Garth Brooks Vivint Smart Home Arena October 29, 2015 Salt Lake City

Garth

In a last minute stroke of luck, I was able to procure tickets to see Garth Brooks on his opening night of his three night, four show stop in Salt Lake City.  I was so excited because I didn’t think I was going to be able to see him.  Tickets sold out in record time, and I didn’t get one. Well, fortune favored me because I did make it into the newly named Vivint Smart Home Arena (Formerly Energy Solutions Arena, formerly the Delta Center which is still pretty much what everyone still calls it. Maybe this new name will catch on.), to see the country music legend’s return to Utah after a 17 year absence.  

My history with Garth goes back maybe 20 years or so.  In high school I was not a country music fan.  Not even close.  I was a huge fan of alternative music.  Now it’s probably called oldies, yikes.  So while I was listening to Depeche Mode, Nirvana, The Cure, NIN, The Smiths, New Order, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Oingo Boingo, and others country music was far from my musical pallet, and I thought it to be uncool, and tough on the ears.  Then I dated a girl who was a huge country fan.  She was unapologetic about her love of country music, didn’t care if I liked it or not, and never asked me to try to like it.  But being the devoted boyfriend, I wanted to try.  So I borrowed her Garth Brooks tapes (Garth Brooks, No Fences, & Ropin’ the Wind).  Yep, tapes.  I listened to them with my walkman.  Yep, walkman.  I mean, come on, I wasn’t about to listen to them on my stereo.  I didn’t want anyone to know I was giving this garbage a chance.  So, I listened, and it didn’t do much for me.  A couple songs sounded ok.  I listened again, nothing.  Then I gave it another try, and somehow, someway, “Friends in Low Places” got to me.  It made me laugh, it pumped me up, and it broke the wall for me to allow country into my life.  I may not like every country artist out there, but it is impossible for me to deny some of the talent that is in the industry.  I kept my new love of Garth and country hidden to most besides this girlfriend, until one day, I finally had to reveal myself as a tried and true country fan.

I suppose due to my delayed appreciation for Garth, my penance was to have to wait for over two decades to finally see the man in person.  But I’ll tell you all, it was worth the wait!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3bkgwRXi7o

Now, I know I can get wordy in my reviews and they can go on, and on with the details about what I loved.  But this review is not going to be much longer.  It can’t be. There just are not very many words that can describe what it’s like to see Garth Brooks in concert. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.  I’ll just say that he will take you from one extreme to the other with essentially the snap of a finger.  It’s a huge rush, yet it gets reverent, it’s low down, gritty, raw, blue collar, white trash loving fun, then it gets to a point of spirituality that it almost feels like the heavens open up to watch a little of the show.  You’re laughing, you’re crying, you’re screaming, then you are speechless with awe of what you are seeing and hearing.  It really is amazing how broad the spectrum this show is.  Garth goes from the coolest guy in the room, to the biggest nerdiest goofball in the place.  And that’s why we love him.  We elevate him to the lofty status of legend, yet we all feel like he is one of us.  I don’t think there is anyone in the jam packed arena that doesn’t feel like they could simply hang out with the guy after the show and shoot the breeze about anything other than the epic event they just witnessed.

Garth made it a point to give the crowd what they wanted.  He played all of his hits, told stories about the songs, and right in the middle of his show, he brought out his amazingly talented wife Trisha Yearwood.  I was under the impression she was going to open the show, but it was a pleasant surprise and a cool change of pace to have her perform about 5 songs an hour into the concert.  Plus she didn’t have to play to an arena of people just arriving.  She was given the attention and response her talent and career deserve.

This being the opening night of his stay here in Salt Lake City, I kept wondering  ‘How is he going to do three more shows in the next two days?! Let alone two shows in one night?’ He gave us so much energy, and never held back vocally.  But every account I got from the people that attended those shows said that he put on the show of a lifetime.  I can’t imagine anyone anywhere not saying or feeling the same.  He asks for the crowd to give him everything they got, and gives it all right back.  All I can say is if you enjoy being entertained, if you want to hear great music, Go See Garth!  Even if you think you’re not a fan, Go See Garth! I promise you, you will not be disappointed.  I can’t wait to see him again.  

Setlist

Man Against Machine
Rodeo
Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House
The Beaches of Cheyenne
The River
Two Piña Coladas
Papa Loved Mama
Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)
Unanswered Prayers
That Summer
The Thunder Rolls
In Another’s Eyes (with Trisha Yearwood)

Trisha Yearwood

XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)
How Do I Live
Prizefighter
She’s in Love With the Boy

Garth Brooks Set 2

Shameless
Callin’ Baton Rouge
Friends in Low Places
The Dance

Encore
Fever

Encore 2
Amarillo By Morning
Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)
Standing Outside the Fire

Sam Smith Maverik Center October 2, 2015 West Valley City

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Sam Smith made his Utah debut Friday evening October 2 at the Maverik Center. It’s amazing how famous he has become in a relatively short time. The Maverik Center holds about 10,000 people, and generally a band, or a singer with still just their first album won’t play a venue this large. Well, Sam not only played this venue, he sold it out.

To be completely honest, I wouldn’t consider myself a huge Sam Smith fan. (I only say this, so you know where my point of view is coming from in this review.) Don’t get me wrong, I like him, I respect him, and I am impressed by his voice, and his rapid rise to stardom. So I’m not hating on the guy. There are just some artists we’ll all be drawn to more than others. I however, do like attending concerts of artists I’m not super enamored with. It gives me an opportunity to notice all the things going on that I might not see when I’m there as a huge fan.

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The first and most obvious thing was the crowd was about 95% female. Which I was surprised by. I guess I didn’t realize that was his main demographic. Maybe it is like that only in Utah, I have no idea. But it seemed the age ranged from 15-23 year old young women. So I was a little bit out of my element. Or a lot out of my element. As I mentioned, the Maverik Center was full. The front of the floor was general admission, which I thought was odd because it’s not like Sam Smith has big dance songs. But it was packed all the same. Then the second half of the floor were seats. I was fortunate enough to be on the front row of the seated area of the floor. It’s funny, of all the shows I’ve seen lately, the best seats I get are for the artist I’m least excited to see. I was just to the right of the soundboard, so while we were waiting for Sam to come on, I was entertained by the sound engineers and their prep work to begin the show.

When the show began, the band and Sam were behind two curtains. They dropped the first one, and then a thinly veiled second curtain was revealed. All that was heard about the ear bleeding shrieks of the girls in attendance was Sam Smith’s opening notes. Then the spotlights centered on the main event and Sam Smith appeared. I didn’t think I’d need ear plugs for a show like this, but with that type of audience I immediately regretted my decision.

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Sam played for about 80 minutes, singing what I can assume was his entire album, plus a cover of the old standard “My Funny Valentine”. What Sam lacked in stage presence, he made up for with talent and sincerity. When you think about it, it has to be so strange for an artist from England to come to a random place in the middle of America like Salt Lake City and find a sizeable audience waiting for him there. Sam seemed to be genuinely amazed by this. He was very appreciative of their devotion to him, and encouraged them often to sing along with him. And they did.

Another thing I noticed, and boyfriends pay attention. It seemed that the men who were there, were either dragged there by their girlfriends, or they were taking their girlfriend on a date to see their girls favorite artist. Now Sam can sing a ballad or two, and during those slow jams, there was some interaction between these couples throughout the arena that told me, these boyfriends would be thanked later for bringing them to the show. Thanked is the right word, right? Anyway, point is, fellas, just because an artist might not be your favorite, taking your significant other to one of their favorites is a really good move. Especially when the slow jams jam like Sam jams the slow jams.

My major takeaways with the show is Sam Smith is still at the beginning of his career. He kind of rocks back and forth when at the mic stand, and when he takes the mic off of the stand he just walks from one side of the stage to the other. A couple times he brought his backup singers (Who were amazing by the way) down to help him fill out the stage. He still doesn’t seem 100% natural or comfortable on stage. His voice, and the things he says to the audience are so sincere that I have no doubt with a little more seasoning, his stage presence will catch up in no time.

But more than anything, nothing stands out more than his voice. What a rare and amazing gift he has. He hit some serious high notes, and he made it seem effortless. On the way home I tried to hit some of them, and the only way I could was by pushing as hard as I could, and as loud as I could. Fortunately, I was in the car alone. He has a rare talent, and it is clear that he takes good care of it. Every note was perfect, and so clear. When he closed with his hit “Stay With Me”, I felt like I was listening to the album. It was that perfect.

