UCR Interview: Interview 2 with Midge Ure of Ultravox

Interviewed By: Kevin Rolfe

Midge Ure of Ultravox and Visage fame returns to Salt Lake City Wednesday, September 5 at The Commonwealth Room with another great vocalist from the 80’s Paul Young.  I had the opportunity to speak with Midge this last week for the second time.  As you’ll see from the interview below, he was a pleasure to speak with.  

Utah Concert Review: Hi Midge, I’m looking at your tour schedule. It looks like you’re next stop on the tour is the Bay Area.  

Midge Ure:  Yeah we’re heading towards there. We have two nights off from Portland.  So we’re in a little town called Eureka, in California. Which we figured out was named because of the gold rush 150 years ago.  So we’re moving on from here on the way towards San Francisco. So we’re stopping off again tonight, which gives me a chance to let my very sad voice recover a bit before we do the show in San Francisco.  

UCR:  That’s a beautiful part of the country that most people don’t get to go through.  So I’m glad you’ve been able to experience that.

MU:  Oh, stunning!  I don’t know why I’ve never done that drive before.  We deviated off the I-5 which I think we’ve taken for most of our journey and went to the northern part of the 101, which of course meets with the Pacific Coast Highway.  It was just outstanding. So we drove through the Redwood Forest and the national state park. It was glorious. Sometimes touring has its benefits!

UCR: Definitely!  I think those Redwoods are something you have to see in person to really understand just how massive they are.  

MU:  Paul Young and I had a photo taken of us at the base of one of them with our arms outstretched, and we didn’t quite make it the width of the tree.  We posted it and someone said we looked like hobbits. I think that’s pretty close!

(We share a laugh)  I looked up the picture on Twitter, and he’s right, they look hobbit-esque next to this enormous redwood!

UCR: So how are things going with Paul?  I was excited to see that you guys paired up for a tour.  How did that come about, and how is it all going so far?

MU:  Well, we’ve known each other for a long time.  And we’ve worked together live a couple of times with the Nelson Mandela concert, and Live Aid, but we’ve never actually toured together.  So Paul up until last year hadn’t toured America for twenty five years. A bit like myself, prior to me coming back and touring here again.  We had just kind of lost all contact. Paul did the Retro Futura tour last year, a multi-act bill, and absolutely loved it. And when he was talking to me about it I said, ‘Well why don’t we team up and tour like how I do America?”.  I pick up some American musicians, I have had some great connections here. We go out and do this kind of like it was in the old days. There’s no crew, there’s no sound guys, there’s no lighting rigs. None of that stuff like we have everywhere else.  You go out and you do it on a grassroots level. And it’s been an absolute ball I have to say. Because Paul and I got on really well, and Paul’s guitar player who he’s brought over from the UK, I know him as well. And I’m working with the three American musicians we have.  It’s just been absolutely brilliant. It’s been fantastic.

UCR:  Utah Concert Review spoke with you about 18 months ago, and I recall you mentioning then that you were touring with a couple of American musicians.  Are these the same guys? Or do you have a totally new lineup?

MU:  One of them is the same musician.  The guy who was playing bass and keys for me, he’s doing bass duties.  It’s funny, he played perfectly good bass for me when I toured here 18 months ago.  But when I hear him play Paul’s stuff, which is all really tricky bass parts, I mean really tricky, I mean it’s Pino Palladino sliding fretless bass things, and he’s got it absolutely nailed!  He’s fantastic. So he’s really gone up in my estimation. I mean, he’s far too good for me. So he knew a couple of friends who also went to Berklee School of Music and they’re all just phenomenal.  If I can tell you, the drummer plays better guitar than I do. It’s frightening. They’re sickeningly talented!

UCR:  So in general terms.  I don’t want to give away any surprises, but what can your Utah fans expect from this tour?  Do you and Paul Young play separate sets? Or do you intertwine your songs?  And do we get to see you play together?

MU:  It’s two separate sets.  Depending on which way the coin falls, either Paul goes on first or I go on first.  And then we realize, of course, even when we arrived here to start rehearsing with the band, it wasn’t until we were in the middle of rehearsals that the idea came up, ‘Hold on a second.  We’re both doing independent sets. Surely people will be expecting us to come on together to do something. So, we do. At the end of the evening, we come on and we do a track. Neither of our particular songs, but a track that’s connected with us.  It’s great fun. It’s a great way to leave the evening.

UCR:  I’m very much looking forward to that.  So in thinking about this co-headlining tour, I wondered, had you ever done a co-headlining tour when you were with Ultravox that would you enjoyed, or was at least memorable?  

MU: Ultravox was such a complicated band.  We never coheadlined with anyone. We never did any festivals as such.  In the early days, the equipment was so archaic. It was so incredibly basic.  It would take us up to five hours to do a sound check. So we couldn’t open up for someone.  We couldn’t do festivals where it’s a very quick turnaround. We refused to use backing tapes like many of the bands did back them because it was so much easier to have sequences on bass or synthesizers all recorded.  But we refused to do it. So this is a whole new thing for me, doing a double package, or a multi-act bill. I mean, the last time Ultravox played about five years ago we did some shows with Simple Minds. And that was a great compatible bill.  It was a Simple Minds show, and we were the special guests. That just proved to be a huge, hot ticket.

UCR:  I love that you mentioned the word “Compatible”.  I feel like there are so many package shows, or many of these shows billed as “80’s” tours where the bands are not at all compatible.   

MU: I think sometimes when you get packages put together by promoters, they have a very different idea of what will appeal to people.  So they find acts that come from the era but not necessarily from the same genre. And it just falls on the ground. Nobody wants to see this mishmash of artists just because they happened to be around in the same decade. You end up staring at the sky for an hour until a band you do like comes on.  It doesn’t work. No one ever said, “I like an entire decade of music”. Things change radically over a ten year period. But when you do something like Ultravox and Simple Minds, or myself and Paul there’s a reason for it. It works. It’s compatible music.

UCR:  So as you mentioned, this is a kind of bare-bones tour.  No crew, no manager, etc. Are you also responsible for what venue you’re playing in a particular city?  If so, how do you decide?

MU:  It’s the one thing we don’t do. I can do many things, but I can’t book the venues.  I wouldn’t know how to go about it.

UCR:  It seems like it would be impossible for you to personally know the best venue to play in each city.  

MU:  Absolutely.  You have to be advised on that.  And sometimes the agent gets it absolutely right and targets it just to the right size venue. And sometimes they get it completely wrong where you find yourself playing the equivalent of an airplane hangar.  You know some huge vacuous place that you’re never going to fill. But you have to trust them, that they know their job. They don’t come and tell me how to play my songs, and I don’t tell them where to book the venues.  But I can say, ‘I want to play in this city, or that city’ and they will make that happen.

