’s “Rush Hour” and possibly even letting Gina Schock do a song from her solo album, but for the amount of time they were on stage, they did were tight and kept the hits coming! It was a good show for my daughter’s first concert experience and it was blast seeing the 80’s revisited one more time with her.
20130627-094025.jpg

Metric (St. Louis_10.2.12)

20121005-223910.jpgWhat is it with St. Louis? I mean…I hate the dreaded Cardinals but I’ll be damned if everytime I go there I don’t have fun! A few years ago, I was lucky to be in town when Collective Soul happened to be playing downtown. This year, I was around when one of my favorite bands of the last 5 years made a stop on their tour at one of the premier concert sites in the country!

Opening act Half Moon Run opened the show, showcasing some talent for the future. Apparently this band was put together after a call out for artists on Craigslist. Dunno if that’s how it’s being done these days but it’s definitely working for this band! Although the latter songs of their set got a little monotonous, I still enjoyed the energy they brought to the 45+ minute opening that included some pretty good songs such as “Nerve” and “Full Circle.” All 4 members have a variety of skills, each playing several instruments at any given time, and their performance managed to highlight those skills in an entertaining fashion. I’ll have to watch to see how they do once they get a more established body of work but for now I’ll say they have great potential and are worth lending an ear when you have some time!

Having been around for some time (a little over 14 years), Metric was the opposite of Half Moon Run. They came out with a head of steam, with lead singer Emily Haines doing very little talking during the blistering opening hour of the show. With a new album to promote (which you get free with a ticket), Metric wasted no time in getting into the meat of it. Leading off with the opening song, “Artificial Nocturne,” they hammered away with a bulk of “Synthetica,” including the title track, “Breathing Underwater” and “Dreams So Real.” With their set backdrop flashing neon and laser beams, Metric showed why they are considered a strong player in alternative music today, utilizing synthesizers and guitars to near disco perfection. Hit single “Youth Without Youth” was a huge crowd-pleaser, as was their encore performance of “Black Sheep,” which was highlighted in the film “Scott Pilgrim vs The World.”

Although their set went almost 2 hours, I found the time flew and a lot of that had to do with the fact that I never stayed in one place! If you’ve never been to The Pageant, I can honestly say it was one of the nicest (if not THE nicest) small concert venue I’ve ever been to. Everything about this place is high class with a “pit” near the stage that doesn’t allow alcohol to an upstairs balcony with stadium seating that has no bad sight lines. I LOVED that I could move around the venue, watching the performance from any given number of locations! Prices weren’t bad, with a beer running under $5, and there was a really nice merchandise store located within the theater that was clean and easy to move around in. Looking at Wikipedia, it states that The Pageant has been listed at #4 in the world for ticket sales at a club venue. I can see why! This place is an excellent spot to take in a performance on any given night! If you get a chance, you should definitely see a show there. I can’t recommend it enough!

20121005-223939.jpg20121005-224001.jpg20121005-224020.jpg

Van Halen / Kool & The Gang (Indianapolis_2.22.12)

I WISH I was this close…

In 2007, my wife & I got to see the revamped Van Halen in Cincinnati. The Van Halen’s had brought Diamond David Lee Roth back out on tour and had promised to put on a great show. At the time, I was beside myself with excitement and HAD to get a good seat. We sat in the first row off the floor directly in front of the stage and the audio mix was HORRIBLE. I couldn’t hear ANYTHING Dave was singing and I was disappointed that the audio quality wasn’t better. So I blamed the arena and that was that.

MY view for $30

This year, Van Halen is BACK out on tour, promoting their first new album since “1984” to feature DLR on vocals, and I wasn’t rushing out to buy a ticket. I wasn’t impressed with the first single (“Tattoo”) and I listened to some of the other tracks online and I wasn’t blown away. But I happened to be in Indianapolis for Van Halen’s 3rd show out on the road for this tour so I decided to buy a cheap ticket and see what was up. Plus…I have never seen Kool & The Gang live so I figured if anything I get to see them in a better venue and see a band I haven’t seen already.

Since they came out first, let me tell you about Kool & The Gang. Not knowing much of the history of the band, I CAN tell you that I didn’t know what to expect. Seriously…I didn’t know the band still existed so to have them pop up fronting Van Halen is kind of weird. Needless to say, they haven’t lost their touch. This 11 piece R&B band has been together so long that they could probably play these tunes in their sleep and they’d sound great doing it. They did an abbreviated set list of some of their classics, including “Jungle Boogie,” “Ladies Night,” “Get Down On It” and ended with the classic “Celebration.” I loved the saxophone in the band and they’ve added a rapper to make a couple songs a little more modern. Even with a sparse crowd, it seemed like they were gonna make the most of the larger venue and they had as much fun as they could considering the audience was more rocker than they were funky.