So, while I may not be the president of the Utah chapter of the Sam Smith fan club, I will never deny his talent. I am interested to see what he does next. Well done Sam.IMG_4315

Idina Menzel UCCU Center October 1, 2015 Orem Utah

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Quick! Name the first ten Broadway stars that come to your mind! Ok, the first five! Eh, how about one?  Now for you theater lovers, that may have been a fairly simple task, but for you others out there, you blew it!  And you’re missing out on some pretty fantastic voices. Anyway, even if you’re not a fan of musical theater, you may recognize the name Idina Menzel.  And even if that name doesn’t yet ring a bell, you’ll surely recognize her first professional job as one of the stars of arguably the biggest musical of the 90’s, the award winning musical “Rent”, where she was nominated for a Tony Award portraying the role of Maureen.  Unfamiliar with that show?  Well, first off, I just feel sorry for you, but perhaps you’ll recognize Idina from the unquestioned biggest musical of the 2000’s, “Wicked”, where she won a Tony Award for portraying the role of Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West.  And if you still don’t know her, then there is no doubt that you’ll recognize her as the voice of Elsa in the humungous Disney animated feature film “Frozen”, singing the Academy Award winning song “Let it Go”.  So, if you still aren’t familiar, one, you’ve been living in the wilderness somewhere with no contact to the world, and two,  I’m sure you can at least see for the past 25 years she has been busy being featured in one successful endeavour after another.  And here she was right of front of me in Orem, Utah of all places!

So, I’m a sucker for singers, especially when they have a unique recognizable quality to their voice.  To me, there is nothing better than hearing that first note, that first word, and knowing unquestionably who is singing.  And that applies to Ms. Menzel.  The musical “Wicked” has been playing on Broadway for about a decade now, and there have been a lot of actresses who have played Elphaba in New York, London, and on tour.  But you will never mistake any of those voices (as amazing as some of them are) for Idina’s when you hear her sing “Defying Gravity”, or “The Wizard and I”!  She has ownership of these songs, and always will.

Idina began her show with guns blazing, singing the aforementioned “Defying Gravity”.  What a way to start a concert.  Of course she had the full attention of the crowd, and she heard their excitement and approval when she finished the song with one of her signature belted notes.  I remember thinking to myself, ‘I just heard Idina (possibly an expletive) Menzel sing “Defying Gravity”!  I quickly realized I was in for a night I would not soon forget.

She soared through the show performing standards, made famous by legendary female vocalists, all the while talking with the crowd, and displaying her fun and straightforward personality. The beautiful thing about watching Idina perform is when you look at her, it seems as if each she puts so much feeling and purpose in each word and note.  I almost get worried that she won’t be able to hit her big notes because of the energy she’s putting into performance.  But she’s a true professional.  She knows what she’s doing.

A huge highlight for me was when she covered Radiohead’s “Creep”.  I know a lot of artists are covering that song these days, but not like this.  Not with the passion, the angst, the depth, or the authenticity that Idina performed it.  I mean, wow, I was so moved by her performance of this song.  And I figure, since Radiohead never performs it, why not Idina.

Following a roaring ovation from the 6,000 plus audience she completely changed the tone of the show jumping to one of her signature songs and probably the first song she’s known for, “Take Me or Leave Me”.  A song she dueted in the musical “Rent”.  The crowd went crazy upon recognition of the song.  But the fun was not over.  After singing a verse or two, she decided that since the song was originally a duet, she asked for some assistance from members of the audience.  She asked who knew the song and then walked up to a couple people.  The first was a young man who had clearly been practicing his whole life for this moment!  When she gave him the microphone he was off and running.  He sounded good, and hit all the high notes. Impressive.  Then she found a girl who said she knew the song, but kinda stumbled through her part and Idina had some fun with her, but it was clear she was looking for someone who knew the song a little better.  Then she found another woman who knew the part well and sang through the duet almost flawlessly.  Then she brought the young man and the woman who knew the part on stage with her to finish the song.  It was a really high energy part of the show, and while I looked out on the crowd I don’t think I saw a single person without a smile on their face.  That’s what a live performance is all about, giving a crowd a show, and a memory they’ll be talking about whenever that artist’s name comes up.

