The Black Keys November 12, 2014 The Maverik Center, West Valley City

IMG_3383
On Wednesday November 12, The Black Keys brought their “Turn Blue World Tour” to the Maverik Center. They had been through Utah a couple of years ago, and I missed them. So I was determined to find a way to get into this show. Can you believe I guessed the promo code for cheaper tickets? Otherwise I don’t think I would have made it. So, the rock gods looked out for me with this one. The best way I can describe this show is Slow Burn.

I’m not sure if it was because the show was in the middle of the week, or because it was the first really frosty day in Utah this year (27* at showtime), but the crowd took a lot longer to get going into the show than they normally do. When the band walked out and started playing, the majority of the arena stayed seated. I am someone who likes to stand during concerts, but I’m not one to make a point to stand when everyone is sitting. I’m not a fan of annoying people. Or forcing them to look at my behind for 90 minutes. Fortunately my seat was backed up to a suite, so there was no one behind me. I was able to stand the whole time. Now don’t get me wrong, I get it if we’re at a Josh Groban concert or something mellow, but this was The Black Keys! Their music, is not sit down music! So I got lucky that I didn’t have to worry about that. The stage was simple yet perfectly designed. The backdrop started out as a curtain that looked like it was from an old theater, to having that drop and behind it were multiple moving video screens and light rigs. It was subtle, yet flashy at the same time. Just like the band they were illuminating.

The band plowed through about four songs before saying anything to the audience. There really wasn’t much interaction between band and the crowd other than the occasional “Thank You” or “Help us out with this one!” type talk. But what the band lacked in physical energy, and crowd involvement, they made up with pure musical energy. It’s not always needed for a band to start a clap along, or a city reference to get the get things going. Sometimes they just need to play their amazing songs, and the crowd will catch up eventually. Well that’s what The Black Keys did. They just kept going. Because there is no way they didn’t notice the crowd was a little dull. They played their huge hit, “Gold on the Ceiling” about five songs into the set, and you could see some bubbling up from the crowd. A few of those sitting, rose to their feat, and those who didn’t were certainly bobbing their heads. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the crowd wasn’t dead. When the songs were over, the volume of their applause was definitely at a high volume. I just thought I’d see the whole place rockin out the second the band arrived. But that was not the case this time. But sometimes, a band has to earn their dues. And in my opinion, The Black Keys worked hard for their money in this show. But like I said, they just kept going. And the crowd started joining in the fun.

Patrick Carney’s drumming was on point as always, and the blues just dripped from Dan Auerbach’s guitar the whole night. These guys have in a gift in blues rock that would make Howlin’ Wolf proud. Seriously, those guitar riffs he plays just seemed to hypnotize and pierce the souls of everyone there. Because as the show went on, people started rising to their feet, dancing as if these beautiful tones had put a spell on them and they could no longer just sit there. About an hour or so into the show, I would say that about 80% of the audience was on their feet, and by the end, I’d say about 99% were standing and the place had finally been brought to a steamy boil. We had been put under the blues rock spell of The Black Keys.

I’d say the only thing that really bummed me out with show is when the band ended their main set, a disappointingly large volume of the arena started filing out as if the show was over. Did they not know they were coming back? Did they really have to get somewhere at 10:30 at night? Doubtful. I will say though, a group of teenage boys on their way out kept looking back, and right when the band returned to the stage, in their surprise and amazement they returned to their seats. They were so happy the band came back. At first I couldn’t believe they didn’t know the routine of concerts. But, as I reflected on my much younger days, I guess you do need to experience that first encore to know that is what happens in most concerts.

The show ended with a fantastic version of “Little Black Submarines”. It was a perfect closer. This band, they’re just so great. They really are a true American rock band. They have the grit of this country’s heartland, and yet the depth to be a worldwide phenomenon. There really is nothing like seeing a great rock band, and that is exactly what I saw here at the Maverik Center.

Setlist
Dead and Gone
Next Girl
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Gold on the Ceiling
Strange Times
Nova Baby
Leavin’ Trunk (Taj Mahal cover)
Too Afraid to Love You
Howlin’ for You
A Girl Like You (Edwyn Collins cover)
Money Maker
Gotta Get Away
She’s Long Gone
Fever
Tighten Up
Your Touch
Lonely Boy

Encore:
Weight of Love
Turn Blue
Little Black Submarines

The Airborne Toxic Event, November 3, 2014 The Depot, Salt Lake City

IMG_3353

To be perfectly honest, I only knew about 4 songs from The Airborne Toxic Event before attending their concert. Of course I’ve been a fan of their 2008 hit “Sometime Around Midnight”. And I’ve seen a few performances on TV here and there. So I knew them enough to know I wanted to go see them Monday night at The Depot.

The crowd was surprisingly mixed between young and not so young. As I understood it, The Airborne Toxic Event was part of that musical flashback to the 80’s modern rock sound similar to Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse, or The Bravery. And while some of their songs did take my ears to that era, they had much more to offer than to be pinned down to one style of music. There were times that I felt like I was listening to a folk band, other times I felt like I was listening to a synth-pop band. It was that kind of variety that made this show extremely entertaining for me.

Sometimes I really enjoy going to shows so where I know very little of their catalogue, so that I can stand back and watch the show with no expectations. I think the thing I enjoyed the most was the passion being delivered from each member of the five piece band. Each one of them clearly skilled musicians to the point that throughout the show many of them switched from guitar to keyboard, or keyboard to violin, or even three band members playing drums at one time. They sounded great, and to have the energy they had for a Monday evening show, ignited the crowd to react to these songs as if they were seeing a show on a Saturday night.

It has been a while since I’ve seen a band that is still in the midst of their first decade of growth, and it was obvious. I could tell they still loved playing live, and they still appreciate their fans. As I’ve always said, Utah has the best concert goers that I’ve witnessed, and I think the bands could feel that. Lead singer Mikel Jollett even comment to the crowd about how excitable they were. But it was so cool to see him climb down from the stage, taking selfies with the front row, and high fiving every hand he could reach. At the end of the show keyboard/ violinist, Anna Bulbrook jumped into the waiting arms of the audience and crowd surfed around and back to the stage. There was great chemistry between audience and band. It felt genuine, and it was refreshing to see. Even when the show was over, and the lights came up, and the PA was playing exit music, many of the band members stayed out there, signing autographs, throwing guitar picks and setlists to the audience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band stay out that long. It was pretty cool.

I must say, they won me over. Albums will be bought, Youtube videos will be watched, and songs will be learned. I really like this band. And anyone who says that “Rock is Dead” (I’m talking to you Gene Simmons), has clearly not seen The Airborne Toxic Event! Rock N Roll has a heartbeat and I think it’ll be just fine.

Welcome to Your Wedding Day
Papillon
Gasoline
Changing
Happiness Is Overrated
This Losing
Hell and Back
Dope Machines
What’s In a Name?
Numb
Wishing Well
Wrong
Sometime Around Midnight
All I Ever Wanted

Encore:
The Graveyard Near the House
Timeless
Boys Don’t Cry snippet (The Cure Cover)
All at Once

Erasure October 29, 2014 Capitol Theater, Salt Lake City

The first time I saw Erasure concert I was 15 years old. It was also the very first concert I had ever been to. From that night I was hooked on the live concert experience. Now, considering that I’ve created a website dedicated to my love of concerts, it should seem clear that seeing Erasure live all those years ago, left quite the impression.

