Erasure August 11, 2018 Kingsbury Hall Salt Lake City

By: Kevin Rolfe

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

We had to wait a long time for Erasure to return to Salt Lake City.  Ok, so it was about four years, but it felt like a really long time! Typically when Erasure comes out with a new album, their tour makes its way to The States fairly soon after their album is released.  The album World Be Gone came out in May of 2017, and instead of heading out on their own tour, Erasure accepted an invitation from Robbie Williams to be his support act on his summer stadium tour throughout Europe.  What a great opportunity to gain new fans that must have been. In watching several YouTube clips I found it so cool to see Erasure play in front of a new crowd that might not know all of their music. I saw them singing along to the songs they knew like “A Little Respect”, “Chains of Love”, or “Stop”, and applauding songs they weren’t familiar with, but really enjoyed.  However, this tour delayed them from setting out on their own headlining tour. I was happy for them that they were so well received though.

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

A year later, their World Be Gone Tour reached Utah for two sold out nights at Kingsbury Hall.  As I walked up to the front of the house to find a good spot to take photos, I looked out into the crowd to see what Erasure would be seeing for the evening.  I could see people in anxious anticipation, so excited that their favorite band was back in town. I could see a few men who were clearly dragged to the show by their wife or girlfriend.  I hoped they would be good sports.  Having liked this band since I was 12 it always throws me a little how old we’re all getting. I used to go to Erasure shows and look around and think how cool everyone seemed, and how they were so much older than me, but in a cool way.  Now we’re just old and maybe a little less cool. But that’s the magical thing about a concert, and live music. When the show started, the crowd became 25 again. And the worries of the day were gone, and inhibitions were out the window.

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

Erasure opened their set with “Oh L’Amour”.  The audience was immediately taken back to the place where they first heard this fan favorite.  It’s so interesting because this song was not a hit. But fans love it so much that it gets the same response, if not greater than some of their highest charting singles.  Everyone was on their feet dancing, and singing as if it was 1986.

Photo: Kevin Rolfe
Photo: Kevin Rolfe

The thing I love about an Erasure concert is they don’t shy away from the songs they created to give them the thirty plus year career they’ve had.  They play the hits! Songs like “Ship of Fools”, “Victim of Love”, and “Who Needs Love Like That” are songs they’ve played thousands of times, and yet they know what the audience wants to hear.  These songs are always met with loud applause. They did a great job of sprinkling in songs from their new album World Be Gone. These songs are so surrounded by classic songs that the crowd seems to be just fine with hearing them.  And they’re good songs, so that helps.

As a huge fan, I would be fine with some deeper cuts.  But their hits are so good I don’t even mind. They played “Phantom Bride” off of their album The Innocents.  The rumor was this was going to be the fourth single off of that album but it never happened. It’s a great song, and while never released as a single, whenever they play it (which isn’t often), it’s always one of the major highlights of the show.  A few more songs in this category would have made the song perfect for me, and a few others I spoke with after the show yearning to hear more of these songs.  But I’m sure if they did that, there are others who would have wished they played more hits.  I met a few people after the show who told me this was their first time seeing Erasure.  So for them, I was glad they got to hear such a hit-filled show.  

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

Erasure did an awesome cover of Blondie’s “Atomic”.  This is the third Blondie song they’ve covered over their career.  They’re starting to catch up with the number of ABBA songs they’ve covered. So far the tally is three (Atomic, Heart of Glass, Rapture) to Five (Lay All Your Love On Me, SOS, Take a Chance On Me, Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie).  Maybe we’ll have a Blondie-esque album on the horizon. Anyway, the song was covered brilliantly and can be heard on Erasure’s World Be Live album, which is a live recording of one of their London shows from this tour. I recommend checking it out!  

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

Vocalist Andy Bell sounded as good as ever.  The falsetto isn’t quite what it once was, but not many men in their fifties are singing with a strong falsetto.  So I’d say he’s still doing pretty great.  The thing I love about Andy’s voice is how rich it’s become. When he was younger, like many great singers, he had a huge vocal range and could go anywhere with it.  But because of that huge range, things can come easy, and singers like that tend to be a little wild with their voice, and uncontrolled. Now that Andy is older, I think he knows his limitations, therefore he sings more controlled, and focused.  I love how his voice currently sounds. There’s a fullness to it that I really enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, when he needs to open those pipes to hit those falsetto notes, he hits them. When he sings “Blue Savannah”, or “Drama” now, it moves me more than it ever has, and that’s due to the maturity of his voice.  He seemed in good spirits in this show. He spoke a lot more than I remember him doing in other shows. He joked with the audience telling them they were too young to remember some of their older songs. He also joked that he was only 14 when he auditioned for Erasure in 1992, making him seem younger. Fact is he auditioned in 1985 and I believe he was 20.  But everyone was in on the jokes and enjoyed the banter.

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

Vince Clarke.  What can I say about Vince Clarke that hasn’t been said?  The guy is a genius. That’s been said before. But it’s true.  I think because he’s in a band, he gets praise for the music he writes.  And rightfully so, however, I think his true genius lies in his technical wizardry.  The way he creates these sounds; these bleeps, loops, hooks, and beats and blends them together to make beautiful melodies and great songs is nothing short of extraordinary.  I love that the music is reprogramed for the live show.  It adds a special element to the live experience.  

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

The stage personas of Andy and Vince could not be more different, yet perfect.  Any, the flamboyant frontman dances around the stage in his skin-tight bodysuit and interacting with the audience with all the personality you’d want from a great frontman.  Meanwhile, Vince, ever the stoic, serious Synth Lord in a grey suit(See what I did there Star Wars fans?). On this tour, Vince is perched high above the stage surrounded by synthesizers, a laptop, and an acoustic guitar.  He has a microphone that allows him to speak into Andy’s inner ear monitors. They’re fascinating to watch because they seem so different on stage. One so subdued, and the other so high energy. The contrast is a consistent dynamic of their shows.  

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

The boys were joined on stage by backup singers, and twin sisters, Valerie and Emma.  Valerie has been singing with Erasure all but 2 of the tours I’ve seen them on. Emma sang with Erasure on the Wild! Tour back in 1989/90, and has since reunited with her sister and Erasure on the past few tours.  They sound great together, and exceptional with Andy. They bring a consistency to the shows and help Andy whenever he flubs a lyric. And he always flubs at least one line in every show.  It’s part of his charm!

 

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

The audience was so interesting in this show.  They sat a lot more than I’ve seen at an Erasure show.  It was always during the slower or newer songs, but it was something I hadn’t really seen before.  I was worried that they’d sit the whole time, but it was clear that they were conserving energy because as soon as they heard the first note of a song they liked, they launched to their feet and went crazy.  I mean crazy! Dancing like no one was watching, and singing like they were in the shower or in their car. You know the kind of singing when you close your eyes because you’re feeling so much.  During songs like “Sometimes” or “Stop” Kingsbury Hall was deafening!  

