Styx w/ Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Tesla June 4, 2018 USANA Amphitheater

It was a hot June evening out at USANA Amphitheater. It definitely feels like summer here in Utah. It was the perfect evening for Volume 1 of Utah’s classic rock station, Arrow 103.5’s Arrowfest featuring Styx, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and Tesla. I love that feeling of being out at this amphitheater as the sun goes down. There’s almost always a breeze, and that feeling of the temperature going down while listening to live music.  It’s the best!

Tesla
The show started right at 7 o’clock with Tesla. I felt bad for the band because the temperature was still about 90 degrees when they took the stage. And the way USANA Amphitheater is positioned, the stage faces the west. So the sun sets right in the band’s faces! Those guys were getting cooked! I’ve got to hand it to them though, they seemed totally unphased. They performed their 8 song set with what I would imagine their same high level performance even if the sun was down. While much of the crowd was still filing into the venue, those who made it for Tesla were excited to see their performance which included hit songs “Signs” and “Love Song”. I met a couple seated in the row in front of me who had traveled from Great Falls Montana just to see Tesla. They traveled over ten hours to hear just eight songs from their favorite band. Now that’s dedication! They stayed for the entire concert, but they were emphatic that it was Tesla that they came to see.

Tesla Setlist

I Wanna Live
Hang Tough
Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
What You Give
Signs
Little Suzi
Love Song
Modern Day Cowboy

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Fortunately for the Blackhearts, the sun had all but set when they took the stage. It was especially great for them because they were in all black. I don’t know why I’m so concerned about the body temperature of these bands. I suppose it’s because I hate being overheated, so I figure they might not love it either. But they’re playing music for thousands of people. I’m sure they’re just fine.

Joan opened her set with guns blazing! She started with “Bad Reputation” then ripped into the Runaways classic, “Cherry Bomb”, then followed that with “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”.  It was a really cool start to her set. Unfortunately, during “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah), Joan Jett fell backward to the ground after she backed into a monitor. The band kept playing, while she encouraged the crowd to sing the “Yeah, Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah” part of the song to buy a little time to be given a new guitar and regroup for a second. I thought the band did a great job of vamping, and she recovered pretty quick. I was waiting for her to make a joke about it but she just said something like “Hey it’s Rock n Roll” and moved on. By the time the set was over, I had forgotten it even happened. Well, until now where I’m remembering to write about in this review.

Joan played some of her first Blackheart songs, as well as the Bruce Springsteen penned title track of a movie she co-starred in with Michael J. Fox called “Light of Day”.  The buddy, I went to the show with and I have determined that we must see this movie immediately. Let me know if you’ve seen it and where I can watch it. I never even knew it existed, and now my life has no purpose other than to see this hidden 80’s gem.

The main set finished with the same guns a blazing as the opening of the show, featuring mega-hit “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” followed by “Crimson & Clover” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You”. Then the Blackhearts did what would probably be considered their encore if they had time to leave the stage and come back by playing a medley of “Real Wild Child (Wild One) and “Everyday People”.

I always forget how many hit songs Joan Jett & the Blackhearts have. With famously putting her own twist on some covers, playing a couple of Runaways songs, and of course her big Blackhearts singles, it makes for a great block of music. I really enjoyed them.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Setlist

Bad Reputation
Cherry Bomb
Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
Victim of Circumstance
Soulmates to Strangers
You Drive Me Wild
Light of Day
Fake Friends
Love is Pain
A Hundred Feet Away
Fresh Start
Love is All Around
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
Crimson & Clover
I Hate Myself for Loving You
Real Wild Child (Wild One)
Everyday People

Styx

I’m sure I’ve said this a bunch of times but I’m always impressed with how quickly they move one band’s equipment out and the next band’s in. I was given a photo pass for the Styx set so I was up close as the transition took place and it’s an art form. I don’t think we waited twenty minutes after Joan Jett for Styx to be ready. I don’t know how they do it. But I know I’ve taken for granted just how quickly the switch happens.

I had the opportunity to see Styx at the Eccles Theater back in January.  They performed alone with no openers and no co-headliners.  Just them.  It was a good concert.  I was excited to see if any surprises were in store for us at USANA Amphitheater.  And was there ever a surprise!

At the beginning of the show, I was set up between the barricade and the stage.  So basically in front of the front row for the first three songs. Let me tell you, it’s a pretty awesome sight. There were moments where I had to remind myself to keep taking pictures because I was just captivated by the well-oiled machine that is Styx.  They give each other these looks where they’re communicating more than we realize. Maybe they’re telling each other “This is a great crowd!”, or perhaps, “This crowd sucks, we need to put some extra work in to get them going!” or maybe, “We sound amazing tonight!”.   Who knows what they’re saying, but they seem so in sync that they don’t need to talk.

Speaking of the crowd, I’m not sure if it was the heat or that fact that it was a Monday, but they weren’t as energetic as I had expected them to be. That’s not to say they weren’t into it, and it could have been just my section, but it took a few songs before the crowd was fully into the show.

Styx is promoting their first album in over 14 years called The Mission.  It’s a pretty good album. The fear for fans is that the set will be over saturated with new songs when what they really came for are the hits. I thought Styx did an excellent job picking just the right spots to drop a new song into the setlist. They opened with “Gone Gone Gone” from The Mission. I’ve always felt that the first song is the perfect place to play a song off of the new album because the crowd is just excited the band is on stage. By the time they realize it’s a new song, it’s half over. After playing a new cut, Styx rewarded the audience with seven hit songs in a row. That’s how you do it. I think if other bands understood this, their fans would be more open-minded about hearing newer material.

Tommy Shaw was in his usual great form. I don’t know how he’s continued to sing those high notes over the years. He sounds as good as he did when he first joined the band. JY who they now call the “Godfather” of Styx seems to really be enjoying himself up on that stage.The member of Styx that has impressed me since the day he took over for late drummer John Panozzo is Todd Sucherman. I think he is one of the best drummers out there today. He really is underappreciated in the rock world.

Of course, it’s always great to see original bassist Chuck Panozzo take the stage for a few songs. It seems like him and current bassist Ricky Phillips have fun when they perform together.

Styx played all the hits you’d expect to hear if you’re going to a Styx concert. You know, “Blue Collar Man”, “The Grand Illusion”, “Fooling Yourself”, “Too Much Time on My Hands”, “Renegade”, “Lady”, “Come Sail Away”, and “Mr. Roboto”. Ok, maybe that last song isn’t one you’d expect to hear at a Styx concert. But if you’re rubbing your eyes to make sure you read that right, let me assure you, you did. Dennis Deyoung-less Styx sang “Mr. Roboto”.

Now even up to the time of writing this, I still don’t know how I feel about it. I have this one side of me that can’t figure out why they would do it when they’ve made it known for years how much they (Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young in particular) don’t like that song and have tried to distance themselves from it. Maybe I’m a little defensive for Dennis Deyoung and feel like, hey, this is the song that is attributed to breaking up the band and giving him the boot, how can you play this now without him? There is also a side of me that wonders if the fellas have simply evolved over the years to the point that they tolerate, maybe even appreciate the song now. And maybe performing it is a way of saying “Look, we know we haven’t done this song in a billion years, we don’t hate it anymore, and we love our fans so here you go.” And maybe it was some kind of an olive branch to Dennis Deyoung. Not necessarily to reunite, but to say, it’s water under the bridge.  So yeah, I don’t know how I felt about having heard that song. I’m not sure if Styx is sure about how they feel playing that song. 

 

As I looked around the amphitheater, I think there were many in as much shock as I was. The initial response I noticed was people with open mouths, and looking at each other totally surprised. I can say this. Lawrence Gowan did an amazing job on the vocals. He sounded really good singing “Mr. Roboto”. I really wish I would have known that they were going to do this song when I interviewed him a few weeks ago. I would have at least wanted to know who proposed the idea, if anyone fought it, and why they ultimately decided to go through with putting it on the setlist. I’m so curious about it. I did enjoy the shock of it all. Unless you cheated and looked at a previous setlist, there is no way you saw that coming.  Way to keep us on our toes Styx!

All in all, it was a beautiful night. The weather was perfect, the bands were fantastic, and the music was alive. Well done Arrow 103.5. Can’t wait for Volume 2 of Arrowfest.