As if she couldn’t do any more to engage and emotionally move the audience, she again switched tones singing an excellently arranged version of “No Day But Today” also from Rent.  Before she sang she dedicated the song to Jonathan Larson, the composer and lyricist of “Rent”, who passed away the day before his groundbreaking show was to open.  She talked about living in the moment, which was ironic as thousands of smartphones were out filming her.  But the song was moving and powerful, and inspiring.  She finished the song by again involving the audience having the entire crowd sing the end of the song with her.  And that’s one thing about concerts in Utah, the crowd is always up for a sing along.  And generally they sound great.  This time was no exception.

She set up the later part of her set by singing an acapella version of the song “For Good” from Wicked. Now singing acapella is a challenge in itself in a concert setting.  But the UCCU Center has let’s say, not the best acoustics.  Which reminds me, kudos to the sound engineers, because they did a remarkable job with the sound.  And to that, Idina sang this beautiful song flawlessly in her personal tender way.

The clear cut crowning moment of the evening was when she finished her main set with the wildly popular “Let it Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen”.  Again, children and adults alike went nuts when they heard the opening chords to the song.  She sang the song brilliantly, and then she again amazed, entertained, and enhanced the show by inviting all the children in the audience to come up to the front of the stage to show the grown ups how it’s done.  A large applause took place when a little girl sat next to Idina dressed in a complete Elsa costume.   It was cute, it again, brought smiles to everyone, and it made her look like a modern day Maria Von Trapp.  On Julie Andrew’s 80th Birthday no less!  She let kids sing into the microphone, and the crowd cheered loudest when one of, if not the only boy sang the famous tag line, “The cold never bothered me anyway.”  They sang through the chorus a few times and then she sent them all to their seats finishing the song on her own, and yes she hit that high note perfectly!

She left the stage, returning to sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, in her own unique, personal style.  And then she departed to a standing ovation.  Of course.

I’ve listened to Idina Menzel albums, cast albums, I’ve watched her on TV singing her biggest songs on award shows, I’ve watched the dvd, “Chess in Concert”, I’ve watched her on Youtube singing “Don’t cry for me Argentina” about a billion times.  Okay, maybe a million, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s probably my favorite version.  And now, finally, I’ve seen her perform in person.  A huge check off of my list of performers I’d like to see.  She did not disappoint in any way.  I could not recommend seeing her enough.  Even if you’re not familiar with who she is, or don’t like musical theater.  Just go see her and you’ll be thanking me for the experience.  

Setlist

Defying Gravity ( From Wicked)

Don’t Rain on My Parade (From Funny Girl)  

River (Joni Mitchell cover)

Love for Sale / Roxanne (Cole Porter & Sting)

There’s No Business Like Show Business / Anything Goes / Everything’s Coming Up Roses

(Ethel Merman Medley)

Creep (Radiohead cover)

Take Me or Leave Me (From “Rent” & performed with audience members)

No Day But Today (From “Rent”)

Always Starting Over (From “If/Then”)

For Good (A cappella)

Let It Go (From Frozen)

Give It Away (Red Hot Chili Peppers cover) (Snippet performed during “Let It Go” outro)

Encore:

Tomorrow (From Annie)

Brandon Flowers September 28, 2015 The Complex Salt Lake City

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I have had a few opportunities to see a member of a popular band go out on his/her own and do a solo show or two. Of course the crowd is excited to see them, and they are even more excited when they sing some songs from the band we know them from. Well, things were a little different Monday evening when I saw Brandon Flowers, lead singer of The Killers, on his tour promoting his latest solo album, “The Desired Effect”.

First of all, this concert was originally meant to take place at The Depot, a venue that holds about 1,200 people. That show sold out really fast so they moved the concert to The Complex into the Rockwell room that holds about 2,500 to 3,000 people. This move afforded me the opportunity to attend this show. Some good friends of mine were able to grab the last 3 tickets before this show was once again sold out. I love The Killers, and I do really enjoy Brandon Flowers solo stuff, so I was truly grateful to be gifted their third ticket.

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Brandon Flowers appeared right at 9 PM. He made his appearance from the back of the venue, on what seemed to be a platform next to the sound board. The crowd was going crazy, especially people close to him, knowing this is the closest they’d be to him all night. But when he ran to the stage the entire audience went wild. About three or four songs into the set I realized this wasn’t a typical “lead singer, doing a solo show, and people will sit through the solo stuff to get to hear some songs from the band that made him big” show. As I looked around the majority of the audience were singing each and every word of the songs from Brandon Flowers solo stuff. And I mean singing them out as if they were huge Killers hits. They could go crazy when they heard the first chord of the song, or if he said the title of the song. I even commented to my buddy about it. It really was something I’d never seen. Now don’t get me wrong, I really like this new solo record, and I know a lot of the words. A lot of the words, not all the words to where I could sing them out all night long. I think that is a huge tribute to Brandon Flowers song writing ability, and the devotion of his fans.

