Bruce Hornsby: LIVE IN CONCERT – MGM Grand, Mashantucket, CT (March 27, 2009) – REVIEW

Originally posted 2009-03-28 23:43:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Right off the bat, I have to address how proud I am of myself that I was able to suppress the strong urge to title this concert review “That’s Just the Way It Was.”  As tempting as it was, I’m sure it’s already been used somewhere by someone…

At 8:02 on Friday night at the MGM Grand, only two minutes after the official start time of the concert, Bruce Hornsby appeared unceremoniously by walking out of the shadows, approaching his piano from stage right.  No announcements, no opening band.  (For a moment, I thought this might be a technician coming out for one last equipment inspection – and, if you’ve ever seen America perform, you know how many times it’s possible for a techie to inspect and tune  the guitars!)

As he neared the piano, he surveyed the assortment of papers strewn about the top of his piano.  Notes to himself?  A set list?  Lyrics for the less familiar tunes?

Negative, on all accounts.

Apparently, Hornsby does not work from a setlist.  Instead, he takes in requests from the audience before shows in the form 0f handwritten song titles slipped onto the stage.  His offical website reports, “Yes, it’s true. Bruce does not have a set list for his concerts. He comes up with the set list through requests from the audience. So, if you attend a concert, be sure to carry paper to write your requests on and place them on the stage.”  This is a novel approach, to be certain.  I wanted to participate in the process, but I have only been a “greatest hits” fan.  Aside from that, I would have had to design a paper airplane that was a marvel of physics in order to have my request reach the stage from my seat in the “Parterre” section of the MGM Grand theater, which is French for orchestra seats (and, apparently, English for “far away from the stage, but still technically on the ground level”).

After a brief, positive commentary from Hornsby about the array of requests, he started into the first song.  From the moment his hands touched the keys, it was apparent that he is truly a masterful musician, one of the few that is able to blend intricate classical arrangements into catchy pop/rock, country, and bluesgrass songs.

His first couple selections were played alone, but he was soon joined onstage by the Noise Makers (J.T. Thomas on keyboards, Bobby Read on saxophones (etc.), J.V. Collier on bass, Doug Derryberry on lead guitar, and Sonny Emory on drums).  Soon after, they launched into the first song with which I was familiar.  “Every Little Kiss” was all piano riffs and rock’n roll catchiness.  Well, maybe more adult contemporary than rock, but…

This was the first of several “greatest radio hits” tracks that Hornsby and the Noise Makers performed, much to the delight of my father and I.  Overall, the set list was a diverse collection of the hits, the deep tracks, and covers.  Some were note-for-note replicas of studio versions, such as “The Good Life,” while others were stripped apart and turned inside out, like “The Way It Is.”  There was a definite, if controlled sense of a jam band mentality.  During the final jam of the main set, Hornsby slipped from one song to the next, folding in a couple of high-energy verses from Bob Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry.”  I had begun to tire of the jamming by the end of the show, and this fine touch really brought it all back home for me. (Please send your criticisms of that shameless pun to Chris, care of a comment below…)

At one point, Hornsby left the piano to strap on his accordion and take center stage for two songs.  As he approached the microphone with the new instrument, he commented that he had recently been with Levon Helm.  He introduced the following song by saying that this would please those in the crowd who enjoyed nostalgia, as this was a track from the band — namely, “Evangelne.”  The version did not disappoint and proved further that Hornsby is nothing if not an excellent multi-instrumentalist.

Hornsby was a personable, likable figure onstage.  In between songs, he kept a running commentary going, reflecting on the state of the economy and thanking everyone for coming out to see him perform all the same.  Early on, he revealed that Foxwoods management had told him to play for only 65 minutes.  Just over an hour for some who had paid $50 plus a “convenience” charge — that’s outrageous!  In his very laid-back manner, he said about as much and said they would stretch it to 90 minutes or so.  It sounded as if they told him that 65 minutes was the suggestion and 90 minutes was the outside limit.  He was true to his word, as the main set took the show’s running time to just over an hour and a half plus an encore.

Later on in the show, he expressed how happy he was that he remembered all the words to a track from his first album, a song that he played by request.

