Author: jenkins

Dave Matthews Band Gets Funky with Fallon

This past weekend, the Dave Matthews Band was in NYC for their winter tour opener and a pair of Hurricane Sandy benefit concerts.

Since they were in town they stopped by the set of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for Dave to have a little fun during the show.

The band also performed “Rooftop” with Captain Kirk Douglas from The Roots guesting on guitar. They didn’t play any singles from the new album Away From The World (arguably the best thing they’ve released in over a decade).

Heartache and Charm: Ingrid Michaelson Live at The Pageant 7-16-2012

It should not come as a surprise to anyone that in the last two years I have become a tremendous fan of Ingrid Michaelson.  Not only does her particular brand of songwriting tend to hit all of the right notes for me (both when she is upbeat and cheerful as well as when she is channeling heartache and pain), but anyone who is familiar with my musical preferences is fully aware that I have a huge soft spot for the female singing-songwriting-piano-playing types.  Even my wife will gladly acknowledge that my crush on Ingrid is huge.

Fan that I am, I wasn’t sure about going to see the show last night.  Earlier in the year when tickets went on sale there were a lot of unknowns in the Jenkins household due to the pending arrival of baby “Fussy McShitpants” – I wasn’t sure it would be smart to commit to tickets given that cash and time would both likely be at a premium.  As it turns out, my sister-in-law really wanted to go and my wife and I were the only two people she knew who had any interest at all.  To hell with it – tickets were purchased, shows were attended, and maybe in the process I could have a couple of lessons with the sister-in-law (at the impressionable young age of 17) about important things like “sneaking cameras into concerts using a purse full of tampons” and “silently mocking people who obviously dressed themselves in the dark”.

On to the show.  This old man likes to snag a seat whenever possible, so I wanted to get there early enough to get a decent spot.  Seating is relatively sparse at The Pageant, but I figured that getting there right around when doors opened would be good enough to score a table.  I was not expecting this to be a super-crowded show, but especially given that this was on a Monday night and we needed to be in the under 21 section I did not think that we would have a problem.

I.  Was.  Wrong.

I’m usually at The Pageant a handful of times each year – three times so far this year before Ingrid – and I don’t know that I have ever seen it so full so quickly.  The balcony was open, the balcony at least appeared full, and right when doors opened there were enough people there to fill most of the floor and all of the seating (including the under-21 section).  The floor it is – it isn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but if there was a sunny side to it, at least I would be able to stand in the middle of the crowded floor and remain relatively unnoticed while recording a few songs here and there.

The show was scheduled to start at 8:00 – I had just assumed based on that start time that there was no opener.  Once again, wrong:  Singer/Songwriter Greg Laswell would be starting things off this evening.  I hadn’t heard any of Greg’s songs before the show, so this was a set entirely full of new material for me.  Greg played an 8 song solo set displaying his competencies as a pianist and a rhythm guitarist.  I’ll be honest – I was worried that the crowd around us was going to be especially noisy and chatty, but once the set started the room was for the most part respectful.  It was nice being able to hear quiet, intimate songs without having to block out cell phone chatter.  Greg’s songs covered both the light and dark ends of the emotional spectrum (including a heartbreaking cover of the Kate Bush tune This Woman’s Work), but he especially seemed to shine when channeling melancholy – even some of the more upbeat songs occasionally had a kind of sadness to them (likely in part due to the solo acoustic setting), but it was an overall vibe that worked well for him and felt sincere.  In between songs, Greg was talkative and funny, chatting with the audience and telling the stories behind some of the songs.  An eight song set is really not enough exposure to form an opinion on a musician’s discography, but I certainly liked everything I heard and ended the set intending to check out some of his other work.

Sing, Theresa Says

 

This Woman’s Work (Kate Bush)

 

For the final song of his set, Greg brought out Ingrid to perform a song they co-wrote called Landline.  At some point prior to this song, Greg mentioned that he was indeed married to the lovely and talented Ingrid.  He talked a bit about (not) writing songs together – they’ve written two songs together, and he explained that while it’s easy to imagine two married songwriters sitting in their home writing together all the time, he and Ingrid never do and instead spend most of their time together watching Netflix.  So the story goes: when the power went out and Netflix wasn’t an option, they wrote Landline.

 

Greg Laswell and Ingrid Michaelson – Landline

After a brief set change, Ingrid and friends came out and played a set that was mostly songs from her new album Human Again with a few covers and some favorites from her older albums sprinkled throughout.  The band, including Ingrid, is six people – three guys and three gals.  The ladies were front and center on stage, with Ingrid, Bess, and Allie on lead/backing vocals, and Ingrid playing guitar/uke/piano while Bess and Allie played lead and rhythm guitars, respectively.  The gents all kept towards the back of the stage playing drums, bass, and a whole mess of other stuff (synth/keys, trumpet, et cetera).

Ingrid and company opened with Fire, the lead track from Human Again.  True to the album cut, Fire started Ingrid’s set off with a burst of strings and extra percussion, with several of the other band members adding to the drums with their own floor toms.  I love the addition of strings to non-classical music, but I’m always skeptical of using keys to recreate that sound live.  Thankfully, the synth here sounded great and managed to completely avoid that fake-string-section sound that so many other bands seem to have.  After Fire, the band played Palm of Your Hand, also from Human Again.  For some reason this song hasn’t gelled with me quite as well as the rest of the album has, so it’s not a personal favorite, but it was performed really  well and I found myself enjoying it by the end.

For the next few songs the band switched gears and played a few pre-Human Again tunes, starting with Soldier from the 2009 album Everybody.

Soldier

By this point, the vibe in the room has totally changed from the opening set, and we have moved from “quiet, intimate setting” to “rock concert”, complete with all of the dancing, singing,  and personal space violations that come with it.

Up next was Parachute, a single that Ingrid released between the last two full length CD’s.  Parachute was a song Ingrid wrote that was used on Cheryl Cole’s album Messy Little Raindrops; Ingrid later released her own version as a digital single.  This was followed up with Corner of Your Heart, a deeper cut from Ingrid’s 2006 album Boys and Girls.  Corner of Your Heart was the first song of the night to feature Ingrid on the piano, and the combination of the piano, electric guitar, and vocal harmonies on this was really fantastic.

Parachute

Ingrid stayed at the piano and returned to Human Again for the next few songs, starting with Do It Now.  This is one of the faster, more “rocking” songs off of the new album, and for whatever reason I was surprised to hear so many people around me singing along.  That isn’t a criticism – it’s a good enough song for sure – I just wasn’t expecting it to be a crowd favorite.  Sure enough, though, everyone around me knew every word.  In between songs here Ingrid was especially chatty, talking about the next song and the process of creating the music video for it.  At a certain point in the story, Lady Gaga came up (Ingrid briefly dresses as her, among others, in the video), and Ingrid started telling a story about a show were her pants were too tight, and how she wound up playing a Weird Al style parody cover of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face about her pants being too damn tight.  She and the band started playing the cover, but before they made it too far into it, Ingrid noticed a few younger kids in the audience and filtered herself (and the parody) before dropping any f-bombs.  This evolved into a song about Lady Gaga having a penis, or maybe having a vagina, or maybe having both and being able to have her own babies.  If there were young kids in the audience like Ingrid thought, some parents likely had some ‘splaining to do later that night.  The crowd was eating this up, and it felt less like a band playing a concert and more like a group of friends screwing around and having fun.

Sadly I didn’t have the camera ready for this, so I don’t have a video to share, but you’ll just have to trust that this story really was way better than my retelling of it after the fact.

After revisiting the process of recording the music video for this song, the band played the single Blood Brothers next.  To be honest, I’m fairly indifferent to this particular song so I don’t really have much to say about it, but it is catchy as hell and translated well to a live setting – I wound up enjoying it more than I thought I would.

Ingrid (and various band personnel) played a brief unplugged/acoustic set of four songs next.  Up first was The Light In Me, another duet with Greg.  He had mentioned before that they had only written two songs together – the first was Landline (played earlier in Greg’s set), and this was the other.

Ingrid Michaelson & Greg Laswell – The Light In Me

Next, Ingrid took the stage alone to perform Ghost, one of my favorites from her entire catalog and definitely one of the highlights of the night.

Ghost

Perhaps her best known song at this point, The Way I Am was up next.  This was a solo performance on the ukelele and was much slower and softer compared to the studio cut.  She talked a bit about this song first, explaining that she has to change the style and arrangement of the song to keep it fresh for her since she plays it so often.

The Way I Am

The final song of the acoustic mini-set was a cover of Bon Iver’s Skinny Love, with Allie and Bess on vocals.  Not going to lie, I’m not especially a fan of the song and I don’t really give a rat’s ass about Buon Eeever in general, but this arrangement made it feel like one of Ingrid’s own songs, and the three ladies really shone with the vocal harmonies.

Skinny Love (Bon Iver)

The rest of the band came back out to wrap up the main set, playing a run of four songs from the new album and closing the set with a cover.  In The Sea was first, and like a few others this one has never really resonated with me, but the performance was solid and the band sounded great.  This was followed by This Is War, a song that very much sounds like a signature Ingrid song.  For my money, this is one of the better songs on the album, so I was glad to hear it make an appearance.  Again, the vocal delivery of the chorus and the backing vocals were especially great – a common theme for this band.  Next was Black and Blue, another favorite from Human Again.  This one is kind of a funky jazzy tune that really gives Ingrid a chance to show off both the highs and lows of her vocal range.  This song is at least a little bit of a departure from that signature sound found in This Is War, and it works really well.

Ribbons was the last Ingrid song of the set, and it was definitely the surprise of the night for me.  I really like this song on the album, so I was hoping to hear it tonight, but I was not at all expecting it to have such a huge live presence.  Not only did everyone in the band really give it their all for this tune, but they also incorporated an audience sing-along into the the middle of it, and wrapped it all up with the “big rock ending”.  This one really had the crowd going probably more so than any other song of the night.  It would have made a great closer on its own, but rather than end the set there the band wrapped things up with a pretty rocking cover of Rihanna’s We Found Love.  The crowd may have been into Ribbons, but the room erupted for We Found Love.  Everyone in the room was singing along and dancing, hands in the air.  Well, everyone except me I suppose, as I didn’t know the song and actually had to look it up once I made it home.  It was definitely a crowd pleaser regardless of my ignorance.