IMG_3355

Well, here we are almost 25 years later, with many Erasure shows in between and I must say they still put on one of the most entertaining shows of anyone I’ve seen. The electronic orchestrations for this tour created by Vince Clarke were brilliantly done. There were 12” remixes of some older Erasure standards that gave the songs an extremely new life. Andy Bell never fails to disappoint with his vocals or his energy on stage. Their two backup singers blended with Andy as beautifully as they have done over the last 25 years.

I suppose Erasure is considered an “80’s” band. But don’t expect to see a retrospective show with old songs rehashed for the millionth time. Believe it or not, Erasure still releases new music with charting success. Their current single “Elevation” is currently #6 on the Billboard Club Dance Chart. I’m not saying they’re going to be playing the VMA’s anytime soon, but I firmly believe that if one of their songs were recorded and released by Lady Gaga, Ellie Goulding, Lorde, Bastille or even Sam Smith, they would be hits for them. Erasure is Electro-Pop at it’s finest. And the beautiful thing about music created by computers and synthesizers is it can always updated. And that is something Erasure always does on their live shows. And in my opinion, it keeps them current, and interesting.

I’ve been to the Capitol Theater several times, but never for this type of concert. The acoustics are amazing! I had the excellent fortune to have my seats upgraded. The couple next to me wanted to see if I would be willing to move seats so their friends could sit by them. Well, there tickets just happened to be box seats! So of course I accepted their offer and, WOW, were my new seats incredible. I was basically sitting on top of the stage. I was so close that I’m almost positive I made eye contact with Andy Bell a couple times. I know my brother basically became best friends with one of the back up singers. I guess the sad part of getting older is some people can’t handle standing for an hour and a half straight. So while many others went through the battle of sitters and standers in the same section, I was in a box with no one behind me. So you’d better believe I was up and dancing the entire show. But that’s how it’s supposed to be at an Erasure show. Even some of the ushers were dancing in the aisles! In the past they’d do a cool down song so people could sit and recover for the home stretch of the show. But not this time. Any song that was usually slow, was remixed to be a fast club style dance song. Which I absolutely loved. This was the perfect seat for me to see the show but also people watch as well. The only weird part about being in a box seat is everyone could look up and see me. I noticed times where people looking up at me dancing. So if you see any sweet new dance moves out there in the clubs, you know where they were ripped off from.

The best part about seeing Erasure in Salt Lake City is the unique diversity of the audience. For those that don’t know, Andy Bell (Lead Singer), is openly gay, and has been throughout the existence of the band. So at all their shows there will be usually be a large turnout from the LGBT community. But, Mormons also really like Erasure. So it is interesting to see a crowd mixed together that normally might not be. I mean, in what other place are you going to see that formerly braided belted denim shirted 1992 BYU alum and his previously claw-haired wife dancing and singing in unison with a gay couple wearing leather pants and t-shirts from past Erasure tours? Only in Salt Lake City at an Erasure show. It’s great.

The setlist was put together perfectly. The show opened with huge fan favorite “Oh’ Lamour”, and they were off from there. They spread three songs from their new album throughout the show, and the rest of the set was a perfect mix of hits, and some gems like “Star”, “You Surround Me”, and “Joan” that they haven’t played in at least fifteen years. I know that I’m going to get their best every time I see them. And I’ve seen them a lot!

You can count on Vince standing behind his synthesizers, laptop, and sometimes acoustic guitar very stone faced but bobbing his head to the music, and enjoying the show in his way. And you can count on Andy dancing across the stage in his signature style, and in his signature flashy stage attire. This tour he decided on extremely tight and extremely shiny pants, coat with tails and a top hat. Once upon a time there would be multiple costume changes, but we settled for one change this tour. What were once sequin speedos, are now sequin booty shorts with a black tank top, but the crowd roared just the same when Andy reemerged from the wings in his new getup.

I never grow tired of seeing Erasure live. They aren’t the type of band you can only see once. They are going to give you something fun and different each tour. Tonight I felt as if I was in a dance club that had access to my ipod. If you like Erasure, and have never seen them, I could not encourage you enough to see them the next time they come to town. You know I’ll be there!

Setlist
Oh L’Amour
Star
Reason
Breath of Life
You Surround Me
Elevation
I Lose Myself
Drama!
Victim of Love
Ship of Fools
Sacred
Breathe
Joan
Blue Savannah
Chorus
Love to Hate You
A Little Respect
Chains of Love

Encore-
Always
Sometimes

Elton John September 19, Maverik Center, West Valley City

IMG_3152

It’s hard to believe that for 31 years, Elton John had at least one song charting on Billboard’s top 100. Now try to pack all those hits into one night. That was Elton John’s dilemma on Friday night at the Maverik Center. But I think he did a great job of covering those 31 years in a two hour show.

I had known Elton was coming to town for some time, but until it was the week of, for some reason it didn’t occur to me that I should go to this concert. I almost missed out on a great night. Don’t get me wrong, I am most certainly an Elton John fan. I think even if you’re not a die hard fan, it’s impossible to not like at least one of his songs. Even if someone else is singing it in one of his movies, or stage musicals. It’s hard to not be impressed with his body of work. But despite the Grammy’s, the Tony’s, and even the Academy Awards, what it really comes down to is how amazing these songs really are. There is something for everybody.

Sir Elton walked on to a darkened stage at exactly 8:30 pm. Even though the stage was pitch black, you could see him from a mile away. All the cameras taking pictures exposed his knee length sequined coat. It’s funny, because looking back at some of the things he used to wear on stage, this coat was actually pretty conservative. He walked out to “Funeral for a Friend” and then once he reached stage joined right in with the rest of the band. Then of course continued with “Love Lies Bleeding”. The Utah crowd did not disappoint . People were up and dancing during this song, and could not have been more excited that this legend was in town.

He came out guns blazing with with his huge hits “Bennie and the Jets” and “Candle in the Wind”. This is what I’m trying to say people. These are huge songs of his, and he did them right at the top of the show? Was he going to run out of songs? Was the show going to start strong then lull when he started playing deep cuts? Nope. He had enough hits to play for an hour more than he did, and this was a full two hour show.

I remember looking at my phone to see what time it was thinking he had probably played for maybe 30 minutes. But he had already played for an hour and 15 minutes. Time flew by in this concert because each time you may have thought he was going to hit that “beer run” segment of songs, he didn’t. I think he played maybe 3 songs I hadn’t heard before, and those were great. And when he played those, the people that did make their beer runs, had to have been really bummed when the following song was one of his biggest hits. Songs like “Levon”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, or “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” followed songs that may not have been as familiar to this crowd.

He didn’t do a whole lot of talking to the crowd, but when he did, he usually had something fun or interesting to say. At one point he spoke of being more comfortable in his own skin than ever before, and because of that, he enjoys performing more than he ever has. Normally I would think maybe an artist will just say something like that just to get a cheer from the crowd. And while he was applauded for that comment, I think he was being genuine. He seemed in very good spirits, and I think he really enjoyed himself.

Elton John also talked about the success he’s had with his writing partner Bernie Taupin. In case you don’t know, Elton John has never written the lyrics to any of his songs. He said that he and Bernie have never even worked in the same room. Bernie would write in another room, then come to Elton with lyrics he had written, and then Elton would go to the piano and put these words to music. It’s a formula that has clearly worked (understatement of the year). Sir Elton mentioned that when they were first starting out, they lived with his mother, and one day Bernie came to him with what he called the most beautiful lyrics he had ever read. Especially for an 18 year old. He went to the piano, and created what was to become his first hit, “Your Song”. He said he owes all the success he’s had to that song. I’ve included video footage of this song as a reminder of just how beautiful this song is. In my opinion, these lyrics are some of the best written in popular music history. It was really cool how he set up the song, and it made for a special moment in the show. Needless to say, the crowd was so excited to hear this classic. The ovation he got after was tremendous and well deserved.

