Legendary Musicians Show Their Love For Levon Helm in New Jersey

Love For Levon
October 3, 2012
Izod Center, NJ

Last night, where most of the world was watching the Presidential Debates or the last night of the Major League Baseball Season, a large group of legendary musicians celebrated the life and music of their friend, the late, great Levon Helm.  With a fairly simple stage setup, filled to the brim with drums, guitars, fiddles, saxophones, trumpets, and more, the show kicked off with a Q104.3 radio announcer, Ken Dashow, speaking about his first encounter with Levon.  The first two songs belonged to members of the Allman Brothers Band, first Warren Hayes and then along with Gregg Allman. 

The first half of the show was dominated by the Midnight Ramble Band, who would play weekly shows for fans with Levon at his home in Woodstock, New York.  It was very enjoyable to see each of the different artists come out and share short stories about Levon and sing one of his many songs.  Things kicked into high gear when Jakob Dylan, son of Bob Dylan and the lead singer of the Wallflowers sang a rocking cover of “Ain’t Got No Home”.  John Hiatt and Mike Gordon sang the famous “Rag Mama Rag” and the show took a short intermission.

The second half of the show was full of big names and great songs.  Grace Potter sang a soulful rendition of “I Shall Be Released” as she sat at a piano.  It was refreshing to see her step outside of her hard rock ways with her band the Nocturnals.  John Mayer came out for one of his two songs after that with Ray LaMontagne for “Tears of Rage”.  John stuck to what he does best, playing an amazing electric guitar.  He did not sign at all, but wow’d the crowd with his intrumental skills.

Next up was a real highlight to me as a die hard country music fan.  Dierks Bentley and Eric Church took over the next twenty minutes with amazing tributes to Levon.  Dierks sang two famous The Band songs and started off with the melodious “Rocking Chair”.  He performed it in true Dierks fashion with a clear profound country-folk sound that certainly would have made Levon proud. 

Surprisingly to me, he followed it up with the famous song “Chest Fever” and brought out legendary band mates of Levon’s, Jon Randall, Jessi Alexander, and the amazing Garth Hudson.  The cover became a jam out, just as the original The Band version and Dierks again nailed the vocals.  The crowd was on their feet during the entire song and really seemed to show their respect for Dierks’ performance.

Up next was country music’s newest superstar, Eric Church.  Eric came out with his usual aviator sunglasses, but his performance was very scaled down in comparison to his live shows.  He was very focused on giving an intimate performance as he sang two lesser known Levon Helm songs, “A Train Robbery” and “Get Up Jake”.  Both songs are very lyrics driven as they build a story as it goes along. 

Eric commented between songs that “In a world where there is a lot of bought fame, Levon was always about the music. I learned to march to a different drummer from Helm.”  And then he let loose Eric Church-style on “Get Up Jake” as he pounded his chest a few times and displayed his normal live actions.  The crowd gave him an overwhelming standing ovation when he finished that lasted a bit longer than any of the other artists that performed before him. 

Joe Walsh of the Eagles followed with a duet with Robert Randolph.  Joe Walsh was easily the most animated of all the performers that night as he let completely loose and used every inch of the stage.  He performed a thunderous version of “Up On Cripple Creek”.

My Morning Jacket took over the stage for a few songs.  I honestly had never heard their music before and really did not know much about them, other than them being in an American Dad episode.  However, they really showcased some incredible musical talent.  The songs they performed became true jam-outs.  And when they were joined by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd for the classic song “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” the entire Arena became a full on sing-a-long.  That song became the true highlight of the night for all. 

Roger Waters told a story about a red Arkansas hat that Levon had given him.  Roger actually brought the hat with him on stage and said it has become his fishing hat and will be one of his prized possessions until the day he dies.  Roger sang a beautiful rendition of “Wide River to Cross” and then invited the entire ensemble on stage.

 At that point, all the musicians from the night stood together with three microphones and sang the classic The Band song: “The Weight”. 

Roger took over one microphone, Lucinda Williams another, and Dierks Bentley and Eric Church shared the third microphone.  It was a touching way to end a great tribute to amazing legend.  Levon surely must have been looking down and thanking all in attendance for keeping it going. 


SETLIST:
1. “The Shape I’m In” – Warren Haynes
2. “Long Black Veil” – Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes
3. “Trouble in Mind” – Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff
4. “This Wheel’s on Fire”- the Midnight Ramble Band with Larry Campbell on vocals
5. “Little Birds”- the Midnight Ramble Band with Amy Helm and Teresa Williams on vocals
6. “Listening to Levon” – Marc Cohn
7. “Move Along Train” – Mavis Staples
8. “Life is a Carnival” – Allen Toussaint and Jaimoe
9. “When I Paint My Masterpiece” – John Prine with Garth Hudson
10. “Anna Lee” – Bruce Hornsby
11. “Ain’t Got No Home” – Jakob Dylan and Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers
12. “Whispering Pines” – Lucinda Williams
13. “Rag Mama Rag” – John Hiatt, Mike Gordon
14. “Baby Don’t You Do It” –  David Bromberg and Joan Osborne
15. “I Shall Be Released”-  Grace Potter
16. “Tears of Rage” – Ray LaMontagne with John Mayer
17. “Rockin’ Chair” – Dierks Bentley
18. “Chest Fever” – Dierks Bentley, Jon Randall, Jessi Alexander, and Garth Hudson
19. “A Train Robbery” – Eric Church
20. “Get Up Jake” – Eric Church
21. “Tennessee Jed” – Larry Campbell with John Mayer
22. “Up on Cripple Creek” – Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph
23. “Ophelia” –  My Morning Jacket
24. “It Makes No Difference” – My Morning Jacket
25. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – Roger Waters with My Morning Jacket
26. “Wide River to Cross” – Roger Waters and Amy Helm
27. “The Weight” – Entire Ensemble

 
Video of the Ensemble Cast performing “The Weight”

Bruce Celebrates His Birthday In the Swamps of Jersey

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Wrecking Ball Tour
Metlife Stadium, NJ
September 22, 2012

On a very strange night in New Jersey, a sold out Stadium full of fans waited in the tunnels of Metlife Stadium for hours to celebrate Bruce Springsteen’s birthday.  The crowds began filing into the entrance between 6 pm and 7:30 pm.  However, anyone with GA Floor Access was told they were not allowed in due to the threat of an intense lightening storm.  Yes, rain was in the forecast, but the weather at that point was sunny with clear skies.  The lightening never came, but there were intervals of heavy rain, but the Stadium kept all of the fans waiting until after 10:00 p.m..  There were fights, upset fans and disappointment all around.  That was until the show started and Bruce simply stated “thanks for coming to my birthday party”.  Then all was forgotten …

The show started rather slowly, but we were just happy to see the Band and hear Bruce’s voice.  A few songs in, the Jersey concert staple “Badlands” was played and that got the crowd geared up.  However, Bruce slowed things down with a few more rather obscure songs.  It wasn’t until he played arguably the three best and most popular songs off of his newest album (“We Take Care of Our Own”, “Wrecking Ball” and the bombastic “Death To My Hometown”) were played that the show really kicked into drive. 

From there, Bruuuuuuce had the crowd in the palm of his hands.  He mentioned numerous times that it was his birthday.  In fact, the Band and crowd sang Happy Birthday not once, but twice to him.  During the encore, Bruce’s mother was brought out on stage and a gigantic birthday cake as well.  It was not the normal Springsteen show, but that is what made it memorable. 