The band took a few minutes for an encore break and then came back out and played for more songs, starting with Maybe, the single from 2009’s Everybody.

Maybe

After Maybe, the band played what I suspect is their second most well known song – Be OK.  A short, upbeat tune, this was pretty consistent with the versions that have been on albums and/or on the radio.

All six band members left their instruments and stepped up to the mic arm-in-arm for an almost-a cappella performance You and I.  This is a fun, quirky little song, and the band seemed to have a lot of fun with it before returning to their posts for one final song.

You and I

The night ended with what is without a doubt my favorite song from Ingrid’s entire catalog – The Chain.  I would have loved to tape a video of this, but unfortunately my camera battery was just not having it.  This song starts off with Ingrid singing and playing piano, and eventually as the song progresses each band member comes in with their respective instrument.  About midway through the song the ladies start staggering their delivery of the chorus, and the song picks up a certain melancholic energy that results in a huge build up of intensity.  Eventually the build up ends, the instruments stop, and Ingrid finishes the song by quietly delivering the last line “And I will take the chain from off the door”.  The live performance of this was a little more extended than I would have expected, giving the various musicians a little bit of extra play time.  I’m not going to call it jamming, but it did give the band a chance to be a little more flashy than the album cut of the song.

With that, the show was over, and in a perfect example of “doing it right”, my sister-in-law started forcing her way through the crowd and made her way up to the rail, claiming one of only three paper setlists handed out by the crew as they were breaking down the stage.

Admittedly, if it wasn’t for my sister-in-law wanting to go I probably would have passed on this show just because of how busy we’ve been lately.  Having gone, I’m thankful that she needed someone to go with.  I enjoyed practically everything about this show, and after the fact I almost certainly would have regretted not going had I passed.  The band was great, the show was fun, and from where I stood it looked like both the band and the fans ended the night satisfied.  For me personally, Ingrid Michaelson and friends were completely worth giving up a night of relatively hard-to-find free time.

Greg’s Set:

What A Day
Sing, Theresa Says *
How The Day Sounds
Late Arriving
This Woman’s Work (cover) *
And Then You
Sweet Dream
Landline (with Ingrid) *
Ingrid’s Set:
Fire
Palm of Your Hand
Soldier *
Parachute *
Corner Of Your Heart
Do It Now
“Pants Too Tight” / “Lady Gaga Has a Penis” (Poker Face parody/improv)
Blood Brothers
The Light In Me (duet with Greg) *
Ghost (solo) *
The Way I Am (solo) *
Skinny Love (Bun EEEver cover, just the ladies) *
In The Sea
This Is War
Black And Blue
Ribbons
We Found Love (Rihanna cover)
—————
Maybe *
Be OK
You and I (unplugged) *
The Chain

*video linked above

Dave Matthews Debuts ‘Mercy’ While Obama Slow Jams The News For Fallon

 (photo credit: @questlove)

 

It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything new from love-him-or-hate-him songwriter Dave Matthews.  There has been relatively little in terms of new material from the DMB front man ever since the release of 2009’s ‘Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King’.

With no current single to promote and a tentative album release on the distant horizon, naturally I was surprised to hear that not only would Dave be making the ever-rare late night TV performance this week, but that he would also be playing a song that, according to Jimmy Fallon, is a debut from the yet-untitled new album.  Not only would he be performing, but he would be performing as the musical guest on Fallon’s special broadcast from the University of North Carolina featuring love-him-or-hate-him President Obama.

After an hour largely filled with discussions of the politics of higher education, Dave Matthews and Captain Kirk Douglas from The Roots came out to perform an acoustic duet of ‘Mercy’ – a song somewhere between love song and call-to-arms for the future.  Dave Matthews doing what Dave Matthews does.

Romney gets Ted Nugent and Kid Rock, Obama gets Dave Matthews and The Roots.  That’s okay by me.

Check out Dave’s performance below, as well as his skit Walk of Shame with Fallon. Oh and as an added bonus how about our Commander in Chief Slow Jamming the news?

 

Slow Jam The News w/ Jimmy Fallon, The Roots and Barack Obama:

Jimmy Fallon & Dave Matthews – Walk Of Shame

Dave Matthews – Mercy

Introducing New And Improved Review Standards

Today is an exciting day for Concert Confessions:  Today is our third anniversary of providing you, our dedicated readers, with the best fan-driven concert news and reviews on the internet.

For three years now, we – Reverend Justito, along with all of the writers and contributors of Concert Confessions – have worked tirelessly to bring you the most rich, detailed live music reviews possible of the bands and music we love.  After all, this is a website by the fans and for the fans.  For most of us, this website is about more than just earning our six figure salaries and exorbitant benefits packages – it’s about taking our passion and channeling it into something that can benefit other lovers of live music.

Behind the scenes of this well oiled machine, however, there have been some internal disagreements amongst senior staff about exactly how a review should be written.  Many of us believe that we do more than review concerts – it is our job to share not just the details of the concert and the music, but the entire experience of the event.  Others do not share in this philosophy.  To them, the reviews should be more focused, and should cut the fat in favor of a leaner and more relevant writeup.

Personally, I tend to be more story teller than concert reviewer, and so my posts often share the full details of the shows I attend:  How much of a fan I am (or am not) of the band, where I stopped for dinner, what time I arrived at the venue, if it was crowded or if the seats were empty, how the crowd behaved, and (if you’re really lucky) how many trips I had to make to the shitter.

…sorry, got a little carried away there.  I digress.

After months and months of discussing, debating, and sexually assaulting each other, we have finally come to a consensus on how the the ideal concert review should be written.  We will be implementing this new standard immediately.  At last, regardless of which Concert Confessions staff member’s reviews you are reading, you can rest assured that your reading experience will finally be both consistent and enjoyable.

Starting today, we are pleased to announce one word concert reviews.

Revolutionary.  Concise.  Meaningful.  Unambiguous.  Palpable.  Not only do these words describe how we feel about our new review method, they could each very well BE a review.

“But wait!”, you say.  “Won’t one word concert reviews remove all of the author’s personality from their contributions?”

Don’t be ridiculous.  Just because we’re conforming to the new standard doesn’t mean that our writing will suddenly lose its emotion and character.  You can continue to count on all of our authors to express their same writing style, just in a more condensed package.  For example, you can expect Reverend Justito to contribute reviews such as “Epic“, “Rocking“, and “Destroyed“.  Steven Anthony will express his feelings of practically everything with variants of “Terrible“,LOL” and “RAGE“.  Jakob Ross’s reviews will primarily be words frequently found on the website memebase.com.  I will be using a superfluous number of hyphens to mash 2,000 word reviews into one-giant-word.  We all suspect that TheNaturalStoner’s reviews will all be “BALLS“.  And finally, I’m not quite sure what to say about Jenn Kneeland as she has spent an awful lot of time mastering the art of the zero word concert review.

That’s what’s new with us!  We’re really excited about it, and we think you will be too.  This is the next logical step in bringing you the best of the best fan-oriented concert news and reviews.

Err… I guess I’m not doing this right.  Let me try again.

HORSEBALLS.

 

El Monstero (ver.13) brings Pink Floyd back to The Pageant (12/22/2011)

Words by jenkins

Picture and videos by jenkins

 

Once again, winter is upon us and the month of December has come and gone.  Certain things are as dependable as clockwork during this time of year.  The days get shorter, the temperature drops, and the world around us is inundated (for better or worse) with non-stop holiday themed decorations and music.

Another significant thing happens as the year draws to a close:  a group of highly talented Saint Louis musicians join together like a giant inflatable pig-shaped Voltron to form El Monstero, and every year during the week surrounding Christmas they play 5 to 7 shows paying tribute to the sights and sounds of Pink Floyd, with proceeds benefiting The Pageant’s charitable foundation.

This is one of those shows where I have to have a reserved seat – the standing room only/general admission is just too crowded for me to be able to enjoy myself, and I don’t ever feel like showing up early enough to wait in line and get a good spot on the floor.  I try every year to buy my own reserved tickets at the time they go on sale, and I have never been able to find any reserved tickets to any of the nights – and that’s if I am sitting at the computer ready to hit the button the minute they go on sale.  Thankfully, someone I know has been able to get tickets for me the last few years, and came through again this year.  This year the tickets were for the Thursday night show – 12/22, exactly one year after the 2010 show we attended.  As a refresher, my thoughts on El Monstero and that particular show can be found here.

While the December gigs have never disappointed me before, in July El Monstero played a set at the Jefferson Barracks Veterans Memorial Amphitheater that just didn’t have the same magic.  I was disappointed enough with the experience overall that I actually opted to not write a review of the show as I didn’t want to spend 2,000 words raining piss and vinegar on an act that I love.  The band played well enough at this July gig, but everything else about it was pretty much awful.  Long story short, the producers of this show sold 7,000 tickets to a show at a 5,000 capacity venue, it was the hottest day of the year, the crowd was rude and stupid (including wookies interpretive dancing and spinning glow in the dark hula hoops in the overcrowded seating area), the logistics were a total clusterfuck with 2+ hours lines to get beer/soda/water/food (with temporary outages of all of these items), and NONE of the rules were enforced by any of the crowd control officers.  Yeah, maybe the band played great, but it was hard to have a good time in such a shit storm, and more than once I wanted to cram the glow in the dark hula hoops up some wookie’s ass.  As a result, I was looking forward to a proper El Monstero show.  It was, after all, one of the normal December gigs at The Pageant – but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little concerned after that summer show. It turns out that I was concerned for no reason. This year’s version of El Monstero was easily one of the best I’ve seen and was definitely on par with what I have come to expect from the previous winter shows.

