Saturday, February 27, 2010

Concert Review: Lesh And Weir Bring Mohegan Sun Furthur

Former Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir brought their latest spin-off band Further to the Mohegan Sun arena Friday night. Members of other post-Grateful Dead bands (Ratdog & Dark Star Orchestra) completed the line-up that would send the Deadhead community on trip down memory lane.

The evening’s first set, which lasted about 85 minutes, got off to a slow start. Feeling each other out, the band jammed into the mostly instrumental opener, ”The Other Ones” that led into a quick version of “Alligator”. Highlights from the first set included a roaring version of “Tennessee Jed” which finally got the sea of people dancing in the aisles. A reggae beat showed up periodically during their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Stuck inside a Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” Bassist Phil Lesh, who will turn 70 in two weeks, performed bass duties like a performer with something to prove. The unexpected addition of “El Paso” gave a little Mexican flair to the set. Bob Weir’s voice sounded strong after a night off especially during the set closer, a cover of Harry Belafonte's “Man Smart (Women Smarter).”

After a 45 minute intermission, the second set started off strong with favorites “Bertha” and “Good Lovin” as fans scoped out their own piece of the arena to dance on. The band slowed things down with a heart-wrenching version of “He’s Gone” as the ghost of Jerry Garcia watched over his band mates. Much of the second set was overstuffed with music as the band wove in and out of the songs “King’s Solomon’s Marbles” and “Standing on the Moon.” The deadhead community would rise again for the set closer “Sugar Magnolia” which found Weir conducting the band through the jam.

Before the band returned for their encore, Phil Lesh grabbed the attention of the audience for a moment for a quick word on benefits of being an organ donor. The band closed the evening with an energetic version of “U.S. Blues”. As fans poured out the arena, one could see that the deadhead community was alive and well.

Set One: Jam > The Other One > Alligator > Tennessee Jed, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, Loser, Pride of Cucamonga, El Paso, Foolish Heart, Man Smart (Women Smarter)

Set Two: Bertha > Good Lovin' > He's Gone > Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo > King Solomon’s Marbles, Standing on the Moon > The Other One > The Eleven, Sugar Magnolia

Encore: U.S. Blues

Thursday, February 25, 2010

CD Review: Wolves Release Their "Violence"

The new album by Canadian trio We Are Wolves entitled "Invisible Violence" was released earlier this month. Their mix of electro-funk rhythms and pulsating rock beats is what makes We Are Wolves standout among the artists of today.

Beginning with "Paloma" you get a taste of how keyboard friendly We Are Wolves can be. The sound is very experimental, like an overlooked riff from Jack White's songbook. "Holding Hands" drops the keyboards in favor of a great punk sound, but the keyboards return in the atmospheric "Walking Commotion". The band does hit a more mainstream vibe with the songs "Dreams" and "Blue". The combination of keyboards and their signature punk sound come together in the song "Me As Enemy". The song landscape of "Reaching For The Sky" run along the same musical vein as some of Peter Gabriel's experimental pieces.

Comparisons to the group TV on the Radio can be made, but We Are Wolves add elements of punk, pop, dance and funk to their resume. Known for their explosive live shows, We Are Wolves have won numerous Canadian awards including "Artist with the Greatest International Potential". The band will be performing in March at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas before heading over to Europe in May. Their new album is available on Dare To Care Records and is available online. Please visit wearewolves.net for more information.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

England's Newest Indie Label Ready For Take-Off

Audio Antihero is one of the premier independent record labels of South East London. Formed in the winter of 2008, the company released its first record in 2009 and currently have only two main artists signed to the label. But, Audio Antihero are also rolling out two new releases.

The first release is the debut album from the duo of brothers from Croydon (the deep south of London) entitled Nosferatu D2. Their sound is a very simplistic punk style similar to the '80's Dead Milkmen and Violent Femmes. The band's unusual way with lyrics shine through on the songs "A Footnote" and "Springsteen."

The second release is an EP by Englishman Benjamin Shaw entitled "I Got The Pox, The Pox Is What I Got". Shaw adds sounds of creaking doors, kittens and clapping as well as keys and percussion to his acoustic songs to give more depth to his music. His talent for storytelling is revealed in the songs "Chocolate Girl" and "When I Fell Over In The City." Please visit Benjamin Shaw's website www.benjaminshaw.net for more songs and videos.

