Toby Keith On the Mike Huckabee Show

Huckabee
Fox Studios, New York City
Guest Star Toby Keith on the Mike Huckabee Show
October 28, 2011

I had the great privilege of attending the private taping of Huckabee on October 28, 2011, which is, of course, Governor Mike Huckabee’s show on Fox News.  As any reader of this blog already knows, I am a huge supporter of Toby Keith.  I caught word that Toby was going to be a guest star on the show that day and I quickly scooped up a ticket.  I had never been to a live television taping so I had no idea what to expect.  After a long wait, the 50 or so people who scored tickets were brought into a small studio.  At first we were greeted by a comedian who did his best to keep us attentive until the stars came out.  When Governor Huckabee did come out he had a few jokes for the crowd and was very hospitable. 

You can see the video clips of the Governor with Toby Keith that were aired on television below.  The most impressive moment of my experience was something that went unaired.  During a ten minute sound check, Toby actually taught Governor Huckabee his new song “Clancy’s Tavern” on the fly.  They played through the song twice and Toby commented where he wanted the Governor to change notes.  It was a great moment as a fan to see my musical hero teach an accomplished politician and TV personality a song, which I consider the best on his new album, in such a short amount of time.  As you can see by the video, they played it to perfection.  Toby’s last comment, off camera, to Huckabee was “I will be your Huckleberry Huckabee”. 

VIDEO VIA FoxNews.com

Toby Talks Patriotism, Politics:   http://video.foxnews.com/v/1249013536001/

Toby & Huckabee perform “Clancy’s Tavern”:  http://video.foxnews.com/v/1248998755001/

What was not seen on television yet was an additional segment in which they taped that same day for an upcoming Christmas Special that Huckabee will be airing on Fox News.  The two spoke about an early Christmas memory that Toby had (I will not spoil it for anyone) and again did a sound check for a version of “The Little Drummer Boy”.  After trying out several different approaches to the song, they settled on a faster paced version of the song with a drummer named Bob banging on the drums at a rapid pace.  Fans of both Governor Huckabee and Toby Keith will be very pleased with the result.  Keep your eye out for when that airs on Fox News. 

The Civil Wars Serenade New York City

The Civil Wars
Town Hall – New York City
October 27, 2011

The Civil Wars took to the stage in New York City on October 27, 2011 at the historic Town Hall, and did not disappoint in the least.  It was fitting that this band picked such an old music venue on a night which was dark, cold and dreary.  Their music is hauntingly beautiful in a charming, old fashioned kind of way. 

The Civil Wars is a duo consisting of Joy Williams and John Paul White, who explained that they met in Nashville at a simple songwriting session.  They blend their distinct voices to create their own form of Americana/folk/alt-country music.  Their live show was very simple as  John Paul played an acoustic guitar while Joy mainly sang along with him.  She occasionally sat and played the piano, but mainly stood beside her co-part.  There were no flashing lights or high production effects.  Instead, the duo lets their music do the entertaining – and their fans greatly appreciate that. 

I was blown away by how amazing they sounded live and how their voices blend so well together.  Their music truly is unlike anything today’s music has to offer.  They were fantastic on the dark “Barton Hollow” and the beautiful “20 Years”.  John Paul had a plethera of jokes for the crowd between songs and Joy danced on stage in an adorable and playful manner. 

What was most impressive was their very unique cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, which served as the first song of their encore (a video clip can be seen below).  The set flowed perfectly and the duo sounded incredible.  They have an extremely simple, yet likeable stage presence.  If you have not heard The Civil Wars yet, you are in store for a refreshing musical experience. 

Setlist:

1) Tip of My Tongue
2) Forget Me Not
3) From This Valley
4) 20 Years
5) I’ve Got This Friend
6) My Father’s Father
7) Barton Hollow
8) Falling
9) Go
10) I Want You Back
11) Henry
12) To Whom It May Concern
13) Birds of a Feather
14) Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins Cover Song)
15) Poison & Wine
Encore
16) Billie Jean (Michael Jackson Cover Song)
17) Dance Me To the End of Love (Leonard Cohen Cover Song)

Videos:

20 Years
Barton Hollow

Billie Jean 




Dierks Bentley Feels at Home in New York City

Dierks Bentley
Country & Cold Cans Tour
featuring Jerrod Niemann and Eli Young Band
Irving Plaza, New York City
October 21, 2011

Dierks Bentley brought his Country & Cold Cans Tour to the Big Apple for two nights this October.  I was in attendance for the second of the two shows and you could tell he felt right at home.  Last year he had a four night residency in NYC, playing a few different venues while promoting his Bluegrass album “Up on the Ridge”.  I attended two of those shows as well as two of his shows on the Jagermeister Tour, one of which he brought me and my wife up on stage (see http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2011/03/fan-story-ryan-amy-dierks-bentley.html ) – so I am very familiar with how Dierks operates.  Tonight was no different, if anything, he took the decible level up one more notch.

Upon arriving at the Iriving Plaza, located in the heart of Union Square NYC, there was a line wrapped in front of the building and around which went on for another three blocks.  It was a quite a site to see so many hyped up country fans dressed in boots, plaid shirts, and trucker hats lined up on the streets of NYC.  The first act on the bill was the Eli Young Band.  I must admit I did not think I knew many of their songs, but once their set was off and running, I was quite familiar with most of their tunes. 

Their lead singer has a great voice and their songs are full of memories from their hometown.  Songs such as “When It Rains”, “Only the Love Songs”, and “Crazy Girl” have had a decent rotation on country radio and were very impressive live.  The band is not flashy, but not at all dull, not down home country, but not hipster – their look was very similar to their music.  I look forward to seeing them again and buying their cd collection as well.

Next up was Jerrod Niemann.  I had purchased Judge Jerrod’s cd the day it came out large in part for his remake hit of “Lover, Lover”, but this was the first time I have been able to see him live.  And he did not disappoint in the least.  He was extremely energetic and dynamic.  The crowd really responded and the New York City venue started to transform into a Nashville Honky-Tonk. 

Jerrod Niemann has a very strange look.  He has long messy hair and wears a very different hat compared to most country singers and he backed by a band mixed with predominately older gentlemen that had people raising their eye-brows.  Nonetheless, people must learn to not judge a book by its cover, because the Judge and his Jury (as he referred to them) could rock. 

He sang many of his songs off his cd including “What Do You Want”, “One More Drinking Song” and “Lover, Lover” and threw in a blues song by Stevie Ray Vaughn “Pride and Joy” and Garth Brooks’ “Good Ride Cowboy”, which Jerrod actually wrote for him.  Jerrod was high energy with a lot of drinking songs and interaction with the crowd.  He was at his best when he had just the microphone in his hand and was up in the front of the stage.  I look for big things from him in the future and really was impressed by his set.

After a brief intermission, the lights went low and the crowd started to scream.  Dierks has created quite a love affair with New York City after his four night stand last year and his double night run this Fall.  Of course, the Will Ferrell impersonator was in attendance (if you attended last year’s shows you know what I am talking about) and I saw a lot of familiar faces from the past NYC shows. 

Dierks hopped on stage and ripped into a new song called “Country Cold Cans” which is a high energy song with a lot of country references (from pick up trucks to trucker hats).  I expect this song will be on his upcoming album which is rumored to have a winter 2012 release. 

Irving Plaza was absolutely jammed packed while Dierks was on stage and people were going crazy during his set.  Dierks has a patented move where jumps straight up and down on stage and the crowd responded by bouncing up and down with him each and every time he hopped.  He brought out his full catalog of hits from “Feel That Fire” to “Every Mile a Memory” to “Sideways” and his energy level was at an all time high.

To my delight, he even sang a few songs off his bluegrass album such as “Up On the Ridge” and “Bottle to the Bottom” and sang a few new songs, entitled “5 1 5 0” and his newest single “Home”.  “Home” is a patriotic song, not in the flag waving way, but more of an ode to America and its natural beauty.  He was very controlled and passionate during this song and the crowd responded with a slew of “U S A” chants upon its finish. 

I have seen a countless number of country music concerts and Dierks is as good of a performer as anyone out there.  He has a natural interaction and energy that gives him a fun-loving vibe.  His career path is a bit confusing because he has the hits and persona to fill arenas, but yet he seems to stick to the mid-sized ballroom type venues.  I would love to see Dierks’ label allow him to embark on an Arena tour, he would have no problem selling well. 

Dierks finished off his encore with his two biggest hits to date “Free and Easy” and “What Was I Thinking” and the crowd applauded him for what seemed like ten minutes.  Dierks was overwhelmed with the applause and bowed with his band multiple times.  The speakers then played “Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphy’s and the entire crowd began to jump straight up and down “Dierks-style” and he, of course, responded as you would expect. 

On this night, in New York City, you could tell Dierks felt comfortable as if it was a second Home.  I expect him to keep coming back to the Big Apple as he really seems to have a great time on stage during his shows here.  Dierks, we await your new cd and cannot wait to have you back in the City that never sleeps. 

Setlists:

Jerrod Niemann

1) How Can I Be So Thirsty
2) Down In Mexico
3) Baseball Song
4) Good Ride Cowboy
5) What Do You Want
6) Buckin’ Song
7) Pride & Joy
8) Get What You Deserve
9) Everclear
10) Lover, Lover

Dierks Bentley

1) Country Cold Cans
2) Feel That Fire
3) Am I The Only One (with an extra verse)
4) Every Mile a Memory
5) Tried to Stop Your Leaving
6) Sideways
7) 5 1 5 0
8) Tried To Stop Your Leaving
9) How Am I Doing
10) Up On the Ridge
11) Bottle to the Bottom
12) Home
13) Lot of Leaving Left To Do
14) Come a Little CLoser
Encore:
15) Wish You Were Here
16) Free and Easy Down the Road I Go
17) What Was I Thinking

VIDEOS:

Dierks Bentley – “Home”
Dierks Bentley: “Up On The Ridge”

Dierks Bentley – “Am I The Only One”
Jerrod Niemann – “One More Drinking Song”
Dierks Bentley – “What Was I Thinking”

Video of FX The League Live “The Shiva Song” – Gramercy Theatre, New York City

FX The League Live
Gramercy Theatre
New York City
October 7, 2011

Anyone who is a fan of the television show “The League” on FX knows what the Shiva Song is.  I was able to catch one of the cast’s stand up shows in New York City this past Friday.  The show was absolutely hilarious.  They each performed together and separately – and we even got to see a video clip of the upcoming season.  I was in the second row and was able to tape a video of the them doing “the Shiva”:

The cast members who performed that night included:

1) Nick Kroll – “Ruxin”
2) Stephen Rannazzisi – “Kevin”
3) Paul Scheer – “Andre”
4) Jon Lajoie – “Taco”
5) Kate Aselton – “Jenny” (only came out at the end for the song)

Nick Kroll

Stephen Rannazzisi 

Jon Lajoie 

Paul Scheer

The League


The Miami Boys Warm Up New Jersey (Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias at the Pru)

Enrique Iglesias & Pitbull
Euphoria Tour
Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
September 24, 2011

On September 24, 2011, I made my way into Newark New Jersey’s Prudential Center Arena for the Euphoria Tour starring Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull.  This pairing was an obvious choice since both artists are internationally known, both from the Miami, Florida area, and have collaborated on multiple songs.  Upon walking into the Arena we were told the show would not be starting on time as there were complications with the stage.  In fact, the show started approximately two hours late, which was quite annoying.  Luckily, the Pru Center has ample lounges serving both food and drink, which helped ease the time. 

