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

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

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

Tesla Setlist

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

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

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

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

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

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

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

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Setlist

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

Styx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Styx Setlist

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

Encore

Mr. Roboto
Renegade

Poison w/ Cheap Trick May 22, 2018 USANA Amphitheater

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

Cheap Trick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Poison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encore
Rock and Roll All Night (KISS Cover)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setlist

New Order

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

Joy Division

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

Audra McDonald March 23, 2018 Salt Lake City Abravanell Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for tickets.

OMD March 21, 2018 Salt Lake City The Complex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Styx January 23, 2018 Salt Lake City Eccles Theater

For the last several years, whenever Styx visited Utah, it’s usually part of a package deal. They’ve co-headlined several tours out at USANA Amphitheater with the likes of REO Speedwagon, Def Leppard, and Foreigner. And while these concerts have been exciting and full of great songs from two or more hitmaking bands, it was really nice to be in the beautiful Eccles Theater to see Styx by themselves for two-plus hours. No opener, no co-headliner, just Styx.

I have seen musicals, Christmas concerts, and even the opening Gala at Eccles Theater, but this was my first time seeing a proper rock concert at this venue. I’ve been curious to have this experience and Eccles theater did not disappoint. It’s the perfect venue for a rock show. There’s not a bad seat in the house, and the acoustics were fantastic. I go to so many shows that I always wear earplugs, but I’ll usually test out the real sound midway through the show to see what it really sounds like. I took my plugs out and never put them back in.  It was perfect in there.

Styx has been around for over forty years.  I thought they did a good job of covering the highlights of their lengthy career. This is one of those concerts where throughout the course of the show you’re reminded of just how many hit songs they’ve created. They’re promoting their newest album The Mission. Whenever they did a song from that album they would bring down a different backdrop resembling the album cover. Unfortunately, this was usually the time where the audience would take their seats. It seems even the most dedicated of fans are not always thrilled to hear new songs from a classic rock band. I will say this though, the songs fit right in with the show, and whenever Styx finished performing these songs the audience, although sitting, responded with generous applause. I would say that many times the volume of these cheers matched the applause of many other songs besides the biggest hits.

Styx shared lead vocals between keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, Guitarist Tommy Shaw, and Guitarist James “JY” Young. I have to say that the standout vocalist was easily Tommy Shaw. How often have you gone to see a classic rock band and the vocalist just doesn’t have it anymore? You’re so excited to hear the songs that you just kind of look past the fact that the lead singer has lost a step. Such is not the case with Shaw. Not only did he hit all the top notes in songs like, “Crystal Ball”, “Blue Collar Man”, and “Renegade”, but it appeared to me that he was singing all the high harmonies on the other songs. I was blown away, and I could tell the rest of the audience was extremely impressed as well.

James Young shared his appreciation for the state of Utah mentioning that they were one of the first places to embraced Styx and their music. He said their albums caught on here before they did in New York City or Los Angeles. The crowd, many of them Styx fans from the beginning went nuts upon hearing this.

Styx took a twenty-minute intermission during the show. This gave me an opportunity to listen to the audience reaction to the show and even talk to a long time Styx fan. The overall feeling was how impressed they were with Eccles Theater, and how much they loved this band.  The man I spoke with saw them back in 1983 and expressed that they sounded as good as they ever did.

Now the elephant in the room at any Styx show is the fact that they have a co-founding member and songwriter of many of these songs not with them.  Of course, I’m speaking of Dennis DeYoung.  Having severed ties over 15 years ago, it’s still a little weird not having him there. I would imagine that the rest of the band knows that this is the thought of many of their fans. I do have to say that Lawrence Gowan brings an energy and performance style to the band and these shows that we wouldn’t see otherwise. He has certainly earned his place in this band and I think the concerts are benefited by his talent and showmanship.

Speaking of co-founders, it was great to see founding bassist Chuck Panozzo make an appearance on stage for a few songs. As I understand it, he no longer tours with the band, but he’ll make the occasional visit to the band, and when he does, he takes the stage. So it was pretty exciting when he walked out.

Todd Sucherman has been the Styx drummer for the past 20 years and in my opinion, he’s worth the price of admission alone. He’s one of the premier rock drummers today, and I think he gives Styx the added punch that keeps them sounding fresh and exciting in their fifth decade as a band.

The set ended with the ultimate sing-along “Come Sail Away” which began with Gowan singing an excerpt of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The band left and returned to sing ‘Rockin’ the Paradise”, and of course “Renegade”.