 

At one point, Bruce brought out Gary US Bonds, a former drummer of the band who had also done some solo work.  They sang a few of his songs together and Bruce seemed quite jubilant over these collaborations.  Bruce also threw in some “weather” related songs due to the strange September weather that night: “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “”Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”.  The set closed with a awesome ten minute rendition of “Jungleland” and everyone knew the best was yet to come with the encore. 

Thunder Road started the encore and Bruce let the crowd sing half the song (see video below).  What followed was a nine song encore which included some of the Band’s most iconic songs (“Born to Run”, “Dancing in the Dark”, “Glory Days” and Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”).  Bruce was full of smiles and he and Stevie Van Zandt took over the big screens riling up the crowd and joking around like two school boys.  It was great to see how close the two stars are after all these years. 

The show ended in true E Street Band fashion, with one last Happy Birthday to Bruce, followed by a bevy of fireworks and a cover of “Twist and Shout”.  The Band took one final bow together, thanked the crowd and disappeared into the tunnels of Metlife Stadium.  Despite the show starting three hours late, Bruce played his typical three hour and a half set.  Any normal band would have shortened the set and would not have played until 1:30 in the morning.  But it was Bruce Springsteen’s birthday party and there was nothing normal about this particular September night. 


SETLIST:

  1. Out in the Street
  2. The Ties That Bind
  3. Cynthia
  4. Badlands
  5. Who’ll Stop the Rain?
  6. Cover Me
  7. Downbound Train
  8. We Take Care of Our Own
  9. Wrecking Ball
  10. Death to My Hometown
  11. My City of Ruins
  12. It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City
  13. Jole Blon (with Gary US Bonds)
  14. This Little Girl (with Gary US Bonds)
  15. Pay Me My Money Down
  16. Janey Don’t You Lose Heart
  17. Happy Birthday
  18. In the Midnight Hour
  19. Into the Fire
  20. Because the Night
  21. She’s the One
  22. Working on the Highway
  23. Shackled and Drawn
  24. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
  25. Meeting Across the River
  26. Jungleland
  27. Thunder Road (Encore)
  28. Rocky Ground (Encore)
  29. Born To Run (Encore)
  30. Glory Days (Encore)
  31. Seven Night to Rock (Encore)
  32. Dancing in the Dark (Encore)
  33. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out  (Encore)
  34. Happy Birthday  (Encore)
  35. Twist and Shout  (Encore with Fireworks)


VIDEOS:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY
 
 
 
 
THUNDER ROAD
 
 

Toby Keith Proceeds to Party in Hartford, CT

Toby Keith
Live in Overdrive Tour
w/ Brantley Gilbert & Thomas Rhett
September 20, 2012
Comcast Theater – Hartford, CT

It may have been a cool Fall night in Hartford, Connecticut, but things were sure on fire inside the Comcast Theater.  As a matter of fact, they were exploding at times.  Country music’s Big Dog Daddy, Toby Keith, brought his high octane Live in Overdrive Tour to New England with support from Brantley Gilbert and newcomer Thomas Rhett.  As usual, Connecticut made this show yet another sell out for Toby and they were not disappointed one bit.

Up first was Thomas Rhett, who recently released an EP to Itunes.  His sound is very new age country and his live persona was very likeable.  He sang typical country tunes about drinking, love, and being from a small town.  However, the standout song in his set was his newest single “Beer With Jesus”.  It’s a very lyrics driven song about what he would say if he could spend time, and have a beer, with Jesus.  I expect it will do very well at country radio and he sang the song with passion and soul.

At one point, Rhett jumped into the crowd and ran all the way to the back section with a megaphone as he sang and rapped the lyrics “Front Porch Junkies”.  It seemed to win over the crowd and keep them enticed to his set.  Overall, I was very impressed with his set and look forward to seeing more from him. 

Up next was Brantley Gilbert.  He is an artist who has turned from songwriter to country music’s rising star in one short year.  He penned such tunes as Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” and “My Kinda Party” before scoring his own deal.  Both songs went on to be megahits for Aldean, but Brantley has started collecting number 1 songs of his own (Country Must Be Country Wide, You Don’t Know Her Like I Do).  However, it is his live performances that take him to the next level. 

Most of Brantley’s songs are loud and have a bad boy swagger.  His performance matched that description and more.  He stomped around the stage throwing up rock signs and flexing his muscles.  He had the crowd pumping their fists right along with him.  His songs like “Take It Outside” and “Kick It In the Sticks” had the energy level inside the venue up to a 10. 

However, it was on “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do” that Brantley seemed to be most authentic.  It’s a song about a confident man trying to explain his love for a woman to someone who just can’t seem to understand.  Brantley’s live delivery made the song much more passionate and showcased the depth of his vocal talent.  The rest of his set was full of energy and he certainly had the crowd in the palm of his hand.  He sets out next week on his first headlining tour and I look forward to catching him again soon. 

The main event was yet to come and was preceded by the annual humorous Toby Keith/Ford F-150 video clip.  After the video, the shade over the stage fell and the first of many pyrotechnic exploded and out came Toby to the bombastic “American Ride”.  And in true Toby Keith form, the concert began with two American-themed songs (American Ride & Made In America) and ended with two American songs (American Soldier and Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue).

Toby’s setlists don’t change much from show to show as he likes to play his hits for the fans while adding in his newest singles.  While America was a main theme of his set, so was alcohol.  His last three singles are all centered around everyone’s favorite liquids and the crowd sang along to “Beers Ago”, “I Like Girls Who Drink Beer”, and the infectious “Red Solo Cup”.  Before singing the latter of the drinking anthems he proclaimed it is the song that “you cannot stop, you can only hope to contain it”. 

While those songs are all good and fun, it is some of his other material that makes me such a Toby fan.  “God Love Her”, “How Do You Like Me Now”, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and “Beer for My Horses” are classic country songs and among the genre’s best.  Toby let his band members have their shines as well, especially guitarist Rich Eckhardt who really showcased his immense talent at the front of the catwalk multiple times.

But in the end, Toby Keith concerts are defined by his encore, which I have often claimed is the best encore in music, period.  Some nights he brings out multiple soldiers, family members of military members, etc.  On this night, Toby brought out a single soldier to stand next to him while he sang his patriotic anthems.  The soldier had an American flag on his back and was visibly moved while Toby sang the meaningful lyrics.  Both “American Soldier” and “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” rang home a little more since we, as a Nation, just remember 9/11.  The soldier Toby brought up at the end was Marine Corps Sgt. Greg Caron. He lost his legs in Afghanistan last November when he stepped on a roadside bomb.

All in all, it was the typical Toby Keith show:  Opening acts who are major talents and got the crowd amped and ready, and a headlining show full of hits, action, explosions, and big production.  You know what you are going to get at Toby show and that is okay, because it is one of the best concerts, year in and year out, that music has to offer. 

