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.

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.