UCR:  I have to say that you will enjoy the venue here in Salt Lake City.  It’s called The Commonwealth Room. It’s practically brand new. Maybe six months old.  In fact, your show was one of the first announced when they opened their doors. The sound is fantastic, and I think the size will be perfect for your show.  Everyone there is great. I really think you’re gonna like it.

MU:  Oh great!  I’m looking forward to it.  

UCR:  I wanted to talk to you about your album Orchestrated.  I have to tell you that I love the album. I think the orchestrations and arrangements in your songs are excellent.  I’ve seen other artists who have attempted to orchestrate their music and the idea is great, but if it’s not done right it just doesn’t work.  Your album works. Was it your idea? Or were you approached with the idea?

MU:  Thank you!  I think it’s one of those things when you do perform stuff that I’ve written or stuff that I’ve done with Ultravox with an orchestra it really suits it.  The melodies and the grandiose elements, the cinematic elements that were always in Ultravox and my music are just enhanced when you do it with an orchestra.  And it can be a very powerful thing when it’s done properly. I was extremely lucky that when this idea came to fruition, which mainly came from other people who had seen clips of me performing with the orchestra scene saying “For God’s sake, you’ve got to do something with this.”.  And it was one of those ideas in the back of my mind that I’ve toyed with for years but never really thought anything of it. I never really wanted to pursue it. And then when I started taking it seriously and looking at who my sidekick would be because I do not read or write notation.  I don’t write music. So I could not orchestrate if you put a gun to my head. I wouldn’t know where to start. So I started looking for someone who would be sympathetic to the music. And I went through a few who were probably very good orchestrators but just did everything that I didn’t want.  They just threw some strings on and did the same kind of arrangement, and had brass playing instead of synthesizers, and there just wasn’t any soul in it. So by chance, I met a guy called Ty Unwin who writes film music for television series and things, who happens to be a massive Ultravox fan. Who knew everything I had ever done.  He was as passionate about the project as I was. I met him at Howard Jones’ house a few Christmases ago at a party. And I just got a feeling. I didn’t know he was an Ultravox fan at the time. I just knew he did film music. So I got in touch with him a couple months later and said ‘If we were to try to do something together, how do you think it would work?’. And he said “Look, I’ll choose one of your songs, and I’ll do an arrangement for you.  if you don’t like it great, and we’ll walk our separate ways.” He chose I think it was “The Voice” he did initially. And when I heard what he had done with it I just knew he had got it absolutely right. He put this heart and soul and passion into it. So we spent the next year, to eighteen months doing the arrangements and choosing the songs. Because all of them could make the transition to that type of arrangement. So between us, we chose all the songs.  He was suggesting things I had forgotten. He knew more of my stuff than I did! It was just a marriage made in heaven really. I was so happy with the final outcome because my big worry, which you will no doubt agree, was that I was going to ruin the memory of the original recordings for people. I wanted to enhance the music. I didn’t want to detract from it. I didn’t want people going “Oh, God that’s dreadful. I much prefer the original version.” I wanted to take the songs and take them slightly somewhere else.  Make them bigger, or more intimate, or sadder, or happier or whatever it was. Just do something different. And that’s what took the time.

UCR:  I think because you had that concern, you were able to enhance those songs in the right way.  I suppose the positive of having a great new album like this is how great the response has been.  But also perhaps the burden is there is an immediate clamor for a follow-up.  So I have to ask, is there talk of an Orchestrated 2?

MU:  I’ve got no idea to tell you the truth.  It’s still all very new to me. It’s an odd thing having an album of orchestrated music because you don’t really have an awful lot of outlets to play it.  Radio won’t play it because the arrangements are too long. You don’t just go in with a razor blade and start chopping up the arrangement trying to get them on the radio.  It just doesn’t work. It’s a piece of music from start to finish. So you’re kind of limited in how you promote it to let people know it’s out there. So I’m still in the process of thinking this is still just a fresh idea.  So we haven’t started working on anything else yet. As I’ve said, there’s a wealth of material. Besides with all the great response we got, there’s a lot of people saying “Why didn’t you do “Visions in Blue”? Why didn’t you do “One Small Day”?”  And they just kept throwing songs at me. I was like ‘You’re right’ but couldn’t keep doing it. You have to get something done and put it out and a bit of a breather before you do part 2. So it’s a possibility. But so is going in and doing a completely electronic album.  I’ve got no idea where I’m going. I never have had. I go in and I follow whatever feels right to me at that moment in time. So I cannot commit to doing a part 2 straight away but it was received so well that it would be a bit of a sin to not follow it up and do something else.  

UCR:  Final question.  Something that I’ve been very interested in with artists that have been around for a while.  And you’ve been a recording artist for 40 plus years now. So you’ve seen peaks and valleys in your career, but now things are stable.  You can book a tour and people will always show up. So what do you prefer, the peak, or the climb? Did you like the challenge of trying to become a successful artist, or do you prefer now, to where you’ve had the mainstream success, but now you have the stability of what your career produced?  

MU:  You’ve got to, on a purely human level, you’ve got to look back on the moment where things started to happen for you.  Everything changes. Except you. Hopefully. Everything around you changes. People attitudes towards you change. All of a sudden there’s a little bit of respect.  All of a sudden whenever you open your mouth, people want to hear what you have to say. And that can be a heady mix for any young person. I was in a sticky, smelly, carpeted rehearsal room when all of a sudden my manager walks in with a bottle of champagne saying you’ve got two top 40 singles and two top 40 albums all on the same day.  And that’s a wonderful feeling to think ‘Wow, I’ve I’ve done something kind of worthy’. But it’s a bit like a party. It’s over and done with very very quickly. And you’ve got to think ‘Ok, that was great. That peak was just wonderful. And that’s elevated me to allow me to do other things that could be more interesting. That could have longevity.’  Because as you say there are dips and peaks, but that success would give me a road that I can follow with that behind me. That little bit of success behind me has given me this ability to go forward and explore and do the things that I want to do. My first taste of commercial success was with a record that I didn’t write and I wasn’t allowed to play on.  And I vowed there and then that I would never, ever, ever allow myself to be put in that situation again. And I’ve never done it. I’ve followed my own weird, strange, wonderful, exciting path. And the fact, as you say, I have 40 plus years as a professional musician in this industry, I am just grateful that I wake up and I’m still allowed to do it. And that you only get by being stoic or being fastidious, or being stupid.  By sticking to your guns and doing what you think is interesting. As opposed to like, DJs coming in and remixing your music because that happens to be the current fad.

UCR:  Thank you so much Midge.  I could talk to you all day.  But I want you to rest that voice.  Can’t wait for September 5!

MU:  Thank you very much!  It was great talking to you again.  See you then!

Midge was so generous with his time!  We spoke about many other things, including the possibility of doing a concert with a live orchestra.  He hinted that something is in the works, but was not at liberty to say what just yet.  So keep your eyes peeled for that.  