SETLISTS:

Toby Keith

  1. American Ride
  2. Made in America
  3. Get Drunk & Be Somebody
  4. God Love Her
  5. I Like Girls That Drink Beer
  6. Beers Ago
  7. I Wanna Talk About Me
  8. Whiskey Girl
  9. Weed with Willie
  10. Who’s Your Daddy
  11. Get out of my Car
  12. Red Solo Cup
  13. As Good as I Once Was
  14. I Love This Bar
  15. Should’ve Been a Cowboy
  16. Beer For My Horses
  17. How Do You Like Me Now
  18. A Little Less Talk
  19. American Solider (ENCORE)
  20. Courtesy of the Red White and Blue (ENCORE)
Brantley Gilbert
  1. My Kinda Party
  2. Hell On Wheels
  3. Dirt Road Anthem
  4. You Don’t Know Her Like I Do
  5. My Kinda Crazy
  6. Courtney Must be Country Wide
  7. Take it Outside
  8. Kick it in the Sticks
Thomas Rhett
  1. All American White Boys
  2. Make me Wanna
  3. Beer With Jesus
  4. Front Porch Junkies
  5. Something To Do With My Hands


VIDEOS:

Beer With Jesus – Thomas Rhett
 
 
 
 
Country Must Be Country Wide – Brantley Gilbert
 
 
 
Beers Ago – Toby Keith
 
 
 
Red Solo Cup  – Toby Keith
 
 
 
Should’ve Been a Cowboy – Toby Keith
 


The Full Zac Brown Band Experience at Mohegan Sun

Zac Brown Band
September 1, 2012
Mohegan Sun Arena
Uncasville, Connecticut

On Saturday, September 1, 2012, I had the privilege of having the full Zac Brown Band experience: access to the Eat & Greet, a Pit Pass, and an up close and personal look into the most talented group of musicians country music has to offer.  It started off with an orange wristband and a brief wait in the lobby the Mohegan Sun Arena.  I’ve had several meet and greets with other artists in numerous different rooms within the Arena, but this Eat & Greet experience was deep into the halls of the Arena.  We walked into a large room where several of the Band’s trucks were and saw several tables set in the form of an inside picnic. 

Each of the Band members was at the entrance ready to greet each of the lucky fans with wristband.  After shaking hands with each of them, I spotted Chef Rusty Hamlin, the Band’s head road Chef.  I had tweeted him earlier in the day and he was happy (and extremely excited) to show me each of the dishes he had prepared for us.  He explained he got all of the ingredients at a local farm, Holmberg Orchards.  He then told us to head to the bar because there was an open bar with Jack Daniels and Landshark. 

Zac Brown then gave a short speech and handed the microphone to Chef Rusty who spoke about the various food options, which included ratatouille, sweet potatoes with pecans, coleslaw, beef, pork, cornbread fritters, and more.  It was truly incredible food with an insane amount of flavors and freshness.  On top of that, each of the members moved about the tables and spent time speaking with the fans.  The access to the band, the open bar, and the amazing food made the Eat & Greet a truly remarkable experience.

I spoke to Zac about the type of guitar strings he likes to play with.  I had noticed he uses nylon strings and wanted to know why.  He spent a good deal of time really explaining it to me.  He said he grew up playing classical music and learned on those strings.  And for the style he plays, with such intensity, it is easier on his finger tips.  I also asked Clay Cook if he was going to be singing any songs that night and he said that the Band does not make up the setlist until right before they go on stage because they “want to play songs they feel like playing on that particular night”.  That explains why their setlists are completely different each night (much unlike most of the country music world who basically play the same songs each night).

I then made my way down to the Pit area as the opening act, Levi Lowery, was finishing his set.  A giant white sheet/screen covered the stage as a countdown was on to the main event.  The sheet flew up and the band wasted no time as the opening guitar intro to the title cut of their new album “Uncaged” was up first.  The stage was an enormous set, with moving cranes and lights, three huge projection screens, and the band members stationed as a cohesive unit.  When the second song played was “Toes”, we knew that the setlist that night was going to be amazing. 

Throughout the set, it was very apparent that each member of the Band is a vital and unique part.  Of course, Zac is the leader.  But, each member is unbelievably talented in their own right.  Songs like “The Wind” and “Who Knows”, which the latter of which became a fourteen minute jam out, really showcase the diversity and skill.  Each member gets their own time in the spotlight playing their respective instruments. 

I was on the left side of center, right alongside the fiddler, Jimmy De Martini, who I have often referred to as the most talented musician in country music.  If anyone wants to argue with me, bring it.  He absolutely blew my mind as well as everyone standing around me.  When he would rip into a fiddle solo, whether it was on “Devil Went Down To Georgia”, “Free” or “Sic Em On A Chicken”, mouths dropped.  He is worth the price of admission in of itself. 

The Band did a three song acoustic set, where they sat down on crates and boxes in the front of catwalk and were joined by Levi Lowrey.  I was not a huge fan of this portion as I’d rather see the Band going all out in their natural element.  But there was also something very genuine about the set.  They gave a bit of insight into what it must be like when they are creating their songs.  Still, the excitement level of the crowd seemed to die down.  But when the opening fiddle notes of “Free” started when the Band returned to the stage, there was no downtime for the rest of the night. 

The Encore began with a ten minute jam out between the Fryar and De Los Reyes.  The bongos and drums were smashed with such intensity that I could feel the vibrations from the floor up into my body.  And with true class and patriotism, the Band finished the night off with “America, The Beatiful” as a pre-lude to their signature song, “Chicken Fried”.  While most of the night was a sing-a-long, the crowd was never louder during the final megahit. 

Zac thanked the crowd and each of the members took a bow.  They exited the stage and never have I ever been so full of satisfaction from a concert experience.  Between the backstage experience and the exhilirating performance, I saw a state of class, intimacy, talent, and perfection, that not many other music acts can match, nor care to put forth.  Zac’s attention to details and his care for his fans help Zac Brown Band stand apart at the forefront of musical entertainment. 

SETLIST:

  1. Uncaged
  2. Toes
  3. Not Okay
  4. As She’s Walking Away
  5. No Hurry
  6. The Wind
  7. Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band Cover)
  8. Colder Weather
  9. Jump Right In
  10. Keep Me In Mind
  11. Wherever We Break Down (Acoustic Song with Levi Lowrey)
  12. One Day (Acoustic Song)
  13. Sweet Emotion (Acoustic Song – Aerosmith Cover)
  14. Free
  15. Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
  16. Who Knows
  17. Knee Deep
  18. Sic Em On A Chicken
  19. Sweet Annie
  20. Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
  21. Drum Solo’s by Chris Fryar & Daniel De Los Reyes (ENCORE)
  22. Whiskey’s Gone (ENCORE)
  23. America The Beautiful (ENCORE)
  24. Chicken Fried (ENCORE)

VIDEOS:

Jump Right In
 
 
 
 
Devil Went Down To Georgia

Review: The Brothers of the Sun Make History as they become Giants of NJ

Brothers of the Sun Tour
Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw
with Jake Owen and Grace Potter
Metlife Stadium, NJ – August 11, 2012

Last year Kenny Chesney came to Metlife Stadium with Zac Brown Band and made history as the biggest country music show of all time in the New York/New Jersey area.  This year, Chesney brought, long-time friend and megastar, Tim McGraw along with him and they upped the ante.  By the time the lights went out at the home of the Super Bowl Champions, Chesney & McGraw had finished a set for 56,285 fans, breaking that previous record (see http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2012/08/kenny-chesney-tim-mcgraw-show-at-metlife-stadium-sets-all-time-record-for-nycnj-country-event.html).

As I pulled into the Stadium parking lot I saw a crowd rushing towards the side where a shirtless Tim McGraw was standing outside his bus.  He was simply standing there posing with no shirt, a bandana and atheltic shorts.  Women were flocking to take pictures and to take a gander at the unbelievably fit singer.