Elton closed his main set with four upbeat songs. This was the moment when the majority of the arena was up and dancing, and just letting loose. With Elton’s songs it’s sometimes hard to know when to sit and when to stand. I usually like to stand at all concerts, but I get the demographic of this show wasn’t going to do that, so I tried to pick my spots. But here, it was obviously stand up time. He left the stage and of course he returned to a crowd that was as loud as they had been all night. Maybe even louder. Encores are a funny thing aren’t they? We know they’re coming back. We know they have some huge songs they still must do. It’s such a weird tradition. I do remember though when I was young, hoping and praying my favorite groups would return. But now that I’m older, I guess I’m more aware that this is just what bands do. I would have liked to have seen the time where encores originated and people weren’t sure the artist would come back. What if they didn’t? That’d be the worst! Anyway, I’m getting off track.

Sir Elton came back and kept the crowd on their feet with “Crocodile Rock”. That was fun. The crowd sang the La La La’s in the song, and the energy was at its highest point. After that song Sir Elton brought the show to a perfect close by singing one of my favorites, “Daniel”. He did this song alone. Just him, and his piano. It was beautiful. And made me wish he had done a few more songs like that.

I left this show totally impressed with the performing chops of Sir Elton John and his band. Many of whom had been with him for 40+ years. Of course there were some other songs from his catalogue that I would have loved to hear, but like I said before, how do narrow down over 45 years of songs into a two hour show? He’s been at it a long time, but not once did I feel like he was just going through the motions, or giving us a half hearted show. I think he really enjoyed the energy and excitement of this particular audience. I know I say this a lot, but I don’t think artists passing through, expect to get what they get from Utah crowds. We appreciate them stopping into our small city, and we show them our gratitude with really getting into the show. If you haven’t ever seen Elton John, I recommend you do. Even if you’re not a huge fan. If you care about the history of rock n roll, or popular music, this is a show not to be missed. Elton John has left his mark, and influence on music, and he’s still doing it. Cheers to him, and I look forward to what he’ll do next.

Setlist

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Bennie and the Jets
Candle in the Wind
Grey Seal
Levon
Tiny Dancer
Holiday Inn
Philadelphia Freedom
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
Hey Ahab
Oceans Away
Your Song
Burn Down the Mission
All the Girls Love Alice
Home Again
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
The Bitch Is Back
I’m Still Standing
Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Encore:
Crocodile Rock
Daniel

David Gray August 21, 2014 Butte Gardens Amphitheater Salt Lake City

I was introduced to David Gray about 12 or so years ago. I used to be involved heavily into concert bootleg trading. I know, I know, I’m an outlaw. Well, there was a particular instance where the person I happened to be trading with was more interested in my collection of live shows than I was in what his. But being a generous trader, I told my fellow trader to pick out what they wanted and I’d find something in their collection to make things even. Gotta keep things even in the bootleg biz! Anyway, after looking through his collection, I chose a David Gray, Live in San Francisco bootleg. I figured, I, like many out there enjoyed his biggest American hit “Babylon”, so why not check out one of his live shows. Well, I don’t remember what else I got out of that trade, but that live bootleg of David Gray is still on my playlist to this day. I am now a huge David Gray fan, and experiencing his live shows in person has been an experience I have always looked forward to throughout the years following that trade. So it was exciting to get to see him again last night at the Red Butte Gardens Amphitheater.

IMG_3055

Red Butte has one of Utah’s best backdrops as far as concert venues go. It’s the perfect place to see a concert on a summer night. It always cools down there, and there is a pleasant breeze throughout the venue. This venue is unique though, in a couple ways. One, in that you bring in your own chairs, and blankets to sit on, and you’re allowed to bring in food, and drinks. It’s a really fun social setting. Second, many concert attendees of Red Butte Gardens are season ticket holders. So they’re not always a fan of the artist performing. But they go for the beautiful setting, spend time with their fellow yuppies, and have some fancy cheese and fine wine. The difficult part of this, is once the concert starts, people don’t really seem to understand that social time is over, and that most people came to hear what’s coming out of the person on stage’s mouth, not theirs. People eventually settle down and pay attention to the show, but it’s just not a typical concert event. If anyone has ever been to a David Gray show, they will have seen that the audience is eerily silent, and has a razor sharp focus on David and his songs. So this was a different setting for me to see him in. Dont’ get me wrong, It was an incredible show, and I was happy to be there despite the differences of other DG shows I’ve been to.

David received a standing ovation as we walked out on stage. It was easy to tell who was truly there to see him. Mr. Gray opened the show performing six straight songs from his new album “Mutineers”. This is an unusual course to take for most setlists, but it’s not that unusual for David Gray. He has done this type of thing many times, and I would say normally it’s pretty interesting to listen to his new material grouped together. Unfortunately this may not have been the best approach for this type of setting. With season ticket holders having to sit through a series of songs they didn’t know, just, in their minds, this allowed them to keep the conversation going. But I must say, it was so cool to hear some of these songs live. I think David Gray is thought of as a pretty mellow show to see, because his songs involve a lot of acoustic guitar and piano, but when you see the shows live, you’ll see that the songs are actually pretty high energy. My favorite song on his new album is “Back in the World”. It’s always exciting to hear a crowd accept a new song, and the crowd was very accepting of this song. Many rose to their feet to dance. Another interesting thing about DG shows is the crowd always seems confused as to when to get up, and when to sit. The songs have their own life in a concert setting that I think initially people feel like they’ll be sitting throughout the show, and then they realize it really is a borderline rock show/ jam session. There are those who are determined to stay seated, and those who can’t stay in their seats. It’s something I haven’t ever seen with another artist’s live show.

David breezed through his new set and then really got the crowd going with one of his classics “My Oh My”. From there he perfectly blended songs from his past catalogue with some additional new songs. I think this is the largest band I’ve ever seen DG tour with. It was hard to tell from my vantage point, but I believe he had a 7 piece band backing him. The band consisted of a back up singer (Who harmonized beautifully with DG on “Kathleen”), multiple guitarists, a drummer, and a cellist. But they all seemed to move from one instrument to another depending on what song was being played. Having this type of band allowed DG to add new and fresh orchestrations to his back catalogue. He’s always done a good job of doing this in the past. But this time the songs seemed to have even more layers. If there is one thing I love, it’s when artists add something special to the live versions of their songs. It shows me that they are also interested in keeping things exciting for them. Rather than just playing the song to get through it, they are able to enjoy it as well. And I can always tell the difference. David Gray is a master of keeping his songs, even some he might only play for the fans, feeling new and interesting. Having this size band also gave him the freedom to move about the stage in a way he hasn’t before. There was even a song where he was basically dancing throughout. I enjoyed seeing this new side of him, and while he’s a brilliant piano and guitar player, I’m sure it’s fun for him to interact with the crowd without always having to play an instrument.

The show really picked up with DG performed a crowd favorite “The One I Love”. From there the crowd was completely with him. He ended his main set playing my all time favorite “Please Forgive Me”. The crowd was on it’s feet singing along and the energy was at an all time high. He left the stage and returned for the encore by himself, and played “Babylon” with just him and his acoustic guitar. It was a sing a long never to be forgotten. At the end, as he tends to do, he gave the crowd the opportunity to sing the song themselves. I recorded that part for your viewing pleasure so that those unable to attend can get a sense of just how awesome the moment was. I hope the video can capture it.

He closed the show with “Sail Away”, much to the delight of the crowd. He walked off the stage and the crowd kept going, I thought for a moment he was going to come out for a second encore. But sadly the show was over.