My friends’ view for over $100. 10th row ain’t so bad!

Up next was Van Halen and I have to be perfectly honest…I now know it wasn’t the venue. David Lee Roth wears a headset mic on stage and I honestly could barely hear him half the time. I don’t know if it’s because his vocal range has become so much more limited in his old age or if they’re simply showcasing the band’s guitar work (which IS remarkable), but when I can’t understand a word of “Chains”…there’s something wrong. So between the sheer volume of the guitars and DLR’s out of tune vocals, there’s IS something to be desired in the mix. It’s also an issue when there are certain aspects of songs that are completely disregarded (when they leave off the “Class Dismissed!” from “Hot For Teacher?” That’s just wrong!) and there wasn’t much to the stage show with only a huge video screen flashing photos (and not even OLD photos) of the band periodically mixed with live cameras. There wasn’t a lot of flash until the end and even THAT was recycled from the 2007 tour.

As for the set list, you know all the songs. Well…most of them. They also included several songs from their new album which, quite frankly, MIGHT be decent songs but they were SO LOUD all I could hear was the occasional “Chinatown!” or “Tattoo!” refrain and I eventually figured out that one song was actually the only track on the album I would endorse, “The Trouble With Never.” Needless to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of the new tracks but either way…they deserve the benefit of the doubt and if you like Van Halen, maybe you’ll like these newer songs (if DLR remembers the lyrics. He actually forgot them at one point during “Romeo Delight” but he made light of it and it actually was one of the high points of the show!).

So…would I recommend seeing Van Halen? Absolutely…if you’ve never seen them before. Just make sure you bring ear plugs. But it’s worth the $30 cheap seats ticket price to see Eddie play the guitar, watch Wolfgang come into his own as Michael Anthony’s replacement, watch Alex bang the drums and watch DLR do half round kicks (hey…he IS pushing 60) and dance around with as much energy as any performer out there today. Seriously…the guy LOVES to entertain and despite the fact that he can come across as a little corny at times, it’s hard to repress how much the guy loves singing and dancing with this buddies. So go see Van Halen & Kool & The Gang…if you’ve never seen them before. But if you were lucky enough to see them back in their heyday? Don’t bother. As it is, this is one loud Las Vegas show that is STILL working out the kinks…since 2007.

Awesome guitar licks by a rock god! (Photo courtesy of Wayne Luna)

The Set Lists…

Kool & The Gang

Fresh
Tonight
Emergency
Misled
Too Hot
Hollywood Swingin’
Jungle Boogie
Ladies’ Night
Get Down On It
Celebrate

Van Halen

You Really Got Me
Runnin’ With the Devil
She’s The Woman
Romeo Delight
Tattoo
Everybody Wants Some!!!
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
China Town
Hear About It Later
Oh, Pretty Woman
*Alex Drum Solo*
Unchained
The Trouble with Never
Dance The Night Away
I’ll Wait
Hot For Teacher
Women In Love
Girl Gone Bad
Beautiful Girls
Ice Cream Man
Panama
*AWESOME Guitar Solo*
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
Jump

The Big Finale!

Everyone Needs A Little Sunshine…

Back in Nashville last week and, as always, had to get my fill of some live music. Although country is the obvious genre of choice in Nash-Vegas, my friends and I discovered a real talent off Broadway at a little jazz club called “Jazz & Jokes.” I’ve seen my share of entertainers however I gotta tell ya…if there ever was a singer/performer built for the stage, it’s Avery Sunshine.

With all the energy of a hummingbird, a smile that’s infectious, a great sense of humor and a voice that is amazing, Sunshine hit the stage on Friday night and blew us away with a strong mix of great R&B, some very funny lyrics, a little bit of gospel and a great backing band. I had never heard of Avery Sunshine but I will be watching her career as it takes off. A voice like this can’t be held back and neither can her personality. I checked out a lot of her videos on YouTube and I gotta tell you…she’s something special on stage. Her recordings are good, but to get the FULL effect of this genuine artist, please check her schedule and make an effort to see her live. You won’t be disappointed!

And here is her latest video that has been featured on BET called “All In My Head…”

Kid Rock (Cincinnati_7.2.11)

For crying out loud…GET A ROOM!

