Def Leppard & KISS June 23, 2014 USANA Amphitheater

photoSummer is here! And so begins this year’s shows where many historic rock bands are teaming up to tour the USA. The first of these shows was last nights epic evening with the opening night of the Kiss and Def Leppard 40 night Summer Tour.
The show began promptly at 7pm with Kobra and the Lotus opening the show. The generally uninterested crowd livened up when they burst into a cover of Heart’s “Barracuda”. Smart move.
Def Leppard would be the next band to take the stage. But before they did, several veterans and current soldiers stationed at Hill Air Force Base presented the U.S. flag and the audience rose to their feet while the soldiers and vets sang the national anthem. As it turns out, proceeds from this tour will go to helping the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps meet the needs of soldiers hurt in battle. KISS and Def Leppard hired one veteran each to be a roadie on this tour. We were introduced to these new hires, and they were received with a roaring ovation.
Now, I want you to know the point of view I’m coming from when concerning these two headliners. Def Leppard was huge when I was in elementary school. There wasn’t a day that went by, where someone wasn’t wearing Joe Elliot’s iconic Union Jack sleeveless shirt. They stayed popular until the beginning of my high school days. Therefore, I knew all their hits, whether I wanted to or not. KISS on the other hand were a little before my time. Gene Simmons “Demon” character used to scare me when he would do his legendary coughing up blood routine. When I reached high school, KISS was past their no make up phase, and had returned to their classic look. But KISS wasn’t really considered cool in my high school days. I come from the time when Nirvana showed up, and changed everything. Only the true head bangers stayed strong in the KISS Army. My association with KISS is seeing them as greedy business men looking to sell merchandise more than their music. Gene Simmons to me always just seemed to be a slime ball with a random reality show with somehow really well adjusted kids. So when this show was announced, my interest was to see Def Leppard and hear all the hits I once knew. I was less interested in seeing KISS, but I felt like they are such an iconic group, it seems like a band I should see at least once.
So, as final preparations were being made for Def Leppard’s appearance, The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was playing on the PA. Generally before a band takes the stage, a song will play and gradually get louder signifying the start of the show. Once the song ends, the band comes out. I was fully expecting this formula when Def Leppard mixed things up! Just as I thought the song would be fading out, the curtain hiding the band was quickly sucked away and there they were, Def Leppard in all their glory! And they continued playing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” where the recording had left off! I loved it! The crowd was in a rage right from the get go. The sun was still out and was shining on the stage, so we weren’t able to see the digital screens just yet, so the band was left to their own devices. They were all over the stage, keeping the crowd fired up. It’s amazing, these guys have played many of these songs for 30 years. But the thing I like about Def Leppard is they play these songs with the type of energy that would lead you to believe they had just released these songs. Now, as if it was scripted, just as the sun was setting, they slowed things down with a couple rock ballads. They added a special twist with an acoustic version of their hit, “Bringing on the heartbreak”. At first I thought they went with this version in order to preserve Joe’s voice. But at the end of the song, they switched to the original version, and he hit all those high notes just fine. They closed the main set with “Armaggedon it” and of course the peak song of the set “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. Sometimes it’s hard to get the crowd going when it’s still light out, but this could have been the final song of the whole evening with the way the audience was responding to this song. They were singing every lyric at the top of their lungs and throwing their fists and rock n roll signs in the air. It was easily my favorite moment of the evening. They returned to the stage to perform their final two songs “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”. They left the audience in a frenzy, and already hoping they would come back to town soon. Def Leppard understands the formula for putting on a great rock show. They would be a tough act to follow, and honestly, I don’t know how KISS is going to do it for 40 shows.