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The things that stood out to me and my friends the most was the sound, the lighting of this concert, and Brandon himself. I believe I’ve mentioned before that The Complex is essentially just a huge warehouse with a stage and a bar in the back, therefore making it a concert venue. But what I really appreciate is that although it is not going to go down in history as the most charming of venues, they have done a great job making sure the sound is excellent in there. I have never been to a show at The Complex where the sound was bad, and this show was no exception.

The lighting of this show was one of my all time favorites. It seemed as if the lights had purpose, almost as if they were telling the story of the concert. I’m not sure who the lighting designer is for this tour, but I tip my hat. (PS, I’m not really wearing a hat right now. But I still did the tip hat motion, so it counts.) I just absolutely loved the lighting of this show! Each song was filled with it’s own amazing light show. Well done.

And of course Brandon himself. He did an exceptional job with the flow of his setlist. I believe he did five songs from The Killers catalogue. But the cool part is he did an altered take on each song. The Killers song “Human”, was really the only one that sounded close to original version.

It gave him a chance to flex his creative muscles, while giving the crowd a taste of some of the songs they’ve grown to love, while also keeping the original versions to be played where they belong, with The Killers. He seemed really happy to be playing in Salt Lake City. It was sort of a homecoming show for him, having spent some of his childhood growing up in Utah County. It seemed as if he knew people there, or just knew that the crowd was going to give him something special, so he returned it with a brilliant performance. It is clear that he has worked on his vocals over the years, because he sounded great live. Whether he has taken lessons over the years, or he can just hear himself better in the monitors, he has really improved his live singing, and it was a thrill for me to hear just how strong his vocals are. Despite having a solid 6 piece band and 2 back up singers, the attention was of course all on Brandon, and he did not disappoint. He told stories, and interacted with the crowd in a way that I have never seen him do before.

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While I’m looking forward to a new Killers album, and hopefully a tour, this was more than just a show to tide me over until then. This was its own thing. Its own event. Its own experience. I was initially hesitant to see Brandon Flowers without the rest of The Killers, but one thing I learned Monday night was that I’m not only a Brandon Flowers of The Killers fan, but I’m a Brandon Flowers solo fan, and I’ll see his solo shows anytime. They are not to be missed.

Setlist
Come Out With Me
Dreams Come True
Can’t Deny My Love
Crossfire
Magdalena
Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine (The Killers song)
Lonely Town
Diggin’Up the Heart
Read My Mind (The Killers song)
Untangled Love
Playing With Fire
Human (The Killers song)
Mr. Brightside (Jacques Lu Cont Remix) (The Killers song)

Encore:
Between Me and You
Still Want You
Only the Young

Shania Twain August 15, 2015 Energy Solutions Arena Salt Lake City

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What a night it was this past Saturday when Shania Twain brought her “Rock this Country” tour to the Energy Solutions Arena. There is something about going to a concert on a Saturday evening. You have a day off of work, to relax and have all the energy you need to get into a concert. We’re especially grateful for weekend shows here in Utah. Most big shows will stop by mid week on their way to a larger city. So when we actually get a weekend show, the appreciation from the crowd in obvious.

As I waited for Shania Twain to start I looked around the venue to see what kind of crowd was here to see the Queen of Country. The age range of the audience was across the board. I had a girl not older than 4 sitting next to me, girls no older than 14 to the other side of me, and a couple no younger than 74 behind me. But the common theme was the eager anticipation of seeing one of their favorite artists, a star who hadn’t been on tour in over a decade, and one who has sold around 80 million albums. The anxious anticipation was intense!

After about a half hour of set up, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock n’ Roll” played over the speakers. The entire audience sang along, as the lights slowly dimmed, and in unison the crowd rose to their feet. It was time for Shania!

After a instrumental intro that had a video montage/ light show, the stage fog had reached it’s maximum, and sure enough Shania Twain rose from beneath the stage singing her opening song, appropriately, “Rock this Country”. She continued to rise until she was about 30 feet in the air, and then came down to the stage about mid song. Energy Solutions Arena was on fire. Sometimes literally with the pyrotechnics going off!

Before I move on, I’m sure you’re wondering, “Really dude, Shania Twain?” And I have to say with no apologies, YES, Shania Freaking Twain! (Edited for the kids. This is a family friendly blog folks.) I mean, I get it. She’s doesn’t write songs with as much deepest, most artistic, or most edgy songs. And yes, many of her songs have a cheesy spoken sentence before the song starts, but I dare you to not tap your foot during “If You’re Not in it For Love”, or not have “Don’t Be Stupid” stuck in your head for hours. She is simply good times. Her songs are fun, and her lyrics are positive, and people seem to be able to listen to her over and over and over again. I think of Shania Twain as the musical version of the TV show “Friends”. Sure that show might not have been world changing, or ground breaking. But it was relatable, fun, and people still keep going back to watch the reruns. So it is with Shania Twain.

It has been so long since Shania toured, that you almost forget just how many hit songs she has. And she just kept rolling them out. No new stuff for us to sit through until our next favorite hit. Shania plans to release a new album next year, and that would be an appropriate time for her to sing her new songs live, but she is claiming that this is her final tour. Let’s hope not.

I think the best part about seeing a Shania Twain concert is how much she wants to entertain the audience. She pulled out almost every trick in the book. She had the pyrotechnics of a heavy metal show, stage lighting that would rival any tour out today, and of course a catwalk so that she could get out into the middle of the arena whenever she wanted. She also rode on a small cart during “Any Man of Mine” throughout the entire floor of the arena, high fiving, encouraging a sing a long, and taking selfies with her phone and selfie stick. She sat on a saddle, and made her song “Up!” literal by being raised by a huge mechanical crane (Think Disneyland’s Dumbo ride, but on a saddle) and soared around the arena singing her hit song.

But despite the special effects, and flash, it really does come down to the music. She sang acoustic versions of a couple songs. Just sitting in a chair, telling stories, and engaging with the crowd. The backup band is flawless, from their instruments, to their harmonies, to their crowd engagement, they are a really great addition to the show. Of course everything in the show is totally polished, and rehearsed perfectly, even the stories, or where she walks and when, but it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like this was the only show on her tour. She has a way of making her audience feel that special. Which is what made me fall in love with her in the first place.

Way way back in the late nineties when Shania was exploding with her multi platinum selling album “Come on Over”, a college buddy of mine asked me if I wanted to go see Shania that night at the Hollywood Bowl. My initial thought was , why would I, a guy, want to see Shania Twain. Other than the fact that she’s great looking, of course. Keep in mind, this was the era of “Girl Power!”, with the Spice Girls being huge, No Doubt being huge, and Shania Twain’s empowering songs like, “I Feel Like a Woman”, “Any Man of Mine”, and “Honey, I’m home”. I felt like I might not be the target audience for a Shania Twain show. Well, somehow, someway my friend convinced me to go. (She had a way of doing that.) Just like this past Saturday night, Shania entertained the crowd from the front row to the very back seat. I would know, because I’m pretty sure that’s where I was. But she made me feel as if I was in the front row. In fact, she even called out the ticket number of the seat just down the aisle from me, and invited them and a friend to sit in two front row seats she had saved for them. How awesome is that?! So from then on, I’ve admired her talent.

The only thing that bothered me about on Saturday night was watching the guys who were clearly dragged to the show by their wife or girlfriend. I get it, it’s not your kind of music, you’re not a Shania Twain fan. But you don’t have to spend the whole night proving it to the people around you. You’re there, obviously your significant other wants you to be there to have a good time with her. So have fun douches! You’re at a very entertaining show. No one is going to ask for your man card upon exiting the arena, no one will think you’re gay if you sing along and clap your hands to a couple Shania Twain songs, no one is going to blame you for having a good time even though this isn’t your thing. Get over yourselves. Sheesh! (Family friendly. Although I did say douche earlier. Oops.) I’m pretty sure you’ll make your girlfriend or wife’s night if you try to have a good time during what is clearly and fun and entertaining night. Anyway, my two cents to the douches of earth.