Later that night David posted on his twitter account his set list from the night. But “Nemesis” and “Alibi” both on the set list, went unperformed. I wonder why. Maybe there were time restrictions and he had to cut a couple songs out of the show. I really like both of those songs so I was a little disappointed to have missed hearing them. But it’s impossible to be disappointed at a David Gray show. He puts so much emotion and energy into his music that he draws you into the evening and when it’s over you realize you just witnessed something special. I can’t wait to see him again.

From David Gray’s twitter
IMG_3049

Paul McCartney August 7, 2014 Energy Solutions Arena

IMG_2997

How many of you can remember when you heard The Beatles for the first time? My guess if you’re under the age of 50, you don’t recall that moment of in your life. They have just been a part of your life from the beginning. I imagine as it is with me, you’ve heard, loved, and appreciated not only the greatest of The Beatles but also enjoyed Wings and Sir Paul solo hits. Now imagine this lifelong soundtrack wrapped up in one 39 song, 3 hour concert. That is what those of us who were fortunate enough to attend Paul McCartney’s recent concert at Energy Solutions Arena were blessed with. He covered it all.

The lights dimmed and The Paul McCartney walked on stage right at 8:30 PM. The crowd rose to their feet and the arena was as loud as I’ve ever heard it. Sir Paul didn’t say anything, he just waved, strapped on his iconic violin bass guitar, and opened the show with Beatles favorite “Eight Days a Week”. I didn’t think the crowd could be any louder, but when that song started the crowd volume rose even higher.

On a personal note, I’ve been trying to see Sir Paul since I was a senior in high school. Now we don’t need to get into how old I am, but let’s just say, if someone was born the day I first started trying to see this man in concert, they could have easily bought a beer at last nights show. It’s been a long time coming. So when Sir Paul walked out, and I was seeing him with my own eyes, and hearing one of my favorite songs live, I will admit, my emotions got the better of me. Music means so much to me, and this man’s music has not only influenced me, but influenced so many other bands and artists that I love. To have now have him directly in front of me was almost too much to take, and almost impossible to believe. I think I still have pinch marks on my arm from the continual reminders that this night was real. I’m sure for many reading this, that’s a little much. But for those who share my feelings, I know you get it.

Paul McCartney mixed his set list with an artistry that I think other bands should take a look at and apply to their setlist decision process. Paul has a new album out. It’s pretty good. But I don’t imagine people went to this show to hear the new album (conveniently named NEW). He was able to sneak in 4 songs from his current album, because he sandwiched them between Beatles songs, or a Beatles songs and a Wings song. But we were never left sitting there dying to get to the next big song from the catalogue we came to hear. He got to it. Did he ever. The thing about The Beatles, is just with Sir Paul’s songs alone, we could have been there for two more hours. But the cool part about that is he would do songs that we may have not expected. Songs like, “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, “Lovely Rita”, or “ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da “, or Wings hits like “Hi-Hi-Hi” and “Let Me Roll It”. All of them came as a pleasant surprise to the crowd. Almost like an “Oh yeah, I love this song!”. I don’t know how he decides on his set list. There are so many great songs to choose from. Normally a band has at least ten songs they have to play, and then they play maybe five or six off the new album, then maybe five others of their choosing. Sir Paul has so many songs he can’t do that. It’s no wonder his shows go almost 40 songs deep.

While I would say the majority of the audience were Beatles fans from the beginning, there was a good mix of young and not so young. I’m not a fan of sitting down at concerts, but the show was so good, I couldn’t let it bother me that we sat for a good portion for the show. But again, the show was 3 hours long. Most of these people haven’t stood for three hours straight in at least 25 years. But when the time was right, we were all on our feet dancing to this amazing music.
I had the benefit of sitting behind a man who undoubtedly watched the four lads from Liverpool appear on the “Ed Sullivan Show” for the first time, and in front of two teenage guys who most likely have no idea who Ed Sullivan is. I could see the man in front of me sing every word to every classic song as if he was back in his teen days himself. I was ultimately impressed with the teens behind me. They were singing right along to every song Sir Paul performed. Even songs from the new album. Impressive! One, that they were such huge Paul fans at such a young age, and two, that I could actually hear their voices over the beautifully loud, and perfectly mixed music. When I realized I could hear them, I quickly apologized to the dude sitting in front of me if my voice is ruining all of the videos he had taken with his camera phone. But to be honest, I didn’t care. I can’t remember the last time I sang out so freely and danced as if no one was looking. For those listening or looking, you’re welcome. Also, don’t steal my sweet moves.

I feel like the four luckiest people in the world, are the men who compile Sir Paul’s touring band. Yes, they are extremely talented, and add a nice freshness to these songs. Buuuuuut, they are touring with Paul McCartney! There are a lot of really talented musicians out there. They must love their jobs. And to their credit, they really are great. I’m sure there is a reason Paul has picked them, and played with them longer than any other touring band he’s had in the past.

Paul did a solid job of giving tribute to his fallen bandmates, John Lennon and George Harrison. He sang the songs “Here Today” , which is a song he wrote after John was killed. The song is in the form of a conversation that he wished he would have had with John before he died. If you haven’t heard it, go right now and listen. I’ll wait… Ok, pretty great right? Such a beautiful tribute. I can picture that conversation just by listening to that song. He gave tribute to George, by sharing with us that George was a really good ukulele player. And he began one of George’s biggest hits “Something” with just him and a ukulele. The band joined in to finish the song, and I’m sure George would have been proud of this version. It was a special moment in the show for sure. He paid two more tributes playing “My Valentine”, a new single off the latest album to his current wife Nancy Shevell, who was in attendance. Then he played “Maybe I’m Amazed” to his late wife Linda. It was as if he was letting us into his personal life, if only just a little bit.

Sir Paul has been performing for over 50 years. For some, this makes them less enjoyable to watch. Either there voice is shot at this point, or they are just going through the motions for a payday. But while Paul’s voice at times shows the wear of touring, he has complete control of his it, and it sounds at least 20 years younger than his age of 72. And going through the motions he is not. At least not in a way that we can tell. He’s still having fun. He made jokes to the crowd, told stories of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, and even tried to read some of the signs people had brought. He told us “I think we’re going to have a party tonight!”. I’m sure he says that wherever he goes. But it was true. Party we did. He said at the end “You see, I told you we’d have a party.” Again, he probably says that a lot. But he doesn’t do the typical throw in the name of the city in between every song for a cheap applause. He probably mentioned Salt Lake City or Utah three or four times at most. Paul McCartney does not need cheap applause.

Now I’ve seen a lot of Paul McCartney concert footage over the years. He mixes it up, yes, but there are a few highlights that I was eagerly anticipating. But when they happened in this show, they snuck up on me. The pinnacle of course being “Hey, Jude”. You guys, I have been dying to sing “Na Na Na Nana Na Na Hey, Jude!” for so long that when it came, it was almost like an out of body experience. The only reason I knew it was actually happening was how thrashed my throat felt when the song was over. The song went almost ten minutes, and the crowd never died down. It was amazing. Amazing isn’t even the right word. I don’t know if the right word exists. But, just, wow.

Paul finished the show with two strong encores, and if we thought he’d come back again, I know the crowd would have asked him back. I think the building could have been powered by the energy of that audience. We all knew we were part of a special moment in time.

This wasn’t a nostalgia show. Sure, we were taken back to whatever time it was when we first heard these songs, but it was more than that. When you go see Journey, or the “final” Motley Crue show, that’s for nostalgia. Going to see Paul McCartney is a history lesson. You go to tell people you saw the living member of the best songwriting duo in rock n roll history. You go to bridge the gap between the music your parents grew up on, and what your kids listen to now. You go to be part of a moment with 17,000 of your new friends.