After about an impressive 20 minutes of roadie work, KISS was set to take the stage. And did they ever take that stage. When their curtain fell, we saw the band lowering from the top of their light rig, which was designed in the form of a spider. This came as no surprise, as KISS is known for their spectacular staging. From the start, the show was filled with fireworks, crazy lights, and pyrotechnics. As I stated before, I’m not a member of the KISS Army, so I only knew a handful of songs. But the thing I liked, is they seemed like they were having fun. Paul Stanley seemed elated to announce to the crowd of over twenty thousand, that this show broke the USANA Amphitheater attendance record. I must say, it was kinda cool to be part of that kind of history.
Despite knowing how they sell everything possible with a KISS logo on it, (Including coffins!) and how it seems they focus on making money more than music, it was fun to see them in their true element rocking on stage. I wonder sometimes if they wish they hadn’t ever come up with the gimmick of wearing that make up. Or if they realize, they may have never made it if they didn’t dawn the “Demon” and “Starchild” look. I say this because throughout the show, KISS did some of their trademark live show routines. For example, Gene Simmons did his breathing fire routine, and his once upon a time, scary to me, coughing up blood routine. Paul Stanley ziplined to the middle of the amphitheater to perform a song on a mini stage that had been set up. Gene Simmons was lifted to the top of the amphitheater for a song, and at the end of the show the whole band was lifted up on huge risers. For what they lack in awesome songs, (my opinion only), they make up for in stunning visuals that rival no one. When I’m attending a show where I’m not a die hard fan, I like to look around me, to try to get a better point of view of how the show is going. I don’t think it’s fair to just send out my opinion when the band is there for their real fans. So I like to get a perspective on how they are reacting. This was a very interesting discovery. There were fans who knew what was about to happen, so they would tell their friends, “Oh, this is where Gene does…” or “Paul always does this.” and so forth. I would hate to attend a show with that guy. It’s like seeing the band Journey with someone who has memorized the setlist from past shows, and right before “Don’t Stop Believing” comes on, the guy next to me says, “Hey, they’re going to play ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ right now!” Seriously dude?! Not Cool! So anyway, enough of my past live show trauma. The fans that spoil the iconic routines are annoying. Don’t do that. It’s better to see the person surprised than give it away. Trust me. There were also the fans who had never seen these routines by KISS. Apparently they were raised in the wilderness with no television or pop culture magazines. But it’s fun to see the looks on their faces when Gene is spitting fire, or Paul is zipping his way across the crowd. Then there are the fans that know what’s going to happen, they’ve seen it a hundred times, and yet, they still absolutely love it. In my opinion, that is the true KISS Army. USANA Amphitheater was their church, and they came to worship their rock gods and observe their rituals. That made the show great for me. I love seeing fans happy to get what they came for. Due to curfew constraints KISS didn’t go off for an encore, they just played through to the end of their set. It felt a little less rock n roll to hear that, but I respect them for being cool, rather than sticking it to the man. Sometimes, the man needs a break from all the sticking it to him he’s getting. They closed the show with their enormous hit “Rock and Roll All Nite”. The pyro was going off, the fireworks were going off, about 8 billion, zillion, cagillion, strips of confetti was flying through the warm summer sky! It was as if it was the last song, of the last show they’ll ever do. And yet, no, this was the first show, of their 40th Anniversary tour.
Overall it was an epic night of hard rock, and classic people watching. I’m glad I’m able to say I’ve seen KISS in concert. They don’t hold back on the spectacular, and they have me almost convinced to buy a KISS toothbrush or maybe a neck pillow. Def Leppard brought me back to the good ol’ days, and yet, they were still fresh, and alive as always. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was to catch them on their next stop through town. I would recommend seeing either of these guys at least once. They certainly give you your money’s worth! I just left the show with one question. “Do you take sugar?! One lump or Two?!!!!!”