 

Styx Setlist

Gone Gone Gone
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Lady
Light Up
Rockin’ the Paradise
Radio Silence
Miss America
The Outpost
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Too Much Time on My Hands
Khedive
Bohemian Rhapsody
Come Sail Away

Encore

Mr. Roboto
Renegade

UCR Interview Lawrence Gowan of Styx

By: Kevin Rolfe

Photo Credit: Rick Diamond

Styx returns to USANA Amphitheater on Monday, June 4 with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Tesla.  They credit Utah as one of the first regions to truly embrace their music.  Because of this, it’s always a good time when they come to town.  

I had the opportunity to interview Keyboardist/ Lead Singer Lawerence Gowan.  When I think of his contribution to Styx I generally think of his influence in the live show.  I also think of him as a newer member of the band, but as you’ll read, he’s actually been in the band for quite some time now.  We talk about that as well as the band’s new album The Mission.  He was really fun to talk to.  Enjoy!  

Utah Concert Review:  The first time I saw Styx was in 2000.  And I think you had joined up with them a couple years before that.  You should be close to your twentieth anniversary with the band, yeah?

Lawrence Gowan:   Yes! I’m about a month into my twentieth year.  Time flies.

UCR:  I just wanted to congratulate you on that.  I think you’ve been great as a member of the band.  I know it was probably a weird situation to come into and I think you’ve been so gracious with everything.  

LG: Thank you very much. It’s a great band to be a part of and it always was a great band before I got into it so it’s something I always want to acknowledge.

UCR:  Now I’ve always felt like the past drama with the band is not really part of your history with the band.  So we don’t need to get into all of that. But I am curious, you’ve replaced a principal songwriter, a founding member, and a vocalist that people love and associate many of these songs to, was there ever a transition period initially that you noticed the fans not being sure about you yet? And was there a moment/tour where you felt like the fans accepted you as an official member of the band.  

LG:  It’s funny, I have to go right back to the very first show I did with the band.  There was only one moment in the entire twenty years when I felt anything but 100% worthy of being with these guys.  The very first show we did together we opened with “Grand Illusion”.  Actually, they had just done an album called Brave New World so they did a short piece from Brave New World that segued into “Grand Illusion”.  And after the “Grand Illusion” intro I drew breath to sing that first line “Welcome to the Grand Illusion…”  and just about five seconds before I hit that first line I realized “Oh, there are a few thousand people here that are about to hear someone else sing this song that they’ve never heard before.”  And at that moment it all kinda flashed in my mind that “in about four or five minutes from now I’m going to know if this is going to work or not.” Because we hadn’t really considered that. We really were quite confident that it would work out because we had rehearsed it and everyone had smiles on their faces.  But by the time we got through the song I remember Tommy and JY walking forward and nodding and there were people with their arms in the air and it was all high fives. It’s kind of been that way since that time. And that’s something that has been inspiring to me that this was a good move.

The other thing I would always clarify is, right from that first show to this very day I have never looked upon the idea that I replaced anyone in the band.  It’s an easy thing to say, and I used to just accept it. But it really is not that. It really is that the band’s life was extended because they got another new guy.  Similar to what happened to them in 1976 when they got Tommy Shaw into the band after they had made five albums. Similar to what happened in the 90’s Todd Sucherman came in when original drummer John Panozzo could no longer do it.  It just so happens that because there was all the backstage brooha drama and all of the gut-wrenching emotions that go along with that because that preceded my joining the band, I think there’s a heightened sense of gravitas of it being a weighty situation.  But my time in the band has always been playing to a fantastic audience of Classic Rock Styx enthusiasts. And they always leave with a lot of smiles on their faces.

UCR: That’s a great way to approach it.  I enjoyed the band’s new album The Mission.  I believe it’s only the second album of original music you’ve done while in Styx.  Is that right?

LG:  Yes. We’ve only done two albums of brand new music.  There have been a good number of live albums and DVDs.  There was the covers album and of course the Regeneration album which were re-recordings of the classic hits with this lineup.  So there are a good number of records, but only two brand new records. That’s really a testament to how much we tour. The band never toured to the extent that we have over the last twenty years.  We have yet to play less than 100 shows in a year and then you add in all the travel that entails, and the distances. We’re in an era of the music world now where the live show, the live performance is at the center of what people gravitate towards because we’re in a different time.  We’re in the internet era where everyone gets their entertainment from their laptops. So when they go and see a live rock show it’s even a bigger seismic shift in their lives because they’re actually living something in real time in the real world. Even if they are holding up their cell phones for most of it.

UCR:  I’m sure with this much touring, not only is it the number of shows and travel, but I’d imagine that you need to spend your off days on vocal rest.  So there probably aren’t many off days the band would be able to spend in the studio laying down vocal tracks take after take.

LG:  It is exactly that.  It really is. You’ve got to stay focused on the most important thing that’s going to have the band continue on.  In the 70’s it was obviously “Let’s get an album out as quick as we can while people are noticing. Let’s make sure it’s really high quality, and then let’s get out and play some shows to support it.”  Now the creativity, for the most part, has been in how the myriad of ways we can improve the live show. And that’s something we’ve really worked at.

Now when we made The Mission, we just set aside the time.  That’s how it got accomplished.  We cut back on shows, we set parameters of how much time we had to work on it.  It took us well over a year to actually pull it together. And that was with some really creative maneuvering around the schedule, but it got done.  

UCR:  When I saw you back in January at the Eccles Theater it seemed like the album was well received.  Which I thought was great. Generally speaking, bands that have been around for 40 years don’t really get to enjoy that.  

LG:  The beauty of being in a band with great hits to play is, you’ve got great hits to play.  The detraction is so often the audience doesn’t want to hear anything but that. However, if you give them just the right thing on the right day you might be surprised.  It seems with The Mission that’s what’s unfolded.  The audience was ready for it, they were ready to hear something that after all these years this lineup could accomplish in a studio setting with the writing and the culmination of our lineup.  I know what you’re saying, “Radio Silence” and “Gone, Gone, Gone”, and “Khedive” those songs are going over as well as many of the classic hits. I think it’s because they slot into the show in an effortless fashion and the audiences are digging it.  

UCR:  And for you, as somebody who had success as a solo artist how has it felt to get to create music again, and with this band?  

LG:  Really satisfying.  I thoroughly enjoyed being a solo artist, but there were times where I was kind of jealous or envious of the idea of creating with a band and having a collective voice that still sounds like one entity.  There aren’t all that many solo artists that I listen to compared to the number of bands that I listen to. I enjoy listening to Elton, and a few others but really the list of bands is far greater. Maybe it was the “grass is greener” idea, but the idea of the collective and what happens when the creative friction comes into the room and something emerges that really doesn’t sound like one guy but very much like this outside entity that no one can claim as their own because it exists as the sum of the parts.  

UCR:  Do you remember the first time you ever performed live?

LG:  I was in grade 2.  I grew up in Toronto.  I can even tell you the date!  It was February 10, 1964. I remember that because The Beatles played on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on February 9, 1964.  When I went to school the next day, I don’t know why but everyone was asked to sing or perform something in front of the class.  I had nothing prepared but I already kind of knew “All My Lovin’” and “Love Me Do” because I had heard them on the radio prior to seeing them on Ed Sullivan.  So basically I got up in front of the class and stood there and I pulled up three other unsuspecting guys and showed them where to stand, and belted out “Love Me Do” in front of the class.  What I remember is the rest of the class looking like “What the hell is he doing?”, but my teacher Ms. Davis had this big grin on her face. I know now what it was. She was probably in her early twenties, and she was obviously a big Beatles fan already.  Or had seen the show the night before. So I was basically doing what a whole generation of musicians have been doing ever since. Trying to figure out “How do we put a band together that looks as much fun and artistically satisfying as that band?”. It was an entire generation of musicians that were affected by that night.  I think I might have beat them all to get in front of an audience with that schtick (Laughing).

UCR:  Do you remember the first concert you attended?  