Midge’s latest album Orchestrated is available everywhere! 

Mide Ure will be performing with Paul Young at The Commonwealth Room on Wednesday, September 5th.  To purchase tickets click here.  See you there!  

 

Dierks Bentley w/ Brothers Osborne August 29, 2018 USANA Amphitheater

Photo By: Matt Wolf

Dierks Bentley brought his Mountain High Tour to USANA Amphitheater this past Wednesday with The Brothers Osborne and LANCO.  There was some shuffling of dates to make this show happen. I believe the concert was originally supposed to take place in July, then it was rescheduled for August 30, and finally, August 29 was the date they settled in on.  Dierks mentioned later in the show that he changed the date because the University of Utah was playing their football opener against Weber State on August 30th and didn’t want to conflict with that. I’m not sure if that was the real reason, or in jest, but the crowd sure loved it regardless.  

Continue reading “Dierks Bentley w/ Brothers Osborne August 29, 2018 USANA Amphitheater”

Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, The Cult, Bones August 20, 2018 USANA Amphitheater


By: Tiffany Mull

I’m always fascinated by the crowd drawn to particular artists. There are definite patterns and traits, a continuity that falls in line with the artist’s style. Looking around the Stone Temple Pilots/Bush/The Cult/Bones audience, I see an abnormal amount of men in billed hats (the metal/biker kind, not sports). There is also an abnormal amount of facial hair. These aren’t hipster beards, though. These are I’ve-never-had-to-go-to-an-auto-mechanic-for-anything-in-my-life beards. There is a higher number of women in tank tops with big, Amy Winehouse hair (okay, maybe not quite that big) and heavy eye makeup than you would see on a normal day. Everyone looks like they lift.

Continue reading “Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, The Cult, Bones August 20, 2018 USANA Amphitheater”

Erasure August 11, 2018 Kingsbury Hall Salt Lake City

By: Kevin Rolfe

Photo: Kevin Rolfe

We had to wait a long time for Erasure to return to Salt Lake City.  Ok, so it was about four years, but it felt like a really long time! Typically when Erasure comes out with a new album, their tour makes its way to The States fairly soon after their album is released.  The album World Be Gone came out in May of 2017, and instead of heading out on their own tour, Erasure accepted an invitation from Robbie Williams to be his support act on his summer stadium tour throughout Europe.  What a great opportunity to gain new fans that must have been. In watching several YouTube clips I found it so cool to see Erasure play in front of a new crowd that might not know all of their music. I saw them singing along to the songs they knew like “A Little Respect”, “Chains of Love”, or “Stop”, and applauding songs they weren’t familiar with, but really enjoyed.  However, this tour delayed them from setting out on their own headlining tour. I was happy for them that they were so well received though.

Continue reading “Erasure August 11, 2018 Kingsbury Hall Salt Lake City”

Don Felder August 11, 2018 City Park, Park City

Photo By: Matt Wolf

The Park City Institute is a non-profit organization, dedicated to bringing world-class performances and new ideas to the community have had an interesting turn of events leading up to this year’s St. Regis Big Stars Bright Nights Concert Series.  In December they were informed by Deer Valley Resort that they would no longer be hosting the series because they were going to be setting up a concert series of their own. This sent The Park City Institute on a months-long search to find a new home in time to host the great lineup of music they had scheduled.  

Initially, they landed on Quinn’s Junctions Sports Complex, but fate would eventually lead them to City Park in the heart of Park City.  While City Park may not be the most ideal place to host a concert series, once things get going, it was as good an outdoor venue as any.  Some of the setbacks are well, it’s in the middle of a park. So you can go take your kid to the playground, and catch a free concert because there is no more than a temporary fence that is easy to see past.  The same goes for the street and sidewalk. I noticed maybe a hundred people watching the show from outside the “venue”. So I guess the venue isn’t ideal for keeping people looking for a free show out. Otherwise, it does just fine.  The stage is big enough, the sound is good, and there really isn’t a bad seat in the house, I mean park. The show in the series I was fortunate enough to attend was Don Felder, former lead guitarist for The Eagles.

Photo By: Matt Wolf

Be for Don Felder took the stage a couple of women from the Park City Institute made an announcement from the stage that the organization was in need of up to $500,000 in donations or the concert series may not continue.  Those in attendance seemed concerned because it was apparent that they enjoyed coming to the series. It’s a great organization, and the concert series lineup is always good. So if you have the means, please donate. You can find all the info here.  

The transition from that announcement to Don Felder taking the stage was an awkward one.  It was just quiet, with no one introducing Don, then a video came on giving him an introduction.  I’m not sure how to have made that transition smoother, but it definitely could have been. However, Don took the stage, opened with “Already Gone” and things were smooth from there. 

Photo By: Matt Wolf

 

Don next played “Pride and Joy”, a song originally written and performed by iconic guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Now to attempt to cover Stevie Ray Vaughan is one thing, but to do it really well is another. Now, I fully understand that SRV is one of a kind, and to his fans, no one will match him.  But I will say that Don Felder’s cover of “Pride and Joy” was great. It paid its respects to the original, and to Stevie, but it showed off the guitar playing chops that Don Felder truly has.  If was one of my favorite songs of the night.

Photo By: Matt Wolf

When Don played “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, he told the audience “You look like a peaceful crowd.”  I’m sure he was referring to the fact that most of the people there were still sitting in their chairs or on their blankets.  This isn’t to say that they weren’t into the show. They really were. But they weren’t up and dancing like I’m sure most artists would prefer.  I think some of this has to do with the show starting so early. There was an opener that went on at 6, and Don took the stage by 7. It was light out for the entirety of the concert. I think when it’s light out people are more hesitant to get up and dance.  That is at least until the alcohol kicks in!

Photo By: Matt Wolf

Don dedicated “Tequila Sunrise” to his former Eagles bandmate, the late Glenn Frey.  The audience cheered their approval. Glenn Frey passed away unexpectedly in 2016 at 67 due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia.  It was a class move by Felder and another strong moment in the show.

With about four or five songs to go, Don invited everyone to get out of their seats, come to the front of the stage and party.  There’s about a fifteen-foot gap between the stage and the front row of chairs and it filled up really quick. It was clear that the invitation to “party” was well received.  I’m sure artists are hoping that the audience will just jump to their feet on their own, but sometimes it just takes an invitation to do so and the whole place gets up. I admire Don for throwing out the invite.  It felt like the concert really took off from there. With songs like “Life in the Fast Lane”, “Heartache Tonight”, and “Take it Easy”, it was obvious to see why people were so willing to get up and dance and sing along.  

Photo By: Matt Wolf
Photo By: Matt Wolf

Felder finished the night by walking on stage with his infamous white double neck guitar.  This is the very guitar that he wrote “Hotel California” on. So when we saw the guitar, we knew what was next.  The crowd cheered, sang along, and stood in awe as Don Felder played the instantly recognizable guitar solos of “Hotel California”.  

