Neon Trees June 13, 2015 Brent Brown Ballpark, Orem Utah

Neon

To have the opportunity to see a band that has become an international success, come back and perform in their hometown is a unique and special experience. There are some bands that don’t even claim to be where their actually from if it doesn’t seem cool enough. Some band are from such a big place like New York or Los Angeles, that a hometown show might not have the same feeling unless it’s someone like Bruce Springsteen in Jersey, or U2 in Dublin. But on a smaller scale, yet still applicable, I was able to see Neon Trees return to Utah County to do a homecoming show at the inaugural 5 Star Legacy Foundation Summer Bash at Utah Valley University’s Brent Brown Baseball Stadium. Neon Trees is a band I have really enjoyed over the years, and have always wanted to see live. They put the perfect mix of classic New Wave, with a modern touch. This is music made for my ears.

When this new summer festival was announced I was really excited to attend, and looked forward to seeing all the bands. Unfortunately there were circumstances that made it so I was only able to make it in time for Neon Trees. So my apologies to the other bands. I’m sure you were great, and I hope I get to see your shows soon.

Now, in case you missed it, yes, this concert took place in college baseball stadium. When I first walked in, I had some concerns about the setup. The stage was located in center field, the infield was blocked off of to prevent any damage, and there seemed to be a variety of things going on in different parts of the ballpark that gave off more of a county fair vibe than a concert festival. Food trucks in left field, blankets sprawled out behind second base, families sitting in the stands behind home plate eating hot dogs, booths for who knows what in right field, I was concerned that this wouldn’t quite have the concert feel I had hoped for. But, as I moved past the blankets, the tents, the soundboard and into the crowd, it was easy to forget I was in a baseball stadium, and it all seemed just like any outdoor concert I’ve been to.

Just about the entire outfield was full of people, and from the get go, they were high energy. Neon Trees opened with what I believe is their new single “Songs I Can’t Listen To”. They had the fans from there. Lead singer Tyler Glenn mentioned a number of times that they were excited to be back playing to their hometown crowd, and stating one time that “we have never claimed to be from anywhere but Provo, Utah!”, much to the delight of the crowd.

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I thought Tyler Glenn sounded amazing live. He has a unique voice and while there may have been some signs of wear and tear on his voice from the road, he covered it all perfectly. There were times where I was anticipating a big note, and thinking to myself, ‘how is he going to hit this?’, and sure enough, he nailed it. Very impressive. I thought he did a great job of sharing personal yet universal messages with the crowd. He gave an inspiring speech about various times of his life when people told him he couldn’t be a certain way, from a Mormon missionary, to being too flamboyant on stage, to still holding on to his beliefs while being openly gay. This led to an inspired version of their song “First Things First”. The crowd seemed to turn into gospel choir at times, and left the crowd feeling uplifted.

While Chris Allen, and Branden Campbell are excellent at lead guitar and bass respectively, I found it difficult to take my focus away from Elaine Bradley on drums. She is an exceptional drummer in my opinion, and I wasn’t aware that she had such a good singing voice! When Elaine and Tyler would harmonize, it was magic. This is probably old news to those who have seen Neon Trees before, but this being my first time, it was a pleasant bonus to the show. I was really impressed.

I imagine for time constraints, they decided to forgo the traditional stage walk off after “Sleeping With a Friend”, and performed their encore straight away starting with an incredible cover version of the classic “80’s” hit “Come on Eileen”! They had the crowd in a frenzie! It was really a fun moment in the show.

If I was to complain about anything it would be two things that have nothing to do with the band. First, while Neon Trees were performing, the crew was taking down a side stage that I imagine was used for going back and forth between opening bands to save time switching one band to another. I get wanting to get going on take down so you’re not there all night, but this stage was right next to the main stage, and some of the equipment being taken down was loud and totally distracting. I hope this was just a rookie move considering it was the first Summer Bash, but it’s just something you don’t do. You have a fantastic headlining band, doing a homecoming show, you gotta make sure all eyes are on them. I could see the crowd looking over, annoyed that they had to battle hearing the band they came to see, and a bunch of clanking metal.

Second, at the end of the show, when Neon Trees was performing their final song “Everybody Talks”, fireworks begin to go off. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with fireworks going off when a band is performing. It happens a lot at outdoor shows, and it brings an added excitement to the finale. But, generally the fireworks go off above or behind the stage. These fireworks were going off over by third base. Remember, the main stage was in center field of the baseball stadium. So right when the band was reaching their ultimate crescendo, at least half the audience looks to their left to start watching fireworks going off. This could have been a really cool moment, but instead, I found it to be really unfair to the band to have to battle with what ended up being another distraction. But to give credit to Neon Trees, they didn’t seem affected by it, and perhaps took the challenge head on, because they raised their energy level even more, and won back the crowd.