Like I said, it was great to see Styx by themselves. I felt like they were able to really settle in and give us the type of show they’re known for.  No need to rush to get the next band on, no time curfew, just a two-hour high energy Styx show that kept the audience singing hit after hit from start to finish.

Setlist

Gone Gone Gone
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Lady
Radio Silence
Lorelei
Man in the Wilderness
Light Up
Locomotive
Suite Madame Blue

Intermission

Miss America
Lights
The Outpost
Khedive
Pieces of Eight
Too Much Time on My Hands
Bohemian Rhapsody
Come Sail Away

Encore:
Rockin’ The Paradise
Renegade

Jewel’s Handmade Holiday Tour November 27, 2017 Salt Lake City Eccles Theater

I have two confessions.  One, I love Christmas music.  And with that, I enjoy collecting holiday albums.  Second, It was Jewel’s 1999 holiday album Joy: A Holiday Collection, that converted me into a Jewel fan.  Don’t get me wrong, I understood that she was a good songwriter and that she was a talented singer.  But she really displayed her versatility on that album in a way I hadn’t heard from her before.  She moved from Opera (Jewel at one point was training to be an opera singer) to jazz, to country, to her most known singer-songwriter style.  I played that album to death that season, and it’s been a favorite ever since.  So I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was when it was announced that Jewel would be doing a holiday tour.  The concert was everything that I hoped it would be.  

If you haven’t been to a concert at the Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake you really need to.  It’s a beautiful venue.  I had seen a few musicals there, but this was my first time seeing a concert.  I love the acoustics in there. 

Jewel invited her father Atz Kilcher and her brothers Atz Lee and Nikos Kilcher to join her on this tour and they actually opened the show.  Each one of them did a couple songs each.  They seemed honored to be on the tour with Jewel, and her brother Atz Lee mentioned that it was great to be together touring since Jewel had to go out on her own on so many of her other tours.  Jewel’s father Atz shared his ties to Utah having received his bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University, and his masters at the University of Utah as well as living in Payson.  Where Jewel was born.   I think audiences here tend to embrace an artist that much more if they have some connection with Utah.  

Jewel took the stage with a five-piece band consisting of guitar, bass, drums, piano, and a multi-instrumentalist who played the violin, cello, and mandolin.  



She opened with “Joy to the World” and moved through a variety of holiday tunes.  I was instantly impressed with the band.  They sounded like a recording.  They were impressive.  And speaking of sounding like a recording, Jewel’s voice was perfect. I would even say she sounded better than she does on her albums. I just sat there watching her sing “O Holy Night” with such ease and couldn’t believe this was live.  Like I said, I knew she had a good voice; she’s famous because she has a good voice. But having never seen her live until now, I wasn’t prepared for how clear and controlled it is.   

After singing a number of Christmas songs, the band left the stage and it was just Jewel and her guitar.  She asked the audience what they wanted to hear and after hearing several options being shouted to her from the audience she settled on one.  But before I get into that, here’s a bit of advice.  When you go to a concert and the artist says “What song would you like me to play?”, don’t shout out their biggest it.  What they are actually saying is, “What song would you like to hear that you might not hear otherwise.”  People were shouting out, “You were meant for me!” and “Foolish games!”.  Come on people.  Like she’s not going to do those.  

She landed on the song “The Shape of You”, a song she wrote about a friend who had passed away from cancer.  After that, she went into her big hits.  Just her and her guitar, telling stories of how these songs came to be.  Songs like, “Hands, You Were Meant For Me”, “Foolish Games”, and “Who Will Save Your Soul”.  While she was singing “Foolish Games”, a song that she said was her best attempt to knock off the late great Leonard Cohen’s writing style, I couldn’t help from thinking, ‘She’s performed this song thousands of times.  How is she singing it so emotionally, and deeply as she is right now?  I was mesmerized.  I don’t know that I’ve experienced something like that before.  I’ve heard that song so many times over the last twenty years, and yet I had never heard it quite like that. I was initially a little disappointed after the song because Jewel had to check with us to see if she had sung all of it.  She said that she was distracted midway through and had to remind herself where she was.  It was a funny exchange with the audience.  She’s a pro.  If she hadn’t said that, I would have never guessed that she was distracted. The song was fluid and moving.  I’ve been distracted about 20 times writing this review, so if it seems disjointed now you know why.  #ADD #ImNotJewel

She returned to the holiday-themed songs, and it became a real family affair.  Jewel’s brother Atz Lee came on stage and they sang “Silent Night”.  Jewel expressed her gratitude that her brother was with her after surviving a fall off of a forty foot cliff!   

