Neil Diamond April 9, 2017 Salt Lake City Vivint Smart Home Arena

There are two types of people in this world, those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t.”  This statement is as true today as it was back when Bill Murray said it as he was playing Bob Wiley in the early nineties classic What About Bob?  When I told people I was going to see Neil Diamond I was given one of two responses, “Why?”, or “Why aren’t you taking me?!”.  I don’t think there is another artist I’ve seen where people have such a strong opinion.  

To be clear, I’m one of those who likes Neil.  I was raised on Neil.  My mom is a big Neil Diamond fan so I’ve been listening to the guy for as long as I remember.  

Neil brought his 50th Anniversary tour to a packed Vivint Smart Home Arena.  I received word that Neil doesn’t have an opener, and he usually goes on right at eight so I made sure to get there early.  I took my seats that were to the side of the stage.  These are interesting seats because they’re right by the stage, so they’re close to the action, but they put me in a position to where I could see the entire arena.  

As I took my seats I saw a couple who I would guess was in their late 60’s.  I asked them if they had seen a Neil Diamond concert before.  By the look on their face, I could tell that they were lifelong fans even before they spoke.  I immediately noticed their New York accents.  They began recounting their experience with the Jewish Elvis having seen him multiple times beginning in the seventies and the last time being twenty years ago in 1997.  They were excited to see him again after such a long break.  

Just as they were finished sharing their experiences, as if on cue, the volume on the background music began to rise, and the band walked to the stage.  The band began playing “In My Lifetime” while pictures began to move across the diamond-shaped video screen.  The pictures showed Neil as a child, with his family, then to adolescence, and on to each stage of his career then finally the footage cut to the exact moment when the mighty Neil Diamond rose from below the stage with his black guitar as his first hit “Cherry Cherry” started to play.  He greeted the audience with a “Hello Salt Lake City!”.  The crowd went wild.  Many sprung to their feet, many eventually made it to their feet, and some stayed put in their chairs.  This seemed to be a battle with many audience members.  Some wanted to get up and dance, and others wanted to enjoy the show from their chairs.  But what those sitting didn’t realize was that eventually,  everybody rises at a Neil Diamond concert.  But we’ll get to that later.  

There are a couple of benefits in seeing someone who has been doing this for fifty years.  One is the endless amount of hit songs that are performed, and another is they know what works to put on a great concert.  Neil has so many hit songs that he can’t fit them all in one night. I don’t think it was until long after I was home that I thought, ‘Oh, he didn’t do this song or that song.’.  He did so many familiar songs that I can’t imagine anyone left feeling disappointed on the setlist.  

Neil knows just how to entertain a crowd.  I saw people of all ages at this concert.  I saw entire families singing along, college-aged friends, and of course couples like the one sitting next to me.  Each one of them, child to adult, had a smile on their face, singing every single word of every song right along with Neil.  He knows how to tell a joke, share a story, and deliver a song.  It’s impressive.  Those who enjoy being entertained,  die-hard Neil Diamond fan or not, I recommend seeing this show.  It really is impressive.  

I took great interest in this New York City born and raised couple seated next to me.  I wondered what they thought about the show as compared to the Diamond concerts of the past.  As the beginning notes of a fan favorite love song “Play Me” began, I looked at the lady and saw tears streaming down her cheeks.  She just looked at me and said “Beautiful”.  She then put her head on her husband’s shoulder for the rest of the song.  I quickly realized that I was imposing on a special moment between them.  Before I could turn away to let the moment be their own, the man looked at me and said, “He’s as good as he’s ever been.”  It truly is amazing the impact a song, a show, a singer can have on people.  

Neil blazed through his set singing sing-alongs like “Song Sung Blue”, “Forever in Blue Jeans”, and my personal favorite, “Holly Holy”.  He ended his main set with the poignant “I Am… I Said”.   The audience, all of them, were on their feet as Neil departed the stage.  And as he returned anyone who thought they might sit back down was sorely mistaken.  Right then organ played those all too familiar initial notes of “Sweet Caroline”.  The place went nuts and sang louder than they had all night.  The “Bum, Bum Bums” and “So Good, So Good, So Goods” could have been heard out in the street they were so loud.  And from my seat, I could see the lower and upper bowl swaying, and singing, and as silly as it sounds, the smiling.  Smiles that lit up Vivint Arena in a way I hadn’t ever seen before! And Neil really lets the crowd get their “Sweet Caroline” fix.  He finishes the song, the crowd goes nuts, and then he starts the chorus up again.  And again, and again, and again!  It really was special.  

The show really could have ended right there.  But what’s a Neil Diamond concert without hearing “America”?  In my opinion, it would be incomplete. So we shouted “Today!” a bunch of times and reached, of course, his traditional closer “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show”.  The arena turned into a revival tent!  People were dancing that had been sitting the whole night.  People with oxygen tanks were on their feet singing and dancing.  I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.  Perhaps they were saving their legs and oxygen for this very moment.  