 I did not get into the actual Stadium for Jake Owen or Grace Potter’s sets, but by the time I took my seat, a few minutes before McGraw took to the stage, the Stadium was already at full capacity.  New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” began to play over the sound system as McGraw’s band took to the stage and the big screens followed the lead man’s walk up from backstage to the forefront.  He walked to the front of the catwalk, took the microphone and immediately launched into “Felt Good On My Lips”. 

McGraw’s style is very different from Chesney’s.  There is no running around or jumping up and down.  Instead, he strolls around the stage pointing to and slapping hands with fans.  He takes a lot of time standing with his arms out stretched.  But, the style works well for the man who has become a true sex symbol in music, movies, and fashion.  His set worked in many amazing classics, a few slower ballads, and a couple of new, un-released singles. 

A few people in the crowd brought along jerseys of his father, Tug McGraw, a former Phillies and Mets pitcher, in which Tim was happy to grab the jersey and hold it up to the crowd.  He even brought his mother out on stage during “Let It Go”.  The new song “Mexicoma” was a big miss as most of the crowd did not seem to be interested in it at all.  But when the opening notes of songs like “Where the Green Grass Grows”, “Last Dollar” or “Something Like That” were played, the entire Stadium seemed to jump out of their chairs and get right back into it. 

Overall, McGraw’s set did not flow as well as Chesney’s, but when his classic songs were played, the sound level from the crowd was no different.  He finished off the set with an emotional rendition of “Live Like You Were Dying” and came back out after a short encore to “Cowboy In Me” and “I Like It, I Love It”.  By this time, the sky had turned dark and the stadium had become illuminated with lights, screens, and energetic fans.  He finished the hour and half set with his newest single, “Truck Yeah”.  The lights went dark, the crowd was satisfied, yet the main event was yet to come. 

After about a half an hour, a ten minute video, showcasing Kenny Chesney’s many travels to beaches around the world, while the song “Welcome to the Fishbowl” was played over the speakers.  It culminated with a video of Chesney standing atop the empty Stadium with two football helmets in hand.  He stated he was happy to be in the home of the “New York Jets and the Super Bowl Champion New York Football Giants”.  The crowd roared and Chesney emerged from a hole in the middle of the Stadium. 

From there, Chesney did not slow down for the rest of the night.  He was off and running with “Beer In Mexico” then got onto a swing to fly over the crowd to the main stage as he sang “Keg in the Closet”.  The swing has become synonomous with Chesney Stadium shows as are songs about the summer.  When he touched down to the main stage he did not disapoint as he ripped into “Summertime”.  The perfect start to a perfect set. 

Chesney played all of his hits and his entire hour and a half solo set was nothing short of a sing-a-long.  He played up to Giants and Jets fans alike.  He sang of old memories with “I Go Back” and “Anything But Mine”.  And he told stories of forbidden love on tunes such as “Come Over” and Somewhere With You”.

A true highlight was when he brought out Grace Potter for their duet to “You and Tequila”.  This song is easily one of my favorite country songs and I have seen him perform it live many times.  However, this was the first time I saw him do it live with Grace.  Their voices go together with such ease as the song combines love, alcohol, and the summer – three things that are clear influences in Chesney’s music. 

Chesney, as usual, worked up quite the sweat.  He ran from side to side and gave his all into the performance.  It is not suprising that he can fill up Stadiums across America.  His songs equal his performance and the crowd really responds to what he does on stage.  He is a true superstar in every sense of the word.

His final song of his set was “Boys of Fall”.  I was bit disappointed that Eli Manning nor none of the home team’s players emerged on stage for this song.  But I quickly moved past that when Tim McGraw emerged from the center stage during the first song of the encore, and the two Brothers of the Sun sang “Feel Like A Rockstar” from dueling stages, ala Jay-Z and Kanye West on their Watch The Throne Tour.

The encore was the real highlight of the night as the two megastars traded verses on “Indian Outlaw” and “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”.  The two used every inch of the stage, with Tim’s swagger and Kenny’s energy in full force.  They were full of smiles and truly seemed to enjoy sharing the spotlight.  The night was finished with “Running on Empty”, as Jake Owen and Grace Potter emerged on stage as well.  They took a solid ten minutes to sign autographs for the crowd and give out a New York Giants helmet to a young girl. 

The record breaking concert was everything the fans had hoped for and more.  That beautiful August night was country music at its finest with two of its stars shining bright in the biggest stage of all.  One can only hope that Kenny Chesney keeps his Stadium tours alive so that more and more fans can witness this summertime staple. 

SETLIST:

Kenny Chesney

  1. Welcome to the Fishbowl (Intro & Video)
  2. Beer in Mexico
  3. Keg in the Closet
  4. Summertime
  5. Reality
  6. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem
  7. How Forever Feels
  8. I Go Back
  9. Come Over
  10. Anything But Mine
  11. Back Where I Come From
  12. Livin’ In Fast Forward
  13. Young
  14. Somewhere With You
  15. Never Wanted Nothing More
  16. You and Tequila (with Grace Potter)
  17. Out Last Night
  18. When The Sun Goes Down
  19. Don’t Happen Twice
  20. Boys of Fall
  21. Feel Like A Rockstar (ENCORE – with Tim McGraw)
  22. She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy (ENCORE – with Tim McGraw)
  23. Indian Outlaw (ENCORE – with Tim McGraw)
  24. Running on Empty (ENCORE – with Tim McGraw and Jake Owen and Grace Potter)

Tim McGraw

  1. Felt Good On My Lips
  2. For A Little While
  3. Down on the Farm
  4. Real Good Man
  5. Last Dollar
  6. Unbroken
  7. Everywhere
  8. Where the Green Grass Grows
  9. Mexicoma
  10. All I Want is a Life
  11. Just to See You Smile
  12. Better Than I Used to Be
  13. Let It Go
  14. How Bad Do You Want It
  15. Back When
  16. Something Like That
  17. Southern Voice
  18. Live Like You Were Dying
  19. Cowboy In Me (Encore)
  20. I Like It, I Love It (Encore)
  21. Truck Yeah (Encore)
VIDEOS:
Where The Green Grass Grows
I Go Back
You And Tequila
You and Tequila (Crowd Singing)


Kip Moore at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC

Kip Moore
Bowery Ballroom, NYC
w/ Chase Rice
August 3, 2012

Kip Moore brought his band up from Nashville to the busy streets of New York City as they took to the stage at the Bowery Ballroom on Friday night.  Moore, who is arguably country music’s newest rising star, released his album, “Up All Night” on April 24, 2012.  Before the show began I was able to catch up with Kip and he told me he was “going to rock it tonight”.  Let’s just say, he lived up to those words. 

Chase Rice, a relatively new name on the country circuit kicked off the show with a few acoustic tunes.  Rice is a former runner up on CBS’ “Survivor” during the season set in Nicaragua.  He has a very nice touch in his songwriting and connected with the crowd, despite sitting on a stool the entire time and not having a back-up band.  Songs such as “Only A Country Girl” and “Dirt Road Communion” seemed to resonate with fans and many even knew the words.  He told me after the show that he plans on setting out on Tour in the Fall with Kellie Pickler, among other names.  I look forward to hearing more from him the future

When it was time for Kip Moore to the hit the stage, the Friday Night New York City crowd was amped and ready.  Moore and his band came out swinging with “Crazy One More Time” and his newest single, which is currently #35 and climbing on the Billboard Country Singles Chart, “Beer Money”.  The crowd seemingly knew every word and Moore was full of smiles and energy as he and his talented band pounded out the two album favorites.  He stated to the crowd “man, I can drink with the best of them, but NYC you kicked my ass.  I came crawling back at 4 am last night”. 