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

As I mentioned in my review back in 2014, I love seeing the mix of the audience here in Utah.  Andy Bell is an openly gay man and has been since Erasure has existed. Because he has always been open about his sexuality, Erasure has always had a large LGBTQ following.  But they also have a huge following here in Utah among the Mormons. So to see Mormons sitting next to a gay couple and singing these songs and dancing along with each other makes me so happy.  Again, it’s amazing what great music can do. People are bonding because they love this band and their songs.  In these moments no one cares who is from what church, or what their lifestyle is. They just want to sing and dance and have a great time.  I even saw one of those men who was with his wife or girlfriend and didn’t seem thrilled to be there, eventually dancing by the end of the show. He shrugged his shoulders, and just went for it. No one can resist a good beat. And Erasure songs are full of great beats.  I saw a woman with her husband talking with a gay couple before the show. Things seemed polite and friendly. The husband seemed to be trying really hard to be cool but was clearly not the most comfortable he’s ever been. But by the time Erasure came out to sing their encore song “A Little Respect”, he was singing with those guys, and even one time when the chorus says “Give a little respect, to me!!!”  he pointed to the gay couple and mouthed, “No, you!” and they retorted “No You!”. It was all in fun, but it was a special moment for me. We all do so much talking, and preaching about what should be what, but maybe we all just need to go to an Erasure concert, sing along with each other, and dance our differences away! Music has the power to do that.

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

 
Setlist
Oh L’Amour
Ship of Fools
Breathe
Just a Little Love
Chains of Love
Sweet Summer Loving
Victim of Love
Phantom Bride
World Be Gone
Who Needs Love Like That
Atomic
Love To Hate You
Blue Savannah
Drama!
Love You to the Sky
Sometimes
Always
Stop

Encore
A Little Respect

Don Felder August 11, 2018 City Park, Park City

Photo By: Matt Wolf

The Park City Institute is a non-profit organization, dedicated to bringing world-class performances and new ideas to the community have had an interesting turn of events leading up to this year’s St. Regis Big Stars Bright Nights Concert Series.  In December they were informed by Deer Valley Resort that they would no longer be hosting the series because they were going to be setting up a concert series of their own. This sent The Park City Institute on a months-long search to find a new home in time to host the great lineup of music they had scheduled.  

Initially, they landed on Quinn’s Junctions Sports Complex, but fate would eventually lead them to City Park in the heart of Park City.  While City Park may not be the most ideal place to host a concert series, once things get going, it was as good an outdoor venue as any.  Some of the setbacks are well, it’s in the middle of a park. So you can go take your kid to the playground, and catch a free concert because there is no more than a temporary fence that is easy to see past.  The same goes for the street and sidewalk. I noticed maybe a hundred people watching the show from outside the “venue”. So I guess the venue isn’t ideal for keeping people looking for a free show out. Otherwise, it does just fine.  The stage is big enough, the sound is good, and there really isn’t a bad seat in the house, I mean park. The show in the series I was fortunate enough to attend was Don Felder, former lead guitarist for The Eagles.

Photo By: Matt Wolf

Be for Don Felder took the stage a couple of women from the Park City Institute made an announcement from the stage that the organization was in need of up to $500,000 in donations or the concert series may not continue.  Those in attendance seemed concerned because it was apparent that they enjoyed coming to the series. It’s a great organization, and the concert series lineup is always good. So if you have the means, please donate. You can find all the info here.  

The transition from that announcement to Don Felder taking the stage was an awkward one.  It was just quiet, with no one introducing Don, then a video came on giving him an introduction.  I’m not sure how to have made that transition smoother, but it definitely could have been. However, Don took the stage, opened with “Already Gone” and things were smooth from there. 

Photo By: Matt Wolf

 

Don next played “Pride and Joy”, a song originally written and performed by iconic guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Now to attempt to cover Stevie Ray Vaughan is one thing, but to do it really well is another. Now, I fully understand that SRV is one of a kind, and to his fans, no one will match him.  But I will say that Don Felder’s cover of “Pride and Joy” was great. It paid its respects to the original, and to Stevie, but it showed off the guitar playing chops that Don Felder truly has.  If was one of my favorite songs of the night.

Photo By: Matt Wolf

When Don played “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, he told the audience “You look like a peaceful crowd.”  I’m sure he was referring to the fact that most of the people there were still sitting in their chairs or on their blankets.  This isn’t to say that they weren’t into the show. They really were. But they weren’t up and dancing like I’m sure most artists would prefer.  I think some of this has to do with the show starting so early. There was an opener that went on at 6, and Don took the stage by 7. It was light out for the entirety of the concert. I think when it’s light out people are more hesitant to get up and dance.  That is at least until the alcohol kicks in!

Photo By: Matt Wolf

Don dedicated “Tequila Sunrise” to his former Eagles bandmate, the late Glenn Frey.  The audience cheered their approval. Glenn Frey passed away unexpectedly in 2016 at 67 due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia.  It was a class move by Felder and another strong moment in the show.

With about four or five songs to go, Don invited everyone to get out of their seats, come to the front of the stage and party.  There’s about a fifteen-foot gap between the stage and the front row of chairs and it filled up really quick. It was clear that the invitation to “party” was well received.  I’m sure artists are hoping that the audience will just jump to their feet on their own, but sometimes it just takes an invitation to do so and the whole place gets up. I admire Don for throwing out the invite.  It felt like the concert really took off from there. With songs like “Life in the Fast Lane”, “Heartache Tonight”, and “Take it Easy”, it was obvious to see why people were so willing to get up and dance and sing along.  

Photo By: Matt Wolf
Photo By: Matt Wolf

Felder finished the night by walking on stage with his infamous white double neck guitar.  This is the very guitar that he wrote “Hotel California” on. So when we saw the guitar, we knew what was next.  The crowd cheered, sang along, and stood in awe as Don Felder played the instantly recognizable guitar solos of “Hotel California”.  

Photo By: Matt Wolf

When the song finished, Don thanked the audience, acknowledged his band (Who were fantastic.  Seriously, so talented!), and walked off stage, never to return.  The crowd wanted more, and they cheered until it was obvious that the show was over. People have different feelings about the whole encore thing.  And I think Don would have done an encore, but when you’re playing in a venue that has a temporary stage in a park, sometimes there isn’t anywhere to go.  So walking off stage and back on for an encore might be more awkward than just staying there and playing straight through. I’m sure “Hotel California” is usually his encore, so I can’t imagine we missed anything other than the ceremonial walk off stage, walk back on stage.  

Photo By: Matt Wolf

I had a great time at this show.  Don Felder is a really entertaining performer and an amazing guitarist.  It was a fun and beautiful night at City Park.

 

70’s vs. 80’s Utah Symphony w/ Constantine Maroulis & Capathia Jenkins August 3, 2018 Deer Valley

I spent another beautiful Friday evening up at Deer Valley with the Utah Symphony.  Seriously, if you haven’t experienced a show there, get up there before the summer ends!  The air is so cool, and the skies and mountains are beautiful. It’s an amazing setting for a concert.  For this performance, the symphony helped the audience battled it out over the 70’s and 80’s. Two decades of great music. The featured guests for this performance were vocalists, Capathia Jenkins and American Idol finalist and Tony Award Nominee Constantine Maroulis.  

The concert opened with the Utah Symphony performing “A Fifth of Beethoven”, which is a disco version of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony featured on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.  This was a really fun way to start off the 70’s portion of the evening.  Following the opening piece, Constantine took the stage and sang “Nights on Broadway” from the Bee Gees. We were in the thick of the 70’s with this song. We jumped from there to Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4”.  This is a song that Constantine has performed with the band Chicago. I thought he did a great job with this one. It’s a really good song, and it seemed to fit his vocal range perfectly.

Constantine then sang “Heaven on Their Minds” from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.  I thought he sounded great, and this is one of the best songs from that musical, but it seemed like a strange fit for this concert. Yes, it was from the 70’s, but I think the crowd was a little surprised to be hearing a song from a musical.  It was a great performance, but maybe just not a great fit for this concert. Maroulis finished his set with the Utah Symphony by singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. This song went over great with the crowd. Especially the operatic break in the middle of the song.  The crowd was singing out “He’s just a poor boy from a poor family!” and “Let me go!” at the top of their voices! Constantine moved into the audience to sing the rocking conclusion of the song. He seemed like he didn’t want to leave the stage, but it was time for Capathia Jenkins to sing her 70’s songs.  Maroulis was given a loud ovation as he exited the stage.

