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!  

 

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley September 22, 2017 Salt Lake City The Depot

By: Brittany Demott & Meghan Johnson  

It seems there’s a lot of tension right now in this country.  When that happens we all look for a place to go where we can find peace of mind even if for a couple hours.  Some go to church, some go to the gym, and some just take a nap. We chose to go see Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley at The Depot.  

The minute we walked in we could see the vibe was relaxed and easy.  Just like you’d expect a Reggae concert to be. The crowd was so fun.  Everyone was having a great time. It was a great feeling to see everyone getting along and singing along together.  Security was so nice and friendly at The Depot.  They stayed pretty relaxed throughout the show and let the crowd enjoy the concert.  This wasn’t really the type of show where people got too crazy so security had an easy night.  

 

We loved Damian’s band.  They really set the tone for the show. They sounded great!  The beautiful backup singers had amazing moves and their voices blended perfectly with Damian’s.  There was one guy on stage whose sole responsibility was to wave a Rastafarian flag.  And that is just what he did.  For the entire show!  He waved that flag back and for almost 2 hours! We were so impressed.  We thought that he’d maybe just wave it for the first song, or maybe the first few.  But nope.  He was up there all night.  It was great.  The band as a whole just seemed like they loved what they were doing and loved being up on that stage. 

Damian sounded great and seemed to be really enjoying himself as well.  He has dreadlocks that fall all the way to his ankles. Watching those is a show in itself.  He played the best songs from his catalog including “Medication”. Damian also educated us on the benefits of legalized Marijuana.  We found it very informative.  

 

The highlight for us was when he sang some of his father Bob Marley’s hits.  He sang “War”, “Exodus”, and our favorite of the three “Is This Love”.  When Damian Sang “Is This Love” it was almost as if we were seeing Bob Marley himself singing it. Damian sounded just like him.  It was incredible.  It bordered on being a spiritual experience for us.  The moment was that special for us and really the entire audience.  

 

 

Damian finished the show with his biggest hit “Welcome to Jamrock”.  The crowd went as crazy as they had all night and we all sang every word.  It was the perfect way to end such a beautiful night.  

With so many crazy things going on in the world right now it was so nice to spend a couple hours with Damian and his fans. The unity, fellowship, and one love in The Depot was exactly what we need it.  We recommend that everyone spend some time at a Reggae show.  

Muse September 20, 2017 USANA Amphitheater

The summer is quickly transitioning to fall here in Utah.  But the temperature is still warm enough for just a few more outdoor concerts.  One of the final shows at USANA Amphitheater this season and one I had been eagerly anticipating since I bought tickets in the spring was Muse.   

Due to scheduling conflicts, I wasn’t able to see all of 30 Seconds to Mars set.  I saw the final few songs. From the little that I did see I was impressed.  The crowd was alive as if they were the headliners, and Jared Leto sounded better live than I had anticipated.  He’s also a really good front man.  He had the crowd singing along while inviting many to come on stage for the final song.  The constant thought while looking at him was, ‘This guy is an academy award winning actor, and he’s killing it on stage in a moo moo? Share some of the talent dude.’  

While the energy was high for 30 Seconds to Mars, it really did go up a notch when Muse walked onto the stage. They hadn’t made a tour stop in Utah since October, 013 so I think the crowd was happy to have them back. Truth be told it was that 2013 concert that inspired me to want to create this website back in 2013.   

Frontman and lead guitarist Matt Bellamy doesn’t say much in between songs.  He’ll say things like “How’s it going Salt Lake?”, or “Let me hear you Salt Lake!”.  But other than that, there isn’t much crowd work on his part. They play the songs, let the crowd go nuts for about 30 seconds, then get right back to playing.   

The thing I find most interesting about a Muse concert is that despite their lack of crowd interaction, it’s impossible to not be drawn into the show.  Yes, the lighting and special effects are great.  They always are at a Muse concert.  But it’s more than that.  It’s quite simply the music.  They have so many great songs.  Songs that are meant to be performed live, and in front of a large crowd. And from my vantage point, USANA Amphitheater was packed!  

Their music is a blend of so many music genres.  In one song I’m hearing indie rock, the next I’m hearing elements of funk and disco.  And of course, many of their songs feature strong elements of hard rock.  It fascinates me to watch a crowd go from a dance party to headbanging.  Sometimes within the same song!  I think that’s why there really is no need to interact too much with the audience.  Their music speaks for them.  

There was, however, a moment towards the end of the show when Muse mega-hit “Starlight” began.  I could hear Matt Bellamy singing, and I could tell it was the vocals were live.  But I couldn’t see him.  His face was on the screen and he appeared to be walking so I looked behind me and saw him walking at the back of the seated part of the venue where the seats end and the lawn begins.  As someone who has sat in the lawn many times, I was excited for those fans to get a closer look. Selfishly though, I was bummed to have the action so far away during one of Muse’s biggest songs.  So while I say that Matt didn’t say much, the music and his visit to the back of the venue made up for it.