LG:  I do.  It was in Toronto.  It was a Canadian band called “The Guess Who” that people, of course, know for their biggest hit “American Woman”.  I was 14 and they sounded exactly like the record. They were just so good live. It really had an impression on me.  Whenever I see a band live, if they don’t come up to or surpass the quality that they do on record they kind of lose me forever.  I was branded with that way of judging an act. If I’m on the fence with an act or indifferent to them and I see them live and they just slay the audience I’m forever devoted to what that band can do.  And vice versa, I’ve seen acts where I actually like their record but they’re subpar live they kind of lose me for good.

UCR:  It makes a difference how they sound live, doesn’t it?

LG:  Yeah!  I’ve tried to figure it out over the years.  Ultimately music is communication. So in the live arena, that’s where it’s the most real and visceral and intense, or the opportunity is there for it to be that.  And a great rock show is the best form of entertainment I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I don’t think anything is going to surpass it. I know what it can do to you, and when it fails to do that it’s disappointing.  Fortunately, that hasn’t happened all that often because most of the bands I like are phenomenal live.

UCR:  I think that’s something that could be attributed to Styx.  I’ve seen bands where when they take the stage it looks like they are going to work.  But with Styx, I’ve seen you at the beginning of tours and at the end of tours and it looks no different.  Every time you guys seem excited to be out on that stage. That goes a long way for fans.

LG:  I’m glad you perceive that because I can tell you it’s genuine.  It’s funny that you say that you’ve seen bands that “look like they’re going to work”.  We’re only doing this so that we can avoid going to work! (Laughing) The last thing we’re doing is working!  We’re basically just trying to create this great vibe in front of a few thousand people. When you leave the stage seeing this sea of smiles on faces as far as the eye can stretch, that’s a pretty good end to a satisfying day.  You should really drink that in and be happy to suit up again the next day. I’m lucky that I’m in a like-minded band in that regard.

UCR:  You’re really giving people their escape for a couple hours from their work week.  So it’s good that you guys have that approach.

LG:  The effort it takes to get out to a show, and park, go through a crowd, and that whole ritual, they deserve the best possible performance.  And we’ve jumped through a few hoops of fire to get we are so we don’t want to let ourselves down either.

UCR:  Is there a particular Styx song that no matter how many times you’ve played it, you still get excited?  

LG:  Every night I look at “Renegade” on the setlist.  It’s always towards the end if not the very end of the show.  I embrace that moment every time. It’s great too because I don’t have to sing lead on that one!  I get the opportunity to take the temperature of the audience and every time it’s at a fever pitch.  So I get to observe it and enjoy it so I love seeing that that song is coming up on the setlist.

UCR:  Do you have an experience or two as a performer that you might say are your very best?

LG:  A couple pinnacles come to mind.  First I’ll go back to 1985 prior to joining Styx.  In my hometown Toronto, my second album went to number 1.  It wasn’t released in the states which was a terrible frustration, but it did get to number 1 in Toronto the very week I had the biggest show I had ever done to date which was about 9,000 people. That was one of the highest moments for me personally because I had played all the little clubs around the area and then suddenly to have that happen, it was like, it’s what you’re dreaming of but yet it hits you like “Wow!  That was an unexpected thing.  That was great!”.

The next one I would say, in joining Styx I think we played twice at the Super Bowl.  Funny enough it was the second time, which is weird, I don’t know why, but it was the second time we did it.  I had been in the band for five years at that point. We were still reaching to see what was achievable. The show in San Diego that day was really spectacular.  I remember feeling like I was at the center of the universe. It was just astounding. That was an obvious giant thing. But, there are other moments that I can mention along the way.  Like the first time we played at Red Rocks in Colorado was a phenomenal moment. You’re looking up at this gigantic natural amphitheater a mile or so above the city, it’s almost like you’re in outer space playing there.  It’s an unbelievable spot. And then there are surprises along the way. Like playing the Eccles Theater there in Salt Lake back in January where you don’t know what to expect. You’re playing a new venue, you don’t know how it’s going to go. You’re playing some new material in this case.  And suddenly that’s just as rewarding as anything you’ve ever done. So the answer to your question has become a real moving target over the years.

UCR: Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Gowan.  I really enjoyed this!

LG: Me too!  We’ll see you out at USANA with Tesla and Joan Jett!  It’s gonna rock!!!

 

For tickets to Arrowfest: Styx, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, with Tesla on June 4 click here.  

To purchase Styx new album The Mission, click here.

Poison w/ Cheap Trick May 22, 2018 USANA Amphitheater

As I was driving out to USANA Amphitheater for the first time this season, the sun was shining and it was a perfect 72 degrees.  But on the horizon, in fact, headed right towards West Valley where USANA Amphitheater is located it was impossible to miss a very different picture.  A dark cloud was rolling in fast! I knew this was a rain or shine show, but I’m sure like anyone heading to an outdoor concert, I preferred there be more shine than rain.

Cheap Trick

When I arrived, it appeared that Cheap Trick was about to take the stage.  The fog machines were on, and the crew was leaving the stage. But just then, I noticed the huge elevated speaker stacks lowering to the ground, and the crew rushed back to cover the soundboards and equipment as the wind picked up and the rain started to fall significantly.  At that point, someone took to the microphone and announced that there would be a slight delay to allow the weather to improve.

Ultimately this worked out in Cheap Trick’s favor because more people en route to the show would be there in time to see them.  As the rain diminished, Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander walked on stage in a fur coat and his signature shiny police captain’s hat. He stood there, looked out to the crowd without saying a word.  His presence signified that the show was about to begin.

Sure enough, the speakers were lifted, the plastic was removed and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Cheap Trick took the state.  It took a minute for things to settle in. The crowd was shuffling back to their seats, removing parkas, wiping the water off of their chairs, maybe a little distracted by the rain delay.  

But about halfway through the ten song set, It seemed like everyone locked in on the moment.  The band was in good form, and the crowd was now focused on the legendary and extremely influential rock band.  

The crowd sang along to such hits as “The Flame”, and “I Want You to Want Me”. Now we were off and running.  Guitarist Rick Nielsen cracked the audience up when he told us they were getting ready to release their “150th album” when in fact, it will be their 20th. He stated that if we hated the song it was only three minutes so it would be over soon.  The song “Here Comes Summer” fit right in with the rest of the set.

There seemed to be some confusion on if the band was going to cut their set short due to the delay, or play a couple more.  I’m not sure if they cut some songs or not, but they played a few more songs and I’m glad they did. I would have been disappointed if I didn’t hear “Surrender”, which was one of the songs they finished with.  

Rick Nielsen threw out literally hundreds of guitar picks to the crowd.  And what would be a Cheap Trick show without an appearance from Rick’s custom made five neck guitar?  Rick left the stage and returned with it just in time to finish their set with “Auf Wiedersehen”.

Cheap Trick handled the rain delay perfectly.  It was a perfect warm up for what was in store for the rest of the night.  Cheap Trick is an iconic band and I’m really glad I got to see them.

CheapTrick Setlist
Hello There
You Got It Going On
California Man
Baby Loves To Rock
Here Comes The Summer
The Flame
I Want You To Want Me
Dream Police
Surrender
Auf Wiedersehen

 

Poison

Due to the rain delay and USANA Amphitheater’s 11 o’clock curfew, the crew had to work fast to switch out Cheap Trick’s gear and move Poison’s in.  I’ve got to say, they did an incredibly efficient job. Poison took the stage within ten to fifteen minutes of Cheap Trick leaving.

Now to me, Poison is one of those bands that people absolutely love, or absolutely love to hate on.  And I think Poison must know this.  They work hard on that stage to give their devoted fans a night they’ll love, and put in an effort to win those over that might not be so sure about them.  

For the first three songs of Cheap Trick and Poison, I was at the front of the venue taking pictures.  One of the security guards was telling me that he was looking forward to Cheap Trick, but wasn’t too interested in the Poison part of the night.  I found it funny that by the third song in Poison’s set this same security guard was bobbing his head, and singing along to “Ride the Wind” with the rest of the crowd.  

This tour is called the “Nothing But a Good Time Tour 2018”, of course referencing their monster hit of the same name.  As corny as it is to use the name of a song, or the name of a tour to describe the night’s events, there is simply no other way to describe this show.  It really was a good time. They took  the stage and opened with “Look What the Cat Dragged In”.  It was light speed ahead from there.  I barely had time to recover or take a mental note for this review before they were ripping into the next song! 