Every year something big is added/changed in the production of the show to make each year stand out from the years before. Last year it was the fearless stage seating which put some lucky fans up on stage with the band for the duration of the concert (which may have also put them awkwardly close to the stripper poles during Young Lust). This year there was no fearless stage seating – instead, the band was on the main stage, but steps at each side of the stage lead up to a raised stage platform behind the band (ideal for the more theatrical/visual songs), and half a dozen or tall, skinny screens that displayed various content and images during songs. Also new this year were flame pillars located around the perimeter of the stage (at least, I think this was new – I don’t remember the flames in prior years). The flame pillars and fireballs released from these on stage pyrotechnics were big enough that we could feel the heat from every burst in the upper level balcony. I was at least a little surprised to see that The Pageant was rated for this kind of pyrotechnic display.

Here’s the best shot I have of the stage. Not the best picture, but you get the idea:

On to the show itself. I will spare you the play by play and focus on what I thought were the real highlights (and of course whatever I have videos of). In terms of song selection, this year’s set was very similar to last year. Overall song order was arranged a little differently this year which created a better flow, especially during the set of songs from “The Wall”.  I have the full set listed out at the end of the review.

As usual, the band started the night off with one of the more theatrical songs in their arsenal – In The Flesh. This was complete with police officers on stage armed with spotlights and singer Mark Quinn flailing a riding crop at audience members while being raised into the air via a genie lift strategically placed near the stage. What followed was a greatest hits parade from the album “The Wall”, including crowd favorites such as Another Brick in the Wall, Mother, Young Lust, Hey You, and Run Like Hell.

Mother:

 

Always popular with the El Monstero audiences, Young Lust (which typically includes an authentic pole dancer on each side of the stage) upped the stripper ante this year with nearly a full dozen of East St. Louis’ finest.  One Of My Turns was up next – for whatever reason, I’ve always had a soft spot for this three minute mental meltdown of a song, and the electric guitar duet midway through the song is one of  my favorite things that Pink Floyd has ever done (starting at about 2:30 in the video below).

One of my Turns:

 

The only two songs in the “The Wall” portion of the set that really felt out of place to me were Vera and Bring the Boys Back Home.  I get the message.  I understand the role these songs play in the overall concept of “The Wall”.  I still think they’re filler songs in a live setting and don’t understand why they are played every year.  My problem, I guess, but to me this is time that would be better filled with a song from somewhere else in the band’s catalogue, like Fearless  or One Of These Days.

After Bring the Boys Back Home came the highlight of the first set:  Run Like Hell > Another Brick in the Wall III > Run Like Hell.  This was definitely a major highlight of the show – with high energy guitar driven rock and roll, a drum solo, and fireballs and flame pillars erupting on stage in sync with the rhythm of the song, this is hands down the best song played in the first set.

Run Like Hell > ABITY III > Run Like Hell:

 

Finally, after completing their run of songs from “The Wall”, El Monstero ended their first set of the night with Shine On You Crazy Diamond, the haunting and beautiful tribute to Syd Barrett.  Saxophone player Dave Farver came out for the outro/jam at the end and took to the bar/handrail area surrounding the perimeter of the floor, strutting and dancing across the bar (and narrowly avoiding spilling people’s drinks) as he played.  This was a fairly standard version of Shine On, but even the standard version is still exceptional.

The curtain closed for a set break, and after a brief intermission the lights went down, the music started, and two crew members dressed as cops (or some other kind of authority figures) pulled the curtain back to reveal a giant projection screen covering the front of the stage showing thematically appropriate images of hammers beating down nails and cavemen beating things with rocks. The message was clear: The nail that sticks up must be hammered down. The band started Welcome to the Machine from behind the screen and after a verse or so the screen dropped to reveal the band on stage with the same “the man will break you” type imagery on display on the 6 smaller screens at the rear of the stage.

Welcome to the Machine:

This led right into Have A Cigar, and true to the studio recording a special guest came out to sing lead vocals. A song about record labels and selling out, as usual this performance was complete with fake money being thrown into the crowd during the song. I was shocked to see people leaning way over the rail of the balcony struggling to grab fake paper money like it was the black Friday door buster deal at Walmart.

Have A Cigar:

The set took a turn for the psychedelic next with a medley of Echoes and Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. As a song, I have always (and still do) love the lyrics and imagery of Echoes. Conceptually, it has always fascinated me. Something about a 30 minute song that is 4 minutes of song and 26 minutes submarine pings, trippy guitar jams, and outer space sounds really appealed to the teenager to me, but it’s a track I have to skip after the first four minutes now. Thankfully, El Monstero’s arrangement of Echoes clocks in at less than a third of the time and focuses on all of the important parts of the song while leaving out the crazy acid flashback. This year, they mixed in a version of Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun set to black lights and mostly naked glow-in-the-dark body painted interpretive dancers.

Echoes > Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun > Echoes (video starts at Set the Controls…):

After this we were treated to a set of songs from “Animals” (my favorite Floyd album) that included Dogs, Pigs (Three Different Ones), and Pigs on the Wing. Similar to One Of My Turns, the guitar duet in the middle of Dogs is perhaps the best thing they’ve ever put to tape (the video below starts at that duet).

Dogs (partial) > Pigs

I suspect this next run of songs may be the most anticipated part of this show, and I suspect it keeps most fans coming back year after year: The album “Dark Side of The Moon” in its entirety. There really isn’t much to say about this, either you know it or you don’t. Pink Floyd derailed before I ever had the chance to see them live, but all I know for sure is that if I sit back and close my eyes during this, it’s the closest that I will likely ever get.

On The Run > Time

Great Gig in the Sky:

“Dark Side of the Moon” concluded, and after a short encore break the band returned to the stage to perform what are perhaps the two most popular songs in the Pink Floyd library: Wish You Were Here and Comfortably Numb.

Comfortably Numb had the full run of stage animations and pyrotechnics, with fireballs and flame columns exploding throughout, sparks raining down from the ceiling, and a hydraulically raised platform in the middle of the room for the two lead guitarists to take their extended solos on. Rock and roll, defined.

Wish You Were Here:

Comfortably Numb:

It is worth mentioning here that my father is the source of my Pink Floyd nerdery.  He was perhaps the single biggest influence on my musical preferences as a child, and without a doubt he was the origin of the Pink Floyd virus.  This is all his fault, so naturally I’ve been waiting for years for a chance to be able to bring him to one of these shows.  Unfortunately, the show that he went to was the same summer show that I mentioned above, and while he swore that he had a great time, I was disappointed that it wasn’t everything I had talked it up to be.  Seeking redemption, it was more important than ever to me to get him to one of the proper December shows.  My mother had taken him to see the Australian Pink Floyd at the Fox theater earlier in the fall, and he was satisfied with that – he didn’t really feel the need to go see El Monstero again and thought someone else might have more fun.  While we had to drag him kicking and screaming (he was trying to give his ticket away to my sister as late as two hours before the show started), he went.

Curious for my dad’s thoughts on the show given that he went to Australian Pink Floyd and the July El Monstero gig, I asked him what he thought after the show.

His response is the most important line of this whole review: “Fuck Australian Pink Floyd. These guys [El Monstero] just did Floyd WAY better than Australian Pink Floyd. I think they just did Floyd better than Pink Floyd did Floyd.”

I wrote over two thousand three hundred words in this post, and he may have written a better review than me in less than thirty.

Maybe he wants to join Concert Confessions?

 

In The Flesh
The Thin Ice
Another Brick in the Wall I >
Happiest Days of our Lives >
Another Brick in the Wall II
Mother
Goodbye Blue Sky
Empty Spaces
Young Lust
One Of My Turns >
Goodbye Cruel World
Hey You
Is There Anybody Out There?
Nobody Home
Vera
Bring The Boys Back Home
Run Like Hell >
Another Brick in the Wall III
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
— set break —
Welcome to the Machine
Have a Cigar
Echoes >
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun >
Echoes
Dogs >
Pigs
Pigs on the Wing
Dark Side of the Moon (full album)
Wish You Were Here
Comfortably Numb

Matt Nathanson makes All Night Noise at The Pageant – 10/18/2011

Words by jenkins

Videos by jenkins (except as noted)

There aren’t very many artists whose catalogues I know by heart – and I don’t just mean “heard all of the songs and have all of the CDs”, but “know every word and memorized every breakdown and transition”.  For me, Matt Nathanson is one of of those artists.  Even though he toured extensively on his 2007 release Some Mad Hope, I somehow managed to miss seeing Matt headline a show since his dual-headliner with Carbon Leaf at Mississippi Nights in 2006 – incidentally, the last show I saw there before the venue closed its doors for good.  Needless to say, I was pretty excited to hear that Matt would be coming back to Saint Louis again on a headlining tour, this time stopping at The Pageant in support of his new album Modern Love.

For whatever reason, the balcony of The Pageant was not open for this show so all seating was first-come, first-served general admission with most of the room being standing room only.  Doors opened at 7 and the show started at 8, so we decided to show up at The Pageant at around 6:30 in hopes of getting a decent spot in line and getting a place to sit inside.  We absolutely needed to be able to sit, so I went in armed with $60 in case I needed to buy someone out of their table/bar stool.  This, thankfully, was not necessary – we arrived just in time to be admitted into the Halo Bar, and they let those folks into the venue about 15 minutes before all of the poor schmucks standing outside.  There were a good number of people in front of us in the bar, and so most of the seating was taken once we were inside – most of the seating, except for one section that was pretty much wide open.  We made our way over to this open area and scored four seats against the rail.  I felt pretty good about it up until our friend arrived – she figured out almost immediately that we had managed to score really sweet seats… in the under 21 section of the room.  Shit.  Oh well.  The rest of the seating areas were pretty full, and a seat is a seat – so in the underage section we sat.

Opening for Matt on this leg of the tour were indie rockers Scars on 45.  A 5-piece band from the UK, their biggest break to date came in the form of a single that was used on the soundtrack for TV show Grey’s Anatomy.  Having never seen a single episode of Grey’s, this didn’t get me very far.  I wasn’t worried about it, though; I have historically really enjoyed all of the openers that Matt has toured with, so I didn’t really do much homework here and just went in under the assumption that I’d enjoy myself.