The band closed the main set with “Mercy” off of their most recent album “Drones”.   They came back and sang two huge anthems “Uprising” and “Knights of Cydonia” to close the night.  I really like both of those songs and they are incredible live.  I remember after becoming a fan of Muse thinking ‘How are they going to top the album “Absolution” and the song “Hysteria?”’. And then I heard “Knights of Cydonia” on their follow-up album “Black Holes & Revelations” and I thought, ‘Touche Muse. Touche.”. So as I’m sure you can guess, I was so excited they closed with that song.  The place was on fire, and I was going nuts.  I looked to my left and there was this really pretty girl headbanging as if it were a Metallica concert.  It was awesome!

I’m sure it’s obvious, but it must be said that I’m a huge fan of Muse.  I used to like them, and then I saw them live back in 2013 and I appreciate them so much more. I think everyone needs to experience their live show. Their songs need to be heard in that setting.  I can’t wait to see them again. I just hope they come back sooner.  

Muse Setlist

Dig Down
Psycho
Interlude
Hysteria
Butterflies & Hurricanes
Plug in Baby
The 2nd Law: Isolated System
Stockholm Syndrome
Supermassive Black Hole
New Kind of Kick
Madness
Dead Inside
Take a Bow
Munich Jam
Starlight
Time is Running Out
Mercy

Encore
Uprising
Knights of Cydonia

Jeff & Larry’s Backyard BBQ with Eddie Money Friday August 18, 2017 USANA Amphitheater

It’s a hot night in the middle of August.  Seems like a perfect night for a barbeque!  

Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy hosted their Backyard BBQ at USANA Amphitheater Friday night.  And they brought some guests with them.  

The show opened with the evening’s’ emcee, comedian Nick Hoff taking the stage.  I thought he got a really good response from the audience during his set.  It seems like it would be really hard to get a crowd to engage with you right at the beginning of the night with the sun still setting and people just getting to their seats.  But he was good, and the audience seemed to really enjoy him. He had the right personality for it, and that was to his benefit when it came to his emceeing duties as well.  

Nick then introduced the first band of the evening.  A local band out of Cottonwood Heights, Saylo.  I enjoyed them.  I thought they were a really solid band.  The only thing I would say is their sound didn’t really fit the theme of the evening.  They didn’t scream, comedy, barbeque, or blue collar.  I thought they would have been better suited at the upcoming Love Loud festival, or maybe the Twilight Concert Series.  That being said, if I was invited to play for thousands of people at USANA Amphitheater, fit the theme or not, I would have accepted the invite too!  I thought they did a good job all things considered.  

Jeff Foxworthy was next.  I have to admit, I didn’t expect to see him so early in the evening.  It was a surprise when he was introduced, but I was excited to listen to him.  It’s an interesting transition to go from a band to a comedian, but I thought the change was pretty smooth.  The audience, of course, roared when Jeff took the stage.  

Now, because the material in stand up comedy is very specific and repeated in every town, I don’t want to share the jokes/ stories that were told.  I wouldn’t want to spoil that for someone who wants to see Jeff or Larry down the road.  Let me just say this, if you have enjoyed Jeff Foxworthy’s comedy in the past, then you’ll love this material as well.  While he is known for his “You might be a redneck…” line of jokes, he steered clear of being pigeon holed and branched out with hilarious stories and jokes.  Of course, they were generally centered around a blue collar theme.  Jeff was great, and the audience showed their approval throughout his set.  

Larry the Cable Guy was next to take the stage.  It’s interesting how fame works.  Some years back, Larry was the first to take the stage in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, and now he’s the headlining comedian.  His material and persona (His real name is Dan Whitney.  Larry the Cable Guy is a character he created for the stage) are so locked in that he makes you believe that he’s really that guy on and off stage.  I think it’s genius the way he “dumbs down” his act.  It seems so simple, yet it’s so clever.  I thought he was hilarious.  

The most surprising thing to me was the order that the talent appeared.  After Larry left the stage, Eddie Money was introduced and he closed the show.  I did not expect this.  I don’t know if it was the best idea either.  Those who came specifically to see Jeff and Larry left the amphitheater during Eddie Money’s set.  I never like when people don’t stay for the whole show, but I suppose they saw what they came to see, so they felt no reason to stay.  

I thought those who did remain for the show’s entirety really enjoyed Eddie’s performance. Money shared with the audience that he was recording the show.  He mentioned that he wanted his family to be able to hear the performance.  Eddie played all of his hits like, “Two Tickets to Paradise” and “Take Me Home Tonight”.  I wish more had stayed, but it was still a fun way to end the night.  