Def Leppard Setlist
Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who)
Let It Go
Love Bites
Let’s Get Rocked
Two Steps Behind
Bringin’ on the Heartbreak (acoustic)
Switch 625
Armageddon It
Pour Some Sugar on Me
Rock of Ages

KISS Setlist
King of the Night Time World
Cold Gin
War Machine
Hide Your Heart
Christine Sixteen
Shout It Out Loud
I Love It Loud
Makin’ Love
Psycho Circus
Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
Black Diamond
Detroit Rock City
Rock and Roll All Nite

The Naked and Famous May 26, 2014 The Depot

photo 3

I was offered a ticket last minute to see The Naked and Famous last night, and I’m so glad I was able to go. What a fun band. I’m a huge fan of synthpop, so this show was right up my alley.

I think it must be so interesting for a band from far away, in this case New Zealand, to come all the way to our small rocky mountain city to find a high energy fan base such as this. The Depot was sold out, the fans were dancing, singing and jumping the entire show, and it was obvious that the band was loving it. They made several comments as to how lively the crowd was.

The interesting thing about The Depot, is while it’s a great venue as far as the sound, visibility, and size, sometimes it seems fans will treat the place like it’s the local pub, and the band is just some local act. It has always amazed me when people act like this. Well not tonight. Sure, people had their drinks, and conversed at the bar, but not for too long. Most of the people I observed were anxious to get back to the show. And I can’t blame them. The music was fantastic, and the vocals were perfect.

The Naked and Famous aren’t the type of band to dance around, and interact with the fans too much. But their music speaks for itself. Personally I don’t know how they’re not dancing the whole time. I couldn’t stand still at one of their shows, even if I had a broken leg. The nice thing about the band is they picked their spots when to really get into it. And the crowd always followed along.

As was expected, the final song of the night was the hit Young Blood. For me, seeing a band that is on the rise, with maybe one or two big hits, as opposed to seeing a hit machine like The Eagles or U2, has a certain appeal. While I love seeing bands with a ton of hits, there is a certain exciting anticipation when waiting for those two or three big songs. And that was definitely the case with this show. When Young Blood began, there was an excitement level from the crowd that had not yet been present. It was almost like a release from the almost 90 minutes worth of anticipating when we were going to hear it. And I gotta admit, it was worth the wait. It really is a great song. The Naked and Famous have played that song so many times! And they will have to play it in so many shows to come. But even they seemed to love the moment. How could they not.

All in all, it was a fun night. And while I personally felt like I was chaperoning the concert due to the youth of the crowd, it was still a great show, and I’ll be sure to see them again.

A Stillness
Hearts Like Ours
Girls Like You
Rolling Waves
The Sun
I Kill Giants
Grow Old
All of This
Punching in a Dream
No Way