I’m glad I finally got to see Neon Trees live. As previously mentioned, I’ve wanted to see them for a while, and I just missed seeing them open for The Killers back in 2008. I figured I’d be seeing them soon, but I ended up waiting seven years. Well they were worth it, and I hope to see them again soon. This is a band with actual talent, and I hope we get to see what else they do because I believe the best is yet to come.

Setlist:
Songs I Can’t Listen To
Sins of My Youth
Your Surrender
Calling My Name
1983
Animal
In the Next Room
Moving in the Dark
Mad Love
Love In the 21st Century
Lessons in Love (All Day, All Night)
Still Young
First Things First
Sleeping With a Friend

Encore:
Come On Eileen
Everybody Talks

Depeche Mode- 25th Anniversary of the Album Violator

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It’s hard for me to believe, but this week marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Depeche Mode’s signature album Violator. This album sent Depeche Mode into the stratosphere as far as notoriety, and cementing their mark in the world of alternative music. I will never forget how happy my ears were the first time I heard this gem.

This website was created for the purpose of reviewing live music, so I’m not going to go into what makes this album so great. If you haven’t heard it, give it a listen and you’ll know. I think not only does it stand the test of time, but you can still hear its influence in much of the music we hear today.

Now obviously I am a lover of live music, and I think what makes a studio album legendary is when songs that weren’t hits, or even singles can be performed years after an album’s release. When those songs are embraced with as much excitement as the hits, then you know an album has reached iconic status. Such is the case with Violator. Of course, you’d expect the crowd to go crazy when they hear “Enjoy the Silence”, or “Personal Jesus”. You might even expect to hear other excellent singles such as “Policy of Truth”, or “World in My Eyes”. But what is amazing is that in their most recent tour, (Completed in March 2014, in which they didn’t come to Utah. What’s up with that Depeche?! Anyway…) Depeche Mode performed not only “Blue Dress”, but “Halo”, both non singles from Violator. These songs were met with the enthusiasm that you’d expect from hearing a #1 hit. In my experience seeing Depeche Mode, I’ve heard them perform “Waiting for the Night”, “Clean”, and “Sweetest Perfection” as well as all the songs previously mentioned.

Tour after tour, Depeche Mode performs at least four and up to six songs from Violator. I think that says a lot for the type of album is it. Do yourself a favor and allow yourself some time to re-listen to this album in its entirety. Something we don’t do much of anymore. And if you have never heard this complete album, it’s time to give yourself a quality education. Happy 25th Violator!

Here are a couple video clips of live versions of songs from Violator.

Alfie Boe March 14, 2015 UCCU Center, Orem Utah

Alfie

Alfie Boe is Tony Award winner, and known throughout the world for playing the lead role of Jean Valjean in the 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2 Arena in London. And while the latter event brought him into the spotlight for the mainstream world, many have known him and loved him for years. And there he was, in our own back yard, on March 14, at the UCCU center in Orem, Utah. Word on the street is Alfie is married to a native Utanian, and because of this he lives in Salt Lake City for part of the year. Because of this, we here in Utah have the benefit of getting to see and hear him in person, where otherwise we might not be so fortunate.

The events of this evenings performance can really be told in a tale of two acts. Act one, The Utah Stars and Friends show, and Act two, Alfie Boe. While many of the acts were top notch, I felt they were served quite the injustice as to how this show was advertised; (As can be seen by the posted picture) as simply an Alfie Boe concert. Not, a night where Alfie sings about 8 songs, and we listen to local talent for two and a half hours.

Upon arrival to the venue, there was a line for will call about a quarter mile long. Seriously. At first this was a concern, but I have to hand it to the ticket office at the UCCU center because they got people their tickets in a quick and efficient manor, all things considering. I must say, the UCCU center doesn’t seem like the best venue to host a night of arias, broadway showstoppers, and art songs. But I suppose it’s one of the larger venues in Utah County, so they made due to what was available to them. The acoustics seemed more suited for a basketball game, or a rock concert.

When I entered the venue and sat at my seat, I realized, this wasn’t just an Alfie Boe Concert. This was going to be much more. Now, I was aware that this was a benefit concert for the Elizabeth Smart Foundation and Operation Underground Railroad, but what I wasn’t informed of was that I would be listening to local artists for a while before Alfie came out. I was not the only one who didn’t know this. There was a buzz in my section and throughout much of the area, of people looking at the program and seeing a surprisingly long list of performances before they saw the man they had actually come to see.