As Neil walked off the stage waving to the crowd I wondered if I’d get to see him again.  After all, this was his 50th Anniversary Tour.  And Neil while spry as ever, is 76 years old.  Even the greats can’t do it for forever.  Unfortunately.  But is this was my last time seeing Neil, (I had seen him 4 times previous to this show starting in 2002) this was a perfect show for me to say goodbye.  I was with my brother who, like me loves Neil, and I got to sit with lifelong fans who after a twenty-year break go to see their favorite singer sing their favorite songs.  It was a beautiful evening.  Come to think of it, I guess I could have saved everybody the time reading this by simply saying “Good times never seemed so good.”  Thanks, Neil!

Setlist

In My Lifetime
Cherry, Cherry
You Got to Me
September Morn
Longfellow Serenade
Love on the Rocks
Play Me
Beautiful Noise
Jungletime
If You Know What I Mean
Song Sung Blue
Forever in Blue Jeans
Solitary Man
I’m a Believer
Brooklyn Roads
Pretty Amazing Grace
Jazz Time (Band Intro)
Soolaimon
Crunchy Granola Suite
Done Too Soon
Holly Holly
I Am… I Said

Encore
Sweet Caroline
Cracklin’ Rosie
America
Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

Stevie Nicks with The Pretenders Salt Lake City February 25, 2017 Vivint Smart Home Arena

It’s not every week that one of the biggest icons in Rock n Roll visits Utah.  So I was excited when I saw that Stevie Nicks was coming to Vivint Smart Home Arena.  And to no surprise, she did not disappoint.  

First, Rock n Roll Hall of Famers, The Pretenders were Stevie’s support act.  Headliners in their own right, they flew through their almost hour long set, blending hit songs with some newer numbers.  Chrissie Hynde’s voice was in peak form as she belted out songs like, “I’ll Stand By You”, and “Brass in Pocket”.  They had the entire floor of the arena as well as many areas of the lower bowl on their feet, singing and clapping along.  There was actually a moment that I forgot that this was the opening band.  I totally felt like I was at a Pretenders concert.  But of course, this was just the beginning.  There was of course, Stevie.  

Now, this show was not like a typical concert.  The best way I can describe it is it was like that old VH-1 show “Storytellers”.  You know when VH-1 and MTV actually played music.  Stevie told us early on in the concert that she would be playing what she called “New, old songs” from her “Gothic trunk of lost songs”.  She mentioned that she’d be explaining how the songs came to be, why she released them when she did, and why she chose them for tonight’s show.  I thought it was a good idea to tell the audience up front that we were going to be hearing songs we probably didn’t know, but it should be fun anyway.  I think it put the crowd in the right frame of mind, and they reacted accordingly. The two-hour fifteen-minute show seemed to fly by for me.  

Stevie mentioned that she had actually lived in Salt Lake City while she was in 7-9th grade.  This was something I didn’t know, and something that of course delighted the local audience.  She mentioned that her friend from that time was in attendance and that she has always had fond memories of living here.  

Besides the two drunk dudes who were dragged to the concert by their girlfriends, the rest of the audience seemed to really enjoy the stories Stevie told. Later in the show, she jokingly recognized during one point in the show that she was telling a lot of stories.  She mentioned that by the end of the tour she might not even have a band, she’d just be up there telling stories.  A highlight for me was when she was starting her solo career she was offered a song by Tom Petty.  They ended up recording “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”, and it became one of her biggest solo hits.  The crowd went crazy when she started this song and went even crazier when Chrissie Hynde walked back on stage to perform the duet with her.  

Of course, even with the crowd enjoying the stories, and the lost songs, Stevie Nicks understands that we were there to hear her hits.  Even when touring solo, she knew she’d have to play some of her biggest Fleetwood Mac hits.  After she finished singing “Rhiannon”, Stevie told us that she suggested maybe leaving that one of the setlist this tour.  She proceeded to tell us that her band gasped and said no way.  And of course, the crowd roared in approval of the band’s protest.  Along with giving us a string of hits, she brought back some of her classic shawls.  Then she iconically spun around in them, getting a cheer from the audience every time.  

She closed the show with her beautiful song “Landslide”. She mentioned that she was in Aspen Colorado when she wrote it, but she wished she had written it here in Salt Lake City because she actually lived her, and she was only visiting Aspen.  No matter where it was written, it’s a fantastic song, and a perfect way to end the evening.  

Stevie Nicks is an artist that has truly perfected her craft.  I was amazed how one minute she could make us feel like we were sitting in a small coffee house listening to a songwriter tell us how and why she wrote a song, and the next we’re back in a packed arena dancing to a proper rock song.  An artist like this transcends generations.  I saw mothers and daughters there together.  I saw groups of women who were most likely the same age as Stevie Nicks reliving some of their youth with these songs.  I saw groups of women who were much younger than me, enjoying their current youth with these songs.  It says a lot to me about Stevie and her repertoire.  I hope she brings that “Gothic Trunk” back around soon.  

Stevie Nicks Setlist
Gold and Braid
If Anyone Falls
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around
Belle Fleur
Gypsy
Wild Heart
Bella Donna
Enchanted
New Orleans
Starshine
Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)
Stand Back
Crying in the Night
If You Were My Love
Gold Dust Woman
Edge of Seventeen

Encore:
Rhiannon
Landslide

Midge Ure Salt Lake City January 16, 2017 The Complex

I have been wanting to see Midge Ure for most of my life.  Seriously for twenty-something years.  Whether with his band Ultravox, or solo, I have enjoyed his music, yet never really had an opportunity to see him.  Well last night at The Grand in The Complex, I finally had my chance.  