Throughout his set, Moore thew in humorous statements in between his songs.  Moore has been dubbed the “Hill-billy Springsteen” for his songwriting style as well as his gravely voice.  This was extremely apparent on a song called “New York City, which he played acoustically.  He apparently had written that day in his hotel room when a “certain feeling overcame him”.  But this intimate song really showcased how much talent he has. 

Amongst numerous party songs that had the crowd enticed throughout, he mixed in a few love and breakup songs.  He talked about the three stages after a break-up before singing about the stages in “Fly Again” and he had all love birds hugging and kissing during the amazing song “Hey Pretty Girl”.  He stated he wrote that song when one of his guitarists told him that his wife was having a baby and they needed to really make it happen at that point.  His statement “we are all designed to find someone who you can go through life with” really resonates during that song.  I personally think that “Hey Pretty Girl” should be his next single. 

Moore was full of anecdotes and commentary on his songs and he told a true story of telling off a record company who wanted to change who he was during “Reckless”.  But the highlight of the night came when he spoke about his old pick-up truck.  He told the crowd his first  truck had 400,000 miles on it with no air conditioner and the windows wouldn’t go down.  But one day his father let him take his truck and … “Something Bout A Truck” was born.  The crowd sang most of the first verse and Moore was happy to let them do it.  A full on sing-a-long ensued and Moore was most active and energetic as he absolutely fed on that energy (see video below).

Moore finished off the flawless set with a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling”.  I was hoping for a Springsteen cover, but no one seemed to mind.  I have been extremely impressed with his first album and was hoping his live performance would live up to my expectations.  That night, he did that and more.  He truly showed me he has the “it” factor that many new artists lack.  I expect we will hear a lot more from Kip Moore in the future. 

 SETLIST

  1. Crazy One More Time
  2. Beer Money
  3. Mary Was the Marrying Kind
  4. Reckless
  5. Good Time Girl
  6. New York City
  7. Fly Again
  8. Motorcycle
  9. Baby Break My Heart
  10. Gunna Be a Big One
  11. Tell Me Where the Party At
  12. Hey Pretty Girl
  13. Something Bout A Truck
  14. Free Falling (Encore: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Cover)

Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Dee Jay Silver Dominate Hartford (plus an interview with Dee Jay Silver)

Jason Aldean
My Kinda Party Tour
w/ Luke Bryan and Dee Jay Silver
Comcast Theater, Hartford, CT
July 13, 2012

On a hot and steamy Friday night, Connecticut Country Music fans came out in droves to party with a few of the hottest names in music.  Jason Aldean brought his highly successful My Kinda Party to the Comcast Theater in Hartford, CT and what ensued was what Dee Jay Silver described as a “hillbilly rave”. 

Up first was my meet and greet with Luke Bryan.  I have met Luke a bunch of times over the past few years and despite all of the success he has attained, he is still humble and personable as ever.  We spoke about his next single, which he told me is “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”, the National Anthem controversy, and how next year he is going to being headlining his own major tour.  We also discussed how long of a day it had already been for him since he had performed in Central Park in New York City that very morning for Good Morning America. 

I arrived to my seat just in time for Dee Jay Silver’s first set.  Silver is a country music DJ who combines all genres of music to country music for amazing mixes and mashups.  This was the first of his two sets and he had the packed amplitheater up and dancing throughout.  With amazing mixes using songs such as  “Dust On The Bottle”, “Smoke a Little Smoke”, “Party Rock Anthem”, and “Shake That Ass” he has truly created a unique style of music.  I was fortunate enough to interview him on his tour bus after the show and you can see that interview within the bottom of this blog post. 

Silver had the crowd amped up and ready for Luke Bryan’s set.  Luke came out storming with his smash hit “Rain Is a Good Thing” and never looked back.  Luke is certain to be a future Entertainer of the Year.  He uses every inch of the stage while he dances, jumpes, and shakes around with the swagger of a veteran performer.  His dance moves have the women screaming and his music is masculine enough to have every male in the venue singing along as well. 

Luke performed all of his hits within his set, including “Drunk On You”, “I Don’t Want This Night To End”, “Someone Else Calling You Baby” and “Do I”.  He even threw in two covers (Lionel Richie’s “Easy Like Sunday Morning” and Journey’s “Faithfully”) that the crowd knew word for word.  However, the Comcast Theater went insane when they heard the auto tuned intro to “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)”.  The stage was then rushed by a contingent of women who were ready to show Luke just how well Connecticut girls could shake it.  He put everything into his last song and his energy was unparalled.  Luke just keeps getting better and better with each performance. 

 Dee Jay Silver had the hardest job of the night by filling up the time slot following Luke Bryan’s amazing performance and before Jason Aldean took the stage.  But, as the true professional and visionary that he is, he handled it perfectly.  He gave the crowd exactly what they wanted: party music.  At a time where most would head to the bathrooms, he had the sold out crowd dancing and fist pumping Jersey Shore style throughout his time. 

With the two Dee Jay Silver sets and Luke Bryan’s bombastic performance, the crowd was on a music high by the time Jason Aldean took the stage.  The stage became a spectacular array of stars, lights, hanging HD screens, ramps, and smoke as Aldean pumped out “Johnny Cash”.  While he is not as much of an energetic performer as Luke Bryan is, he has his own style that works.  You hardly ever see him without his black acoustic guitar and he keeps a straight face as he gets down to business.  But his live vocals are what shines the brightest in his performances.  As he belts out the words in “Fly Over States”, “The Truth”, or “Don’t You Wanna Stay”, you can see that he why he garnered so much success over the past few years.  He is truly one of the best live vocalists in music today. 

Of course, he performed crowd favorite country-rock songs such as “My Kinda Party” and “She’s Country” and the country-hip-hop mega-hit “Dirt Road Anthem”.  But he also gave the Connecticut crowd a few sneak peaks at a few tunes off of his next album, which he said he expects to be released in October.  “Take a Litte Ride” is another high energy, country-rock banger that is undoubtedly headed for country radio supremacy.  It has the sound you expect from Jason that borders on commercial appeal while keeping true to his style of music.  During his two song encore, he also sang “Wheels Rolling” which is another vintage Jason Aldean type song.  I am starting to see a theme in his lyrics as many of the songs are about him traveling somewhere. 

In the end,  it is easy to see why this is one of the must see tours of the Summer.  Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan put on completely different styles of performances that both show the range that country music is at in today’s music world.  The addition of Dee Jay Silver’s two DJ sets made that Friday night in Hartford everyone’s Kinda Party. 

SETLISTS

Luke Bryan

  1. Rain Is a Good Thing
  2. Someone Else Calling You Baby
  3. Drunk On You
  4. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
  5. Drinking Beer and Wasting Bullets
  6. Easy Like Sunday Morning (Lionel Richie Cover)
  7. Do I
  8. Faithfully (Journey Cover)
  9. All My Friends
  10. Enter the Sandman (Metallica Cover)
  11. I Don’t Want This Night to End
  12. Country Girl (Shake It For Me)
Jason Aldean
  1. Johnny Cash
  2. Big Green Tractor
  3. Amarillo Sky
  4. The Truth
  5. Take a Ride in the City
  6. Fly Over States
  7. Tattoos On This Town
  8. Don’t You Wanna Stay
  9. Dirt Road Anthem
  10. My Kinda Party
  11. She’s Country
  12. Wheels Rolling
  13. Hicktown

 

Dee Jay Silver Interview – July13, 2012

Question:  It seems like everyone was a DJ or wanted to be a DJ at some point in their life, how did you take it to the next level and get to this point?