Photo By: Matt Wolf

When the song finished, Don thanked the audience, acknowledged his band (Who were fantastic.  Seriously, so talented!), and walked off stage, never to return.  The crowd wanted more, and they cheered until it was obvious that the show was over. People have different feelings about the whole encore thing.  And I think Don would have done an encore, but when you’re playing in a venue that has a temporary stage in a park, sometimes there isn’t anywhere to go.  So walking off stage and back on for an encore might be more awkward than just staying there and playing straight through. I’m sure “Hotel California” is usually his encore, so I can’t imagine we missed anything other than the ceremonial walk off stage, walk back on stage.  

Photo By: Matt Wolf

I had a great time at this show.  Don Felder is a really entertaining performer and an amazing guitarist.  It was a fun and beautiful night at City Park.

 

70’s vs. 80’s Utah Symphony w/ Constantine Maroulis & Capathia Jenkins August 3, 2018 Deer Valley

I spent another beautiful Friday evening up at Deer Valley with the Utah Symphony.  Seriously, if you haven’t experienced a show there, get up there before the summer ends!  The air is so cool, and the skies and mountains are beautiful. It’s an amazing setting for a concert.  For this performance, the symphony helped the audience battled it out over the 70’s and 80’s. Two decades of great music. The featured guests for this performance were vocalists, Capathia Jenkins and American Idol finalist and Tony Award Nominee Constantine Maroulis.  

The concert opened with the Utah Symphony performing “A Fifth of Beethoven”, which is a disco version of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony featured on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.  This was a really fun way to start off the 70’s portion of the evening.  Following the opening piece, Constantine took the stage and sang “Nights on Broadway” from the Bee Gees. We were in the thick of the 70’s with this song. We jumped from there to Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4”.  This is a song that Constantine has performed with the band Chicago. I thought he did a great job with this one. It’s a really good song, and it seemed to fit his vocal range perfectly.

Constantine then sang “Heaven on Their Minds” from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.  I thought he sounded great, and this is one of the best songs from that musical, but it seemed like a strange fit for this concert. Yes, it was from the 70’s, but I think the crowd was a little surprised to be hearing a song from a musical.  It was a great performance, but maybe just not a great fit for this concert. Maroulis finished his set with the Utah Symphony by singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. This song went over great with the crowd. Especially the operatic break in the middle of the song.  The crowd was singing out “He’s just a poor boy from a poor family!” and “Let me go!” at the top of their voices! Constantine moved into the audience to sing the rocking conclusion of the song. He seemed like he didn’t want to leave the stage, but it was time for Capathia Jenkins to sing her 70’s songs.  Maroulis was given a loud ovation as he exited the stage.

Capathia has a beautiful voice.  This was displayed immediately with her opening song “You’re the Best Thing” from The Style Council.  This was another strange song selection. There are so many songs from the 70’s that I think a little of the performance was lost to the crowd not being too familiar with this song.  I think people had different expectations in mind for this show. Judging by the way many were dressed up, I think they thought they’d be hearing some songs they were more familiar with.  That being said, the songs they did hear, and the performances they witnessed were most certainly admired.

Capathia the followed up with Gloria Gaynor’s anthem, “I Will Survive”.  I think this was the type of song that the audience had in mind. Which was indicated by how quickly people rose to their feet when this song began.  Capathia’s voice fits this song just right. She seemed to be enjoying herself, and the audience was having a blast.

The intermission came quickly.  I was surprised that it was already time to take a break.  The great thing about the intermissions at Deer Valley is it gives me time to get a sense of what the audience thinks of the show.  And while the general consensus was that the song selection was a little different than expected, the talent and performances were excellent.  

The second half of the show began with the Utah Symphony performing a medley from the 80’s album “Hooked on Classics”, which was a compilation album filled with great pieces of classical music arranged in an 80’s style.  Just like “A 5th of Beethoven” escorted us to the 70’s, this was an excellent gateway into the 80’s.

Conductor, Edwin Outwater shared with the audience that there had been a contest to give someone the opportunity to sing the lead vocals on the theme song to “Ghostbusters”.  He mentioned that pretty much no one entered so he was left to find a vocalist. He had a friend from San Francisco who flew out to attend the performance, and on the way to Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater, Edwin asked him if he wanted to sing the song.  I forget his first name, but I know he was referred to as Dr. Chang so that’s what we’ll call him. He’s a surgeon in the bay area. Dr. Chang walked up on stage with a lyric sheet in hand, and the Utah Symphony started the song. I know this situation just came together last minute, but it totally added to the excitement of the song.  There was curiosity as to how Dr. Chang would sound, if there would be mess-ups, or if it would all come together somehow. Well, the latter is what happened. There were a couple lyric flubs or coming in too early, but overall it was great. Dr. Chang sang the song well, and the audience cheered him on throughout the song. And of course, we all sang out “Ghostbusters!” when Dr. Chang held his microphone out to us.  

Constantine Maroulis returned to the stage and sang a “Roxanne”, by the Police followed by “Bring Him Home” from the musical Les Miserables.  This was another time where song selection seemed odd, but I have to say that Constantine performed “Bring Him Home” beautifully. I would have never thought of him to play the role of Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables”, but after hearing him sing this song, I can see it.  He finished his set with Guns n Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”. It’s not every day that you’re going to hear “Bring Him Home” and “Sweet Child of Mine” performed back to back in a concert. Especially by the same vocalist! It was a real pleasure to see Constantine perform.  

Capathia Jenkins returned to the stage to sing “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner, and “I’m so Excited” by The Pointer Sisters.  Much of the audience was on their feet and dancing. I hadn’t heard of Capathia before this concert, but she is a real talent. Which was on display when she sang “And I am Telling You” from the musical Dreamgirls.  I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I don’t know that anyone expected broadway songs to be a part of the evening’s song list, but it’s impossible to deny that the performances were great. And this number was no exception.  This song won Jennifer Hudson an Academy Award for this role/song, and Jennifer Holiday a Tony Award for originating the role. Capathia’s performance earned her a standing ovation. She was fantastic.

The concert ended with Capathia and Constantine singing Journey’s hit song “Don’t Stop Believin’”.  The audience was on their feet and in full voice for this one. Constantine sang this song when he was in the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” so it was cool to see him perform the song again.  

I thought conductor Edwin Outwater was one of the major highlights of the concert.  He spoke to the audience often, introducing songs and conducting crowd poles on which thing was better in the 70’s or 80’s.  Poles like, 8 tracks, Cassette Tapes, Cd’s or Vinyl (Vinyl won). Or 70’s Chicago vs 80’s Chicago (80’s Chicago won). Or Pet Rock vs Cabbage Patch Kids (Cabbage Patch won). He was really funny and engaging with the audience.  The conductor doesn’t usually speak often, so I thought it was a fun addition to the show.