She then sang a song called “My Father’s Daughter”.  From my seat, I could see her dad Atz standing in the wings watching her sing this song and beaming with pride.  He then joined Jewel on stage and they dueted a song he had written called “Homestead Yodeling Christmas”.  They blew the audience away as they yodeled in harmony, going faster and faster and faster.  This song probably received the biggest ovation of the night.  

The show was concluded with all of the Kilchers on stage singing with the band a rocked out version “Let it Snow” as snow machines shot show onto the stage.  It was a beautiful night of music.  I think it was a really good idea for Jewel to do a holiday-themed tour.  It kind of felt like it was a long time coming.  Just like her holiday album, she had the opportunity on the tour to really show off her range. And a great way to celebrate the holiday season.  

Setlist

Joy to the World
The Christmas Song
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
O Holy Night
Hands
The Shape of You
You Were Meant for Me
Foolish Games
Who Will Save Your Soul
Ave Maria
Silent Night (with Atz Lee Kilcher)
My Father’s Daughter
Homestead Yodeling Christmas (with Atz Kilcher)
Let it Snow (with Atz, Atz Lee & Nikos Kilcher)

Jade Bird November 14, 2017 Salt Lake City The State Room

Getting the opportunity to be the support act on a  tour is a  great opportunity for an up and coming artist to get their music heard by those who might not be familiar with their work.  That being said, I generally get nervous for these artists who open the show for the headliner because I’d imagine that it’s not their ideal situation to be performing in.  The audience isn’t necessarily there to see them, the venue is half full at best, and the sound isn’t always perfect for them.  In my experience more times than not, if the opener isn’t known, the audience tends to ignore them by talking with their friends and paying very little attention. This was not the case when Jade Bird performed at The State Room in support of Son Little on Tuesday night.  

The State Room is a venue I don’t get to as often as I’d like, but it’s one of my favorite places to see a concert in Utah. I have never been disappointed with any of the shows I’ve seen there.  They have an open floor with a few dimly lit pub tables scattered throughout.  Behind the floor is a seating area that looks like it could have been pews from a church at one point.  I like the way the sound resonates in the room, and there isn’t a bad spot in the venue.  

Jade walked out to a half-full venue by herself bringing only a white acoustic guitar with her to the stage.  She said some brief hellos and jumped right into her set.  I noticed a number of the audience members questioning whether Jade had a British accent or not.  Her singing voice doesn’t really display any type of accent so I could tell they weren’t exactly sure.  Especially because Jade’s music is blues and country influenced.  It was fun for me to know of her British background already and watch the audience delight in her speaking voice then blended with the type of music she was playing.  I think it may have contributed to initially gaining the audience’s attention. 

Now if I had to guess, I would say that maybe ten people knew who Jade was.  This was a real opportunity for Jade to gain some new fans and it was obvious that she did exactly that.  Jade played songs mostly from her five-song EP Something American.  Initially, the crowd was polite in their applause, but then they really started to warm up as the show progressed.  She sang the title track to her EP and as she was singing the song I noticed a number of people walk from the seated area to the middle of the floor.  I saw heads begin to bob as she went through her set. By shows end Jade had the audience clapping along.  She attempted a new song called “Anniversary”.  Jade joked that she had made it through the song only once out of three attempts so she was hoping to even it out with this performance.  She was flying through the song brilliantly when all of a sudden she stopped and said “I lost it!” inferring that she couldn’t remember how the rest of the song went.  The audience just cheered their support as Jade just laughed it off.  

The highlight for me and from what I gathered was the highlight for the rest in attendance was when Jade did a Johnny Cash medley.  She sang “Cocaine Blues”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, and “Ring of Fire”.  This really got the audience going.  They were clapping and singing along.  I thought Jade did a great job of making these songs her own while at the same time staying true to the original arrangements. When Jade finished the medley she received her biggest ovation of the night.  

By this point, the floor was mostly full and Jade had their full attention.  I really need to hand it to this audience.  I couldn’t hear anyone talking.  In fact, I actually heard a pen drop.  That’s right, a pen.  It was so silent in The State Room that when someone pulled their phone from their pocket and a pen fell to the floor on the other side of the venue from where I was standing I could actually hear it when it hit the ground.  Jade even thanked the crowd for how engaged they were.  Like I mentioned, this is not always the case for support acts so I could tell that Jade was really enjoying the respect she was being paid.  

Other than the Johnny Cash songs, my favorite moment of the show was when Jade sang my favorite song on her EP “Cathedral”.  I noticed a few fans in the front singing every word of the song.  Jade even looked at them and smiled with a surprise that someone in a very unfamiliar town for her, knew the lyrics to one of her songs.  

