Author: stevenanthony

Hall & Oates Bring Adult Education to Oklahoma – 2/28/14

Hall & Oates – 2/28/14

Grand Casino – Shawnee, OK

Words/Photos by Steven Anthony

For the last few years Hall & Oates have extensively toured throughout the United States, peppering dates in seemingly every corner of America. They generally make a few stops here in my home state of Oklahoma, and 2014 is no different with the band finding themselves closing out February in Shawnee at the new venue inside the Grand Casino.

hallandoates-shawnee-4

For a little over 90 minutes, Daryl Hall and John Oates delivered hit after hit from their extensive back catalog, occasionally turning the songs into extended jam sessions. In general the music sounded precisely how you remember, but the band also wasn’t scared to change it up. Using Out of Touch, for example, Hall & Oates gave the song a harder rock edge while maintaining the song’s ridiculously catchy vocal melody.

Daryl Hall’s voice has held up amazingly well, and save for a few changes to deal with his deepening voice (especially noticeable on You Make My Dreams), he sounded almost studio perfect. John Oates took lead on a few tracks, including Alone Too Long and Las Vegas Turnaround, allowing him time to prove his voice has held up just as well as Hall’s.

hallandoates-shawnee-11

The band essentially played every song a fan could hope to hear, including somewhat surprising (but very appreciated) appearances of Method of Modern Love and Adult Education, two of my favorite H&O tracks. The set was short – the main portion ending after only ten songs, leaving four songs for the encore – but it seemed about perfect for the casual casino crowd.

Judging by the crowd’s reaction, I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do) and Rich Girls remain the band’s biggest fan favorites. I Can’t Go for That was extended into an insane nearly 15 minute long soul jam, allowing for a lengthy saxophone solo, some vocal improvisation by Daryl and a great solo by the band’s touring guitarist.

hallandoates-shawnee-18

While the crowd was most assuredly there for Daryl & John, the two couldn’t have done it without their great backing band. Everyone was mic’d up to help with the great vocal harmony work that fills the band’s discography, and the guys were clearly well rehearsed even with the addition of a new touring guitarist. There was one false start during Las Vegas Turnaround, but Daryl and John laughed it off and said it could be the show’s Youtube moment.

While the show could have been longer and perhaps included more deep cuts for those who are more than casual fans of the band, it was musically sound and a great showcase by one of music’s top-selling duos. Just a few months shy of their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hall & Oates still deliver on the live front and shouldn’t be missed by anyone who’s ever sang along to Private Eyes or Sara Smile. You should have plenty of chances to catch the band as they seem to never stop touring, but don’t miss out when they come through your town.

Setlist:
Maneater, Out of Touch, Say It Isn’t So, Method of Modern Love, Adult Education, Alone Too Long, Las Vegas Turnaround, She’s Gone, Sara Smile, I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do), Rich Girl, You Make My Dreams Come True, Kiss on My List, Private Eyes

Check out the full slideshow below:

Dir en grey kick off U.S. leg of Ghoul in Dallas – 11/3/13 – Trees, Dallas, TX

Dir en grey w/ Dagoba – 11/3/13

Trees – Dallas, TX

Words/Photos by Steven Anthony

direngrey-dallas-19

It’s been almost two years since the last time Japan’s Dir en grey touched down here in the United States. After vocalist Kyo was sidelined by a throat injury last spring, Dir en grey was forced to scrap an entire U.S. tour while allowing him time to recuperate. Luckily he did so with no real problem, and last night the band finally hit America once more, kicking off their 2013 Ghoul tour at Trees in Dallas, TX.

The band has gone through more than a few stylistic changes over the years, both visually and musically, and last night found them changing yet again. While the instrumentalists of the band remained dressed in fairly typical stage wear, vocalist Kyo had his face hidden by a black shroud for much of the show. When he did pull it back and allow his face to show, he was painted to resemble a… well, a ghoul, I guess, delivering on the tour’s name. Complete with creepy stage contacts, Kyo was in his own little world, seemingly detached from the rest of the band but connected with the audience.

direngrey-dallas-13

The band isn’t really touring in support of an album, but they did release a new self-covers EP titled The Unraveling earlier this year and several of the tracks made an appearance in the setlist in Dallas. As the band has evolved in both appearance and sound over the years, hearing them redo these older tracks can be quite breathtaking, like Karasu, which has been given a complete makeover in such a way that it completely changes the feel of the song. Kyo’s singing was highlighted during the track, giving him time to vocalize in his normal register before transitioning into his now-trademark growling/screaming in the middle of the song. The amount of control he has over his voice is pretty terrifying, and he’s quite the dynamic frontman because of it.

direngrey-dallas-15

Rinkaku, the band’s newest single (albeit now nearly a year old), sounded flawless. Dual guitar work by Kaoru and Die provided the background for Kyo’s vocal acrobatics once again, the singer’s voice sounding almost operatic during the song’s chorus. While I respect Kyo’s ability to emote through screaming, I far prefer hearing him sing and Rinkaku was one of his best performances of the evening. When he reaches up into his upper register it becomes quite haunting, particularly when coupled with his ghoul makeup. Rinkaku was definitely one of the strongest points of the set.

dead tree from the band’s 2005/2006 U.S. breakthrough LP Withering to death. got perhaps the loudest crowd reaction of the night, eliciting mass amounts of screaming throughout the packed venue. The cool thing about seeing a band like Dir en grey live is that the crowd is most certainly filled with hardcore fans — this isn’t the type of music to have casual listeners — and as such, the audience is absolutely hysterical for nearly the entire show. When it comes to a boiling point during tracks like dead tree, it’s like a giant cathartic experience shared by the entire audience. The band only seemed to feed off of the energy, pummeling the crowd with intensity during the song’s much more aggressive and “metal” middle section. If you ever doubt the ability of a Japanese metal band to stir up a circle pit — don’t. The floor for this show was brutal, people pinballing off of each other while screaming in Japanese. It’s certainly a unique experience.

direngrey-dallas-11

The band’s encore opened up with a new version of fan-favorite The Final. Another of the tracks re-recorded for their self-covers EP The Unraveling, The Final remains mostly the same, a bit harder and edgier than the original recording but retaining the overall feel of the track. The most notable difference is a dual guitar solo by guitarists Die and Kaoru, which sounded absolutely brutal live. Like dead tree earlier in the gig, The Final is originally from the band’s breakthrough U.S. album Withering to death. and the reaction for the two tracks was pretty similar: intense screaming and cheering followed by hundreds of people singing along in Japanese.

direngrey-dallas-25

Other highlights of Dir en grey’s set included a somewhat surprising appearance of Kasumi and a hyper-aggressive performance of Different Sense. Kasumi got an update on The Unraveling but remained mostly unchanged and faithful to the 2003 original, and this is just one of a handful of times the band has played the track in the United States. It’s one of Dir en grey’s most potential sing-along tracks and the crowd did just that as the band played on. Different Sense, on the other hand, is one of the band’s most alienating songs — some love it, some hate it — but all it does in a live setting is showcase the band’s ability to switch between fairly standard alternative rock and hardcore metal at the drop of a hat.

dagoba-dallas-7

French industrial band Dagoba opened up the gig, delivering a solid opening set at what I believe the vocalist said was their first American show ever. After much goading by vocalist Shawter, the crowd actually split in two for a wall of death, something I’d never seen break out at a show this far into my life. The band sounded brutal while performing, but then they’d almost ruin the vibe by being so grateful and humorous during Shawter’s brief discussions with the audience between songs. Regardless, they did a great job of opening up for Dir en grey.

It’s great to have Dir en grey back in the United States, and if they are this strong out of the gates there’s no telling how good the shows will be after they really get going. A passionate audience and nearly two-hour set spanning the band’s career? It’s a dream come true for fans of the band.

Dir en grey setlist:
REIKETSU NARISEBA
Unknown.Despair.Lost
KARMA
GAIKA, CHINMOKU GA NEMURU KORO
DOZING GREEN
Bottom of the Death Valley
INWARD SCREAM
THE BLOSSOMING BEELZEBUB
dead tree
VINUSHKA
RINKAKU
-karasu-
DIFFERENT SENSE
KASUMI
OBSCURE
THE FINAL
HAGESHISA TO, KONO MUNE NO NAKA DE KARAMITSUITA SHAKUNETSU NO YAMI

Check out a few more selected shots followed by our full gallery:

Dir en grey:
direngrey-dallas-30

direngrey-dallas-9

direngrey-dallas-21

direngrey-dallas-23

Dagoba:

dagoba-dallas-6

dagoba-dallas-13

dagoba-dallas-5

Avenged Sevenfold, Deftones & Ghost 10/23/13: Chesapeake Energy Arena, OKC, OK

Avenged Sevenfold w/ Deftones and Ghost – 10/23/13

Chesapeake Energy Arena – Oklahoma City, OK

Words/Photos by Steven Anthony

avengedsevenfold-okc-3

Everyone’s got an opinion regarding Avenged Sevenfold. Lots of people hate them, calling them derivative/wannabe rock stars. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the band’s fans, eating up everything the band releases including their latest album Hail to the King which recently topped the Billboard’s Top 100. Touring in support of that record, Avenged Sevenfold stopped at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena last night bringing along Deftones and Ghost as support. Surely one of the strangest mainstream bills to hit arenas this year, the three bands played to a small yet hugely passionate crowd.

ghost-okc-3

Sweden’s Ghost kicked things off for the evening, running through a bizarre 45-minute set that seemed to captivate the audience. While it reeked of gimmickry (Anonymous band members? A Satan-worshipping Cardinal figure?), the band was certainly entertaining. Heavy music fronted by a pop-sounding Satan-loving freak? If it works, it works, I guess, and judging by the number of Ghost shirts on the front row (a concert sin), the Swedes have developed a nice little underground following here in America. The band’s set included performances of Per Aspera ad Inferi, Year Zero and Ritual, sadly leaving out their intense Here Comes the Sun cover.

deftones-okc-5

Deftones were up next, still riding on the heels of last year’s critically successful Koi no Yokan. Chino Moreno still bounces around like an insane person, constantly climbing up on his riser before jumping of or running across the stage twirling is microphone. He’s an engaging performer, to be sure, but last night he seemed to be having a bit of trouble balancing his on stage acrobatics with singing, sounding short of breath more than a few times. After tripping on a platform mid set, it became clear that perhaps he was just having an off night. Luckily he picked himself back up and recovered nicely, smiling before resuming his nonstop dancing center stage. Musically the band sounded tight, delivering solid takes on Rosemary, My Own Summer (Shove It) and Swerve City. Deftones are certainly a different style of music than either Ghost or Avenged Sevenfold, but they seemed to have just as many fans out in the crowd. It seemed odd to have a band so critically respected sandwiched between some Satan-worshipping, relative newcomers and one of the most polarizing bands in American rock, but they made it work.

avengedsevenfold-okc-30

After the Deftones wrapped up their set, the crowd’s anticipation for Avenged Sevenfold seemed to reach a breaking point. Soon enough, fire erupted from the stage as the band took their places on stage. Opening up with Shepherd of Fire, the band heated up the arena — quite literally — with insane amounts of pyro coming from seemingly every direction on stage. Critical Acclaim was next, finding vocalist M. Shadows growling over the fairly typical guitar riffs going on behind him. Guitarists Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates played their first of many dual-guitar solos of the evening during the track, throwing out shades of Judas Priest while the crowd pumped their fists in response. The band’s music may come across as inauthentic to some, but for the thousands of smiling faces at last night’s show, it’s clear they have a connection with a large number of people.

The band’s stage, a huge castle facade with a giant skeleton king centered behind the drum riser, served as a great backdrop for all of the pyro and spectacle happening towards the front. M. Shadows and both guitarists all had their own mini-risers at the front of the stage, climbing up anytime they wanted to solo or pop off whatever rock pose they were feeling at that moment. There were so many solos peppering nearly every song that for every vocal hook present during the show, I’d say there were approximately 12 guitar solos. It was a little excessive, but both guitarists are more than proficient so it was never painful.

avengedsevenfold-okc-22

The band sounded at their best when things were speedy and had a sharper edge — when they slowed down the show for a heartfelt tribute to their late drummer The Rev, things became a bit rough. While Fiction was a nice way to keep The Rev’s memory alive, M. Shadow’s vocals really seem to have trouble when he lets off his distinctive growl and the multi-layered synth work was a bit over the top. It was a weak point in an otherwise strong and engaging show, and really seemed to throw off the flow of their 90-minute set. It certainly can’t be all solos and all growling for the entire show, but the song sounded incredibly out of place.

The remainder of the night was solid, featuring performances of Nightmare, Afterlife and Bat Country. Shadows thanked the audience for coming out on a Wednesday night before leaving the stage. After a few minutes of “Sevenfold” chants rising out of the audience, the band came back out for a quick two-song encore, rounding out their set with Chapter Four and Unholy Confessions. All in all, not a bad show.

While these three bands have very little common, least of all fanbases, each band delivered in its own unique way. Judging by the size of the crowd, it’s not clear that any of these bands have the draw to fill arenas, but it was obvious that the people who did come out had a great time.

Check out a few more selected shots, followed by a full gallery of all three bands:

Ghost:
ghost-okc-14

ghost-okc-15

Deftones:

deftones-okc-6

deftones-okc-9

Avenged Sevenfold:

avengedsevenfold-okc-31

avengedsevenfold-okc-32

Ted Nugent 8/25/2013: Diamond Ballroom, OKC, OK

Ted Nugent – 08/25/13

Diamond Ballroom – Oklahoma City, OK

Words/Photos by Steven Anthony

tednugent-okc-29

After a handful of decades in the music industry, Ted Nugent has still not stopped. He continues trucking on, bathing in whatever spotlight he can find by drumming up political controversy, spouting out the kind of quotables that make news editors daydream of potential headlines. At his show in Oklahoma City last night, however, the Motor City Madman didn’t spend too much time preaching his beliefs, instead choosing to power through a 90-minute set packed with his biggest hits.

That’s not to say that the Nuge didn’t spout off a number of brief rants — no, quite the opposite. He had no problem telling the crowd to hold on to their guns in case “they” (the government) decides to come take them. That got a lot of cheers… this is Oklahoma we’re talking about. Ted even apologized to the military service members across the world for the fact that while they’ve been serving, Americans have “become so stupid, Barack Obama was elected into office.” Cue more cheers. Repeat similar ideas about Hillary Clinton and a number of other democrat politicians. Predictable, yet obviously in tune with the majority of his fanbase. Oh, by the way, this summer’s tour is called the “Black Power Tour.” Yep.

tednugent-okc-16

The ranting, in total, took up less than five minutes of the show’s total length. The rest of it was filled Nugent’s signature material, from Cat Scratch Fever and Turn It Up to Gonzo and Wango Tango. Regardless of one’s political leanings and beliefs, it’s hard to deny that Nugent’s written some solid material throughout his life, and he and his band deliver the goods live. It’s impossible to deny how powerful the groove of Stranglehold is, even though Nugent introduced it as “the theme song for taking America back.” You so crazy, Uncle Ted.

Ted interjected several times during the show to reiterate just how much he loves hunting. He told stories of shipping venison jerky over to Afghanistan, to make the soldiers “kill more assholes.” Insert applause. Hell, his parting words on stage weren’t “thank you” or “see you next time,” but “God bless, have a great hunting season.” He’s consistent, and damn if the crowd didn’t eat it up. He also noted that “every song” he’s ever written is about hunting and love. Together. Hove? Lunting?

tednugent-okc-11

Ted also spoke at length about his black music heroes, the inspiration behind the tour’s “Black Power” name. Initially the tour name seems like nothing but a way to acquire more controversy and headline filler, but Nugent’s band is certainly well-versed in the blues. During an extended blues segment at the end of Wang Dang Sweet Poontang found the band venturing into Jimi Hendrix’ Red House, seemingly lost on the crowd but played to near perfection. Nugent also spent some time name checking the musicians he has looked up to his entire life.

tednugent-okc-17

Politics and one-liners aside, Nugent puts on a solid show. It’s hard to fault a man for sticking to his guns so consistently (pun intended), even though his ideas are certainly off-putting to a lot of people who could find themselves enjoying some solid 70s rock. Maybe you agree with Nugent’s standpoints — if so, bully for you. If you don’t but happen to be in the mood to hear perfect live renditions of Cat Scratch Fever and Stranglehold, it might be worth shrugging off Ted’s quotes just to hear the show. The choice is certainly yours, but as someone who is about as far away from Ted’s ideals as possible, I can’t deny the man put on an entertaining show.

BoomBox & Ishi 09/19/2012: Diamond Ballroom, OKC, OK

BoomBox & Ishi 09/19/12

Diamond Ballroom – Oklahoma City, OK

Words/Photos by Steven Anthony

Ishi’s John Mudd

I very rarely, if ever, check out a band live before hearing them on record. I’ve been burned far too many times before, and as any concert goer knows there is nothing worse than being bored to tears at a show.

Regardless, I took the chance and hit up Oklahoma City’s Diamond Ballroom on Wednesday night (my birthday!) for a show headlined by techno/house/jamband BoomBox with support by Dallas-natives Ishi.

Ishi kicked things off around 8:45, immediately jumping into some fairly 80s-esque, synthtastic material that won over the small but enthusiastic crowd. Vocalist John Mudd and his drummer brother JJ Mudd were both wearing neon-glow shutter shades, which highlighted some tribalish facepaint on their cheeks. Musically, the band held their own, filling the venue with a mixture of sexy synth lines and some of the best pop hooks I’ve heard from a band not already on the radio. DiscoQueen was perhaps the most 80s-y track of their set, seeming to get pretty much everyone in the crowd to dance along.

BoomBox’s Zion Rock Godchaux

Shortly after Ishi’s set ended, BoomBox hit the stage. For the entirety of their two hour set, the duo (Russ Randolph and Zion Rock Godchaux) provided a decent mixture of techno, house and yes, even jamband-lite music. The crowd ate it up, spending a solid two hours dancing to the groove laid out by the band. Mr. Concert Confessions himself (Reverend Justito) told me today he felt the band was “techno for hippies,” and after seeing the band tonight I can confirm that is the case. And that’s not a bad thing.

Illuminated by the band’s great light show and inspired by music blasting from the speakers, most in the crowd seemed to greatly enjoy dancing for two hours straight. Many seemed unfamiliar with the band, but if you had to choose between a solid funk/house/jam band and a DJ spinning radio hits — which would you rather break a sweat to?

BoomBox’s Zion Rock Godchaux

Ishi’s music certainly seemed more structured, providing for the more standard verse-chorus-verse style songwriting while BoomBox’s focus was on performing extended jams before and after most of their songs. Overall, both bands put on solid performances that warrant me recommending them to you.

If you have any interest in live house/techno/80s-tastic music, don’t hesitate to either of these bands up. To check on upcoming dates for either band, head to IshiMusic.com or ThisIsBoomBox.com.

Check out the rest of the images from the show below:

NKOTBSB 07/17/11: BOK Center – Tulsa, OK

NKOTBSB 07/17/11

BOK Center – Tulsa, OK

Words/Photos By Steven Anthony.

After watching NKOTBSB dominate the American Airlines Center a few weeks ago, I decided that I had to see the show again and bring another friend along.

At Tulsa’s BOK Center this past Sunday night, the show remained largely the same. For over two hours the nine men sped through their biggest hits, taking time for both the more upbeat tracks and the slow jams that helped propel so many teenage girl fantasies years ago.

BSB’s “10,000 Promises” was a standout moment. With the four men raised on a scissor lift on the b-stage, each sang to a different section of the arena. The song, originally on 1997’s Backstreet’s Back, was never a major hit, but the guys delivered it with the same passion and heart reserved for their record breaking singles.

During “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”, the Backstreet Boys pulled some lucky ladies on stage. For the entirety of the song, each member sang to his respective audience member before ending with a hug and helping to escort the ladies back to their seats. This kind of fan service is what keeps boy band fans loyal for so long, and you can be sure that the ladies will never forget their night on stage with the boys.

Not wanting to be left out, NKOTB went out into the crowd during “Tonight”, raised on small platforms between the floor and the next highest section. This allowed them to be closer than ever to the fans that had no problem screaming to show how appreciative they were.

Other highlights included NKOTB’s “You Got It (The Right Stuff)”, “If You Go Away” and of course “Step by Step”. On the BSB front, the crowd devoured performances of “Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely”, “Incomplete” and “As Long As You Love Me”.

Backed by an incredible solid band, NKOTBSB never missed their mark vocally. While there are some key changes here and there, and some different arrangements, the songs remain the instantly recognizable hits that fans remember. Joey McIntyre took control over the crowd during a powerful performance of “Please Don’t Go Girl”, which included a run and slide down the stage’s long catwalk and lots of cheering from the crowd.

Jordan Knight was also impressive vocally, hitting his falsetto notes in “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” like it was nothing. Many in the crowd seemed visibly shocked that the 41 year old could still nail the notes, but once they heard him they were more than happy to sing along.

At one point in the night someone in the crowd through a pair of panties with the words “Party Starter” written on them. This kept A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough entertained for a few mintes, posing with the underwear and trying to hit their vocal cues while laughing. When the guys came back out for the encore, Mr. McLean was wearing the panties over his pants, triggering about a million camera flashes and laughter throughout the arena.

For the encore, Backstreet Boys took the stage first with “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”. It was mixed with the chord progression of AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, and the song had literally everyone in the crowd singing along. Before long the lights dimmed and BSB left the stage. NKOTB appeared decked in Boston Celtics jerseys and as the opening synth line to “Hangin’ Tough” started, the crowd exploded with energy.

About halfway through the track the Backstreet Boys reappeared on the b-stage and the two lifts – one on the b-stage and one on the main stage – began rising towards the ceiling, each holding one of the two groups. What came next was a West Side Story styled song and dance battle, mashing up “Everybody” and “Hangin’ Tough” along with parts of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”.

As the scissor lifts lowered the two groups joined together in a huddle while confetti rained over the entire arena. It may have been a bit over the top, but it was a great way to end the show. As the house lights came up and the cleaning crew began the terrible job of sweeping up thousands of pieces of confetti, fans left the arena singing their favorite songs and smiling, probably planning another trip to see this show again.

While most pop acts are content just running through their songs and getting off the stage as quickly as possible, these two groups seem to be all about giving the crowd everything they want and then some. Coming out into the crowd is one thing, but even when the guys were on stage, they were all smiles. BSB crooner Brian Littrell spent so much of the night waving at people in the crowd and reaching down to shake hands that it’s surprising he didn’t miss any choreography cues.

Things like this keep the crowds coming back, and as long as New Kids On The Block and the Backstreet Boys continue performing in such a fan-pleasing way, you can bet that they will be around for years to come.

Setlist: Viva la Vida, Single/The One (NKOTBSB), Summertime (NKOTB), The Call (BSB), Dirty Dancing (NKOTB), Get Down (BSB), You Got It (The Right Stuff) (NKOTB), Larger Than Life (BSB), Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) (NKOTB), Valentine Girl (NKOTB), If You Go Away (NKOTB), Please Don’t Go Girl (NKOTB), Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely (BSB), 10,000 Promises (BSB), I’ll Never Break Your Heart (BSB), Drowning (BSB), Incomplete (BSB), Step By Step (NKOTB), Cover Girl (NKOTB), My Favorite Girl (NKOTB), Games (NKOTB), Tonight (NKOTB), Shape of My Heart (BSB), As Long As You Love Me (BSB), All I Have to Give (BSB), If You Stay (BSB), Raspberry Beret/Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) (BSB), I’ll Be Loving You Forever (NKOTB), I Want It That Way (BSB), Don’t Turn Out the Lights (NKOTBSB), Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)/We Will Rock You/Hangin’ Tough (NKOTBSB)

NKOTBSB 06/26/11: American Airlines Center – Dallas, TX

NKOTBSB 06/26/11

American Airlines Center – Dallas, TX

Words/Photos By Steven Anthony

When the Backstreet Boys and New Kids On The Block announced they would be touring together, the world’s boy band fans couldn’t believe their ears. Two groups, between them a string of massive hits and over 210 million records sold, touring as one ridiculous headliner.

When the show reached Dallas’ American Airlines Center on June 26, the anticipation was at a fever pitch for those in the crowd. The show got off to a rocky start with underwhelming opening sets by the mostly unknown Ashlyne Huff and former American Idol winner (currently on the “Where are they now?” circuit) Jordin Sparks. Ms. Sparks has a decent voice but the songs are so blah, filled with faux-inspirational lyrics and lazy pop hooks that the crowd just wasn’t feeling it.

Then, at promptly 8:45, nine of the world’s biggest boy band stars appeared, shrouded in smoke and performing a cover of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida”. An odd choice to start the show, but it was over soon enough and the guys: Jordan & Jonathon Knight, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood and Joey McIntyre representing NKOTB and Brian Littrell, Nick Carter, A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough playing for team Backstreet, each paraded down the show’s oddly phallic stage, turning “Viva la Vida” into a mashup of NKOTB’s “Single” and BSB’s “The One”.

Throughout the show, NKOTB and BSB took turns performing sets of their biggest hits, new and old.

On the New Kids front, highlights including “You Got It (The Right Stuff)”, which featured the track’s trademark dance, “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”, which found Jordan Knight nailing his ridiculous falsetto notes and “Tonight”, when the boys (now men) ran through the crowd, each singing to a different section of the arena.

For the Backstreet Boys, the major highlights included “Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely”, which had some great harmony work, “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”, when the guys pulled some lucky women up on stage to be serenaded, and a slick mashup of “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” and Prince’s “Raspberry Beret”, which really took me by surprise. Never imagined Nick Carter would be singing Prince lyrics to an arena in Dallas.

For fans of either of these two groups, this tour is a major deal. Apart from the guys actually coming out into the crowd and interacting with fans that way, they spent the entire evening giving the crowd fan service. Whether it was Nick Carter shaking his ass or Jordan Knight literally singing to a woman while he was hugging her in the stands, the guys seemed more than willing to show the fans how much they have appreciated the support.

At one point in the night, Donnie Wahlberg mentioned how the show may seem like a flashback to 1989 for some in the crowd, before cracking a smile and mentioning that it was “possible” it reminded some others of 1999. The two groups traded playful jabs at each other all evening, and while it was clear by looking at the crowd just who was there for each band, by the end of the night it seemed like the entire crowd was enjoying the music of both.

Towards the end of the show the guys brought up the house lights and took almost 15 minutes to introduce everyone to the crowd, giving each guy on stage time to absorb his own individual applause. They talked about how much fun they were having and came across as a group of really likeable people. While it’s likely they are getting a decent paycheck for this tour, they all seemed to enjoy performing for the crowd and gave some great performances.

At just around 11PM the show came to a close with another huge mashup – the Backstreet Boys performed “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” while NKOTB took on “Hangin’ Tough”, both spliced with sections of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. It was a bit over the top, but the crowd ate it up and the guys seemed genuinely happy to be performing with each other.

If you’ve ever been a fan of either of these groups, don’t miss this show. They aren’t trying to win over any new fans and at this stage in their careers they are just content with playing for the women (and a few men) who have been supporting them for so long. Ticket prices are decent the two hours go by quickly, like a peak at some of the past few decades’ biggest pop songs. What more could you want as a pop fan?

Setlist: Viva la Vida, Single/The One (NKOTBSB), Summertime (NKOTB), The Call (BSB), Dirty Dancing (NKOTB), Get Down (BSB), You Got It (The Right Stuff) (NKOTB), Larger Than Life (BSB), Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) (NKOTB), Valentine Girl (NKOTB), If You Go Away (NKOTB), Please Don’t Go Girl (NKOTB), Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely (BSB), 10,000 Promises (BSB), I’ll Never Break Your Heart (BSB), Drowning (BSB), Incomplete (BSB), Step By Step (NKOTB), Cover Girl (NKOTB), My Favorite Girl (NKOTB), Games (NKOTB), Tonight (NKOTB), Shape of My Heart (BSB), As Long As You Love Me (BSB), All I Have to Give (BSB), If You Stay (BSB), Raspberry Beret/Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) (BSB), I’ll Be Loving You Forever (NKOTB), I Want It That Way (BSB), Don’t Turn Out the Lights (NKOTBSB), Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)/We Will Rock You/Hangin’ Tough (NKOTBSB)

Kylie Minogue 05/18/11: Verizon Theater – Dallas, TX

Kylie Minogue 05/18/11

Verizon Theater – Dallas, TX

Words/Photos By Steven Anthony

Kylie Minogue finally brought her fabulous self to Dallas’ Verizon Theater this past Wednesday night, ready to show off her new road show to the thousands of gay men (and a few women) who had flocked to the venue.

Only her second trek through America, Kylie’s Aphrodite Live tour is an exercise in pop perfection, with a healthy dose of ancient Greek imagery fitting her latest album Aphrodite thrown in for good measure.

Ms. Minogue kicked off the show with the title track from Aphrodite, rising up from under the Greek parthenon stage. With hundreds of cameras flashing, Kylie appeared, standing inside of a giant clam shell. The song’s pounding bass got the entire crowd dancing, setting the tone for most of the night. With Kylie waltzing down the staircase moving ever closer to the general admission pit, the show got off to a great start.

After running through a beautiful rendition of The One, the insanely danceable Wow and a fiery rendition of Illusion, Kylie’s dancers (now in strange Greek-slave garb) rolled a chariot on stage. Kylie climbed on board and slowly made her way across the stage while performing a slower tempo version of I Believe In You. While she’s never been the greatest singer, Kylie sounded strong, and had no problems hitting the song’s higher notes and impressing the crowd.

A fairly unremarkable version of Cupid Boy was next, followed by a much more entertaining take on Spinning Around which garnered a huge response from the crowd. Now wearing a black dress, Kylie and her backup vocalists danced around the stage smiling ear-to-ear at the guys in the pit. She was positively excited to be there in Dallas, and the crowd ate it up.

Throughout the remainder of the night (and several costume changes), Kylie played most of her major hits and some deeper album cuts. Most of her older material had gone through some major changes. Slow was given a sexy jazz makeover, taking many in the crowd by surprise.

Perhaps Minogue’s most popular song, Can’t Get You Out of My Head went through drastic changes. Leaving behind most of the recognizable synth parts, Kylie’s guitarist took over the lead section and turned the track into what can only be categorized as groove-metal. During the choruses things were a little more standard, but it was nice to see Kylie changing up her songs a bit.

Love At First Sight became a mashup with Can’t Beat The Feeling, perhaps getting the biggest reaction of the night. The two tracks worked incredibly well together but the crowd had a bit of trouble keeping the lyrics straight.

Kylie’s dancers took a break while she did a solo take on Prefab Sprout’s If You Don’t Love Me. She had trouble getting through the track because some in the crowd felt pressured to tell her that they did, in fact love her. She took it like a pro, laughing and trying to get the crowd to calm down.

After a fantastic version of Better the Devil You Know, Kylie took a fan request from a group of guys in the front row and sang a stripped down version of the ultra-gay Your Disco Needs You. She’s typically only been playing snippets of the fan request songs at her shows, but Dallas got the full version of the track. Everyone in the crowd was singing along, but it was a bit strange to hear the track with only a keyboard and drums backing her up.

After a bit of banter with the crowd and a stripped down version of Better Than Today, Kylie’s dancers came back out in full force and ended the main set with Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love). Everyone in the crowd had their hands up, so what does that tell you? As the song came to a close and Kylie disappeared underneath the stage, the crowd immediately started begging for an encore.

Kylie was more than happy to oblige. Rising up on a three tiered platform on top of the stage, Kylie and her dancers powered through the fabulous On a Night Like This before taking on All the Lovers from last year’s album. During this final track, dancers slowly rose from the floor, suspended from the ceiling while still dancing along with the track. As Kylie and her dancers made their way close to the stage one final time, gold confetti rained down covering both the crowd and Kylie herself.

Appearing genuinely happy to have performed for the Dallas crowd, Kylie seemed on the verge of crying during the last round of incredibly loud applause. She thanked Dallas several times, and then the show was over.

 

For some reason Kylie Minogue has never caught on in America like she has overseas, but for once we get the better deal. She’s brought over her entire show from Europe, making as few changes as possible. While her European tour featured a stage that had water fountains (!!), she has effectively moved an arena (and in some cases, stadium) sized show into much smaller theater sized venues here in the U.S.

As a result, these shows are much more intimate and make the entire audience feel like they are part of the show. This tour is almost over, but the next time Kylie is in America fans of pop need to be sure not to miss this spectacle.

Setlist: Aphrodite, The One, Wow, Illusion, I Believe In You, Cupid Boy, Spinning Around, Get Outta My Way, What Do I Have to Do?, Everything Is Beautiful, Slow, Confide in Me, Can’t Get You Out of My Head, In My Arms, Looking for an Angel, There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart) (Eurythmics cover), Love at First Sight / Can’t Beat the Feeling, If You Don’t Love Me (Prefab Sprout cover), Better the Devil You Know, Your Disco Needs You, Better Than Today, Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love), On a Night Like This, All the Lovers

Janet Jackson 04/02/11: Verizon Theater – Dallas, TX

Janet Jackson 04/02/11

Verizon Theater – Dallas, TX

Words/Photos By Steven Anthony

Janet Jackson made a stop at Dallas’ Verizon Theater this past Saturday night as part of her “Number Ones – Up Close and Personal” tour. What the promoters haven’t told you is that this is less “up close and personal” and more “Janet has to play smaller venues; She bombed her last arena tour.”

Regardless, the Verizon Theater was sold out (~6,300) and shortly after 8PM the lights dimmed and Janet was ready to silence any who were questioning her ability to put on a good show.

For a little under 2 hours Janet ran through her biggest hits. The concert served as a reminded of the massive success Janet has had as an artist since the early 80s. At each show on this tour she’s been dedicating a song to each city and plays the respective video before coming out on stage. Dallas got “Black Cat”.

After the video ended, some audience members on the right side of the lower level began screeching, causing everyone to look in their direction. There was Janet, walking through the crowd like she owned the venue. Opening with “The Pleasure Principle,” Janet made her way to the stage donning a skin-tight leather suit.

It was immediately clear that Janet takes her live show seriously; The woman can still dance and had no problem pulling off the classic moves. From the photo pit, it was clear that Janet was not lip-synching. Whether she remained that way the entire evening or not, only those in the first few rows can tell you.

“The Pleasure Principle” segued directly into “Control,” again featuring the dance moves from the original video. Janet’s live band was incredibly tight, sounding just like the record but with a little increased focus on the drum and bass elements of the song instead of the piercing synth lines.

“Control” morphed into “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”, moving the show along at a breakneck pace. The night would find several more medleys instead of the full versions of the tracks; For the most part these work out better live, focusing on the most catchy hooks and the most danceable breakdowns. Some fans have expressed a distaste for this medley system, but Janet and her band have trimmed out some of the fat to cram in as many hits as possible. It’s a decent compromise.

“Feedback” found Janet briefly on all fours moving around like a cat before standing up for some very classic dirty dancing. Janet’s aged well and moves just as good as one could hope; Straight men who had been dragged to the show with their girlfriends surely stayed entertained the entire evening.

A medley of “Alright,” “Miss You Much” and “Nasty” was next, the latter getting the loudest reaction from the crowd this far into the evening. Instead of keeping the dance party going however, Janet and her dancers left the stage for a brief interlude.

Janet returned to the stage by herself to run through a string of her biggest ballad songs. Up first was the newer “Nothing,” followed by “Come Back To Me,” “Let’s Wait Awhile” and “Again”.

Janet sounded great and the songs deserved their moment in the show, but towards the end of the ballad segment things seemed to slow to a crawl. Perhaps mixing two of the tracks somewhere else in the set could have helped out, but that’s apparently not the way a Janet show goes.

A string of significantly more danceable hits was next. As Janet made her way to “All for You,” the crowd was a massive writhing pit of different races, sexualities and even nationalities (I saw more than one Brazilian flag) dancing together. It’s powerful to see pop music bring so many different people together all in the name of having a good time.

The biggest highlight of the entire evening was a medley of “If,” “Scream” and “Rhythm Nation”. Tightly choreographed and carefully whittled down to just a few verses and choruses, the three songs melded together into a giant, intensely heavy dance track.

When the “Scream” segment started, the video (and Michael Jackson) appeared on stage. It was hard to hear the song over the cheering at the first image of Janet’s late brother to grace the stage for the evening. Janet did the song proud, nailing the entire dance break and singing her original parts of the song (including the middle ballad section).

“Scream” seemed to suddenly stop and Janet began counting backwards from five. When she got to one, the dancers immediately started into the breakdown from “Rhythm Nation” garnering a huge amount of applause from the crowd. Every time the chorus came around the audience sang along, overpowering Janet’s own voice.

Janet’s encore performance of “Together Again” again saw pictures of Michael Jackson on the video screens, causing another roar of applause. The song takes on a whole new meaning for Janet since her brother’s passing and it was a touching way to end the show.

While this tour may have been placed into smaller venues because the last arena tour didn’t do so well, the “up close and personal” format really works out in the best interest of fans. There were no bad seats in the house for the show in Dallas, and while tickets are a bit on the pricey side, Janet knows how to put on a show.

Setlist: Black Cat (Video), The Pleasure Principle, Control, What Have You Done For Me Lately?, Feedback, You Want This, Alright, Miss You Much, Nasty, Nothing, Come Back To Me, Let’s Wait Awhile, Again, Escapade, Love Will Never Do (Without You), When I Think Of You, All for You, That’s The Way Love Goes, What About (Interlude) If, Scream, Rhythm Nation, Diamonds, The Best Things In Life Are Free, Make Me, Together Again


Duran Duran 03/18/11: Winstar World – Thackerville, OK

Duran Duran 03/18/11

Winstar World – Thackerville, OK

Words/Photos By Steven Anthony

Duran Duran has kicked off a new world tour in support of their latest album All You Need Is Now, and I was there for the second date of the tour in a massive casino on the Oklahoma/Texas border.

Celebrating the 30th (!!) year since their first single was released, Duran Duran quickly ran through roughly 100 minutes of some of their biggest hits, a few fan favorites and several tracks from their new LP.

Kicking off with a double dose of new tracks, Simon Le Bon & Co. delivered “All You Need Is Now” and “Being Followed” with passion and fire; It was clear after just these first two songs that the band is not content touring with only their old material.

Luckily the new stuff largely holds up, “AYNIN” is jarring, grabbing attention with a sawtooth synth line and deep pulsating bass work. The song eventually changes into a much more typical Duran Duran during the chorus, with much less intimidating synth chords and guitarist Dom Brown picking arpeggiated chords through a flange pedal.

After the two new tracks, the group settled into some of their biggest hits, playing  “The Reflex” and “Notorious”  back to back. Simon egged the crowd on during  “The Reflex”  asking them to help sing the song’s instantly recognizable vocal hook. The band’s vintage songs sound better than ever, more bass and drum heavy with the guitar and synth work filling things in nicely.

“Notorious” found Le Bon strutting around the stage, fully aware that he still drives the 40-year-old women in attendance crazy. He played up the crowd while nailing every single note, although at times it was hard to hear him over the capacity crowd singing along.

During the middle of the concert, the band slowed things down for a string of “ballads,” including the new “Leave a Light On”, “Ordinary World” (from 1993’s Wedding Album and another new track called “Mediterranea”.

“Leave a Light On” found Le Bon strapping on an acoustic guitar to play over the haunting synth section and slow but driving rhythm section. “Ordinary World” sounded exactly how you remember it sounding on the radio, with the addition of about 3,500 people singing along in the background.

“Mediterranea” is decent enough, sounding something like a weird mixture of country music and reggae. Simon said it was the first time they’ve played it live, but he was lying… as the band has performed the song across the pond in London.

The three ballads back to back had many in the crowd sitting down, ready for the dance party to start back up. Duran Duran was more than happy to oblige.

“Girl Panic!” (from the new LP) came next, and immediately had everyone back up on their feet. The bass line is one of the funkiest that John Taylor has ever played, and it matched well with Dom Brown’s riffing on the guitar. The song sounds like old Duran Duran with a few updates here and there, and is one of the main reasons critics have been calling the new LP a “return-to-roots” for the band.

“Careless Memories” was up next, and the band remained faithful to the 30-year-old song. Flange-heavy guitars, Simon nearly shouting during the chorus, it was all present. The track gave Dom Brown a chance to solo for a little bit, seemingly an attempt to cement his place as Andy Taylor’s replacement. Won’t get into boyband politics, but Brown does a fine job playing the songs, old or new.

“Wild Boys” and “Rio” came right before the encore break, whipping the fans there for the greatest hits into a frenzy. Both sounded pretty much like you remember them on the album, and the band’s second percussionist/random instrument player even came out to the front of the stage for “Rio’s” saxophone solo.

“A View To A Kill” opened the encore, and again sounded exactly how you remember it. It was at this point I realized how truly impressed I was with DD as a live band. I’ve always heard great things, but they were ridiculously well-rehearsed, seemingly ready to pull any song out of their catalog. Simon Le Bon’s live vocals were truthfully among the best I’ve heard from a live singer, literally on pitch for the entirety of the concert.

A nearly 15 minute version of “Girls on Film” closed the show, with an extended breakdown in the middle where Le Bon introduced the members of the band and gave them each some time to solo. John Taylor’s bass solo received the most praise from the crowd, with Simon telling the crowd to chant “Play the fucking bass, John” which they were more than happy to do.

After everyone’s solo segment, the boys brought it back together and finished the last two verses of the song. The show was short, missing a few of the “hits” (No “Save A Prayer” or “Hungry Like The Wolf?), but the band more than proved they are ready to tour behind their new album.

It’s refreshing to see a “classic” band from the 80s have a successful show that has more than just one new song. The guys played every song with as much passion as the last, regardless of what era the track was from.

With the ridiculous amount of promotion the band is getting, we may see them stage a very successful (and frankly, deserved) comeback (even if they never really went anywhere).

Setlist: All You Need Is Now, Being Followed, The Reflex, Notorious, Safe (In the Heat of the Moment), Friends Of Mine, Leave a Light On, Ordinary World, Mediterranea, Girl Panic!, Careless Memories, (Reach Up For The Sunrise), Wild Boys, Rio, A View To A Kill, Girls on Film

© 2018 Concert Confessions

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