I have to give it to Bret Michaels, he’s an excellent front man.  His energy knows no bounds. He was jumping, clapping, running, dancing, and still singing the whole night.  He never seemed to be out of breath, or to even slightly slow down. I was so impressed. After several songs, throughout the night he’d say something like “Let’s just keep this going!”, or “We’re gonna keep this train rolling!”  as they jumped into the next high energy song.

I had the opportunity to interview bassist Bobby Dall a few weeks back leading up to this show.  I asked him if there was a song that he really looked forward to playing above others.  He mentioned “Ride the Wind” was always a favorite, but then he stated that he never tired of playing any of their songs.  I found that hard to believe since they’ve played these songs over and over thousands of times. But after watching him play in person, I have changed my mind. He looked like he was loving it up there. He seemed into every song  and just totally fired up to be playing in front of this crowd.  He was a pretty mellow guy during our interview, but he was far from that on the stage. I loved it.

C.C. Deville, which by the way,  is one of the greatest lead guitarist stage names in history, was also really fun to watch.  There has been so much turmoil in this band over the years, but I was happy to see that it looked like he and the rest of the guys were in a great place and having (here I go again) a good time.  

I thought his guitar playing was as good as it’s ever been, and the crowd seemed to think so too.  He received one of the loudest cheers of the night when he finished his guitar solo.

Rikki Rockett (Another fantastic stage name!) is a really entertaining drummer to watch.  Due to the nature of the instrument, most drummers are animated. But Rikki adds an extra flair and showmanship to his playing that fits this band perfectly.  I enjoyed his drum solo which concluded with Bobby Dall returning to the stage to duet the “Pink Panther Theme” with Rikki. From my vantage point, I could see a little boy off stage with glowing noise cancelling headphones and drumsticks.  I’m assuming this was Rikki’s child because he came on stage and played with Rikki during the encore.

From what I can tell, the setlist was condensed by maybe one or to two songs.  So really, not a big deal. However, they played their biggest hits. And I have to admit, I had forgotten just how many hits these boys had!  They paid a special tribute to the military with a heartfelt rendition of “Something to Believe In”. They had the crowd at full voice singing along to “Talk Dirty to Me” and “Your Mamma Don’t Dance”.  And of course, they brought down the house with their number one hit, “Every Rose Has its Thorn”.  Couples were slow dancing, others were singing along, and of course, cell phone lights were beaming bright replacing the lighters that I’m sure Poison used to see fill their audience back in the day.  

Poison finished their main set with the title of this tour, and I guess what could also be the title of this article “Nothin’ But a Good Time”.  USANA Amphitheater was electric. The stage lights were amazing, the people were so happy, and I could tell the band was totally happy with the reception.

In the past several years Poison has been a part of these package tours where there will be three bands of a certain era or genre touring together.  For example, I saw Poison open for headliner Def Leppard, with Lita Ford going before Poison. But on this tour, Poison is the headliner and closer of the show.  I think it’s the right place for them. With these songs, this energy, and this fan base, I hope they headline their tours from here on out.

The band came back for their encore and sang a cover of the great KISS anthem “Rock and Roll All Nite”.  The place went wild, sang every word, and danced as if it was 1987.

I brought my high school friend Jamin with me to this show.  For the sake of context, Poison was at their height when we were in 5th and 6th grade.  He mentioned before that he wasn’t really a Poison fan. Not a hater, just enjoyed a different type of music.  He stated that the only song he really knew was “Every Rose Has its Thorn”. But as I was dropping him of for the night he said “You know, like this band or not, they’re really good, and they put on a great show. That frontman was so entertaining.  They did a really good job. I really liked it.” That tells me that Poison did exactly what they set out to do here in Utah.

Poison is a band that represent a specific era of music.  Things back then seemed care free and all about looking for “Nothin’ But a Good Time”.  With the way things seem today, it was nice to feel that care free for a couple hours.  

Look What the Cat Dragged In
I Want Action
Ride the Wind
Something to Believe In
Talk Dirty to Me
Your Mama Don’t Dance (Loggins & Messina Cover)
C.C. Deville Guitar Solo
Fallen Angel
Unskinny Bop
Rikki Rockett Drum Solo
Bobby Dall Bass Solo
Every Rose Has It’s Thorn
Nothin’ But a Good Time

Encore
Rock and Roll All Night (KISS Cover)

JD & The Straight Shot May 20, 2018 Salt Lake City Vivint Smart Home Arena

What is the responsibility of a support band?  Open the show? Warm up the crowd? Gain exposure by performing a most established band? Win over some new fans?  The answer to all of these questions is, Yes!  I think JD & The Straight Shot were successful with all of these.

My concern for openers is that no one will be at the venue yet when they go on, and if they are, no one will pay attention.  I’m hopeful that the band is well received whether they are my type of music or not. In this case, I quite enjoyed what I had heard from JD & The Straight Shot so I had high hopes for them here in Salt Lake City.  

When they took the stage I looked around and the venue was already at about 60% full with more people filing into their seats.  I’d say that’s a pretty solid turn out. The all acoustic band consisting of a couple guitarists, drums, stand up bass, fiddle, and “JD” Jim Dolan on lead vocals, broke into their set and I noticed heads actually turning toward the stage.   Those same heads then began bobbing throughout the 45 minute set. I could tell that many members of the audience really liked the American Roots style music. I read the lips of someone saying to the person with them, “I really like this”, pointing to the band.  I could see some clapping along and head bobbing particularly on “Run For Me” and “The Ballad of Jacob Marley”.  

I thought Jim Dolan was solid on lead vocals.  I found him engaging when he shared stories behind the meaning of songs.  He also reassured the crowd that if they hadn’t seen the current line up of The Eagles, that they were in for something special.  I found it humorous that the style of music didn’t quite fit Jim’s speaking accent. From what I understand Jim is from New York City, and his speaking accent very much represents that region of the country.  It surprised me at first because it’s undetectable when he’s singing. It didn’t ruin anything for me. Just a funny observation.

I thought the band was fantastic.  Each one of them coming into this band with an impressive professional resume’.  Carolyn Dawn Johnson, guitarist, had amazing backing vocals and a really fun stage presence. The rhythm section was so good.  Shawn Pelton on drums really kept the band really tight. Everyone was really in sync and connected and I felt like it had a lot to do with Pelton.  I love the stand up bass. When I see a band walk on stage and watch a bassist pick up a stand up, I know I’m in for a good show. And of course, I wasn’t wrong.  Byron House was really enjoyable to watch. His highlight was when he played the banjo for a song. It was obvious from the first cord just how talented Marc Copley is. He sang backing vocals and from my vantage point lead guitar.  His vocals were excellent to the point that with no disrespect for JD, I was kinda hoping to get a song with him on lead vocals. He was that good. And finally, Erin Slaver, (who I had the opportunity to interview) on fiddle was the most fun to watch.  You can’t have a great American Roots band without a good fiddler. And Erin was excellent on Fiddle. Her vocals were excellent as well. She dueted beautifully with JD a couple of times. Erin simply looked like she was having a really good time up there.  She waved to audience members, and graciously bowed  whenever they cheered. I could tell she enjoyed the performance.  The vocals as a whole in this band were what impressed me most.  I could see any of them singing lead in a band.  That’s what made the sound of this band so good.  They blended together really well with their harmonies. They were a pleasure to listen to.  

From what I could tell, the volume of the applause increasingly grew between each song.  With about three songs to go, the audience was now about 80% full. I feel like Utah crowds are generally encouraging to support bands.  This was no exception. I think JD & The Straight Shot gained some fans here in Salt Lake City.

JD & The Straight Shot finished with a beautifully arranged cover of the Three Dog Night hit song “Shambala”.  When they were done they walked off the stage to a rousing applause. I don’t know if this band has received a reception quite like this before.  I sure hope so because they certainly work hard up there. They did their job as an opener.  The crowd was warmed up for The Eagles, and JD & The Straight Shot most certainly gained some great exposure.  

Watch this video to learn more about JD & The Straight Shot’s newest album Good Luck and Good Night.  Or click here to purchase the album.  