For more information on this new independent London label along with information on these two new releases, check out www.audioantihero.com.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Concert Review: John Mayer Comes Home To Mohegan Sun

Thirteen years ago, John Mayer left Connecticut to pursue a career in music. Friday night the Mohegan Sun audience saw a full display of the talents of this Fairfield native. With a new album to promote, Mayer returned to his home state after an 18 month hiatus.

The evening began with an hour long performance by Michael Franti & Spearhead immediately getting the audience on their feet and dancing right from the first notes of “A Little Bit A Riddim”. Franti was very interactive with the audience performing “Yell Fire” and “Hey, Hey Hey” from out in the seats. The arena was at full capacity for the band’s Top 20 hit “Say Hey (I Love You).” Franti invited the younger members of the audience onstage to dance along to the reggae pop hit.

The white nylon curtain displayed images of John Mayer to the delight of his female fans, but as the curtain opened to reveal the real thing, the screams reached an all-time high. He wasted no time diving into his new songs beginning with “Heartbreak Warfare” and a cover of Robert Johnson’s, “Crossroads.” Mayer was very talkative with his audience, especially shouting out names of Connecticut towns to receive a roar from the audience. Showing off his knowledge of music, Mayer would tease parts of classic songs into his own songs, performing a tease of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” before “Bigger Than My Body” and adding lines of Fleetwood Mac’s ”Dreams” during “Half Of My Heart.”

Mayer’s solo performances of Jim Hendrix’s “Wait Til Tomorrow” and “Who Did You Think I Was” showcased his talents as Mayer took every opportunity to rip into an extended guitar solo. John Mayer Trio and current drummer Steve Jordan took the spotlight for a moment with a solo of his own with all eyes focused on him. Mayer would go on to say how great Connecticut was dedicating the song “Waiting On The World To Change” to his fans at home. “Say” began with the introduction of famed session guitarist Robbie McIntosh on the dobro as Mayer explains the song’s origin written for the movie “The Bucket List”. His set ended with the 2007 single “Gravity” which he dedicated to his Connecticut family as well as his touring band family.

With the curtain drawn, Mayer returned for the encore performing an acoustic performance of “Who Says” with the audience singing duet along with John Mayer. The curtain opened for an epic performance of Mayer’s “Friends, Lovers or Nothing” which sent the sell-out crowd home with a smile on their faces.

Michael Franti & Spearhead Set List
A Little Bit A Riddim
Nobody Right Nobody Wrong
Rude Boys Back In Town
Shake It
Sound Of Sunshine
Everybody Ona Move (Billie Jean tease)
Yell Fire
Hey, Hey, Hey
I’ll Be Waiting For You
I Got Love For Ya
Say Hey (I Love You)

John Mayer Set List
Heartbreak Warfare
Crossroads
Vultures
Bigger Than My Body (Homeward Bound tease)
Perfectly Lonely
Assassin (Message in a Bottle tease)
Wait Til Tomorrow
Who Did You Think I Was
Waiting on the World to Change
Half of My Heart (Dreams tease)
Why Georgia
Say
Gravity
Who Says
Friends, Lovers or Nothing

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CD Review: Ryan States Invites Us To "Strange Town"

Although Ryan States just released his full-length debut album, I'm sure you've heard him perform before and just did not know it. Ryan States is a musician with the Ringling Brothers' Circus. He performs to over 100,000 circus fans a week, 48 weeks a year. His debut album entitled "Strange Town" was recorded almost entirely on the train at a train yard near you.

"Strange Town" begins with just Ryan and a piano before the ballad grows in music and meaning. "I Will Find My Way" is a blues sounding pop-ballad that finds oneself singing along to the chorus. The song structure of Ryan's songs start out simple with just himself and an instrument and by the end of the song, it sounds like an orchestra was invited to join in. Songs like "In The Game" and "Planet Earth" display Ryan's wonderful talent of song-writing. Others like "Under The River" and "Better (When You're Older)" has a very Beastlesque feel to the music and lyrics. The album closes with the inspirational "I Won't Walk Away".