Now don’t get me wrong, the artists that performed were actually extremely talented. So this is not a slight on them. And I believe if this concert was advertised as a show featuring local artists, people would have been more accepting. But because no one that I could see knew this was happening, they were more anxious for the first act to end. On top of this misinformation, the sound was terrible! The mix was so bad, and the treble was so piercing that people around the arena were plugging their ears. Again, I must say, this had nothing to do with the talent. Acts like, Gentri, The Strike, Everyman, Jenny Oaks Baker, Kendra Lowe, Ben Hale, The One Voice Children’s Choir, Aimey Kersey, and 12 year old sensation Lexi Walker, were amazingly talented, and many of their performances wowed the audience. But with the sound that poor, and the two and a half hours it took to get through the whole first part of the show, the audience was ready for it to be over, and sadly, I saw a few frustrated groups depart before they were able to see the headlining act. I thought that was a little extreme, but I understood the frustration all the same. And I can’t emphasize enough how poor the sound quality was. I felt for the local talent, because I think a real disservice was done to them.

Well, finally after about a ten minute intermission, the time had come. Alfie took to the stage, and to many it was if they had never had to sit through the previous act. And despite the flaws of the first part of the night, all was in fact forgotten once Alfie Boe appeared. I was nervous that we would be seeing this amazing tenor, and yet cringe at the high notes due to the sound. But all concern was lifted when he began to sing. The sound was excellent. The orchestra, and his vocals were mixed to perfection. I’m not sure if any of you recall going to concerts and the opening band never really sounds great, and then the headliner is always sounding good because everything is mixed to their specifications. Well that clearly seemed to be the case here. It was just unfortunate because the opening act went on for forever. If the opener is going to be over two hours, they should be better mixed, that’s all I’m saying. And I am sorry to be negative, but it just wasn’t fair for those performing to have to see people plugging their ears. Anyway, back to Alfie.

Alfie began his set singing two italian arias. He made jokes in between about how he didn’t know what they were about because the songs were in italian. But he confessed that he did actually know their meaning. Alfie was actually pretty funny throughout his set, which was a contrast to the more serious material he was performing. It really made for a good mix. He moved on from the opera world to the musical world performing “Wheels of a Dream” from Ragtime, which is a personal favorite. He performed a “Come What May” from the film, Moulin Rouge, and brought back a local three part all male group Gentri to perform another favorite of mine Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren”. I was really impressed with Gentri the way they were able to hold their own against the amazing talent of Mr. Boe. And it was nice to hear them with the sound ship shape. That had to be a special moment for them in their young career, and it really was a highlight of the evening. Then came the time of the evening we were all waiting for. Alfie performed songs from the musical Les Miserables. He chose two perfectly contrasting songs, one to show off his vocal range and his impressive vocal power, and two to bring the house down with a much different power, the power of emotion, and sincerity. The first song he performed was “Who Am I?” The instant he was finished with the number the entire arena launched to their feet, and roared their approval.

Alfie left and returned to sing what has become his signature song “Bring Him Home”. Now, he has to have sung this song thousands of times at this point, you would think he had just learned the song for this evening. This is one of my all time favorite songs, as I know it is for many others, so I can get a little too particular with how it’s performed. Well, this was easily one of the best performances of this song I have ever heard. He sang it with clarity and beauty, like throwing a rock in a glassy lake, and seeing the smooth ripples one at a time. He almost lead me to believe he was actually praying and pleading with God. Again, the crowd rose to their feet, many with tears running from their eyes. Alfie did not disappoint. I hope I have the opportunity to see him perform again. He understands the crowd, and understands how to move them emotionally, comedically, and bring them to a place where it seems the outside world stops, just to hear his voice. That is an talent you rarely find in the entire world, and we had him for a night, right in Utah County.

While the event is one I will not soon forget, I hope that in the future, the other artists are considered, as well as the audience. We all appreciate talent, especially from this great state, but when we come to seeing one of the best in the world, get to it already!!!

http://elizabethsmartfoundation.org/
https://ourrescue.org/

Remembering Buddy Holly

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Buddy Holly tragically passed away 56 years ago today. He has always been one of my all time favorites, and I would have loved more than anything to see him perform live. Buddy is a legend in the music industry, and will forever have his fans, but he seems to be forgotten when people discuss the greatest influencers of Rock N Roll. But without Buddy Holly, we may not have had The Beatles, and without the Beatles, well, it’s hard to imagine what music today would be like. I often wonder what it would have been like if he had never boarded that plane. What would we think of him now? What would his music have meant to us if he was around longer? How much would we be praising him for his engineering skills in the studio? We’ll never know, but considering all he did in his short 22 years, I think it’s safe to assume he would have left an even greater mark on the music world had he lived.
I thought rather than me ramble on and on about how much I love Buddy, I would post a few videos from some of the best in the music world, and how much they love him. Enjoy!

Graham Nash getting to hold and play Buddy’s leather bound acoustic.

Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers on meeting Buddy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtOhipzEZHU

Dave Stewart of the Eurythmic’s on how Buddy influenced him, and imagining what he would have done later in his career.

Here are a few of Paul McCartney clips on how Buddy influenced him and his fellow Beatles, from style, to songwriting, etc.

And finally, since this website is meant to focus on live music, here are two clips of Buddy himself performing live.

The Black Keys November 12, 2014 The Maverik Center, West Valley City

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On Wednesday November 12, The Black Keys brought their “Turn Blue World Tour” to the Maverik Center. They had been through Utah a couple of years ago, and I missed them. So I was determined to find a way to get into this show. Can you believe I guessed the promo code for cheaper tickets? Otherwise I don’t think I would have made it. So, the rock gods looked out for me with this one. The best way I can describe this show is Slow Burn.

I’m not sure if it was because the show was in the middle of the week, or because it was the first really frosty day in Utah this year (27* at showtime), but the crowd took a lot longer to get going into the show than they normally do. When the band walked out and started playing, the majority of the arena stayed seated. I am someone who likes to stand during concerts, but I’m not one to make a point to stand when everyone is sitting. I’m not a fan of annoying people. Or forcing them to look at my behind for 90 minutes. Fortunately my seat was backed up to a suite, so there was no one behind me. I was able to stand the whole time. Now don’t get me wrong, I get it if we’re at a Josh Groban concert or something mellow, but this was The Black Keys! Their music, is not sit down music! So I got lucky that I didn’t have to worry about that. The stage was simple yet perfectly designed. The backdrop started out as a curtain that looked like it was from an old theater, to having that drop and behind it were multiple moving video screens and light rigs. It was subtle, yet flashy at the same time. Just like the band they were illuminating.

The band plowed through about four songs before saying anything to the audience. There really wasn’t much interaction between band and the crowd other than the occasional “Thank You” or “Help us out with this one!” type talk. But what the band lacked in physical energy, and crowd involvement, they made up with pure musical energy. It’s not always needed for a band to start a clap along, or a city reference to get the get things going. Sometimes they just need to play their amazing songs, and the crowd will catch up eventually. Well that’s what The Black Keys did. They just kept going. Because there is no way they didn’t notice the crowd was a little dull. They played their huge hit, “Gold on the Ceiling” about five songs into the set, and you could see some bubbling up from the crowd. A few of those sitting, rose to their feat, and those who didn’t were certainly bobbing their heads. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the crowd wasn’t dead. When the songs were over, the volume of their applause was definitely at a high volume. I just thought I’d see the whole place rockin out the second the band arrived. But that was not the case this time. But sometimes, a band has to earn their dues. And in my opinion, The Black Keys worked hard for their money in this show. But like I said, they just kept going. And the crowd started joining in the fun.

Patrick Carney’s drumming was on point as always, and the blues just dripped from Dan Auerbach’s guitar the whole night. These guys have in a gift in blues rock that would make Howlin’ Wolf proud. Seriously, those guitar riffs he plays just seemed to hypnotize and pierce the souls of everyone there. Because as the show went on, people started rising to their feet, dancing as if these beautiful tones had put a spell on them and they could no longer just sit there. About an hour or so into the show, I would say that about 80% of the audience was on their feet, and by the end, I’d say about 99% were standing and the place had finally been brought to a steamy boil. We had been put under the blues rock spell of The Black Keys.

I’d say the only thing that really bummed me out with show is when the band ended their main set, a disappointingly large volume of the arena started filing out as if the show was over. Did they not know they were coming back? Did they really have to get somewhere at 10:30 at night? Doubtful. I will say though, a group of teenage boys on their way out kept looking back, and right when the band returned to the stage, in their surprise and amazement they returned to their seats. They were so happy the band came back. At first I couldn’t believe they didn’t know the routine of concerts. But, as I reflected on my much younger days, I guess you do need to experience that first encore to know that is what happens in most concerts.

The show ended with a fantastic version of “Little Black Submarines”. It was a perfect closer. This band, they’re just so great. They really are a true American rock band. They have the grit of this country’s heartland, and yet the depth to be a worldwide phenomenon. There really is nothing like seeing a great rock band, and that is exactly what I saw here at the Maverik Center.

Setlist
Dead and Gone
Next Girl
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Gold on the Ceiling
Strange Times
Nova Baby
Leavin’ Trunk (Taj Mahal cover)
Too Afraid to Love You
Howlin’ for You
A Girl Like You (Edwyn Collins cover)
Money Maker
Gotta Get Away
She’s Long Gone
Fever
Tighten Up
Your Touch
Lonely Boy

Encore:
Weight of Love
Turn Blue
Little Black Submarines

The Airborne Toxic Event, November 3, 2014 The Depot, Salt Lake City

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To be perfectly honest, I only knew about 4 songs from The Airborne Toxic Event before attending their concert. Of course I’ve been a fan of their 2008 hit “Sometime Around Midnight”. And I’ve seen a few performances on TV here and there. So I knew them enough to know I wanted to go see them Monday night at The Depot.