I’m a huge fan of the Utah Symphony. They’re versatile, talented, and always prepared.  If you get the chance, whether up at Deer Valley, or Abravanel Hall or anywhere else they perform, go see them.  You will not be disappointed.

 

Setlist 

A Fifth of Beethoven- Utah Symphony
Nights on Broadway- Constantine
25 or 6 to 4- Constantine
Heaven on Their Minds- Constantine
Bohemian Rhapsody- Constantine
You’re the Best Thing- Capathia
I Will Survive- Capathia

Intermission

Hooked On Classics- Utah Symphony
Ghostbusters- Dr. Chang
Roxanne-Constantine
Bring Him Home- Constantine
Sweet Child of Mine- Constantine
What’s Love Got to Do With It- Capathia
I’m So Excited- Capathia
And I am Telling You- Capathia
Don’t Stop Believin’- Capathia & Constantine

Weezer w/ The Pixies August 1, 2018 USANA Amphitheater

Isn’t it great when you buy tickets to a concert and you just know it’s going to be an awesome show?  But even though you are sure of it being good, you’re still blown away by just how great it was? Well, that happened on Wednesday night with Weezer.  Their show with The Pixies out west at USANA Amphitheater was probably in my top five of favorite shows in 2018 so far.

I’ve been listening to The Pixies since I was in high school.  Which was a long time ago. Just a few years after the one room schoolhouse days.  I had never had the opportunity to see The Pixies until tonight. I really enjoyed their set.  They didn’t interact much with the audience, but they played for over 70 minutes. I heard several fans mentioning how happy they were that The Pixies played such a long set for an opening band.  It is always fun for me to see teenagers and college age fans of a group that was big way before their time, or even before they were born really. There was a group of teens in front of me singing every word to every song of The Pixies.  I loved it.

While I enjoyed finally getting to see them, I hope I get the chance to see them perform as the headliners next time.  It’s nice to see typically headlining bands in that slot.  They were a perfect support band for Weezer though. I felt like their styles worked really well together.  When The Pixies walked off stage, I felt like I was in the right headspace to see Weezer. Sometimes an opener will leave the stage and I’ll have to readjust my mind to prepare for the next band. Which was the case last time Weezer was here with Panic! At the Disco.  They were too different to be touring together in my mind. Not this time.

The Amphitheater lights went off, the crowd stood right up, and the intro to Happy Days began, which in turn introduces Weezer like it did in their iconic video “Buddy Holly”.  Sure enough, as the stage lights went up, they went right into that very song. Wow, “Buddy Holly” as their opener?! What a way to start! USANA Amphitheater went nuts! They were instantly alive as if Weezer had been on for an hour.  In their last stop in Utah, “Buddy Holly” was their closer. It was cool to see them flip it to the beginning. Besides, Weezer has so many great songs that they could afford to play such a big hit right off the bat.

Weezer didn’t slow down from there.  They sang about 8 hits in a row. Seriously, check out the setlist!  I remember after each new song would start I would look over to the people I was with and we’d look at each other blown away at how much we loved each new song and how many great songs were played in a row.  

Midway through the set, frontman Rivers Cuomo walked out to the middle of the Amphitheater where what looked like a rowboat was waiting for him.  He put on a captain’s hat, and a captain’s jacket and the boat began to move (On wheel’s of course.  There’s not a moat in the middle of USANA Amphitheater guys.) through the crowd to the center of USANA Amphitheater. The boat stopped and Rivers pulled out an acoustic guitar and sang “Island in the Sun”.  He followed that with an acoustic cover of the 80’s hit “Take On Me”, by A-ha. The boat moved to the other side of the venue and Rivers jumped off and returned to the stage. I thought it was a clever way to get closer to the fans in the back.

The main set ended with Weezer’s current single, their cover of Toto’s “Africa”.  I really enjoy their cover of this song.  It stays true to the original while giving the song just a touch of the awesome Weezer sound.  There’s a point in the song where there is an instrumental break, and in the original, I believe a pan flute is featured, (or something along those lines) but in Weezer’s version, they use a synthesizer with what I can only describe as a very “Weezer’y” sound.  The crowd cheered their approval the moment they hear it.  

The night ended with a favorite of mine and well, pretty much everyone who likes the Blue album, “Say it Ain’t So”.  They could have gone on for another half hour or so and no one would have complained. The audience was so into this show.

Seeing Weezer in concert is so interesting to me because they don’t say much to the crowd, they’re not running around the stage too much.  Besides Rivers Cuomo going on the boat, they pretty much just stand there and sing. I’ve written reviews in the past where I complain about a band not talking to the audience enough, or moving around enough, but with Weezer, it just doesn’t matter.  Their songs and the way they are played live are enough for everyone in attendance. I can’t imagine the place being any more electric or engaged if they had been running around and talking to us all night. They have their way of performing, and they do it very well.  Can’t wait to see them again!

 
Setlist

Happy Days Intro
Buddy Holly
Beverly Hills
Pork and Beans
Undone-The Sweater Song
Hash Pipe
Perfect Situation
My Name Is Jonas
El Scorcho
In the Garage
(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
Happy Together
Keep Fishin’
Island In The Sun
Take On Me
Burndt Jamb
The Good Life
Feels Like Summer
Africa

Encore
You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
Say It Ain’t So

LOVELOUD Festival 2018 July 28, 2018 Rice-Eccles Stadium Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

I had the opportunity to attend this year’s LOVELOUD Festival at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.   The purpose of LOVELOUD is to have dialogue within our communities about loving one another unconditionally and ultimately achieve acceptance and support for the LGBTQ youth in Utah and throughout the country.  Teen suicide for LGBTQ youth is at a scary high rate here in Utah. The general message of the festival was to help those in that community to understand their worth, and that they belong. The other intent is to help the predominant culture here in Utah, which is quite conservative and centered around The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, and the LGBTQ community to join together in understanding, and inclusion.  

What started as an extremely hot day, evolved into a beautiful evening.  The speeches and the music combined to help with the message of LOVELOUD, which was founded last year by Dan Reynolds, lead singer of LOVELOUD’s headlining band Imagine Dragons.  The goal of the day was to raise over one million dollars within the hours of the festival to help LGBTQ communities such as Encircle, The Tegan and Sara Foundation, and the Trevor Project.  

Some of the speakers were Alfonso Ribeiro of “Fresh Prince” fame, NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young, and Barb Young Encircle Co-Chair, Drew Scott Co-Host of Property Brothers, and Gus Kenworthy Olympic Freeskier Silver Medalist just to name a few.  They all shared varying messages of assurance to the LGBTQ community in attendance that they were loved, they were accepted, and that there was nothing wrong with them. All of the speakers seemed well received and had the best of intentions to support the cause.  