On the whole, this was a truly enjoyable concert.  I have an increased respect for Hornsby’s abilities as a pianist and performer, the Noise Makers were a flexible and vastly talented group, and the MGM Grand is a comfortable environment with excellent acoustics.  For my taste, there was too much of a jam band mentality on many of the selections — even Hornsby commented at one point that, due to the time limitations, the songs would be shorter than usual.  Maybe that’s not a bad thing, he said.  He continued, “There’s a fine line between self-expression and self-indulgence,” glancing with a grin to his bandmates.  I couldn’t agree more.

This concert was a bonding experience of sorts for me, as my father is a longtime fan of Hornsby and an even longer-time fan of the song “The Way It Is.”  While we both enjoyed the show, the low point of the show was indisputably their performance of the aforementioned hit single.  Aside from the initial keyboard blast of the familiar riff, the song was given a new, more jumpy tempo and the tune was stripped apart into an understated sequence of lines.  There was none of the charm of the studio version, and all biases being admitted, this version was nothing to brag about on its own.  For those five minutes, I appreciated what it must be like to attend a Dylan concert expecting to hear faithful versions of his hits, only to be met with deep tracks and rearranged versions.  Still, I maintain that the Dylan live experience offers up new and interesting, entertaining takes on his songs, whereas this was disappointing from all angles.

Regardless, the show as a whole was well worth the $35, and is an experience that I will remember fondly for years to come.  Part of that comes out of a bias, but this time a positive one!

Bob Dylan SET LIST: MGM Grand, 8/15/2008

Originally posted 2008-08-15 22:55:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Click HERE to read the CONCERT REVIEW!

Well, I’m sitting in my car with no reasonable hopes of escaping the MGM Grand parking garage before Bob Dylan releases Chronicles, Vol. 3… (For those who are scratching their heads, I basically mean it’ll be a long time!)

Thanks to the iPhone, there’s no better time to post tonight’s Bob Dylan set list!

1. Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat

2. The Times They Are A-Changin’

3. Things Have Changed

4. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight

5. Can’t Wait

6. Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine

7. High Water (For Charley Patton)

8. Chimes of Freedom

9. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum

10. I Believe in You

11. Honest with Me

12. Just Like a Woman

13. Til I Fell in Love with You

14. Nettie Moore

15. Thunder on the Mountain

ENCORE:

16. Like a Rolling Stone

17. All Along the Watchtower

Brian Wilson – CONCERT REVIEW!- 7/16/2008 at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT

Originally posted 2008-07-18 15:59:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

For the set list, click HERE!

A quick Google search of Brian Wilson these days will yield first and foremost the release date and information about his upcoming album That Lucky Old Sun, which will hit stores on September 2. This is exciting news, extending a decade of increased productivity on the former Beach Boy’s part. In 1998, he released an excellent if somewhat overlooked album titled Imagination; this yielded the adult contemporary hit “Your Imagination.” Six years later, he released not only an album of new recordings, Gettin’ In Over My Head (which was received similarly to Imagination), but also released an album called SMiLE. Since 1966, this album has been considered perhaps the most anticipated new rock music album that was never released. Wilson managed to overcome the demons that once haunted him during the initial recording sessions in the mid-sixties and released this US #13 and UK #7 charting album! Now, word that he is releasing new material could not be more exciting than for the fans who have waited with bated breath to see if Wilson’s period of productivity, both in the recording studio and on the stage, would continue.

You may be wondering what all this wonderful background information has to do with the concert that Brian Wilson and his band performed at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT on Thursday, July 16, 2008.

The key connection here is what follows lower on the first page of Google results, namely a blog article titled “Brian Wilson refunding Hammerstein Ballroom ticket money…” According to the article, fans complained that the show was only 75 minutes long and performed by a smaller band than Wilson is typically known for. Reading this for the first time the afternoon before I was to attend this concert, I suddenly wondered if disappointment lay ahead. After all, a quick glance at the posts on BrianWilson.com’s message board suggested that there was a significant amount of tension surrounding the recent concerts. When the time came to leave for the concert, I did what any self-respecting Wilson fan would do; I gathered a collection of Beach Boys and Brian Wilson solo albums, got in my car, and kept my expectations somewhere between medium and low.

