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 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.

The Wallflowers Live – Foxwoods, April 25th, 2008 (Set List & Review) – Songwriters on Vacation

Originally posted 2008-05-03 10:16:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Set List:

1. Up From Under

2. Three Marlenas – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

3. Here He Comes (Confessions of a Drunken Marionette)

4. Letters from the Wasteland

5. 6th Avenue Heartache – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

6. When You’re On Top

7. Mourning Train

8. Invisible City

9. Sleepwalker – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

10. If You Never Got Sick – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

11. Closer to You

12. How Good It Can Get – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

13. One Headlight – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

14. God Don’t Make Lonely Girls

15. Everything I Need – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSIONS!

16. How Far We’ve Come – FALSE START

17. Josephine

18. Empire in My Mind – Click HERE for the LAPTOP SESSION!

19. Nearly Beloved

By Chris Moore:

The Wallflowers have long been one of my favorite bands. So, my first question as the curtains came up at Friday night’s Foxwoods concert was, where is Rami Jaffee? Aside from Jakob Dylan, he’s the only original Wallflower still with the band. Instead of the four-member crew I expected, there were only three — Dylan, bassist Greg Richling, and drummer Fred Eltringham. This set the tone for the night, as I was laughing and enjoying myself before they even played a song.

Actually, the tone was set before the curtain even went up, as the pre-concert background music (usually played at a reduced volume) was turned up for an Edgar Jones song called “Oh Man That’s Some Shit.” This title refrain was repeated with intermittent additions such as, “Oh, yes it is!” When the song finished, it was played again. By the third time it was played, Jim, Mike, and I began to wonder if they were stalling for time. It was now 9:15, and the show was scheduled for 9 sharp. More likely, this was Dylan’s sense of humor showing through. The three of us couldn’t keep from laughing and singing along with the layered harmonies of Jones’ “Oh Man That’s Some Shit.” Even as I write this, I’m singing it in my head…

Once I got over the initial shock of Jaffee’s absence, I was struck by the song selection. Opening with the Breach track “Up From Under,” continuing with “Three Marlenas,” and then playing “Here He Comes,” Dylan kicked off the show with three really great songs from three different albums. Still, he hadn’t quite rocked out yet…

…which changed as soon as he tore into “Letters from the Wasteland.” For “Letters,” Dylan really seemed to get into it, putting emotion and a sense of foreboding into the performance.

The highlights of the show for me were really when they played “When You’re On Top” — aside from changing the tune on the chorus, it was a great version and done acoustically to boot! — and the fact that they chose six tracks out of eighteen from the Red Letter Days album, one of my all-time favorite (and terribly underappreciated) albums. Other songs, such as “One Headlight” and “If You Never Got Sick” would have made the highlights, if not for Dylan forgetting the words and singing the first verses and chorus a bit oddly, respectively.

This was how the show went — one exciting moment followed by an odd or off moment. For instance, Dylan forgot the words to several tracks, including all but the first line to “How Far We’ve Come.” The most disappointing aspect of the concert really was the fact that the band lacked a soloing musician. There was no lead guitarist and no keyboard player, so instrumental sections were filled with Dylan’s fingerpicking or Richling’s bass playing. Having a fourth musician on stage probably would have taken this concert to the next level and made it perhaps one of my favorite concerts ever.

Actually, the most disappointing moment of the experience was learning from Fusco-Moore labelmate Jeff Copperthite that one of his friends at work had actually met Jakob Dylan! Not only did he meet him, but he met him before the concert while having dinner at the buffet… that we had been at an hour earlier! I’m also pretty sure I walked past Greg Richling while looking for a bathroom, but I wasn’t sure and just stood there staring at him until he was out of sight…

In the end, I had a great time at this show. After their two-year absence from touring, I had begun to believe I would never see the Wallflowers in concert. But now I have seen them, and Dylan’s voice was in great form, the song selection was incredible (and even a bit surprising, considering previous years), and I won’t soon forget the experience. It was interesting to see Greg Richling, who has been a Wallflower since the days of “One Headlight,” and Fred Eltringham, who I was initially uncertain about, but who really warmed up and earned my respect over the hour and a half he was on stage.

Back at home, I learned that Jaffee left the band late last year and is currently on the road with the Foo Fighters. What does this mean? I don’t mean to blow his exit from the band out of proportion, but it marks for me a new era for the Wallflowers. With new concert dates planned for the Wallflowers and the imminent release of Jakob Dylan’s solo album, Seeing Things, the future is promising.