And, I did.

Scars played an opening set full of material that I mostly did not know but really enjoyed.  They played a 7 or so song set that was tight, energetic, and well-rehearsed.  Maybe it was the vocal melodies created by the alternate male/female lead vocals, maybe it was the catchy hooks and songwriting, or maybe it was my soft spot for female singers with accents – regardless, at the end of their set I was a new fan.

While their performance was great, I was equally impressed with their overall demeanor.  I recall singer Aimee saying during their set that this, their first night on the road with Matt, was the biggest crowd they had played for as a band thus far.  They seemed awe-struck to be performing for us all, and at points appeared shocked that so many people came out early to see them play.  In between songs they were friendly and chatty with the crowd and seemed genuinely grateful to be a part of the tour.  Finally, Aimee pulled out a camera and stood toward the back of the stage to take a picture of the crowd in the room, and asked that all of us tag ourselves in the picture when she uploaded it to Facebook.  Apparently they’ve been doing this at all of their shows, and it’s a pretty awesome way to get the fans involved.

Finally, I was able to witness a neat moment off stage post-set.  From our seats in the kiddy section of the room, I could clearly see the band members just off to the side of the stage.  They were huddled around each other, laughing, hugging, and high-fiving each other like they had just won the lottery.  Later on we were able to meet a few of the band members, and they all seemed to be a little overwhelmed with the size of the line of people waiting for autographs, as if they were not expecting to have so many fans in the room.  Overall, a great show and a band of really normal people who love to play music.

I only managed to get videos of two of their songs, but I think they were arguably the two best songs of the set:

Heart On Fire:

Give Me Something:

After a short break, the house lights went dark leaving nothing but the glowing outline of the a neon heart on the stage backdrop.  The Superman theme song started to to play over the PA as Matt and company came on stage and started the set with their standard All Night Noise opener, Mercy.

Mercy:

Mercy is (in my opinion) one of the best songs on the new record, and true to the album recording started off with a little audience clap-along session to get the crowd involved. After this, Matt teased a portion of Florence + The Machine’s Dog Days as a segue into Pretty the World (one of the few songs in the set that is from Matt’s extensive catalogue of older tunes – the majority of the set was from 2011’s Modern Love or 2007’s Some Mad Hope).

After this, they played a few more new songs, including the radio-friendly title track from Modern Love and the quiet acoustic song Kept. Modern Love takes Matt a little out of his normal element – normally playing a guitar for every song, this song finds Matt armed with just a microphone and a hand held shaker. While he was certainly out of his usual comfort zone, he danced around on stage for the whole song rather than just standing at the mic. While lots of guitar playing singers look visibly awkward when they perform sans instrument, Matt was having a great time and didn’t have any issues keeping himself occupied. I am, however, still waiting for Matt to explain how modern love is like a taco truck.

Kept is another favorite of mine from the new album, and shows Matt’s songwriting at its dark and moody best. I have been hooked on this song since the first time I heard it.

Kept:

Another older song – Curve of the Earth – was up next, followed by the 80’s-depeche-mode inspired Queen of (K)nots, complete with snippets of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love interspersed within. This song is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine – I’m pretty sure that I’m not supposed to like it, but I was looking forward to it anyway. Guitarist Aaron Tap was at his finest here with lots of great fills and riffs filling up some of the empty space in the verses. I sadly didn’t get to tape this, but youtube user KorrinSpalding1 managed to get a great video of it.

Queen of (K)nots / Tainted Love (video from youtube user KorrinSpalding1):

Matt followed this up with two more older tunes, starting with his cover of Laid (complete with crowd sing along, and what felt like the entire room screaming the infamous 3rd line “But she only comes when she’s on top”). After talking to the crowd for a little bit about the next song and explaining that yes, he knows it sounds just like Rick Springfield’s Jesse’s Girl, Matt and company played Princess, seamlessly weaving back and forth between segments of Princess and Jesse’s Girl.

Wrapping up the first part of the set were Kiss Quick from the new album and Detroit Waves from Some Mad Hope. I am generally confused by Kiss Quick – a lot of people who wrote reviews for this album single this song out as the best song on the album, and to be honest I don’t really get it. It’s certainly not a bad song, I don’t hate it, and I even enjoyed it live, but it doesn’t even rank in the top 50% of Modern Love for me. Matt, however, was obviously really crazy about this tune, and he talked for quite a bit before starting the song about how much he loved it and even said that even though you aren’t supposed to have a favorite child, it was his favorite of all his children on Modern Love.

I’ve always liked Detroit Waves, and as usual it was four and a half badass minutes of Matt and company showing off their rock-and-roll side, with Matt sneaking in some of Katy Perry’s Fireworks near the end of the song. Aaron again went above and beyond on guitar during this song, especially with the effects he used on his contributions during the breakdown before the final chorus.

After a very brief equipment change, the band stripped down to all acoustic/unplugged instruments for a short 3 song acoustic set. I have seen Matt – either solo or with the band – probably a dozen times in the last ten years, and I’m pretty sure that this acoustic set was the greatest thing I have ever seen at one of his shows. I would love to see the full band put on an entire set in this setting sometime, it was absolutely the highlight of the night for me.

Matt and Aaron started the acoustic set with with a cover of Prince’s Little Red Corvette. It’s certainly not easy to recreate the funk of the original with two acoustic guitars, but it was obvious that they put a lot of thought into the arrangement (especially vocal harmonies), as opposed to just strumming guitars and singing the words.

Little Red Corvette:

The rest of the band came back out for an acoustic rendition of Bare.  This has never been a favorite song of mine, but the acoustic treatment was an improvement over the standard arrangement for me.  Sing Me Sweet was next, and for me this was the highlight of the night.  Fantastic in so many ways, and this was the first time they played it as a band.  Nothing more to say, just watch the video.

Sing Me Sweet:

One last run of mostly new songs rounded out the end of the set, including Room At The End Of The World, Wedding Dress, Drop To Hold You, Faster, and Come On Get Higher.  Room At The End Of The World was the best of this group of tunes for me, and it included bits of I’ll Stop The World And Melt With You and The End Of The World As We Know It throughout.  I don’t particularly care for the album cut of Wedding Dress, but the live performances are always enjoyable.  Drop To Hold You is a good enough song, and the performance sounded great, but any time I hear it I can’t help but think that the inspiration for the music was something along the lines of “Where The Streets Have No Name?  Yeah, I want one of those”.  Matt had to give another little lesson to the crowd on how to clap in rhythm (something that this particular crowd wasn’t very good at by the end of the night) before Faster, the first single off of Modern Love.  The crowd was really into this and sang and clapped along to the entire song.  Finally, the band closed the set with Matt’s biggest radio breakthrough to date, Come On Get Higher.  While this is certainly Matt’s most well-known/commercially successful song, this was kind of a weird song to end a show with.  Come On Get Higher is a slow and sensitive love song, and I think I was expecting a send-off that was a little more… loud and obnoxious.

Finally, the band returned from a short encore break to play one final song – All We Are, the album closer from Some Mad Hope and one of the very few uplifting songs in Matt’s arsenal, and at more or less 10:45 the show was over.

All We Are:

In spite of everything that was great about this show, I do have a couple of complaints (minor as they may be).

First, the venue curfew was clearly posted on signs all over the room as 11:30, and yet this show – part of the “All Night Noise” tour – was over by 10:45.  I know that “All Night Noise” isn’t a literal sales pitch, and I absolutely understand that the curfew is different at every venue, but the night ended earlier than I had expected – especially considering the length of Matt’s sets on prior headlining tours.

Second, it felt to me like there were a lot of Matt fan favorites missing from the set.  I know the numbers don’t really support this – while most of the set was from Modern Love and Some Mad Hope, there were plenty of songs from Beneath These Fireworks as well – but for whatever reason, it felt like a lot of the classic older material was MIA.  Don’t get me wrong, this is an album tour, so I was certainly expecting to hear most of Modern Love.  Plus, Matt has been touring on his extensive back catalogue for years and years, so I also can see where it’s more exciting for a performer to load the set list up with the newer fresh material than with songs that you have been touring on for over ten years.  That being said, there are tons of classic Matt fan favorites that didn’t make the cut.

Playing for another twenty minutes and adding just a few more of the fan favorites like Answering Machine or Suspended would have killed any complaints I had about what was an already great concert.  Like I said – relatively minor complaints, all things considered.

So, that’s that.  The mix sounded great, the crowd knew when to be quiet and when to be loud, Matt was full of stories and funny banter with the crowd, and the band’s current lineup is more solid and cohesive that it has ever been.  Matt’s concerts have always been some of my favorite shows to catch, and all in all this evening did not disappoint.

 

Scars on 45:

Unidentified song
Unidentified song
Burn the House Down
Break Down
Loudest Alarm
Heart On Fire
Give Me Something

Matt Nathanson:
Mercy
(Dog Days) ! >
Pretty the World
Modern Love
Kept
Curve of the Earth
Queen of (K)nots
(Tainted Love) *
Laid
Princess
(Jesse’s Girl) $
Kiss Quick
Detroit Waves
(Fireworks) &
Little Red Corvette @
Bare
Sing Me Sweet
Room at the End of the World
(The End of the World) ?
Wedding Dress
Drop to Hold You
Faster
Come On Get Higher
-Encore
All We Are

! Florence and the Machine
* Soft Cell
$ Rick Springfield
& Katy Perry
@ Prince
? R.E.M.

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light in St Louis – 9/17/2011

Foo Fighters w/ Rise Agaist & Mariachi El Bronx 09/17/11

Scottrade Center – St. Louis, MO

Words by Jenkins/Videos by Beeznutz

 

“You know, I used to get fucking nervous doing this shit. It used to freak me out that I had to stand in front of all of these people and play guitar, but I don’t get nervous any more at all – AT ALL … And, the way I look at it, when I come out and do a show like this, I look out at all you people and I just feel like, well, you’re Foo Fighters people, you’re the same as I am.”

