BnL Live at the Klein, November 2010 – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-11-21 12:24:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

See the Set List HERE.

On the heels of my previous BnL concert review, posted little more than three months ago, there isn’t much more that needs to be said, other than to underscore several assertions concerning the Barenaked Ladies.

First, it really can never be too soon to see them play live again.  After seeing them in August with decent seats and having had an outstandingly fun time, I almost considered letting this second New England tour stopover pass me by.

Almost.

Being fortunate enough to live in an area that is located in, as a friend recently referred to it, the “Barenaked Belt,” it simply doesn’t make sense to not take advantage of it.  And, this time around, the venue was considerably smaller – Mohegan Sun Arena being 9500 capacity, and the Klein Auditorium being only 1400.  We sat front row balcony, or “mezzanine” as the theatre people say, and got some performances that probably wouldn’t find their way into a stadium set, songs like the rarely played “Moonstone” and “Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel.”

A second assertion, and perhaps the main thrust of my August review, is that BnL is every bit as good as they were when Steven Page was in the band.  This is surprising, as he is such a unique talent and a man who brings considerable stage presence and energy to the live shows.

And, for the record, let’s be clear that I would love to see the five-man band reunited at some point down the road.

But, for now, the four-piece Barenaked Ladies are still a force to be reckoned with, and they have apparently decided that no catalog item is off limits, regardless of how much of a “Steven” song it is/was.  Take, for example, the fairly standard middle of their order, a veritable greatest hits of Steven Page tracks: “Sound of Your Voice,” “It’s All Been Done,” “Too Little Too Late,” and “Brian Wilson,” all topped off with the not-so-subtle “You Run Away.”

A third assertion is one that struck me early in the set last night: the Barenaked Ladies are the rare group of men that have gotten cooler as the years pass.  One needs only to compare their image and sound from the excellent and not-to-be-slighted Gordon era with their current stage show in order to appreciate just how cool they’ve become without losing too many fans to claims of selling out.

They have such a vast array of music, and to a certain degree, they allow for it in their set lists.  Although there are certain songs that you can reasonably expect (and in certain orders), there is room for adlibs and unexpected deep tracks, songs like those mentioned above.  Even songs that have been played about ten thousand times over their career, like “One Week,” have taken on a fresh appeal.  With Kevin Hearn singing the Page parts of “One Week” last night, I think they’ve finally perfected their recent live arrangement of this, their best-known composition.  Likewise, Tyler Stewart and Jim Creeggan have stepped up their game, Stewart bringing down the house with his reinvigorated, Jack Black-esque approach to “Alcohol” and Creeggan with his on-stage gesticulations, ear-to-ear grin, and acceptance of the spotlight for tracks like “On the Lookout” and “Peterborough and the Kawarthas.”

Finally, as if it needs to be said, Ed Robertson is a force unto himself.  His white man rapping helped to establish the band’s public image, and he is ever willing to put himself out there for a laugh.

When I choose the words “put himself out there,” I mean that literally.

Last night, as a tribute to their excellent opening act Jukebox the Ghost’s final night on tour, Robertson emerged from backstage with only a towel on.  Then, positioning himself between keyboardist/lead vocalist Ben Thornewill and the audience, he opened his towel so only Thornewill could see him and proceeded to dance to the music.  He moved around the stage and repeated this process for the other two band members.  Meanwhile, the crowd was laughing and clapping and screaming, and guitarist Tommy Siegel laughed his way through his vocals.

As Thornewill pointed out after the song, he could only see Robertson in his peripheral vision at first.  When he reached his hand out to pretend to tickle him, he found that Robertson was indeed wearing only a towel.

Never let it be said that the “Barenaked” part of their band name hasn’t been earned.

Forgive me for getting up on my soapbox yet again, but BnL continues to be one of the most underappreciated rock music acts of the modern age.  If you or someone you know hears “Barenaked Ladies” and instantly thinks “goofy,” “funny,” “If I Had $1,000,000,” and/or “One Week,” then check bnlmusic.com for a tour date in your area.  One show and you’ll be hooked.  Guaranteed.

I’ve been a fan now for over a decade, and they continue to recapture my interest and adoration each and every time I see them live.

As I climb off my soapbox, I bid you good day and hope this review might at least inspire a spin of Maroon or Stunt.  Or Gordon.  Or Maybe You Should Drive.  Or Everything to Everyone.  Or…

Well, you get the idea.

Bob Dylan Live at the MGM Grand Theatre, November 2010 – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-11-28 20:52:16. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Click HERE for the Set List!

By Chris Moore:

How many times do you suppose Bob Dylan has performed “Like A Rolling Stone” in his career?

I’d be willing to bet it stretches well into the four digit range.

Fortunately, there’s this great site that — thanks to internet records — has broken down his tour stats for the past decade, 2000-2009.  Thus, I can say with some certainty that he has performed “Like A Rolling Stone” live in concert 781 times in the first decade of the new millennium alone.