UCR Interview Bobby Dall of Poison

By: Kevin Rolfe

                                                                                              Photo Credit: Mark Weiss

 

For as long as I can remember Poison has had a really strong fanbase here in Utah.  On May 22,  they bring their Nothin’ But a Good Time 2018 Tour to USANA Amphitheater with Cheap Trick and Pop Evil.  I had the opportunity to have a really entertaining and informative conversation with bassist Bobby Dall.  Enjoy! 

Utah Concert Review:  Your last couple times playing here in Utah I believe you opened for Def Leppard at USANA Amphitheater.  This time you’re headlining the show. Which means a longer setlist, your staging, etc. Was there a determining factor to tour as headliners again?  Or did things just play out that way?

Bobby Dall:  It was definitely a mixture of things.  We have headlined USANA before, several times.  We’ve played there with Def Leppard, and I think Motley as well.  This time around we’re headlining with Cheap Trick and Pop Evil. Lovely guys in Cheap Trick.  The guys in Pop Evil, great music, I don’t know them personally, but soon we’ll get to know them very well.  I don’t know, I guess it’s just the natural correlation of the next step in our career. We’ve spent several years not headlining, although we had a few headlining dates last year.  But this year we’re headlining the whole tour. It’s always more fun when you have a little more control. You get to play longer and controlling the show and the environment. But you also have more responsibility as well.  

UCR:  I’m sure one of the nice things about headlining out at USANA Amphitheater is you won’t have to perform while the sun is setting.  It’s a great venue but I always feel bad with the openers at that venue because the sun is right in their eyes!

BD:  Yeah with the amphitheaters it’s always better to play when the sun goes down! (Laughing) But you know, in different situations you have to deal with it.  

UCR: So it seems like the thing to do these days is package a few bands together and send them out on tour?  As a fan, I love it. But I have wondered what that was like for the bands.

BD: Well since the beginning of Rock and Roll bands have been packaged up.  In fact, in the 70’s, my first concert was Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Rush, and about ten bands.  It was the Florida Jam. That was the first time I saw Cheap Trick, who’s with us on this tour, and I fell in love with them.  I think I was 15 or 16. You are right that bands are packaging up. But they always have. I believe in value for the fans. And the more bang for the buck is the best way to describe it.  Having three bands on a package and going out and playing, give the fans more value for their money. And what I think is great about our tour this year is you’re getting a band from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  So we really are covering three decades of fans. And our band itself, we’re always getting new fans each tour.

UCR:  So when you look at the bands of your era, they’ve become really fragmented.  Sometimes there is only one original member of a band touring as the band. Or in the case of RATT, I think there are two versions of the band circling the globe.  And while we don’t need to get into the history of it all, Poison has had their drama, but the original guys are still together. How have you done that? Do you just have to turn off the relationship aspect and make it about business?  Or have you just figured out how to make it work?

BD:  Truly the secret is, we have a saying in the band “If you can get all four of us in the same room or on the stage we get a free pass.”  It really does seem to work out that way. There are bands like you said that aren’t all the original members and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It just is what it is. But I believe it’s important for us to be together. So hopefully the four members of this band will keep going for another ten, twenty, thirty years together.  But as you get older it gets harder and harder.

UCR:  Now you’ve played thousands of shows over the years.  But is there a song that no matter how many times you’ve played it, you’re still excited, and still enjoy playing it every time?

BD: I love playing them all.  But “Ride the Wind” is one of my favorites.  Every night it’s always based on the audience reaction on any given evening.  It isn’t about me, it’s about the fans. That’s the best way to answer it. But I do particularly love every time we play “Ride the Wind”.  It never gets boring. None of the songs get boring playing them again and again. It’s great to have a such a deep catalog as we have. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been around so long.  And I think it’s important to play those songs for the fans. But that’s just me. You can vary a little, but if you don’t give the fans the hits they won’t be happy.

UCR:  Are there certain cities in particular that you go to where you know without fail it’s going to be an awesome Poison show?

BD:  I love every city we play.  And I won’t diss any city we pay.  But you surprisingly get the most audience reaction from the cities that the least shows.  We’ve never not been well received though. I’ve never had an experience where I haven’t been happy with the audience.  

UCR:  Do you remember the first time you performed live?

BD:  I do.  It was in Pennsylvania, and it was in a fire hall near Mechanicsburg.  It was the first show we played as a band. It was Poison, but we weren’t called that yet.  We were called Paris.

UCR:  What was that experience like?

BD:  It was incredible.  Frightening, terrifying, amazing, wonderful, and the rest is history.  Rock and Roll history. But before going on absolutely terrified anxiety.  Mortified might be the best word. (Laughing)

UCR: Does that feeling still exist?  Or have you performed so much that you’re just excited to get out there now?

BD:  The first show of every tour, my anxieties are a little high.  But that’s typical and just the way I’m built. But once I hit the stage it all goes away.  The second we’re in front of the audience I’m just part of this energy between the fans and the band.  And if that initial anxiety goes away, that’s probably the time to stop doing this.

UCR:  Is there a band you make a point of seeing whenever they tour?

BD:  As far as a show that I’m not working on, I’ve seen the Rolling Stones about 7 or 8 times. Now I’ve seen other bands a lot more than that, but that’s usually a band we’re touring with.  But as far as a band that I’ve gone to see, the Rolling Stones are my favorite band and the band who I’ve seen the most.

UCR:  Again, I know you’ve played a ton of shows, but is there a particular show, or maybe tour that you would say stood out as the best?

BD:  It’s so hard.  Paul Stanley (of KISS) coming up and playing with us, all the bands we played with.  I grew up on Aerosmith, I grew up on Cheap Trick, I grew up on Van Halen, so any interaction with any of those bands has always been exciting.  I don’t have a particular favorite though. There’s just too many.

UCR: Well let me ask you this in closing. Do you remember that feeling where you realized this was happening for you?  

BD:  I think in the very beginning, it was us, RATT, and Cheap Trick on tour in 1987.  And we were originally scheduled to tour for three weeks. It was when Talk Dirty To Me took off.  We ended up staying, and Cheap Trick ended up leaving.  And that particular stretch playing with RATT of all the times was one of the most exciting times.  But it’s a hard question to answer. It’s like answering “If you could have anything in the world what would you want right now?”  

UCR:  Thank you so much, Bobby!  See you at USANA!

 

Poison will be at USANA Amphitheater on Tuesday, May 22.  Click here to purchase tickets!

Peter Hook & The Light May 15, 2018 Salt Lake City Metro Music Hall

Peter Hook is the founding bassist for the bands Joy Division and New Order.  His innovative playing style is one of the key factors in giving these bands their distinctive sound, making them both legendary and majorly influential bands in alternative music. Joy Division evolved into New Order following the death of Ian Curtis, Joy Division frontman. New Order went on to have mega-hits like “Blue Monday”, “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Regret”. In 2007 New Order and Peter Hook parted ways.  Eventually, Hook formed his solo band Peter Hook and the Light. With this band, Peter tours the world performing songs from both Joy Division and New Order. While Peter does play many of the most recognizable songs from each band, his purpose is to play songs that were rarely if ever played when he was with New Order.  He will usually cover entire albums from the catalogs he’s played a huge part in creating. Songs from last night’s gig at The Metro Music Hall came from Joy Division and New Order compilation albums both titled Substance.

I have never seen New Order live so I was really excited to hear these songs live from one of its original members.  The first half of the show was their New Order set. They opened with “Too Late” and “Dreams Never End” the latter Peter mentioned was only played during their visit to the “Peel Sessions” a radio show in England, but never actually recorded by the band.  Stating he wasn’t sure why they never recorded it. Then they went right into playing the album Substance in exact order.  This works out perfectly because the two final songs on the album are two of New Order’s biggest its “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “True Faith”.  The almost capacity crowd were in full voice, singing along, and taking a trip back to their 80’s dance club days. For me, this was the highlight of the entire show.  

After about a 15 minute intermission, the band returned to play their Joy Division set.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Joy Division. But maybe it’s my age or just my preference, but I know more New Order songs.  Therefore I wished that the Joy Division set would have been first followed by the New Order set. I think I would have enjoyed the chronology of that set.  Plus, Joy Division had two excellent albums, but New Order has had over three decades where Peter Hook was part of the band. So the New Order Substance compilation was full of amazing songs.  If you like these bands and you look at the setlist you might see what I mean.  I can accept those who feel opposite of me. I’m sure there were many there who feel the opposite of me and were really into all of the Joy Division songs over the New Order songs and liked the way the show was laid out.  I don’t really have a Joy Division vs. New Order stance. Just the way I would have preferred to have heard these songs. However, the Joy Division set was excellent. I never thought I’d hear “She’s Lost Control” or “Love Will Tear Us Apart” performed this way.  I’ve heard New Order cover Joy Division songs, but they truly sound like a New Order version of a Joy Division track. Peter Hook & The Light played these songs very reminiscent of Joy Division.

Regardless of the order of the setlist, I was really impressed with the band.  It was awesome to see Peter Hook playing the bass. I enjoyed that while these were technically covers from his time with previous bands, he was really able to make these songs his own.  There was a rawness to the songs that gave them new life.  It gave me a glimpse of what it might have been like to have seen Joy Division. 

I’m always a little sad when bands split with an original member.  I’m sure these parties are happier, healthier, and altogether better off going down the paths they are now on. But as a fan of their music, I’ll always wish they were together when I see them live or releasing new music.  So while I did love this show, there was a part of me that as wishing I was seeing Hook with his old mates in New Order. But I think it’s understandable to feel that way.  It’s also understandable that it’s really hard to maintain a well balanced relationship for 40 years when art, money, personality, and control are involved.  It’s easy to judge when we haven’t been through that. So I’ll leave it at I wish they could have worked it out, but since they haven’t, we’ve been blessed here in Salt Lake City to get to see Peter Hook & the Light play the songs of Substance at The Metro Music Hall, a venue I very much enjoyed. It was my first time at The Metro and it’s a great place to see a show.  

This was a great night out listening to the songs of my youth with a bassist whose playing style is clearly heard in much of today’s Indie or Alternative music.  To see an icon like Peter Hook take center stage in an intimate setting such as this truly made for a special night. I’m excited to see what albums they present to us next time they pass through town.  

Setlist

New Order

Too Late
Dreams Never End
Ceremony
Everything’s Gone Green
Temptation
Blue Monday
Confusion
Thieves Like Us
The Perfect Kiss
Subculture
Shellshock
State of the Nation
Bizarre Love Triangle
True Faith

Joy Division

A Means to an End
Disorder
Warsaw
Leaders of Men
Digital
Autosuggestion
Transmission
She’s Lost Control
Incubation
Dead Souls
Atmosphere
Love Will Tear Us Apart

UCR Interview- Erin Slaver of JD & The Straight Shot

(Photo Credit: Kristin Barlowe)

 
JD & The Straight Shot are an Americana band that is hitting the road to promote their new album “Good Luck and Good Night”.  They will be the special guests of the Eagles when they play at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Thursday, May 3.  I had the opportunity to interview violinist/ fiddler, Erin Slaver.   
 
Hi Erin, I’m really interested what your background in music is.  How did you decide you wanted to perform? 
 
Hi! My parents actually began my musical journey by enrolling me in a Suzuki violin program when I was three years old. I never stopped playing, and when I was old enough I began to play and perform in public with my father (who played guitar). By the time I was going to college, I was so deeply immersed in the performing/musical lifestyle I never questioned my path. 
 
Do you remember the first time you performed live?
 
It was a 3rd grade talent show at my school and my father had learned the chords to accompany me while playing one of my Suzuki violin songs. I think the song was ‘Humoresque’ by Dvorak. 
 
Do you remember the first concert you attended?
 
 Honestly, it was the 20th anniversary of Woodstock (I would’ve been a 1 year old).   My family lived near Bethel NY, (and my parents actually attended the real deal!)
 
That’s amazing! What are some of your influences both in music or otherwise that have brought you to the style of music you play?
 
The Eagles
Carole King
Stephane Grappelli 
Patti Griffin
The Beatles 
Bach, Beethoven, Brahms
 
That’s a solid list.  So, how did you get involved with JD and the Straight Shot? 
 
I met Marc Copley, the musical director, in Nashville (where we both now reside) and he recruited me for the band. It was perfect timing! 
 
What do you think those in attendance should expect from a JD and The Straight Shot performance?
 
Lots of good energy, charisma and a unique sound that blends rock, country, folk, Irish, and roots music. (Oh and lots of fiddles…from yours truly 😉  
 
There’s nothing like a good fiddle! I’m looking forward to hearing that. What JD and The Straight Shot song do you always look forward to playing live?
 
I love “Ballad of Jacob Marley”. I look around on stage while we’re playing it and I can literally SEE how much fun everyone is having. Plus there’s banjo 🙂 
 

 

Banjo, Yes! Is there an artist out there today that you always make a point of seeing live?
 
I think Jason Isabell is incredible and I’d watch every show he plays if I could!
 
What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?  
 
Robert Plant. I didn’t know the meaning of rock star till I saw him perform…. And then  I said, “Oh, now I get it”.
 
I have never seen Robert Plant.  I really need to make that happen. 
Finally, what has been your best/favorite concert experience as a performer?
 
It’s always about having a great audience.  As a musician/performer, the energy and attitude of the audience are reflected in our performance no matter what.  A great energy from the audience changes the whole experience.  SO my favorite experiences as a performer have taken place when that magical balance between the audience and the performer is just right. It’s special.
 
Thank you so much, Erin.  I’m looking forward to the show!  
 
If you’re coming to see The Eagles, make a point of arriving early to see JD & The Straight Shot.  They’re sure to start off a great night of music.  
 
JD & The Straight Shot will be The Eagles special guests at Vivint Smart Home Arena on May 3, 2018.  For more info on the band, click here

UCR Interview- KOLARS

I had the opportunity last week to spend some time with L.A. based band Kolars. In preparation for my interview I with them I downloaded their 2017 self-titled album and their new single “King of Carrot Flowers”.  I immediately fell in love with this band. Their music has been on constant repeat ever since. I was a little nervous that I would be overly praising upon meeting them. No one likes a kiss up! But I think any artist would like to hear if someone likes their music.  I really enjoyed spending time with Rob and Lauren. They were really laid back and gave some really insightful information on the interworking of Kolars. Enjoy!

Utah Concert Review: How did you to come together as a band?

Rob Kolar:  Well we’ve been doing music and arts and theater for Lauren for a long time.  This thing kind of came out of the ashes of heartbreak with other projects. So we were in another group that toured for a long time and people just sort of wanted to go their different ways.  People didn’t want to tour anymore. And we were kind of like man, maybe this is over. So I was thinking ok well maybe I’ll do a solo album or something and Lauren was focusing on other things and directing some plays and then it was like well, we can still have a band with the two of us.  What if we just…

 

Lauren Brown:  But it was a scary prospect too because it was like, ‘Is two people enough?  Is it interesting enough? how do we fill out the other sounds? We still want to have a bass.  We still want to have all these other things. And I was always drumming and tapping in the background with this other band and with this I would be in the front and everyone could see what I was doing.  In a positive way, but also in a negative way where I felt exposed. So that was scary.

RK: And before I was co-fronting, and now I’m the only singer.  So there’s these of like, ok all these things are going to be a challenge, but it’s what we want to do.  

LB: (Laughing) Now we just have to get better at it.

RK: Yeah, so we got lucky because our first tour was with this band called The Revivalists.  They have a single that’s become a hit. But at the time they were just breaking. So we got on the road with them and we were just honing in on what we do…

LB: Our first show was a sold out 600 person show.  And I remember being petrified because our first show was in front of all that instead of being a small show in front of Mom and Dad and our friends.  So that moment was Sink or Swim. I always felt like look, if I could do that first show in front of all those people and be that scared and get through it and then think I did well at it, you feel like you can do, well not anything, but you’re definitely more confident.  

UCR: I really enjoyed listening to this album.  Each time I listened to it, I would notice something new in each song.  There were a lot of layers in this album.

LB:  That’s this guy right here!

UCR: I can tell that you put a lot of work into making this album.  Some people love getting in the studio and making the album, others want to make the album simply to get out on the road and perform because performing live is their preference.  Which do you prefer, the studio or the stage?

LB: That’s a good question man!  We’ll probably totally different on that!

