Barenaked Ladies Live in Concert: Fri., August 6, 2010 at Mohegan Sun – A Weekend Review Special Edition

Originally posted 2010-08-21 12:59:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For the set list, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

To the public eye, and even to some fans, the Barenaked Ladies’ break with Steven Page is a loss that could nullify any future efforts in the band’s name.  This is understandable to some degree, as Page has appeared to be one half of the band in their most well-known singles (think: “If I Had $1000000” and “One Week”).  If Page is gone, some have said, then perhaps it is time for BnL to close up shop.

Anyone in attendance at the Mohegan Sun arena on Friday, August 6 would beg to differ.

(Correction: anyone with any sense, which is clearly not everyone based on other reviews which have been posted on the web, Ticketmaster.com in particular.)

The truth is that the Barenaked Ladies achieved live in concert what they recently achieved on record with All in Good Time: reminding their audience that their three supporting members are more than simply support members.  Kevin Hearn, in addition to being a skilled multi-instrumentalist is a songwriter in his own right.  And this is nothing new; remember “Sound of Your Voice,” the standout third track on Are Me?  Remember “Hidden Sun,” the hidden track on Maroon?  Yeah, those were Kevin Hearn songs, each another good reason to sing “Hold on, here comes a Kevin Hearn song” to his new track “Another Heartache,” as Mike had us all doing in the car on the way to the concert.

Jim Creegan is not only their bass player, but has released numerous albums apart from BnL, many with former Lady Andy as the Brothers Creegan.  Recently, he has begun adding his songs to BnL albums again, and it may come as a shock to realize that the band’s best singer is arguably a man known more for his background vocals than his leads.

Tyler Stewart has always been the guy who makes you laugh.  He’s a good drummer, but we’ve known that.  Well, starting with “Allergies” on 2008’s Snacktime, Stewart has asserted even his lead singing voice.  In the absence of Page, Stewart has accompanied frontman Ed Robertson at all of their All in Good Time promotional interviews, from radio to VH1, and his voice can be heard in a brief but significant role on what should have been the latest BnL single, “Four Seconds.”

Really, it should have come as no surprise that the 8/6/2010 Barenaked Ladies show at Mohegan Sun met and far exceeded any expectations I had for the concert — which were many and various, having seen the five-piece band in action and being the longtime fan that I am.

BnL keychain from their merch table

BnL keychain from their merch table

Aside from the improvisational numbers, the unmitigated high points of the concert were their performances of “Old Apartment,” “Eraser,” “On the Lookout,” “Sound of Your Voice,” and “Alcohol,” each highlighting a different strength of their live show.

Hearing “Old Apartment” three songs into the show was a surprise and a treat.  It was almost as if to make a statement that they will still play their older songs regardless of Page’s absence.  “The Old Apartment” has classic Steven Page lead vocal written all over it, but Robertson did an outstanding job of leading the song as if he, not Page, had been singing it for two decades.  In the encore, they again made a statement with Stewart taking the lead on “Alcohol,” bringing the house down as he stepped out from behind the drum kit (with Robertson taking over there) and channeled Jack Black in his energetic performance.  This was not simply a novelty, like, “Oh, that’s nice that they gave Tyler something else to do.”  This was a surprising, thrilling, straight-up amazing performance of a track I never expected to hear in concert again.

“Sound of Your Voice” was originally performed by its writer, Hearn, in concert until they realized that Page’s presence took the song to whole new level.  Again, I was disappointed to think that I would never hear this song performed to its full potential again.  Not so.  Their new arrangement of “Sound of Your Voice” features Hearn on acoustic guitar, singing lead, and the three other band members singing Temptations-style backup, perfectly voicing the signature parts of the song that were previously hit by guitars and other instruments.  This was an impressive, funny, and yet seriously good version of the song.

When Creegan took to the piano, my first response was, “Wait.  Jim plays piano?”  Making like the Band, the Ladies mixed up instruments all night long, and this was perhaps the pinnacle.  Creegan’s performance of “On the Lookout” was beautiful and perfect, except perhaps for the absence of Robertson’s “Let’s roll this one from the top” intro from the studio recording.  Another piano song that stood out was “Eraser,” introduced by Hearn and Robertson competing to see who could hold out the “Eeeeeeeeee-” note longer than the other.  Suffice it to say that this ended with Robertson pretending to fall, ending up “unconscious” on his back.  Even the songs from their children’s album held up here, and “Eraser” was every bit as impressive as the other, more “serious” songs.

True to form, a Barenaked Ladies concert wouldn’t be complete without improvisation.  Twice during the night, the four-piece experimented musically, sans Steven Page who had always been their most theatrical member.  In his place, Robertson put together a hilarious medley of Herman’s Hermits’ “Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good” and a rap about gambling at Mohegan Sun, the latter of which was a theme returned to all night in their stage banter.  Then, with Hearn on piano for a medley of recent pop songs kicked off with the 1974 Pilot song “Magic” — best known for the chorus line, “Oh, oh, it’s magic, you know” — Robertson, Creegan, and Stewart performed a dance number that not only caused the most energetic crowd reaction of the night, but was also fantastically choreographed and obviously well-rehearsed.  The next time I have to explain BnL to someone who has only heard their hits, I will mention this final improv:  they didn’t settle for being goofy; instead, they put together a tight performance that demonstrated just how seriously they take their on-stage personas.

