Jewel’s Handmade Holiday Tour November 27, 2017 Salt Lake City Eccles Theater

I have two confessions.  One, I love Christmas music.  And with that, I enjoy collecting holiday albums.  Second, It was Jewel’s 1999 holiday album Joy: A Holiday Collection, that converted me into a Jewel fan.  Don’t get me wrong, I understood that she was a good songwriter and that she was a talented singer.  But she really displayed her versatility on that album in a way I hadn’t heard from her before.  She moved from Opera (Jewel at one point was training to be an opera singer) to jazz, to country, to her most known singer-songwriter style.  I played that album to death that season, and it’s been a favorite ever since.  So I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was when it was announced that Jewel would be doing a holiday tour.  The concert was everything that I hoped it would be.  

If you haven’t been to a concert at the Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake you really need to.  It’s a beautiful venue.  I had seen a few musicals there, but this was my first time seeing a concert.  I love the acoustics in there. 

Jewel invited her father Atz Kilcher and her brothers Atz Lee and Nikos Kilcher to join her on this tour and they actually opened the show.  Each one of them did a couple songs each.  They seemed honored to be on the tour with Jewel, and her brother Atz Lee mentioned that it was great to be together touring since Jewel had to go out on her own on so many of her other tours.  Jewel’s father Atz shared his ties to Utah having received his bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University, and his masters at the University of Utah as well as living in Payson.  Where Jewel was born.   I think audiences here tend to embrace an artist that much more if they have some connection with Utah.  

Jewel took the stage with a five-piece band consisting of guitar, bass, drums, piano, and a multi-instrumentalist who played the violin, cello, and mandolin.  

She opened with “Joy to the World” and moved through a variety of holiday tunes.  I was instantly impressed with the band.  They sounded like a recording.  They were impressive.  And speaking of sounding like a recording, Jewel’s voice was perfect. I would even say she sounded better than she does on her albums. I just sat there watching her sing “O Holy Night” with such ease and couldn’t believe this was live.  Like I said, I knew she had a good voice; she’s famous because she has a good voice. But having never seen her live until now, I wasn’t prepared for how clear and controlled it is.   

After singing a number of Christmas songs, the band left the stage and it was just Jewel and her guitar.  She asked the audience what they wanted to hear and after hearing several options being shouted to her from the audience she settled on one.  But before I get into that, here’s a bit of advice.  When you go to a concert and the artist says “What song would you like me to play?”, don’t shout out their biggest it.  What they are actually saying is, “What song would you like to hear that you might not hear otherwise.”  People were shouting out, “You were meant for me!” and “Foolish games!”.  Come on people.  Like she’s not going to do those.  

She landed on the song “The Shape of You”, a song she wrote about a friend who had passed away from cancer.  After that, she went into her big hits.  Just her and her guitar, telling stories of how these songs came to be.  Songs like, “Hands, You Were Meant For Me”, “Foolish Games”, and “Who Will Save Your Soul”.  While she was singing “Foolish Games”, a song that she said was her best attempt to knock off the late great Leonard Cohen’s writing style, I couldn’t help from thinking, ‘She’s performed this song thousands of times.  How is she singing it so emotionally, and deeply as she is right now?  I was mesmerized.  I don’t know that I’ve experienced something like that before.  I’ve heard that song so many times over the last twenty years, and yet I had never heard it quite like that. I was initially a little disappointed after the song because Jewel had to check with us to see if she had sung all of it.  She said that she was distracted midway through and had to remind herself where she was.  It was a funny exchange with the audience.  She’s a pro.  If she hadn’t said that, I would have never guessed that she was distracted. The song was fluid and moving.  I’ve been distracted about 20 times writing this review, so if it seems disjointed now you know why.  #ADD #ImNotJewel

She returned to the holiday-themed songs, and it became a real family affair.  Jewel’s brother Atz Lee came on stage and they sang “Silent Night”.  Jewel expressed her gratitude that her brother was with her after surviving a fall off of a forty foot cliff!   

She then sang a song called “My Father’s Daughter”.  From my seat, I could see her dad Atz standing in the wings watching her sing this song and beaming with pride.  He then joined Jewel on stage and they dueted a song he had written called “Homestead Yodeling Christmas”.  They blew the audience away as they yodeled in harmony, going faster and faster and faster.  This song probably received the biggest ovation of the night.  

