Adele Pepsi Center July 16, 2016

IMG_5499So it has been over a week since I saw  Adele in concert.  I saw her in Denver, and I don’t really do reviews outside of Utah.  It seems a little weird since we are Utah Concert Review!  But, I just can’t stop thinking about the show.  I have replayed it over and over in my head since I left the Pepsi Center.  So, I decided to do a write up on my experience anyway.  Therefore, I’m adding a new section to the website called “UCR On Tour”.  This is where I’ll put reviews of any shows I see outside of the beehive state.

 So, Adele.  I have had the privilege of seeing many of the greats in concert.  And while I knew Adele was a great live singer, and accomplished performer, I didn’t think the show would make the impact it did.

I did a little research before the show, and I found out that Adele doesn’t have a supporting act, and she goes on right at 8 PM.  I’m glad I looked into it because most of the time I’ll show up during the opening set.  If I hadn’t looked into it, I would have missed a decent portion of the show.

I showed up to the Pepsi Center at 7:57.  I had planned my flight out perfectly so that I would have plenty of time to meet my sister and her husband (the generous ones who gave me this ticket as a Christmas present.) and get to the venue.  What I didn’t plan on was waiting in the car rental line for over 90 minutes!  So walking into the venue with three minutes until showtime was not ideal.  But I still had three minutes to get to my seat!

After climbing three massive flights of stairs, and sprinting to the other side of the venue, I made met my family, already seated, just as Adele appeared from below the stage!  I was out of breath (I know we’re in Utah, but he altitude in Denver is insane! Adele even said so!  She had oxygen ready back stage just in case!), I was sweating profusely, and yet, all I could think was “I made it!’, and “Wow, there she is.”.  And there she was indeed.  Rising from beneath a small stage, on my side of the venue, with the main stage, housing her exceptional band and backup singers on the opposite other end of the jam packed arena.  (You can see what I mean from the pictures and videos posted in this article.) Adele greeted the Denver audience, appropriately with her huge hit, “Hello”.

The amazing thing about concerts is although you are in the midst of thousands of other fans, the event can be quite a personal experience.  And this night was no exception.  When I was given this gift on Christmas Day, we were unaware that almost seven months later, this would be the last night my sister and her family would be spending as citizens of Colorado.  A life enriching opportunity was leading them Georgia.  So not only were we seeing one of our favorite artists, they were also being given a spectacular send off.

Which brings me one of my favorite Adele songs “Hometown Glory”.  As expected, the crowd roared upon hearing the first few notes of the popular song off of her debut album.  The enormous screen show pictures of Adele’s hometown of London, England.  Midway through the song, the backdrop changed to some of the most beautiful panoramic views of downtown Denver that I have ever seen.  To no surprise, the local audience went crazy.  While I’m sure this happens in every tour stop, it really adds a nice touch, and for my sister and brother in law, it was a very touching moment.  In a room of almost 20,000 fans, Adele gave them a very personal, private, and poignant farewell to the beautiful city they had called home.

Now, just in case Adele decides to come to Salt Lake City, I won’t spoil all of the events that transpired that night.  I’lI finish this article by sharing the two things that stood out the most to me.

One, her interaction with the crowd.  She was so good with the audience.  I heard it mentioned several times in my seats way back in Booniville, “How can we be this far back, and she’s making us feel like we’re in the front row?”  My sister said it, the girls behind me said it, and the couple on the other side of the aisle said it. And it was true.  She spoke to us as if we were old friends from school handing out again.  She brought fans on stage.  She took the time to take selfies with them.  She crouched down so she could fit into the camera frame of fans on the floor taking selfies. She told stories about her time in Denver, and about her life.  She was so relatable, even though she is a huge huge star.  For all I know, it could just be an act.  And if it is, she’s as good at seeming genuine, as she is at singing.  No one is that good at pretending to be awesome.

And secondly, her voice.  What a voice!  I know what you’re thinking.  “Duh, of course she has a good voice.  I’m pretty sure her platinum records, and sold out world tour should have told you that.”.  And you’re right, I knew that.  That’s why I wanted to see her live.  So, Duh to you!  But how impressive is it, that even though I already knew she was an amazing vocalist, and performer, she still blew me away beyond my expectations? She far exceeded anything that I had hoped for.  And I was already expecting greatness.  This woman has a very unique gift.