My anticipation for this show was magnified due to the opportunity I had to interview Midge about a month prior to the concert.  So, talking with him about the tour got me really excited for what was to come.  And he did not disappoint.  

Ure joked with the audience asking if anyone could understand him due to his Scottish accent.  He suggested maybe they thought he sounded like Shrek.  Throughout the night he was engaging, comical, and even a little self-deprecating.  When he introduced his song “If I Was”, he talked about how it was a number one hit in various countries, but not in America.  Following by saying, “But I’m not bitter.”  

Midge mentioned that he had been in Utah a couple of years ago as part of the Retro Futura tour.  A number of audience members cheered to let him know they were at that show.  He mentioned how surprised he was that people there were singing his songs.  He didn’t think anyone here would know him.  He jokingly stated that he made a special point of returning to Salt Lake City on this tour just to make sure.  

Midge joked that the type of tour he was on was called a “Scottish Tour.  Because it’s cheap.” He was joined on stage by only a drummer and a bass player who also played keyboard on various songs.  Both of them are very talented musicians and made it feel as if there was an entire band on stage.  I thought Ure did a solid job blending songs from his entire catalog  That can’t be an easy thing to do when you’ve had not only a successful solo career but been a part of hit-making bands such as Visage and of course Ultravox.  I was also really impressed with how well his voice has held up.  The man is in his 60’s and he sounds as good as he ever did.  If anything, there is an added richness to his voice that I really like.  

Admittedly I was most looking forward to hearing the Ultravox songs.  As much as the audience remembered and enjoyed the other songs, it was obvious that the Ultravox songs were the highlight.  Midge mentioned that he wasn’t sure about doing some Ultravox songs because he was in just a three piece band and Ultravox is so layered with synthesizers and other instruments he didn’t know if they could pull it off.  But he knew he wanted to do these songs, so they went for it, and pull it off they did.  I really liked the arrangements of these Ultravox songs. They had a stripped down feel without losing any of their fullness.  For example, one of my favorites was “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes”.  It felt like a proper rock song, heavy with guitar, bass, and drums.  I loved it!   

Ure closed the show with the great David Bowie classic “Starman”.  He mentioned how 2016 was such a hard year due to the loss of so many great people in the music world.  

The best way I can sum up seeing Midge Ure in concert is that it was like meeting up with an old friend. You’re so excited to reconnect.  You talk about the good ole days, share a new story or two, and upon departure you regret not going over a couple more old memories.  And of course, the time together is never long enough.  But ultimately you’re so happy to have seen each other, and a new memory has been made.  And the hope is always that you’ll see each other again sooner than later.  So it is with Midge.   

Setlist

Dear God
New Europeans (Ultravox song)
If I Was
Call of the Wild
Fade to Grey (Visage)
Beneath a Spielberg Sky
Become
Hymn (Ultravox)
The Voice (Ultravox)
Vienna (Ultravox)
All Stood Still (Ultravox)
Passing Strangers (Ultravox)
Dancing With Tears in My Eyes (Ultravox)
Reap the Wild Wind (Ultravox)
Starman (David Bowie cover)

The Lower Lights 7th Annual Christmas Concert December 5, 2016 Kinsgbury Hall Salt Lake City

attachment-1-1

Last night I had the extraordinary experience of seeing The Lower Lights opening night of their 7th annual Christmas Concerts.  There are so many things I want to say about this Americana orchestra! However, because it was opening night, and they still have five shows remaining, I want to refrain from spoiling anything for those who will be attending future dates. So without specifics on the set list or particular highlights of the show, let me tell you just how great this show was, and if you don’t have a ticket yet, why you should get one.  

So let me first say that this show begins at 7PM.  Apparently, a lot of the audience thought the show began at 7:10, or 7:15, or even 7:20!  Come on people!  This band works hard.  On all the songs! So it’s not ok to miss the first 5 songs.  I understand that things happen and sometimes we’re just late to stuff.  But there was an alarming amount of people coming in late. There is so much more I could say about this, but the concert was so good, that I’d rather focus on that.

Kingsbury Hall is a beautiful venue.  If you haven’t been to a show there, I recommend it.  It’s the perfect venue for this kind of concert too.  The stage is large, yet the venue is intimate enough to where every you have a good view from any seat.  The only negative can be that parking is kind of a struggle.  What I would suggest is give up trying to park on the street, or anywhere right next to the venue itself.  Just drive south to the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot, and walk over.  It’s about a 5-minute walk, ten tops, and there is plenty of room.  Trust me it’s worth it.  For some shows, they even offer a free shuttle to Kingsbury Hall.  

Monday night concerts are always a little tricky.  The weekend is over, and the crowd tends to be a little more reserved.  Such was the case last night. I was in a good place in the audience to where I could see a lot of faces.  Despite the less vocal, or physically enthusiastic nature of this audience, their faces did show me that they were loving every minute of this concert.  