No matter what the message, no matter what the cause, a good festival doesn’t work unless you have good music.  LOVELOUD did a good job of putting together a solid lineup of bands and musical artists. My concern for the festival, and I’m fully aware that this might just be an “Old man alert”, is its a little long.  And by a little, I mean it’s three hours too long. It’s hard to sit in a sweltering stadium for almost nine hours. There were some really good bands that started the festival too. But they were playing to a 90% empty stadium.  Vagabon, A.W., Parson James, and Vincent should be playing in front of a bigger crowd. And some of the speakers had some great things to say, but people were waiting for it to cool down to show up. And they were waiting for the bigger acts.  

My two cents would be to start the festival at 6 o’clock.  The temperature starts to go down, and people are aware that there is only so much time in the day, so they’d head right to the festival instead of waiting until 6 or 7 anyway.  I would recommend setting up a side stage like other festivals do, and putting the bands that performed at 3 on that stage with a bigger name like maybe Tyler Glenn headlining that stage.  They’ll have plenty of fans to attend that concert and if the side stage ends a couple hours before the main stage, everyone can join together to watch the two or three big acts on the lineup.  I think it makes for a more efficient and impactful evening. Now in writing this, I know that the LOVELOUD Festival was streamed live by AT&T throughout the world in order to raise that million dollars.  So I’m sure having a longer festival helped that cause. My job is to discuss the live concert experience, and being there in person felt long. So again, my two cents.

I thought the last four acts of the concert were excellent.  Grace Vanderwaal of America’s Got Talent fame, was a true champion throughout her performance.  The strap on her ukelele broke, and she was stung by a bee for the first time ever. She persisted through the show as if nothing ever happened.  I was really impressed. She has such a unique and captivating voice. To be honest, I wasn’t too familiar with her before this.  I mean, I like a zillion others saw her amazing AGT audition.  I just hadn’t followed up since and I was glad to see that she’s developed into a true artist.  I really enjoyed her set.  I was made aware of a boy to the right of me, who couldn’t have been older than 10.  He was singing every single word to every single song to her set. It was one of the coolest things I saw the whole day. It took me back to some of the bands I liked at that age, and how I knew all the words to all their songs. I would have loved to have seen them live then.  I’m sure Grace’s set made his life!

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Grace Vanderwaal performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

I think out of everyone I saw on Saturday, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park was the most impressive.  First of all, I couldn’t escape the sadness I felt seeing him up there without Chester Bennington.  It’s been just over a year since Chester committed suicide, and while Mike put on a great set, the pain of Chester’s loss could be felt from him and the Linkin Park fans in attendance.  Mike paid great tribute to Chester, and honored him by asking the crowd to sing his parts on the hit song “In the End”. I thought his solo songs were really good, and I enjoyed how he moved from his synth and guitar playing along with tracks.  I was happy to see him soldiering on to help inspire others despite the tragic loss of his bandmate.  The crowd loved him, and he seemed to be buoyed by their response.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Mike Shinoda performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

I’ve been critical in the past of EDM shows and DJ’s performing “live” and never really got why people were so into seeing DJ’s in person.  It looks like they’re pushing a button and then pretending to do stuff for the rest of the time. That may actually be the case, I have no idea, but after seeing Zedd perform I have changed my mind about EDM shows.  The energy he produced with his music, and the way the crowd reacted to it was something you just have to experience in person if you haven’t yet. It was like he flipped a switch and the crowd was at full energy. I looked around the now almost full stadium and it looked as if every single person was dancing.  I loved it! I myself may have thrown out a couple moves. So if you see some amazing new dance moves at the next EDM show, they came from me. You heard it here first folks.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Zedd performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

After Zedd left the stage there was some great build up to Imagine Dragons taking the stage.  There was a video clip showing a variety of celebrities encouraging the LGBTQ youth. Then there was a touching moment where we watched a video of a transgender boy’s story followed by that same boy walking on stage with people from Encircle to sing “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman.  It was a special moment for the crowd, and clearly something that boy will never forget.

Steve and Barb Young took the stage to introduce Tim Cook, CEO of Apple who in turn introduced Imagine Dragons.  Tim mentioned how impressed he was with the festival, and for the work, Dan Reynolds was doing for the LGBTQ youth.  The crowd roared their approval and as he yelled “Imagine Dragons!” the spotlight shut off, the fog machines went off, and it was showtime!  

At this time the stadium was as full as it was going to be.  If I were to guess that 40,000 would be considered a sellout, there were just over 35,000 in attendance.  That’s pretty great! Yes, they were there to see one of the hottest bands in music today, but it was clear that they were also there to celebrate the message of LOVELOUD.  The band opened with megahit “Radioactive”. Those in attendance were given wristbands that light up. But they didn’t just light up, they change colors, they flash in synch with all the other wristbands, they matched the beat of the songs, and they added an amazing element to the show.  There was a moment when Dan Reynolds pulled a sequin rainbow flag onto the stage and the entire stadium was glowing with multicolored lights. It was beautiful.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs at LOVELOUD Festival 2018 Powered By AT&T at Rice Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

Dan spoke for a few minutes after the first song, mentioning that he loved the things he learned growing up in a Mormon family.  He mentioned that he has no anger towards religion or anybody. That he just wants inclusion for all. That was met with great applause from the huge crowd.  I felt like that was the first time that everyone in attendance felt included. Dan was emotional at various times throughout the show, whether he was overwhelmed by the moment, or whether it was the stories he’d share of teens committing suicide, or his conservative LDS mother being in attendance, it was clear that the evening was a significant one for him.  He mentioned that this was the happiest he’d been in a long time.  He also stopped the show at one point to announce that they reached their goal of raising over one million dollars in one day.  What an amazing accomplishment.  

The band ripped through a two hour set playing all their hits, shooting of what seemed like an endless supply of confetti, releasing enormous beach balls into the crowd, and performing better than I have ever seen them before.  Imagine Dragons are a favorite here in Utah going all the way back to their early days playing at Velour, or playing an album release at Gray Whale. We have loved them for years. So this was a sort of homecoming show for them, and us, and it was special.  

I was a little confused by what Dan Reynolds was wearing.  He came on stage shirtless with cut off sweats or sweat shorts maybe.  Now, Dan looks great. He’s probably in the best shape of his life. I mean the guy is ripped!  He looks like a pro wrestler. It just seemed that giving the speeches he gave and the important message he wanted to convey, he maybe could have thrown on some jeans?  I mean, I saw him walking around, and he spoke on stage earlier in jeans and a LOVELOUD shirt. So he actually changed into the sweat shorts. I only bring this up because I noticed people around me discussing how he looked, and what he was wearing during his most heartfelt speeches.  I think it was hard for them to take him seriously. I don’t care what he wears, I just noticed too many people discussing it not to mention it.