I have struggled to put into words just how I felt at last nights concert. How do you describe a dream come true? How do you explain inspiration personified? He is just a man after all. But I believe he’s one of the good ones. You don’t have to love Sir Paul like I do. You don’t even have to be a Beatles fan. I think you’re nuts if you’re not, but I can accept that not everyone is going to feel the way I do. But there is no way to deny this man’s place and influence in music history.

As I returned home, I sat looking at my phone and watched the three songs I recorded. ( I hate doing it, but i just couldn’t help myself!! Damn you modern technology!) I sat reliving the moment I just experienced over and over. I slept very little because each time I’d start to doze off, I’d remember something I liked about the show and I’d get so pumped up it would be another hour before I got sleepy again. But, surprisingly I’m full of energy and basking in the glow of Beatlemania.
I think it’s pretty obvious by the perma-grin on my face that I would highly recommend this show. To anyone! It amazes me, after all the concerts I’ve been to in my life, and the amount of time I’ve waited to see this particular one, that it could still exceed my expectations the way it did. I can easily say, it was the greatest concert experience of my life. Thank you Sir Paul. Thank you so very much!

Setlist
Eight Days a Week (The Beatles song)
Save Us
All My Loving (The Beatles song)
Listen to What the Man Said (Wings song)
Let Me Roll It (Wings song) (with “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix snippet)
Paperback Writer (The Beatles song)
My Valentine
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings song)
The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles song)
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles song)
We Can Work It Out (The Beatles song)
Another Day
And I Love Her (The Beatles song)
Blackbird (The Beatles song)
Here Today
New
Queenie Eye
Lady Madonna (The Beatles song)
All Together Now (The Beatles song)
Lovely Rita (The Beatles song)
Everybody Out There
Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles song)
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles song)
Something (The Beatles song)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles song)
Band on the Run (Wings song)
Back in the U.S.S.R. (The Beatles song)
Let It Be (The Beatles song)
Live and Let Die (Wings song)
Hey Jude (The Beatles song)

Encore:
Day Tripper (The Beatles song)
Hi, Hi, Hi (Wings song)
Get Back (The Beatles song)

Encore 2:
Yesterday (The Beatles song)
Helter Skelter (The Beatles song)
Golden Slumbers (The Beatles song)
Carry That Weight (The Beatles song)
The End (The Beatles song)

Lady Gaga August 4, 2014 Energy Solutions Arena

A friend of mine won tickets on the radio to the recent Lady Gaga concert at Energy Solutions Arena, and invited me to go with. I’m sure it’s surprising to some that I said yes, and not surprising to others that I accepted the invite. Just to put it out there, I do enjoy Lady Gaga’s music. I don’t know if I’d consider myself one of her “Little Monsters” (what she calls her dedicated fans), but I have downloaded a number of her songs, and cut a few rugs listening to her jams. I never in my life thought I’d be seeing her live, but the moment and opportunity came. It’s been really hard to explain what I saw, because there was so much going on that my eyes couldn’t take it all in.

First of all, the people watching was at an all time high. Interesting make up, colored hair, platform shoes, g-strings, leather chaps, and that was just one dude. There were so many unique looks again, my eyes couldn’t capture it all without appearing to stare at people. And I was always taught that staring is rude. But I think in this case it was probably ok, even welcomed. When it comes down to it, I probably stood out as the oddly dressed weirdo. And I was in jeans and a polo shirt. The one time I don’t go shirtless with a bowtie and booty shorts! Lesson learned.

IMG_2980

When Energy Solutions Arena was built, I’m pretty sure they forgot that bands might tour through Utah and want to play in a big venue. The sound is probably the worst in any large arena that I’ve ever been in. Which is why I have to compliment the sound engineers on this tour. They mixed the show perfectly. Which is no small task at this venue.

The set design was amazing. The staging looked as if we were in Greece, or maybe even Jerusalem. All the band members were nicely placed in their own little houses. The catwalk was all over the place. On one side of the stage it reached all the way across the arena floor and curved to form a bar for the 21+ general admission to buy adult beverages without having to leave the floor. Smart move Lady Gaga. On the same catwalk was what looked like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, but it turned out to be one of Gaga’s hidden piano’s that she would be using later in the show. The other catwalk went about halfway down the other side of the arena floor, with a bridge connecting the two. In the middle of the shorter catwalk was a large circular platform where a lot of dancing would be done, as well as a huge chair designed as the monster claw her fans make. Gaga would sit in this later in the show and it would raise up about 20 feet in the air. There were a lot of hidden surprises in her staging, such as trees and flowers growing from out of the stage and catwalk.

My seats were not that great (sweet radio station winnings), so sometimes I felt like I was watching people watch a concert. But only a few times. For the most part, it didn’t matter how high up, or how close any of us were, we were all part of the show, involved in the experience.

The show started with Gaga’s 14 talented dancers spreading out over the catwalk. And Lady Gaga raised up from the stage floor. Before she appeared, it seemed as if the upper bowl would be sitting for most of this show. But when they saw her, not only did they stand up, they went nuts! I cannot express how into this show her audience was. Hands in the air, dancing the whole time, and singing a lot at the top of their voices. They were singing every word from songs that were not singles from her albums.These fans absolutely love her. She strutted the stage and catwalk in perfect time. Every step was choreographed, yet, it seemed totally natural. She told us that tonight was “A celebration of love, freedom, and being yourself.” I couldn’t tell if she had back up singers, or if her harmonies were just back tracks, but whatever there was, it sounded good. And her vocals were amazing. She would scream out at the audience, and then sing these beautiful notes. I don’t know how she does it. She’s dancing the whole time, yet can still sing live. I was winded just walking to my seat. Granted, it was four rows from the top, but when I saw what she was doing, I was embarrassed. I’m sure there were times she was singing along with tracks, but I can’t blame her. She was moving around the entire show. While she was singing an acapella version of “Edge of Glory” she stopped in the middle and said, “Man, the altitude in this place just kills me! I mean, how you do guys breath here? With the smoking and the drinking, and this altitude? You’re superstars, that’s why.” It was pretty funny. The amazing thing is right after she says all that, she hits the highest note of the song. I was impressed.

Say what you will about Lady Gaga, but she can captivate an audience. She gives you everything she has. This show didn’t sell well. I imagine in other towns this show was an instant sell out, but here there were a few areas where they curtained off unsold seats. I was worried that would bring down the show, or maybe Gaga and her crew would just show up, do some songs with lower energy, and get out. But this was not the case. She left it all out there. Literally. All of it. There was one point towards the end of the show where she was dancing like crazy, stops, vomits, then goes right back to dancing even harder! (I’m not going to post it, but it’s online. Feel free to take a look.) It was unbelieveable. When she came back for her encore she apologized for getting sick. And she said she wasn’t trying to do any “performance art” tonight. I imagine she was referring to a controversial show she did at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas where she had “Vomit Artist” (Meaning, she drinks paint, then pukes it up on a canvas to make art.) Millie Brown, vomit on her. So this wasn’t that. She had just pushed herself too far. I’m sure the altitude, and the nonstop dancing and singing got to her. The crazy part is she comes out for her encore and kills it on her final song “Gypsy”. If I vomited during a performance I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be an encore. But Gaga is dedicated to her fans, and they are absolutely devoted to her.