As I understand it, The Lower Lights have had up to 30 or more members performing with them.  There are 21 talented artists in this lineup, and I was expecting the show to begin with all of them walking on stage for a big first number.  But one lone man, with an acoustic guitar, walked on stage into a solo spotlight and sang us a song to start things off.  And that’s the beauty of concerts.  To be pleasantly surprised at any moment.  Now as I mentioned, there are 21 people in this band, so I apologize now for not mentioning all of their names.  Just know that every one of them is talented, and makes their own positive mark on this show.  

Following the opening song, the rest of the band did take the stage and blazed through a number of Christmas favorites.  While I’m not sharing the setlist in this review, I do want to say to those wondering if they’ll hear Christmas songs they like or know, that the answer is a resounding YES!  You will not come away with this concert feeling like you missed out on hearing a Christmas song you liked.  

The band entered and exited the stage with such fluidity.  I have been to many shows, with much smaller lineups that take forever to switch instruments, bring people on and off stage, and it really takes away from the show.  The Lower Lights seem to have perfected this art.  

The show began with one man and ended with the entire band, but throughout the night, the band shifted into ensembles of varying sizes.  I was impressed with the diverse talents that are within The Lower Lights.  They have an Americana or folk-country sound, and there were times where I felt like I was at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. There were other times that I felt like I was simply in someone’s back yard listening to some friends play music.  And some of my favorite moments were when I felt like I was at a tent revival meeting in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  I think it takes real talent to be so grand, yet bring such intimacy to an audience.

I really enjoyed the way they interacted with each other as well as those in attendance.  There is no front person in this band so different members would take turns addressing the audience.  It was fun to see the range in personalities when songs were presented.  Some of them presented a song with humor, some with sweetness, some with emotion, and some with a soft yet serious tone.  It’s obvious how much these band members care about each other.  It would seem that there is no ego within the band.  That they are there to play this cherished music and fill the hall with the Christmas spirit.  Which they did flawlessly.  

Ok, I lied.  I have to tell you about one song.  But just one, I promise!  Along with being pleasantly surprised at concerts, I also love when a band plays a song that I’m really hoping they’ll play.  With all the Christmas songs that exist, I did my best to prevent myself from getting my hopes up.  Because you can’t play them all.  But with this style of music and this particular song, it just made sense that they’d play it.  And they did.  One member of the band invited the audience to sing along.  They then played one of my all time favorite Christmas songs “Go Tell it on the Mountain”.  I was smiling from ear to ear.  My apologies to the older gentleman sitting next to me, because I was belting out that chorus as if I was on stage.  Their rendition of this song exceeded every expectation I had.  And, it wasn’t even the best song of the night!  So if that song was that amazing, just think about how great the rest of this concert is.  

The last thing I want to mention is what we think of when we hear the term “Local Artist”.  Many times, and I’m guilty of this too, we hear that and think that they’re not as good as the artists on the radio, or with a major record deal.  How wrong we are. The Lower Lights are a band made up of “Local Artists”.  I believe each member of the band, while not all of them are currently in Utah, do have Utah roots.  And yet, if they played at the Ryman in Nashville, or if they played at a tent revival in Virginia, honestly if they played the Hollywood Bowl or Madison Square Garden, no one would think twice.  They would simply know that they are listening to a band with an exceedingly high level of talent that puts on a fantastic show.  So, be sure to pay more attention to “local artists”.  I know I will.   

Go see this show!  There are still tickets remaining, but let me assure you, they will be snatched up.  Some of them by me, because I’m going back at the end of the week.  Yes, it was that good.  If you need uplifting or help in getting into the Christmas spirit, then, by all means, get to this concert.  

 

For more information, and to purchase music albums and tickets to the show go to…

www.thelowerlights.com 

 

Maroon 5 Salt Lake City Vivint Smart Home Arena October 8, 2016

unnamed-19Tickets for Maroon 5 went on sale a year ago.  So as I’m sure you can imagine, the anticipation in Vivint Smart Home Arena was high on Saturday night.  I had no idea I was going to this show until the morning of the show, so it was fun for me to look around the arena and see the true Maroon 5 fans bubbling over with excitement. The crowd dynamic was much different than I expected.  To be honest, I expected a mostly female crowd.  While that may have been the case, the percentage of women to men was much more even that I had anticipated. There were also a lot of older couples at the show.  Didn’t see that coming.  Young and old, male or female, we were all in for a really fun night.  

The indie supergroup Phases opened the night with a really impressive thirty-minute set.  To be honest I had never heard them before.  But from song one I was hooked.  I highly recommend checking them out.  They were followed by Swedish singer Tove Lo.  She’s a successful songwriter now coming into her own as a performer and solo artist.  I thought these were great choices to open for Maroon 5.  And the audience seemed to really enjoy them as well.  It was noticeable to me that these support acts appreciated the involvement of the already jam-packed crowd.

Maroon 5 opened the show with mega-hit, “Moves Like Jagger”.  A song that could easily be used as an encore song made for a perfect opener.  The band had this crowd in the palm of their hands from the get-go.  I was really amazed at how little time it took for the show to get to an energy level this high.

There were a couple things I noticed from this show.  First off, Maroon 5 has a ton of hits! I know they have been around for awhile now, but I guess I didn’t realize just how many hit songs they have in their catalogue.  Before this show, I didn’t own one song from the band.  (Since the show I have definitely downloaded a couple albums.)  But besides one previously unheard new song, I knew every single song.  These guys are hit machines.  But not only are these hits, they are really good songs.