Up first was an artist named Prince Royce who is a “bachata” musician.  His music did not appeal to me whatsoever, but most of the crowd was happy to finally get some entertainment after the long wait.  He sang his biggest hits, such as “Stand By Me” and “Corazon Sin Cara” but for the most part, his performance was not memorable.  However, once he finished the energy in the Arena hit all time high as we all waited for Pitbull to hit the stage.  Pitbull is an artist who combines Hip-Hop with Pop with Latin music.  He has really increased his worth in the past few years thanks to his collaborations with Enrique, J-Lo, Neo, Marc Anthony, T-Pain, Akon and Lil Jon, just to name a few. 

Pitbull took the stage with all of the swagger and bravado of a hit-making headliner.  And on this night, he out-shined his headlining counterpart.  He broke into a 19 song set that was fast moving and full of energy.  His club anthems had the entire Jersey crowd fist pumping like Pauly D and feeling like they were in Miami instead of the gloomy and cold Newark. 

Dressed to the T, as he always is, with a black blazer, black button down, black pants, black shoes, and black sunglasses, he had a very likeable presence about him.  At no point was he preachy, dirty, violent, or self centered as many Hip-Hop artists have become.  Instead, Pitbull was simply there to help everyone have a good time.  And a good time they had – I did not see anyone in the sold out crowd sit down during his thunderous set.  Especially during “Hey Baby”, “Shut It Down”, his version of “Suavemente” and “I Know You Want Me”.  He even threw in some of his guest spots like the mega-hit “On The Floor” with J-Lo (who was not present). 

He ended his impressive set by bringing out Nayer, a Cuban singer and model, to sing “Give Me Everything” (without Neo).  The two had the crowd singing along and waving their hands back and forth.  The song was arguably the top Pop song of the Summer (2011) and everyone knew it word for word.  Pitbull’s set was better than expected and I expect to see him headlining Arenas in no time. 

Next up was the international superstar, Enrique Iglesias.  My wife and I had seen him at Madison Square Garden just six months before this show and we really enjoyed his set.  I was actually quite disappointed in him on this night.  I am not sure if it was because of a City time restriction and because of the show starting so late, but he only sang nine songs, and he sang one of his songs twice.  This was not the same show I had seen at the Garden just a few months before. 

That being said, when he was singing and performing he was quite entertaining.  But on this night, he was more interested in talking to the crowd and not singing.  He even took a solid fifteen minutes to sit on stage with a male fan from the crowd and drink rum and make jokes.  He did something similar in MSG, but it was only a few minutes.  This time that portion of the show was way too long and downright annoying.

Enrique did switch songs up between his American hits and Latin songs, as he is known to do.  And he concentrated on a lot of material from his newest cd, “Euphoria”.  When he was singing, he was energetic and happy.  The women in the crowd probably did not care whether he was singning or talking as they seemed to melt and scream at just the site of the man.  He really is a pop sensation in every sense of the word. 

His stage and performance included a few showers of confetti and lazers that created, at times, an impressive light show.  He interacted with a few members of the crowd and even brought a woman fan on stage to sing and hug and kiss her, as he is known to do.  It is a bit creepy, but its Enrique, so I guess he gets away with it. 

The real highlight of the night was when Pitbull came out to sing their huge hit together, “I Like It”.  Standing at the front of the long catwalk, the two artists performed the song to perfection, accented by Pitbull’s patented rapid-fire rapping. 

I was a bit disapointed that they did not sing their other collaborative songs (“Come And Go” and “I Like How It Feels”) and do not know why they did not sing them, but at least we got one song that night where they sang together.   In my opinion, if I am on a tour with another artist that I have collaborated with on a few songs, I would do all of those songs together.  Fans like special guests and songs where multiple artists are on stage together for joint hits. 

All in the all, the show left me with mixed feelings.  I had a lot of expectation and while Pitbull lived up to the hype, Enrique left a lot to be desired.  I would see both artists again: Pitbull because he was fantastic – and Enrique, to see if this night was just a fluke. 

Either way, the crowd was very into the show.  I even saw a male fan rip off his shirt in pure excitement and enjoyment during “I Like It” and throw it over the railing from the top tier to the floor tier.  That is a story one cannot make up. 

SETLISTS:

Pitbull:

1) Mr. Worldwide
2) Hey Baby (Drop It To the Floor)
3) Snipet of Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
4) Miami B*tch
5) Shut It Down
6) Shake Señora
7) Bon Bon
8) Rain over me
9) Manos para Arriba
10) Siavamente
11) Shake
12) Culo
13) I know You Want Me
14) Pause
15) On The Floor
16) DJ Falling In Love
17) Hotel
19) Give Me Everything (with special guest Nayer)

Enrique Iglesias:
1) Loving You Tonight
2) Dirty Dancer
3) No Me Digas Que No
4) Bailamos
5) Lloro Por Ti
6) Cuando Me Enamoro
7) Only Wanna Be With You
8) Hero
9) I Like It (with Pitbull)
10) Loving You Tonight (Dirty Version)

Videos:

Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias: “I Like It”

 Pitbull: “Hey Baby (Drop It To The Floor)”

Pitbull: “On The Floor”

Enrique Iglesias: “Loving You Tonight”

Recalling My First Zac Brown Band Experience (February 2009)

Zac Brown Band
with Levi Lowery, Sonia Leigh and Nic Cowan
Bowery Ballroom, New York City
February 3, 2009

My first ZAC BROWN BAND experience dates back to February 3, 2009 in New York City.  My wife and I had just purchased “The Foundation” a few weeks before after hearing “Chicken Fried” on radio and heard that this new band was playing an intimate performance at the Bowery Ballroom in New York.  We bought tickets and had NO idea what to expect.  While we were really enjoying the cd we bought, we did not know if they would play a long set, be a talented live act, or even sound good live. 

We were treated to an acoustic set by Levi Lowery and Sonia Leigh with her band as opening acts, both of who were fantastic.  Before they got on stage we had no idea who they were or what they would turn out to today.  To this day, we are huge fans of both. 

But when Zac, Clay, Coy, Jimmy, John and Chris came on stage that snowy night in NYC, magic happened.  My wife and I were absolutely mesmerized by the Band. 

They sounded incredible, were talented as can be, and went on to play a three hour show complete with every track from “The Foundation”, as well as covers of other songs and soon to be released classics.  I have been to well over 150 concerts and never have I ever been so impressed by a band after seeing them live for the first time. 

In fact, if I recall correctly, Zac said to the crowd that it was the first concert that Clay Cook was performing with the Band and was officially set to join them.  Moreover, Nic Cowan came out at the end of the set and sang a few songs with the Band. 

Of course Zac’s vocals and guitar skills were impressive, but it was Jimmy De Martini’s fiddle skills that blew us away more than anything.  Never have I seen a musician play an instrument so skilled and with such smooth passion.

Being in a New York City venue, where Country Music is typically frowned upon, everyone was in firm agreement that the Zac Brown Band was something special.  I actually turned to my wife that night and said “in a few years, this will be the biggest act in Country Music”.  My words are becoming truth.

Zac actually stayed on the stairwell after the show and we took three pictures with him and spoke about his music. 

He said his Mom was in the crowd that night and he was so humbled to have played in New York City with her there.

  It was an incredible experience and although we have been to over a dozen ZBB shows since, nothing will ever compare to the first time. 

Jake Owen’s Big E Blue Jean Night

JAKE OWEN
The Big E – Comcast Arena
West Springfield, MA
September 25, 2011

I had the pleasure of attending the Jake Owen concert at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts on September 25, 2011.  The Big E is one of the East Coast’s biggest Fairs, boasting rides, music, food, drinks, shopping and more.  It has also recently created the Comcast Arena Stage which seats approximately 6,000 people and has hosted some of the biggest names in the music business today. 

My wife and I arrived and were lucky enough to have meet and greet passes with Jake.  We waited outside of his bus until he came out to greet the pass-holders.  Jake’s biggest song is “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” which is not only his first #1 single, but it is the current #1 song on both the Country Billboard and Mediabase Charts.  When he came out of the bus, he was wearing blue jeans and was barefoot.  In fact, during his entire performance, he was also barefoot.  I thought this was pretty cool that the artist actually lives the words of his biggest song in real life.

Jake was very humble and very personable.  We spoke for a few minutes and even joked about New Jersey (since that is where my wife and I are originally from).  He asked what Exit we were from and my wife said “far from the Jersey Shore, do not worry”.  He was by far one of the most sincere and down to earth music stars that I have ever met. 

Eric Paslay was the opening act and he sang about five songs.  He stood on stage by himself with an acoustic guitar and sang songs off of his upcoming album.  He is a skilled song writer, who actually wrote “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” for Jake and has some real potential to continue his songwriting career in Nashville.  Jake came on stage full of smiles and broke right into “Anywhere With You” from his new album. 

I had never seen Jake live before so I did not know what to expect.  I must say I was blown away from start to finish.  He had such a real and natural interaction with the fans in the crowd.  He was constantly commenting on people in the crowd, brought up a little kid on stage, took hats from the crowd and put them on his head, took beads from a fan and wore them, and, at one point, actually jumped off the stage and came into the crowd.  Halfway through his set, during the acoustic portion, he sang a full “freestyle” song simply commenting on things he saw around the arena.  It was humorous and extremely interactive.  I really was impressed.

He was at his best on his biggest hits like “Starting With Me”, “Something About A Woman”, “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You” and of course, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” in which he brought out Eric Paslay to help he sing the song.  All of his vocals were spot on and very strong.  His energy was high level during the entire show as he used every foot of the stage from left to right. 

Two songs were sung with deep emotion and passion by Jake.  The first was “The One That Got Away”.  He really put a lot into this song and really rocked out.  He even threw a snippet of Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl” into the last verse of the song.  The other was his acoustic version of “The Journey Of Your Life”, an emotional song about his last few moments with his grandfather and the life lessons he learned from him.  It brought tears to the eyes of the almost sold out crowd.

He ended the night with an encore consisting of “8 Second Ride” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell”.  During the song “8 Second Ride” he brought up a young boy who appeared to be about five years old named Carson.  Carson stole the show as he showcased dance skills that had everyone clapping and admiring how cute he was.  Jake was having a ball with Carson, slapping him high five, getting on his knees next to him and even letting Carson hold his guitar. 

Jake really showcased his love for the fans and his love for his music.  He is a very talented, extremely energetic and refreshingly humble guy.  I really recommend all my readers to check him out in concert and pick up his new CD, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”. 

SETLIST:

1) Anywhere With You
2) Yee Haw
3) Wide Awake
4) Keepin It Country
5) Tell me why
6) Starting With Me
7) Something About A Woman
8) The One That Got Away (Remix with a snipet of “Jesse’s Girl” by Rick Springfield)
9) Bad In Me (Remix with a snipet of “Just A Friend” by Biz Markie and a snipet of “Love Is What I Got” by Sublime)
10) Acoustic Freestyle Song
11) Journey Of Your Life
12) Heaven
13) Barefoot Blue Jean Night (with special guest Eric Paslay)
14) Apple Pie Moonshine
15) Alone With You
16) Don’t Think I Can’t Love You

ENCORE:
17) 8 Second Ride
18 ) That Smell (Lynyrd Skynyrd Cover)

VIDEOS:

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (REMIX WITH JESSE’S GIRL) – JAKE OWEN:

BAREFOOT BLUE JEAN NIGHT – JAKE OWEN with ERIC PASLAY:

8 SECOND RIDE – JAKE OWEN w Carson as his dancing guest:

Toby Keith Ends the 2011 CT Country Summer Concert Season with a Bang

Toby Keith
Locked & Loaded Tour
Featuring Eric Church and JT Hodges
Comcast Theater, Hartford, CT
September 16, 2011

Summer was clearly over on this cold mid-September night when the “Locked & Loaded Tour” rolled into Hartford, Connecticut.  This night would be the final night of the summer’s country music concerts series at the Comcast Theater (formerly known as the Meadows) and was arguably the best.  Despite the unusually cold temperature, the sold out crowd and jam packed lawn section was alive and rocking. 