The crowd was surprisingly mixed between young and not so young. As I understood it, The Airborne Toxic Event was part of that musical flashback to the 80’s modern rock sound similar to Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse, or The Bravery. And while some of their songs did take my ears to that era, they had much more to offer than to be pinned down to one style of music. There were times that I felt like I was listening to a folk band, other times I felt like I was listening to a synth-pop band. It was that kind of variety that made this show extremely entertaining for me.

Sometimes I really enjoy going to shows so where I know very little of their catalogue, so that I can stand back and watch the show with no expectations. I think the thing I enjoyed the most was the passion being delivered from each member of the five piece band. Each one of them clearly skilled musicians to the point that throughout the show many of them switched from guitar to keyboard, or keyboard to violin, or even three band members playing drums at one time. They sounded great, and to have the energy they had for a Monday evening show, ignited the crowd to react to these songs as if they were seeing a show on a Saturday night.

It has been a while since I’ve seen a band that is still in the midst of their first decade of growth, and it was obvious. I could tell they still loved playing live, and they still appreciate their fans. As I’ve always said, Utah has the best concert goers that I’ve witnessed, and I think the bands could feel that. Lead singer Mikel Jollett even comment to the crowd about how excitable they were. But it was so cool to see him climb down from the stage, taking selfies with the front row, and high fiving every hand he could reach. At the end of the show keyboard/ violinist, Anna Bulbrook jumped into the waiting arms of the audience and crowd surfed around and back to the stage. There was great chemistry between audience and band. It felt genuine, and it was refreshing to see. Even when the show was over, and the lights came up, and the PA was playing exit music, many of the band members stayed out there, signing autographs, throwing guitar picks and setlists to the audience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band stay out that long. It was pretty cool.

I must say, they won me over. Albums will be bought, Youtube videos will be watched, and songs will be learned. I really like this band. And anyone who says that “Rock is Dead” (I’m talking to you Gene Simmons), has clearly not seen The Airborne Toxic Event! Rock N Roll has a heartbeat and I think it’ll be just fine.

Welcome to Your Wedding Day
Papillon
Gasoline
Changing
Happiness Is Overrated
This Losing
Hell and Back
Dope Machines
What’s In a Name?
Numb
Wishing Well
Wrong
Sometime Around Midnight
All I Ever Wanted

Encore:
The Graveyard Near the House
Timeless
Boys Don’t Cry snippet (The Cure Cover)
All at Once

Erasure October 29, 2014 Capitol Theater, Salt Lake City

The first time I saw Erasure in concert I was 15 years old. It was also the very first concert I had ever been to. From that night I was hooked on the live concert experience. Now, considering that I’ve created a website dedicated to my love of concerts, it should seem clear that seeing Erasure live all those years ago, left quite an impression.

 

Well, here we are almost 25 years later, with many Erasure shows in between and I must say they still put on one of the most entertaining shows of anyone I’ve seen. The electronic orchestrations for this tour created by Vince Clarke were brilliantly done. There were 12” remixes of some older Erasure standards that gave the songs a new life. Andy Bell never fails to disappoint with his vocals or his energy on stage. Their two backup singers blended with Andy as beautifully as they have done over the last 25 years.

I suppose Erasure is considered an “80’s” band. But don’t expect to see a retrospective show with old songs rehashed for the millionth time. Believe it or not, Erasure still releases new music with charting success. Their current single “Elevation” is currently #6 on the Billboard Club Dance Chart. I’m not saying they’re going to be playing the VMA’s anytime soon, but I firmly believe that if one of their songs were recorded and released by Lady Gaga, Ellie Goulding, Lorde, Bastille or even Sam Smith, they would be hits for them. Erasure is Electro-Pop at it’s finest. And the beautiful thing about music created by computers and synthesizers is it can always be updated.  And that is something Erasure always does on their live shows. And in my opinion, it keeps them current, and interesting.

I’ve been to the Capitol Theater several times, but never for this type of concert. The acoustics are amazing! I had the good fortune of having my seats upgraded. The couple next to me wanted to see if I would be willing to move seats so their friends could sit by them. Well, their tickets just happened to be box seats! So, of course, I accepted their offer and, WOW, where my new seats incredible. I was basically sitting on top of the stage. I was so close that I’m almost positive I made eye contact with Andy Bell a couple times. I know my brother basically became best friends with one of the backup singers. I guess the sad part of getting older is some people can’t handle standing for an hour and a half straight. So while many others went through the battle of sitters and standers in the same section, I was in a box with no one behind me. So you’d better believe I was up and dancing the entire show. But that’s how it’s supposed to be at an Erasure show. Even some of the ushers were dancing in the aisles! In the past, they’d do a cool down song so people could sit and recover for the home stretch of the show. But not this time. Any song that was usually slow, was remixed to be a fast club style dance song. Which I absolutely loved. This was the perfect seat for me to see the show but also people watch as well. The only weird part about being in a box seat is everyone could look up and see me. I noticed times where people looking up at me dancing. So if you see any sweet new dance moves out there in the clubs, you know where they were ripped off from.