The other thing that really stood out was just how remarkable Adam Levine’s voice is.  If you have heard a Maroon 5 song, (and if you haven’t, you must have been living in a cave) you’ll notice that Adam sings really high.  I mean, really high!  I was actually nervous for him before the show.  Singing high night in and night out is not an easy thing to do.  But I had nothing to worry about.  As you can see in the video below, his vocals were perfect.

The Utah crowd was elated when they were introduced to lead Guitarist James Valentine, a current resident of this great state.  When Adam mentioned that James currently lives in Utah, the crowd went wild.  

The band left for an encore, and when they returned they came out to the far end of their catwalk to perform for the other end of the arena.  I love it when bands do that.  Adam did his best to give the crowd a special moment.  He asked the capacity crowd to put away their cell phones for just two minutes while he sang “She Will Be Loved”.  He mentioned that he wanted to have an experience where we were living in the moment and couldn’t take home with us.  Most of the audience did just that.  Their cell phones went into their pockets and they were able to be in the present.  However, there were some that couldn’t help themselves as they still took pictures and filmed the song.  He would call them out and make jokes which I thought was cool of him.  He could have easily flipped out and made things awkward.  But he kept things light and the people he called out laughed at being put on the spot while looking like idiots to everyone else in attendance.

The show finished strong with the band singing “Sugar” and paying tribute to Prince by closing with “Let’s Go Crazy”.  Now, many might not know this, but Adam Levine is an amazing guitarist.  When you are done reading this gem of a review, go to youtube and type in “Adam Levine Guitar”.  You’ll see plenty of examples of his skills.

I had a great time at this concert.  Maroon 5 gets those unfortunate labels of being “pretty boys” “too soft”, “too pop”, or my favorite “a band for girls”.  I don’t remember being liked by women ever being a negative thing.  Yes, they’re not a hard rock band, but they’re not trying to be.  None of these labels matter when you’re good.  And they’re really good. Their songs are well crafted, and their live show was great.  Much better than I expected it to be.  And I knew I was in for a good show.

 

Setlist:
Moves Like Jagger
This Love
Harder to Breathe
Locked Away (Rock City Cover)
One More Night
Misery
Love Somebody
Lucky Strike
Sunday Morning
Makes Me Wonder
Payphone
Daylight

Encore:
Don’t Want to Know
She Will Be Loved
Sugar
Let’s Go Crazy (Prince Cover)

Mumford & Sons USANA Amphitheater September 26, 2016

unnamed-15With summer coming to an end, and concerts beginning to make their way to indoor venues, I made my way out to USANA Amphitheater for what was probably my last concert there this season.  But what a way to bring this summer of great amphitheater shows to an end!  Mumford and Sons rolled into Utah for the first time in four years with their The Austin 5000 tour.  

When Mumford & Sons came here back in 2012, they were white hot off of the success of their second album Babel.  They played Saltair, which when they scheduled the venue was probably the right size.  But by the time they came to Salt Lake, Saltair was much too small for them. It was impossible to get a ticket, and I missed out on what all reports indicated was an incredible show.  So I’ve been waiting to see them since then.  And it was finally happening!

With this show being on a Monday evening, and the temperatures having cooled here in Utah, the audience seemed to get off to a slow start.  Mumford & Sons opened up with Snake Eyes, from the album “Wilder Mind”.  They then followed with Little Lion Man.  I could tell the crowd was really excited to hear this hit song from the guys, but they were certainly not giving their full energy.  But as the temperature dropped, Mumford & Sons heated up.  It was almost as if they knew they needed to give us a little extra to get us going.  Please don’t misunderstand me, the crowd was most certainly into the show.  It just took them a while to physically show what they were feeling inside.

One of the very first things I noticed was how great Mumford & Sons sounded live.  Of course, I didn’t expect them to sound bad in concert, but the quality of the sound and the talent of the band was just exceptional.  Marcus Mumford’s vocals were on point.  I don’t know how he can sing that powerfully and emotionally night in and night out.  I was really impressed.

As I looked around the amphitheater, I noticed that little by little there were varying pockets of people who were already totally fired up. Others were still coming along, but I recall thinking to myself, ‘This place will be going nuts by the end of the show.’.

This show went by as if it was only twenty minutes.  They perfectly blended songs from all of their albums.  Marcus Mumford moved from acoustic guitar to playing drums, to working with crowd, expressing how much they enjoyed Utah.

My favorite segment of the night was when they played my favorite song of theirs The Cave.  At this point, Mumford & Sons had the entire audience right along with them. The energy was high and the crowd was singing every word of this song.  I thought this would be the high point of the evening.  Wow, was I wrong.  On their very next song, Ditmas, Marcus Mumford jumped down off of the stage and appeared to be engaged with those in the front row.  But he didn’t stop there.  He made his way through the audience and all the way towards my section in the back of the seated part of the amphitheater.  Just then, he took a hard left and ran into the lawn section!  I’ve seen this happen a couple times with opening acts, but never with a headliner.  There were only a couple noticeable security guards around Marcus and running into the lawn which is of course general admission, they weren’t going to be able to do much if things got crazy.  This took a lot of trust on Mumford’s part.  But having that trust in his fans gave us the highlight of the evening.  He made his way down the other side of the amphitheater, then joining the general admission in the front of the amphitheater for the remainder of the song.  When the song was over, there was an extra level of applause in appreciation for this surprise visit into the venue.  Looking around, there were huge smiles and faces expressing awe of what just happened.  When you sit in the back of a venue, no one expects that the lead singer of the headlining band is going to come dance and sing with you.  Great move Marcus.