Clearly this was a night to be remembered. Shania departed after singing “Any Man of Mine”, and it was clear the crowd wanted more. This is probably the cheesiest thing I’ll ever say in one of my reviews, but I love seeing people have such a good time. From my seat I could see the people in the front row and I could see a couple of friends of mine way up in the upper level, dancing, smiling, and singing along. It feels good to be a part of a night like this. I’m not saying that Shania Twain is for everyone. And that’s fine if you don’t enjoy her music. But I dare you to not have a great time at her concert.

Setlist
Rock This Country!
Honey, I’m Home
You Win My Love
Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?
I Ain’t No Quitter
Love Gets Me Every Time
Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)
Any Man of Mine
I’m Gonna Getcha Good!
Come on Over
Party For Two (with Gavin DeGraw)
Up!
Today Is Your Day
No One Needs to Know
You’re Still the One
From This Moment On
That Don’t Impress Me Much
(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!
Encore:
Man! I Feel Like a Woman!

Morrissey July 18, 2015, The Depot Salt Lake City

If You’re Going to Let Go, Now’s the Time

By Tiffany Mull

 

Morrissey

In typical Morrissey fashion, Moz did not actually appear on stage until 9 p.m., a full hour after his concert was scheduled to begin (there was no opening act). Of course there was a PETA table on the way into the venue offering sundry items (CDs, postcards, magazines, vegan cooking tips) intended to educate and persuade. A peculiar montage of black-and-white film clips, Spanish dancing, dark poetry readings, classic rock, and lesser-known comedians whiled away the time until Stephen Patrick (got you!) took the stage with a crowd-shrilling rendition of Suedehead. All delay was promptly forgiven.

We were treated to a set list (see below) punctuated by the morose banter expected and loved by Morrissey fans worldwide. Our despondent crooner addressed the crowd with, “I’m just sorry you came,” quickly followed by, “No, I’m not sorry.” After performing World Peace is None of Your Business, he informed us, to my delight, that Ed Sheeran could kiss his ass.

The music was full of the fun twists and variations one comes to expect of live performance. Before the final verse of Speedway – a personal favorite – the stage went dark for about five beats. The lights revealed Morrissey rocking a tambourine off to the side while a band member took the fore, powerfully completing the song in Spanish. There was, of course, the token audience member who charged scarily onto stage bent and determined on giving the pope of mope a good squeeze (two beefy body guards shoved the man back into the crowd).

The ambiance was enhanced by images and film clips projected onto the enormous screen behind the band. Ganglord was accompanied by recordings of police brutality, The Bullfighter Dies coupled with an image of a bull slaying his would-be matador, Meat is Murder served with graphic slaughterhouse footage, etc.

He rounded out the evening with an incandescent performance of Everyday is Like Sunday. For the encore? An enormous image of Queen Elizabeth II flipping a double bird appeared on screen while Morrissey returned the bird in kind and belted The Queen is Dead.

Set List:

Suedehead
Alma Matters
Staircase at the University
Ganglord
Speedway
World Peace Is None of Your Business
Kiss Me a Lot
Istanbul
Now My Heart Is Full
Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed
Will Never Marry
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
First of the Gang to Die
I Will See You in Far-Off Places
The Bullfighter Dies
Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
(The Smiths song)
What She Said
(The Smiths song)
Meat Is Murder
(The Smiths song)
Everyday Is Like Sunday
Encore:
The Queen Is Dead

Ingrid Michaelson June 19, 2015 The Complex, Salt Lake City

Ingrid

The first time I saw Ingrid Michaelson was about five years ago when she was the opening act at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.  I knew maybe 2 of her songs, and that’s about it.  But with her voice, her songs, and her personality, she won over me and the rest of the L.A. crowd.  This is not an easy task to accomplish.  Especially as an opener, and especially in front of a tough L.A. audience that is generally unimpressed and unaware of opening acts.

Well fast forward to this past Friday night, June 19, Ingrid brought her A Summer Night Out Tour to The Complex right here in Salt Lake City.  Now what The Complex may lack in personality, it makes up for it in size and sound.  The Complex is basically a huge warehouse turned into a concert venue.  But because of this, it can bring in some really great bands that might not fill an arena, but still need a lot of space for their fans.  And while I expected this type of venue to have a horrible echo, or poor sound, I was really impressed with the sound in there.  Either the building was built to have solid acoustics, or the necessary accommodations were made for quality sound.  Either way, I tip my hat, because the sound was solid.