The best part about seeing Erasure in Salt Lake City is the unique diversity of the audience. For those that don’t know, Andy Bell (Lead Singer), is openly gay and has been throughout the existence of the band. So at all their shows, there will usually be a large turnout from the LGBT community. But, Mormons also really like Erasure. So it is interesting to see a crowd mixed together that normally might not be. I mean, in what other place are you going to see that formerly braided belted denim shirted 1992 BYU alum and his previously claw-haired wife dancing and singing in unison with a gay couple wearing leather pants and t-shirts from past Erasure tours? Only in Salt Lake City at an Erasure show. It’s great.

The setlist was put together perfectly. The show opened with a huge fan favorite “Oh’ Lamour”, and they were off from there. They spread three songs from their new album throughout the show, and the rest of the set was a perfect mix of hits, and some gems like “Star”, “You Surround Me”, and “Joan” that they haven’t played in at least fifteen years. I know that I’m going to get their best every time I see them. And I’ve seen them a lot!

You can count on Vince standing behind his synthesizers, laptop, and sometimes acoustic guitar very stone-faced but bobbing his head to the music, and enjoying the show in his way. And you can count on Andy dancing across the stage in his signature style, and in his signature flashy stage attire. This tour he decided on extremely tight and extremely shiny pants, coat with tails and a top hat. Once upon a time, there would be multiple costume changes, but we settled for one change this tour. What were once sequin speedos, are now sequin booty shorts with a black tank top, but the crowd roared just the same when Andy reemerged from the wings in his new getup.

I never grow tired of seeing Erasure live. They aren’t the type of band you can only see once. They are going to give you something fun and different on each tour. Tonight I felt as if I was in a dance club that had access to my iPod. If you like Erasure and have never seen them, I could not encourage you enough to see them the next time they come to town. You know I’ll be there!

Setlist
Oh L’Amour
Star
Reason
Breath of Life
You Surround Me
Elevation
I Lose Myself
Drama!
Victim of Love
Ship of Fools
Sacred
Breathe
Joan
Blue Savannah
Chorus
Love to Hate You
A Little Respect
Chains of Love

Encore-
Always
Sometimes

Elton John September 19, Maverik Center, West Valley City

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It’s hard to believe that for 31 years, Elton John had at least one song charting on Billboard’s top 100. Now try to pack all those hits into one night. That was Elton John’s dilemma on Friday night at the Maverik Center. But I think he did a great job of covering those 31 years in a two hour show.

I had known Elton was coming to town for some time, but until it was the week of, for some reason it didn’t occur to me that I should go to this concert. I almost missed out on a great night. Don’t get me wrong, I am most certainly an Elton John fan. I think even if you’re not a die hard fan, it’s impossible to not like at least one of his songs. Even if someone else is singing it in one of his movies, or stage musicals. It’s hard to not be impressed with his body of work. But despite the Grammy’s, the Tony’s, and even the Academy Awards, what it really comes down to is how amazing these songs really are. There is something for everybody.

Sir Elton walked on to a darkened stage at exactly 8:30 pm. Even though the stage was pitch black, you could see him from a mile away. All the cameras taking pictures exposed his knee length sequined coat. It’s funny, because looking back at some of the things he used to wear on stage, this coat was actually pretty conservative. He walked out to “Funeral for a Friend” and then once he reached stage joined right in with the rest of the band. Then of course continued with “Love Lies Bleeding”. The Utah crowd did not disappoint . People were up and dancing during this song, and could not have been more excited that this legend was in town.

He came out guns blazing with with his huge hits “Bennie and the Jets” and “Candle in the Wind”. This is what I’m trying to say people. These are huge songs of his, and he did them right at the top of the show? Was he going to run out of songs? Was the show going to start strong then lull when he started playing deep cuts? Nope. He had enough hits to play for an hour more than he did, and this was a full two hour show.

I remember looking at my phone to see what time it was thinking he had probably played for maybe 30 minutes. But he had already played for an hour and 15 minutes. Time flew by in this concert because each time you may have thought he was going to hit that “beer run” segment of songs, he didn’t. I think he played maybe 3 songs I hadn’t heard before, and those were great. And when he played those, the people that did make their beer runs, had to have been really bummed when the following song was one of his biggest hits. Songs like “Levon”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, or “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” followed songs that may not have been as familiar to this crowd.