After a couple more songs, Mumford & Sons left the stage and the crowd, of course, roared for their encore.  One thing I hate with encores is when a band comes back out and only does one song.  So you would understand my elation at Mumford & Son’s four song encore.  I heard someone ask after their first encore song, “Do you think that’s the last song?”.  It wasn’t.  Then after their second encore song I heard someone say “Just play every song you have!”.  People who started out so slow on this cool Monday night now did not want this night to end.  They finished with a bang performing I Will Wait and The Wolf.

I waited for four years to see these guys, and they did not disappoint in any way.  I really hope they come back soon because I’ll see them anytime they make a stop here in Utah.  

Setlist

Snake Eyes
Little Lion Man
Holland Road
Wilder Mind
White Blank
Lover of the Light
Tompkins Square Park
Believe
Broken Crown
Ghosts That We Knew
Below My Feet
Awake My Soul
The Cave
Ditmas
Dust Bowl Dance
Cold Arms

Encore:

Hot Gates
Forever
I Will Wait
Wolf

Josh Groban w/ Sarah McLachlan USANA Amphitheater August 20, 2016

IMG_0466Josh Groban brought his much-anticipated Stages tour to the jam-packed USANA Amphitheater this past Saturday featuring Sarah McLachlan, a headliner in her own right, and support act Foy Vance. If vocal mastery is what you are looking for, this was the show to see.

I would have never pictured Sarah McLachlan and Josh Groban touring together. Their singing style and genre of music are quite different. Well, I guess this is why I’m not in charge of booking tours because this combination of talented vocalists created the perfect musical evening.

Sarah McLachlan was on point during her set in pretty much every way. With her soft and extremely pleasant speaking voice, she shared stories of heartbreak, loss, and hope for the future. There is nothing I like more in a concert than when I say, ‘Oh yeah!’, after hearing a song that I had forgotten. Sarah’s vast catalog was on display as she sang hit song after hit song. And I found myself saying, ‘Oh yeah!’ many times as I recalled how many of her songs I like. She shared a new song that will be on her forthcoming album. It blended right in with the others. She left the stage just as subtly as she walked on. She mentioned on her way out that we might be seeing her again later. More on that later.

Groban began the show in front of a huge curtain with only a piano to his right. He sang “Pure Imagination” from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Midway through the song the curtain parted and his band and huge string section were revealed, much to the delight of the capacity crowd. This came as a surprise to many of the fans around me. I think they believed they were in for a Josh Groban concert with just a piano and his voice. Which would be a fantastic show to see in a theater or small club. But in a venue like USANA Amphitheater, that holds 20,000 people, you need a large orchestra.IMG_0468

I knew the music was live, and that of course, Josh was singing live, but I looked back at the soundboard a few times to see if maybe there was some sort of backing track. His voice is just that good. You must be saying “Of course it is. That’s why this venue is packed to see him.” I guess, I just wasn’t expecting him to sound that perfect live. It truly sounded as good as the recording. If not better!

I was really looking forward to this show because I knew he’d be promoting his Stages album. An album dedicated to some of his favorite songs
from Broadway musicals. I’m a fan of musical theater so I knew I’d be hearing songs that I really enjoy. Groban did not disappoint. He sang Broadway favorites such as, “What I did for love”, and a tribute to Stephen Sondheim singing “Children will listen/ Not while I’m around”, as well as the off broadway classic “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks.

One of the best moments of the night was when he sang the Simon and Garfunkel hit “Bridge over troubled waters”. Now this would have been a great moment if Josh sang it alone. But he brought out his opener Foy Vance to sing it with him. Foy has a rich soulful voice. His voice paired with Josh Groban’s polished voice created a contrasting, yet beautiful blend. There were very few dry eyes when this song was over.

The highlight of the evening for me was when Josh sang one of my favorite songs, “Run” by Snow Patrol. When he got to the chorus, Sarah McLachlan joined him on stage. She had returned as promised, and they sounded so good together. They followed that song by singing her heartfelt ballad, “Angel”. Their voices were perfect together. As I mentioned, I would have never thought of these two together, but I’m so glad someone thought of it. We were very fortunate to see these two extremely talented vocalists perform together.

IMG_0469Groban’s main set finished with his biggest hit, “You Raise Me Up”. The crowd turned into The Milky Way, as the entire audience lit up their cell phones and were invited to sing along. Josh left, only momentarily, and gave us “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for his encore.

Josh seems to be a very genuine guy. He’s one of those artists where you are really happy for his success, and he really seems to truly appreciate the career he has. He didn’t hesitate to recognize Utah as a location that has helped to advance his success in music. He mentioned his opportunity to sing at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Mentioning how bitter cold it was that night, and how he didn’t realize how sad he would be making everyone singing as the Olympic flame was extinguished. He mentioned that he also filmed a DVD here and that the fans in Utah have always been great to him.