Capathia has a beautiful voice.  This was displayed immediately with her opening song “You’re the Best Thing” from The Style Council.  This was another strange song selection. There are so many songs from the 70’s that I think a little of the performance was lost to the crowd not being too familiar with this song.  I think people had different expectations in mind for this show. Judging by the way many were dressed up, I think they thought they’d be hearing some songs they were more familiar with.  That being said, the songs they did hear, and the performances they witnessed were most certainly admired.

Capathia the followed up with Gloria Gaynor’s anthem, “I Will Survive”.  I think this was the type of song that the audience had in mind. Which was indicated by how quickly people rose to their feet when this song began.  Capathia’s voice fits this song just right. She seemed to be enjoying herself, and the audience was having a blast.

The intermission came quickly.  I was surprised that it was already time to take a break.  The great thing about the intermissions at Deer Valley is it gives me time to get a sense of what the audience thinks of the show.  And while the general consensus was that the song selection was a little different than expected, the talent and performances were excellent.  

The second half of the show began with the Utah Symphony performing a medley from the 80’s album “Hooked on Classics”, which was a compilation album filled with great pieces of classical music arranged in an 80’s style.  Just like “A 5th of Beethoven” escorted us to the 70’s, this was an excellent gateway into the 80’s.

Conductor, Edwin Outwater shared with the audience that there had been a contest to give someone the opportunity to sing the lead vocals on the theme song to “Ghostbusters”.  He mentioned that pretty much no one entered so he was left to find a vocalist. He had a friend from San Francisco who flew out to attend the performance, and on the way to Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater, Edwin asked him if he wanted to sing the song.  I forget his first name, but I know he was referred to as Dr. Chang so that’s what we’ll call him. He’s a surgeon in the bay area. Dr. Chang walked up on stage with a lyric sheet in hand, and the Utah Symphony started the song. I know this situation just came together last minute, but it totally added to the excitement of the song.  There was curiosity as to how Dr. Chang would sound, if there would be mess-ups, or if it would all come together somehow. Well, the latter is what happened. There were a couple lyric flubs or coming in too early, but overall it was great. Dr. Chang sang the song well, and the audience cheered him on throughout the song. And of course, we all sang out “Ghostbusters!” when Dr. Chang held his microphone out to us.  

Constantine Maroulis returned to the stage and sang a “Roxanne”, by the Police followed by “Bring Him Home” from the musical Les Miserables.  This was another time where song selection seemed odd, but I have to say that Constantine performed “Bring Him Home” beautifully. I would have never thought of him to play the role of Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables”, but after hearing him sing this song, I can see it.  He finished his set with Guns n Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”. It’s not every day that you’re going to hear “Bring Him Home” and “Sweet Child of Mine” performed back to back in a concert. Especially by the same vocalist! It was a real pleasure to see Constantine perform.  

Capathia Jenkins returned to the stage to sing “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner, and “I’m so Excited” by The Pointer Sisters.  Much of the audience was on their feet and dancing. I hadn’t heard of Capathia before this concert, but she is a real talent. Which was on display when she sang “And I am Telling You” from the musical Dreamgirls.  I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I don’t know that anyone expected broadway songs to be a part of the evening’s song list, but it’s impossible to deny that the performances were great. And this number was no exception.  This song won Jennifer Hudson an Academy Award for this role/song, and Jennifer Holiday a Tony Award for originating the role. Capathia’s performance earned her a standing ovation. She was fantastic.

The concert ended with Capathia and Constantine singing Journey’s hit song “Don’t Stop Believin’”.  The audience was on their feet and in full voice for this one. Constantine sang this song when he was in the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” so it was cool to see him perform the song again.  

I thought conductor Edwin Outwater was one of the major highlights of the concert.  He spoke to the audience often, introducing songs and conducting crowd poles on which thing was better in the 70’s or 80’s.  Poles like, 8 tracks, Cassette Tapes, Cd’s or Vinyl (Vinyl won). Or 70’s Chicago vs 80’s Chicago (80’s Chicago won). Or Pet Rock vs Cabbage Patch Kids (Cabbage Patch won). He was really funny and engaging with the audience.  The conductor doesn’t usually speak often, so I thought it was a fun addition to the show.

I’m a huge fan of the Utah Symphony. They’re versatile, talented, and always prepared.  If you get the chance, whether up at Deer Valley, or Abravanel Hall or anywhere else they perform, go see them.  You will not be disappointed.

 

Setlist 

A Fifth of Beethoven- Utah Symphony
Nights on Broadway- Constantine
25 or 6 to 4- Constantine
Heaven on Their Minds- Constantine
Bohemian Rhapsody- Constantine
You’re the Best Thing- Capathia
I Will Survive- Capathia

Intermission

Hooked On Classics- Utah Symphony
Ghostbusters- Dr. Chang
Roxanne-Constantine
Bring Him Home- Constantine
Sweet Child of Mine- Constantine
What’s Love Got to Do With It- Capathia
I’m So Excited- Capathia
And I am Telling You- Capathia
Don’t Stop Believin’- Capathia & Constantine

Weezer w/ The Pixies August 1, 2018 USANA Amphitheater

Isn’t it great when you buy tickets to a concert and you just know it’s going to be an awesome show?  But even though you are sure of it being good, you’re still blown away by just how great it was? Well, that happened on Wednesday night with Weezer.  Their show with The Pixies out west at USANA Amphitheater was probably in my top five of favorite shows in 2018 so far.

I’ve been listening to The Pixies since I was in high school.  Which was a long time ago. Just a few years after the one room schoolhouse days.  I had never had the opportunity to see The Pixies until tonight. I really enjoyed their set.  They didn’t interact much with the audience, but they played for over 70 minutes. I heard several fans mentioning how happy they were that The Pixies played such a long set for an opening band.  It is always fun for me to see teenagers and college age fans of a group that was big way before their time, or even before they were born really. There was a group of teens in front of me singing every word to every song of The Pixies.  I loved it.

While I enjoyed finally getting to see them, I hope I get the chance to see them perform as the headliners next time.  It’s nice to see typically headlining bands in that slot.  They were a perfect support band for Weezer though. I felt like their styles worked really well together.  When The Pixies walked off stage, I felt like I was in the right headspace to see Weezer. Sometimes an opener will leave the stage and I’ll have to readjust my mind to prepare for the next band. Which was the case last time Weezer was here with Panic! At the Disco.  They were too different to be touring together in my mind. Not this time.

The Amphitheater lights went off, the crowd stood right up, and the intro to Happy Days began, which in turn introduces Weezer like it did in their iconic video “Buddy Holly”.  Sure enough, as the stage lights went up, they went right into that very song. Wow, “Buddy Holly” as their opener?! What a way to start! USANA Amphitheater went nuts! They were instantly alive as if Weezer had been on for an hour.  In their last stop in Utah, “Buddy Holly” was their closer. It was cool to see them flip it to the beginning. Besides, Weezer has so many great songs that they could afford to play such a big hit right off the bat.

Weezer didn’t slow down from there.  They sang about 8 hits in a row. Seriously, check out the setlist!  I remember after each new song would start I would look over to the people I was with and we’d look at each other blown away at how much we loved each new song and how many great songs were played in a row.  