RK:  That is a good question.  I think I’m right in the middle where it’s both.  I don’t think I’d be satisfied if it were leaning one way or the other.  But there is something I really adore about being in the studio like a scientist tweaking things.  I love exploring and making the song come to life in the studio. There’s something really special about that.  But I love being on stage. Especially with Lauren because she really gives it and pushes me to go even further with my performance.  

LB: I’m not somebody who likes the studio. I like the performance.  I feel like I learn the most from the performance. And not even because people are watching.  I escape in what I’m doing in that format. It’s my meditation. I’ve been a dancer since I was a little kid so that’s what I’m drawn to.  I hate rehearsals. I like talking about ideas. I like directing shows. But no, the studio is not really where I’m at.

RK: That’s accurate.

LB:  But I’m still there!

UCR:  So how did your part tap, part percussion come about?  Was is born out of necessity? Or did you think “Well, I dance, and I play rhythm so…”?

LB:  No, I didn’t play any rhythm.  I was a dancer and I was tapping with one of Rob’s earlier bands along with the drummer and then the drummer quit so Rob’s idea for me was to learn all the drums and keep up with the tap.  So I created this whole thing based on necessity. Based on we didn’t have a drummer. We didn’t want to hire a new drummer. Ok, I’m going to figure this out. So I started with one drum, and Rob would play the kick drum.  And I would just split a kit with him. And he’s already playing rhythm guitar so we were really splitting the rhythm section. And then I took the kick. So now I play the kick, the tom, and the snare, and I do the tap at the same time.  

RK:  It was definitely an evolution.  Even the tap box itself started with just an old plank of wood with a mic.  Then we nailed apple boxes together. And now we’ve converted a kick drum into a platform.  So it just keeps evolving every couple of years. She either enters a new phase with her ability as a drummer.  And the kit evolves with new elements and new drums.

LB:  I just want to keep getting better.  

UCR:  Isn’t that cool though?  How long has rock n roll or popular music been around?  Seventy years? You start to feel like everything has been figured out or done.  And then this comes around. I don’t know if anyone else is doing anything like this.  

LB: I think it’s just me.  

RK:  It’s really exciting.  Also as a songwriter, because she doesn’t have a lot of cymbal use, and the beats and rhythms are simple and kind of guttural but still have a pulse, as a songwriter that’s what you want underneath your songs.  Because that’s what’s propelling it. Because a lot of times you’ll see bands and you’ll see drummers who are using different elements and cymbals and sometimes that’s competing with the vocals and other things.  But in this case it just kind of fits right.

LB:  And we’re creating rhythms for dancers because I’m a dancer.  So I want to create a rhythm that I want to dance to because I’m actually dancing to it.  So I can only go so fast or do it so slow because I’m actually dancing.

UCR:  Well and as you already know, with dance, it’s all timing, so while the transition to percussion might not be easy, it does make sense.

LB:  And I was keeping time with my feet and doing fills with my feet.  So it’s just trying to figure out what to do with my hands.

RK:  It’s inverting the kit.  Because she plays the kick drum with a mallet with her hand, where usually a drummer would play it with their foot. And her feet are doing what a drummer would usually do with their hands.  

When I first heard of how Lauren does percussion I have to admit I was extremely skeptical.  A tap dancing drummer? I don’t know, sounds kind of gimmicky. But I was wrong to be so cynical because it was awesome!  Not only is it a huge part of the visual aspect of the show, but the driving style of her rhythm removes any thought of it being a gimmick.  As you read, it was born out of necessity, but now it’s essential to their sound and live performance. Click here to get an idea of what tapping and drumming looks like.  Ok back to the interview!   

UCR: I want to preface this by saying that you definitely have your sound. There is definitely a Kolars sound.  But as was listening to the album I heard “Turn Out the Lights” and thought ‘Oh, I can hear elements of Joy Division or early New Order.’  

LB: I love that. Thank you!

UCR: But then I’d hear “Bullet on the Run” and I recall thinking, ‘I wish Johnny Cash was still alive because I could totally hear him covering this song.’ So it caused me to wonder, who are your musical influences?

RK: Amazing. Those are some of our biggest influences.  

LB: Totally! You nailed it, dude!

RK: We love 80’s New Wave whether it’s New Order or Echo and the Bunnymen, or The Cars.  But we also love Eddie Cochran, Elvis, and Johnny Cash. We love that early country, rockabilly blues style.  But we also love glam rock like T Rex and stuff like that.

LB: I always want drums to sound like Gary Glitter.  Fat, Dead, Big.

RK: So we kind of pull from every era.  That’s what we always wanted to do. And how do we do that without making it sound like a weird collage?  Like how do we do it to where we honor it and it gels. That’s what we’re hoping to do, but you kind of roll the dice a little bit.  

UCR:  That’s not easy to do but I think you’ve done a great job blending elements of different styles with your own sound.  

UCR: Do you remember the first concert you went to?

RK: Yes.  Definitely!  Mine was Rancid at the Palladium in Hollywood.  And it was mind-blowing! I was like 12, and my mom just dropped me off with my friends for my birthday present.  So I get dropped off, and of course, I was still growing and I wasn’t super tall and I just remember looking around and seeing all these mohawks and chains and leather jackets and these real authentic punk rockers.  I was thinking “I think I need to change my hairstyle”. Because I had that 90’s parted in the middle cut. So got into the show and I had never seen a mosh pit and I’m watching this spiral of people and looking to my friends saying “I just gotta do it.”  So ran in and I was like a sock in a washing machine. I was just thrust around all over but it was thrilling! I mean, I’m a young adult, and there are my idols at the time on stage rocking out.

UCR:  The floor at the Palladium is huge.  That must have been an enormous mosh pit.  

RK:  There were actually three separate mosh pits!

LB: I’m going to go a different direction.  My grandma took me to see Gregory Hines (tap dancing legend).  He was alone and did all these solos. And if we were tap dancers we were told to bring our shoes.  Then we were invited to go on stage and dance with him. My grandma was very much like “Get up there.  Get on up there.” I was so scared and so embarrassed, but I went up. He has since passed but he was brilliant.  So yeah, that’s what I remember. Polar opposite of Rob’s.

RK: But it’s sort of formed where we are now to a degree.  Like we’re somewhere in the middle of that.

UCR: What was your best live experience as a band?

LB: That’s so hard.  

RK:  We did this festival in Germany.  We didn’t know what to expect. It was wild, there was this line down the block.  It’s this festival put on by Rolling Stone. Spoon and some other cool bands were there.  They put us in this smallish club where you can fit a few hundred people.

LB:  We had never played there before! We had never even been to that part of Germany.  

RK:  Yeah, never played there, very little publicity there, but the crowd went wild.  And on the last song, we have this section where we try to get the crowd to clap along with and literally everybody in the crowd was clapping along to the point where the claps were louder than our playing.  So there was this feeling of everyone being united in this moment and experiencing it with the band to where they were almost as much of the band as we are.

LB:  I think I started crying a little.  It was just kind of mind-blowing.

RK:  Yeah I think I did afterward off stage.  You just felt the emotion in the room.

LB:  And I think we just felt like, if there were just twenty people in there we would have been excited.  But then you see a line to get in and you’re like “What? Is this a dream coming true?”

RK: And we’ve had some rough shows along the way.  Then you have a show like that it makes everything feel like “Ok, keep going. There’s more of these in front of you.”  

 

I sincerely believe the best is yet to come from this band.  As I mentioned, I fell in love with this band right when I heard their first song “One More Thrill” on their self-titled debut album.  However, there is nothing I love more than when I see what a band can do on stage.  It’s just the two of them up there.  They have a little help with some pre-programmed baselines and synth, but that’s it. Rob’s voice sounds great live. And he has all the charisma and stage presence necessary to be a frontman all on his own.  His signature guitar style meshed with Lauren’s one of a kind percussions, they’re a band you will see on the rise from here on out. I told them it wouldn’t be long before they’d be moving from 200 person Kilby Court to selling out The Complex which holds about 3,000.  Not only do I believe they’re that good, but they clearly have the work ethic to make it happen.  Click here for more information on Kolar’s music and tour dates.  

Audra McDonald March 23, 2018 Salt Lake City Abravanell Hall

I first had the privilege of seeing Audra McDonald about twenty years ago when she originated the role of “Sarah” in the musical Ragtime. And while she was brilliant in the role it wasn’t until four years later that I understood her true brilliance, when I saw her sing the songs of Gershwin at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in Southern California.  It was there that I realized that not only is her voice fantastic, but there is just so much more to her concert than just that amazing range. So when I discovered that she would be playing two nights with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall, I knew I had to be there.  