The Barenaked Ladies are as tight, impressive, and enterprising a band as they have ever been.  After two decades as one of rock music’s most under-appreciated quintets, save for a short stint at the top of the charts in 1998, it looks like they’re poised to be one of rock music’s most under-appreciated quartets of the new decade.  Their live act is as exciting and as long (in the range of two hours) as my favorite act of last summer, Wilco, a band that has reached what is perhaps their critical prime.  Do yourself a favor and tune in to BnL as well.

Bob Dylan – CONCERT REVIEW!- 8/15/2008 at the MGM Grand in Mashantucket, CT

Originally posted 2008-08-16 10:44:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Click HERE to view the SET LIST!

Okay, so I had what was potentially (literally) the worst seat in the house, a position so high as to be unreachable by today’s best air conditioning systems. And I may have walked in late, after having sat in stop-and-stop traffic for half an hour, just as the familiar voice-over finished — “Ladies and gentlemen… Columbia recording artist… Bob Dylan.”  It doesn’t sound like the ideal way to begin a live concert experience…

But this was the MGM Grand in Mashantucket, CT.  Even a bad seat — the worst seat, in my case — is a good seat with a great view of the stage and excellent acoustics.  I could hear every word Dylan said… when it was possible, of course!

Seriously, though, aside from the first song (when I couldn’t figure out what he and his band were playing until the very last line when he annunciated and almost shouted “your Leopard-skin Pill-box Haaaat!”), the set list of songs was amazing and the performances were exciting and entertaining.

After starting with a track from 1966’s Blonde on Blonde, Dylan went on to reach as far back as his acoustic folk records and as recently as his 2006 album Modern Times.  And he presented a healthy variety of songs from every phase in between.  Some highlights were — “Things Have Changed” from the Wonder Boys soundtrack, a rocking version of the Time Out of Mind track “Can’t Wait,” and a passionate version of “Just Like a Woman.”  The latter was perhaps the most impressive, if only for the fact that he still gives this mild hit (still played on oldies stations) his complete attention, even after performing it live for over four decades.

There were some absolute gems in song choice.  The one that nearly knocked me off my seat (which would have been dangerous, considering how high up I was!) was “I Believe in You.”  This is my favorite — and obscure — track off of his 1979 “Christian album” Slow Train Coming.  The album, of course, netted Dylan his first Grammy award, and this performance is most likely a tribute to his producer for the album, Jerry Wexler, who recently passed away.

And then there was “Nettie Moore,” a deep track from his most recent album — this is where I felt my friend Jim’s absence most profoundly, as it was one of his favorite tracks when he first heard Modern Times.  Now I may be biased (sharing the same last name and all), but this is a great track that was more upbeat than the studio recording.  It drew quite the applause from the first few chords, and this is not to be understated; so unique are his concert arrangements that it often takes the audience until well into the second verse if not the chorus to figure out which song is being performed.  Indeed, it was hard to shake the feeling that there is some connection between his line in “Nettie Moore” — “I’m beginning to believe what the scriptures tell” — and the themes of “I Believe in You.”

But, I’ll leave that for others to theorize on.

Overall, what makes Dylan’s show such an exciting one is not his faithful reproduction of classic hits and fan favorites.  Rather, this Dylan set list combined with the musicianship of his formidable band make for great entertainment.  They may not be a showy band, but he and his current band impress subtly at every turn — Dylan’s organ sound was clear and classic, the violin solo in “Things Have Changed” was cooler than I should admit to thinking, the riff I heard for the first time in “Can’t Wait” was infectious, the guitar solo in “High Water” was great and the one in “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” was scorching, and the drumming continues to be one of my favorite aspects of this band — George Recile redefines the terms “driving beat” (on “Honest with Me”) and “machine gun drumming” (on “All Along the Watchtower”).

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in my excitement.  There wasn’t a still body in the place as Bob Dylan and his band returned to the stage for an encore — after several long minutes that almost made me question whether he was returning — and thundered into “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Compared even to last year’s show, I have to say that I was perhaps more excited last year, probably due to Dylan starting off the show on electric guitar as the lights came up — oh, the applause that brought on! — and his set list last year including some of my favorite tracks.  Still, after the encore, I couldn’t feel my arms from clapping so hard for so long (and, of course, from not visiting a gym anytime in my adult life) and my throat was sore for having cheered so loudly throughout the night, wishing desperately that the show wouldn’t end, making me wait another entire year before he comes around again.

If these aren’t signs of a great show, then I don’t know what are!

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.