Midway through the set, frontman Rivers Cuomo walked out to the middle of the Amphitheater where what looked like a rowboat was waiting for him.  He put on a captain’s hat, and a captain’s jacket and the boat began to move (On wheel’s of course.  There’s not a moat in the middle of USANA Amphitheater guys.) through the crowd to the center of USANA Amphitheater. The boat stopped and Rivers pulled out an acoustic guitar and sang “Island in the Sun”.  He followed that with an acoustic cover of the 80’s hit “Take On Me”, by A-ha. The boat moved to the other side of the venue and Rivers jumped off and returned to the stage. I thought it was a clever way to get closer to the fans in the back.

The main set ended with Weezer’s current single, their cover of Toto’s “Africa”.  I really enjoy their cover of this song.  It stays true to the original while giving the song just a touch of the awesome Weezer sound.  There’s a point in the song where there is an instrumental break, and in the original, I believe a pan flute is featured, (or something along those lines) but in Weezer’s version, they use a synthesizer with what I can only describe as a very “Weezer’y” sound.  The crowd cheered their approval the moment they hear it.  

The night ended with a favorite of mine and well, pretty much everyone who likes the Blue album, “Say it Ain’t So”.  They could have gone on for another half hour or so and no one would have complained. The audience was so into this show.

Seeing Weezer in concert is so interesting to me because they don’t say much to the crowd, they’re not running around the stage too much.  Besides Rivers Cuomo going on the boat, they pretty much just stand there and sing. I’ve written reviews in the past where I complain about a band not talking to the audience enough, or moving around enough, but with Weezer, it just doesn’t matter.  Their songs and the way they are played live are enough for everyone in attendance. I can’t imagine the place being any more electric or engaged if they had been running around and talking to us all night. They have their way of performing, and they do it very well.  Can’t wait to see them again!

 
Setlist

Happy Days Intro
Buddy Holly
Beverly Hills
Pork and Beans
Undone-The Sweater Song
Hash Pipe
Perfect Situation
My Name Is Jonas
El Scorcho
In the Garage
(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
Happy Together
Keep Fishin’
Island In The Sun
Take On Me
Burndt Jamb
The Good Life
Feels Like Summer
Africa

Encore
You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
Say It Ain’t So

LOVELOUD Festival 2018 July 28, 2018 Rice-Eccles Stadium Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

I had the opportunity to attend this year’s LOVELOUD Festival at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.   The purpose of LOVELOUD is to have dialogue within our communities about loving one another unconditionally and ultimately achieve acceptance and support for the LGBTQ youth in Utah and throughout the country.  Teen suicide for LGBTQ youth is at a scary high rate here in Utah. The general message of the festival was to help those in that community to understand their worth, and that they belong. The other intent is to help the predominant culture here in Utah, which is quite conservative and centered around The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, and the LGBTQ community to join together in understanding, and inclusion.  

What started as an extremely hot day, evolved into a beautiful evening.  The speeches and the music combined to help with the message of LOVELOUD, which was founded last year by Dan Reynolds, lead singer of LOVELOUD’s headlining band Imagine Dragons.  The goal of the day was to raise over one million dollars within the hours of the festival to help LGBTQ communities such as Encircle, The Tegan and Sara Foundation, and the Trevor Project.  

Some of the speakers were Alfonso Ribeiro of “Fresh Prince” fame, NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young, and Barb Young Encircle Co-Chair, Drew Scott Co-Host of Property Brothers, and Gus Kenworthy Olympic Freeskier Silver Medalist just to name a few.  They all shared varying messages of assurance to the LGBTQ community in attendance that they were loved, they were accepted, and that there was nothing wrong with them. All of the speakers seemed well received and had the best of intentions to support the cause.  

No matter what the message, no matter what the cause, a good festival doesn’t work unless you have good music.  LOVELOUD did a good job of putting together a solid lineup of bands and musical artists. My concern for the festival, and I’m fully aware that this might just be an “Old man alert”, is its a little long.  And by a little, I mean it’s three hours too long. It’s hard to sit in a sweltering stadium for almost nine hours. There were some really good bands that started the festival too. But they were playing to a 90% empty stadium.  Vagabon, A.W., Parson James, and Vincent should be playing in front of a bigger crowd. And some of the speakers had some great things to say, but people were waiting for it to cool down to show up. And they were waiting for the bigger acts.  

My two cents would be to start the festival at 6 o’clock.  The temperature starts to go down, and people are aware that there is only so much time in the day, so they’d head right to the festival instead of waiting until 6 or 7 anyway.  I would recommend setting up a side stage like other festivals do, and putting the bands that performed at 3 on that stage with a bigger name like maybe Tyler Glenn headlining that stage.  They’ll have plenty of fans to attend that concert and if the side stage ends a couple hours before the main stage, everyone can join together to watch the two or three big acts on the lineup.  I think it makes for a more efficient and impactful evening. Now in writing this, I know that the LOVELOUD Festival was streamed live by AT&T throughout the world in order to raise that million dollars.  So I’m sure having a longer festival helped that cause. My job is to discuss the live concert experience, and being there in person felt long. So again, my two cents.

I thought the last four acts of the concert were excellent.  Grace Vanderwaal of America’s Got Talent fame, was a true champion throughout her performance.  The strap on her ukelele broke, and she was stung by a bee for the first time ever. She persisted through the show as if nothing ever happened.  I was really impressed. She has such a unique and captivating voice. To be honest, I wasn’t too familiar with her before this.  I mean, I like a zillion others saw her amazing AGT audition.  I just hadn’t followed up since and I was glad to see that she’s developed into a true artist.  I really enjoyed her set.  I was made aware of a boy to the right of me, who couldn’t have been older than 10.  He was singing every single word to every single song to her set. It was one of the coolest things I saw the whole day. It took me back to some of the bands I liked at that age, and how I knew all the words to all their songs. I would have loved to have seen them live then.  I’m sure Grace’s set made his life!

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Grace Vanderwaal performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

I think out of everyone I saw on Saturday, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park was the most impressive.  First of all, I couldn’t escape the sadness I felt seeing him up there without Chester Bennington.  It’s been just over a year since Chester committed suicide, and while Mike put on a great set, the pain of Chester’s loss could be felt from him and the Linkin Park fans in attendance.  Mike paid great tribute to Chester, and honored him by asking the crowd to sing his parts on the hit song “In the End”. I thought his solo songs were really good, and I enjoyed how he moved from his synth and guitar playing along with tracks.  I was happy to see him soldiering on to help inspire others despite the tragic loss of his bandmate.  The crowd loved him, and he seemed to be buoyed by their response.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Mike Shinoda performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

I’ve been critical in the past of EDM shows and DJ’s performing “live” and never really got why people were so into seeing DJ’s in person.  It looks like they’re pushing a button and then pretending to do stuff for the rest of the time. That may actually be the case, I have no idea, but after seeing Zedd perform I have changed my mind about EDM shows.  The energy he produced with his music, and the way the crowd reacted to it was something you just have to experience in person if you haven’t yet. It was like he flipped a switch and the crowd was at full energy. I looked around the now almost full stadium and it looked as if every single person was dancing.  I loved it! I myself may have thrown out a couple moves. So if you see some amazing new dance moves at the next EDM show, they came from me. You heard it here first folks.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Zedd performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

After Zedd left the stage there was some great build up to Imagine Dragons taking the stage.  There was a video clip showing a variety of celebrities encouraging the LGBTQ youth. Then there was a touching moment where we watched a video of a transgender boy’s story followed by that same boy walking on stage with people from Encircle to sing “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman.  It was a special moment for the crowd, and clearly something that boy will never forget.