This is what it’s all come to: there is an abundance — some would say an over-abundance, and I would agree — of text available on Bob Dylan’s life and music.  These sources include everything from so-called “official” music sources such as Rolling Stone magazine to independent blogs (I am, of course, inclined to argue that the latter does include some excellent sites…).  The writers range from fans who write for the sake of fandom to that ever-broadening cast of self-proclaimed Dylanologists brandishing claims to varying degrees of expertise.

All this shuffle over a man who continues to write, perform, and (recently) record music at an extraordinary pace begs one essential question:

Where do my experiences, thoughts, and opinions fit into the ever-growing, ever-changing mix?

The honest answer will find you nearer to “they don’t” and “leave it to the professionals, kid” than any of us modern-day bloggers, Twitterers, and Facebookers really want to consider, so I trudge forward with my words.

I have been a Dylan fan since 2000, my sophomore year in high school and the first time in my life when I discovered the cathartic power of putting pen to paper.  Through studying Dylan and others, I soon found that there is a distinct separation between those who write purely for therapeutic release and/or self-aggrandizement and those who are willing to explore the roots and work to not only improve their writing but also to imbue it with significant thought and emotion.

Every year that I’ve seen Dylan (and I’ve seen him once a year for ten years), I’ve had this conviction reaffirmed.

Some shows are better than others, and frankly, I enjoyed last year’s July concert at New Britain Stadium more than last night’s (11/27/2010) MGM Grand Theatre performance in Mashantucket, CT.  Last summer, his songs were more rock-tinged than I’d heard them in several years, marked by George Recile’s thunderous drums.

For my money, there’s no better Dylan.

Last night, I rediscovered a Dylan embracing his country and blues roots, fronted once again by Charlie Sexton, a lead guitarist who should be considered by Dylan fans and critics with similar, if not the same, respect as earlier notables like Bloomfield and Robertson, if only for the revival of energy that he helped to foster in the band during his brief tenure (think: “Things Have Changed,” Love & Theft, and the Masked and Anonymous project).

The guitar work was arguably the highlight of the evening, Sexton and Dylan’s body language hinting at revisiting the onstage soloing duels they acted out during their concerts in 2002.  Dylan himself seemed less restrained than usual during the set, moving not only from keyboard to guitar but also confining himself to vocal and harmonica duties on several songs.  When he picked up the guitar, his hands strayed up and down the fretboard as per usual, but he also took on a couple of standout solos.

On the whole, the band produced strong six-string work with the acoustic guitar featured prominently at times, as well as the banjo and, more typically, lap steel.

The pinnacle of their prowess came with the best version of “Love Sick” I’ve heard, dancing with dissonance along the taut wire characteristic of this Time Out of Mind alum.

The set list itself was predictable to a degree if you’ve been paying any attention to recent sets — “Thunder on the Mountain” and “Jolene” being two of the sure bets — and yet Dylan continues to infuse an air of improvisation, choosing two Nashville Skyline tracks, the ever-enigmatic and enticing “Visions of Johanna,” and taking down the tempo for a heartrending take on “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”  The visual aspect of this show was the most ambitious of any I’ve seen, combining a fantastic array of background images, video projected on the screen, and all around a shifting shadow motif; it was understated and not likely to win any awards for stage design, but added excellent visual accompaniment to the music.

While the fan in me desires purely to express the unadulterated joy of the evening, an emotion I truly and predominantly felt, it should be noted that several performances suffered from the same staccato near-drone that has characterized periods of Dylan’s live career since the seventies (see: “Shelter from the Storm” from 1979’s Live at Budokan).  Vocally, he shifted in and out of his comfort zone, crooning at one moment and crackling apart at the next.

And yet, for me, these aspects were overshadowed by the strength of the instrumental work, as much as by the indescribable respect and joy I found in the realization that this energetic, multi-layered concert comes at the tail end of Dylan’s fifth decade of live performances.

Phenomenal.

There’s no other word for a man who can strut onstage and sing “Like A Rolling Stone” for the 102nd time this year with as much passion and grit as he did forty-something years ago when he sang to unsettled audiences.

It’s a different sort of passion and grit, some of which can be heard quite literally in the gravel of his voice, but it’s the same rush of adrenaline that noticeably passes over the crowd when the lights come up on the “How does it feeeeel?” of the chorus.

A Weekend Review Special Edition – Pearl Jam Live in Concert: Sat., May 15, 2010 at the XL Center

Originally posted 2010-05-16 13:50:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Click HERE to view the set list!

By Chris Moore:

It is far too easy to sit down the day after a concert experience and glorify the memory of the past night.

What follows is, to the best of my ability, devoid of exaggeration.

Band of Horses opened the night with a solid forty-five minute set.  I enjoyed listening to their songs; it was all Band-style rock and vocals, if a little less rough-shod than Robertson, Helm, and company would have preferred.  Ben Bridwell and his band sufficiently caught my interest for their new album, Infinite Arms, which will be released this coming Tuesday.

This all being acknowledged, they are no Pearl Jam.

The majority of ticket-holders apparently agreed, as more than three quarters of the seats went unfilled until about ten minutes before the headliners came onstage.  By the time Matt Cameron, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, and Eddie Vedder took the stage, nearly every seat in the house was filled, including the majority of seats to the side of and behind the stage.