The Mess
To Move With Purpose
Young Blood

Iron and Wine – In The Venue November 6, 2013


In the summer of 2012 I had the opportunity to see Iron and Wine as part of Salt Lake City’s summer Twilight Concert Series. While I enjoyed the show for the most part, I couldn’t help but feel that I wasn’t seeing this band in its proper element. Seeing them at In The Venue on November 6 was much closer to the setting I had in mind.
Now I must say that I’m not a die hard Iron and Wine fan. I do like the music, but for example, I haven’t been able to track down a set list for this show, and I can’t name one song he did other than his infamous cover of the Postal Service’s hit “Such Great Heights”. Now I’m sure this makes me pathetic to actual fans of the band, but with all this being said, I feel like my review has some insight to offer that the typical fan might not experience.
While In The Venue, is a much better location than Pioneer Park, I still felt like a theater setting might be best for this show and style of music. Perhaps seeing him at Kingsbury Hall would be the perfect place. It’s not a matter of sitting down or not. Trust me I have stood for some pretty lengthy shows and didn’t mind it in the least. I just feel like a theater would set the proper tone for this band.
Now let’s get something else out of the way. Can somebody help me please? Should I refer to Iron and Wine as they, them, or him? Because it seems to me that Iron and Wine for all intents and purposes is 100% vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, Samuel Beam. So I’m going to call Iron and Wine, “he” until someone corrects me.
With that being said, Sam was joined on stage with a full band matched up in Threes. Three female backup singers, a three person horn section, and a three person string section. It was if the band had been cast in a movie about an indie folk band. All of them had their own personalities that stood out, and all of them seemed as if they had their own tale to tell. These nine musicians along with a drummer, bassist, and Sam filled the night with so many styles of music, and so many sounds, that my ears and mind don’t have a way to truly process what I heard at times. But it was beautiful and kept the two hour show full of surprises and anticipation.
As someone who again, wouldn’t consider himself a diehard fan, it was fun to watch the audience throughout the show. Usually in a show, I’m looking forward to what’s next; what great hit song am I going to hear after this one. But I didn’t have any anticipation. I just loved seeing individual faces light up at different times when they heard the song they came to hear. And I was able to enjoy the song for the song. Many of which I had heard for the first time. I was able to be in the moment for once, rather than wondering what was next. Because chances are, I wouldn’t know the song anyway.
A show like this really gives Sam the opportunity to engage with the audience, and show his personality a little more. Being a smaller venue, it seemed as if the crowd felt like they could talk with Sam and the rest of the band like they knew them. In between songs many people would shout out the song they wanted to hear. I’m not sure if this is common at an Iron and Wine show or not, Sam seemed un-phased by it. I thought at this point Sam showed his brilliance as much if not more than when he played his amazing music. Being a Southern man, Sam was always polite, and I loved how as people shouted out their requests he would say “Thank you, Thanks, Thank you”, which was basically saying, “Thanks for liking my songs, but we’re not doing that one.” True genius in my book. Be grateful, but continue with what you came here to play.
I’d say my favorite part of the night was when someone from the crowd shouted the obligatory “Freebird” when requesting a song. It’s is a long running joke for concert goers to request Lynard Skynnard’s classic hit. I don’t know where this started, but it’s been going for ages. It seemed pretty strange that this request/joke would happen at an Iron and Wine show, but nevertheless we were not immune to the attempt at humor. But where the real joke rested was with Sam. He seemed to smirk and ignore the request and begin one of his songs. But what we were all surprised to hear was Iron and Wine actually singing, “If I leave here tomorrow…” the opening lyrics to “Freebird”. The audience roared with laughter and applause, totally satisfied with this being the punch line to the joke. I truly hope I can paint this picture correctly because Sam was the one with the last laugh. So with the crowd amused with the moment, they seemed satisfied to move on to some more Iron and Wine songs. But Sam kept going. He sang this southern rock gem in his style, full of depth sincerity and purpose. The audience’s demeanor changed. They were now fully engaged in the piece. Now right at the point where the audience was moved beyond any other point in the show, Sam pulls up and says, “Just kidding.” There was a collective reaction from the audience that basically said, “We’ve been had”. As an outside observer, I thought it was hilarious, but more than anything, I realized that Sam had that much power over this audience. He could take them anywhere and they were willing to follow. And he did. He took us to places musically most of us were not prepared for. He took us to familiar favorites like the previously mentioned “Such Great Heights”. And he led us through a night I won’t soon forget.
My overall experience was excellent. From the band, to the specific small moments I noticed throughout the crowed, to the reason we were all there. The music. I would highly recommend seeing Iron and Wine live. In my opinion, the live version of any of these songs by far trumps any studio recording of his. I was honored to be a guest at this incredible event.