I consider myself very fortunate to see Adele when her career is this white hot.  She might stay this way for years to come, but I think it’s impossible for it to go any better.  She’s had three albums that are just about perfect, her voice is in peak form, and she still loves what she does.  It’s obvious that even though we were her 55th show of 105, she was still excited to perform for us, and to bring us her songs.  I say this a lot, but I truly mean that this is a night I won’t forget.  This show moved into the top five of all the shows I’ve ever seen.  No frills, no dance routines, no killer guitar solos necessary, just a gifted and talented woman..  It was a perfect night.

Set list:
Hello
Hometown Glory
One and Only
Rumour Has It
Water Under the Bridge
Skyfall
Million Years Ago
Send My Love (to Your New Lover)
Make You Feel My Love
Sweetest Devotion
Chasing Pavements
Someone Like You
Set Fire to the Rain

Encore:
When We Were Young
Rolling in the Deep

Boston & Dennis DeYoung USANA Amphitheater June 25, 2016

unnamed (6)This past Saturday, Boston stopped by the USANA Amphitheater on their 40th Anniversary Tour. My main reason for attending this concert was to see their opener Dennis DeYoung.  Dennis is one of the founding members of the band STYX.  He was one of the lead vocalists, as well as a writer of many of their biggest hits.  While I don’t usually go into much detail on openers, I really want to share my feelings about seeing DDY in person for the first time.

I was a kid when STYX was releasing 5 multi platinum albums in a row.  I had heard many of their songs, and was enthralled with the “Mr. Roboto” video.  But it wasn’t until the late 90’s when boy bands and Britney Spears were ruling the airwaves, that I decided to look in the music vault and there I discovered STYX.  I heard they were going on tour, so I went to their website to see when they’d be in town.  I noticed that in the band pictures, Mr. DeYoung was not pictured with the rest of the group.  So I did a little research and came to find that he was no longer a part of the band.  His songs were my favorite so it was really disappointing.  The history of his departure has been laid out in VH1’s “Behind the Music”, as well as plenty of interviews with the band. So if you want more info on that, there are places to find it.  Anyway,  I went to see the DeYoung-less STYX, and I will say it was a really fun show.  But whenever they would do DDY song, as much as their new keyboard player and vocalist tried, he was no Dennis.  He was a solid performer too.  But there is nothing like the original in most cases.  So from that time, until now, I’ve been really wanting to see Dennis DeYoung perform his songs.  And this past Saturday, there he was, opening for Boston.

Dennis performed for 45 minutes, and it went quick!  He opened with “Grand Illusion”, “Lady”, “Blue Collar Man” and then “Mr. Roboto”.  A song that STYX never does.  And say what you will about that song, it was a huge hit for them, and it was well received by the crowd. He was really engaging with the audience, telling jokes, and interacting with fans in between songs.  He even performed STYX songs that he didn’t sing lead on.  For these gave way to his lead guitarist August Zadra, who did an exceptional job filling in for Tommy Shaw.

As I mentioned, for someone who has really wanted to see Dennis DeYoung for over 15 years, the time went fast.  He ended with “Come Sail Away”, and the crowd was singing along, and into it as if he was closing the entire show.

When I saw STYX, I really missed DDY being there, but when I saw Dennis, I didn’t really miss the other guys.  Maybe it’s because I’ve already seen the other guys of STYX, or maybe it’s due to always really liking Dennis’ songs.  Hard to say.  But I do remember thinking that these guys would put on an amazing show if they were all together again.  And that sentiment was felt by many of the fans there at USANA.  When Dennis was finished, I ran to wait in line at the restroom.  Manyof the guys in line with me, as well as people walking by were talking about how great that show was. Several mentioned how great it would be if Dennis was to rejoin STYX.  One can only hope!

Dennis DeYoung Setlist

The Grand Illusion
Lady
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
Mr. Roboto
Too Much Time on My Hands
Babe
The Best of Times
The End (Beatles Cover)
Renegade
Come Sail Away

BOSTON

As I mentioned, I attended this concert to see Dennis DeYoung.  But don’t get me wrong.  Boston has been a huge band my whole life.  I have many friends who are die hard Boston fans.  I have never seen them, so I was looking forward to seeing them.

Boston came out with guns blazing!  Theyplayed four of their biggest songs, of course starting with the “Star Spangled Banner” leading right into “Rock N Roll Band”.  They played hit after hit much to the delight of this surprisingly much older crowd.  I don’t know why I was surprised by that, Boston has been around for 40 years.  