 Answer: I’ve been doing this for awhile now.  I toured with the rapper, Nelly, doing his afterparties  and was on the Jackass World Tour with the MTV guys.  Then I did a Remix of “She’s Country” with Country Grammar and my agent, Kevin Neal, who is also Jason Aldean’s agent, heard it at the Country Music Awards three years ago.  Kevin then walked up to me at the Tabu Nightclub in Las Vegas and simply asked me “do you want to go on Tour with Jason Aldean?” 

Question:  Wow, so it was one song and the right person listening that gave you your shot?

Answer: God put it in the right hands.  Now we are going on two years.  In fact, Brooks & Dunn on their last Tour, used my remix of “She’s Country” as one the songs right before they walked on stage.  I was blown away by that honor. 

Question:  I know you have a lot of free material on the Iphone App, Soundcloud.  How long have you been doing that?

Answer: Over the past few years I have been putting up lots of mixes for free on the App.  But my record deal came through and you will be seeing my music on Itunes. 

 Question:  What kind of record deal?

 Answer:  I am proud to say I am the first ever DJ to be offered a country record deal.


Question:  So what should be expecting from you next?

 Answer: Working with some of the biggest names in country music, past and present. 

Question:  Have you become close with Jason and Luke?

Answer: Absolutely, they are two of my great friends now.  I was just speaking to Luke before I spoke to you and we were talking about how far he has come.  He just got to play Good Morning America in Central Park and I told him that was a bucket list type of thing.  We both cannot believe we get paid to do what we are doing and love. 

Question:  I am a big fan of all genres of music.  I think it is phenomenal that you can combine each of the genres into the country world on your mixes.  I hear everything from country to Jay-Z to LMFAO on your mixes.  Where did you come up with the idea that hip-hop and country could actually mix?

Answer:  I think it is such a cross roads right now and music is a kick drum from being rock and roll.  Look at Jason’s music, there is not much difference between the high energy music he performs and rock and roll.   On this Tour, we are basically throwing the largest country club party every night. 

Question:  If you are in a honky-tonk or a country bar and you hear a country song mixed with a hip-hop, rock and roll, or pop song, what are the chances it is a Dee Jay Silver mix.

Answer:  If you heard a country mix,  chances are I might have had something to do with it.  I change the keys, switch the pitch, and reverse the chorus.  My mixes of “Dust on the Bottle”, “Rodeo”, “Crazy Town”, among others, are getting a lot of play. 

Question: I know I heard you did a mix of Lee Brice’s “Parking Lot Party”.  What else are you working on?

Answer: I just met with Lee’s people last week and we are going to be working on some stuff together.  Actually, ESPN College Game Day heard that “Parking Lot Party” mix and we filmed a whole section for this Fall’s ESPN College Game Day with the mix. 

Question:  When did you put out your first country mix?

Answer: Over five years ago.  It was the first country mix ever made. It’s funny, now, I have clubs all over the nation asking me to come and play an hour of country music mixes.  I couldn’t believe it because it was at a time where people either hated country music or loved it.  Times have changed and it is one of the most popular types of music out there now.  My first country club mix went through about 10,000 copies. 

Question:  Are there any other artists out there you admire or want to work with?

Answer:  The Zac Brown Band right now is killing it.  Musically, there are not many that can compete with them and they are blowing up.  I would love to do something with them.  And Eric Church is my boy.   There are not many solo acts right now that get more energy when I play a mix of his, Luke’s, and Jason.  You saw it tonight – it was the biggest country club in the world tonight. What an honor it is to be on the road with Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan.
Special thanks to Dee Jay Silver for allowing me to do the interview with him.  Good luck in your already impressive career. 

Zac Brown Band: Uncaged – Track by Track Dissection

Zac Brown Band – Uncaged
Track by Track Dissection

I do not want to describe this post as a review.  I have too much respect for the Zac Brown Band to “review” their music.  This blog post is more of a dissection of each of the tracks by a fan who already had great admiration for the talents of each of the Band members.  I must say I had high expectations for this album before I even listened to it – and it surpassed those expectations and more.  Here are my thoughts about each of the tracks as I listened to the album:

1. Jump Right In

The name speaks for itself on the first track of Zac Brown Band’s third album, “Uncaged” as the band jumps right into the hit making music that they have become famous for.  “Jump Right In” starts off with a short yet effective intro highlighted by the infamous Zac Brown guitar picking along with a few whistles and bongos, courtesy of new member Daniel de los Reyes.  But after about ten or so seconds, the whole Band gets involved to create a musical explosion.  The song has the inner linings of the country music jam band that the ZBB are, but with a commercial appeal that could easily make the song yet another #1 on the Country Music Charts.  The song has lyrics that will stick in your head all day long: “…you can jump right in, let music pull in you in, you can jump right in…it’s the Southern Wind, sings again, an idle lullaby“.

2. Uncaged

Uncaged lets the Band showcase their southern rock side as the song includes a multitude of guitar licks, drum bashing, and all out jam outs alongside the powerful Zac Brown voice.  I can easily see this song becoming one of those songs that the Band goes nuts on for about ten minutes in their live shows as the song is more about the musical instruments than the lyrics.  The euphoria of the seven ridiculously talented members showcase why the Band is truly on a different level than any Band in any genre in today’s music.

3. Goodbye In Her Eyes

This song may go on to become the most successful song, commercially, off of this album.  It is an epic story of a man who knows the woman who he loves so much is leaving him and he cannot do anything about it.  The song unfolds with the lyrics painting a vivid picture that could almost be the summation to a sad romantic movie.  Zac is never better as he hits low and high octaves with ease and the Band gets to sing background vocals as a unit, more so than any song I’ve heard from them before.  Furthermore, it is the first song on this album that fans get to hear the immense talent of Jimmy De Martini on the fiddle.  Overall, this song is sad, beautiful, and powerful all at once. 

4. The Wind

The first single released to country music is ZBB’s ode to bluegrass music.  The picking and strumming of the guitars as well as the rapid fire fiddle and quick moving vocals create a song that I challenge anyone to not want to at least tap their foot to, if not get up and dance to.  After just a few short weeks it is already in the top 20 on the country charts and moving quickly up from there.  The Band just released a unique, animated music video to the song which can be seen here: 

5. Island Song

For me, this was the absolute stand-out song on the album.  It is a reggae song more than it is a country song.  But for all intensive purposes, Zac may have created a new genre of music with his reggae-country masterpiece.  The lyrics immediately take you to a place “down in the islands, down in the islands”.  Zac’s reggae delivery is that of perfection.  I had heard him sing in this style before at a few of his past shows, but he really nails it in this song.  I found myself daydreaming as he sings about drinking rum at a tiki bar down in the islands.  ZBB has always had a beach themed song on each of their albums, whether it be “Toes”, “Knee Deep” or “Where the Boat Leaves From”, but this track takes that theme to a whole new level. 

6. Sweet Annie

Musically, this song reminds me a lot of “Colder Weather” as it gradually builds from a soft melody to a power ballad.  The lyrics depict a man who has seemingly let everyone down in his life and he is pleading with a woman Annie to not give up on him and to give him another chance.  He starts out defeated, but by the last verse he seems to gain more confidence in himself and makes his plea to let him stay with her.  It is another sad yet beautiful ballad that portrays the pain that love can have on a man. 