Brian Stokes Mitchell – Abravanel Hall November 2, 2013

Brian Stokes Mitchell has been dubbed by the New York Times as “Broadway’s last leading man.” After seeing him on November 2, 2013 at Abravenal Hall, this is a difficult thing to deny. I had the opportunity to see Brian Stokes Mitchell in Ragtime in its pre-Broadway run in Los Angeles and I knew there that I was seeing a Legend in the making. I’ve also had the privilege of seeing BSM in his Tony nominated performance in The Man of La Manchia. Now, I have seen a countless number of musicals in my day, with many a Broadway legend. But only once have I seen a show stopping number actually stop the show. This was following Mr. Mitchell’s powerful rendition of “The Impossible Dream”. For at least two minutes straight, the audience stood and applauded while BSM stood there frozen in character. If two minutes doesn’t sound like a long time, clap for two minutes straight and you’ll get an understanding of how long that is and how special that moment was. I was also able to see Brian Stokes Mitchell perform as Javert in the All-Star cast performance of Les Misérables at the Hollywood Bowl. But seeing Brian in his own solo show was truly the ultimate proof that he is “Broadway’s last leading man”.
I had only been to Abravenal Hall once, and it was to see a Warren Miller ski movie. Now while I enjoyed the film, it was nice to experience this great orchestral hall in the way it was intended. The acoustics in Abravenal were amazing. I think Brian might have been able to perform without a microphone and everyone would have been able to hear him just fine. In my opinion, Abravenal Hall truly is the finest of Utah’s performance theaters.
The concert began with the Utah Symphony performing a medley from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate. While the Utah Symphony was masterfully conducted by Jerry Steichen, I could sense an eager anticipation for the arrival of Mr. Brian Stokes Mitchell. The moment finally arrived and Conductor Steichen introduced Brian as the audience applauded with a smattering of people even rising to their feet. Brian opened the show with the Broadway classic “Some Enchanted Evening” from the Rogers & Hammerstein smash hit South Pacific. And things really took off from there. Now I don’t intend to review this show song by song, you can look at the set list below to understand how amazing this night really was.
What I do want to mention is how well Brian knows his audience. He did several songs in character, but most of the songs he sang as himself. He told stories of why he was doing a particular number, or how he was given the opportunity to perform of some of his most famous roles. He sang some of Broadway’s greatest songs as well as songs most people might not have heard of. He really put together a great mix of songs to keep the audience on a constant high. He was passionate about the songs he was singing, he was moving in his stories, as well as humorous. He was gracious to the audience and mentioned several times how much he has loved performing in Utah over the years.
There were four particular highlights for me. The third song of the night was “Stars” from Brittan’s longest running musical Les Misérables. Brian’s posturing, and powerful voice put me right into the center of that musical, and I could see Javert the determined police officer desperate to seek out Jean Valjean, the man who broke his parole many years ago. Several audience members rose to their feet at the end of this number.
Another was a song written by Maury Yeston known mainly from his musicals Nine and Titanic called “New Words”. The song depicts a father teaching his son a new word each day. I have never heard this song before, but while BSM was acting out the song, I felt as if his own son was right there listening to his dad. It was a simple song with a powerful message, and beautifully performed.
Towards the end of the show, Brian spoke about two songs he’d be doing together. He talked about how the country had fallen upon hard times and how sometimes the “American Dream” can seem lost. But that it’s always important to have hope. He then sang an acapella rendition of “America the Beautiful”. Brian’s voice echoed through the hall in a way that only his voice can. As I mentioned the acoustics in Abravanel Hall are fantastic. In our day and age there is something to be said about captivating an audience. No one spoke, no phone was heard. All eyes and ears were on Brian as his voice spread thought the venue. It was a moving moment. As the song began to end, the Orchestra began their intro to “Wheels of a Dream”, on of Brian’s most notable songs from Ragtime. The commanding performance of these songs together left the audience moved to tears as well as enthusiasm. When he was finished the crowed rushed to their feet.
Finally, the song I had personally been waiting for. “The Impossible Dream” from Man of LaManchia is one of my favorite songs, and Brian Stokes Mitchell’s version is by far the best that has been done. It is no surprise that he did not disappoint. He sang each word with the meaning these lyrics deserve. The audience was inspired and again a standing ovation was in order.
The show ended with Brian coming back and singing the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World”. This set the perfect mood to send the audience home hopeful and peaceful after a great night of music.
If you have never seen Brian Stokes Mitchell live, I highly recommend you put him on your list of people to see. Sometimes performers just go out and do their job. Perform. But Brian Stokes Mitchell makes his concert and experience. He appreciates his audience and he understands the honor it is to be a performer.

Brian Stokes Mitchell Setlist

PORTER Kiss Me, Kate- Orchestra
ROGERS & HAMMERSTEIN “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific
LERNER/LOWE “How to Handle a Woman” from Camelot
BOUBIL & SHONBERG “Stars” from Les Miserables
FLAHERTY “I Was There” from The Glorious Ones
ROGERS & HAMMERSTEIN “This Was Nearly Mine” from South Pacific


FLAHERTY Selections from “Ragtime”- Orchestra
STYNE “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl
SONDHEIM/STRAYHORN “Another Hundred People/Take the ‘A’ Train”
JOBIM “Waters of March”
GERSHWIN “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess
YESTON “New Words”
WARD “America the Beautiful” accapella from Ragtime
FLAHERTY“The Wheels of a Dream” from Ragtime
LEIGH “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha

THEILE & WEISS “What a Wonderful World”