Tom Scholz is the only remaining original band member still in Boston.  But he’s the songwriter, producer, etc. So I suppose if he’s still in there, it almost doesn’t matter who else is with him. Some of the current band members have been with Boston longer than some originals.  I found them all to be very accomplished, and great performers.   I was really impressed with Tommy DeCarlo.  A Boston fan who replaced Brad Delp on lead vocals after his unfortunate passing in 2007.  He sounded great, and fit the Boston sound everyone is accustomed to.

Another favorite band member of mine was Beth Cohen on keyboard and backing vocals. She was so into the show, covering all the incredibly high harmonies that we love.  She even took the lead on a track or two.  Her voice was amazing!

The order of the setlist to was really peculiar to me.  Keep in mind this is my first Boston show, so maybe they have always done things like this. As I mentioned, they sang a ton of huge songs right off the bat, and then the 2nd half of the show felt like it was mostly instrumental.  I would have thought they would have placed the hit songs throughout the show while throwing in instrumentals in between.  But again, maybe this is how they’ve always done it, so who am I to judge.  

Overall it was a really entertaining show, and I would probably see them again.  It’s interesting to me with bands of this era.  They’ve been panned in the annals of Rock n Roll history.  They’ve been called “Sell-Out Rock” “Arena Rock” or “Corporate Rock”.  But if you really listen, you’ll see that these bands are really talented. Of course, if you like Boston, make sure you get out to one of their shows.  You’ll have a good time.

Boston Setlist

The Star-Spangled Banner
Rock & Roll Band
Smokin’
Feelin’ Satisfied
Peace of Mind
Long Time Segue
Cool the Engines
We’re Ready
Higher Power
I Think I Like It
Don’t Look Back
Something About You
Amanda
The Launch
More Than a Feeling
“E” Jam
The Journey

To Be a Man
Walk On
Walk On (Some More)
Foreplay/ Long Time

Encore:
Used to Bad News
Party

Broods Gallivan Center June 22, 2016 Salt Lake City

IMG_5245

Salt Lake City’s prominent alternative station X96 did the Utah community a solid by sponsoring, along with others, The Salt City Sounds concert series, a free concert downtown at the Gallivan Center.  Their invited guests were Broods.  A brother and sister electronic duo from New Zealand.

With only a couple days away from the release of their much anticipated new album ‘Conscious’, we were given a well mixed 13 song set featuring favorites from their first album ‘Evergreen’, along with songs many of us were hearing for the first time.

Lead singer Georgia Nott didn’t let the hot summer night, or even the high elevation slow her down.  She owned the stage with a balanced, yet highly energetic display of crowd work, and vocal prowess. Georgia is bite size.  I mean, she’s tiny!  With the way the stage is set up at the Gallivan Center, there were times when the crowd was jumping up anddown, she would all but disappear.  I noticed how much the crowd enjoyed when Georgia spoke with her New Zealand accent.  Many of them actually wanted her to speak more often.  Keyboardist, Caleb Nott stayed busy working synths, drum pads, and backing vocals.

Once again, Utah concert goers have done it again.  Early in the show, Georgia mentioned how much they loved performing in Utah.  She told us not to tell anyone, but I had to say it because I have always believed this is one of the best places to see a show, because the crowd is usually so good.  I’ve been to enough concerts to know thatthese artists are genuine when they say that.  And I’ve heard many bands come through here tell us that this is their favorite place to play.

The only thing that wasn’t my favorite, was they left the stage and never came back.  The crowd was the highest they had been the whole night, and they stuck around hoping, maybe even expecting Broods to come back.  But they never did.  Now, I know that the whole encore thing is a little cliche’, and it is understood that our cheering isn’t necessarily what’s bringing the band back on stage.  But, it is what it is.  We want you to leave, we want to cheer, and we want you to come back and sing a few more songs.  That’s just how it works.  Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t ruin the night or anything.  We just want our encore!

FullSizeRender (5)As the band left the stage, Georgia Nott said “Best show ever!” into the microphone.  Now it’s hard to believe that this would truly be the case.  But, later that night, a clip of the show was
posted on their twitter account making the exact same statement.  So, I have no other choice than to believe her. It was a really fun night.