Jade has a beautiful singing voice and a really fun stage presence.  I’m happy I was able to see her this early in her career because I really think we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future. It’s an amazing thing to witness when an artist has the opportunity to introduce themselves to a new town and they leave having gained more fans than they came in with.  That’s what happened with Jade Bird.  I fully expect her to be the headlining shows in Salt Lake City in the future.  

Don Felder November 10, 2017 Salt Lake City The Depot

I had the opportunity to see a rock n roll legend this past Friday night at The Depot.  Don Felder was the lead guitarist for the Eagles from 1974-2001.  During this time he co-wrote a number of songs most notably “Hotel California”.  

Here’s what I expected from this concert.  The guitar play would be fantastic and I’d probably hear some Eagles songs.  Both things happened.  However, that’s putting it mildly.  This show really exceeded my expectations.  

Don got things going right away opening with one of my favorite Eagle songs “Already Gone”.  Then moving on to the classic “One of These Nights”.  The first thing I noticed was how amazing Don Felder is on the guitar.  This, as I mentioned, was one of the things that I expected.  But watching him play these riffs in person was simply amazing!  It truly was a masterclass in guitar.  

The other thing I noticed was Don is actually a solid vocalist.  A famous story within Eagles lore is that Felder wanted to sing lead on “Victim of Love”.  A song he co-wrote.  He recorded the vocals for the song and then the Eagles manager Irving Azoff took him to lunch.  In the meantime, Don Henley re-recorded the lead vocals that ended up being used.  When I heard this story I just assumed that Don Felder wasn’t a very good singer so the rest of the band did what had to be done.  And sure, Felder isn’t Don Henley when it comes to singing.  Not many are though.  But he’s a good vocalist.  I really enjoyed his voice and he sang all of these songs competently.  In fact, he sang “Victim of Love” in this show and I liked his vocals on that song quite a lot.

To my pleasant surprise and to the delight of the mostly middle-aged crowd, 13 of the 16 song setlist would come from the Eagles catalog.  The three other songs were solo gems “Heavy Metal”, “Girls in Black”, and a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride & Joy”.  

Don dedicated “Tequila Sunrise” to his formerEagles bandmate the late Glenn Frey.  Frey and Felder had a falling out that unfortunately was never reconciled. I thought this was a really classy move and I noticed many in the audience talking with their friends about what a nice touch it was leading into the song and to the show.  

Felder’s backing band was incredible. When introducing them, Don shared some of the other bands they had toured with.  Each one of them had extensive resumes, touring with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Kid Rock, Kenny Chesney, Pat Benatar, White Snake, and the Eagles.  Their harmonies were on point and at times if you closed your eyes, it sounded as if the rest of the Eagles were there.  

Don and his band zipped through Eagles song after Eagles song like “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “The Long Run” giving some personal history or backstory to each song.  Things really turned up a notch when Felder played “Heartache Tonight” and “Life in the Fast Lane”.  

At that point, the band put down their instruments and waved to the crowd signifying that the main set was over.  They never left the stage.  They picked their instruments back up and went into the Eagles first hit “Take it Easy”.  The crowd was electric.  They sang and shouted every line of the song.  It was then immediately clear why everyone to see Don Felder as soon as he strapped on his iconic double neck guitar.  It was, of course, the guitar he used for “Hotel California”.  

Now I’ve of course heard this song before, and I’ve seen it played live before.  But there is just something about seeing the man who wrote the music to “Hotel California” play that legendary solo and of course the guitar duet at the end.  I was mesmerized the whole time.  I found myself just staring at his hands picking away and moving up and down the fretboard.  People were singing this song so loud that a few times I couldn’t even hear Felder’s vocals.  People were singing to their friends, and at times singing it to me even though we had never met. 

Don couldn’t have ended this show with another song.  The audience, however, still cheered for more.  They kept cheering even after the lights came on and music from the house speakers came on.  I thought for a second they might give a second encore but then the crew came out and started breaking down the gear and we knew it was over.  

I’ve got to hand it to Mr. Felder.  I’m sure in some way it has to be disappointing to not have been with the Eagles in the past years and I’m sure he at times misses being in that band.  But he is a true talent, and he has put together a great band and a really fun show.  I’m glad he’s out there doing his thing. 

This past summer Don opened for Styx and REO Speedwagon out at USANA Amphitheater.  I was unable to attend the concert but the reports I heard back from friends was that Don Felder’s opening set blew away the bands that he was supposed to be warming up.  At the time I took that as the other bands weren’t that good.  But after being able to see Don Felder for myself, I realized that Don and his band and these songs are just that great!