This show is not for everybody. That is for sure. But I’ll tell you what, if anyone wanted to come to this show, all would be welcomed. I don’t think I have ever been to a show where there was such an open minded, accepting and free spirited atmosphere. I saw people who in another setting would be reserved, let loose, and just let it go. Gaga set the precedence early on that this was a safe place, and that people could just have a good time and not worry about being judged. And the fans went along with that. It was great. They had complete command of this crowd. There was a time where she asked people to put away their phones, and just be in the moment. And would you believe it? The phones went away for a while. I didn’t think that was possible in this day and age. I think Lady Gaga feels safe in this environment as well. She knows the people there are with her, and her perceived “weirdness”. Here she is not weird. She is the leader, and inspirer of those that feel rejected, and misunderstood.

In an arena show, if you’re not close, it’s easy to feel distant from the action and not part of the show, but other than Bono from U2, I’ve never seen an artist engage with the audience in such a way that makes an arena feel like a small club. And if anyone with reading this knows me, they’ll know that that is high praise from me. But she in fact did that. She has that kind of power. I have to say, it was inspiring.

I had a great time at this show. I don’t know if I have anything critical to say about it. If I was going to say anything, I would say she left a few hits off of the setlist. And she only did a slow version of “Born this way” and an acapella version of “Edge of Glory”. But the show was so fast paced and electric, and fun that it wasn’t until I was walking out that it even came to mind. The staging was amazing, the lighting was perfect, the sound was well done, and the costumes were creative, interesting, and multiple. But even without any of that, I think Lady Gaga is an artist with endless depths of talent. She knows what she’s doing, and why she’s doing it, and for so many, it’s working. And who knows, maybe there is a “Little Monster” in me after all.

Setlist
ARTPOP
G.U.Y.
Donatella
Venus intro
Venus
MANiCURE
Just Dance
Poker Face
Telephone
Partynauseous
Paparazzi
Do What U Want
Born This Way (Piano Version)
Dope (Piano Version)
Jewels N’ Drugs
Judas
Aura
Sexxx Dreams
Alejandro
Ratchet
Bad Romance
Applause
Swine

Encore:
Gypsy

Sara Bareilles August 3, 2014 The Great Saltair Magna, Utah

IMG_2956

I was introduced to Sara Bareilles only a few years ago, when my sister and her husband went to see Sara at the Palladium in Los Angeles, CA. My sister being a huge fan, strongly encouraged (forced) her husband to go. But he like I imagine so many other men, came away very impressed. Sara has a huge female following and because of that, many men seem to feel like she is not for them. I think because she is such and honest songwriter, men may feel that because they are coming from a female’s perspective, they are not relatable songs. I’ll admit, I was of that belief as well. But when I spoke with my brother in law after that L.A. show, he came away very impressed. He came away a fan, and coming from a someone who is into Social Distortion, that says a lot to me. I thought, maybe I should give Ms. Bareilles a second chance. So I went to youtube and searched around, and came across Sara in concert singing a cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow”. Which is a song I very much like. If you haven’t heard this version, do yourself a favor and give it a listen. I know this sounds dramatic, but it honestly gave me chills to the point of almost getting emotional. Weird right? Well, maybe not. Sara Bareilles version of Yellow is simple, yet beautiful. So, after hearing that voice, I was hooked.

Now, fast forward to last night. Initially I was very surprised that this concert was not sold out. I easily walked up to the box office and bought a ticket just as the final opener was finishing her last song. Then I remembered that the concert was on a Sunday. With the large Latter Day Saint population in Utah, who generally speaking do not go out on Sunday, it was no surprise that the show was not sold out. I have no doubt that if this concert was held on Monday night, it would have been sold out months ago. With that being said, it’s not like there were 50 people there. I asked the box office what the attendance was, and they told me there were around 2,000 in attendance. The Saltair holds 3,500 so the place was plenty full.

The Great Saltair is an awesome place to see a concert. The whole place is general admission with a 21+balcony that wraps around the entire venue. Also, it’s so fun to see an artist in a more intimate venue. I love a good arena or stadium show, but give me a small venue anyday. Now, I’m not an expert on acoustics, but I have always loved the sound inside The Saltair. And tonight was no exception. Sara’s beautiful voice soared fantastically through those old wooden beams. Her band was mixed perfectly, and they were exceptional in every way.

Sara came out and the crowd was deafening. She opened with “Little Black Dress”, a song from her latest album and the name of this tour. She kept the energy rolling with songs like “I Wanna Be Like Me” and “Love Song”. She was also so great with audience interaction. She complimented the audience about their energy, saying she didn’t need to do anything, we were all ready to go. She made a joke that maybe it was the smell that was firing up the crowd. For those who have never been to The Great Saltair, it is right on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. And the sweet sulfury smell of the lake is as much a part of the show as the bass player. I like to use this amazing odor to gauge how the show is going. If it’s not a very good concert, that smell gets worse. And if the show is great, the smell becomes almost unnoticeable. Well about a third into the show, you could have sprayed perfume on me, or lake water, and I wouldn’t have even noticed. Sara was just that good.

She treated a good part of the show as if it was a VH-1 “Storytellers” episode. Telling us of her recent move from Los Angeles to New York, the heartache of ending a long term relationship, and how these songs were written in regards to those events, and at what time. I don’t think I have ever seen someone work an audience quite like Sara Bareilles. Her banter is as quick as a stand up comic being heckled. She really is hilarious. I was laughing really hard at times. She also has a way of putting you right there in that moment with her when she wrote that song. It takes a lot to visualize a song; To picture everything happening as if you were there. But she makes it so easy. There was a great part of the show where Sara performed alone with either her piano, or a guitar. I felt like I was in a living room with a few friends watching her perform for just us. It wasn’t until the song ended and the crowd was much louder than just a few friends, that I was brought back to where we were.

Sara debuted a new song that she has written for a Broadway Musical named “She Used to be Mine”. She is doing the music for a stage adaptation of the film “Waitress” starring Kerri Russel of “Felicity” fame. If the rest of the songs in this musical are anywhere near as good as this song, this musical will be a hit. Once again, we were taken from the concert stage, to the Broadway stage in our minds, and could visualize the staging of this show, just from how good this song was. I can’t wait to hear the rest.

Now as much as I love Sara’s cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow”, I was even more impressed with her cover of Sia’s “Chandelier”. I mean, wow! Her range is incredible. The girl performed just the night before in Denver. How is she hitting these notes on back to back nights? I was seriously blown away. The audience was excited to hear the cover, and then when she killed it, they were anxious to give Sara her due applause. People next to me were commenting on how amazed they were. One nice girl next to me said, “I never thought I could love a version more than the original. But I love this so much, I think I’ve changed my mind!”.

Sara concluded her main set with a string of her biggest hits. A song that is sure to be heard at wedding for years to come “I Choose You”. I try to never video songs while I’m at shows because I like to be in the moment. I might film a minute here and there, but I’d rather be in the present then watch it later on youtube. But for my faithful readers, I decided I would record this whole song, so that anyone who hasn’t seen Sara Bareilles live, would get an idea just how amazing she is. She followed this with a crowd favorite “King Of Anything”. I really like this song, but for a minute there, I felt like I was at a man haters convention. These drunk girls were singing the lyrics in my face as if I was their horrible ex boyfriend. It was pretty funny actually. But when things settled down, everyone was united in a great sing along. Sara finished this run with her now biggest hit, “Brave”. The audience was taken to a new high, and the volume of their singing almost eclipsed Sara’s voice at times. She finally just gave the crowd their moment to sing the chorus, and sing they did. PS-It’s really hard to sing at a concert where there are mostly women. I tried singing along, and I felt like my voice could be heard for at least 4 rows. So I let the ladies have their time and kept my singing to myself.