Sure enough, 12,000 Foo Fighters people gathered at the Scottrade Center on Saturday night for an evening with the Foo Fighters – an evening most of us had been waiting for since May when the tickets went on sale. Supporting the Foo Fighters on this leg of the tour were rockers Rise Against and the practically uncategorizable Mariachi El Bronx.

The show was scheduled to start at 7:00PM, and we were heading in from the parking garage with about ten minutes to spare. As we submitted to the security pat down at the entrance, I noticed a list of things that were forbidden in the arena. Included on this list (along with the usual items like food, recording devices, weapons, and cameras with detachable lenses) was garden gnomes. How is this relevant to this concert experience, you ask? Well, to be honest, I have no idea – but if they felt that garden gnomes are important enough to point out, then so do I.

Mariachi El Bronx took the stage promptly at 7:00 – at 7:01 we were fumbling to our seats in the dark and they were already mid-song. Prior to this concert, I knew pretty close to nothing about Mariachi El Bronx. I knew they were a band, and I knew they had a relatively new album out, but that’s about it. Truth be told, I didn’t even know they were opening this show until mid-afternoon the day of the show. Needless to say, I didn’t really know what I was expecting from them, but what I can tell you for certain is that I was absolutely not expecting an actual mariachi band.

Clocking in at just over 25 minutes, the El Bronx set was short but jam packed with energy and a hell of a lot of fun. In some ways, they almost reminded me of the off-the-wall performances of Gogol Bordello. A highlight of the set for me – and this may be a bizarre thing to pick out as a highlight – was the song/jamming they played while introducing all of the band members. They could have jammed that out for the whole 25 minutes and I would have been content. Sadly, having gone in blind I don’t know the setlist and can’t go into any real detail in terms of what was played, but they sounded good, they put on a terrific show, and the crowd (at least, the crowd that actually bothered to check out the opener versus hanging out by the beer vendors) really seemed to enjoy the set. After 25 minutes of mariachi-rock insanity, Mariachi El Bronx ended their set and left the stage for Rise Against.

Thanks to youtube and the various reviews on Concert Confessions, I had a better idea of what to expect from Rise Against, but I still didn’t know much of their stuff beyond the most commercially viable/radio friendly stuff. Everyone who was hanging out with the beer vendors came in and took their seats for Rise Against – I was really surprised to see how full the arena was this early in the night (and I was equally surprised to see how many people were heading to their cars after the Rise Against set). The crowd really seemed to be into their set, with whole sections of the 12,000 person arena singing and screaming and bouncing along, complete with head banging and devil horns all around (including the 12 year old in front of me there with his dad). The audience was really responding to Rise Against like they were the headlining act and in general seemed to eat up every minute of their set.

There is no denying that Rise Against played their asses off during their set, and the two songs I knew – Help Is On The Way and Prayer for the Refugee – sounded good enough, but from where we were sitting the overall mix sounded way off and as a result I had a hard time enjoying their set. The mix was just too loud for the indoor venue they were in, and it was hard-to-impossible to understand any lyrics or hear any details in the music. It’s one thing to be loud and distorted, but the levels were so high that everything just sounded muddy. That being said, I realize that sometimes opening acts aren’t mixed as well as headliners since they don’t really get to soundcheck and the sound in the venue isn’t necessarily engineered with the opening act in mind. These guys are probably much more enjoyable as a headliner (and maybe when they are playing at an outdoor venue), but overall this just didn’t work for me. There were 11,997 other people there that night who may disagree, but the three of us in my group all agreed that this particular performance was just too loud to be enjoyable.

The Foo Fighters took the stage shortly before nine and played a solid set that clocked in at just shy of three hours. The audio mix was perfect, with the band being damn loud without clipping or sounding muddy at all. Various moving lights and displays were hanging over the stage, and above the stage on the left and right sides were two high definition jumbo view screens that were beautiful and crystal clear (these screens can be seen well in one of the videos below). The view of the screens would have been perfect from any seat in the house, including the last row of the nose bleed section. This is maybe the best lineup the Foo Fighters have had since the inception of the band, with the awesome Pat Smear returning to the band on rhythm guitar and providing an extra layer of sound (often freeing frontman Dave Grohl up for various other fist pumping, head banging, and bouncing around the stage duties).

Interspersed throughout the night was plenty of banter from Dave. He was especially chatty with the crowd, often stopping between songs to tell stories, harass the crowd, or express what felt like an incredible amount of gratitude. Dave leaves you believing that not only does he have the greatest job in the world, but he really feels like he’s stumbled into it totally by accident – he said more than once that “this band was never supposed to exist”. In the acoustic section of the encore, Dave identified a boy in the audience (Dave guessed he was ten years old), and waxed philosophic to him for several minutes about music, rock bands, guitars, and finally ended his speech to the kid with “We’re going to come back here in a couple of years, and when we do, you better have started a fucking band”.

Somewhere between a fourth and a third of the set was made up of songs from the new album Wasting Light, which (thankfully) is excellent. The rest of the set was rounded out with a huge list of radio hits, crowd favorites, and Foo Fighters classics.

(Incidentally, all credit for these videos goes to fellow concert confessor BeeZnutZ, who somehow manages to make great recordings even in lousy poorly lit environments like the Scottrade center.)

There were four songs I really wanted to hear from Wasting Light, and the Foo Fighters opened their set with two of them back to back – Bridge Burning and Rope. Bridge Burning is the standard opener for this tour, and it works well in that slot – a big distorted buildup at the beginning followed by 4 minutes of guitar heavy rock and the occasional Dave Grohl piercing scream. Rope, the first single from the album, already elicits a “fan-favorite” reaction from the crowd and sounds great live considering it’s one of the new songs.

Bridge Burning:

Rope:

 

Rope led right into one of my favorite Foo Fighters songs: The Pretender. Ten thousand plus people singing and screaming along to the chorus of this song during a seizure inducing light show was definitely a high point of the night for me, complete with the typical “arena-rock” antics of quieting the music down during the bridge and then blowing it up and rattling the windows.

After standards My Hero and Learning to Fly, the band played White Limo. While this song has what I think is the greatest music video in the world (watch it here), I am hit or miss on the song itself, so I wasn’t really looking forward to hearing it live. Dave’s searing screaming vocals translated much better to the live setting, and this was actually pretty enjoyable.

White Limo segued into another Wasting Light tune: Arlandria. This is hands down my favorite song off of the new album, so I was really glad to see that it’s in rotation, and much like the other new songs, it sounds like they’ve been playing it for years rather than months.

Up next was a run of Foo Fighters oldies Breakout, Cold Day in the Sun, Long Road to Ruin, and Stacked Actors. Long Road to Ruin is great, but the others aren’t especially favorites of mine so I had a little bit of down time here. I was surprised to find myself getting into a great version of Stacked Actors, as I’ve never really cared for this song at all prior to this show.  At one point during the song Dave and Chris played some dueling guitar solos, with each of them often lifting riffs from guitar classics like Jimmy Page’s Heartbreaker solo.

The band squeezed in a standard-but-solid performance of Walk before playing one last round of crowd favorites with Generator and Monkey Wrench. Walk was the last song on my checklist of Wasting Light songs I wanted to hear and much like the others already sounds like an “old” Foo Fighters song. I could have personally done without hearing Generator – it was good enough performance wise, but the song itself is just not for me. Monkey Wrench ended with Dave having the lights in the venue turned off and bringing the volume of the music way down before screaming his way through the entire last verse.  I can’t help but wonder how this guy has managed to keep his voice at all – if I screamed the way that he’s been screaming for the last 15 years, I wouldn’t even be able to whisper, much less sing, howl, and shout.

Another new song, These Days, led up to what was absolutely the surprise of the night for me: I Should Have Known. For me, this ranks somewhere in the middle compared to the other songs on Wasting Light, but their live performance of it was truly exceptional. Passionate, intense, fiery, and LOUD, this was the best song of the night – a perfect blend of heavy rock jamming and emotionally touching songwriting and delivery. After this, the band wrapped up the main set with Skin and Bones, This Is A Call, and All My Life.  A primarily acoustic number, Skin and Bones was a short quiet change of pace from the rest of the setlist, as well as perhaps the only song anywhere in the Foo Fighters catalogue requiring an accordion.  I burned myself out on This Is A Call after listening to it hundreds of times as a teenager, because I just don’t care for it now – I missed most of the song as this was perfect timing for a restroom break for me.

There was no better way to end this set than with All My Life, which was 7 or so minutes of guitar-pounding-light-flashing-kick-ass-rock-and-roll. The red stage lighting at the end of this song was especially awesome.  Incidentally, at this point I was starting to come to the realization that my hearing would likely not function correctly for days following the end of the show.

All My Life:

 

The band took a nice long encore break to recoup, and the large video screens displayed a feed from a night vision camera that several band members were using backstage to egg on the audience and tease the number of encore songs.  The screens also served as a distraction to keep people from noticing Dave walking to the front of the extended stage to begin the encore set with a solo acoustic performance of Wheels.  This was one of many points in the night where the crowd participation was remarkable – at points during this song (especially the return on the chorus), the crowd sang word for word with Dave, often overpowering his vocals.  Dave continued his acoustic set with solo renditions of Best of You and Times Like These.  Best of You was the only point in the night where it sounded like Dave’s voice might have been ready to give out – but it’s hard to blame him after performing for almost three hours straight.

Encore Break > Wheels:

Best Of You:

 

The band returned to the stage for a cover of Young Man Blues by Mose Allison – or perhaps more appropriately, a cover of The Who’s cover of Young Man Blues by Mose Allison.  While this was fantastic, I had the feeling that it was sadly lost on most of the crowd.  This jam led straight into Dear Rosemary, which then segued into a cover of Tom Petty’s Breakdown.  Musically, everything was note-for-note perfect on Breakdown (especially the keyboards), which was perhaps the most mellow song of the night.  Even though they were little out of their comfort zone in this genre, the guys were all smiles for this performance.