I thought the atmosphere was great.  People seemed to be having a great time either laughing or rocking out.  There were barbeque options throughout the amphitheater concourse as well as fun games that you might find at a family BBQ.  It was an excellent way to spend a summer evening!

Dashboard Confessional with The All-American Rejects Sandy July 18, 2017 Sandy Amphitheater

Nostalgia is a beautiful thing.  Isn’t it?  And music is one of the biggest aids in taking us to that nostalgic place.  One song can race us back to a moment in time, to a specific memory.  A certain song or band will remind us of those glorious high school or college days.  Or perhaps we’ll be reminded of a first boyfriend or girlfriend.  And music of course, can make us nostalgic for those unrequited loves of our past.  For many, last night’s Dashboard Confessional with The All-American Rejects show was exactly that.  A nostalgic night of emotional memories and music.  

The All-American Rejects took the stage just a few minutes after 7 PM. I felt a little bad for them because it was still about 100 degrees and the sun was still up.  Not usually the ideal conditions a band is looking for when they begin a show.  Lead singer, Tyson Ritter, even commented that the band were Vampires and weren’t used to playing in the daylight or in such heat.  Mentioning that usually, the sun is already going down by 7 PM.  The heat didn’t seem to bother their fans though.  As I looked around, sweaty smiles were huge, people were dancing, and people were singing along with the band as if it were 2004.  

I suppose one of the benefits of performing in the daylight is the band can see their fans more clearly.  Throughout the show, Ritter spoke to sections of the audience as well as specific fans.  One, in particular, was a lady in the row in front of me.  She was dancing the entire time, and singing along to every single song. Tyson pointed her out, mentioning how into the show she was and how red her face had become due to the heat and exerting all of her energy into the show.  At one point Tyson even stepped into the audience during a song, dancing with fans, using one of their fans to cool himself off, and taking a  little boys hat for part of the song.  I’m a big fan of these moments.  I know that years from now, these people will still remember and share the story of when Tyson Ritter of The All-American Rejects danced with them.  

The band played a condensed set consisting of all their hits, some fan favorites, and a new song called “Sweat”.  When it was clear that the set was almost over, I heard members of the audience yelling out variations of “Come back soon!”  For fans of The All-American Rejects the set was much too short.  But the band gave them a good show despite the light and the heat.  

I’ve been going to concerts for years.  And with all the advancements in technology, with sound, or lighting design, one of the things I’ve been most impressed with is how fast they change from one band to another.  I remember this process taking forever when I was young!  The fact that they can get all of the equipment from the first band removed, move the next band’s gear into place, and have all the sound ready within twenty minutes blows me away.  Anyway, back to the bands…

Dashboard took the stage at about 9 PM. The temperature had dropped, and the sun was almost down.  But the emotion was high at the Sandy Amphitheater.  Excuse me, I mean to say the Emo was high at the Sandy Amphitheater. One by one, members of the band took the stage until finally Chris Carrabba, lead singer, principal song writer, and well, basically Mr. Dashboard Confessional himself took the stage.  Everyone in Sandy Amphitheater rose to their feet as we all rushed back to 2003.  

Something that I appreciate about a band like Dashboard Confessional is the dedication of their fans.  Dashboard doesn’t really have what I’d call “radio hits”.  But it just doesn’t matter to their fans.  As I looked around the venue, I saw women, and men singing lyric after lyric.  You know when you just love a song so much, and you sing along so passionately that your eyes close?  Well, there was a lot of closed eye singing at this concert.  It’s an easy indicator to just how happy these people were to be there singing along.

A personal highlight for me was when they followed through on a request from earlier in the day and covered “Today” from Smashing Pumpkins.  I enjoy when bands pay tribute to artists that have influenced them.  Plus, I really like that song.  

While nostalgia seems to be a theme in this review, there were points in the show where Chris Carrabba shared some new songs set to be on Dashboard’s forthcoming album.  When he declared that he was done playing new stuff, people were shouting that they wanted more new songs!  How often do you hear that for a band that’s been around for 15 plus years?  Usually, people just want the songs they know.  It had to be a good feeling for Chris and the band to know that their new album is much anticipated.  

Dashboard closed their main set with a huge fan favorite “Screaming Infidelities”.  Dashboard fans were singing the song so loud!  I could see that even after having sung this song hundreds of times, Chris really enjoyed the reaction of the crowd, even pulling back on his vocals so he could hear the audience sing.  

Dashboard returned and performed “Hands Down”.  The crowd recognized the song immediately.  They used any remaining energy they had to sing along.  As Dashboard, left the stage, the lights came up, and the audience returned to 2017 reflecting on the show they just saw, and the music that shaped them.