Steve and Barb Young took the stage to introduce Tim Cook, CEO of Apple who in turn introduced Imagine Dragons.  Tim mentioned how impressed he was with the festival, and for the work, Dan Reynolds was doing for the LGBTQ youth.  The crowd roared their approval and as he yelled “Imagine Dragons!” the spotlight shut off, the fog machines went off, and it was showtime!  

At this time the stadium was as full as it was going to be.  If I were to guess that 40,000 would be considered a sellout, there were just over 35,000 in attendance.  That’s pretty great! Yes, they were there to see one of the hottest bands in music today, but it was clear that they were also there to celebrate the message of LOVELOUD.  The band opened with megahit “Radioactive”. Those in attendance were given wristbands that light up. But they didn’t just light up, they change colors, they flash in synch with all the other wristbands, they matched the beat of the songs, and they added an amazing element to the show.  There was a moment when Dan Reynolds pulled a sequin rainbow flag onto the stage and the entire stadium was glowing with multicolored lights. It was beautiful.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs at LOVELOUD Festival 2018 Powered By AT&T at Rice Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

Dan spoke for a few minutes after the first song, mentioning that he loved the things he learned growing up in a Mormon family.  He mentioned that he has no anger towards religion or anybody. That he just wants inclusion for all. That was met with great applause from the huge crowd.  I felt like that was the first time that everyone in attendance felt included. Dan was emotional at various times throughout the show, whether he was overwhelmed by the moment, or whether it was the stories he’d share of teens committing suicide, or his conservative LDS mother being in attendance, it was clear that the evening was a significant one for him.  He mentioned that this was the happiest he’d been in a long time.  He also stopped the show at one point to announce that they reached their goal of raising over one million dollars in one day.  What an amazing accomplishment.  

The band ripped through a two hour set playing all their hits, shooting of what seemed like an endless supply of confetti, releasing enormous beach balls into the crowd, and performing better than I have ever seen them before.  Imagine Dragons are a favorite here in Utah going all the way back to their early days playing at Velour, or playing an album release at Gray Whale. We have loved them for years. So this was a sort of homecoming show for them, and us, and it was special.  

I was a little confused by what Dan Reynolds was wearing.  He came on stage shirtless with cut off sweats or sweat shorts maybe.  Now, Dan looks great. He’s probably in the best shape of his life. I mean the guy is ripped!  He looks like a pro wrestler. It just seemed that giving the speeches he gave and the important message he wanted to convey, he maybe could have thrown on some jeans?  I mean, I saw him walking around, and he spoke on stage earlier in jeans and a LOVELOUD shirt. So he actually changed into the sweat shorts. I only bring this up because I noticed people around me discussing how he looked, and what he was wearing during his most heartfelt speeches.  I think it was hard for them to take him seriously. I don’t care what he wears, I just noticed too many people discussing it not to mention it.

The show ended with “Believer”, and it seemed as if the band and the crowd alike had exerted all of their energy.  Imagine Dragons were the perfect headliners for this festival. Dan Reynolds is such an impactful frontman that I think sometimes it’s easy to underappreciate the rest of the band.  But they’re phenomenal. The sound they produce and the energy they give is amazing.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Wayne Sermon of Imagine Dragons performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

My main critique of the Festival is this.  The purpose of this festival is for inclusion, acceptance, and understanding that we all belong.  I understand this is geared toward the LGBTQ youth here in Utah. As it should be. No suicides should be happening because people feel alone and unaccepted for who they are.  But I didn’t feel a lot of inclusion for the Mormons in the audience who support the Festival. I spoke to a Mormon couple and asked them how they were liking the festival and they said, “We love the music, we love what’s being said, but we feel like unwelcome guests.”  I asked them why, and they mentioned that “While we don’t feel like people are hating on Mormons, and we get why there might be some animosity, We’re here. We want to help bridge the divide. But we feel like the inclusiveness that is being spoken of does not include us.”  I could see what they were saying. I heard a lot of “I’m not mad at the Mormon church anymore, or I used to hate Utah and the culture but now I’ve forgiven and moved on.” And that’s great, but what about the Mormons in attendance that are trying to be a part of the solution this festival is trying to reach?  They were rarely mentioned, and to my knowledge never one recognized or appreciated. Like I said, Dan Reynolds was the only one to even say anything positive towards Mormons all night. I guess I just thought that the purpose of the festival was to bring cultures and communities together to understand one another, accept one another, and keep each other alive.  I felt like aspects of that were lost.

That being said, it made me feel good to look out into the audience and see people who normally might not normally feel included, or might not be able to express themselves the way they’d like to have the freedom to do so.  It’s a powerful thing to see over 35,000 people there to support a cause in a place where you might not expect so many to be in favor of. Things aren’t always as they seem. Even here in Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

Sutton Foster w/ the Utah Symphony July 21, 2018 Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater Deer Valley

Sutton Foster was a surprise addition to this year’s Deer Valley Music Festival lineup.  This date was initially booked for Kristin Chenoweth. But it was reported that she was having neck issues and was needing surgery so she would have to cancel her scheduled summer performances.  Sutton was booked to fill the slot. Not a bad replacement I’d say. I asked a couple next to me if they had bought tickets for this event when Kristin was scheduled, or if they bought tickets specifically to see Sutton.  They told me that they had originally purchased tickets when Kristin Chenoweth was scheduled, but when they saw Sutton Foster was her replacement, they were more than excited. They said, “You can’t go wrong! Sure they’re different performers, but they’re amazing in their own way.  We would not have missed this show for anything. We love Sutton!”. That seemed to be the overwhelming sentiment from the others I spoke to.

I arrived about an hour early to Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater.  I wanted to completely take in the experience of arriving early, having a picnic, enjoying the cool air, and visiting with the others in attendance.   If you’ve never done this, I highly recommend it. It’s so relaxing.

Sutton Foster took the stage at 7:30 performing one of what would be a number of medleys throughout the evening.  This one, in particular, consisted of “Cockeyed Optimist” from South Pacific, “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle, and “Yes” from the show where she won one of her two Tony’s, Thoroughly Modern Millie.  It was an excellent way to open the show.  It gave the audience a taste of Suttons personality and performance style.  After that, we were off and running.

Sutton has the perfect personality to perform in a concert like this.  She mixes her stories with meaning and humor in such an entertaining way.  After her first number, she told the audience that she has learned to say yes to so many opportunities that have come her way in life. She said that she had many chances to say yes to opportunities to do wonderful work, and she’d encourage us to do the same.  Then she followed with “Except Porn. Don’t say yes to porn.” It was hilarious.

Sutton mentioned that she had been in Utah for the past three days and loved it up here.  She stated that this was the “highest” she ever sang, referring of course to the altitude.  She told us that she took her 16 month old daughter on her first ski lift, and her daughter handled it really well.  She was very a proud mother.

Some special moments for me were when she revisited the musical Anything Goes.  Sutton was in the Broadway revival of Anything Goes in 2011 so it was fun to see her sing some of the memorable songs from that classic show.  She sang “I get a kick” and a song she actually sang in the musical, the title song “Anything Goes”, to close out the first half of the concert.

During the intermission, I spoke with a few people to see what they thought so far, and the reviews were all in the positive. They said things like “This is better than I could have ever expected!” or “I was really disappointed when Kristin Chenoweth canceled, but I’m glad I didn’t get a refund.  Sutton Foster is a treasure!”.