Dear Rosemary > Breakdown:

 

Finally, Foo Fighters closed out the night with Everlong.  Quite simply, Everlong was perhaps the most epic-mega-rock-and-roll moment of my concert-going life.

Everlong:

 

I’ve said before that if I could do it all over and be whatever I want when I grow up, I’d probably be in a band, on a stage, and nights like this remind me why.  These guys have the greatest job in the world.  I honestly can’t tell you the last time I have been to a concert where the band members had as much fun as Foo Fighters.  Sure, on the surface these 5 guys walked on stage and played a predetermined setlist full of songs that they’ve rehearsed and played dozens (or hundreds) of times before, but it was more than that, too. They interacted with each other. They interacted with the crowd. They drank beer and goofed off and laughed. They had fun. They love what they do. They aren’t just Foo Fighters band members, they’re Foo Fighters fans – and right now is a great time to be a Foo Fighters fan.

 

Full Setlist:

Bridge Burning
Rope
The Pretender
My Hero
Learn to Fly
White Limo >
Arlandria
Breakout
Cold Day in the Sun
Long Road to Ruin
Stacked Actors
Walk
Generator
Monkey Wrench
These Days
I Should Have Known
Skin and Bones

This Is a Call
All My Life
——-
Wheels
Best of You
Times Like These
Young Man Blues (cover of The Who’s Mose Allison cover)
Dear Rosemary
Breakdown (Tom Petty cover)
Everlong

Kaki King – Traveling Freak Guitar Show comes to the Old Rock House (6/27/11)

I first heard of Kaki King right around the time her second album Legs to Make Us Longer was released in 2004.  At the time, I was obsessively exploring the acoustic performances and recordings of the ayatollah of rock-n-roll-ah Tim Reynolds, and someone on the timreynolds.com forums recommended checking out Kaki King.  The recommendation, paraphrased 7 years later, was more or less “She’s like a female Tim Reynolds, man!”.  While I think that statement is a fairly significant overgeneralization, in terms of the big picture it kind of works:  Like Tim, Kaki possesses a unique mastery of the guitar.  Saying that she plays the guitar is not entirely fair – it’s like saying that a doctor practices medicine, or a lawyer practices law.  She doesn’t just play the guitar – She thumps, beats, taps, strums, and picks it, weaving the resulting sounds into intricate pieces of music (pieces of music that leave guys like me at home, unable to figure out the chord formation for a B#, wondering “Damn, what made her think to try THAT?”).

On June 27th, Kaki brought “Traveling Freak Guitar Show” to the Old Rock House.  This was a rescheduled date – originally Kaki was supposed to stop at St Louis in March, but an injury resulted in the St Louis date (as well as several other dates) being cancelled.  Incidentally, the rescheduled date worked out well for me, as I would have had to miss the March concert but was able to make it to this one.  The 27th was a Monday, and in an effort to be a little bit less of an old man, I decided to brave the wild, wild world of “going out on a week night” to see Kaki perform.   Fear not – this sudden youth is temporary, and I go right back to my curmudgeonly ways in the next review.

This was my second time seeing a concert at the Old Rock House, and my first seeing a show that was a part of the ORH’s Listening Room series.  The biggest difference between normal ORH shows and Listening Room shows is the layout of the main floor.  The ORH is typically general admission/standing room only on the main floor, and general admission on the second floor with some limited seating.  For Listening Series shows, the main floor dance floor is converted to “reserved” limited seating (which is still first come first serve, but access is limited to those who bought reserved seating tickets) and the rest of the venue is general admission.  We bought reserved tickets as I really wanted to be able to sit close and be able to listen and see without having to see over, around, or through a bunch of other people.  I was also taping the show (which will be available on archive.org’s live music archive once it’s tracked and ready) and wanted to be able to get a prime location to set up shop with my gear, so the reserved section seemed like the best option.  I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be anything keeping people without reserved tickets from coming into the reserved section and claiming a table, but the ORH staff did a great job at making sure that only the right folks were allowed into the reserved section.  My only complaint about the venue is that for whatever reason some of the cushy bar stools in the reserved area were kind of wet.  They were dry on the surface but somehow the middle of the cushions were wet, and by the time I noticed and moved to a dry stool, my ass was soaked.  Like, “Did that guy piss himself?” soaked.

Doors opened at 7PM, and the show was scheduled to start st 8:30.  We arrived at around 8:00 and set up shop at a tall bar-height table against the wall near the front – not in the center of the room, but still a great seat, and I wouldn’t be obstructing anyone’s view with an eight foot mic stand and 18 inch shotgun mic.  Kaki hit the stage promptly at 8:30, and played for roughly 90 minutes.

There were three big things to love about this night.  First, the crowd.  I generally hate people in large groups – anyone who knows me will confirm my disappointment in our species as a whole – but this was a group of awesome human beings.  I have never been to a concert with such a quiet, intimate, respectful, and interested crowd.  Sometimes intimate settings are ruined by the random bad apple – the obnoxious crystal meth fiend, the guy on a cell phone, the drunk girl who won’t shut up – but there was none of that here.  This room full of people was so quiet and attentive that I could hear the springs in the seats squeak when the person in front of me would adjust how they were sitting.  This was my first Kaki King show, so I don’t know if all of her fans are this exemplary or if we just really lucked out on this Monday night, but this crowd was perfect.  I wish that more people behaved this well during every quiet, acoustic performance – it would do great things for my anger management issues.

The next thing to love was Kaki herself.  There is nothing worse than a performer who gets on stage and acts like they have someplace they’d rather be (even if it’s true).  On the flip side, there is nothing better than when a musician is genuinely engaged with their audience and interested in being there and spending their evening with us, the fans.  Kaki was personable and chatty with the crowd the entire night.  She talked at length in between songs about a variety of subjects ranging from the Gateway Arch to Brazilian bikini shopping to gay marriage rights.  She shared the stories behind the music (or the post-coital picture used in one of her album covers).  She even explained the origin of the various guitars that she played – my personal favorite being the Veillette Gryphon 12 string (but the 7 string acoustic with the fanned fretboard layout is pretty rad, too).  There wasn’t a single moment where I doubted that she genuinely wanted to be there, in that room, with us.

The final thing worth loving (arguably the most important item on the list) was the performance itself.  As someone who tinkers with a guitar now and then, seeing her create was a fascinating experience.  Sitting in this room and watching her hands move effortlessly in complicated patterns and rhythms (and making it look really, really easy), noticing the occasional cringe in response to the unexpected technical glitch, or seeing the concentration in her facial expression or the discomfort in her posture when reaching for a really tough stretch made this hour and a half set one of the most memorable and remarkable live performances I have ever seen.

I am, unfortunately, still piecing together song names for the full recording of the show, so at this point I still don’t know what the full setlist was.  We did, however, make it a point to try and capture as much video as possible (and nearly filled up a 4GB memory card in the process).  I will link to all of the videos at the bottom of the review, but here are some of the really interesting and stand out performances from the evening:

Note that I can’t possibly imbed all of the youtube videos I have. Seriously, go to the bottom of the post, click the links, and watch them all. They’re all worth checking out.

 

This song, Brazilian, is pretty cool. Before she started playing she told a story going into great detail about the pleasure of shopping for bikinis in Brazil, compared to shopping for one in the states. Having never bought a bikini in my life, I’ll take her word for it. Kaki’s playing is impressive enough on its own here, but she lays down some really complicated percussive patterns on top of what is already a complex set of notes and chords.

 

Kaki performs her version of Andrew York’s “Andecy” in this video using the seven string guitar that she had custom built. No crazy percussive rhythms, but definitely some fancy fret work and a beautiful song.

 

Playing with Pink Noise – In spite of a technical snafu mid performance, this song really shows Kaki’s percussive playing style quite nicely. It quite nicely sums up what left me so impressed about the night.

 

This is a song that Kaki wrote for her sister’s wedding. If you have ever played – or tried to play – a guitar, watch this video. This shit is nuts. I just can’t get my head around how she can play so many notes so quickly and make it look so simple. Plus, she plays it on the Veillette, which makes it 50% more awesome by default.

I’ve said some glowing things here and I’m sure that I’ve come off as the superfan, but believe me when I say that there is no hyperbole in any of this review – this evening really was as fantastic and perfect as I’ve described above.  Kaki King’s  set was a 90 minute display of instrumental virtuosity and music-as-an-art-form, and Kaki is a master of her craft.  If you think that there is even a possibility that her music may appeal to you, and the “Traveling Freak Guitar Show” (her name – not mine) is stopping in your part of the world, take a chance on it and go.

 

Setlist/YouTube Links:
Goby
Brazilian
Ingots
Jessica
Andecy
Playing With Pink Noise
untitled new song
Doing The Wrong Thing
Ahuvati
Zeitgeist (with Dan Brantigan)
Wedding Song
Sunnyside
Night After Sidewalk

 

Dirtfoot / Treehouse Castin’ Plans and Shakin’ Cans (6/24/2011)

Words by jenkins

Photos by BeeZnutZ

Video by jenkins/BeeZnutZ (as noted)

Two things happened on June 24th, 2011:  Not only did Dirtfoot and Treehouse perform to a relatively small (but energized!) crowd at 2720 Cherokee, but I also had the pleasure of meeting the other St Louis members of the Concert Confessions family (Bradley Darby and BeeZnutZ). All three of us at one place nearly rendered a tear in the fabric of space/time itself.

Not only was this my first Dirtfoot experience, but this was also my first time at 2720 Cherokee.  2720 is an interesting – and perhaps kind of unusual – place to catch a concert.  Proof that there is truth in advertising, 2720 Cherokee is located at 2720 Cherokee Street.  Located in a part of the city that most believe is a less than desirable place to spend a Friday night (on the “state streets”), more than one person warned me in advance that I should be careful, or that I would be “Mugged, murdered, and raped – in that order” (thanks dad!).  All of these things are, naturally, a gross exaggeration of the truth.  I will certainly concur that Cherokee Street is maybe not the best St Louis has to offer, but it is absolutely not the ghetto death trap that some would have you believe.