And when a band can fill seats with people willing to stare at their backs for most of the concert, that’s saying something.

Even from my vantage point at Vedder’s nine o’clock high up in the second to last row of the XL (nee Civic) Center in Hartford, CT, the show was a phenomenal experience, although it didn’t begin that way.  For some reason, the sound was softer and muddier than it should have been for the first several songs.

I had a nightmarish vision of having to listen to thousands of half-drunken Pearl Jam fans sing the hits while one of the greatest rock bands of all time labored away below me, in my vision but outside my hearing.  For the first four songs or so, this fear was realized as I had to struggle to hear Vedder’s baritone amidst shouting fans who clearly knew the words every bit as well as he did — and wanted to lend their vocals.  Even McCready and Gossard’s guitar work was buried, only Ament’s bass and Cameron’s stellar drumming standing out clearly the entire evening.  In between songs, Vedder sounded like he was speaking into a drive-thru speaker in a foreign language.

Then, like someone flipped a switch, Vedder’s voice suddenly came through loud and clear and the instruments all fell into place into the mix.  From this point on, the concert was pure energy and utter perfection.

This was a concert to compete with the best concert experiences of my lifetime (and admittedly limited experience).  There was all the instrumental prowess of Bob Dylan’s band with an ability to translate studio tracks to live performances that rivals — and perhaps surpasses — that of bands like America and Wilco.  The set list was among the most well-balanced I’ve seen, up there with Brian Wilson’s recent concerts which regularly and beautifully draw from throughout his storied career.  My only complaint concerning the set list — and I am most certainly going to be alone on this one — is its dismissal of Binaural (2000) and Riot Act (2002), which boast some of my favorite tracks in their catalog.

In the course of more than two hours of pure rock fury, the band played the first seven tracks of last year’s Backspacer, folding these new songs into their repetoire like they’ve been playing them for a decade.  I’m at a loss to name just one that stood out — I think “Got Some” first because I love it, but “The Fixer” was heart-pounding, catchy madness, and by the time “Johnny Guitar” rolled out, it was like Vedder and company had been unleashed.  In the first encore, they played a breath-taking version of the ninth track, “Speed of Sound,” noting that they hadn’t really played it before, at least not to their liking.  Gossard’s acoustic work was just right, and I can honestly assert that this was better than the album version.

This is not to say that the veteran Pearl Jam fans went unappeased, as Ten (1991), Vs. (1993), and Vitalogy (1994) were all well-represented.  Hits like “Even Flow,” “Alive,” and “Jeremy” were received as full-audience sing-a-longs, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear my favorite deep track on Ten, “Porch,” in all its angry glory.  “Daughter” and, less predictably, “Dissident” were played, but it wasn’t until their transcendent take on “Indifference” that I was blown away.  This was their second to last performance of the evening, with the lights up and the audience clapping for the entire song.  I’m proud to say I was one of the few that didn’t taper off in the middle, and even though I questioned if I was supposed to stop and my arms were screaming for me to relax, I wouldn’t have for the world.

Although Vitalogy is among my least favorite albums in the Pearl Jam catalog, it certainly has some of the best material they have ever released.  When they kicked off “Corduroy,” the crowd responded with the same sort of energetic approval I’ve rarely seen, the same as when Dylan finally reaches for a harmonica these days.  I was again pleasantly surprised to hear them roll into my favorite Vitalogy deep track, “Satan’s Bed.”  There’s something poignant about the in-your-face defiance of typical American indicators of success and image in this song, heard most clearly in the vocals and instrumental stop on the line “I’ll never suck Satan’s dick.”  Before “Nothingman,” Vedder dedicated the song to a young couple holding hands that he had seen on a street corner before the show, noting how profound that sort of affection is, as though it’s all they need in the world for all their days to come.  He referred to “Nothingman” as a cautionary tale to those who would forgo or forget the importance of love.

Another of my favorites, Yield (1998) alum “Do the Evolution,” was played, but it was admittedly overshadowed by their beautiful delivery of “Low Light,” one of my girlfriend Nicole’s favorites (her night was complete, as she had been hoping for “Johnny Guitar” and this one).

The night all wrapped up with a second encore closing cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” a la Hendrix, a song and an arrangement that Dylan uses often in his own encores to this day.

The music was brilliantly performed, the energy in the filled-to-capacity XL Center was unsurpassed, and even from the nosebleeds, it was clear that this was a concert that I will always remember as one of the best I’ve ever seen.  That I almost considered saving the money and not going to see Pearl Jam is beyond embarrassing; two decades later, they are one of the most impressive live bands going, most likely due the the fact that they are truly a band.  As much as Vedder’s personality and stage presence drives their image, each member of the band contributes to the writing of the songs and has an integral part of their sound.

As if to remind us of the fact that he prefers to share the spotlight, Vedder rode out the instrumental portion of “Porch” by using the reflection from his electric guitar, held above his head, to shine a beacon on each and every portion of the stadium, momentarily blinding each fan with brilliance — a literal gesture, and a fitting metaphor for the evening.

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!