As the intermission was ending I noticed a young girl, maybe 13 years of age standing near the walkway where Sutton would return to the stage.  Sutton walked out, the girl waved hello, and Sutton responded with a kind wave and a hello back. It was a simple gesture, one that didn’t take much effort on Sutton’s part, but one that will no doubt remain in this 13 year old’s memory for a long long time.  

During the intermission, some dark clouds began to roll in.  I noticed many nervous members of the audience checking the weather on their phones.  The wind picked up a little, but no rain had fallen just yet.

Sutton walked out and began singing a medley of “If I were a bell” from Guys & Dolls and “Singin’ in the Rain”.  The audience got a chuckle at the timing of this song.  Sutton played it up perfectly by nervously looking up at the clouds while singing.  

I thought the Utah Symphony was magnificent in this concert.  They had such an opportunity to shine with this music and these arrangements, and they totally rose to the occasion.  I admire this symphony so much. The night before they’re playing with Rick Springfield, the night before they were playing Mozart, the weekend before they were playing ABBA and Bluegrass! Talk about being versatile.  And there is so much to learn! But they pull it off. I enjoyed their performance so much.

The biggest surprise of the evening was when Sutton brought her Little Women co-star and real life best friend Megan McGinnis on stage to sing with her.  They performed the song “Flight”. It was clear that they performed together many times. They had great chemistry and blended together beautifully. They seem to really enjoy performing together.   I always enjoy a surprise appearance at a concert.

Sutton performed a touching tribute to her mother who passed away a couple of years ago.  She told us that her mother loved John Denver and that they listened to his greatest hits on 8 track when she was a child.  She then performed “Sunshine On My Shoulders”. She gave a few looks up to the cloudy sky but didn’t play up the weather too much.  It was humorous, but not so much to ruin her tribute. It takes a brilliant actor to pull off a moment of levity without taking away from a serious moment.  Sutton is that kind of actor.

As the wind picked up and the show began to wind down, I noticed quite a few people exiting the show early to avoid the possible storm.  It made sense. No one wants to get rained on. But Sutton was so good, I felt bad that people were leaving. The many who stayed were treated to another great medley.  She performed “On My Way” using the wind to her advantage and letting it blow her hair back in the way you might see in a photo shoot. Before that Sutton had to hold her hair during the song to keep it from flying in her face.   It was funny to watch her make light of what cannot be ideal conditions for a performer.  The second part of the medley was “Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie. The crowd was excited because this was a big show stopper for Sutton in that musical.

She finished the song, and the audience jumped to their feet.  Sutton put on a fantastic show. It was entertaining throughout, including a little suspense due to the weather.  We all stayed dry, and we enjoyed seeing a two time Tony Award winner deliver a performance worthy of those accolades.   

 

Stars Align Tour w/ Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers, & Ann Wilson July 18, 2018 USANA Amphitheater

USANA Amphitheater was the home of the opening night of the Stars Align Tour featuring Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers, and Ann Wilson.  It was also the third and concluding volume of Arrow 103.5’s Arrowfest.  It was a hot evening still hitting temperatures of 100 degrees at showtime. Unfortunately, the attendance for this show wasn’t great.  But the voices of those in attendance was mighty. Despite the initial heat, it was a really fun night.

Ann Wilson

Ann Wilson opened the show.  I really felt for her because the Amphitheater faces west so the sun was setting directly on her and her band.  She opened with The Who classic, “The Real Me”, then broke out into the Heart hit “Barracuda”. Following the song, she stated that she would be veering from the Heart catalog in order to share some songs off of the new album.   Many times that would be met with a large sigh, or disappointment. But Ann mentioned that her album titled Immortal consists of songs from legendary artists who have recently past such as David Bowie, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell, and Glenn Frey.  I suppose if you’re not going to do songs from the band that made you famous, might as well do some awesome covers. Right?

Just like last year, when Ann performed at the Sandy Amphitheater, my favorite song of the night was her cover of The Black Crowes song, “She Talks to Angels”.   It was as if that song was written specifically for her voice. It’s a perfect fit. I enjoyed her tribute to Chris Cornell, coinciding with her performance of the Audioslave “I am the Highway”.  Another song that fits right into her vocal register.

It seemed that the heat and the sun began taking its toll on Ann.  I noticed her walking back to the drummer fan once, and often shielding her face from the sun.  When she finished singing the Eagles song “Life in the Fast Lane” she quickly said, “Thank you Salt Lake!”  and abruptly walked off stage. Everything seemed to happen really quick. I watched her as she walked off stage to make sure she was ok.  I didn’t know if the plan was to come back out or not, but just then I saw a crew member signal to the soundboard that they were done.

As it turns out there were two more songs on the setlist that weren’t played.  I can’t say I blame her though. It was so hot for me and I was in the seats. She must have been cooking up there.  I love Ann Wilson’s voice so it would have been great to hear another song or two, or seven. But it was good to hear her again, and I look forward to her album Immortal when it comes out on September 14th of this year.  

Setlist

The Real Me
Barracuda
Fool No More
I’ve Seen All Good People
She Talks to Angels
I Am the Highway
You Don’t Own Me
Life in the Fast Lane

(Unplayed Songs)
For What It’s Worth
Love, Reign O’er Me

Paul Rodgers

Now if I’m being honest, Paul Rodgers is the main reason I wanted to attend this concert.  Paul is known for being the lead singer of the bands Free and Bad Company. Known as “The Voice” by his fans and peers, it’s no wonder he gave the crowd quite the performance.  The last time I saw Paul here in Utah was back in 2002 when Bad Company played the then titled E Center with Styx. He sounded amazing then, and unbelievably he sounds as good if not better than then.  How is that possible. He mixed the show between his two bands playing some classics and old forgotten gems. While many of the fans enjoyed the Free songs, it appeared to me that the majority of the audience was the most excited when Paul performed the Bad Company hits.  People went crazy when “Feel Like Makin’ Love” started. And a huge sing-along took place with “Shooting Star”.

Paul did his best to cool down the crowd by throwing water from his water bottles on the first few rows.  Fortunately, by this point, the sun had finally ducked behind the western mountains so the temperature finally started to go down.  

Paul left the stage and was cheered back on to play the Free mega-hit “All Right Now”.  This was probably my favorite part of the entire evening. I love that song, and it was pretty clear that everyone else in the crowd  felt the same.  The crowd sang the chorus in full voice and the venue sounded as if it was at capacity.

I can’t imagine it’s easy to play in the heat, in a venue that is maybe a third full.  But Paul came out, played his songs, and seemed to really enjoy himself like a true pro. He sounded so good.  I hope he comes back on his own tour or a tour with Bad Company. It would be great to see him again soon.

Setlist
Can’t Get Enough
Wishing Well
Feel Like Makin’ Love
Ready For Love
Walk in My Shadow
Mr. Big
The Stealer
Woman
Fire and Water
Shooting Star
Rock and Roll Fantasy

Encore:
All Right Now

 

Jeff Beck

The sun was finally gone, and the temperature was perfect for Jeff Beck.  Jeff is a guitar legend, known for having replaced Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds and leading the Jeff Beck Group.  

I must admit it was a difficult transition for me to go from hearing two of the most iconic voices in the classic rock era to a mostly instrumental driven set from Jeff Beck.  Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing. He’s a guitar virtuoso. It just took me a minute to settle into what he was putting out.

His band was incredible.  Jeff’s drummer Vinnie Colaiuta was as good a drummer as I’ve ever seen live.  It was impossible at times to not just look at what he was doing in awe. Bassist Rhonda Smith had melodic bass lines that are not always heard from that instrument.  She was impressive. Vanessa Freebairn-Smith brought a special element to the show with her Cello. You don’t always see a cello as part of a rock band, but in this case, she fit right in.  

Jimmy Hall walked on stage to sing vocals about three songs in.  He had a powerful voice and an engaging stage presence. I think he would enter the stage at just the time the audience seemed ready for a vocalist.  His highlight moment for sure was singing vocals during a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious”.

It’s so interesting how we’re conditioned to hear a voice at the forefront of a rock band.  But what Jeff has done is put the guitar, sometimes the even the bass as the lead “vocalist”.  I felt at times as if Jeff’s guitar was singing to me and telling me the story. Once I was able to wrap my head around that, I was able to see just how deep Jeff Beck’s talent really is.  My favorite part of his set was when he played an instrumental version of The Beatles “A Day in the Life”.

All of the artists on the bill are legends.  I’m not totally sure if they should be on tour together.  Or maybe Paul Rodgers should have closed the show. The energy from the crowd just seemed to dip a little after he left the stage.  It was a great night of music, but the show was unfortunately not well attended and I’m not sure why. My guess is the combination of artists or the order of the lineup.  Either way, those that weren’t there missed out, and those who were there saw some great performances!

Setlist

Pull It
Status
Nadia
You Know You Know
Morning Dew
I Have to Laugh
Lonnie on the Move
Mna na h-Eireann
Just for Fun
Little Wing
Big Block
Cause We Ended as Lovers
You Never Know
Brush with the Blues
Superstition
A Day in the Life

Encore:
You Shook Me
Going Down

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder w/ the Utah Symphony July 14, 2018 Snow Park Amphitheater Deer Valley

By: Amelia & Amanda Roper

Photo: Amelia Roper

Before this concert, we weren’t too familiar with Ricky Skaggs.  We knew he played bluegrass and country music, but that’s about it.  But when Kevin Rolfe (Editor and Chief of UCR) offered this opportunity to review the show, we were on it no questions asked.  We’re huge country music fans so all we needed to hear was “Ricky Skaggs, country music legend”, and we were in.

We’ve been to concerts at Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater in Deer Valley many times so we were excited to get back up there.  We have our own go to spot to sit and everything. So we settled in and waited for Ricky Skaggs to come out.

One of the first things we noticed was Ricky tunes his instruments incessantly. He mentioned that even when he was a child he just couldn’t stand to play his instruments out of tune.  He joked that his father used to tell him that he was “Taking the tuning thing a little too far”. He followed the story about his dad with a song called “Gone Home”. The thing that Ricky has mastered is the ability to tell a great story while he is tuning his instruments.  He told stories about the great Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe being his mentor, and how Bluegrass is based on Irish Folk Music. It was amazing to hear the Irish influence on Bluegrass after he said that.

Photo: Amelia Roper

Ricky and Kentucky Thunder sound so great together.  Skaggs stayed on the mandolin for most of the concert.  The rest of the group were a mix of banjos, guitars, and fiddles.  They looked like they were having a great time playing together as a band.  After a number where it seemed like they just did a bluegrass jam session, Ricky gave the rest of the guys two thumbs up.  

We thought the Utah Symphony played beautifully in this concert.  They were a huge part of the show and truly enhanced the evening. Especially on one song in particular.  Ricky stated “I never get to do this song because it’s made for a full band and a full orchestra. It’s a hard song to get through.  The words hit like a rock and cut like a knife. But if you are a believer, you will understand what this song is about. It’s called “Instead”.  Then the Utah Symphony began playing, softly and slowly building into the song. And he was right, this song can only be done this way. It was our favorite song of the night, and it appeared to be a favorite of the entire audience as well.  

This crowd just absolutely loved Ricky.  They ate up every story and laughed at every joke.  They danced throughout the entire concert and held signs expressing their love and devotion to him.  While Ricky was tuning his mandolin (Which I know we said this already, but he really tunes that thing every time he’s not playing it!) a cry from the darkened crowd yelled out “I Love You, Ricky!”.  He simply looked up and raised one eyebrow. It was classic! Everyone loved it. He made sure to thank the audience for their massive applause after each song.

Another special moment of the night was when Ricky spotlighted one of his bandmates named Jake.  He told the audience that Jake was from Salt Lake City. Of course, the crowd roared their approval.  Ricky then asked the audience, “How many of you are Jake’s students?!” A section of the audience cried out in acknowledgment.  Ricky then yelled out, “How many of you are Jake’s family?!” An even bigger cheer rang out from the audience. We could tell that Jake was excited to be playing in front of his loved ones. We’d imagine it was an extra special evening for him in particular.  

We might not be in the exact mountain range where this music was originated, but there is something to be said about hearing mountain music when you’re in the mountains.  It just felt right. This was some old-time bluegrass music too. Some of these songs had to have been the original songs of Bluegrass. And Ricky’s voice is perfect for this style.  He sings so clear and so high. He attributes his voice to his mother.

Photo: Amelia Roper

We actually were able to have a brief but fun interaction with Ricky.  After the intermission, we happened to be right where Ricky walked out to go back on stage.  He looked at us and smiled. So we said, “Hey would you mind if we took your picture?” He said “Sure, but you might want to take a lot so you can hang them up on your wall at home.”  He laughed, we laughed and began taking pictures. Which made Ricky laugh even more. It was an indicator to us that he was having such a great time. It certainly came across in his performance, but we were glad to get a brief encounter with him and see for ourselves just how much he loved it.  

It was a beautiful evening with a bluegrass legend.  The music was great.  The audience was really fun.  And the weather was excellent.  The sky was moody, but no storm.  Just like the show.  

 

 

 

ABBA The Concert: with the Utah Symphony July 13, 2018 Snow Park Amphitheater Deer Valley

It’s hard to believe, but July 13, 2018, was the first time I have ever attended a concert at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater in Deer Valley.  I’ve always heard great things, but for one reason or another, I had never had the opportunity. I was excited that my first experience attending this venue would be as a witness to one of the acclaimed Deer Park Music Festival concerts featuring the Utah Symphony.  On this particular evening, the Symphony would join forces with tribute band Waterloo to play the unforgettable music of ABBA. This would be a Friday the 13th not soon forgotten.

The atmosphere at Snow Park Outdoor is very friendly.  Many patrons arrive early to picnic and visit with friends and other concert-goers before the show starts.  The temperatures at Deer Valley are significantly lower than in Salt Lake City so I’d imagine many in attendance were eager to get to the venue early to enjoy the cooler air.  I enjoyed looking around at the various dishes prepared and the creative devices people used for tables, coolers, and chairs.

The concert began promptly at 7:30 PM.  The orchestra had tuned and when Waterloo walked out, everyone was ready to go.  The show opened up with the huge ABBA hit “Take a Chance on Me”. I was immediately impressed with Waterloo.  Their voices were perfect and their harmonies were right in step with the ABBA sound. It blows my mind when a tribute band can resemble the real band so well.  Yes they have the hair, and yes they have the costumes, but it takes so much more than that. I’ve seen tribute bands and they have the look of the band, but their sound isn’t even close.  Waterloo was spot on. That’s not an easy thing to do.

The Utah Symphony never lets me down.  They sounded amazing as always. I think they are one of the most underrated symphony orchestras in the nation.  I really appreciate the variety of their performances. I’ve seen them play the score to great films live, as the movie plays overhead, I’ve seen them play with the greatest vocalists in the world, and there I was seeing them pay tribute to one of the most iconic bands of all time.  It’s versatility like this that makes them one of my favorite concerts to attend, no matter what the theme. You’re guaranteed to be entertained. My only issue with their performance on this night was there were times I couldn’t hear them enough. I don’t know if it was the mix, or if Waterloo was just louder, or if maybe I’m just going dear, but I couldn’t hear the orchestra a few times and it was disappointing.  

 

When the show first started the audience seemed quite subdued. The music was great, and spirits were high, but the crowd was so quiet. Then all of a sudden things changed.  I’m not sure if the temperature dropped, the sun went down, or maybe the wine simply kicked in but about 45 minutes into the show the energy of the crowd was totally elevated.  People started to get up and dance, sing along the way I had anticipated them doing the entire evening. Better late than never I suppose. The enthusiasm of the crowd remained for the rest of the concert.  

One of the highlights of the show was when Roger Palm, a drummer who played on many of ABBA’s hit recordings took the stage with the Utah Symphony and Waterloo.  He moved from drums to tambourine through a number of songs. It was just really cool to see someone who had taken part in the ABBA magic up there on stage. The crowd seemed really happy to have him there.  It was an unexpected pleasant surprise. Of course, the pinnacle moment of the evening was “Dancing Queen”.  It felt like it was 1976. ABBA fans of all ages were totally lost in the song and just dancing their hearts out.  There was even a kick line of about 20 people up on the lawn. It must have looked amazing from the stage to see so many people having so much fun.  

 

It was a perfect evening for fun music, great musical talent, and beautiful weather.  I’m not sure if the Utah Symphony was aware when they put this show together, but their timing could not have been more perfect.  If you’re an ABBA fan you’re well aware that there is a sequel to the 2007 movie musical Mamma Mia, which consists of ABBA’s greatest hits.  Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again, comes out one week after this concert.  So after this show, the ABBA pump has been primed!

If you’ve never been to the Deer Valley Music Festival do yourself a favor and get up there to see the summer home of the Utah Symphony.  I can’t believe it took me this long to take in a show there. I’m really hoping to be at every show possible from here on out.

Pentatonix July 12, 2018 USANA Amphitheater

I’ve seen Pentatonix over the years on talk shows, award shows, YouTube, their cameo in Pitch Perfect 2, and this years’ A Capitol 4th in Washington DC on PBS.  Clearly, they’re a really tight and talented group.  However, I was really curious to see them perform in their own headlining show.  I wanted to see if it was actually possible for an acapella group to pull off an entire 90-minute concert in front of fifteen thousand plus fans.  Well, judging by the fifteen thousand plus, they most certainly did.

I find it amazing that without any live instruments, or even backing tracks, a vocal group can sound that in tune for a whole concert.  The thing we concert-goers don’t always realize is that in the moment, we’re excited to hear a song, and many times we’re singing along, so we can’t always tell when a band goes slightly off-key momentarily because there is usually so much other music, effects, and our own voices hiding it.  But with Pentatonix, it’s impossible to hide those moments. The remarkable thing to me is they never seemed to have any of those moments. I noticed a few times Kristin Maldonado had to remove her inner ear monitor. That can happen due to feedback, volume issues, including not being able to hear your own vocals.  But the impressive thing was that she didn’t miss a note. She just carried on and reinserted the monitor when the song was over. This tells me just how locked in these guys are. They’ve practiced and performed so many times it’s as if they almost don’t even need to hear to blend with each other. 

Each member of the band could be the lead singer of their own group.  That’s how strong and talented each vocalist is.  Including Kevin Olusola the group beatboxer. Which seems a little unfair.  He’s the beats guy. He shouldn’t also have such a rich high caliber voice. Not only does he have quality vocals, and top-notch beatboxing, but he also plays the cello exceptionally well.  In fact, there is a segment of the show where Kevin breaks out the cello for the only moment of the show involving a musical instrument. It was one of the biggest highlights for me.  

I really enjoyed the reception the USANA Amphitheater crowd gave to group newcomer vocal bassist Matt Sallee.  As I understand it Avi Kaplan was a fan favorite but decided the road was no longer for him so he stepped down from the group.  That transition can sometimes be awkward, especially for fans. But Matt was given a welcome reception and the group sounded excellent with him in it.  He brings tremendous value to the group.

Mitch Grassi seemed to be the crowd favorite at this show.  Any time he said something or sang a solo line, the place went nuts.  I was impressed with his vocal range. The guy can sing! Really high!  Like really high! There were a couple times where I was looking down at my phone (I know rude, but it was to write down some notes for this article I promise!) and I thought Kristin was singing, only to look up and see that it was in fact, Mitch.  I was blown away. He brings a flair to the group that the audience adores.

I think my favorite vocalist in the group is Scott Hoying.  There is something about his vocals that I connect with. He has such a sincerity in his tone that makes me feel like he means every word he is singing.  He looks like he’s having a blast on stage. Well, they all do, but in watching Scott it just felt like he was stoked to be on that stage with his friends, and doing what he loves.  

As I’ve mentioned before, during some shows, I get a photo pass where I’m in front of the front row for the first three songs of the night.   While I was taking pictures of the group, I looked behind me to see what they were seeing. It’s astonishing to see an ocean of faces looking back.  Understandably I’m anonymous because the group people are there to see is right behind me. This gives me an opportunity to look around and see what the band could possibly be seeing.  How can they not love what they do? Everyone is smiling, everyone is so happy to see their favorite group on stage, and everyone is singing along. While I was looking out to the crowd, the first song ended.  I quickly snapped back around to get a look at Pentatonix to see how they’d react to the roaring applause. I quickly took this picture of Kristin Maldonado. I don’t know her, (Obviously) but I felt like I could see in her eyes the excitement of performing, and the joy of hearing an approving crowd, and the eager anticipation of what was about to happen that night.  It was a cool moment for me to see. She also could have just been thinking “Wait, what’s the next song again?” But I like my version better! By the way, Kristin’s vocals were amazing the whole night! If she had a solo album I’d buy it immediately. She really is extremely talented.

The two major highlights of the evening for me were when, after a costume change, Pentatonix reentered the stage and performed John Lennon’s “Imagine”.  First of all, it’s amazing how applicable that song still is. Second, their version was beautiful. It was a special way to begin the second act of their show.  

The other highlight for me was their Rihanna medley.  I guess I didn’t anticipate it so it was a pleasant surprise.  I really enjoy me some Rihanna. It was a fun moment for the crowd, and it was obvious that Pentatonix was excited to perform this segment.  

The show ended with a beautifully harmonized version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  Another song I didn’t expect but was thrilled to have heard.

Before the show, I was able to speak to a few fans along the front row railing.  I asked them how many times they’d seen Pentatonix. The answers varied, but one pre-teen, in particular, mentioned that it was her first time.  She said all she wanted was for one of them to come over to her, wave to her, and if she was lucky enough, sing to her. I paid attention to that for the rest of the concert. And not only did one come over to her, but throughout the show, each member of Pentatonix came over to her, waved to her, and sang to her.  How stoked was she?! Those are the marks of a group that is in touch with their fans.

When a group wins a reality show to get the career they have, you never know just how ready they actually are for it.  And while it’s been a number of years since Pentatonix won The Sing Off, it is clear that they are a genuine talent. The type of talent that can entertain a huge USANA Amphitheater audience for an hour and a half.  Good for them.

Setlist
Intro/ Sing
Finesse
Attention
Can’t Sleep Love
Havana
Stay/ The Middle
Cello Moment/ Perfect
Daft Punk
Despacito x Shape of You

Imagine
Love You Long Time
Rihanna Medley
New Rules x Are You That Somebody?
Cracked/ Natural Disaster
Hallelujah
Sorry Not Sorry
Aha!
Bohemian Rhapsody