Before I get to Ingrid, I want to quickly mention her opening acts.  As I was walking in, Greg Holden was about halfway through his set.  I thought he had some good songs, a nice singing voice, and a lot of emotion.  And the ladies seemed to really like him.  Jukebox the Ghost followed Greg, and they put on a great opening set.  Full of energy, and even giving the crowd a fun cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love”.  I was really impressed with them, and I look forward following their career progression.

The time came for Ms. Michaelson to take the stage.  She makes it impossible to not fall in love with her.  Her voice is amazing, she’s hilarious, she has complete command of the stage, and the audience, and of course, she’s extremely easy on the eyes.  Her personality is so fun that I’d swear we would be good friends if we were ever to meet.  But I have a feeling the thousands of others in the sold out Complex felt the same way.  Not to mention all of her other fans on the rest of her tour.  Her band seems to really like performing with her, and It adds to the atmosphere of the show.  I bet they are having a blast on this tour.

Ingrid mentioned that her and the band knew they were in for a great show, because Salt Lake City crowds are always so into it and crazy. Of course we all ate that up.  But as I’ve mentioned before, this is something a lot of bands passing through will bring up.  And it would seem that they might say this everywhere, but I’ve been to enough concerts in different states to see that it’s not something bands always say.  Utah is a special place to see a concert, and I love it when the artists recognize that.  A couple few of Ingrid’s band mates dropped their jaws when during some crowd sing a longs,  the audience harmonized.  I doubt many other towns do that!

Ingrid ran through her catalogue of songs for what seemed to be about an 80% female audience, balancing the old and new, andsinging them all with such purpose and care.  I love it when an artist will sing a song they’ve done a million times, yet make it feel as fresh and new as ever.  Ingrid is very skilled at this craft!

There were a number of special moments in the show.  One in particular is when Ingrid did her amazing cover of “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, made famous by the King himself, Elvis Presley.  She’s done this cover many times, but it blows me away, one, that she still sings it as with her own songs, with such a sincerity that makes it feel as if she’s covering it for the first time, and two, that she can captivate a lively crowd into either singing along, or sitting there quietly mesmerized.

Another great moment was when she performed her song “Soldier”.  A great song on it’s own, but enhanced even more when in the middle of the song she busts into a cover of Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face”, that lead to one band member singing “One of Us” by Joan Osborne, and then another band member singing “With or Without You”, by U2, and then another band member following with “Undone-The Sweater Song” by Weezer, and then finally another band member singing “Call Me Maybe”, by Carly Rae Jepsen!  And then to actually follow those solos by singing all of the songs in unison, with them somehow all meshing together quite well, was not only amazing, but had the smile filled crowd going nuts!  It was just a really fun arrangement and totally a Ingrid Michaelson thing to do.

I’ve already mentioned Ingrid’s voice, but I don’t think I can say enough about it!  She hits these high notes that are as clear as a chime, yet soft and smooth as the first ripple you see after skipping a rock in a glassy lake.  And yet, her voice is so rich and full of soul that it’s almost unfair that she has this many gifts in one voice.  I could listen to her sing all day long.  The old saying, “She could sing me the phone book, and I’d love it!”, doesn’t really apply these days because seriously, who uses a phone book anymore.  Plus I’d feel like she’d be wasting her gift on singing me the local plumber or pizza guys contact info.  But if she said, “Hey, I want to sing to you while I play my Ukulele allday long.”, I’d be cool with that.

The show finished with a really fun cover of Icona Pop’s “I Love It”.  The crowd was dancing, and it was a perfect end to a perfect set.  I really hope to see her again soon!

When I mentioned I was going to see Ingrid Michaelson to some of my male friends, I got about the same response, “I’ve heard of her, but I don’t really listen to many girl groups, or girl singers, it’s just not my thing.”  I must say I feel really bad for these guys.  They are missing out on so many great songs, and so many beautiful voices that come from so many of the great female artists, not only from today, and there is astrong group of female artists today, but from the great female bands and singers throughout history.  It’s disappointing to see so many limit themselves with such a “I’m too much of a guys guy”sentiment, and what I think is a close minded thought.  So get out there, check out some female artists that you may not have normally looked at.  You may be surprised at the gems you’ll find.

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.

IMG_4010

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

Depeche_Mode_-_Violator

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/