Let me first share some thoughts on Abravanel Hall itself.  If you’ve never been there, do yourself a favor and see a performance there.  I would go as far as to say that it doesn’t even matter what the performance is. I’ve never been disappointed in any concert I’ve seen there. And from my experience, there isn’t really a bad seat in the hall.  I was seated on Tier 1 stage right and I could see and hear everything. And while I may not be an expert in acoustics, I know that I love the way music sounds in Abravanel Hall.  Some venues in Utah don’t have the best acoustics in my opinion and that can really affect a show negatively. The acoustics in Abravanel Hall only enhanced what was an amazing performance.  

Now as I mentioned, you, of course, go see Audra McDonald for her beautiful voice.  But what might not be expected is just how great she is between songs. Her storytelling is so engaging and her personality so bright that if you didn’t know just how special her singing voice was, you could sit there and listen to her tell stories all night.  She shared information about each song from the composer to what musical it was in and always gave credit to whoever originated the role if it wasn’t her. She shared her experiences with these songs, why she chose them, or how she found them. She shared stories about her career and about her family and I was totally drawn into why these songs weren’t only great, but also why they mattered to her.  It was perfect the way she would transition from the hilarious to the touching. It all felt so natural.  It was as if she was sharing this information with a group of friends at a dinner party.

Because Audra is performing again tonight (March 24) I don’t want to spoil the setlist for anyone who will be attending.  I like to be surprised and I hope you do too. However, I will say that you will not be disappointed in her song selection.  She covers it all! She performs pieces from classic Broadway composers to modern up and coming Broadway composers, to jazz standards and of course gems from the Great American Songbook.  You’ll hear some of your favorite songs and some new songs that you will be looking up and downloading because they will be new favorites for sure. 

And that voice.  Wow, that voice!  I go to a lot of concerts ranging across the vast spectrum of music.  And while I have been impressed with many vocalists, it’s amazing to see a voice used and treated like an instrument.  She makes everything seem effortless.  She would transition from her belt voice to her head voice and back again like it was nothing.  And that is not easy to do.  It was so smooth.  Her diction and breath control were perfect.  I almost took it for granted because she just made it look so easy.  Her range is impressive, to say the least.  I thought she was hitting some high notes until she really hit a high note!  I didn’t expect another level like that.  I was almost worried that the glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly in the foyer would shatter.  I was in absolute awe.   

I thought the Utah Symphony was in prime form at this concert.  There were times I would just close my eyes and listen because I wanted to just hear the symphony blending perfectly with Audra and her three-piece backing band.  You would think Audra and her pianist, drummer, and bassist had been practicing with the symphony for months and months. It was a beautiful collaboration.  

How many times do we see that an artist was in town the previous night and wish we would have had the chance to see them?  That happens to me regularly. Not many artists play Utah on back to back nights. They’re usually off to the next town before we wake up the next morning.  So if you missed Friday night’s performance I can’t recommend attending Saturday night (March 24) enough. Audra McDonald truly is a once in a generation talent.  And she’s in our state! She’d be amazing singing acapella on a chairlift in Park City. But you can see her in one of Salt Lake City’s most beautiful concert halls, with a symphony this state can be more than proud of.  And if she moves you to tears with those pipes, I promise you won’t be alone. I may or may not have welled up during her closing number. But you’ll have to go to the concert to find out what it is!

Click here for tickets.

OMD March 21, 2018 Salt Lake City The Complex

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, or OMD, is a band my oldest sister introduced me to back in the 80’s.  I knew within the first minute of their first hit “Electricity” that I was a big fan. So, of course, I was excited when I heard they were going to play The Depot on March 21.  I was even more happy for them when I learned that Utah fans were so excited about this tour stop that the show was moved around the corner to the larger venue, The Complex in order to accommodate the ticket demand.  

The last time OMD played Utah was as a support act for Barenaked Ladies in the summer of 2016 at Red Butte Gardens.  They were great, but being a support act, they took the stage while the sun was still out, and it of course not everyone had arrived yet.  So I couldn’t wait to see them back in the headlining slot.

One of the best things about seeing a band that you have loved for 30 years is all the memories you’ve had with these songs. The downside tends to be having to forgive a band that’s been doing it that long for having lost a step or two.  How many times have you gone to see one of the favorite bands of your youth, and their songs seem slower, or they don’t move around the stage like they used to, or the lead singer just can’t hit the high notes like they did in days gone by. In the moment we’re usually just happy to hear the songs we love but usually, we’ll notice the decline and it becomes a quick reminder of how old we now are.  And who wants to remember that?!

Well, that’s the amazing thing about OMD. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but they’re as good live, if not better than they’ve ever been!  Frontman Andy McCluskey pushing 60 years old, was moving and dancing the whole show! He’s known for a unique style of dancing, (Back in the 80’s dance studios actually gave lessons trying to teach people this impossible to teach dancing style.) that is almost as much a part of the show as hearing “If You Leave” or “Joan of Arc”.  Both Andy and fellow songwriter and sometimes vocalist Paul Humphreys have definitely retained their voices. Andy in particular, who sings all but four songs, somehow has the ability to sing after having danced through the entire instrumental break without any signs of being out of breath. He belts out the big notes with as much vocal power and resonance as he did in his 20s or 30s.  As I listened to the commentary around me during the show, the dominant sentiment I heard was some form of, “Wow, he still sounds so good!” or “They sound exactly the same as they did back in the 80’s!”.

I felt like OMD successfully navigated their way through their setlist playing most of their biggest hits while blending songs from their new album The Punishment of Luxury.  I think the best thing a band like OMD, where their fans are mainly there to hear the hits, can do is start the show with a new song or two.  Which is exactly what OMD did. People are just so excited that a band they love has taken the stage that they’ll live off of that euphoria for a song or two before they’ll want to hear what they came for.  OMD planned this perfectly by playing “Messages” a crowd favorite, for their third song in the set followed by Tesa Girls.

Something I was happy to see was how excited the crowd was to hear a relatively new song, at least not a song that would be positioned in the nostalgic catalog of their songs, The History of Modern.  The first note of the song was heard and people went crazy. That had to feel good to a band that is still trying and succeeding to put out quality music. And I must say that I’ve been impressed with the albums they have released since their return in 2007.  But that’s an article for others to put out. This isn’t Utah Album Review after all!

OMD played hits like “So in Love”, “Locomotion”, “Sailing on the Seven Seas” and “Dreaming”.  OMD truly loves their loyal fans because they always play their biggest hit “If You Leave”, from the classic 80’s movie Pretty in Pink.  I don’t think it’s their favorite song, but they still play it every time.  And it’s obvious that the audience is thankful for it because they are singing every single word.  

The highlight for me is always when they sing “Maid of Orleans”.  Not only is it possibly my favorite OMD song, but it fits all the elements of a great OMD live performance.  I love the lyrics, I love McCluskey’s vocals on this song, and there is a long instrumental piece to end the song so that we get to see Andy show off his dancing  without the interruption of having to walk back to the microphone.  

While Andy McCluskey is the front man, and his energy and charisma do dominate the show in a positive way, I love it when Paul Humphreys takes the mic.  Not only are the songs he sings great, but he brings a calming change of pace to a mostly high energy show. The audience roared when he stepped to the front of the stage to sing “Forever Live and Die”.  My favorite song of his is “Secret” which was played in the encore. A song that was not initially played when they made their return in 2007. Apparently, they heard the disappointment from their fans and have played the song ever since.  Which is of course to our benefit.

Many might think of them as an 80’s band or a nostalgia act.  But they’re not. They are actually a major influence in the world of popular and electronic music.  Artists like Depeche Mode, Erasure, MGMT, No Doubt, Mark Ronson, LCD Soundsystem, Sugarland, and Howard Jones have all credited OMD as an influence on their music.  

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is one of my favorite bands.  But I’ve seen a lot of my favorite bands from my youth and left feeling a little disappointed.  Sometimes they just don’t have it anymore. OMD still has it! If you ever get the chance, go see this band!