He didn’t do a whole lot of talking to the crowd, but when he did, he usually had something fun or interesting to say. At one point he spoke of being more comfortable in his own skin than ever before, and because of that, he enjoys performing more than he ever has. Normally I would think maybe an artist will just say something like that just to get a cheer from the crowd. And while he was applauded for that comment, I think he was being genuine. He seemed in very good spirits, and I think he really enjoyed himself.

Elton John also talked about the success he’s had with his writing partner Bernie Taupin. In case you don’t know, Elton John has never written the lyrics to any of his songs. He said that he and Bernie have never even worked in the same room. Bernie would write in another room, then come to Elton with lyrics he had written, and then Elton would go to the piano and put these words to music. It’s a formula that has clearly worked (understatement of the year). Sir Elton mentioned that when they were first starting out, they lived with his mother, and one day Bernie came to him with what he called the most beautiful lyrics he had ever read. Especially for an 18 year old. He went to the piano, and created what was to become his first hit, “Your Song”. He said he owes all the success he’s had to that song. I’ve included video footage of this song as a reminder of just how beautiful this song is. In my opinion, these lyrics are some of the best written in popular music history. It was really cool how he set up the song, and it made for a special moment in the show. Needless to say, the crowd was so excited to hear this classic. The ovation he got after was tremendous and well deserved.

Elton closed his main set with four upbeat songs. This was the moment when the majority of the arena was up and dancing, and just letting loose. With Elton’s songs it’s sometimes hard to know when to sit and when to stand. I usually like to stand at all concerts, but I get the demographic of this show wasn’t going to do that, so I tried to pick my spots. But here, it was obviously stand up time. He left the stage and of course he returned to a crowd that was as loud as they had been all night. Maybe even louder. Encores are a funny thing aren’t they? We know they’re coming back. We know they have some huge songs they still must do. It’s such a weird tradition. I do remember though when I was young, hoping and praying my favorite groups would return. But now that I’m older, I guess I’m more aware that this is just what bands do. I would have liked to have seen the time where encores originated and people weren’t sure the artist would come back. What if they didn’t? That’d be the worst! Anyway, I’m getting off track.

Sir Elton came back and kept the crowd on their feet with “Crocodile Rock”. That was fun. The crowd sang the La La La’s in the song, and the energy was at its highest point. After that song Sir Elton brought the show to a perfect close by singing one of my favorites, “Daniel”. He did this song alone. Just him, and his piano. It was beautiful. And made me wish he had done a few more songs like that.

I left this show totally impressed with the performing chops of Sir Elton John and his band. Many of whom had been with him for 40+ years. Of course there were some other songs from his catalogue that I would have loved to hear, but like I said before, how do narrow down over 45 years of songs into a two hour show? He’s been at it a long time, but not once did I feel like he was just going through the motions, or giving us a half hearted show. I think he really enjoyed the energy and excitement of this particular audience. I know I say this a lot, but I don’t think artists passing through, expect to get what they get from Utah crowds. We appreciate them stopping into our small city, and we show them our gratitude with really getting into the show. If you haven’t ever seen Elton John, I recommend you do. Even if you’re not a huge fan. If you care about the history of rock n roll, or popular music, this is a show not to be missed. Elton John has left his mark, and influence on music, and he’s still doing it. Cheers to him, and I look forward to what he’ll do next.

Setlist

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Bennie and the Jets
Candle in the Wind
Grey Seal
Levon
Tiny Dancer
Holiday Inn
Philadelphia Freedom
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
Hey Ahab
Oceans Away
Your Song
Burn Down the Mission
All the Girls Love Alice
Home Again
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
The Bitch Is Back
I’m Still Standing
Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Encore:
Crocodile Rock
Daniel

David Gray August 21, 2014 Butte Gardens Amphitheater Salt Lake City

I was introduced to David Gray about 12 or so years ago. I used to be involved heavily into concert bootleg trading. I know, I know, I’m an outlaw. Well, there was a particular instance where the person I happened to be trading with was more interested in my collection of live shows than I was in what his. But being a generous trader, I told my fellow trader to pick out what they wanted and I’d find something in their collection to make things even. Gotta keep things even in the bootleg biz! Anyway, after looking through his collection, I chose a David Gray, Live in San Francisco bootleg. I figured, I, like many out there enjoyed his biggest American hit “Babylon”, so why not check out one of his live shows. Well, I don’t remember what else I got out of that trade, but that live bootleg of David Gray is still on my playlist to this day. I am now a huge David Gray fan, and experiencing his live shows in person has been an experience I have always looked forward to throughout the years following that trade. So it was exciting to get to see him again last night at the Red Butte Gardens Amphitheater.