While almost all of the instruments were performed by Ryan himself, he did receive help from nearly two dozen friends and strangers throughout the country. Ryan also hosts a podcast (www.ryanstatespodcast.com) of his musical adventures on the road. Check out Ryan's website (www.ryanstates.com) for information on obtaining a copy of his newly released album.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Concert Review: Tony Bennett Swoons and Croons at Mohegan Sun

Sunday night, the Mohegan Sun Arena was honored by a beautiful performance given by living-legend Tony Bennett, whose voice has wowed audiences since the 1950s. Tony Bennett has also given new life too many American standards and at times been compared to the one-and-only Frank Sinatra. And at 83 years of age, he shows no signs of slowing down. Bennett glides around the stage to spotlight the solos of his wonderfully talented band, but he seemed most comfortable standing center stage in front of the grand piano.

Sunday being Valentine's Day, Tony Bennett concentrated his set list on mostly love songs including "My Funny Valentine", "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Because Of You". The sold-out crowd was very appreciative of the music being performed onstage Sunday evening. Tony Bennett invited his daughter, who is also a singer, to the stage to perform the duet, "Old Friends". Tony's daughter, Antonia Bennett, opened the show with a handful of jazz standards.

Tony Bennett kept the songs moving along with the classics, "Just in Time", "Stranger in Paradise" and "The Best Is Yet To Come". The audience was hanging on Tony's every word with stories of Rosemary Clooney and Charlie Chaplin which lead him into a heartfelt performance of "Smile". Tony Bennett also slowed the tempo down of the Stevie Wonder hit "For Once In My Life" to stress the song's meaningful lyrics.

After a standing ovation, Tony Bennett continued with his most well-known songs "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" and "Steppin' Out". The audience belted out an applause whenever Bennett showed off his dance steps. He also performed the first song he ever recorded "Boulevard of Broken Dreams". His amazing 25 song set ended with the Gershwin classic "Who Cares?", "Fly Me To the Moon" ,"It's Just A Little Street Where Old Friends Meet" about his hometown of Astoria and "How Do Keep The Music Playing?"

After a 60 year career that keeps going, there are few entertainers who have as much class as the immortal Tony Bennett. Go to mohegansun.com to find out about more shows coming to the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Setlist:
Watch What Happens
They All Laughed
Maybe This Time
Speak Low
My Funny Valentine
I Got Rhythm
The Way You Look Tonight
Sing You Sinners
Old Friends
But Beautiful
Because Of You
Just In Time
Stranger In Paradise
The Best Is Yet To Come
Smile
The Good Life
For Once In My Life
The Shadow Of You Smile
I Left My Heart In San Francisco
Steppin’ Out
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Who Cares?
Fly Me To The Moon
It’s Just A Little Street Where Old Friends Meet
How Do You Keep The Music Playing?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

CD Review: Jason Yates Brings Friends Along On Solo Album

Jason Yates, former member of Ben Harper's Innocent Criminals, is on tour handling keyboard duties for the band Citizen Cope, who will be performing at Toad's Place on February 17th. Yates also has a new solo album out now.

The rolling piano signals the beginning of Jason Yates newest release. "My Way Out" is a "honky-tonk" rock song that brings up similarities to 70's-style Rolling Stones with Rod Stewart-type vocals. Yates' vocals have a rough sound as displayed in "Nobody So Far", but it gives a truer sound to the music. "Comin' On Back" carries a blues-ballad tempo, before Yates picks up the pace on the southern rock, country flavored "Paper Tents". Yates puts his passion for song-writing on the line in the song "I Run", about overcoming your fears. The acoustic gentleness of "Tear Drops" flows nicely into the simple "Sing For You".

Jason Yates latest album featured an array of guests including Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, fellow Innocent Criminals drummer Oliver Charles as well as session man Gary Mallaber (Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt). His album is available from Vapor Records for purchase on iTunes and Amazon. For more information on Jason Yates please visit www.myspace.com/jasonyatesofficial.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sweet Shows For Your Sweetheart

This coming Valentine's weekend, there are shows at the casinos to show all types of affection. There's one for the "Spicy Latin" lover (Victor Mauelle), there's one for the "Party Hard" lover (Kid Rock), the "Comedic" lover (Kevin Meaney), the "Looking For A" lover (B.B. King & Buddy Guy) and the "Good Old-Fashion" lover (Tony Bennett).