Josh Groban has really honed his craft not only as an incredible singer but as an entertainer. He’s really funny! He sings so many serious songs, whether they be classical arias, love songs, or art songs, that it would be really easy to keep his shows in that tone. But he does a terrific job of mixing these songs with humor, and interesting stories without diminishing the message of this songs. This is a true art form. And one that he has most certainly perfected.

I was really impressed with this concert. To have the opportunity to see one of the premier vocalists of our day, was a memorable experience. Josh Groban might not be for everyone, and he comically mentioned this possibility in the show, but it is impossible to deny his talent and success.  Look for him to make his much awaited Broadway debut this fall in The Great Comet.  

 

Gin Blossoms Kamas DeJoria Center August 19, 2016

FullSizeRender (5)Kamas might not be the first Utah town you think of when you think of places you might be headed for a concert.  But I promise you, you’ll be heading there more and more with the new Dejoria Center fully functional.  I was able to check out this new facility while checking out one the best bands of the ‘90s, Gin Blossoms.

There wasn’t much to dislike about the Dejoria Center.  The staff was extremely friendly, the concert hall was spacious and I thought the acoustics were really good.  At least to my amateur ears.  They had two large video screens at the side of the stage.  They’re almost too big for the venue, but it’s awesome to have screens this nice.  Some of the venues in Salt Lake City might want to look into getting screens like this.  This is a really accommodating venue, and I have a feeling this venue will attract a lot of bands.

The show opened with an acoustic set from two of the four members of the band Fyre & Reign.  The local band based out of Orem did a solid job opening the show.  I think it can be really difficult as a supporting act to gain interest from a crowd who came to see another band.  But Fyre & Reign didn’t hesitate to interact with the audience, even inviting them to sing along in the final chorus of their song “Get Out of the City”.

After the opening set, I broke with man code and struck up a conversation with Fyre & Ice singer, Mikael Lewis at the urinal.  I enjoyed hearing about his band, their recent UK tour, and how excited he was to be offered the opportunity to open for Gin Blossoms.  Be sure to look out for some of his solo acoustic shows around Utah.

Because Fyre & Reign played an acoustic set, we didn’t have to wait long for Gin Blossoms to come out.  Everything appeared to already be set up.  A quick sound check, and then they were on.  They opened with their top ten hit “Follow You Down”.  The crowd was definitely excited but for some reason remained in their seats.  There was singing along, clapping along, and a lot of excited people, but for some reason not too many stood.  Lead singer Robin Wilson clearly noticed this, and when the opening song was over, he mentioned that everyone who wanted to, come right up to the stage and fill the gap between the stage and the seats.  I know a lot of bands don’t suggest standing up, or people moving up, but I really liked this move by Wilson. It was obvious by the people rushing to the front of the stage, myself included, that people wanted to be on their feet.  And I don’t think there was anyone who needed to be invited twice to be that close to the band.

The first thing that stood out to me was how good the band sounded.  They pretty much sounded exactly the same as they did when they first showed up on the scene in 1992.  It was really impressive to me that Robin Wilson has been able to preserve his voice. The harmonies of Jesse Valenzuela are as important to Gin Blossom’s sound as any other part of their make up.  And they were perfect.

Gin Blossoms have a very relaxed demeanor on stage that can be mistaken for them not being into the show, and maybe just going through the motions.  Not so.  Being right at the front of the stage gave me the necessary vantage point to realize that they were having a good time.  They seemed to really like playing live, and they were appreciative of the enthusiastic crowd.


Robin had a couple tambourines that he would rotate throughout the crowd between fans both young and not as young.  He got the crowd clapping along to just about every song. He even promised to do a song suggested by an audience member that wasn’t on the setlist.  And sure enough, they did it in their encore.  They also scrapped what they called a “Power Ballad” to cover Johnny Cash favorite “Folsom Prison Blues”.  This is a band that truly cares about putting on a great show, and pleasing their audience.

As I looked throughout the crowd something that stood out to me was how many people were smiling, and how many people were singing every word of pretty much every song.  It hit me that while like Gin Blossoms, and have always enjoyed their music, to others, this is their favorite band of all time.  There were people with personalized license plates, and signs, and as I said, an impressive knowledge of lyrics.  That had to be an awesome site to see for the band.

I mean look at this guy!  How happy is he that he is seeing Gin Blossoms?!

IMG_5832If you see a band you like performing at the Dejoria Center, do yourself a favor and take a beautiful drive out to Kamas.  You’ll really enjoy this venue.  And if you ever have the opportunity, do yourself another favor and see the Gin Blossoms show. They will not disappoint.

 

Lord Huron & Trampled by Turtles Salt Lake City The Complex August 15, 2016

unnamed (27)I must admit, before last night, I had no idea that Lord Huron, or Trampled by Turtles even existed.  Shame on me because both of these bands are really talented and have great songs.  I have totally cheated myself for not having listened to them before.  But I’m glad I was given this opportunity to see them.