I have to be careful how I do this because I don’t wanna bad-mouth the self-proclaimed “baddest mother$#%$” out there today but I gotta be honest when I say that after seeing The Kid perform at Riverbend the other night, he’s borderline geriatric.

In July of 2009, Kid Rock came to town with his Rock & Roll Revival Tour which featured Lynyrd Skynyrd as the opening act and Run (from Run DMC) as a special guest and Kid tore the roof off the place (not that it has a roof because it’s an outdoor pavilion but you get the idea). On Saturday night, not only was the show a lot slower (Kid barely left his spot on stage center) but at one point he sat down and played acoustic songs while admitting that age might be catching up to him. Now…I’m not an aging rocker whose entire career is based on drinking whiskey, hanging with hot hoes and bragging about my accomplishments (“I’ve been on the cover of the Rolling Stone/I met the president when I was half stoned”), but to come right out and sing an acoustic song about being 40 is not the way to go down swinging (even if it was hysterical!).

I hate to come down too hard on Kid just because the first show I saw in 2009 was so kick ass that I couldn’t believe what I saw this past weekend. I swear, I don’t know if it was the heat & humidity or maybe Kid is just burned out from all the touring but he just looked kinda bored. Not that I can blame him…Cincinnati in early July is miserable and Riverbend kind of sucks as far as venues are concerned but that didn’t seem to stop him last time. So I have to wonder if maybe Kid is vying to become more of a country artist (he IS touring with Sheryl Crow, for crying out loud) and if that is the case, more power to him. But country music already has it’s Kenny Chesney and when I go to a Kid Rock show, I want good old fashioned kick ass rock & roll. But for all the posturing and rapping, Kid is starting to come across as another aging rock star who has lived the fast life and now is starting to slow down. The days of Pamela Anderson are long gone and now he’s stuck on cycle of touring (he’s been on the road since January 15) and small venues. I can feel where he’s at but still…compared to last time…he lamed this one out.

As for his setlist and the stage, it is pretty standard. Kid is backed by his excellent Twisted Brown Trucker Band and the stage is cool with lots of lasers and pyrotechnics that keep it lit up most of the time (but it must have made it pretty warm for the backup singers and the drummer who were the closest to the flames). Apparently Kid recruited the aid of several BenGals cheerleaders to “strip” during the show. The girls danced on poles and gave the guys in the crowd something to ogle at but besides that, the night wasn’t very exciting. Depending on your taste in Kid’s music (he is one of the only acts out there that can mix classic rock, rap, country and metal), that might not be a bad thing. But for this fan, it was disappointing. I like the hardcore rappin’ Kid…not the grandpappy country singin’ Kid. If I want to lament on getting older I’ll go to a Jimmy Buffet show. When I see Kid Rock, I wanna see some ass-kickin’. Saturday night Kid brought a lawn chair. And that pretty much sums it up.

SETLIST

  1. American Bad Ass
  2. God Bless Saturday
  3. You Never Met A Motherfucker Quite Like Me
  4. Cocky
  5. Slow My Roll
  6. Midnight Rider
  7. Cowboy
  8. Lay It On Me
  9. Care
  10. Somebody’s Gotta Feel This / Fist Of Rage / I Am The Bullgod / Forever
  11. Sugar
  12. Flyin’ High
  13. Fucking 40
  14. So Hott
  15. Purple Sky
  16. Love The One You’re With (with Sheryl Crow)
  17. Collide (with Sheryl Crow)
  18. Picture(with Sheryl Crow)
  19. Bawitdaba
Encore:
  1. All Summer Long
  2. Only God Knows Why
  3. Born Free

U2 (Columbus_5.7.2001)

Although it has been quite a few years since this tour, I was in attendance in Columbus, OH for an impressive show! For this tour, the heart-shaped stage was the highlight and Bono spent lots of time mingling with the crowd. At one point, I remember him taking someone’s cell phone and singing to whoever was on the other end! Here is the real reason I went down memory lane…for the Set List! I was curious what songs the band performed. I remember “Bad” and “Elevation” as being impressive but “Bullet The Blue Sky” was my favorite performance simply because I love that song! I am still waiting to hear “The Unforgettable Fire” (my all-time favorite song) live and would love to hear “Breathe” also. But I have heard “Zooropa” and “All I Want Is You” now so that’s cool…

Set List for Columbus:

Elevation
Beautiful Day
Until The End Of The World
New Year’s Day
Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
Gone
Kite
New York
I Will Follow
Sunday Bloody Sunday
In A Little While
Desire
Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
Bad
Where The Streets Have No Name
Mysterious Ways
The Fly
Encore:
Bullet The Blue Sky
With Or Without You
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
One
Walk On

U2 (Seattle_6.4.11)

If there is a band today that can be considered larger than life, it’s U2, and their 360 Tour is a testament to how large they can actually be. Breaking attendance records set by The Rolling Stones during their “Bigger Bang” tour in 2007, this tour is as imaginative and as large as anything you’ll ever see anywhere. With an amazing stage known simply as “The Claw,” an expansive sound system, a gigantic round video board, and enough lasers and lights to blind you from miles away, this is the epitome of “Showtime.”