Sara came back with the three women in her band and did a four part harmony a capella version of “Bright Lights and Cityscapes”. To be able to quiet down a crowd of 2,000 people to sing a song a capella is not small task. But we shouldn’t be surprised to know that she did it. Sara did it. It was silent in there. The harmony’s were perfect, the song was beautiful, and it was a perfect moment for the once frenzied audience. She closed the show with “Satellite Call”, and then that was it. She was off. Ready to hit the road to entertain and inspire another anxiously awaiting audience.

I had seen Sara in concert once before this. But she was opening for another band. She sounded great, the crowd enjoyed her, but there is something to be said for when the show is your own. The setlist was as long as she wanted it to be. The lights were her lights. The staging was hers. It was her show, and she completely owned it. I love seeing artists in the prime of their career. The fans are still excited about “new stuff”. The music is fresh, and packs an impactful punch rather than reflections of nostalgia. This was Sara Bareilles live in the most perfect way.

Fan or not, man or woman, I cannot recommend seeing Sara in concert more. You won’t go home disappointed. It’s impossible. You’ll be impressed by her voice, you’ll convert to a fan of her seemingly “for women only” songs, and you’ll be guaranteed a hard laugh. What more do you need in a night?

Setlist
Little Black Dress
I Wanna Be Like Me
Love On The Rocks
Love Song
Hercules
Come Round Soon
Manhattan
She Used to Be Mine
Chandelier (Sia cover)
Gravity
Chasing The Sun
Uncharted
Eden
I Choose You
King Of Anything
Brave

Encore:
Bright Lights and Cityscapes
Satellite Call

Train Downtown Salt Lake City July 26, 2014

IMG_2908

There is such an interesting dynamic to a free concert. For starters, not everyone is necessarily a fan of the band performing. Many times they are just there because they didn’t have to pay for it. Free concerts are generally not held in typical concert venues, which lead people to be confused at what type of concert this will be. Do they bring their own seating or blankets? Is this a stand up show? Is this even my kind of music? This past weekend I was able to observe all of this at the free Train concert in downtown Salt Lake City. The concert was performed in the shadow of Energy Solutions Arena on a closed off 300 W block. The crowd was diverse. Well, this is Utah, by diverse I should clarify by saying there were people of all ages at the show. Some were confused, and brought their lawn chairs and blankets as close as 30 feet from the stage. Maybe Mix 107.9, the radio station that hosted the event, should have announced this wasn’t a concert in the park, it was a show in the middle of the street where people would be standing the whole time. Anyway, these people were bummed once this concert started. I imagine they either couldn’t see, had their blankets trampled, changed locations, or closed camp and stood like the rest of the throng.

I always feel the need to divulge my level of interest in the particular bands I review. To be perfectly honest, I’m not a Train fan. Although I do respect them for their longevity, and their success in the music business. I found it surprising that a band that could probably fill the building next door on their own tour, was willing to play a free show to close the “Days of ‘47” celebration and Pioneer Day weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they were paid handsomely and I overheard some mega fans state that some band members have property in Park City. If this is true, it was an easy payday, and easy commute for the band during what appears to be their touring off season.

It was fun to see die hard fans in pure bliss that they were seeing their favorite band for free! But there seemed to be a fun atmosphere in the air, that we were all there for a good time, with a band, fan or not, whose songs we know whether we want to or not.

The show was opened by mid nineties “one hit wonders” The Wallflowers. For me, this was a great choice for an opener. They are a band I’ve thought might be fun to see, but I don’t know that I would make it a point to go to their show. The thing with most “one hit wonders”, they actually have more hits than the one. The Wallflowers opened with “Three Marlenas” which was actually a hit for them. They also played “6th Avenue Heartache” and, “The Difference”, both hits for them. But let’s be honest, if we’re going to see The Wallflowers, we want to hear their big hit “One Headlight”. And of course, they did not disappoint. Sometimes I feel for these bands, because they probably have other good songs that they would love to play. But at the same time, I know tons of artists who would give anything to have just one hit. So, I don’t have too much sympathy for them. They’re still doing shows almost 20 years after that song came out.

There was a quick turn around with a DJ from Mix 107.9 coming out and preparing the crowd for Train. He noted that there were more than 20,000 in attendance. When I looked behind me, I couldn’t see the end of the crowd. It looked like people went on for forever. Train came out strong opening with one of their hits “Calling All Angels”. This was a song where fans and people like me, just there for the experience, could get into. The crowd was immediately into this show. To me their only misstep was trying to cover Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”. I’m sorry, but that is just too far of a reach for me. And I don’t think the crowd loved it either. But we moved past that musical blasphemy, and got back on track. They returned to their hit list with what I believe was their first big hit “Meet Virginia”. The thing that has always impressed me with Train, is the fact that when you think they’re done producing radio friendly hits, they’re not. When I heard “Meet Virginia” back in 1999, I thought this was a group that would be popular until about 2002, and then they’d ride those hits the rest of their career. But here we are in 2014, and they’re still releasing songs that will most certainly chart. Which was proved when they sang a yet to be released “Bulletproof Picaso”. The way the crowd reacted to this new song, I’m certain I’ll be hearing it for years to come at my local grocery store.
Above anything else, Train are the consummate professionals. They know just how to entertain a crowd like this. They knew not everyone there were Train fans. Lead singer Pat Monahan did a great job interacting with the crowd. After the first song he jumped to the security aisle and told everyone along the aisle to pull out their phones and he’d let them take selfies with him. PS-Selfie is such an awful word! I imagine he does that at a lot of his shows, but it was clear to me that the crowd, even those no where near the security aisle, were excited at the thought. He also brought up about 20 or so girls/women during the song “Mermaid” to be his backup singers. He brought up a young girl to sing “Bruises” with him. Again, all of these things may be done at all of their shows. I wouldn’t know. But like I’ve always said, when playing a show in the middle of the street, best to interact with and involve the audience.
The main set concluded with monster hits “Hey Soul Sister” and “Drive By”. Young and old alike at this show were singing along, and waving their arms in unison at Pat’s command. Train came back and sang “Marry Me”, which I’m sure reminded many of their first dance at their wedding, or opened the door for some sweet public making out that never makes anyone in close proximity uncomfortable. They couldn’t do a show without performing their enormous hit “Drops of Jupiter”. The sing a-long was defining. It was irresistible not to join in. They closed the show with an interesting choice. They ditched their songs to perform “Dream On” by Aerosmith. After just experiencing what I believe was a failed attempt at Led Zeppelin, I was nervous as to how this would go. But to the general public, this song is probably more well known these days. And because this was done during the encore, Train could have probably performed “Hangin’ Tough” by New Kids on the Block, and the crowd would have been in just as much of a frenzie. Come to think of it, I really wish I would have heard that! Anyway, Train did their thing with the song. The crowd was way into it, the band sounded great, and Pat Monahan actually killed it. He it all the notes you have to hit to make that song rad. I was actually impressed.
As someone who isn’t a card carrying member of the Train fan club, I walked away more than satisfied with the show. As I mentioned, they are true professionals. They came to entertain a crowd, and entertain they did. Their fans were happy, people just looking for good times, found it, and even when I asked a friend who doesn’t like Train at all what his thoughts were, he said “It was well put together.” I admire a band, who can come out, and perform successfully to a crowd that isn’t theirs. So for that I say choo choo Train. Choo effin Choo.