The thing I like most about seeing a band that I am not as familiar with is going into a show with zero expectations.  When I go to concerts of bands I’ve followed for years, I have hopes of hearing certain songs, and I expect things to go a certain way.  Well with these two bands, I didn’t know their hits versus their deep cuts.

Lord Huron took the stage right at 7:30.  I think the crowd was surprised by this because I walked right in the Complex and got a great spot dead center. About halfway through the first song, the crowd filled the space around me.  I honestly can’t think of a song I didn’t like.  The crowd was the indicator from me of which songs were their favorites.  My first impression was that these guys belong on the stage at Pioneer Park.  These guys would be perfect for the Twilight Concert Series.  Next summer maybe?  They have a certain indie flair that would be perfect for that setting.

Again, not knowing much about the band, I looked to the crowd for information.  I could tell that there were some fans there to see one band over another.  The thing I like about situations like these is the band and the way they perform their music will determine whether they win over the entire crowd or not.  Lord Huron did just that.  Before the show was over, they had the entire crowd’s attention.  They’re a very straight forward band.  Not much talking to the crowd, relaxed stage presence.  All that is just fine with me.  Some bands interact with the crowd a lot, others not so much.  I would prefer bands do what comes naturally than to try to force it.

They mentioned having played Salt Lake City in the past, recalling shows at Kilby Court, and the Depot.  Judging by the reaction of the audience, some fans were at those shows, while others just enjoyed that these local spots w
ere remembered.

I thought Lord Huron did an exceptional job of pleasing their fans, winning over the others, and for sure making a new fan out of me.  I look forward to the next time they come to town.  I will for sure be more knowledgeable about their music.

After hearing Lord Huron, I think I was most surprised to discover that Trampled by Turtles sounded nothing like them.  I guess that’s why there seemed to be a divide in the crowd.  Trampled by Turtles would be considered Americana if I were to try to label their sound.  They had elements of Country, Bluegrass, and even a little Spanish style in their songs.

I found it interesting that the six-piece band (Vocalist/ Acoustic Guitar, Acoustic Bass, Cellist, Banjo, Fiddle, and Mandolin) did not consist of a drummer.  And yet the crowd was dancing and moving as if there was one. While I felt like some songs would have sounded great with drums backing the song, I was really impressed with the energy and rhythm they produced drummer-less.

Each instrumentalist was a true talent in their craft.  Sometimes if felt like there were six soloists, meshing together.  And I mean that in a good way.  Each instrument had their time to be featured, in particular, the Mandolin and the Fiddle, but when they all played together they created a beautiful sound.

I’m sure many of you have heard the term “Dance like nobody’s watching.”.  Well, there was something about Trampled by Turtles performance that brought this reaction out of many crowd members.  As I looked around the complex, I saw people country dancing, dancing alone, pogoing up and down, and even dramatic slow dance between two dudes, during one of the softer numbers.  I think it takes a really talented band, to cause someone to just let loose and move the way you want to, without caring who might be looking on.
I really enjoyed this show.  If you are foolish like me and haven’t heard of these bands, do yourself a favor and check them out immediately.  They are very different in their style, but both incredibly talented.

Big Grams Pioneer Park, Twilight Concert Series July 28, 2016

IMG_5585Last night i made my way to Pioneer Park for my first show of this summer’s Twilight Concert Series where Big Grams made their much anticipated visit to Salt Lake City. Big Grams consists of the Electro Rock duo, Phantogram and Big Boi of Outkast fame.

I believe both Big Boi and Phantograms have taken the Twilight stage in the past but this was their first time appearing together as Big Grams.

Unfortunately I was unable to arrive in time to see the full set of Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals.  But I will say this, as I was walking into the park, I noticed the crowd already seemed in top form.  They appeared to be the perfect opener for Big Grams.

Big Grams took the stage just a little after 9 o’clock.  They came out high energy from thestart, and in turn, the crowd was about as high energy as I have seen at Twilight.  From the first beat of their set until the last note, the crowd did not die down.  They were crowd surfing, sitting on shoulders, jumping, dancing, and from what I understand, even moshing.  And without any surprise, Sarah Barthel, lead vocalist of Phantagrams and of course Big Grams, commented on how great the crowd was. Then stating,“The best we’ve had so far! And I’m not just saying that!”  I feel like we’ve heard that before here in Utah, haven’t we?  I’d say we hear that commentary in just about every show that comes through this concert loving state!  Of course the crowd loved the compliment, and turned it up a few more notches for the remainder of the set.

I’d have to say the highlight of the evening was the mashup of Ms. Jackson, of course a huge hit for Outkast, and Mouthful of Diamonds, one of Phantograms initial hits. As if the crowd wasn’t crazy enough, they pretty much lost it during this point of the show. So much so, that I was being bumped, pushed, basically shoved from all sides to the point that I was unable to get any video footage to share with everyone.  If I had posted it you would have bet that I was filming a concert in right when an earthquake hit.

I have to say for a supergroup like this, with only one EP released, there was a lot of excitement for them to come to Salt Lake, and for their visit they were gifted one of the most excited crowds I’ve seen.

From what I’ve read, this EP is most probably their only collaboration.  But if they keep putting on shows like this, and if crowds keep reacting like this one did, I don’t see how Big Grams can stop.