The show ended with “Believer”, and it seemed as if the band and the crowd alike had exerted all of their energy.  Imagine Dragons were the perfect headliners for this festival. Dan Reynolds is such an impactful frontman that I think sometimes it’s easy to underappreciate the rest of the band.  But they’re phenomenal. The sound they produce and the energy they give is amazing.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Wayne Sermon of Imagine Dragons performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

My main critique of the Festival is this.  The purpose of this festival is for inclusion, acceptance, and understanding that we all belong.  I understand this is geared toward the LGBTQ youth here in Utah. As it should be. No suicides should be happening because people feel alone and unaccepted for who they are.  But I didn’t feel a lot of inclusion for the Mormons in the audience who support the Festival. I spoke to a Mormon couple and asked them how they were liking the festival and they said, “We love the music, we love what’s being said, but we feel like unwelcome guests.”  I asked them why, and they mentioned that “While we don’t feel like people are hating on Mormons, and we get why there might be some animosity, We’re here. We want to help bridge the divide. But we feel like the inclusiveness that is being spoken of does not include us.”  I could see what they were saying. I heard a lot of “I’m not mad at the Mormon church anymore, or I used to hate Utah and the culture but now I’ve forgiven and moved on.” And that’s great, but what about the Mormons in attendance that are trying to be a part of the solution this festival is trying to reach?  They were rarely mentioned, and to my knowledge never one recognized or appreciated. Like I said, Dan Reynolds was the only one to even say anything positive towards Mormons all night. I guess I just thought that the purpose of the festival was to bring cultures and communities together to understand one another, accept one another, and keep each other alive.  I felt like aspects of that were lost.

That being said, it made me feel good to look out into the audience and see people who normally might not normally feel included, or might not be able to express themselves the way they’d like to have the freedom to do so.  It’s a powerful thing to see over 35,000 people there to support a cause in a place where you might not expect so many to be in favor of. Things aren’t always as they seem. Even here in Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 28: Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs at 2018 LOVELOUD Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

Sutton Foster w/ the Utah Symphony July 21, 2018 Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater Deer Valley

Sutton Foster was a surprise addition to this year’s Deer Valley Music Festival lineup.  This date was initially booked for Kristin Chenoweth. But it was reported that she was having neck issues and was needing surgery so she would have to cancel her scheduled summer performances.  Sutton was booked to fill the slot. Not a bad replacement I’d say. I asked a couple next to me if they had bought tickets for this event when Kristin was scheduled, or if they bought tickets specifically to see Sutton.  They told me that they had originally purchased tickets when Kristin Chenoweth was scheduled, but when they saw Sutton Foster was her replacement, they were more than excited. They said, “You can’t go wrong! Sure they’re different performers, but they’re amazing in their own way.  We would not have missed this show for anything. We love Sutton!”. That seemed to be the overwhelming sentiment from the others I spoke to.

I arrived about an hour early to Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater.  I wanted to completely take in the experience of arriving early, having a picnic, enjoying the cool air, and visiting with the others in attendance.   If you’ve never done this, I highly recommend it. It’s so relaxing.

Sutton Foster took the stage at 7:30 performing one of what would be a number of medleys throughout the evening.  This one, in particular, consisted of “Cockeyed Optimist” from South Pacific, “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle, and “Yes” from the show where she won one of her two Tony’s, Thoroughly Modern Millie.  It was an excellent way to open the show.  It gave the audience a taste of Suttons personality and performance style.  After that, we were off and running.

Sutton has the perfect personality to perform in a concert like this.  She mixes her stories with meaning and humor in such an entertaining way.  After her first number, she told the audience that she has learned to say yes to so many opportunities that have come her way in life. She said that she had many chances to say yes to opportunities to do wonderful work, and she’d encourage us to do the same.  Then she followed with “Except Porn. Don’t say yes to porn.” It was hilarious.

Sutton mentioned that she had been in Utah for the past three days and loved it up here.  She stated that this was the “highest” she ever sang, referring of course to the altitude.  She told us that she took her 16 month old daughter on her first ski lift, and her daughter handled it really well.  She was very a proud mother.

Some special moments for me were when she revisited the musical Anything Goes.  Sutton was in the Broadway revival of Anything Goes in 2011 so it was fun to see her sing some of the memorable songs from that classic show.  She sang “I get a kick” and a song she actually sang in the musical, the title song “Anything Goes”, to close out the first half of the concert.

During the intermission, I spoke with a few people to see what they thought so far, and the reviews were all in the positive. They said things like “This is better than I could have ever expected!” or “I was really disappointed when Kristin Chenoweth canceled, but I’m glad I didn’t get a refund.  Sutton Foster is a treasure!”.

As the intermission was ending I noticed a young girl, maybe 13 years of age standing near the walkway where Sutton would return to the stage.  Sutton walked out, the girl waved hello, and Sutton responded with a kind wave and a hello back. It was a simple gesture, one that didn’t take much effort on Sutton’s part, but one that will no doubt remain in this 13 year old’s memory for a long long time.  

During the intermission, some dark clouds began to roll in.  I noticed many nervous members of the audience checking the weather on their phones.  The wind picked up a little, but no rain had fallen just yet.

Sutton walked out and began singing a medley of “If I were a bell” from Guys & Dolls and “Singin’ in the Rain”.  The audience got a chuckle at the timing of this song.  Sutton played it up perfectly by nervously looking up at the clouds while singing.  

I thought the Utah Symphony was magnificent in this concert.  They had such an opportunity to shine with this music and these arrangements, and they totally rose to the occasion.  I admire this symphony so much. The night before they’re playing with Rick Springfield, the night before they were playing Mozart, the weekend before they were playing ABBA and Bluegrass! Talk about being versatile.  And there is so much to learn! But they pull it off. I enjoyed their performance so much.

The biggest surprise of the evening was when Sutton brought her Little Women co-star and real life best friend Megan McGinnis on stage to sing with her.  They performed the song “Flight”. It was clear that they performed together many times. They had great chemistry and blended together beautifully. They seem to really enjoy performing together.   I always enjoy a surprise appearance at a concert.

Sutton performed a touching tribute to her mother who passed away a couple of years ago.  She told us that her mother loved John Denver and that they listened to his greatest hits on 8 track when she was a child.  She then performed “Sunshine On My Shoulders”. She gave a few looks up to the cloudy sky but didn’t play up the weather too much.  It was humorous, but not so much to ruin her tribute. It takes a brilliant actor to pull off a moment of levity without taking away from a serious moment.  Sutton is that kind of actor.

As the wind picked up and the show began to wind down, I noticed quite a few people exiting the show early to avoid the possible storm.  It made sense. No one wants to get rained on. But Sutton was so good, I felt bad that people were leaving. The many who stayed were treated to another great medley.  She performed “On My Way” using the wind to her advantage and letting it blow her hair back in the way you might see in a photo shoot. Before that Sutton had to hold her hair during the song to keep it from flying in her face.   It was funny to watch her make light of what cannot be ideal conditions for a performer.  The second part of the medley was “Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie. The crowd was excited because this was a big show stopper for Sutton in that musical.