I was fortunate, again, to score a meet and greet pass with Eric Church.  Eric has quickly shot up the list of my favorite singers and it has been a real pleasure to meet him twice in the past few weeks.  Despite all his energy and moxy on stage, he is a very humble and evel keel guy.  We spoke for a moment about the Tour and his upcoming single (which he hinted would be “Springsteen”).  I look for great things from Eric in the future.

I was able to take my seat, 5th row center stage, in time to catch JT Hodges.  JT had recently signed to Toby Keith’s record label and has served as the opening act along the Locked & Loaded Tour.  I did not know what to expect from him since I really only knew his single “Hunt You Down” but he showed a lot of potential.  He was at best when he was at the forefront of the stage with a microphone and interacting with the crowd rather than set back behind the microphone stand with his band.  Overall, he had a good sound and has some solid lyrics.  I look forward to his first cd release.  I was also able to meet him after his set and he was easily one of the nicest artists I have met to date. 

Eric Church came on stage with his patented avaitor sunglases and Von Dutch denim Trucker Hat.  He ripped into “Before She Does” and pumped his fist, pounded his chest, and shouted to the crowd for the next hour.  As I stated in my review two weeks ago, Eric has an unique performance style that combines swagger and bravado with a party style bad boy image. 

He changed his setlist up a bit and added a new fan favorite “Jack Daniels”, which a video clip is included down below.  The song is a humorous take on the morning after a night out drinking whiskey. 

Eric was energetic throughout, and really seemed to love when he was singing the new songs of his recent #1 album “Cheif”.  He actually stated to the crowd at one point, “thanks to you guys I had the #1 album in the world for two weeks. So Jay-Z and Kanye can kiss my rift!”  This comment is evident of who Eric Church is, an artist who does not care about taking on the music industry in the way he wants to. 

Eric was at his best on songs such as “Lotta Boot”, “Springsteen”, “Love Your Love the Most”, and “Gettin’ Stoned”, all of which sound nothing alike.  That is the beauty of Eric’s music, he never makes a similar song, but they are all country to the core – in his own gritty way.  Which is why Hank Williams Jr.’s “Country Boy Can Survive” fit so well into his set.  Eric is doing country music his own way and is surviving very well. 

He ended his set with the booming “Smoke A Little Smoke” and had the entire amplitheatre on his feet as the sprays of smoke dominated the stage behind Eric and his band.  I fully expect this man to be headlining his own tours very soon – it is just a matter of time.

For as much as Eric is on the rise and put forth a great performance, you could tell the majority of the crowd in Hartford that night came to see the headliner.  And just after 9:30 p.m., the lights went low and the big screen produced a short comedic sketch which pushed Ford Trucks, the sponsor for Toby’s tour.  Upon the end of the sketch, the first of a multitude of pyrotechnic M-80 blasts exploded and Toby walked to the front of the stage.  Dressed in his usual cowboy hat and a strange short sleeve aqua blue “Hawaiian” style button down shirt, Toby exploded into “Bullets in the Gun”. 

Toby was in playful mood that night as he was full of smiles, jokes, and lyric change-ups to make some of his songs more humorous.  On tracks such as “Just Talking About Tonight” and “I Love This Bar”, his lyrics were changed to lyrics of more jokingly suggestive sexual nature which the ladies in the crowd obviously enjoyed. 

Toby’s latest top 5 “Made in America” and a rarely sung single from the beginning of his career “Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You” were two of the highlights of this show.  Both songs were sung with deep passion, one for the Country he loves and one about a woman.  The notes Toby is able to hit on both songs are so far ranging that I would be surprised if any other singer in country music could hit them, besides maybe Ronnie Dunn.  It was really spectacular. 

However, the true highlight of the night for me was when Toby brought out fellow songwriter Scotty Emerick.  Toby and Scotty have been long time friends and have penned powerhouse singles together such as “Beer For My Horses” and “I Love This Bar”. 

On this night, Toby and Scotty went the way of the humorous “bus songs” they wrote together and had the crowd clapping along and laughing to two acoustic versions of “Weed With Willie” and “The Taliban Song”.  Both songs are hilarious takes on topics some might find “un-PC”, but for anyone who can take on a joke can really get a laugh out of.   I have always enjoyed Scotty Emerick’s writing and even some of his own recorded music, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him out there in the spotlight with the Big Dog.

Toby had to rush through the last couple songs of his set, probably since it was getting very late and there is an ordinance in Hartford.  There is usually a few minute period where the lights go dark and the convential encore happens.  Instead, he went right into “American Soldier” after singing “A Little Less Talk”.  I enjoy the darkness period where the crowd chants “USA” before this patriotic encore better, but Toby made it work nonetheless. 

Toby brought up a number of our Country’s military men and had them at the fore-front shaking hands with fans and standing alongside him in a proud and exhalted manner. As he sang “American Soldier” and the thunderous “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” alongside these soldiers, Toby reminded Connecticut that you should “never apologize for being patriotic”. 

The entire “Locked & Loaded Tour” show that night was phenomenal and truly showed that Toby Keith is still at the forefront of country music’s finest artists and performers, that Eric Church is on his way up to the top, and JT Hodges has real potential.  Sadly, the Connecticut Country Concert Season was over, but it ended at its highest point of the Summer. 

VIDEOS:

Toby Keith – Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You

Toby Keith with Scotty Emerick – The Taliban Song
Eric Church – Jack Daniels

Toby Keith – Should’ve Been A Cowboy

Toby Keith w/ Scotty Emerick – Weed With Willie 

SETLISTS:
Eric Church
1) Before She Does
2) How Bout You

3) Hell On The Heart
4) Drink In My Hand
5) Guys Like Me
6) Springsteen
7) Getting Stoned
8) Jack Daniels

9) Love Your Love The Most

10) Lotta Boot
11) Creepin
12) Country Boy Can Survive (Hank Williams Jr. Cover)

13) Homeboy

14) Smoke A Little Smoke

Toby Keith
1) Bullets in the Gun
2) American Ride
3) Just Talkin’ About Tonight
4) Made In America
5) Whiskey Girl
6) Lady Marmalade (sung by Mica Roberts)
7) I Wanna Walk About Me
8) Get Drunk and Be Somebody
9) Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You
10) Who’s Your Daddy
11) As Good As I Once Was
12) I Love This Bar
13) Should’ve Been a Cowboy
14) Get Out of My Car
15) Weed With Willie (with Scotty Emerick)
16) The Taliban Song (with Scotty Emerick)
17) Beer For My Horses
18) How Do You Like Me Now
19) A Little Less Talk, A Lot More Action
20) American Soldier
21) Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue

Video of My Wife & I on stage with Dierks Bentley

This video just surfaced and I thought I’d share it with my readers. 
 Check out the story behind the video on these following sites:
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Toby Keith & Eric Church – Locked, Loaded, & Fired Up in Jersey

Toby Keith’s Locked & Loaded Tour
Featuring Eric Church
PNC Arts Center, Holmdel, New Jersey
September 2, 2011

Simply stated, there is no concert like a Toby Keith concert.  At one point of my life, country music was not my preferred genre of music.  That was, until I heard a few Toby songs.  Soon after I bought tickets to my first concert of his.  Since then I have seen him a total of 23 times.  September 2, 2011 was the 23rd time and it was as good as it once was. 

Through his fan club, I was able to win a meet and greet with the rising star, Eric Church.  I got into the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ when doors opened and proceeded to the backstage area.  My sister and I have noticed that Eric is not big on smiling so when it was my turn to meet him, I told him that I had a bet going with her that he would not smile in the picture with me.  As you can see, I won that bet.  Eric was humble and gracious and we spoke for a minute or so and I was off to my seat. 

We had 15th row center floor seats, which had a perfect view of the stage.  Eric came out on stage when the sun was just going down – and he was off and running.  Eric Church’s live performances are full of energy – but a different type of energy.  He is not the Kenny Chesney type who runs around the stage and is not like Tim McGraw who slowly walks around the stage with a swagger.  Instead, he stands at the microphone, signing with incredible passion, and constantly pounds his chest, yells at the crowd, pours beers on himself.  He truly has an unique and effective way of getting the crowd ridiculously pumped. 

His set was a great mixture of his three albums.  It was highlighted by the songs of his new album, Cheif.  Songs such as “Drink In My Hand” and “Homeboy” had the crowd signing and dancing along.  The tune, “Springsteen” was perfect for the New Jersey crowd who returned the favor with chants of what you would hear at an actual Springsteen show: “Bruuuuuuuuce”. 

Eric also sang a great cover of the Hank Williams Jr. classic “Country Boy Can Survive”.  The true country fans in the audience sang along word for word, pumping their chests along with Eric.  He showed off his banjo skills on the new song “Creepin'”, dabbled in songs that made the ladies happy (“Love Your Love the Most”, “Hell On the Heart”) and ended his set at an energetic high with smoke blasts from behind the stage to one of Eric’s biggest hits, “Smoke a Little Smoke”. 

All in all, out of the 23 times I have seen a Toby Keith tour, I think Eric Church has been the best opening act (and that includes the likes of Trace Adkins, Miranda Lambert, Rodney Atkins, Montgomery Gentry, and Joe Nicols, to name a few).  He fits in with Toby’s style of music and really gets the energy level high and ready for the Big Dog Daddy to hit the stage. 

Toby’s set began as it always does, with a short five minute Ford F-150 commercial.  Usually they are pretty humorous, but this year’s was over the top cheesy.  This was probably the only part of Toby’s set that I did not enjoy, luckily it was only a few minutes long and the Big Dog hit the stage.  He came out to “Bullets In Gun” and never looked back.

The crowd was treated to Toby’s newest single, “Made In America” which has already hit the top 10 on the Mediabase and Billboard charts after only being out on country radio for a few weeks.  I have absolutely loved this song since he debuted it at the CMT Awards a few months ago.  With all the bravado and swagger that one would expect from Toby Keith, he executed this hit to perfection complete with fire blasts, salutes to the crowd, and his voice hitting the high notes flawlessly. 

One thing every fan who comes to a Toby Keith concert knows is you are going to hear the hits.  Toby prides himself on singing the songs people know and love.  And he has plenty to choose from – “I Love This Bar”, “As Good As I Once Was”, “How Do You Like Me Now” and “Wanna Talk About Me” were all incorporated into the set.  However, Toby sang a song that I have never heard him do live before and it absolutely blew me away: “Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You”.  His voice thundered through the warm Jersey night to this love song as his deep voice masterfully executed notes both high and low.  He had to impress everyone that night as I was left with goosebumps when he finished the song. 

For anyone who has not been to a Toby Keith show, the show is a big mixture of party songs, Patriotic Anthems, and good old country songs.  There is not letdown and Toby incorporates his great sense of humor into the videos on the big screen as well as a plethora of pyrotechnics that would make Kiss want to go country. 

He really shines when he addresses the crowd to salute to all the people who put their lives on the line for us before “Beer For My Horses”.  He even gets the crowds laughing during humorous tunes such as “Weed With Willie” and “Get Out of My Car”.  Both songs have lyrics dealing with sex and drugs, which mostly every other country singer stays away from in their song content.  But, as Toby sees it – its all in good fun so just “sing along if you don’t think you are too cool”. 

Toby’s band was really showcased on this night as he let the trumpet and horn section take the front of the stage on numerous songs, such as “God Love Her” and “Who’s Your Daddy”.  He even let his backup singer, Mica Roberts, belt out a cover of “Lady Marmalade” which suprisingly fit in well in the middle of the bombastic set. 