Flying into Seattle on Thursday I could see “The Claw” being built and what an amazing design it is! It looks like a giant space ship with its 3 spider legs and a pointed sphere on top that points to the heavens and with alien-themed videos, a recorded piece by Commander Mark E. Kelly of the Endeavor and multiple references by Bono to “their spaceship” blasting off, U2 seemed poised to blow us all away with enough firepower generally reserved for a space shuttle launch!

With over 65,000 in attendance at Qwest Field on a beautiful summer night, U2 hit the stage, strolling in as David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” announced their entrance and then they ripped into “Even Better Than The Real Thing,” whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The pace didn’t slow down much as the evening progressed. With a multi-generational set list that features so many great hits, this could have been a greatest hits tour and the crowd would have been satisfied but Bono wasn’t gonna let that happen. With a stage presence that is unparalleled to any other performer, Bono, ever the philanthropist, had many stories to tell and a few causes to applaud and never once did it feel forced even when the show got bombastic and over-the-top.

Being a big fan of U2 and having listened to their music for so many years, I am convinced that they are one of the few bands that still exist that can put on this type of show and make their music sound BETTER than that on their albums. U2 is an arena rock band and given the stage, they know how to use it. Songs such as “Get On Your Boots,” “Crazy Tonight,” and “Stay” are much more powerful live than they are on their albums and it’s entirely because of the showmanship of Bono and the boys.

There were so many highlights in this jaw-dropping set that I can’t even begin to write about them all here but here are just a few that I will never forget…

  • Commander Kelly’s introduction to “Beautiful Day.” As he floated in the Endeavor, he placed a special message in front of the camera and they floated away. All the while he quoted Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and seemed to be having a great time!
  • Bono’s glowing laser suit and the red wheel microphone used for the encore performance of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” Seriously, this might have been my favorite performance. I had almost totally forgotten about this song and with Bono swinging in on the mic itself, it was as visually stimulating as it was bombastic. My ears are still ringing and I love it!
  • Burmese president Aung San Suu Kyi’s introduction to “One.” Her son Alexander was in the crowd and Bono spent much time applauding the humanitarian efforts to break her free of her house arrest.
  • The beautiful rendition of “All I Want Is You.” One of my personal favorites and a pleasant surprise.
  • When the video boards scissored open to drop down in front of the band and then they ripped into a 3-song set that started with “Zooropa,” followed by “City of Blinding Lights” and ended with “Vertigo” (which I had literally as the video flew in circles creating a visual assault that sent the me reeling!).
  • During their final song, “Moment Of Surrender,” Bono asked to dim the lights and invited everyone to light up the night with our cell phones. Being on the floor, I could see all the twinkling lights and it was a stunning display and a great way to end an amazing night!

I am and will always be a huge U2 fan but this performance was far beyond anything I was expecting. It literally blew my socks off and I was as entertained as I have ever been at ANY event in my life. The music was amazing, the visuals were unbelievable and the feeling of being in a crowd filled with 65,000 people who had waited almost a year to see the band was overwhelming. It was a show I will never forget and I wish I could see it again before they pull the plug. With only 15 more dates, the 360 Tour ends in the United States on July 26th in Pittsburgh. I suggest you see it before it’s over. It’s worth every penny and who knows what kind of surprises the band will have in store before it’s all said & done?

Here is a review from the Seattle Times that might do the show better justice…

And The Set List:

1. Even Better Than The Real Thing
2. I Will Follow
3. Get On Your Boots
4. Magnificent
5. Mysterious Ways
6. Elevation
7. Until The End Of The World
8. All I Want Is You
9. Stay
10. Beautiful Day
11. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
12. Miss Sarajevo
13. Zooropa
14. City Of Blinding Lights
15. Vertigo
16. Crazy Tonight
17. Discotheque
18. Sunday Bloody Sunday
19. Scarlet
20. Walk On
ENCORE
21. One
22. Where The Streets Have No Name
23. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
24. With Or Without You
25. Moment OF Surrender