She finished the song, and the audience jumped to their feet.  Sutton put on a fantastic show. It was entertaining throughout, including a little suspense due to the weather.  We all stayed dry, and we enjoyed seeing a two time Tony Award winner deliver a performance worthy of those accolades.   

 

Stars Align Tour w/ Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers, & Ann Wilson July 18, 2018 USANA Amphitheater

USANA Amphitheater was the home of the opening night of the Stars Align Tour featuring Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers, and Ann Wilson.  It was also the third and concluding volume of Arrow 103.5’s Arrowfest.  It was a hot evening still hitting temperatures of 100 degrees at showtime. Unfortunately, the attendance for this show wasn’t great.  But the voices of those in attendance was mighty. Despite the initial heat, it was a really fun night.

Ann Wilson

Ann Wilson opened the show.  I really felt for her because the Amphitheater faces west so the sun was setting directly on her and her band.  She opened with The Who classic, “The Real Me”, then broke out into the Heart hit “Barracuda”. Following the song, she stated that she would be veering from the Heart catalog in order to share some songs off of the new album.   Many times that would be met with a large sigh, or disappointment. But Ann mentioned that her album titled Immortal consists of songs from legendary artists who have recently past such as David Bowie, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell, and Glenn Frey.  I suppose if you’re not going to do songs from the band that made you famous, might as well do some awesome covers. Right?

Just like last year, when Ann performed at the Sandy Amphitheater, my favorite song of the night was her cover of The Black Crowes song, “She Talks to Angels”.   It was as if that song was written specifically for her voice. It’s a perfect fit. I enjoyed her tribute to Chris Cornell, coinciding with her performance of the Audioslave “I am the Highway”.  Another song that fits right into her vocal register.

It seemed that the heat and the sun began taking its toll on Ann.  I noticed her walking back to the drummer fan once, and often shielding her face from the sun.  When she finished singing the Eagles song “Life in the Fast Lane” she quickly said, “Thank you Salt Lake!”  and abruptly walked off stage. Everything seemed to happen really quick. I watched her as she walked off stage to make sure she was ok.  I didn’t know if the plan was to come back out or not, but just then I saw a crew member signal to the soundboard that they were done.

As it turns out there were two more songs on the setlist that weren’t played.  I can’t say I blame her though. It was so hot for me and I was in the seats. She must have been cooking up there.  I love Ann Wilson’s voice so it would have been great to hear another song or two, or seven. But it was good to hear her again, and I look forward to her album Immortal when it comes out on September 14th of this year.  

Setlist

The Real Me
Barracuda
Fool No More
I’ve Seen All Good People
She Talks to Angels
I Am the Highway
You Don’t Own Me
Life in the Fast Lane

(Unplayed Songs)
For What It’s Worth
Love, Reign O’er Me

Paul Rodgers

Now if I’m being honest, Paul Rodgers is the main reason I wanted to attend this concert.  Paul is known for being the lead singer of the bands Free and Bad Company. Known as “The Voice” by his fans and peers, it’s no wonder he gave the crowd quite the performance.  The last time I saw Paul here in Utah was back in 2002 when Bad Company played the then titled E Center with Styx. He sounded amazing then, and unbelievably he sounds as good if not better than then.  How is that possible. He mixed the show between his two bands playing some classics and old forgotten gems. While many of the fans enjoyed the Free songs, it appeared to me that the majority of the audience was the most excited when Paul performed the Bad Company hits.  People went crazy when “Feel Like Makin’ Love” started. And a huge sing-along took place with “Shooting Star”.

Paul did his best to cool down the crowd by throwing water from his water bottles on the first few rows.  Fortunately, by this point, the sun had finally ducked behind the western mountains so the temperature finally started to go down.  

Paul left the stage and was cheered back on to play the Free mega-hit “All Right Now”.  This was probably my favorite part of the entire evening. I love that song, and it was pretty clear that everyone else in the crowd  felt the same.  The crowd sang the chorus in full voice and the venue sounded as if it was at capacity.

I can’t imagine it’s easy to play in the heat, in a venue that is maybe a third full.  But Paul came out, played his songs, and seemed to really enjoy himself like a true pro. He sounded so good.  I hope he comes back on his own tour or a tour with Bad Company. It would be great to see him again soon.

Setlist
Can’t Get Enough
Wishing Well
Feel Like Makin’ Love
Ready For Love
Walk in My Shadow
Mr. Big
The Stealer
Woman
Fire and Water
Shooting Star
Rock and Roll Fantasy

Encore:
All Right Now

 

Jeff Beck

The sun was finally gone, and the temperature was perfect for Jeff Beck.  Jeff is a guitar legend, known for having replaced Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds and leading the Jeff Beck Group.  

I must admit it was a difficult transition for me to go from hearing two of the most iconic voices in the classic rock era to a mostly instrumental driven set from Jeff Beck.  Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing. He’s a guitar virtuoso. It just took me a minute to settle into what he was putting out.

His band was incredible.  Jeff’s drummer Vinnie Colaiuta was as good a drummer as I’ve ever seen live.  It was impossible at times to not just look at what he was doing in awe. Bassist Rhonda Smith had melodic bass lines that are not always heard from that instrument.  She was impressive. Vanessa Freebairn-Smith brought a special element to the show with her Cello. You don’t always see a cello as part of a rock band, but in this case, she fit right in.  

Jimmy Hall walked on stage to sing vocals about three songs in.  He had a powerful voice and an engaging stage presence. I think he would enter the stage at just the time the audience seemed ready for a vocalist.  His highlight moment for sure was singing vocals during a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious”.

It’s so interesting how we’re conditioned to hear a voice at the forefront of a rock band.  But what Jeff has done is put the guitar, sometimes the even the bass as the lead “vocalist”.  I felt at times as if Jeff’s guitar was singing to me and telling me the story. Once I was able to wrap my head around that, I was able to see just how deep Jeff Beck’s talent really is.  My favorite part of his set was when he played an instrumental version of The Beatles “A Day in the Life”.

All of the artists on the bill are legends.  I’m not totally sure if they should be on tour together.  Or maybe Paul Rodgers should have closed the show. The energy from the crowd just seemed to dip a little after he left the stage.  It was a great night of music, but the show was unfortunately not well attended and I’m not sure why. My guess is the combination of artists or the order of the lineup.  Either way, those that weren’t there missed out, and those who were there saw some great performances!

Setlist

Pull It
Status
Nadia
You Know You Know
Morning Dew
I Have to Laugh
Lonnie on the Move
Mna na h-Eireann
Just for Fun
Little Wing
Big Block
Cause We Ended as Lovers
You Never Know
Brush with the Blues
Superstition
A Day in the Life

Encore:
You Shook Me
Going Down