Part art gallery, part bar, and part concert venue, 2720 is kind of a quirky building.  I did not check out the art gallery portion of the building (to be honest, I couldn’t even really tell if it was open or not), but the concert room felt a lot like seeing a concert in the big open kind of room that some schools teach art or shop classes in.  The room is mostly a big open floor in front of the stage, with some couches and bar tables lining the perimeter, and a bar at the very back of the room.  One of the things I really liked about this room was that there was very little dividing the band and the stage from the crowd.  There were no major barriers, and the stage was not raised especially high off the floor.  This setup worked really well in terms of the band being able to keep the crowd involved and engaged.  Also, as far as I know, this is the only concert venue in the world with a recreation of the battle of hoth from Star Wars hanging over the bar, made from replica Star Wars vehicles and toys.  The nerd in me thought this was awesome.

The battle of Hoth

A model of the battle of Hoth over the bar at 2720

 

On to the show.  Doors opened at 8 for a show that started at 9.  Unsure of the layout of the room or how many people to expect, my wife and I made it a point to get there fairly early.  We arrived at more or less 8:15, right in the middle of the Dirtfoot sound check, and sat near the bar in the back of the room while they warmed up.

Treehouse took the stage at or around 9PM.  Treehouse is a local St Louis band – according to what they said at the show, this was only their fourth gig playing together.  A blend of rock / classic rock / singer-songwriter, there are  a lot of different artists behind the Treehouse sound.  I could definitely hear influences from all kinds of different bands/songwriters – from Led Zeppelin to Dave Matthews/John Mayer, and maybe even at times a little bit of U2.  Considering that they are still relatively in their infancy as a band, they sounded great.  I don’t really know any of their backgrounds, but the band members all sounded like skilled musicians, they played well with each other, and they seemed to have already established good on-stage chemistry together.  I was surprised to hear that this was only gig number four as I would have guessed that Treehouse had played together for much longer than that.

They played a set of mostly original songs with a few cover songs thrown in for good measure – the covers being Hey Joe and Crossroads.  I was not too into the Hey Joe cover – but that has more to do with me and less to do with the band, I just don’t like that song.  On the other hand, the Crossroads cover smoked, it was definitely a highlight of the set for me.

I unfortunately do not have the full Treehouse setlist, but I did manage to capture several of the songs on video. A few highlights are here, but links to all of the videos can be found at the end the review. Apologies for the sound quality – the crowd around me was chatty as shit for most of the set.

 

Just Like Me:

Midwestern Boy:

 

As I mentioned before, this was my first time seeing Dirtfoot, and I really only knew one song – Cast My Plans – from a groovable feast youtube video shared by mister Darby earlier in the year.  I watched the shit out of that video, but for whatever reason didn’t really get a chance to sit down and check out any other songs.  I had no idea what to expect, but based on what I had heard from my fellow confessors, I figured they would not disappoint.

I’m going to be honest.  If I were a record label or venue manager and someone came to me and said “Hey I know of this great band called Dirtfoot.   They play… well, they play front porch, whiskey swillin, foot stomping, gypsy, punk, country, grumble, boogie.  There’s guitar, bass, sax, banjo, and percussion – oh, and one of the percussion players has big metal trash cans and pots and pans he plays!”, I would probably tell you to get out of my office with that crazy hillbilly shit.

In retrospect, that crazy hillbilly shit was the best $10 I’ve spent in months.

The crowd wasn’t huge this night, but it sure felt to me like we packed a big punch.  Dirtfoot played a solid set of tunes to a group of people that were definitely excited to be there.  Dirtfoot’s set was more or less two hours of grooving and shaking that even the groove-and-shake impaired can get down with.  I am not a dancer.  Ever.  I only danced at my wedding because I had to.  Needless to say, shaking bean cans along to the music with a room full of people is way outside of my comfort zone, but this night with this band and this crowd, it was a blast.  My wife will admit that she was not so psyched up front – she was really only going because I wanted to go.  What she may not admit (but I will gladly admit for her) is that since the show I occasionally catch her humming along to Cast My Plans or No Good Man.

I am not as familiar with their catalogue as I should be, and I truly enjoyed every song they played – between those two things it’s really hard for me to pick out highlights from the night.  Nonetheless, here are just a few of the songs that I really recall as being exceptional:

Rest My Head:

No Good Man (video by BeeZnutZ):

Cast My Plans:

Underwater Turtle (video by BeeZnutZ):

Rest My Head, No Good Man, and Cast My Plans are all great songs, and Underwater Turtle is a couple of solid minutes of concentrated insanity, including metal trashcans and a hand cranked siren. There were a couple of other things that were standouts for me, but unfortunately I don’t have recordings of either at this point. The first is the song “Back of a Stranger” – this stuck with me enough that I went to track the song down on the internet the day after the show. The second is the post-encore percussion jam. After the band finished the encore, various members of the band came back out and rocked a drum/percussion jam, including the full drum kit, metal trashcan and hand crank siren, marimbas, pots and pans, and beating the upright bass strings with a drum stick. I really wish I had enough room left on the memory card to get a video of this, as watching these guys just jam and play and beat stuff for a good long time was really enjoyable.

 

All of these musicians are talented and good at what they do, but when they come together like Voltron to form Dirtfoot, the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts.  Unique sound, talented musicians, and a “fun factor” that’s hard to measure.

On top of it all?  Since this was my first Dirtfoot concert experience, they let me keep the bean can shakers.  You can’t ask for anything more.

 

 

Treehouse (Set Incomplete):
Hey Joe
Midwestern Boy
Bronze Medalist
Just Like Me
Pit Stop

 

Dirtfoot (Set Incomplete):
Gonna Get Ya
Rest My Head
No Good Man (jenkins BeeZnutZ)
Devoted Mama (jenkins 1 jenkins2 BeeZnutZ)
Pullin Up The Stakes
Time To Be Your Friend Now
Cast My Plans
Entertain Me
My Girl
Heroin (jenkins BeeZnutZ)
Back of a Stranger
Fallin’ In Love (BeeZnutZ)
Underwater Turtle (BeeZnutZ)

 

Beyond the Wall with El Monstero y Los Masked Avengers (12/22/2010)

First, let me go ahead and get the rabid fanboyism out of the way now: I am a huge Pink Floyd nerd.  Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were the first two bands that I really loved, the first two bands whose entire catalogue I had to own, and Dark Side of the Moon was maybe the first album that I memorized from beginning to end as a kid.

It is, needless to say, a little bit of a disappointment that I was born twenty years too late to see either of these bands in concert “in their prime” (or at all, for that matter).

For the uninitiated (and the non-Saint-Louis folks), “El Monstero y Los Masked Avengers” is essentially a Pink Floyd tribute act.  I don’t like using the term cover band here as it doesn’t carry the right tone.  Once a year around the end of December, a handful of musicians from local Saint Louis acts get together and play 6 or 7 nights as El Monstero.  The gigs are always at the Pageant, and the proceeds benefit the Pageant Charitable Fund.  Incidentally, the same group of musicians also perform a Led Zeppelin tribute in February.

No opening act, no other source material, no bullshit, just three solid hours of the best Pink Floyd has (err, had) to offer.

The show started at eight; we arrived at the Pageant with what I thought was plenty of time to spare.  Parking at the Pageant is notoriously terrible for popular shows and this was no exception – it took us almost twenty minutes to find a place to park and walk to the entrance.  After wading through the sea of people we made our way to our seats right as the show was about to start.  We had aisle seats with a pretty good view of the stage three rows from the front of the reserved seating balcony (the old man in me tends to avoid general admission unless it’s the only option).

It’s worth mentioning that the seating arrangement was a little different from years before:  This year, there was “Fearless Stage Seating”.  Basically, the stage was extended further onto the main floor and several rows of seats were added around the sides and rear of the stage, creating a kind of faux “concert in the round” setup.  This was certainly an interesting decision, especially considering how much of their show is based on “The Wall”, an album that is at least partially fueled by Roger Waters’ contempt for Pink Floyd’s fans.

This year, El Monstero played two sets.  The first was a selection of songs from “The Wall”, followed by Shine On You Crazy Diamond.  The second set included some early Floyd tracks and “Dark Side of the Moon” played cover to cover.

The band came out dressed in all black and kicked things off with crowd favorites Another Brick in the Wall 1 > Happiest Days of our Lives > Another Brick in the Wall 2, followed by Mother, Is There Anybody Out There?, Goodbye Blue Sky, and Empty Spaces.  ABITW1 through Mother was just perfect.  ABITW2 included a great guitar solo/jam and a crowd sing along of every high school kid’s anthem, and Mother is one of my favorite sad bastard songs ever.

The next run, however, I wasn’t so crazy about.  This is not a criticism of the band – they absolutely performed every one of these songs energetically and perfectly, and the stage presence and light show were spot on.  My issue here is with the source material.  The Wall has plenty of great songs and rock anthems, but in between that greatness is the occasional filler track.  I like Is There Anybody Out There, but it (as well as Goodbye Blue Sky and Empty Spaces) definitely fall into the filler category for me, despite their role in the concept of “The Wall”.

True to the studio album, Empty Spaces segued perfectly into Young Lust, another crowd favorite.  As in prior years, Young Lust was complete with strippers and mostly naked pole dancers.  Needless to say, a room full of drunken men (and some women) exploded in applause and cheering.  The poles were at the edges of the stage, resulting in a view from fearless stage seating that was either breathtaking or awkward, depending on your point of view.  This was followed by One of my Turns, complete with a barely dressed groupie and “Pink’s” psychotic snap midway through the song.  After this came Hey you (another chance for guitarist Jimmy Griffin to shine) and a beautiful Nobody Home – a song that makes me regret not taking piano lessons more seriously as a kid.  Every concert needs the occasional bathroom break – next up was another run of filler tracks:  Vera > Bring The Boys Back Home > Goodbye Cruel World.  Again, the band performed these tunes spot on and with gusto, and I get what they signify in terms of the big picture of “The Wall”, but they don’t do much for me personally.