Of course, the highlight of a Toby Keith show, for any true fan of his, is the encore.  In my opinion, I think Toby has the best encore in music today, no matter what genre.  After a few minutes of the lights being out and the sold out amplitheatre shouting out deafening chants of “USA, USA…” and “Toby, Toby …” he comes out to sing the emotional ode to our military, “American Soldier”.  On this night, he changed the words up a bit and sang the song with the words “American Warrior”.  He then gets an American Flag Guitar and dominates the stage to his most infamous song “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue”. 

If you are a fan of Toby, like I am, you absolutely love this song.  If you do not like him for whatever reason, you probably despise it.  But on that night, the 18,000 people in New Jersey all collectively pumped their fist in the air when Toby dropped the line “put a boot in your ass its the American way”.  He brought out the friends and family of a fallen Navy Seal for the encore which really pumped even more patriotism into the amplitheatre.  Complete with more pyro M-80 blasts and a rain of red, white, and blue confetti, the crowd was treated to a show unlike any other. 

I thought both Eric Church and Toby Keith brought their A games on this night and, as always, made it one of the best tours of the year.  I cannot wait to see it all over again in two weeks in Hartford, Connecticut.  Stay tuned …..

Setlist:

TOBY KEITH SETLIST
1) Bullets In The Gun
2) Just Talkin Bout Tonight
3) Made In America
4) American Ride
5) Whiskey Girl
6) Wanna Talk About Me
7) God Love Her
8) Get Drunk And Be Somebody
9) Blue Moon
10) Somewhere Else
11) Who’s Your Daddy
12) Good As I Once Was
13) I Love This Bar
14) Should Of Been Cowboy
15) Weed With Willie
16) Get Outta My Car
17) Beer For My Horses
18) How Do You Like Me Now
19) Little Less Talk
*encore*
20) American Soldier (Remix: American Warrior)
21) Courtesy of the Red White and Blue

ERIC CHURCH SETLIST:

1) Before She Does
2) How Bout You
3) Hell On The Heart
4) Sinners Like Me
5) Drink In My Hand
6) Guys Like Me
7) Springsteen
8) Getting Stoned
9) Love Your Love The Most
10) Lotta Boot
11) Creepin
12) Keep On
13) Country Boy Can Survie (Hank Williams Jr. Cover)
14) Homeboy
14) Smoke A Little Smoke

Video Clips:
ERIC CHURCH: “Springsteen”

ERIC CHURCH: “Creepin”

TOBY KEITH: “Made In America”

 

TOBY KEITH: “I Love This Bar”

TOBY KEITH: “Beer For My Horses”

Collaboration Songs Are in the Works: Toby Keith & Eric Church – Plus, Red Solo Cup

I just caught word that Toby Keith has been busy writing songs on his current “Locked & Loaded” Tour.  While this is nothing new for the songwriter, what is newsworthy is that his opening act, Eric Church, has been sitting in on these occasional writing sessions. 

“We wrote a couple songs together, and they’re great songs,” Eric enthusiastically tells CountryWeekly.com. “We’ve been threatening to do it for a while and it’s a neat thing to just pop up on his bus and write. It’s been fun to get to know him a bit.”

Both artists have the reputation of doing things “their own way”.  This does not always mean doing it the way country radio or Nashville would like them to.  From putting a “boot in their ass” to “smoke a little smoke” both artists have a passion and a dedication to writing, performing, and not caring what the critics say.  Recently, Eric Church, who just released his third album entitled “Cheif”, experienced life at the top of the Billboard All-Genre Albums Chart, something Toby has achieved countless times. 

Eric has also mentioned that he and Toby have plans to write even more songs and that one of the two plan on releasing the songs on an upcoming album.  “I’d love to,” Eric said, “[o]r Toby will.”

Further, I have caught wind that Toby Keith will be releasing a new song to country radio soon, entitled “Red Solo Cup”.  Apparently, the comedian, Carrot Top , tweeted that he was contacted by Toby about being in the video.  I have also heard that the video was shot this past week in Nashville. 

Carrot Top reported via Twitter that Toby Keith played him this new song and stated “He (Toby Keith) said it might be ‘the most absurd song I’ve recorded,’ ”.  Besides Carrot Top, Toby has invited big names, including former President George W. Bush and actor Jack Nicholson, to be in the video.

This news comes on the eve of my attendance of a Locked & Loaded Tour stop.  I will be reporting back on tomorrow night’s show. 

Hurricane Irene Proves to be No Match for the Goin’ Coastal Tour

Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour
Gillette Stadium – August 27, 2011
Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington, & Uncle Kracker
Final Night of the Tour

As most of the East Coast prepared for Hurricane Irene, 59,000 country music fans in Foxboro, Massachusetts, decided to hold off on dealing with the impending disaster.  Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, hosted the final night of Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour.  While some of the show featured all out down-pours, the majority of the night, including all of Chesney’s set, was rain free.

After spending a few hours at the fun and impressive Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, which is located right next door to Gillette Stadium, we walked into the field level as Billy Currington was singing.  Billy sang the same set as I had seen a few weeks earlier at The New Meadowlands Stadium.  Billy has a ways to go with the energy and showmanship in his live performances, but his voice and songs carry him enough that he is still enjoyable.  Although I do not see him headlining a tour anytime soon, he was a good warm-up for the two powerhouses which followed. 

Zac Brown Band hit on all cylinders Saturday night.  I have seen them live several times and this was, indeed, one of their finest.  While Billy Currington and Kenny Chesney sang almost identicle sets from the previous shows, Zac Brown and his Band switched things up totally.  Yes, the hits such as “Toes”, “Highway 20 Ride”, “Free”, “Colder Weather”, and “Chicken Fried were played, but they also incorporated other cuts that were not released as single, but the fans knew nonetheless.  As the rain stormed down on the crowd, Zac bolted out “Jolene” with such passion and pain, that no one seemed to care about the weather. 

  Zac sang a new tune called “Sweet Anne” that seems to be destined for country radio supremacy.  And of course, Jimmy DeMartini, who I consider to be the best non-vocal musician in all of country music, shined on his multiple fiddle solo’s.  The Zac Brown Band’s cover of Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgie” is even better than the original.  Jimmy’s fiddle skills are particularly on display when the band does that song live.  The speed that his arm and wrist move at is absolutely remarkable.

What is very different from most bands is that although Zac Brown is clearly the leader and face of the Band, he lets his bandmates get their “shine on” as well.  For example, on this night, Zac let Clay Cook take the vocals on “Can’t See You Tonight”.  Clay’s vocals could be lead for any other band in the land and as the rain came down at its hardest of the night while he sang this song (originally recorded by Zac with Kid Rock), the crowd could truly appreciate how talented this whole band really is. 

The Zac Brown Band closed out their set as they always do, with “America The Beautiful” mixed as an intro into the band’s first, and biggest hit, “Chicken Fried”.  After ZBB finished doing their thing I thought to myself: wow, they were so good I almost forgot they were not the headliner of the show and Kenny Chesney is yet to come.  In fact, at least two times during their set, Zac Brown made it known to the crowd the Band is motivated to become one of the biggest acts in country music as he boldy stated “we want to come back here and play for ya’ll as a headliner” and “we will be back”.  I absolutely believe him – this Band is the real deal Holyfield. 

To everyone’s delight the rain subsided before Chesney flew into the Stadium as there were only brief spells of drizzle during his set.  Chesney entered the Stadium as he has continously done over the past few years, on a flying apparatus extended high by cables above the floor section.  He sang the entire song “Live A Little” while flying as if he was in Cirque de Soleil. 

Kenny did basically the same set as he did at the New Meadowlands Stadium.  He did throw in the song “She’s From Boston” and the New England Crowd graciously appreciated the hometown love.  However, Chesney was extra emotional and animated.  He normally is very active on stage, but this night, being the final Tour stop, he seemed to full of smiles more than most. 

Chesney, for me, really shines on two songs: “I Go Back” and “Anything But Mine”.  They are the type of songs when you hear them live at his show, they are ten times better than the radio version.  The crowd sings back to him in unison with such precision and he responds to a tee. 

At one point, CMA Chief Executive Officer Steve Moore came out on stage and presented the inaugural CMA Touring Musician Award to Chesney’s keyboard player Wyatt Beard.  Chesney said he had hired Beard ten minutes before leaving for a tour several years ago and he seemed proud to give the trophy to his bandmate – and they shared an emotional embrace. 

Chesney brought out tour-mates Uncle Kracker and Billy Currington to help him sing some of his biggest hits.  Uncle Kracker sang “When The Sun Goes Down” and did a cover of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy” while Currington came out for the second half of the song “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”. 

Kenny sang “Boys Of Fall” to end his set and stated how proud he was to sing that particular song in a Stadium where so much history had been made.  In expected fashion, he had images of Tom Brady and various other New England Patriots on the big screen, resulting in an uproar from the crowd.

The best part of the night was the ending when Chesney brought out the Zac Brown Band for a medley of songs.  It is obvious that Chesney and Zac have become very good friends on the Tour.  Chesney even told the crowd that Zac had set up a party the night before in which he and both members of the Bands sat around and played acoustic songs until 2 a.m. together.  The both signed the boots Kenny was wearing during his set (during the encore he performed in bare feet with mesh shorts and a baseball cap, instead of his normal boots, jeans, and cowboy hat).

Zac and Kenny traded vocals on various covers – including Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight” and “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas”, Garth Brooks’ “Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old”, a few Bob Marley songs (in which Zac showcased his reggae skills), Sublime’s “Caress Me Down” and Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream”.  As helped each other out on their own singles “Knee Deep” and “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven”.  At one point, Kenny’s tourmates dumped a cooler of ice water on him.  He had to take of his shirt (in which the women around me went crazy for) and put on a sleeveless Highway 20 Ride Zac Brown Band t-shirt.

Zac Brown and his band dominated the encore when they shocked the crowd and started doing some Hip-Hop songs including Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”.  If you thought ZBB was talented before, their medley of three hip hop songs made that even more evident.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out with a country-hop song in the near future, that’s how strong Zac’s flow was.  Even Zac’s security guard, Mastiff, came out to rap on the final song.

The show was overall better than the one I saw at New Meadowlands Stadium and had much more energy.  Chesney seemed to hug and show love to each member of his own band, the Zac Brown Band, and each of his stage-hands and tourmates.  All 59,000 people in that wet Stadium could see two things were very evident that night: (1) It is easy to see why Kenny Chesney is considered one of the best live performers in all of music today and (2) the Zac Brown Band is well on its way to be placed in that same league. 

Also, one final note – I have heard horror stories about the traffic getting into and out of Gillette Stadium.  Even though the show was clearly sold out, I sat in about two minutes worth of traffic total.  I’m guessing the credit should go to the Police of Foxboro, MA because it was clear sailing both in and out (for me at least). 

Kenny Chesney – “You & Tequila”

Kenny Chesney and The Zac Brown Band Prove to be Giants at the Meadowlands

Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour
New Meadowlands Stadium
August 13, 2011
with Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington, & Uncle Kracker

On August 13, 2011, Kenny Chesney brought his Goin’ Coastal Tour to New Jersey.  This show was special for a great number of reasons.  First off, Kenny is one of the few artists of ANY genre of music that can fill Stadiums up across the country and this was no exception.  That steamy Saturday in East Rutherford, New Jersey a record breaking crowd was on hand to see the country crooner and his large list of guests.  This particular show sold just over 55,000 tickets.  Not since country legends Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard came around in 1983 had a country concert in New Jersey sold over 50,000 tickets.  This show passed that show’s number in attendance.  Sure Kenny is one of the best in the business today, but having the Grammy Award Winning and multi-talented Zac Brown Band on the bill with him sure helped with sales quite a bit.  Throw in Billy Currington and Uncle Kracker as openers and this made the Goin’ Coastal Tour the must see tour of the summer. 