The Cure Maverik Center June 3, 2016 West Valley City

TheCureMavAfter seeing a string of pop stars (who I did enjoy thoroughly), It was nice to spend an evening getting back in touch with my alternative music roots. On Friday June 3rd, I got to witness The Cure perform an almost three hour, 33 song set at West Valley’s Maverik Center.

I did not have tickets to this show, and I was hoping to find some affordable tickets the day of.  The show had been sold out for months, so I was felt that obtaining tickets might not be in the cards.  Well, fate was on my side, because a friend of mine texted me the night before letting me know that she might have an extra ticket, and confirming that the ticket was mine the following morning.  My excitement was through the roof!

The Cure is known for doing really long sets, so I knew that we should show up on time.  We got to our seats right at 7:30 and as we sat down The Twilight Sad took the stage, opening the show.  They played a respectable 40 minutes, setting the mood for the headliner.

When you’re the king of your genre, and when you’ve been doing it for 30+ years, you’re likely to have fans coming to your shows wanting to hear just your big hits.  This seems to be the case with The Cure.  But The Cure are not really that kind of band.  Robert Smith doesn’t want to come out, do 90 minutes of hits and be on to the next town.  He ensures that the fans get their money’s worth, and that the truest of fans enjoy themselves with songs they wouldn’t expect to hear, but want to.  The set list is rearranged in every city, and the best thing to do is to expect the unexpected.

The show opened with about 30 minutes of songs that a casual fan of The Cure would most likely not recognize.  As I looked around the arena I could see the mega fans so excited to hear these songs, while others were looking at each other shrugging their shoulders, unsure of what these songs were, only certain that they weren’t on a greatest hits album.  But right at the 30 minute mark a huge spiderweb appeared on the screens behind the band.  Both the diehard and the casual fan roared their approval, knowing that the next song was going to be one of their favorites, “Lullaby”.  This seemed to be the real start of the show as far as fan energy was concerned.  The Cure sprinkled in hits with songs from albums across their career.  It seemed they would never go two or three songs without performing a fan favorite.  It seemed as if the energy of the show continued to grow all the way to the end.

The Cure did three encores!  The last two were probably my favorite part of the show.  A lot of great songs, and just a really great environment around the arena.  I found it extremely odd that many fans (I’m guessing very casual fans), left after the first encore.  And more after the second.  Was this their first concert?  Do they not know to watch the lighting of the arena?  That if it stays dark, they’re probably coming back out?  I mean, come on people! I even saw some people racing back to their seats when they realized the show wasn’t over. This would be acceptable if they saw The Cure back in the 80’s.  I remember at my first concert feeling like it depended on me to cheer my loudest so the band would come back.  But this is 2016, and most of the fans looked like they had been to a concert or two in their lives.  They should have known better. Those people missed out on some amazing songs!  They also missed out on some of Robert Smith’s best dance moves. He performed a few songs without his guitar, giving him the freedom to entertain the crowd that much more.  With every subtle move, the crowd would cheer their approval.  The band closed with “Boys Don’t Cry”  And then they were off to Colorado.

The thing that stood out to me was Robert Smith’s voice.  As you can hear in these Youtube clips, he sounds perfect!  To me he sounds the same as he did back in the day.  Very little difference.  I get it that Smith doesn’t have the rangiest voice on earth, but you would think a 57 year old man would have some fall off.  Well, he didn’t.  Every song sounded just like you’d want it to.  I was really happy about this.  It’s sad when our favorite singers start to lose their voices, so I was happy to hear Robert’s voice has stayed intact.  I could not have enjoyed this concert more!
On a personal note, Jamin, one of my best friend’s from high school and beyond was attending the concert with his brother and another high school mate of ours.  As I was walking to my seat, I was about to text him, asking him where his seats were. Just then I looked in my row I found him in the seats right next to mine!  What are the chances?!  I think we brought it up at least four times during the show how crazy it was that with all the seats in the Maverik Center, we happened to be right by each other.  I guess we were just meant to see The Cure together!