7. Natural Disaster

Another very unique song which starts out with a forty second acapella intro singing about a preacher’s daughter when all of the sudden the pace of the song picks up tremendously.  It becomes a rolling country song that has beautiful lyrics about a woman who the man knows may bad for him, but cannot stop himself from loving her.  The vocals pick up in pace as the song goes and creates a very effective song in which both the lyrics and the melody are equally phenomenal: “She’s like rain when she rolls in, but there’s sunshine in her thunder, it makes the loneliest heart wonder if the ride is worth the pain”. 

8. Overnight (Featuring Trombone Shorty)

Simply put, I was not expecting this song when it came on.  It is, in no way, a country song.  It is a flat out R&B song.  That being said, Zac showcases the unbelievable depth of his talent.  His delivery alongside the blues guitar, trumpet and trombone and that are featured in the song make this song, by far and away, the most unique that I have heard from ZBB.  It is smooth, sexy and totally out of the box.  Zac is definitely not afraid to do things his own way and he does not disappoint with his track. 

9. Lance’s Song

I need to learn the real meaning behind this song, but it is clearly dedicated to a musician who has passed away.  The lyrics tell a story about a man who obviously lived his life engulfed in music, but apparently was not given the credit and respect he deserved until he passed away.  Zac sings, with love and pain in his voice:  “But they don’t know what they got, until its gone, like it or not.  You live on life, you try to do what’s right, we’re all here a-waiting for our silver invitation to the big band in the sky”. It is a beautiful dedication to someone the ZBB obviously admired. 

10.  Day That I Die (featuring Amos Lee)

This, for me, was yet another stand-out on the album.  When I first heard this song, I thought to myself that Zac Brown has probably never been more truthful in his songwriting than in this song.  When he states that “I believe that I was born with a song inside of me” and “when I live out my days and to the very end, I hope find they find me in my home with my guitar in my hands” I know he is being competely honest.  While I always give full credit to ZBB as a Band and completely respect each Band Member’s outstanding talents, this song is all about Zac and his dedication to music.  Amos Lee is feautured on the track and his verse echoes what Zac is saying.  Throughout this masterpiece you can hear the honesty that both artists are singing about.  It’s very hard to think about your life, your legacy, and how you spend the last moments of your life.  Zac has figured it out.  I found myself getting goosebumps while listening to his sincerity. 

11. Last But Not Least

A simple song about a man letting his woman know that he loves her and that she is important to him.  Charismatic Clay Cook adds his vocals to the middle verse as he and Zac make it known to the woman they are with that they may have been their last love, but that it is the one that means the most because they will end up wit her.  The song also works well as it was undoubtedly strategically placed as the last song of the album. 

Top Picks: Island Song, Day That I Die, Goodbye In Her Eyes, Jump Right In

Kenny Chesney at Wildwood Beach, NJ (American Express Unstaged)

Kenny Chesney
American Express Unstaged
Wildwood Beach, NJ
June 20, 2012

On Wednesday, June 20, 2012, the Jersey Shore witnessed a once in a lifetime event as Kenny Chesney performed on Wildwood Beach as a part of American Express’ Unstaged Concert Series.  Chesney, who released a new album the day before entitled “Welcome to the Fishbowl”, was the star of this amazing event, directed by Jonathan Demme, which was also streamed live on various internet sites across the net. 

The event planners and Chesney’s fan club had given out 20,000 tickets to fans who were able to access the enclosed portion of the beach. These ticket holders invaded Wildwood as another 30,000 plus arrived and were content in just hearing the music from the Boardwalk.  All day long, the Jersey Shore town turned into Kenny Chesney Central. 

Bars were selling drinks such as “You and Tequila” and “Hemmingway’s Whiskey” and large signs were hanging from houses, hotels, bars, and stores, welcoming the country superstar to town. Dozens of t-shirt stores created their own custom shirts and tank tops for this particular night as it was clear Chesney’s appearance drastically helped the area’s economy. 

The concert itself began promptly at 8:30 p.m. with an extended intro video, designed by Jonathan Demme, showcasing many of Chesney’s island travels as well as his arrival at Wildwood and a behind the scenes look at the setup of the massive stage on the beach. The show then got started with some Chesney concert staples, “Beer In Mexico” and “Summertime”, both quite appropriate for the beach setting that night. 
Chesney proclaimed, various times during the night, that the venue/beach was easily one of the coolest places he has ever played. He certainly played up to the beach theme, as he usually does, with songs such as “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem”, “On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful”, and “Guitar and Tiki Bars”. Suprisingly, the song that got the biggest response all night, was “When the Sun Goes Down” as it became an instant sing-a-long and had everyone taking off their flip-flops and grinding their toes in the sand.  

Much of the show was high production with an interactive high definition screen and a spectacular light show. The stage was absolutely enormous and was amplified by the bordering ferris wheel on the left and rollar coasters on the right.   The setting and ambience of the entire night was spectacular.  In fact, I found Chesney to be most geniune when he stripped down to an acoustic guitar as he sang “You and Tequila” and “Old Blue Chair”. Chesney singing these songs acoustically in the ocean air really brought home what the night was about: loving music and enjoying life, especially when on a beach. 

What I did find odd and a bit disappointing was that he only performed two songs off of his new album. But, the two that he did perform were incredibly well received. “Feel Like a Rockstar” had the crowd stomping and singing along, despite the absence of Tim McGraw (many false rumors were circulating that he and Grace Potter were in town and were to perform as special guests). And “Come Over”, complete with snippets of the steamy music video, was performed to perfection. It is only a matter of time until “Come Over” becomes yet another #1 song for the King of Summer. 

After Chesney performed his football anthem, “Boys of Fall”, it appeared as if he was finished for the night.  In fact, that is when the fans watching on the internet were told that the Wildwood Experience had concluded.  But after a few minutes, Chesney and his talented band came back to the stage and he proclaimed “okay, they got their concert in … now its time for the second show!”  They ripped into “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and all of sudden the energy in crowd seemed to increase instantly.  
What would follow was a nine song set full of Chesney taking requests from the crowd and famous cover songs in which he and his band absolutely rocked on.  There were long electric guitar solo’s being traded by each of the skilled band members on “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks and “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughn.  He even brought out songwriter Mark Tamburino to perform an extended version of “Like a Blister In the Sun”.  At one point he asked the crowd what they wanted hear next and many people shouted out “I Go Back” and Chesney hit himself in the head.   He said “how in the world did that get left off the setlist.  Okay, let’s go” and many fans were finally satisfied with the night’s missing hit finally being sung. 

To me, the absolute highlight of the night was Chesney’s acoustic cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” (see video below).  He told the crowd it was a bit taboo if he had not performed this song while being at the Jersey Shore as Bruce was one of his big brothers in the business.  Despite fumbling while trying to tune his guitar to where he wanted it to be, Chesney nailed a stripped version of the song and many fans responded with their gratitude for his version.  Various shouts of “Bruuuuuuuuuceeee” were heard throughout the beachside. 

 Kenny and company finished the set with a cover of Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” and thanked to crowd numerous times before leaving the stage.  It was an amazing two hour plus, 27 song set that was performed to perfection throughout.  It is very evident to any concert goer that there is no better performer in all of country music.  His energy is unparalled and his songs are the perfect choices, both lyrically and musically, for live shows.  And on this night, on the beach in Wildwood, while I had my toes in the sand, I do not think I have enjoyed a show more.