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Red Butte has one of Utah’s best backdrops as far as concert venues go. It’s the perfect place to see a concert on a summer night. It always cools down there, and there is a pleasant breeze throughout the venue. This venue is unique though, in a couple ways. One, in that you bring in your own chairs, and blankets to sit on, and you’re allowed to bring in food, and drinks. It’s a really fun social setting. Second, many concert attendees of Red Butte Gardens are season ticket holders. So they’re not always a fan of the artist performing. But they go for the beautiful setting, spend time with their fellow yuppies, and have some fancy cheese and fine wine. The difficult part of this, is once the concert starts, people don’t really seem to understand that social time is over, and that most people came to hear what’s coming out of the person on stage’s mouth, not theirs. People eventually settle down and pay attention to the show, but it’s just not a typical concert event. If anyone has ever been to a David Gray show, they will have seen that the audience is eerily silent, and has a razor sharp focus on David and his songs. So this was a different setting for me to see him in. Dont’ get me wrong, It was an incredible show, and I was happy to be there despite the differences of other DG shows I’ve been to.

David received a standing ovation as we walked out on stage. It was easy to tell who was truly there to see him. Mr. Gray opened the show performing six straight songs from his new album “Mutineers”. This is an unusual course to take for most setlists, but it’s not that unusual for David Gray. He has done this type of thing many times, and I would say normally it’s pretty interesting to listen to his new material grouped together. Unfortunately this may not have been the best approach for this type of setting. With season ticket holders having to sit through a series of songs they didn’t know, just, in their minds, this allowed them to keep the conversation going. But I must say, it was so cool to hear some of these songs live. I think David Gray is thought of as a pretty mellow show to see, because his songs involve a lot of acoustic guitar and piano, but when you see the shows live, you’ll see that the songs are actually pretty high energy. My favorite song on his new album is “Back in the World”. It’s always exciting to hear a crowd accept a new song, and the crowd was very accepting of this song. Many rose to their feet to dance. Another interesting thing about DG shows is the crowd always seems confused as to when to get up, and when to sit. The songs have their own life in a concert setting that I think initially people feel like they’ll be sitting throughout the show, and then they realize it really is a borderline rock show/ jam session. There are those who are determined to stay seated, and those who can’t stay in their seats. It’s something I haven’t ever seen with another artist’s live show.

David breezed through his new set and then really got the crowd going with one of his classics “My Oh My”. From there he perfectly blended songs from his past catalogue with some additional new songs. I think this is the largest band I’ve ever seen DG tour with. It was hard to tell from my vantage point, but I believe he had a 7 piece band backing him. The band consisted of a back up singer (Who harmonized beautifully with DG on “Kathleen”), multiple guitarists, a drummer, and a cellist. But they all seemed to move from one instrument to another depending on what song was being played. Having this type of band allowed DG to add new and fresh orchestrations to his back catalogue. He’s always done a good job of doing this in the past. But this time the songs seemed to have even more layers. If there is one thing I love, it’s when artists add something special to the live versions of their songs. It shows me that they are also interested in keeping things exciting for them. Rather than just playing the song to get through it, they are able to enjoy it as well. And I can always tell the difference. David Gray is a master of keeping his songs, even some he might only play for the fans, feeling new and interesting. Having this size band also gave him the freedom to move about the stage in a way he hasn’t before. There was even a song where he was basically dancing throughout. I enjoyed seeing this new side of him, and while he’s a brilliant piano and guitar player, I’m sure it’s fun for him to interact with the crowd without always having to play an instrument.

The show really picked up with DG performed a crowd favorite “The One I Love”. From there the crowd was completely with him. He ended his main set playing my all time favorite “Please Forgive Me”. The crowd was on it’s feet singing along and the energy was at an all time high. He left the stage and returned for the encore by himself, and played “Babylon” with just him and his acoustic guitar. It was a sing a long never to be forgotten. At the end, as he tends to do, he gave the crowd the opportunity to sing the song themselves. I recorded that part for your viewing pleasure so that those unable to attend can get a sense of just how awesome the moment was. I hope the video can capture it.

He closed the show with “Sail Away”, much to the delight of the crowd. He walked off the stage and the crowd kept going, I thought for a moment he was going to come out for a second encore. But sadly the show was over.

Later that night David posted on his twitter account his set list from the night. But “Nemesis” and “Alibi” both on the set list, went unperformed. I wonder why. Maybe there were time restrictions and he had to cut a couple songs out of the show. I really like both of those songs so I was a little disappointed to have missed hearing them. But it’s impossible to be disappointed at a David Gray show. He puts so much emotion and energy into his music that he draws you into the evening and when it’s over you realize you just witnessed something special. I can’t wait to see him again.

From David Gray’s twitter
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