Set List

Shake Dog Shake
A Night Like This
Push
Primary
Like Cockatoos
Kyoto Song
The Walk
Lullaby
High
The Caterpillar
The End of the World
Pictures of You
Closedown
Lovesong
Just Like Heaven
Trust
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
One Hundred Years
Give Me It

Encore:
Want
Never Enough
Fascination Street
Burn
Wrong Number
A Forest

Encore 2:
In Between Days
Doing the Unstuck
Friday I’m in Love

Encore 3:
Hot Hot Hot!!!
Let’s Go to Bed
Close to Me
Why Can’t I Be You?
Boys Don’t Cry

Rihanna Vivint Smart Home Arena April 27, 2016 Salt Lake City

IMG_4659Today, I’m very thankful to Instagram.  Let me explain.  So, I’ve wanted to see Rihanna for a while now, and here she was performing in downtown Salt Lake City, practically my backyard.  But somehow, I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to join me.  Don’t get me wrong, I have gone solo mission to a number of concerts, but Rihanna seemed like a show that needed to be experienced with others.  So I gave up, and figured I’d be spending the evening watching TV and wondering how the Rihanna show was.  Well, as I was sitting there on my couch, I was looking through Instagram and I saw that a couple of my friends were at Vivint Smart Home Arena about to see the very show I was about to miss.  I “liked” their picture and thought ‘They’re so lucky!’.  Well, one of them saw that I liked her post, and remembering that I liked Rihanna, she quickly text me saying “You here?”.  I of course said that I wasn’t.  She told me they happened to be downtown and just decided to buy tickets and go.  She suggested that I should get to the arena because there were still tickets available.  I mulled it over for about 1 second and jumped in my car and raced downtown.  Keep in mind, the time was 9:15 P.M.  My friend had informed me that Rihanna hadn’t gone on yet.  I figured I had 15 minutes to get to the venue before she took the stage.  Right as my ticket was handed to me, I heard the roar of the crowd.  I did it!  I had just made it.  I speed walked to where my friends were (pathetically out of breath when I got there), and my luck continued, there was an open seat right next to them. Now finally, to Rihanna!

The show opened with Rihanna on a raised stage on the opposite side of the venue from the main stage.  She was hooded in a white robe singing her huge hit “Stay”.  The crowd was really excited to see her.  I don’t know if she’s ever been here and if so, it’s been a while.  So the crowd was really thankful she came through Salt Lake City.  After her opening song, a bridge dropped from above.  Rihanna performed a couple songs on the bridge as it moved across the arena taking her to the main stage.

Most of the set consisted of songs from her album ANTI.  The rest of the set was pretty evenly spread out over her other albums.  Her band consisted of two percussionists, three keyboardists, a bass player, and a guitarist.  Along with three back up singers and six or so dancers, the stage was full and yet at times it felt like an intimate setting. There weren’t too many thrills with the stage.  At one point huge inflatable… well, I don’t know what they were,  let’s just call them stage props, showed up for a while then were gone.  I still don’t really know why they were even there.   Anyway, the band sounded great, the singers were a huge part of the show in that they finish all the lines and phrases that Rihanna doesn’t either due to dancing or crowd work.  The dancers were extremely talented and I really enjoyed what they brought to the whole production.

Something that I noticed pretty early on in the show, and ended up to be a theme for the entirety of the show was that Rihanna would only sing a short version of her big songs.  You’ll see here that Umbrella was only 90 seconds long.  With many songs I get it because she’s a featured artist on a rapper’s song, or the song was a duet.  But sometimes I’d just be getting into a song, and then it was over.  She has so many hits that at first I got it, I figured she was trying to get to all the songs but keep the show within 90 minutes.  But I was wrong.  She did do 25 songs, and she did keep the show to 90 minutes, but I’m guessing because she is promoting her ANTI album, major hits of hers were left off the setlist to make room for these songs.  I understand why that happens but I will say I was really looking forward to some of these songs.  I’m trying not to complain too much because I really did enjoy the show.

I think it has to be said that Rihanna is so sexy.  I hate that word, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m diminishing her musical talents because she is so talented, but damn, she has such a natural sex appeal that I found myself just totally captivated at times.  She claimed one time on Ellen that she was “just dancing” and that she didn’t get what all the fuss was about.  But maybe it’s our puritan American heritage, but the way she moved is not “just dancing”.  I mean, wow.  Ok, I’ll leave that there.  But I feel like it’s necessary to report that Rihanna’s sex appeal is still intact.