Uncle Kracker and Billy Currington opened up their shorter sets with lots of familiar music.  Uncle Kracker did his biggest hits such as “Follow Me” and “Smile” and stole some material from his old touring buddy, Kid Rock, as well as Kenny Rogers.

Billy Currington proved to be a crowd favorite with lots of summer drinking music such as “People Are Crazy” and “Pretty Good At Drinking Beer”.  Billy used the stage and the catwalk in a slow walk, but the crowd really responded to his easy-going music.  He closed out his set with “Good Directions”, a huge hit that was co-penned by Luke Bryan – and the crowd sang along with every word.  By the time Billy was finishing up his set, I looked up from the floor to the 3 tiers of sections in the New Meadowlands Stadium and the place was absolutely packed. 

I overheard many people who were tailgating in the parking lot state they were more excited to see the Zac Brown Band than the opener and for good reason.  This band has released 8 singles to country radio and all of them have hit number 1 on the mediabase and billboard country charts.  Zac Brown, naturally, is the lead singer and captain of the band.  However, he makes sure that the crowd knows this is not a front man act – that they are whole band.  And the entire band had their own time to shine on this day.  Zac belted out his amazing vocals and intense guitar playing skills on hits like “Toes”, “As She’s Walking Away” and “Highway 20 Ride”.   Jimmy DeMartini, the fiddle player/violinst, absolutely memorized the crowd with his ridiculous talent.  He had tons of solos such as “Quite Your Mind” and “Free” and even used his fingers on the fiddle on “Where the Boat Leaves From”.  People were shaking their heads with their jaws dropped when the spotlight was on Jimmy.

Even members like Clay Cook and Coy Bowles got their “rock star” moments on the song “Who Knows” which is essentially a ten minute jam out song with two minutes of vocals.  The drummer, Chris Fryar, changed his clothes halfway through the band’s set from a New York Jets jersey to a New York Giants jersey – which made fans of both teams smile in admiration.  Finally, John Driskell got to add some vocals on “It’s not Okay” and had the crowd dancing and laughing at the lyrics.

The band had a large group of the United States military come to the front of the stage before the song “Free” and they stayed throughout the final songs which happened to be a mash-up of “America, The Beautiful” and the band’s biggest single to date, “Chicken Fried”. 

The Zac Brown Band oozes with talent, passion, emotional and unbelievable music ability.  This band will be around for a very, very long time – and will be headlining their own Stadium Tour sometime soon, mark my word. 

After a brief delay, the rain started to fall and the crowds retreated for cover and beer refills.  But, when the lights went dark, the crowds ran to their seats – not even caring it was still raining.  And the stage curtains raised, but Kenny Chesney appeared on a raised swing in the back of the Stadium, floating above the 55,000 cheering fans.  He sang the entire first song, a recent number 1 single, “Live A Little” while flying above the crowd.

Once he landed, he was off and running, literally. The man used every inch of the massive catalk and stage.  The lights went crazy in every direction and the huge interactive screens portrayed Kenny in different sides and angles throughout the concert.  Kenny smashed through his hits and recents songs off his newest album, “Hemmingway’s Whiskey”.

Kenny Chesney is the penultimiate performer and he really showed it this night.  From his acoustic takes on “You and Tequila” to his giant hits like “I Go Back” and “Keg in the Closet”, Kenny had the crowd in the palm of his hand.  He cranked out hit after hit after hit, each song performed with just as much energy as the one before. 

Kenny brought out all of his opening acts for certain select songs and covers. He of course performed “When the Sun Goes Down” with Uncle Kracker, which is one of the best summer concert songs anyone has ever written.  He kept Kracker on stage for their take on The Allman Brothers song, “Midnight Rider” and even did their best hip-hop/country mash-up to Kid Rock’s “Cowboy”.

Kenny then surprised the crowd and absolutely shocked me, when he changed genres up completely and sang “Blister in the Sun”, a Violent Femmes Cover.  For this, he even brought the original songwriter of the song, Mark Tamburino, out for the song. 

Once the Encore came, Kenny ripped right into “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and brought out  Billy Currington for some help.  Unbelievably, the best part of the night was yet to come:

 

At this point of the show, Kenny brought out the Zac Brown Band as they teamed up with Chesney and his band during eight unbelievable songs.  Zac and Kenny took to the front and sang two of the famous country band, Alabama’s biggest hits: “Dixieland Delight” and “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas”.  They teamed up for each other’s “summery” singles “Knee Deep” and “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven”.

Then for good measure they brought up the New York Yankees’ slugger Nick Swish to help them sing “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band.  Any fan of baseball knows how much a swagger and overall enthusiasm Nick Swisher has and he was full of smiles and fist pumped on stage. 

Zac and Kenny and their bands finished things out with a Bob Marley, Sublime and Tom Petty Cover.  They even brought ZBB-protege Sonia Leigh, the New York Jets’ coach Rex Ryan, Kenny’s mother, and others on stage to help sing and finish the party out.

Nick Swisher:

Rex Ryan:

Overall, the show was long (almost six and a half hours of music), but never slowed down.  Zac and Kenny electrified the crowd and all 55K went home happy – tired and very happy.  If there was any indication that country music was alive and well in the Garden State, you just had to look at the parking lot that became the New Jersey turnpike.  But despite the traffic and rain that night, you could tell that everyone walked away satisfied.  There are only a few more dates left on this tour and I am attending one again at the end of August – I would suggest any and all to check it out. 

 Kenny Chesney Setlist:

  1. Live a Little
  2. Reality
  3. Summertime
  4. Beer In Mexico
  5. The Woman With You
  6. Big Star
  7. I Go Back
  8. No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem
  9. Anything But Mine
  10. There Goes My Life
  11. You and Tequila
  12. Living In Fast Forward
  13. Young
  14. Happy Birthday to Ken (Chesney’s road manager)
  15. Somewhere With You
  16. Don’t Happen Twice
  17. Never Wanted Nothing More
  18. Out Last Night
  19. When the Sun Goes Down with Uncle Kracker
  20. Midnight Rider – The Allman Brothers Band Cover
  21. Cowboy – Kid Rock Cover with Uncle Kracer
  22. Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes Cover with the songwriter Mark Tamburino
  23. How Forever Feels
  24. The Boys of Fall
  25. Encore:
  1. She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy with Billy Currington
  2. Dixieland Delight – Alabama Cover with Zac Brown Band
  3. If You’re Gonna Play in Texas  – Alabama Cover with Zac Brown Band
  4. Knee Deep – with the Zac Brown Band
  5. Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven – with Zac Brown Band
  6. The Joker – Steve Miller Band cover with moreZac Brown Band and appearance on-stage by Nick Swisher of New York Yankees
  7. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley Cover with Zac Brown Band
  8. Caress Me Down – Sublime Cover with Zac Brown Band
  9. Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty Cover with Zac Brown Band
Zac Brown Band Setlist:
  1. As She’s Walking Away
  2. Toes
  3. It’s Not Okay
  4. Where the Boat Leaves From
  5. Crazy Love
  6. Islands in the Steam Cover
  7. Highway 20 Ride
  8. No Hurry
  9. Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels Cover
  10. Quiet Your Mind
  11. My Name is Money – with Sonia Leigh
  12. Colder Weather
  13. Keep Me In Mid
  14. Who Knows
  15. Whatever It Is
  16. Settle Me Down
  17. Whiskey’s Gone
  18. Free
  19. America The Beautiful Cover
  20. Chicken Fried
Billy Currington Setlist:
  1. Thats How Country Boys Roll
  2. I Want To Be A Hillybilly
  3. I Got A  Feeling
  4. Love Done Gone
  5. Pretty Good At Drinking Beer
  6. All Day Long
  7. Let Me Down Easy
  8. Don’t
  9. Family Tradition – Hank Williams Jr. Cover
  10. People Are Crazy
  11. Must Be Doing Something Right
  12. Good Directions
Uncle Kracker Setlist:
  1. Little While
  2. Drift Away
  3. Follow Me
  4. The Gambler – Kenny Rogers Cover
  5. Good To Be Me
  6. All Summer Long – Kid Rock Cover
  7. Smile

Videos:

1. Quiet Your Mind – Fiddle Solo – Zac Brown Band

2. Dixie Land Delight – Kenny Chesney with the Zac Brown Band

New York Yankees’ Nick Swisher Suprises The Meadowlands with Kenny Chesney

On Saturday, August 13, 2011, Kenny Chesney brough his Goin’ Coastal Tour to the New Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  Not only was there a record breaking crowd, but – to the crowd’s delight – New York Yankees’ outfielder, Nick Swisher, appeared on stage with Chesney, Zac Brown, and at one point, the New York Jets coach, Rex Ryan.  Swisher, pictured below, jumped on stage for a cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker”. 

My full review with pictures, setlists, and videos will be posted shortly.  For now enjoy the pictures of Nick Swisher on stage:

Luke Bryan Brings Country to the Big City

LUKE BRYAN
P.C. Richard & Son Theater, New York City

August 8, 2011

The original publication of this article was posted on:
 http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2011/08/lb-nyc.html

Please check out their amazing website. 


I arrived at the pristine P.C. Richard & Son Theater, located at 32 Avenue of the Americas in New York City’s Tribeca Neighborhood, about two hours before Showtime. To my surprise, there was already a huge single file line in front of the building and wrapped around the block. The fans, predominantly females of all ages, came equipped with a mixture of signs, boots, and cowboy hats. Everyone was happy to withstand the humidity as they were eager for their chance to get an up close and personal look at country music’s newest star, Luke Bryan.

           


At approximately 7:00 p.m., Jonathan Clarke of NYC’s Classic Rock Station, Q 104.3, took the stage.  He announced that everyone in the crowd should feel very lucky because the show was going to be a “live television event”.  In that, he meant it was going to be streaming live on iheartradio’s website as well as multiple country music radio station websites across the country.  There was even a twitter trend created for the show (#iheartradiolive) that he encouraged fans in the crowd to tweet during the show. 


Luke Bryan came out to the stage to a fury of screams from the crowd.  He stated “What’s up New York City and iHeartradio? We have a good looking crowd here. This is going to be a lot of fun.  If you were calling someone your baby and you’re not anymore, this song is for you.” He opened his show with a former #1 hit, “Someone Else Calling You Baby”.  In typical Luke Bryan fashion, he was smiling, dancing, and interacting with the crowd throughout the song. 


Luke next took the time to briefly tell the crowd that his new album “Tailgates & Tanlines” was being released at midnight that night and said he was going to do a few songs off the new album.  He proclaimed “this is last show that I will do without a new album out. The next song you have to get your ‘boom boom’ on.”  Of course, that got a rise out of the crowd and he proceeded to sing a new fan favorite “Drunk On You”.  The song is very catchy and is very chorus driven:




“girl you make my speakers go boom boom,
Dancing on the tailgate in the full moon
That kind of thing makes a man go mmm mmm,
You’re looking so good in what’s left of those blue jeans,
Drip of honey on the money make it got to be
The best buzz I’m ever going to find.
Hey I’m a little drunk on you
And high on summertime.”






Luke laughed after the song because the crowd seemingly knew every word to the song although it was yet to be released.  In fact, many of the fans had signs decorated with the phrases “boom boom” and “drunk on you”.  He said “a lot of you must be watching some youtube or something”. 




He then proceeded to introduce another song off of the new album entitled “I Don’t Want This Night To End”.  In fact, he stated that he expects this to become the next single released after “Country Girl hopefully goes number one”.  In my opinion, if he decides to release this song as a single, he will certainly have yet another number one single on his hands. 