I suppose I’ll just have to be patient about the next Wallflowers album — whatever and whenever it will be…

The Bob Dylan Concert Primer: November 2010 – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-11-01 19:07:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Since Mike, Nicole, and I are getting revved up for Bob Dylan’s upcoming November 27th concert at the MGM Grand, I’ve been designated the task of preparing a soundtrack for preparation.  I’ve been so busy that I’ve let time slip by since Mike asked me, but I couldn’t allow this to go any farther than tonight.

I started by looking up the set lists for Dylan’s past ten shows (this was made simple by them being easily available on Dylan’s Facebook page).  Each set list is comprised of between 15 and 17 songs, so I sorted through all of the songs and put a tally mark next to each track for each time it was performed.

Well, 53 songs later, it was only somewhat clearer which songs might be played at our November 27th show!

I’ve done my best here to put together the tracks that have been played most often, sorting through different versions I have on my iTunes to pick for not only the best versions, but also to add variety to the playlist.  And “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Jolene,” and “Like A Rolling Stone” have been played at every show in the same order, so those are a fairly certain bet (unless he switches it up in the next few weeks).  I’ve put them at the end of the playlist, as they were most often the end of the set list, so don’t stop before you reach those!

Once I compiled this playlist, I couldn’t help but post it here online…

Without further ado, here it is, my November 2010 Bob Dylan Concert Primer.  For all those going to see Dylan this month, I hope this is helpful!  :-)  (For the true Dylan fanatic, I’ve posted my raw data notes below this playlist.)

1)  “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” – The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Live, 1966

2)  “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” – Together Through Life (2009)

3)  “Highway 61 Revisited” – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

4)  “Just Like a Woman” – Blonde on Blonde (1966)

5)  “Summer Days” – Love & Theft (2001)

6)  “Workingman’s Blues #2” – Modern Times (2006)

7)  “Tangled Up in Blue” – Blood on the Tracks (1975)

8)  “Cold Irons Bound” – Masked & Anonymous (2003)

9)  “Simple Twist of Fate” – The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Live 1975

10)  “High Water (For Charley Patton)” – The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs (Live Version, 2003)

11)  “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” – Modern Times (2006)

12)  “Thunder on the Mountain” – Modern Times (2006)

13)  “Ballad of a Thin Man” – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

14)  “Jolene” – Together Through Life (2009)

15)  “Like a Rolling Stone” – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

Statistics compiled from 10 setlists of shows between Oct 19 and Oct 31, 2010.  Each night, Dylan played between 15 and 17 songs.

Leopard Skin                                                iiiiiiii

This wheels                                                i

stuck inside                                                iii

just like a woman                                    iiiiiii

beyond here                                                iiii

tangled up                                                iiiiii

rollin and tumblin                                    iiii

spirit on the water                                    ii

high water                                                iiiiiiiii

workingman’s blues                                    iiii

highway 61                                                iiiiiiiiii

ain’t talkin                                                i

Thunder on the                                     iiiiiiiiii

ballad of a thin man                        iiiiiiiiii

Jolene                                                iiiiiiiiii

Like a rolling stone                        iiiiiiiiii

senor tales of                                                ii

I’ll be your baby                                                 i

the levee’s gonna                                    iiii

i don’t believe you                                    i

honest with me                                                ii

a hard rain’s a-gonna                                    ii

cold irons bound                                                iiii

love sick                                                            ii

nettie moore                                                ii

rainy day women #12                                     i

Don’t think twice                                                ii

tryin’ to get to heaven                                    ii

blind willie mctell                                    i

summer days                                                iiii

cat’s in the well                                                i

it’s all over now baby blue                                    ii

things have changed                                    ii

desolation row                                                ii

not dark yet                                                i

all along the watchtower                                    ii

lay lady lay                                                i

Man in the long black                                    i

i feel a change comin on                                    i

visions of johanna                                    i

Masters of war                                                i

simple twist of fate                                    iiii

just like tom thumb’s                                    i

forgetful heart                                                i

It ain’t me babe                                                i

tweedle dee & tweedle dum                        i

if you ever go to houston                                    iii

when the deal goes down                                    i

the man in me                                                i

positively 4th street                                    i

the lonesome death of hattie                        i

forever young                                                i

queen jane approximately                                    i