Most artists that I’ve seen always seem to have a tour that’s for them.  They’ve done the songs their fans want to hear, and they’ve done those songs a million times.  So there always seems to be a particular tour where they are going to do the show they want to do.  I think this was the case for Rihanna with the ANTI Tour.  As previously stated, a lot of major hits were left off the setlist.  While I wished I would have heard those songs, I can understand an artist’s need to do their thing.  There was no encore, which personally I hated.  We know they’re coming back, it’s all a big charade.  I get that, but it’s just part of the show.  That’s how it goes.  You leave, we clap and scream a lot, and you come back and do songs we love, and she show ends on a huge high.  With no encore, it takes a little luster out of the whole thing.  But that’s the way this show went, it seemed to start at its strongest, and progressively dip finishing out with two songs from ANTI.  Not how I would have wanted the show to end.  But people each have their own perspective on these shows.  Which is why I love sharing my reviews, but love hearing what others think of the shows.

Upon leaving the venue, my friends ran into someone they knew.  They asked him what he thought of the show, and included how disappointed they were with the last song.  And he said, “Really?! Kiss It Better!  I love that song!”  So there you go.  While we were a little disappointed with the finish, this dude loved it.  Overall I must say that it was a good time, much better than the night I thought I was destined for.  I really do want to see Rihanna again.

Setlist

  1. Stay
  2. Love the Way You Lie (Part II)
  3. Woo
  4. Sex With Me
  5. Birthday Cake
  6. Pour It Up
  7. Numb
  8. Bitch Better Have My Money
  9. Goodnight Gotham
  10. Consideration
  11. Live Your Life / Run This Town / All of the Lights
  12. Umbrella
  13. Desperado
  14. Man Down
  15. Rude Boy
  16. Work
  17. Take Care
  18. We Found Love
  19. Where Have You Been
  20. Needed Me
  21. Same Ol’ Mistakes
  22. Diamonds
  23. FourFiveSeconds
  24. Love on the Brain
  25. Kiss It Better

Ellie Goulding Maverik Center April 13, 2016 West Valley City

IMG_4591A couple of years ago, Ellie Goulding came through Salt Lake City and performed at the Saltair.  Well, for some reason, I didn’t know about this until after she had already come and gone.  I was really disappointed because by all accounts, I have heard she puts on a great show.  I hoped she would one day return to Utah.  You never know what artists are going to make Utah a regular stopping point, or whether they come here and never return.  So I was excited when I heard Ellie was in fact returning, and this time she’d be playing the Maverik Center.

The venue wasn’t quite sold out, but I’d say it was about 85-90% full.  Not too shabby in my opinion.  I was able to get down on the general admission floor, and without having to be one of those rude obnoxious fans that get there late but still try to push their way to the front, I was able to get a pretty good spot.  As most of you know, the Maverik Center is the home arena to the minor league hockey team the Utah Grizzlies.   Well when they are still in season, from what I gather, the stage can’t be set up on the main floor, because ice is still underneath.  So the stage is set up deeper into the end of the venue, which makes the GA floor enormous!  This might sound like a good thing, but I don’t think it is.  While there were thousands on that floor, because of the way things are set up, the floor is only half occupied.  And the people sitting at the end of the venue in seats are really far from the stage.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand why they have to set things up this way, it just makes the venue more awkward and less concert friendly than it normally is.  

Ellie performed about a 90 minute set with most songs coming from her latest album Delirium (Delirium world tour, duh).  Her band consisted of three backup singers, a drummer, and three versatile instrumentalist moving from guitar to keys depending on the song.  She also had four male dancers who did everything from dance fight, to help set up staging for the show.  The entire ensemble were really talented and added to the show.  

Some of the highlights for me were hearing Ellie sing one of her biggest songs “Lights” in a really stripped down version.  It was basically just her and a piano.  While some might have wished to hear the original, I thought this was a great showcase of her unique voice, and a really special moment in the show.  The best moment in my opinion came when she was about to sing the last song of her main set “Burn”.  This is a huge song for her, and it was obvious the crowd was anticipating this song, and excited it was time to hear it.  But before this song was performed, Ellie asked the crowd ever so politely to put away their phones.  She said that she didn’t want to see their phones, she wanted to see their faces.  And I would say about 99.9% of the audience granted her her wish.  You always have to have those selfish phone users who don’t care whether they’re in a movie, a play, or even if the artist you came to see asks you to just be in the moment. They’re just going to use their phones anyway.  But most people followed the prompting, and it was a really cool moment in the show, and probably the highlight of the evening.  It took me back to when there were no cell phones, (I know I’m old) and we just had our memories to rehash later about what we had seen.  I’m guilty of using my phone at concerts.  That’s why you have pictures and video footage of the shows I review.  But I must say it was nice to just be in the moment for once.  Nice move Ellie.  