The show was concluded with all of the Kilchers on stage singing with the band a rocked out version “Let it Snow” as snow machines shot show onto the stage.  It was a beautiful night of music.  I think it was a really good idea for Jewel to do a holiday-themed tour.  It kind of felt like it was a long time coming.  Just like her holiday album, she had the opportunity on the tour to really show off her range. And a great way to celebrate the holiday season.  

Setlist

Joy to the World
The Christmas Song
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
O Holy Night
Hands
The Shape of You
You Were Meant for Me
Foolish Games
Who Will Save Your Soul
Ave Maria
Silent Night (with Atz Lee Kilcher)
My Father’s Daughter
Homestead Yodeling Christmas (with Atz Kilcher)
Let it Snow (with Atz, Atz Lee & Nikos Kilcher)

Jade Bird November 14, 2017 Salt Lake City The State Room

Getting the opportunity to be the support act on a  tour is a  great opportunity for an up and coming artist to get their music heard by those who might not be familiar with their work.  That being said, I generally get nervous for these artists who open the show for the headliner because I’d imagine that it’s not their ideal situation to be performing in.  The audience isn’t necessarily there to see them, the venue is half full at best, and the sound isn’t always perfect for them.  In my experience more times than not, if the opener isn’t known, the audience tends to ignore them by talking with their friends and paying very little attention. This was not the case when Jade Bird performed at The State Room in support of Son Little on Tuesday night.  

The State Room is a venue I don’t get to as often as I’d like, but it’s one of my favorite places to see a concert in Utah. I have never been disappointed with any of the shows I’ve seen there.  They have an open floor with a few dimly lit pub tables scattered throughout.  Behind the floor is a seating area that looks like it could have been pews from a church at one point.  I like the way the sound resonates in the room, and there isn’t a bad spot in the venue.  

Jade walked out to a half-full venue by herself bringing only a white acoustic guitar with her to the stage.  She said some brief hellos and jumped right into her set.  I noticed a number of the audience members questioning whether Jade had a British accent or not.  Her singing voice doesn’t really display any type of accent so I could tell they weren’t exactly sure.  Especially because Jade’s music is blues and country influenced.  It was fun for me to know of her British background already and watch the audience delight in her speaking voice then blended with the type of music she was playing.  I think it may have contributed to initially gaining the audience’s attention. 

Now if I had to guess, I would say that maybe ten people knew who Jade was.  This was a real opportunity for Jade to gain some new fans and it was obvious that she did exactly that.  Jade played songs mostly from her five-song EP Something American.  Initially, the crowd was polite in their applause, but then they really started to warm up as the show progressed.  She sang the title track to her EP and as she was singing the song I noticed a number of people walk from the seated area to the middle of the floor.  I saw heads begin to bob as she went through her set. By shows end Jade had the audience clapping along.  She attempted a new song called “Anniversary”.  Jade joked that she had made it through the song only once out of three attempts so she was hoping to even it out with this performance.  She was flying through the song brilliantly when all of a sudden she stopped and said “I lost it!” inferring that she couldn’t remember how the rest of the song went.  The audience just cheered their support as Jade just laughed it off.  

The highlight for me and from what I gathered was the highlight for the rest in attendance was when Jade did a Johnny Cash medley.  She sang “Cocaine Blues”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, and “Ring of Fire”.  This really got the audience going.  They were clapping and singing along.  I thought Jade did a great job of making these songs her own while at the same time staying true to the original arrangements. When Jade finished the medley she received her biggest ovation of the night.  

By this point, the floor was mostly full and Jade had their full attention.  I really need to hand it to this audience.  I couldn’t hear anyone talking.  In fact, I actually heard a pen drop.  That’s right, a pen.  It was so silent in The State Room that when someone pulled their phone from their pocket and a pen fell to the floor on the other side of the venue from where I was standing I could actually hear it when it hit the ground.  Jade even thanked the crowd for how engaged they were.  Like I mentioned, this is not always the case for support acts so I could tell that Jade was really enjoying the respect she was being paid.  

Other than the Johnny Cash songs, my favorite moment of the show was when Jade sang my favorite song on her EP “Cathedral”.  I noticed a few fans in the front singing every word of the song.  Jade even looked at them and smiled with a surprise that someone in a very unfamiliar town for her, knew the lyrics to one of her songs.  

Jade has a beautiful singing voice and a really fun stage presence.  I’m happy I was able to see her this early in her career because I really think we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future. It’s an amazing thing to witness when an artist has the opportunity to introduce themselves to a new town and they leave having gained more fans than they came in with.  That’s what happened with Jade Bird.  I fully expect her to be the headlining shows in Salt Lake City in the future.  