It should at least be explained briefly here that this show probably did have a lot to live up to. After all, I have seen Brian many times in my brief six years as a loyal and interested fan of his work. The most memorable and incredible concert I attended was, without hesitation, a SMiLE show in New York City. Not only did I go with my friend and fellow Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog founder Jim Fusco, but he had enlisted me to help him film his honors’ college thesis project. Due to his legwork, we were graced by the presence of a handful of Brian Wilson’s touring band members right in our very hotel room! After recording enough footage, we enjoyed the rest of the stay in New York for what it was — an opportunity to meet, in a casual environment, such Beach Boys figures as writer David Leaf and band members Probyn Gregory and Taylor Mills. This was probably the most memorable music experience of my entire life; it certainly was up to that point!

So, this being said, the concert at Warner Theatre on July 16th had a lot to live up to. Still, I came to terms with the fact that this was billed as a “Greatest Hits” show, meaning I wasn’t expecting rarities or even tracks off the new album. (I’m not sure what the aforementioned show at the Hammerstein Ballroom was billed as…) I had read elsewhere that Darian Sahanaja, a major contributor to the sound and structure of the band, was unable to attend this tour, as well as Taylor Mills. Two other regular members had recently left the band. I wondered what it would all sound like, and whether or not it would be worth my $50.

It most certainly was. Even with the aforementioned absences, the band was spot-on and sounded remarkably clear and crisp, most likely owing to the acoustics of the small venue. Although the show only lasted for 90 minutes (which was brief compared to some previous shows I have seen), he played 28 songs spread out over a main set and two encores. The set list was somewhat predictable, but then, isn’t that the nature of a greatest hits show?

What struck me was the energy in the room. Applause broke out the moment background vocals were sung during “In My Room.” Within the first few notes of “Do You Wanna Dance?,” every single person with a floor seat was on his or her feet and shaking around. Finally, and perhaps most unusual for this concert veteran, was the fact that not a soul went for the door until the final song of the second encore was over and the lights had fully come up. This was exciting, as I am often frustrated to find that people would rather get out of the parking garage before the traffic builds than stay and watch the band perform their final song or two.

What I couldn’t understand to any degree was why the couple in their early thirties sitting in front of me got up during “Do You Wanna Dance?” and never came back. What did they expect to hear? As far as greatest hits concerts go, this was just about the best you could ever ask for — well-known songs, lively performers, and faithful arrangements.

Perhaps the best aspect of the concert was Brian’s talkative nature. I wondered if he was considering the bad press he had recently received or if he was simply in a good mood. Regardless, he engaged the band and the audience throughout the show. He began with a brief statement before the show, something like, “It’s great to be in Torrington.” He explained the origins of songs — “I wrote this one when I was 19 in my car” — and later asked the band, then the crowd, to make the noise a coyote makes.

Before the final song of the main set, he asked, “You didn’t come here for bad vibes, did you?” No! the crowd responds. “Did you come here for medium vibes?” No! “Good vibes?” YES!!

I think the set list speaks for itself; these are the quintessential Beach Boys songs, mostly tracks that he wrote in the 1960s and 1970s that still have importance to us today. We still love to hear them, and the band did an excellent job (as they always do!) of performing them. The two curve balls of the night were the tracks from the upcoming release That Lucky Old Sun, “Goin’ Home” and “Southern California.” The former sounded great; it was catchy and employed powerful harmonies, although Brian’s lead vocal was difficult to distinguish in the mix. In the second new track, he clearly took command of his part. Suffice it to say that, if I wasn’t excited about the new album before now, I was after listening to these performances.

Other highlights included Scott Bennett’s absolutely scorching electric guitar solo, not to mention Brian’s opening piano riffing, on the seventies Beach Boys track “Marcella.” (He had tapped the keys of his keyboard just before “Sloop John B,” and then continued to ignore the instrument behind which he sat as the night went on.)

All in all, this was a great show and I’m glad that I went. I can’t say it was my favorite Brian Wilson show, and how could it be when compared to the others I have seen in the past? No, I took this for what it was — a greatest hits show with a couple of sneak peaks of new material to come. I truly couldn’t have been happier to find that Brian was in high spirits and incredible form, on the eve of yet another new album.  While you wait, make sure to check out all of our Brian Wilson and Beach Boys cover songs here on the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog!