Monday, August 31, 2009

Concert Review: Counting Crows Bring Their Medicine Show To Mohegan Sun

Instead of your typical concert show, the Counting Crows wanted to offer something different for their fans. The concept they came up with was the Traveling Circus & Medicine Show. It included the Counting Crows as well as Michael Franti & Spearhead and Augustana. The idea was that instead of an opening act, everyone would begin the show together onstage. The Traveling Circus and Medicine Show made its way to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday for a night filled with music and more.

The show began with the singers trading verses to Van Morrison’s “Caravan” with Michael Franti receiving the loudest ovation. With all 17 band members on stage, Franti took the lead vocals on “Hello Bonjour” from his 2006 album “Yell Fire!” His performance throughout the evening quickened the pulse of everyone in the arena. As the others bands exited the stage, the Counting Crows began their set with “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”. What seemed like a good choice to open with, it lacked the energy left from the two opening numbers. Counting Crows continued with the “all-out” rock assault “Come Around” before being joined by the band Augustana for a sing-along of “Omaha”. Agustana remained on the stage to perform a cover of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Sweet Virginia”, but it would be their original hit “Boston” that drew the biggest applause for the band.

Everyone once again converged onstage for a cover of Peter Tosh’s “Walk And Don’t Look Back” which also included a snippet of “Casey Jones” which was played “for all the Grateful Dead fans in the audience”. The three bands seemed to enjoy the company of one another as smiles decorated the faces of everyone onstage. Michael Franti & Spearhead turned the energy up a notch with some of their original songs “Everybody Ona Move” and “All I Want Is You”. One lucky fan was called onstage to dance along to a cover of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, but it was the song “I Got Love For You” that would find the hearts and souls of audience members. To finish the first set, everyone came together for an all to quick performance of Joe Cocker’s “Delta Lady”.

After a brief intermission, the Counting Crows began the second set slowly with the ballads “Holiday In Spain” and “Long December”. A quick and chaotic version of “Miami” did not bring the energy that the Crows had hoped for in ending their set. That energy was brought on by Michael Franti & Spearhead with a set of their originals. “Say Hey” became the highlight of the set which included the invitation of children to the stage and even a marriage proposal (she said ”yes”). Augustana followed by slowing down the tempo with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” with help on the vocals by Adam Durtz of the Crows. The ballad “20 Years” gave the audience a much need rest before moving onward to the close of the second set. Everyone was joined again onstage for a performance of the Counting Crows’ “Why Should You Come When I Call” and “Hangin’ Around”.

Shortly after the curtain closed, the drum beats signaled the return of the Traveling Circus & Medicine Show beginning the encore with a fun version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecelia”. This was followed by a short acoustic version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and “Remote Control” with Michael Franti providing the lyrics. The evening ended with one of the Counting Crows biggest hits “Rain King” which included a portion of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” and the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land Is Your Land” . With the energy provided and the amount of songs performed, no one walked away unhappy with that performance.

Upcoming shows at Mohegan Sun feature American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, classic rockers Kiss and country superstar Brad Paisley. Go to www.mohegansun.com for more information.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CD Review: Dredg Try To Over-Please On 'The Pariah'

The long-awaited new album from Dredg is entitled, "The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion". Filled to the brim with sounds and lyrics, it keeps the listener guessing on what comes next. At times, the album could be considered a hard rock masterpiece with the tracks "Savior", "Quotes" and "Pariah". Pounding drums and loud guitars are only part of the formula that makes this album original. Power ballads "Ireland" and "Cartoon Showroom" seem right at home with its harmonizing vocals. The complex instrumentation gives the listener more than enough reason for multiple plays.

The album also contains a number of musical interludes, some instrumental and some vocal, but most seem unnecessary. Almost as if the songs were never fully finished and just thrown on to give a little more insight to the talents of the band. Songs like "Long Days And Vague Clues" and "Drunk Slide" sound as if they belong on a movie soundtrack.

The songs "Light Switch" and "Information" are the highlights of the album. "Light Switch" starts off like a gentle ballad before the pounding drums and guitars adds to the meaningful lyrics before fading back to simpler sounds. "Information" is the sure-fire radio-friendly song on the album with its simple, but effective chorus.

With an hours worth of music, spread out over 18 songs, Dredg has stepped up their game, producing one of their best albums to date. Dredg has just wrapped up their 2009 North American tour and are heading overseas for some tour dates in November. For more information, please visit www.dredg.com and www.myspace.com/dredg.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Concert Review: Chickenfoot Leave Their Mark On Mohegan Sun

The super group called Chickenfoot, made up of Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony (Van Halen), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Joe Satriani, made their debut appearance in Connecticut Thursday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena. One would think that with an arsenal of songs from Van Halen, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Joe Satriani originals at their disposal that there would be minimal room for songs from their new album. But it was just the opposite.

Chickenfoot proceeded to play every song from their new album, even the vinyl only track “Bitten By The Wolf” which carried a New Orleans flavor to the song. It also featured some slide guitar provided by Joe Satriani. If you did not know the songs from their album then you would have been lost all evening. But luckily, the audience came prepared. Fans found themselves shouting the chorus and pumping their fists to “Oh Yeah” and “Sexy Little Thing”. The rhythm section of Michael Anthony on bass and Chad Smith on drums was felt immediately with the opener “Avenida Revolution”.

With its simple stage set up, the band turned the large sized arena into a club type show. The band would just jam together at the ends of songs; one in particular was “Get It Up” which featured the intro to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. While Sammy Hagar’s screams on “Turnin’ Left” and “My Kind Of Girl” drew most of the attention, it was Satriani’s solos on “Down The Drain” and their new single “Soap On A Rope” that deserved the spotlight.

The band seemed to be having the most fun together onstage during their encore which included two cover songs. The first, “Bad Motor Scooter” (Montrose), began with Hagar soloing on a steel lap guitar before trading guitar licks with Satriani. Michael Anthony’s high pitch screams would only add to the already amazing version of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”. At times, the band seemed like a bunch of high school kids just clowning around with each other, trading smiles as well as hi-fives. Their enjoyment performing together was felt by the audience as everyone there had a rockin’ good time.

New comers Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam got the crowd pumped with a 40 minute set that includes a few originals and a couple cover songs. One of the outstanding songs they performed was a 15-minute jam on CSNY’s “Almost Cut My Hair”. Upcoming shows at Mohegan Sun feature Kings Of Leon, Kelly Clarkson and Brad Paisley. Go to www.mohegansun.com for details.

Setlist:
Avenida Revolution
Sexy Little Thing
Soap On A Rope
My Kind Of Girl
Down The Drain
Bitten By The Wolf
Oh Yeah
Learning To Fall
Get It Up
Turning Left
Future In The Past
Bad Motor Scooter (Montrose cover)
Highway Star (Deep Purple cover)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Concert Review: Barry Manilow Brings Vegas To Mohegan Sun

Since 2005, Barry Manilow has been a headliner at the Las Vegas Hilton, but this past weekend he was able to get away for a couple of shows in New England. He brought his Las Vegas show “Ultimate Manilow: The Hits … And More” to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday night.

With his song titles flashing on the giant screens, Barry Manilow appeared magically atop the staircase and danced right into the hearts of his fans with the opening number “It’s A Miracle”. Dressed in black slacks, a black collared shirt and a fire engine red sports coat, Manilow was without a doubt, the focus of the evening. Overwhelmed by the applause, he proceeded with a medley of his hits “Daybreak”, “Somewhere In The Night” and “This One’s For You”. Manilow’s 10-piece band would comprise most of the stage, taking up several levels of the staircase, but were very well hidden. Manilow took up residence at a grand piano located just left of center stage on multiple occasions, starting off with the aptly titled “Weekend In New England”. The chorus brought a huge ovation from the crowd that seemed to distract Manilow as he paused stating “I still got it”. His backup singers/dancers joined him for the dance number “Bandstand Boogie”. After a quick jacket change, Manilow returned to the piano for a couple of his top 40 hits, “Tryin’ To Get That Feeling Again” and “Even Now”. Trombone solo by opener Brian Culbertson brought out the blues in “Brooklyn Blues” written about Manilow’s hometown.

Manilow dove back to his 1973 debut album on a couple of occasions. One of the surprises of the evening was his rendition of his much requested “I Am Your Child”. The newest song of the evening came from his 2001 album “Here At The Mayflower”. Manilow fully engulfed himself in the role of the narrator/singer of the song “Not What You See” by wearing a scarf, cap and glasses. The darkly lit audience swayed blue glow sticks to the ballad of “I’ve Made It Through The Rain” before being invited by Manilow to sing along to “Can’t Smile Without You”. A spotlight shone on a lonely stool at center stage for Manilow to open his heart with a slow rendition of “Somewhere Down The Road”. “Mandy”, his first #1 single, began with a clip of Manilow on the show The Midnight Special. The glow sticks would return for his second #1 single “I Write The Songs”. Fans couldn’t resist themselves from singing along.

The disco beats of “Copacabana” brought on Manilow’s Vegas act in full force. His backup singers wore showgirl outfits as Barry Manilow acted out the lyrics. As he motioned to leave the stage, the audience cheered for more. Obliging to their demand, he finished with the patriotic “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee/Let Freedom Ring”. Throughout the performance, Manilow voice seemed in top shape, holding notes and knowing the limits of his slightly deeper tone. He was also very talkative with jokes and stories that made the audience feel comfortable. It was 90 minutes of musical pleasure presented by one of today’s greatest showman.

Brian Culbertson began the evening with some modern jazz. His 5-piece band ran through a handful of instrumentals that included a tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire. Upcoming shows at Mohegan Sun feature Taylor Swift, Counting Crows and Journey. For ticket information please visit www.mohegansun.com.

Setlist:
It’s A Miracle
Daybreak/Somewhere In The Night/This One’s For You
Looks Like We Made It
Weekend In New England
Bandstand Boogie
Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again/Even Now
Brooklyn Blues
New York City Rhythm
I Am Your Child
Not What You See
I Made It Through The Rain
Can’t Smile Without You
Could It Be Magic
Somewhere Down The Road
Ships
Mandy
I Write The Songs
Copacabana
It’s A Miracle (reprise)
My Country ‘Tis Of Thee/Let Freedom Ring

Thursday, August 6, 2009

CD Review: Golden Bloom's Breakthrough Album

I'll let you in a little secret, Golden Bloom is one of the best bands that you never have heard of . . . yet. Their new album entitled "Fan The Flames" will change all that when it is released on August 18. It's melodic rock melodies and exceptional song writing should give Golden Bloom it's big breakthrough into mainstream music.

The album begins with the keyboard heavy pop song "E.H.M." Right from the beginning, front-man Shawn Fogel wants the listener to relax, "give it a rest, it's not your problem". "Doomsday Devices" is a great alternative rocker that's as good as any of the modern rock masterpieces being played now. The mellow acoustic beginning of "Fan The Flames" gives way to a rock assault with the advice "don't give up, 'til you try again". The tempo of the album slows down with the rock ballad "She Leaves Me Poetry". The heart of the album brings forth the slow burning rocker "The Fight At The End Of The Tunnel". The power pop sounds that are next to come give life to "Dead Petals" and "If You Believe", before getting bookend with the smooth acoustic strumming and organ of "The Mountainside Says". The album closes with the campfire, harmonica highlighted "Theme For An Adventure At Sea".

Clocking in at under 40 minutes, you wish there was more to hear, but something new is discovered with each new listen. Golden Bloom will be touring the Northeast in August. For tour information, music samples and more visit goldenbloom.net.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CD Review: Variety Works Hot Press For Leopold

Hot Press For Leopold (HPFL) does not want to bore you with how they met or where they're from, they want their music to talk for them. HPFL is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Omar Fadel. He was commissioned to compose instrumental tracks, but instead created a musical portfolio.

Instead of beginning their album with the obvious instrumental "Are You Ready?", HPFL starts their album telling you that you "Can't Stop The Bomb". It's like telling the listener, you can't stop this rush of music that you are about to hear. The song begins with orchestra type violins before being taken over by guitars and a modern rock drumbeat. Almost daring the listener to decipher all this music being thrown at them. "Torturer" and "Don't Be Afraid" have an abundance of music going on within the songs highlighted by an instrument here and there like a xylophone or trumpet. "You Weren't Exactly A Saint" has a rock-abilly drumbeat with a pulsating organ tone, that gets overtaken by guitars and horns during the chorus. The first instrumental on the album, "Fishmarket" seems like an overture from an English play. The repeating chorus of "I I I I Me Me Me Me" gets old fast and takes away from the R&B style of the song. HPFL makes up for it with the mostly acoustic " Barn Burner". The slow rocker, "Two Ships" is the highlight of the album, showing off the talents of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Omar Fadel. The album ends with the depressing, but passionate "I Recall It Was Brief" and "Drinking Song", which becomes a sing-along.

For more information on Hot Press For Leopold, visit their website (hotpressforleopold.com).

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Concert Review: Mohegan Sun Was Full Of Love For Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz came to the Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night with one plan in mind and that was to spread love all around. He definitely succeeded with his plan, but it started out as a slow burning love that exploded with his performance of his Grammy nominated song “I’m Yours”.

As the crowd signaled Jason’s entrance to the stage, he had a few dance instructions before starting the evening off with “Dynamo of Volition”. He sandwiched a tremendous sax solo by Carlos Sosa with the smooth sounds of “Unfold”. Jason got caught in a slow groove, performing “Beautiful Mess”, “Anything You Want” and “Crane”. These allowed Mr. Mraz to flex his golden pipes a little. The audience rose their feet for a cover of Lionel Ritchie’s “All Night Long”, which finally got the party atmosphere started. Jason Mraz would once again slow the tempo down with the wonderful “Details In The Fabric”. The operatic interlude of “Coyote” drew a big applause from the audience before finding themselves swaying to the groove of “Live High”. Next to come was a funky/reggae version of his 2003 breakout hit "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)”. Playing off the energy of the crowd, Jason dove right into “Make It Mine”. The "love” that Jason Mraz was spreading around throughout the evening’s performance, exploded with a huge sing-along of his hit song “I’m Yours”. After a bit of wordplay, he continued into Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” which had everyone convinced that “everything is gonna be alright”.

Jason reappeared for the encore at a small stage set up in the back of the arena. He invited Alysse Fisher to help him perform his duet "Lucky”. Sticking with his small band which included bassist Bruce Hughes and Noel “Toca” Rivera on percussion, he performed “Never Too Late” and an acoustic version of “You and I Both”. Jason returned to the main stage during the band’s instrumental performance of “Copchase”. MC Bushwalla would join Jason and the band for “Fall Through Glass” before Mr. Mraz finished the evening with the fabulous “Butterfly”. Seeing the ocean of fans, arm in arm, swaying to his reggae/funk/pop/alternative music, I’d say Jason Mraz accomplished his mission of spreading love.

Singer/rapper Bushwalla MC’d the evening’s events, first introducing K’Naan. His 30 minute set was filled with many of his original hip-hop/reggae songs. Next to perform was G. Love and the Special Sauce. Their hits “Rodeo Clowns” and “The Booty Call” won the crowd over while G. Love displayed his skills on the harmonica. Upcoming shows at Mohegan Sun feature the “supergroup” Chickenfoot as well as country sensation Taylor Swift and the Counting Crows Traveling Show. For ticket information, please visit mohegansun.com.

Setlist:
Dynamo of Volition
Unfold
Beautiful Mess
Anything You Want
Crane
All Night Long
Details in the Fabric
Coyotes
Live High
The Remedy (I Won't Worry)
Make It Mine
I'm Yours>Three Little Birds
encore:
Lucky (w/Alysse Fisher)
Never Too Late
You and I Both
Copchase (instrumental)
Fall Through Glass (Bushwalla vocals)
Butterfly