A few final songs from The Wall were played next, and this run was an unexpected highlight of the night for me – Run Like Hell > ABITW3 > Run Like Hell, and Waiting for the Worms > Stop.  Run Like Hell was perhaps one of the best songs of the night – not only is it a loud, uptempo, high energy rock and roll explosion, but midway through they brought out the Pacific High School drum line for a couple minutes of additional kick ass percussion.  I unfortunately do not have my own video of this, nor was I able to find a video from the 22nd, but there is a video of the same run of songs from a few nights earlier (video below taken and owned by youtube user StLouisEarl, who has all kinds of great videos from these concerts).

Waiting for the Worms > Stop, on the other hand, had no extra drum line and no strippers – just four minutes of head bobbing foot thumping Pink Floyd rock psychosis with rumbling bass so loud it shook your naughty bits.  Normally this track is filler for me, but El Monstero made it truly excellent, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

Wrapping up the first set was Pink Floyd classic and fan favorite Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

 

Having moved on from The Wall, the band changed from all black to all white and took the stage for the second set.  There was a definite shift here – the first set focused on The Wall and so required a more theatrical approach to performing.  The second set consisted of mostly older tunes and classics (I think the kids are calling them “deep cuts” now) and so focused more on playing, jamming, and rocking the crowd.

The set opened with favorites of mine, starting with one of the songs that made me love this band:  Echoes.  Echoes is from Pink Floyd’s older, more psychedelic rock era, with a studio cut clocking in at nearly thirty minutes.  They played the meat of it, jammed for a while, and moved on to a medley of Dogs > Pigs from the album Animals.  Both Dogs and Pigs are almost ten minutes each in full, and the band played a little over half of each.  When you have decades of material to fit into a single concert and you’re trying to cover a lot of ground, there isn’t really room for ten and thirty minute songs.  El Monstero arranged these songs in a way to keep them mostly in tact, but trim overall song length down to something more reasonable and keep the set moving.

Echoes:

Dogs:

 

As in prior years, the band brought out a guest next to sing on Have a Cigar.  As always, he was perfect for this song and channeled Roy Harper’s delivery from the studio cut while making his way around the stage throwing huge wads of fake paper money out into the crowd.  This was followed by Pigs on the Wing, another song that’s kind of filler material for me, but it’s short, sweet, and simple, and it served as a nice bookend before moving on to the centerpiece of the set – a favorite of Floyd lovers, classic rock junkies, and Wizard of Oz fans everywhere:  the entire album Dark Side of the Moon, played cover to cover.

With the exception of a few highlights, I will spare you the song-by-song details of DSoTM and just say that the performance was equally as excellent as the rest of the show, with the addition of a great light and laser show consistent with what one would expect for Dark Side.  There were two songs worth singling out, however:  The instrumental track On the Run, and the female vocal driven Great Gig in the Sky.  During On the Run I experienced what may have been the loudest, most intense room shaking bass I have ever felt at a concert.  Crisp and clean without being muddy or distorted, but so loud and fierce that you could feel everything around you vibrate and at points my vision actually blurred as things  around me reverberated.  Great Gig in the Sky featured guest vocals from three lovely ladies, and all three of these ladies cried and wailed and belted their way through incredible solos resulting in a standing ovation.

After a brief break, the band came out for a 3 song encore performance of In The Flesh, Wish You Were Here, and Comfortably Numb.  While In The Flesh has normally been played as part of The Wall portion of the set in prior years, it worked well here this year as a chance for a little audience interaction and got the crowd on their feet.  Wish You Were Here gave the band a chance to show off the quieter, acoustic side of Pink Floyd, and the crowd sang along with the band word for word.  Floyd’s rock anthem Comfortably Numb ended the night and gave everyone in the band a chance to shine one more time before calling it a night, ending the evening with one more final burst of guitar solos and rock ‘n roll.

 

I mentioned before that El Monstero is made up of local musicians who have their own bands and shows around town (The Incurables, Joe Dirt, Shooting With Annie, and Wyld Stallyns, to name a few of many), and seeing them get together and channel classic rock gods once a year is a great motivator to get out and go support these local acts and see them do what they do best on a regular basis.

Have I kissed an awful lot of ass in this review?  Yeah, maybe I have, but I think it’s well earned.  Calling El Monstero a Pink Floyd tribute act sells all of these musicians short of the credit they deserve.  There is no doubt (at least not for me) that every one of these folks knows the music of this band as well as Pink Floyd themselves – they aren’t just musicians, they’re fans.  These gigs sell out in short order every year, and for good reason:  In a world with no Pink Floyd, El Monstero is as close as you can get to the real thing.

 

Paul Thorn 12-11-2010: Old Rock House – Saint Louis, MO

Paul Thorn 12/11/10

Old Rock House – St. Louis, MO

Words by Jenkins

 

Usually I have a pretty good idea what to expect from a concert in advance.  I’m familiar with the band, their catalog, the crowd, hell – maybe I’ve even been to a couple of their shows before.

On the other hand, sometimes I don’t at all know what I’m in for and have no idea what my expectations should be.  Saturday, Paul Thorn played at the Old Rock House in Saint Louis – and Saturday was one of those nights.

In case you aren’t familiar with him, Paul Thorn is a bluesy folksy songwriter full of southern rock and southern drawl.  He is uniquely gifted at writing songs that are both somber and silly.  He occasionally is a guest on the Bob & Tom radio show, and for a lot of people (myself included) their first exposure to Paul is “A Great Day”, which is included on a Bob & Tom compilation.

To be honest, there aren’t a lot of fine details about the show for me to share here.  I don’t know the setlist, I only recognized two songs, I sat at a table that I  couldn’t possibly see the stage from, and as such I don’t have any recordings or video clips to share.  That being said, there is still plenty to say about Paul Thorn and company.

I’ll start with the venue.  I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess I’d say that the Old Rock House (ORH) seats more or less 250 people.  I had never been there before, and while I love seeing concerts in small, intimate venues, any time seating is general admission or first-come-first-serve it makes me nervous – frankly, I’m feeling a little too old to fight and squeeze my way to the front of a crowd these days.  The group I was with arrived shortly before doors opened; once doors opened we made a mad dash to find a seat and just barely snagged one of the last 4 seat tables.

The ORH is a historic building and a neat place, but in my opinion it isn’t suited particularly well for concerts.  If you’re not one of the first 75 people there, you can pretty much forget about finding a place to sit on the floor or near the front of the balcony; if you’re not one of the first 120 you can forget about sitting at all, and the stage is practically out of your  line of sight.  There is a large screen at the balcony level that projects video of the concert from the floor – it’s not as ideal as being able to actually watch the stage, but it’s certainly a better option than staring at the heads or asses of the people sitting or standing in front of you.

The band took the stage promptly at 9:00 and played for more-or-less two hours.  The set included what sounded like a mix of old and new material, rocking and mellow tunes, and heartfelt and humorous stories.  From the point of view of someone brand new to Paul, the song selection felt fairly well balanced with something for everyone.  The set was overall more serious than humorous, but even some of the more serious songs were sprinkled with wit.  The band was tight and sounded well rehearsed, and I don’t recall hearing any out of place notes or mistakes the entire night.  The band struck me as being great musicians; they performed with skill and enthusiasm and sounded like a band that should be playing for a much bigger crowd at a much larger venue.

Midway through the night Paul took the stage alone for a short solo acoustic set which ended with Paul performing a song with just his keyboard player.  I’m a sucker for the quiet, intimate acoustic set, so by default this was one of the highlights of the night for me.

After the short acoustic set the band returned to the stage and performed to what seemed to be a much more interested and energized crowd.  The crowd was involved, interested, and singing along for the rest of the night.

At several points during the show Paul stopped to talk to the crowd.  Sometimes he talked to specific people that caught his eye,  sometimes he had stories to tell about the origin or idea behind a particular song, other times he just felt like shooting the breeze.  He made several cracks about relationships, talking about how he could tell when couples were really in love and when they were just pretending (and then talked about the number of people pretending in the audience that night).  At the end he talked about two ladies in the crowd that had followed the band for the last few shows around the midwest and brought them dinner each night, and gave them each a Dunkin’ Donuts paper hat signed by all of the band members.

One of the things that really struck me about Paul actually had very little to do with the music:  Paul came off as being one of the most sincerely grateful and gracious musicians around.  He interacted with the crowd the entire night, telling stories, cracking jokes, and talking to fans.  He genuinely seemed thankful for every single person in the room that night and worked hard to make sure they knew it.

Let’s talk about that crowd for a moment.  We were probably the youngest four people in the house that night – the average age was waaaay higher than 30.  I figured that the crowd would be a little rambunctious given the number of cowboy hats and leather jackets (and even a leather cowboy hat), but it was worse than I had anticipated.  It could have been much much worse, but it doesn’t take many jackasses to create a distraction.  Silly me, assuming that an older crowd wouldn’t be pushing their way to the front of the room, butting in front of people, squeezing into spots that were way too small for them.  Silly me, assuming people wouldn’t be standing in spots that blocked the view of half a dozen people around them.  Silly me, assuming that people almost twice my age wouldn’t spend the night groping each other in public.  I’m getting too old for this shit – I say that a lot – but not usually at shows with an older crowd.

Admittedly, my knowledge of Paul Thorn was limited to “A Great Day” from the Bob and Tom show (a damn funny song that everyone can appreciate and should hear at least once).  I came in only knowing one song that he played on some radio show years ago and had no idea what kind of “real musician” I was going to see.  I don’t know why he isn’t bigger than he is – he’s definitely better than 300 seat bars and clubs.  Regardless, if he keeps putting on shows like he did on Saturday night, I’ll go see him wherever he plays when he comes through town.

Highlights of the night (in no particular order):  Burn Down the Trailer Park, Mood Ring, Pimps & Preachers, I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love, I Guess I’ll Just Stay Married, That’s Life

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