Latin sensation Victor Manuelle will be performing a special Valentine's show at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods on February 13th. Manuelle has been a regular on Spanish radio since 1993 and has achieved Billboard #1 albums in 2004 with "Travesia" and again in 2006 with the holiday favorite "Navidad A Mi Estilo". He is currently touring behind his latest release "Yo Mismo" which was heralded as a return to the tropical music scene. For tickets, please visit www.mgmgrandatfoxwoods.com.

For those looking to escape the normal Valentine's traditions will find Kid Rock at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday, February 13th. His mix of Rap-Rock-Country music will have you on your feet looking for someone to party with. Also at Mohegan Sun on Saturday will be comedian Kevin Meaney in the Cabaret Theatre. Tickets for these shows are available at www.mohegansun.com.

On Valentine's Day, you will have your choice of two classic acts. Crooner Tony Bennett will be spreading love with his romantic songs and jazzy sound. He will be performing at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Now, if you've got the blues this Valentine's, there is no other place to be than at the MGM Grand Theatre at Foxwoods for blues legends B.B. King and Buddy Guy. Their searing guitar solos will surely make you feel a whole lot better about this holiday for lovers.

So if you're looking for something to do with your sweetheart this weekend, here are five good options instead of the old "dinner & a movie".

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CD Review: "Wake" Up With Karnivool's New Album

Australian hard rock band Karnivool will release their sophomore album in the US on February 16th. The band's new album entitled "Sound Awake" has already gone gold in their home country and is burning up the charts in the U.K. The band has also won numerous awards in Australia for their debut album, "Themata" and are looking to bring some of that success overseas.

Right from the opening guitar riff and pounding drums, the music of Karnivool hits you with it's hard rock sound. Then, lead singer, Ian Kenny swoops in with his vocals to put the listener at ease and sets the mood for this musical experience. The Led Zeppelin-style drums of the album's opener "Simple Boy" and crunching guitars of "Goliath" lead up to the epic "New Day" which brings you on a journey of sound. The album's first single "Set Fire To The Hive" is an "in your face" rocker with its distorted vocals and rolling drums, a great way to introduce the band to a new audience of listeners. The band lets Kenny's vocals lead the way on the gentle, balladry of "Umbra" and the mainstream sound of "All I Know". The chord and tempo change of "The Caudal Lure" show us another side to the band's musical talents. The album closes with the twelve minute epic "Deadman" and the powerful ten-plus minute "Change". Both songs display the elaborate song-writing talents of this up-and-coming band from Australia.

Karnivool is currently on tour in Australia, but will soon hit the US in March with a tour starting at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. They will also be performing at the Webster Theater in Hartford, CT on April 2nd. Please visit www.karnivool.com.au for more information on their new album and for concert dates.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ladies Night at the Grammys

The 52nd annual Grammy Awards belonged to the ladies. Taylor Swift won four awards including the coveted "Album of the Year". Beyonce won a record-breaking six Grammy awards and even Lady Gaga took home a couple of her own. But, it was the lady who took home no Grammys that was the best performer of the evening. Pink's high-flying performance of her song "Glitter In The Air" was the most innovative and attention-grabbing part of the evenings events. I also enjoyed watching performances by Beyonce and the Zac Brown Band. It good to see that Leon Russell is still alive and well. I'm not sure if the biggest competition of the evening was for a Grammy award or for the largest stage ensemble between Green Day and the Dave Matthews Band. I didn't care much for the evening's musical finale with Eminim, Lil' Wayne and new-comer Drake. The music cutting out every 30 seconds because of censoring is not my idea of entertainment, but I did enjoy the very brief flashback to 1986 with Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer".

Now you saw what awards were handed out during the telecast, but here are some winners that you might have missed. In the battle of rock legends in the Solo Rock Performance category, Bruce Springsteen brought home the Grammy for his album "Working On A Dream". It was good to see Heavy Metal gods AC/DC and Judas Priest each win Grammys in their respective categories. Former member of The Band, Levon Helm, beat out Wilco, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson for the Best Americana Album Grammy award and Brendan O'Brien (AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen) won the Top Producer of the Year Award.

Hopefully next year's Grammys can include a little more of the rock element in their performances,but I do like the innovation and imagination being explored with each indiviual performance. Congratulations to all the winners for their wonderful efforts and talent and for giving the others something to strive for.