The song is very new age country with a phenomenal instrumental sound combined with a fun storyline.  Musically, it is very similar to Kenny Chesney’s song “Somewhere With You” in that it is a very soulful sounding song which he switches his notes from mid-tempo to rapid-fire very smoothly.  The song is a story about a girl who he apparently just has met and how they are staying up all night driving and dancing in his pickup truck. 




I must mention that throughout the performance, the P.C. Richard & Son Theater really helped showcase Luke’s performance.  It is a small stage, but had the perfect amount of room for Luke to do his patented “Elvis-type” dance moves that he has become famous for.  Further, the intimate style of the venue had every fan from the front row to the back feel like they were getting a private performance.  The acoustics in the theater were flawless and I overheard many fans ranting and raving about how much they enjoyed their experience there. 




Luke, always the charmer, decreed to the crowd that he wanted to go “honkey-tonking on Broadway tonight.  This song will start it.  iHeartradio will have some frisky country girls.”  He obviously was alluding to his smash hit “Rain Is A Good Thing”.  The entire crowd was singing along as Luke sang and danced.  The energy of both the band and the crowd were at its peak and Luke immediately took his cue to up the ante once more.




The speakers began to play a hip-hop auto tune (robot voice) of “Country Girl Shake It For Me” and everyone knew what was next.  Luke and the band let the auto tune say its phrase a few times and then ripped right into their original country version.  Everyone in the New York City crowd was either clapping along with both hands above their head or fist-pumping ala the Jersey Shore cast.  Luke put his guitar down, grabbed the microphone, went to the front of the stage and partied along with the crowd to his new mega-hit. 




He closed the night out with what he called “a good old fashion cover song”.  To the crowd’s pleasant surprise he belted out a great rendition of Brooks & Dunn’s former platinum hit “Play Something Country”.  Again he had everyone singing and wailing their arms.  As the consonant performer that Luke Bryan is, he had everyone that night smiling and dancing along right back with him.  The only question was: did the crowd have more fun or did Luke himself?




Moreover, as an added bonus, Luke announced he would wait outside the door to give an autograph to every single person in the building.  Not only does his talent shine through his music and his energy flow through his performances, but he treats his fans with a respect that is unlike any other artist in any genre of music. 




I would like to thank countrymusicislove.com to for giving me the opportunity to attend such a private event, as well as iHeart Radio, Vanessa Wojtusiak, and Clear Channel Radio for their astounding hospitality.

The above pictures are courtesy of iHeartRadio / Mark Gong.





Setlist:
1) Someone Else Calling You Baby
2) Drunk On you
3) I Don’t Want This Night To End
4) Rain Is A Good Thing
5) Country Girl (Shake It For Me)
6) Play Something Country (Brooks & Dunn Cover)



Eric Church – CD Release Party in NYC: “Chief: Deconstructed”

ERIC CHURCH
Cheif: Deconstructed
Album Release Party
Bowery Ballroom, New York City
July 26, 2011

I had the pleasure of attending the cd release party of country music star: Eric Church.  The event was dubbed “Chief: Deconstructed” and was held at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on July 26, 2011.  This was the same day that his third studio album was released entitled “Chief”.  A bonus for the sold out crowd was that each ticket-holder received a hard copy of the album. 

Fans who are familiar with Eric Church’s live shows all know that they are full of adrenaline with chest pounding and boot stomping.  This night would be very different.  Upon arriving to the intimate venue, the stage had no drum set and no amplifiers; instead, it only had five stools.  The title of the show was “Chief: Deconstructed”, so no one had any idea what to expect.

It was very clear once Eric and four other men took to the stage and sat down, each with an acoustic guitar in hand.  This would not be the energetic and often hyper Eric Church show, instead it would soon become an intimate look inside Eric Church “the song writer”.  The other four men were Ryan Tyndell, Jeff Hyde, Luke Laird, and Casey Beathard.  Each of these men not only helped sing the eleven tracks of the new release, but were also Eric’s co-writers for the album. 

The show did not follow the exact tracklisting of the album.  However, each song off of “Chief” was played.  Eric started with Ryan Tyndell as they sang “Keep On” and followed it up by singing the ultra-country “Jack Daniels” with Jeff Hyde.  Jeff is not only a co-writer, but also is in Eric’s band.  The crowd already knew the words to this song as they sang along during the chorus.  Eric has been playing this song during some of his shows over the past year. 

In fact, Eric sang each of the songs as a duet with the co-writer who helped him write each of the songs.  The only songs he did by himself included the third song of the night, “Creepin'”, and the last, “Country Music Jesus”.  “Creepin'” has the potential to be a big radio hit for Eric as it is fast paced and rocks pretty hard. 

Luke Laird next sang “Over When Its Over” which is a nice song with a catchy hook.  Then Eric introduced Casey Beathard as “my favorite songwriter in Nashville”.  In fact, the song Casey sang next, “Like Jesus Does” is the first song Eric has ever recorded that he did not write or co-write.  Casey obviously explained that it was quite the honor for that achievement.  The crowd began to mysteriously chant “one more year”.  Eric caught on and quickly said “oh, is it because he looks like Brett Favre?”.  The crowd applauded and Eric laughed hysterically. 

“Like Jesus Does” is one of the standouts on the cd.  It is so radio friendly it is unbelievable.  I personally hope he releases it as a single at some point because I think it would shoot straight to number one. 

Eric next stated “we’ve played every place in America.  I’ve slept in every enviroment you can think of.  I am passionate of my music and right now we are the number one album in America.  It means so much to me and it is because of you guys I have this passion and we can do this.”  It was a great prelude to his next song “Springsteen”.  It is also a catchy tune that happens to be one of my favorites on the new album.  It includes Bruce Springsteen song titles cleverly placed throughout the track.  As always, you could heard different people in the crowd shout “Bruuuuuuuuuce”. 

Next Jeff Hyde sang “I’m Getting Stoned” which is a funny song about a man who found out his ex-girlfriend got married to someone else and he realizes he messed up.  The chorus is “she got a rock and I’m getting stoned”. 

Then Eric stated that the next song, “Hungover & Hard Up”, was his favorite on the new album.  It is a slower song about a man going through some struggles, all the while fighting off a hangover.  If this song isn’t pure country, I don’t know what is. 

Casey Beathard set up the background for the next song that was sung, “Homeboy”, which happens to be Eric’s new single on country radio.  Casey said he got the idea because his son was listening to some bad music on the radio and acting all tough so he said “what’s up homeboy?”  He then had that stuck in his mind and called up Eric to write the song.  He knew Eric was “the only person who could record the song”.  Eric and Casey let the crowd do most of the singing as everyone in the Bowery Ballroom that night seemingly knew the lyrics word for word.

Eric then spotted a sign in the crowd in which a young man was holding up that said “On My Bucket List: Take Shot with Eric Church”.  Eric actually brought the young man on stage, poured two shots of Jack Daniels and took it with him.  It set up the next song perfectly, “Drink In My Hand”.  It is a fun, easy-going song that I am sure will be heard at country music tailgate parties throughout America this summer. 

Finally, the last song of the night was “Country Music Jesus”.  Eric seemed to struggle with the lyrics and only sang half of the song, but maintained himself well.  For true fans of Eric Church, this night was quite special.  You did not get the energy of his normal rowdy live shows, nor the smoke and amplifiers.  Instead, you got a look inside the real song writer that he is – and got to hear the new tracks and the stories behind why they were written. 

As I listened to the studio album on my ride back home that night, it was amazing how different the songs sounded from the acousitc set.  Each of the songs were lyrically dynamic enough to sustain an enjoyable acoustic set, yet when the production and instruments were set to the songs, the music sounded that much better.  Overall, the album is phenomenal and I would highly recommend country music fans to purchase it.  And I will have a greater understanding and connection to the album after seeing the stripped down set that night at the Bowery Ballroom. 

Setlist:

1. Keep On
2. Jack Daniels
3. Creepin’
4. Over When It’s Over
5. Like Jesus Does
6. Springsteeen
7. I’m Getting Stoned
8. Hungover & Hard Up
9. Homeboy
10. Drink In My Hand
11. Country Music Jesus

Video Clips:

1) Jack Daniels
2) Creepin’

Jay-Z and Rihanna: Full of Surprises in New Jersey

Rihanna
LOUD Tour
Izod Center
East Rutherford, New Jersey

The Loud Tour was turned up a few levels from its usual decible meter at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey on July 21st, 2011.  This wasn’t because Rihanna had another eye-dropping wardrobe change or because she ran through the aisles of the crowd for the third time that night. No,t his was a much bigger “Concert Event” moment. 

During the few minutes after the last song of her set “Take a Bow”, fans observed a cop car pull up to the right side of stage in the backstage area.  The most observent fans, one of which happened to be my wife, could also hear a faint microphone check.  It was a male’s voice who simply made the noise “uh-huh uh-huh”.  I did not believe her when she said she heard that as I did not want to set my hopes up.  Of course, she was eluding to the fact that she thought Jay-Z was doing a mic check.  Much to my suprise, she was indeed correct. 

Rihanna came out of her encore to large flames on the giant screens behind her.  She sang only the chorus to her song with Eminem “Love the Way You Lie”.  She walked a few feet forward, stopped, and froze.  All of a sudden, a figure arose from a circular platform underneath the stage.  The man stood still, facing down, and was wearing a Yankees hat pulled down low over his eyes.  But everyone in the building knew exactly who it was and the place erupted. 

Jay-Z is arguably the greatest rapper of all time.  I certainly make the argument that he is.  No one has had more longevity in the Hip-Hop/Rap Genre.  He came out with his first cd back in 1995 has sold approximately 50 million records worldwide, and has eleven #1 records (the most of any artist, in any genre, all time).  After arising from the stage and standing still looking down for approximately ten seconds, you could feel that everyone in the IZOD Center that night felt the same appreciation for him, that I have.  The applause and screams were deafening.  He and Rihanna then put their hands in the air and made the diamond symbol that fans know as the “Roc” symbol.  The crowd responded in doing the same. 

Jay-Z and Rihanna then performed their mega-hit “Run This Town” together.  Rihanna looked to be as big of a fan of Jay-Z’s as everyone else in the building as she was all smiles while running around in admiration of her mentor.   Jay-Z’s smooth rapping style and vintage moves were in full effect as they executed the song flawlessly. 

Of course, everyone knew that this appearance would not be limited to one song.  After all, Rihanna’s first hit “Umbrella” was another song featuring Jay-Z.  They broke right into that song after “Run This Town” and everyone sang along with their camera’s flashing and their hands in the symbols of diamonds.  Jay-Z quickly exited upon finishing his verse and left Rihanna on stage alone to finish out her song. 

Rihanna’s performance pre-Jay-Z was a mixed bag for me.  The good: she had a lot of energy, a multitude of extravagant costume changes,  and high level production.  The bad: she seemed to be lip singing at times and I was confused by the background dancers in various songs (including men dressed as robots who destroyed a car on stage at one point).  

Overall, it was an entertaining and fun show.  She did not have much interaction with the crowd between songs other than statements such as “What’s up Jersey”, which she said over and over again, and also “Get Your F****ing Hands Up”, which was not necessary since there were so many children in the crowd.  She was at her best on her more sensitive and slower songs, when she was dressed in a very impressive yellow gown. 

She also ran through the crowd a few times which gave the fans quite the treat.  She even stopped at the back end of the floor opposite the stage to bang on a drum at one point.  It was a bit cheesy, but no one seemed to mind.  For me, that seemed to be the theme of the night (until Jay-Z showed up), it was colorful, fun, and sort of cheesy, yet everyone was having a good time.

But in the end, as much as Rihanna put forth her best efforts, Jay-Z upstaged her.  I do not think she minded at all as she owes a lot of her career to him.  In the end, it was a great surprise and left everyone in the building more than satisfied.  Uh-huh, uh-huh.

 

Rihanna Setlist:

1. Only Girl In the World
2. Disturbia
3. Shut Up and Drive
4. Man Down
5. Darling Nikki
6. S&M
7. Let Me
8. Skin
9. Raining Men
10. Hard
11. Breaking Dishes
12. Live Your Life
13. Unfaithful
14. California King Bed
15. Pon de Replay
16. What’s My Name
17. Rude Boy
18. Cheers
19. Don’t Stop The Music
20. Take A Bow

Encore:
21. Love The Way You Lie (chorus only)
22. Run This Town with special guest: Jay-Z
23. Umbrella with special guest: Jay-Z

Tim McGraw and Luke Bryan Shine Bright at Mohegan Sun

TIM McGRAW
Emotional Traffic Tour
with Luke Bryan and The Band Perry
Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut
7-24-11

If you are a fan of any genre of music, you have heard of Tim McGraw.  He has countless #1 singles, was the most played artist of the decade, and even did a crossover song with Hip-Hop Star Nelly which was accepted by all radio stations.   He is in movies, commercials, and even has his own cologne.  But for all of those achievements, the thing he does best is perform live. 

On July 23rd, 2011, Tim McGraw brought his Emotional Traffic Tour to Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.  The Tour is named after an upcoming album that he is currently in a legal dispute over with his record label.  The supporting acts on this Tour are The Band Perry and a rising star, Luke Bryan.

I was not able to see The Band Perry perform because I was awarded a meet and greet with Luke Bryan.  I have met Luke many times over the course of his career.  The first time was when he was doing a free acoustic set at a Longhorn Steakhouse in Atlantic City, NJ back in January of 2008.  He has come quite a long way from free sets at restaurants.  He now has three number 1 singles on the Billboard Country Charts.   He is on his way to a fourth number 1 with “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” which is currently number eight and rising each week. 

As always, Luke was incredibly nice and humble.  He takes the time to take a picture and  give an autograph with each meet and greet pass-holder.  Since I have met him seven times now over the past two and a half years, he recognizes me.   We spoke a bit about his upcoming headling tour which is the “CMT on Tour 2011”.  He said they will be making a stop in New York City which should excite most country fans in that area.

During his set, he utilized the catwalk to perfection.  Usually opening acts are hesitant to use the catwalk at all and stick to the main stage.  However, Luke is not the ordinary opening act.  He came out to “Country Man” and immediately ran all the way down the catwalk which stretched out from the stage all the way to the back of the floor section.  He had everyone in the Arena up and dancing the entire time.  He ran through hits like “Rain Is A Good Thing”, “Do I”, “We Rode In Trucks” and “Someone Else Calling You Baby”.  A highlight was the macho song “Drinking Beer and Wasting Bullets”.  Of course, his newest single (“Country Girl, Shake it For Me”) had everyone shaking and singing along to every word.  He ended the set, as he does with every one of his shows, with a remix of his first single “All My Friends” and Metalica’s “Enter The Sandman”.  Overall, Luke Bryan’s set was one of the best opening acts I have ever seen and had every bit of energy that a headliner would have. 

Tim McGraw would not be outshined this night.  When it was time for his set a giant screen was unvieled and the spotlight quickly shined on the other side of the Arena.  To everyone’s surprise, McGraw appeared walking down the aisle from that opposite side while singing one of his biggest hits, “Something Like That”. 

Tim utilized the catwalk more than any headliner I have every seen.  He wasn’t running around like a Kenny Chesney, but had a slow powerful walk that had every woman in the building scream and every guy admire his “swagger”.  He sang all of his hits from “Where the Green Grass Grows” to “Last Dollar” to “The Cowboy In Me”.  He even threw in some fan favorites like “Do You Want Fries With That” and “Red Ragtop”.  Whatever he decided to sing next was met with cheers, screams, and applause. 

I have seen Tim McGraw five times now and this was not only the best, but it appeared to be the most fun he ever had.  He seemed to give every single person along the catwalk, including myself, a high five.  He was constantly smiling, which is unique for the usually serious McGraw.  It was good to see him like that since I know he is going through that heated legal battle with his Record Company. 

He even surprised the crowd by bringing out The Band Perry for “Can’t Really Be Gone” and Luke Bryan for “Back When”.  Luke and Tim seemed like young teenagers having the time of their lives, singing, laughing and even hugging at points. 

Tim closed out his set with “Real Good Man”.  His encore consisted of  “Live Like You Were Dying”, “Indian Outlaw” and “I Like It, I Love It”.  Full of energy and bravado, Tim McGraw put forth a memorable performance that shows why he is still certainly one of the Kings of Country Music. 

Luke Bryan’s Setlist:

1. Country Man
2. Someone Else Calling You Baby
3. Drinking Beer and Wasting Bullets
4. If You Ain’t Here To Party
5. Drunk On You
6. We Rode In Trucks
7. Do I
8. Rain Is A Good Thing
9. Country Girl (Shake It For Me)
10. All My Friends (with “Enter The Sandman”)

Tim McGraw’s Setlist:
1. Something Like That
2. Where The Green Grass Grows
3. Down On The Farm
4. Last Dollar
5. Just To See You Smile
6. Please Remember Me
7. For A Little While
8. Right Back At Ya
9. Red Ragtop
10. Unbroken
11. Sail On
12. Can’t Really Be Gone (with The Band Perry)
13. Back When (with Luke Bryan)
14. Do You Want Fries With That
15. The Cowboy In Me
16. Southern Voice
17. Felt Good On My Lips
18. Real Good Man

Encore:

19. Live Like You Were Dying
20. Indian Outlaw
21. I Like It, I Love It

U2’s 360 Tour Blasts Off in New Jersey

U2
360 Tour
7-20-2011
New Meadowlands Stadium
East Rutherford, New Jersey

There are a great deal of U2 fans on Planet Earth. After all, they are one of the few bands who can go on a World Stadium tour and pretty much sell out every ticket for every show. But for the multitudes of people who support U2, there seem to be just as many U2 haters. Whatever it is, I do not understand why there is all the hate. Sure Bono can get a bit preachy, so what some of their music has hidden political messages, yeah the Spiderman musical was an abomination, and okay The Edge wears a wool hat in 100 degree heat. Put those minor details away and they are still a band who puts out fantastic music and can entertain thousands on end in ways other bands could only dream of. 

I saw this tour approximately two years ago at the “old” Giants Stadium. That was also the 360 Tour and I learned something that night, sitting farther back and higher up was actually the best seat in the house. All of the other shows I go to, I do my best to get the closest and best seats in the house. For this concert, I selected my seat very carefully – upper deck, middle of the section, straight on view of the stage – this allowed me to see everything. A U2 360 Tour experience is not only a concert, but it is a spectacle that one can only exeprience to understand.

I unforunately missed the opening act, Interpol, as the traffic along the New Jersey Turnpike is always absurd. But concert-goers that night all had the same reaction upon walking into their sections: a collective “wow”. A giant “claw” draped most of the field making it a stage the likes no one has ever seen. Digital Cameras and Smartphones were clicking away way before Bono even stepped foot on the field. Lines of people waited their turn to take a picture in the aisle with the “claw” behind them. It truly is a sight to behold.

After a bit of a wait, the Stadium lights darkened and the claw started flashing. You could hear David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” song being played and you knew the claw was about to transform into a spaceship. The four members of U2 appeared on the big screen as they walked out of the backstage entrance with Bono taking up the rear. They ripped into an older song “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and the concert was off and running.
I would be lying if I said the whole concert ran smoothy and perfect. In fact, I sat there scratching my head during the band’s first five songs. Not because the songs were more of the lesser known hits, except “Mysterious Ways”, but because the acoustics in the Stadium were downright awful. The instruments’ volume were turned up way too loud and Bono’s signature voice was hardly audible. The crowd knew every word to “Mysterious Ways” which helped, but the other four songs were hard to listen to. Someone at the New Meadowlands Stadium must have also had my same opinion as things changed for “Get On Your Boots”. All of sudden everything was in sync and Bono’s voice matched up with The Edge’s guitar. For the rest of the evening, the inital disapointment was a distant memory.
Bono is the ultimate front man. Energetic, preachy, excitable, and strong. He took over the that enormous stage with the grace of seasoned veteran. There were moments, such as during the fourth song “Until The End of the World” that Bono led his bandmates The Edge and Adam Clayton as they all walked around the circular stage. During other songs only Bono and The Edge stood at the forefront as the lights swarmed the Stadium and the two “legends” were shown on the big screen. Bono also stood on moving bridges that connected the main stage to the circular catwalk. He was in constant motion, which played perfectly into the hands of the real star of the show: the claw.

Again, U2 haters are all the same. They hate the preachiness of Bono, despite his preaching is all about helping the people who are less fortunate. Another big knock is that U2 needs to use gimmicks such as the claw. For all those haters out there, I challenge you to come to a U2 Stadium tour and witness the claw, then tell me it is a silly gimmick. It is a incredible beast. Equipped with giant screens that can morph at any minute into different shapes and sizes. It has ever changing lights that really make you think that the stage is a spaceship and it was going to levitate off of the New York Giants’ field. At times, the “Clawed Spaceship” went from green to orange to blue to red in a matter of seconds. It is truly amazing.

U2 was best on their biggest hits such as “Beautiful Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. But the one song that really stood out to me was “Magnificent”. Bono’s vocals were at its peak on this song and the stage changed colors rapidly with the fast moving lyrics. That particular song along with the vocals, The Edge’s helicopter style of guitar strumming and the illuminated claw were just that, Magnificent.

I had heard rumors swirling all week about the possible guest appearances by Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen, both of which are some of my personal favorites. Jay-Z toured with U2 as an opening act in Australia and they have a remix of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” which gets steady play on my ipod. Bruce is a long time friend of Bono and a native to the swamp lands of New Jersey. In fact, the Jersey crowd showed U2 that Bruce really is the King of NJ as at least four times during the night you could hear chants of “Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce”. Bono even sang a snippet of the E Street Band’s song “The Promised Land” and took a sign from the crowd which paid respect to the late member of the band, Clarence Clemons. But alas, no Bruce, no Jay-Z.

In the end everyone walked away happy and amazed by the stage. The encore was a bit slow and long and most of the crowd bowed out with two or three songs left. I stayed to the end, until the spaceship landed, fully appreciative of U2’s music and eagerness to give their fans more than just a show.

Setlist:
1) Even Better Than The Real Thing
2) The Fly
3) Mysterious Ways
4) Until The End of The World
5) I Will Follow
6) Get On Your Boots
7) Magnificent
8) I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
9) The Promised Land (Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band cover)
10) Stay
11) Beautiful Day
12) Elevation
13) Pride
14) Miss Sarajevo
15) Zooropa
16) City of Blinding Lights
17) Vertigo
18) I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (Remix)
19) Sunday Bloody Sunday
20) Scarlet
21) Walk On
Encore:
22) One
23) Where The Streets Have No Name
Encore 2:
24) Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
25) With or Without You
26) Moment of Surrender
27) Out of Control

Paul McCartney @ Yankee Stadium (7/15/11)

PAUL McCARTNEY
“ON THE RUN TOUR”
YANKEE STADIUM
BRONX, NEW YORK
JULY 15, 2011

Approximately one month ago, I caught wind that 1/4th of the Beatles was going to be going back on tour in the United States.  Any music fan appreciates not only music created by the Beatles, but also how they changed the very fabric of the music business.  Paul McCartney has always been my favorite of the Beatles.  The New York Yankees are my favorite sports team.  So when I heard Sir Paul was going to be performing on the home turf of the Yankees, there was no way I was missing out. 

I ended up trying for the best tickets I could through the pre-sale.  I was pleased with Section 109.  Myself and two of my friends took a train directly from Connecticut to Yankee Stadium.  That is how big this concert was, Metro-North actually had a “special” rail called the Yankee Clipper that was running both Friday and Saturday straight from Connecticut to Yankee Stadium without having to change trains or take a subway.

It was still light out when Sir Paul McCartney walked on stage.  He had a guitar in hand, with black pants on, a white button down, and a shiny blue blazer.  He wasted no time as he and his band ripped right into a Beatles favorite “Hello Goodbye”. 

I have seen a lot of legends in concert such as Bob Dylan, Elton John, and Leon Russell.  However, a lot of those artists have lost a step or two in their vocals.  This was not the case with Paul.  He sounded strong, clear, and as if he has never slowed down.  He took the fans in Yankee Stadium that glorious Friday night on a journey through Beatles hits while sprikling in songs from his stint as the lead singer of Wings as well. 

One moment that had the entire stadium laughing and cheering at the same time was when he stated to the crowd: “Who is this Derek Jeter guy?  I hear he has more hits than me!”  You could faintly hear the Yankee Stadium patented “Der-ek Je-ter” chants , but this night was all about McCartney.  You could tell he was having a good time as well.  At one point he shouted “I have never done this song live – ever!”  He then sang The Beatles song “The Night Before”.  This was very indicative of this special night.  No matter what song he sang, whether it be a legendary Beatles classic, a well-known Wings single, or an obscure B-side Beatles song, the crowd knew the lyrics and sang along.

He really sounded strong on “Paperback Writer”, “Eleanor Rigby”, and “Back in the U.S.S.R.”.  Thinking back on the concert, those were definitely some of the strongest vocal highlights.  Of course the massive hits such as “Hey Jude”, “Let It Be”, and “Maybe I’m Amazed” created sing-a-longs that had fans from the age 10 to 80 feel like they were singing with their best friends while sitting around a camp fire. 

However, the most memorable moment for me, from the entire three hour show, was when he sang the Wings song from the James Bond Soundtrack: “Live or Let Die”.  An eruption of fireworks and explosions blasted forth from behind the stage as well as the opposite side of the Stadium.  It was quite an amazing sight to behold.  Of course, Sir Paul did not waiver in his performance of the song.  He kept even keel and each word was perfectly audible; all despite the freakish display that reminded most of the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular. 

The three song encore turned into a second, five song encore.  It was, simply stated, a special night equipped with close to forty songs by one of the most recognizable figures in music history.   Not maybe, I was Amazed. 

Setlist:

1) Hello Goodbye
2) Junior’s Farm
3) All My Loving
4) Jet
5) Drive My Car
6) Sing The Changes
7) The Night Before
8) Let Me Roll It
9) Paperback Writer
10) The Long and Winding Road
11) Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five
12) Let ‘Em In
13) Maybe I’m Amazed
14) I’ve Just Seen a Face
15) I Will
16) Blackbird
17) Here Today
18) Dance Tonight
19) Mrs. Vandebilt
20) Eleanor Rigby
21) Something
22) Band On The Run
23) Ob La Di, Ob La Da
24) Back In The U.S.S.R.
25) I’ve Got A Feeling
26) A Day In The Life
27) Give Peace A Chance
28) Let It Be
29) Live and Let Die
30) Hey Jude

(Encore)

31) Lady Madonna
32) Day Tripper
33) Get Back

(Encore 2)

34) Yesterday
35) Helter Skelter
36) Golden Slumbers
37) Golden Slumbers
38) Carry That Weight
39) The End

Kid Rock at the Comcast Theatre, Hartford, Connecticut (7/7/11)

I attended Kid Rock’s Born Free Tour this past Thursday (7/7/11) at the Comcast Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut.  I am not ashamed to admit that I am a fan of Kid Rock.  I have always been amazed how he has been able to stay relevant in the country, hip-hop, and rock communities throughout his career.  He is respected by the likes of legends like Rev Run of Run DMC, Hank Williams Jr., Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Willie Nelson.  Since I am a fan of all genres of music, going to a Kid Rock show is what I would call a mish-mash celebration of music. 

In typical Kid Rock fashion, he amplified his performance in Hartford with pyrotechnics, background dancers, lights, large screens, American Flags, a gold bald eagle, and at times, fire blasts that would make Super Mario proud. 

Highlights of the show were his hilarious folk-country songs: “Lowlife” and “Forty”.  Both are songs in which Kid Rock does something different than most of his other songs, he makes fun of himself.  His multi-platinum hits like “Cowboy”, “Cocky”, “Never Met A * Like Me”, and “American Bad A$$” all shout lyrics of ultra confidence personified, so it works very well when he switches it up and pokes fun at himself. 

Another highlight was when Kid Rock performed an instrumental jam session by himself! He played everything from the electric guitar, to drums, the bass, and even scratched on the dj turntables. It truly showcased how the man who is “straight from the trailor” is actually mutli-talented. 

At one point he brought out Sheryl Crow (who was also the opening act).  They combined voices for a cover of the song “Love The One You’re With” and they sat down in two stools and sang their classic hit “Picture”.  However, for some unexplainable reason, Sheryl left the stage and they did not sing their brand new single “Collide”.  I was looking forward to hearing them sing the new single especially since they sang it together a few weeks ago at the CMT Awards and it is the current single released to radio.  Once she was announced as the opening support for the Born Free tour, I thought it was a slam dunk that they would perform “Picture” and “Collide” together.  Why they chose to avoid “Collide” and do a cover of an older song was quite confusing and very dissapointing. 

Of course, the set ended with Kid Rock’s most famous song “Bawitdaba”.  He performed the legendary song with no shirt and an array of pyrotechnics that would make Kiss proud.  The lights went black for a few minutes and he came back out to three of Kid Rock’s best and most unique songs:  “All Summer Long” fit the 90 degree July day perfectly as he used every inch of the stage and had the entire amplitheatre singing along.  Kid then showcased more of his music skills as he sat down to a piano and sang the emotional “Only God Knows Why” song.  He closed with a Patriotic Anthem that would make Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, and James Brown fist pump “Jersey Shore” style. “Born Free” had the entire crowd rocking and bleeding patriotism.  Equipped with American Flags and more pyrotechnics, Kid Rock finished off another energetic evening that truly took music fans through a music celebration of all genres. 

Setlist:
1.      American Bad A$$
2.      God Bless Saturday
3.      You Never Met A * Quite Like Me
4.      Lowlife
5.      Keep Your Hands to Yourself
6.      Cocky
7.      Slow My Roll
8.      Midnight Rider
9.      Cowboy
10.  Care
11.  Somebody’s Gotta Feel This
12.  Fist Of Rage
13.  I Am the Bulldog
14.  Sugar
15.  Flyin’ High
16.  Forty
17.  Love The One You’re With (with Sheryl Crow)
18.  Picture (with Sheryl Crow)
19.  Instrumental Jam Session
20.  So Hott
21.  Bawitdaba

Encore:
22.  All Summer Long
23.  Only God Knows Why (on piano)
24.  Born Free

The night I was part of the Dierks Bentley Concert (March 2011, Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut)

as featured in the following articles:

http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2011/03/fan-story-ryan-amy-dierks-bentley.html

http://dbcongress.blogspot.com/2011/03/married-couple-to-be-come-lot-closer-to.html

Here is an account of a show I went to in March of 2011.  It was the opening night of the Jagermiester Country Tour.  The headliner was Dierks Bentley.  It was probably the most memorable concert experience I have had yet:

I arrived to the venue (Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, Connecticut) to get my tickets from Will Call and found out I had Row A, Center. On top of that we had a meet and greet with Josh Thompson, one of the 3 opening acts. We spoke to Josh for awhile and he seemed very humble and we were impressed by his live show. He has a great future ahead of him.

When it was time for the headliner to hit the stage, the crowd was full of energy. Not only was it the Jagermiester Country Tour, but it was also St. Patrick’s Day and the crowd was fired up. Dierks came out in a cloud of smoke and cranked out hit after hit, starting with “Feel That Fire” and “Free & Easy”. He played some new songs that were fantastic as well, highlighted by a new party song called “Am I The Only One”. One of the highlights of the show was when he and his band took the crowd through an acoustic set of songs that have influenced them as artists (including Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight”, Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”, and U2′s “Pride”, among others).


After the acoustic set, Dierks asked the crowd “is anyone out here getting married?” Since my wife and I were sitting in the first row and we were not getting married until the following month at the time, she raised her hand and Dierks spotted us. He handed me his microphone stand and invited us up to the stage. He proceeded to ask me what date we were getting married on, looked on her ring, made a bunch of jokes with us and sang a new song to us called “Diamonds Make Babies”. It was a hilarious song which warns men about proposing to their girlfriends because if you give her a diamond, expect the kids to follow and your life to completely change. The song was hysterical, he even let me sing part of the chorus. It was an abosolutely amazing moment.

The last song of his set (before the encore) was “Come A Little Closer” and he approached me again. At this point, Dierks said into the microphone “I’m taking your girl up here, okay?” I said sure and he pulled her up on stage. At this point he started singing the song to her and making hilarious comments about me and her. He then gave her the microphone to hold to the crowd and the entire arena started singing the song back to her. He went from side to side of the stage doing this with her until he suddenly ran away leaving her on stage by herself holding the microphone to the crowd. She didn’t realize for a few seconds and when she turned around to give him the microphone back, she freaked out! She ran right over to me and gave me the microphone and I sang the chorus back to her. The crowd went crazy and everyone was laughing and cheering. He then came back out to save her and signaled for me to follow them on stage – I jumped up and followed them backstage and the three of us took a picture together.

Dierks not only gave us an unforgettable night, but backstage he actually thanked us! He said “thank you guys for making that so much fun for me”. I responded by saying “No way – Thank you. That was an amazing experience”. He then went back out for the encore and finished off with “Sideways” and “What Was I Thinking”.

For anyone who has not seen a Dierks Bentley show, I highly recommend it. The concert was high energy, with a wide range of his greatest hits, new songs, and covers of classic songs from multiple genres. I cannot thank Dierks enough for the experience he gave us.   It was once in a lifetime and we are grateful for how amazing he is to his fans.

www.countrymusicislove.com

Everyone should check out a phenomenal website entitled: www.countrymusicislove.com

They give up to the minute breaking news on the world of country music.  You can also follow them on twitter: @cmilove

I have had the opportunity to write a few articles as a guest writer for this amazing website.  Check them out below:

Toby Keith: New York City (August 20, 2010) :
http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2010/08/review-toby-keith-at-p-c-richard-sons-theatre-in-nyc.html

Toby Keith’s new album: track by track (October 6, 2010):
http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2010/10/track-by-track-review-toby-keiths-bullets-in-the-gun.html

Darius Rucker: New York City (October 12, 2010):
http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2010/10/review-darius-rucker-secret-show-at-p-c-richard-son-theater.html

Rascal Flatts: New York City (November 20, 2010):
http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2010/11/review-rascal-flatts-secret-show-at-nycs-p-c-richard-son-theater.html

Your Concert Review Headquaters

What’s going on everybody,

Bear with me as I start my first blog.  I am new to the blogging lifestyle, but I am a seasoned concert-goer.  I have been to well over 150 concerts in my life and enjoy live music more than any one I know. 

I have always been into taking pictures of the shows I have been at so I have created this blog to not only give a review of some of the shows I see, but also to list the artist’s setlist and some pictures of the event.

Stay tuned because in the next week alone I will be reporting back on the Paul McCartney show in Yankee Stadium, U2 at the New Meadowlands Stadium, as well as Rihanna, and Tim McGraw.