Don Felder November 10, 2017 Salt Lake City The Depot

I had the opportunity to see a rock n roll legend this past Friday night at The Depot.  Don Felder was the lead guitarist for the Eagles from 1974-2001.  During this time he co-wrote a number of songs most notably “Hotel California”.  

Here’s what I expected from this concert.  The guitar play would be fantastic and I’d probably hear some Eagles songs.  Both things happened.  However, that’s putting it mildly.  This show really exceeded my expectations.  

Don got things going right away opening with one of my favorite Eagle songs “Already Gone”.  Then moving on to the classic “One of These Nights”.  The first thing I noticed was how amazing Don Felder is on the guitar.  This, as I mentioned, was one of the things that I expected.  But watching him play these riffs in person was simply amazing!  It truly was a masterclass in guitar.  

The other thing I noticed was Don is actually a solid vocalist.  A famous story within Eagles lore is that Felder wanted to sing lead on “Victim of Love”.  A song he co-wrote.  He recorded the vocals for the song and then the Eagles manager Irving Azoff took him to lunch.  In the meantime, Don Henley re-recorded the lead vocals that ended up being used.  When I heard this story I just assumed that Don Felder wasn’t a very good singer so the rest of the band did what had to be done.  And sure, Felder isn’t Don Henley when it comes to singing.  Not many are though.  But he’s a good vocalist.  I really enjoyed his voice and he sang all of these songs competently.  In fact, he sang “Victim of Love” in this show and I liked his vocals on that song quite a lot.

To my pleasant surprise and to the delight of the mostly middle-aged crowd, 13 of the 16 song setlist would come from the Eagles catalog.  The three other songs were solo gems “Heavy Metal”, “Girls in Black”, and a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride & Joy”.  

Don dedicated “Tequila Sunrise” to his formerEagles bandmate the late Glenn Frey.  Frey and Felder had a falling out that unfortunately was never reconciled. I thought this was a really classy move and I noticed many in the audience talking with their friends about what a nice touch it was leading into the song and to the show.  

Felder’s backing band was incredible. When introducing them, Don shared some of the other bands they had toured with.  Each one of them had extensive resumes, touring with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Kid Rock, Kenny Chesney, Pat Benatar, White Snake, and the Eagles.  Their harmonies were on point and at times if you closed your eyes, it sounded as if the rest of the Eagles were there.  

Don and his band zipped through Eagles song after Eagles song like “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “The Long Run” giving some personal history or backstory to each song.  Things really turned up a notch when Felder played “Heartache Tonight” and “Life in the Fast Lane”.  

At that point, the band put down their instruments and waved to the crowd signifying that the main set was over.  They never left the stage.  They picked their instruments back up and went into the Eagles first hit “Take it Easy”.  The crowd was electric.  They sang and shouted every line of the song.  It was then immediately clear why everyone to see Don Felder as soon as he strapped on his iconic double neck guitar.  It was, of course, the guitar he used for “Hotel California”.  

Now I’ve of course heard this song before, and I’ve seen it played live before.  But there is just something about seeing the man who wrote the music to “Hotel California” play that legendary solo and of course the guitar duet at the end.  I was mesmerized the whole time.  I found myself just staring at his hands picking away and moving up and down the fretboard.  People were singing this song so loud that a few times I couldn’t even hear Felder’s vocals.  People were singing to their friends, and at times singing it to me even though we had never met. 

Don couldn’t have ended this show with another song.  The audience, however, still cheered for more.  They kept cheering even after the lights came on and music from the house speakers came on.  I thought for a second they might give a second encore but then the crew came out and started breaking down the gear and we knew it was over.  

I’ve got to hand it to Mr. Felder.  I’m sure in some way it has to be disappointing to not have been with the Eagles in the past years and I’m sure he at times misses being in that band.  But he is a true talent, and he has put together a great band and a really fun show.  I’m glad he’s out there doing his thing. 

This past summer Don opened for Styx and REO Speedwagon out at USANA Amphitheater.  I was unable to attend the concert but the reports I heard back from friends was that Don Felder’s opening set blew away the bands that he was supposed to be warming up.  At the time I took that as the other bands weren’t that good.  But after being able to see Don Felder for myself, I realized that Don and his band and these songs are just that great!