Setlist

Calling All Angels
Save Me, San Francisco
If its Love
Get To Me
Ramble On (Led Zeppelin cover)
Meet Virginia
50 Ways to Say Goodbye
Mermaid (Beauty in the Water)
Bruises
Free
Bulletproof Picasso
Angel in Blue Jeans
Hey Soul Sister
Drive By

Encore

Marry Me
Drops of Jupiter
Dream On (Aerosmith cover)

Journey & Steve Miller Band July 17th, 2014 USANA Amphitheater

It was time once again to head to the USANA Amphitheater to spend another beautiful July night in double headlining, legendary rock band euphoria. USANA was packed as much as I’ve ever seen it. So packed, I didn’t see a patch of green in the lawn seating. Tonight’s leaders of fist pumps and rock fingers were first The Steve Miller Band, and bringing it home was one of the all time greatest hit machines, Journey.

Tower of Power opened the show, but I missed them. But all accounts were that they sounded as good as ever.

To be honest, I was surprised that this was a double headliner. Yes, Steve Miller Band has tons of great songs, and a fan base that has lasted and rivals many if not most of it’s contemporaries. But when I think of Journey, I think of hit after hit, and sing a long after sing a long. Not to mention the fact that “Don’t Stop Believin’” is the most downloaded song of all time. That, as well as appearing in the finale of “The Soprano’s”, gave Journey a new life in the new century. But finding their current lead singer, Arnel Pineda, on YouTube, and the story that goes along with that, has kept Journey far above any other band in their era. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKv93LcfLOI IMG_2904But tonight, we were back in a time where Journey, and The Steve Miller Band were playing the Fillmore in San Francisco and both were each other’s equal.

Initially The SMB was treated as if it was the opening act. The sun was still out, people were sitting down for the most part. Steve didn’t seem to mind. I really enjoy The SMB. They are one of those bands that have way more hits than you realize. They opened the show with about 4 huge hits. The crowd seemed pleased to hear these classics. I was concerned thinking, ‘He’s playing all his hits early, he’s going to run out of songs!’. But as I mentioned, he has way more classic stadium anthems than I realized. After the obligatory slow jam portion of the show. When that was finished, Steve and his band kicked it into high gear and finished the show with even more huge classic hit songs. I would say out of the 18 song set, I knew at least 12. I’m a greatest hits fan of The SMB. I’ll admit it. So to know more songs than I thought I would, was a pleasant surprise. The crowd finally rose to their feet when Steve Miller put on his spaceman mask and sang “Space Cowboy”. It was the highlight of the set for me. And because they were co-headlining they came out and did an encore. As the sun was going down, the energy was up for The SMB. They ended the show strong, and the crowd was ready for Journey.

About 20 minutes later, Journey took to the stage. They hit the crowd with about 5 huge hit songs. It was almost as if the crowd didn’t know what to make of hearing these songs so soon. Songs like “Anyway you want it”, or “Separate Ways”, or “Only the Young” were blasting through our ears and into our brains before we knew what to make of it. They were in top form.

One of Journey’s shows earlier in the week had to be canceled due to inclimate weather. This gave Arnel an extra night of vocal rest. Honestly, I don’t know how that dude sings those songs 3-4 times a week. He was in his usual top form, running all over the stage looking like he was twenty years younger than the rest of the band. He’s only about 10 years younger.

Spirits were high, and voices were united in these familiar songs for a solid forty minutes. Then the middle of the show arrived. Now don’t get me wrong, I get bands wanting to do newer songs. Especially when they’ve been playing the same stuff for 30 plus years. But something felt weird about this middle segment of the show. They would play a new song, or a deep cut, and then attempt to keep the crowd interested with a piano medley of songs that were otherwise unplayed. Instead of being interesting, it mostly bummed me out that I wouldn’t be hearing some of these great songs of theirs. They got the crowd’s attention by getting back into their classic catalog and mixing in “Lights” and “Open Arms”. The crowd joined in these sing alongs as it’s some of their biggest songs, but the audience had been figuratively sitting on their hands for the better part of a half hour when we finally reached this point. The band then jumped back into some newer jams, and the crowd for the most part was not along for the ride.

Brandon Flowers, the lead singer from one of my favorite bands The Killers, when asked why he was doing a solo album when the rest of the band was taking a break, said something to effect of, most bands have a ten year window, give or take, where fans are interested in hearing new music from them. After that, they only want to hear “the hits”. So he wanted to release as much music in that time as he could before he was relegated to a “hits only” act. Even if sometimes the newer stuff is great or even better than what made the band big, the general fans don’t want that. After reading that interview, I have always paid attention to this philosophy. And you know what, he’s right. And so it goes with Journey. When they had their decade or so, they released hit song after hit song. A streak matched by very few. So when it came to performing songs not within that framed decade, the crowd was generally uninterested, and seemed eager for a return to the songs they hoped to hear. They actually had some pretty decent new songs. Well, at least songs that sounded like Journey songs. But no one wanted to hear them. And as a fan, I’m right there with the other 20,000. I want to hear the songs I grew up on. The songs that made a comeback when I was in high school, and Journey released their Greatest Hits album, which reminded us that they existed, and that they once dominated the charts. But at the same time, I can see how this could be frustrating for the band to be held to past success without given a chance to show what else they can do.

Finally the crowd was resurrected when Journey played “Wheel in the Sky”. From there they played a few more big songs and then, as if nothing ever happened prior to this moment, they played “Don’t Stop Believin’”. No matter how many hits they have, and no matter how many new songs they tried to squeeze in, when that piano intro hits the ears, it’s like the world stops and all focus is on this one moment. It’s amazing how a four minute song can feel like an eternity of awesomeness. That was the moment, and the reason to be there. They must have played that song thousands of times over their career. But there is just no way it can get old. To see a crowd in that state of frenzy is a feeling I can only imagine, but one that they see every night. It must be so amazing.

The band left and then of course came back for the encore. They finished the show with one of my favorites “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’”. The crowd was still at it’s peak. It was strange. It was almost as if the show was just getting going, and yet, unfortunately this was to be their last song. I’m not sure if it was the order of their setlist, or too many new jams, but with that middle portion of the show bringing things to what felt like a stand still, the night left a little to be desired.

That being said, it was a fun night of overall great music. The people watching wasn’t a let down by any means either. It really is one of my favorite aspects of attending concerts. It’s hard sometimes to not wonder how much more amazing this night would be, if we could see Steve Perry back in his rightful place as the lead singer of Journey. But I feel like we are dealt this hand as Journey fans, and if we have to see a replacement singer, I’m glad it’s Arnel Pineda. He keeps the show alive, and exciting. Without him, there would be a lot of 50 year olds just standing there. They do sound fantastic, but Arnel makes a Journey show still worth going to.

Steve Miller Band Setlist

Jungle Love
Take the Money and Run
Abracadabra
Sugar Babe
Space Cowboy
Serenade
The Stake
Ooh Poo Pah Doo
(Jessie Hill cover)
Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma
Dance Dance Dance
Acoustic set
Wild Mountain Honey
True Fine Love

The Joker
Swingtown
Rock’n Me
Jet Airliner
Encore:
Space Intro
Fly Like an Eagle

Journey SetList

Be Good to Yourself
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
Any Way You Want It
Only the Young
The Star-Spangled Banner (John Stafford Smith cover)
Stone in Love
Mother, Father (Deen Castronovo on Vocals)
She’s a Mystery
Lights
Piano Solo (When You Love A Woman / Who’s Crying Now / Patiently / Why Can’t This Night Go on Forever / Send Her)
Open Arms
Escape
Ritual
Guitar Solo (Neal Schon)
Wheel in the Sky
Faithfully
Don’t Stop Believin’

Encore
Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”