If you haven’t seen Ellie Goulding, or listened to her music, I encourage you to give it a shot. Her voice is very unique and her songs are great.  She is a true talent.  I really hope she comes to see us again.  

Set List

Intro (Delirium)
Aftertaste
Holding on for Life
Goodness Gracious
Something in the Way You Move
Outside (Calvin Harris cover)
Devotion
I Do What I Love
Keep on Dancin’
Don’t Need Nobody
Heal
Explosions
Lights
Army
Lost and Found
Figure 8
On My Mind
Codes
We Can’t Move to This
(Calvin Harris cover)

Encore:
Anything Could Happen
Love Me Like You Do

Cary Judd Velour February 12, 2016 Provo, Utah

IMG_4330Ever since I started this website, I have hoped I’d get this opportunity.  I’m finally able to do a review of a Cary Judd concert. Cary is actually a close personal friend of mine, but that doesn’t take away from that fact that he is one of the best singer songwriters I have heard in the last 10-15 years.  I’m sure you’re thinking that I have this opinion because he is my friend, but I have to tell you this is not at all true.  I have had several friends write songs, perform, and look for that ever elusive signing deal, and none of them are as good as Cary, and without naming names, some are just not good.  

Cary returned to a venue where he experienced some of his greatest triumphs, Velour, in Provo.  I have been to a lot of concert venues in my day, and I have to mention that Velour is probably the best venue of its size I have ever been to, excluding maybe the clubs on the sunset strip in Hollywood.  It has a great sound, and an even better vibe.  If you don’t believe a venue in Provo Utah can live up to this acclaim, I encourage you to see a show there, and I’m confident you’ll agree.

Velour is celebrating its 10 year anniversary.  So they have put together several shows inviting back some of the artists that helped make the venue the landmark it has become.  Cary was one of those artists.

Cary performed about a 35-40 minute set, then made way to John Allred.  A local favorite, and a very talented singer, and performer.  But this is about Cary.  It had been a while since Cary had performed some of these great songs, and perhaps even longer since he had graced the Velour stage.  But if nothing else, Cary is a performer.  He can win over any crowd, rusty or not.  

And Cary was a little bit rusty if I’m being honest.  He played a few songs at a slower tempo than he might have in the past. I imagine he did that in order to ensure he played the songs correctly.  You see, Cary owns and runs a recording studio called The Wormhole in Boise, Idaho.  That takes up most of his time, and with the rest of his time, he fronts a band called The Vacationist.  So he has all but retired these songs.  In fact he said this was more or less his farewell performance as a solo artist.  Thing is, rusty as they may have been (and I’m talking a tiny bit rusty) they still had that secret CJ ingredient that makes his songs special.  

Cary has a looping system where he can play a drum beat, record it, and loop it so it plays over and over. Then he’ll do that with a base line, a rhythm guitar, and whatever else he sees fit to fill the sound of the venue and while we’re looking at one man on stage, it’s as if an entire band is up there.  (I used to call him Bert from Mary Poppins.  Too bad that never caught on.)  

Because of this looping ability, the crowd remains fixated on his ability to progressively fill the room and then perform his song.  But Cary doesn’t rely on smoke and mirrors.  As I said, he is the ultimate performer.  In the middle of his set, he jumped off the stage to the center of the venue floor, and sings his song “Valentine”, surrounded by the audience.  No microphone, no amp, no effects, just Cary and his acoustic guitar.  The Velour crowd is completely silent and again fixated on what felt like a night by the campfire, or just a few friends hanging out jamming together.  Most of that crowd was not there to see Cary, but I bet most of that crowd would leave Velour that night, remembering that intimate experience.  

Cary finished the night performing what are probably his best two songs, “Sarah” and “Eclipse”.  You’ll most likely never hear these songs on the radio, or winning awards, but I believe these songs are better than anything you are hearing released today, and I strongly encourage you to go to iTunes and download them now.  They are beautiful, meaningful songs.  

When CJ finished his last song, part of me grew a little sad wondering if I’d ever hear him play these great songs again live.  But I know that even if I don’t hear these songs, I’ll hear him in his new band, or doing something in the future.  Cary is an artist, he’s a songwriter, and because of this he’ll never stop.  

Congratulations on a brilliant solo career, and I can’t wait to see what you do next!  This is where his story begins, “Farewell my friend”.  

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

Idina

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)