SETLISTS:

American Express Set:

  1. Beer in Mexico
  2. Summertime
  3. Feel Like A Rockstar
  4. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem
  5. What I Need To Do
  6. Come Over
  7. Anything But Mine
  8. Guitar and Tiki Bars
  9. You and Tequila (Acoustic Version)
  10. Old Blue Chair (Acoustic Version)
  11. Living in Fast Forward
  12. Young
  13. Somewhere With You
  14. On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful
  15. Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven
  16. When the Sun Goes Down
  17. Don’t Happen Twice
  18. Boys of Fall

2nd Set:

  1. She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy
  2. Went Out Last Night
  3. Like a Blister In the Sun (featuring Mark Tamburino)
  4. You Really Got Me (The Kinks Cover)
  5. Pride and Joy (Stevie Ray Vaughn Cover)
  6. I Go Back
  7. Never Wanted Nothing More
  8. Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen Acoustic Cover)
  9. The Joker (Steve Miller Band Cover)
VIDEO:
“Hungry Heart”  (Bruce Springsteen Acoustic Cover)
You can see the entire performance here: http://www.youtube.com/kennychesneyvevo

Willie Nelson Shows Perfection at the Shubert Theater

Willie Nelson
Shubert Theater, New Haven, CT
June 18, 2012

It always amazes me when I see Willie Nelson perform live.  Each year, the living legend gets older and I half expect him to sound a bit less like himself or to perform a shorter set.  Yet, each year he surpasses my expectations and sounds exactly like the man I have grown up listening to.  On Tuesday night, at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, CT, it was no exception.  Not only did Willie sound perfect, but he belted out a thirty song set chalk full of hits new and old. 

He started the show in all black from his cowboy hat to his t-shirt and pants – and in typical fashion, sang “Whiskey River”.  A few notes into the song a giant Texas flag draped the entire backdrop of the stage.  He showed his skillful guitar picking on “Still Is Still Moving To Me” and performed a folksy rendition of his #1 duet with Toby Keith, “Beer For My Horses”.  Willie did not speak too much between songs, but was full of thanks and smiles. 

Most pleasing and surprising was that Willie sang several newer and humorous tracks such as “Superman”, a duet he recorded with rapper Snoop Doggy Dog as well as “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die”, a song he recorded again with Snoop as well as Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristoferson on his newest album, “Heroes”. He had the crowd cracking up to “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore” and cheering to a song he had written with Waylon Jennings called “Write Your Own Song”.  That track was written as an insult to the record executives who tried to push around artists in Nashville.  Willie does not get pushed around by anyone nowadays and that song really made you think about how Waylon and Willie rebelled against the system back in the day. 

Of course, Willie did not leave out some of his biggest and most legendary hits, such as “Always On My Mind”, “On The Road Again” and “Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground”.  He even performed a beautiful guitar solo that reminded me of a Spanish Guitar Melody as an intro to his old classic, “I Never Cared For You”. But no matter what Willie Nelson sang into the microphone at the intimate Shubert Theater, it was a real reminder that Willie is still at the top of his game and has no signs of slowing down. 

SETLIST:

  1. Whiskey River
  2. Still Is Still Moving to Me
  3. Beer For My Horses
  4. Time Slips Away
  5. Crazy
  6. Nightlife is No Good Life
  7. Listen to the Blues That Are Playing
  8. Down Yonder (piano solo by Bobby Nelson)
  9. Me and Paul
  10. Help me Make it Through the Night
  11. Good Hearted Woman (Waylon Jennings Cover)
  12. On the Bayou (Hank Williams Cover)
  13. Hey Good Looking (Hank Williams Cover)
  14. Move It On Over
  15. Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
  16. Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground
  17. On the Road Again
  18. Anything You Ask Me To
  19. Georgia on a Fast Train
  20. Georgia On My Mind
  21. Window Faces the South
  22. Cold War
  23. Superman
  24. You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore
  25. Write Your Own Song
  26. Solo – Spanish guitar
  27. I Never Cared For You
  28. Fly away
  29. Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
  30. I Saw The Light

VIDEOS:

Beer For My Horses
Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die

 

Superman
On The Road Again

Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys

Guitar Solo
Always On My Mind

Rascal Flatts and Some All American Bands Invade Connecticut

Rascal Flatts
Changed Tour
Featuring Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, & Eden’s Edge
June 15, 2012 – Hartford, CT

The Rascal Flatts brought their “all band show” to Hartford, Connecticut as they kicked off their summer leg of the 2012 “Changed Tour”.  This tour is highlighted as one of the first country music concerts which exclusively had bands as the acts.  Accompanying the mega star Rascal Flatts were veterans Little Big Town, and up and comers Eli Young Band and Eden’s Edge.  Each of the bands have a unique sound, however, it was clear that no one would outshine the headliners. 

Eden’s Edge kick started the show with a short set.  The trio consists of two females and one male.  Their biggest song to date, “Amen”, seemed to resonate with the crowd as it became a nice sing-a-long for the band.  Eli Young Band was up next with a spirited set highlighted by the songs “Crazy Girl” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”.  The band is less commercial than a lot of today’s country despite their recent radio success.  Their sound borders on country, Americana, and rock creating a very unique and likeable sound.  Little Big Town was the third opener and their forty five minute set was full of harmony and class. 

The summer anthem “Pontoon”, LBT’s newest single had the entire amphitheater dancing.  The band even covered a hillbilly rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.  This group, which has been around country music is 1998, has a great blend of harmonies between the two males and two females.  However, there were only a few sing-a-long songs for the sold out crowd.  Their music is solid, but they are still looking for that huge #1 hit.  “Pontoon” has the potential to take them to the top.  They finished their set with, arguably, their biggest song to date, “Boondocks”. 

The Rascal Flatts took the stage and it was clear they were upping the ante for the summer.  High production screens with a light show that included illuminated cubes that were constantly moving in the background made the visuals of the show extremely glamorous.  The Band, who are led by Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus, and Joe Don Rooney, have put together one of the most successful country careers in history.  On that night in Hartford, they brought out all of their hits, new and old, and had the place jumping. 

The Flatts started out of the gate with full energy as they opened with their recent #1 and country anthem, “Banjo”.  They followed it up with possibly their most raucous song, “Bob That Head”.  At that point the trio was off and running as they pumped out hit after hit.  

The cubes in the background, as you can see in the photos, really added to the production of the show.  The cubes were constantly moving and changing colors throughout.  Gary LeVox moved around the stage pretty much non-stop and belted out notes that only he can hit.  Especially on songs such as “What Hurts The Most” and “Untouchable”, the notes LeVox was able to hit, no doubt, gave the sold out crowd goosebumps. 

At one point, Jay DeMarcus stated the Band was going to take requests from the crowd and he seemed to pretend to ask fans to give them requests.  This seemed a bit fabricated because the songs they then performed turned out to be some of their biggest hits.  Nonetheless, it was great to hear “Praying For Daylight”, “Mayberry”, and “Sarabeth”. 

During “Life Is A Highway”, the screen became a Nascar track with Disney’s “Cars” racing behind them.  LeVox seemed to greatly enjoy that song and the production behind him as he seemed to be at his most active on stage, which is saying a lot. 

The set included a great mix of ballads and party tunes.  During the ballads, LeVox’s vocals thundered in the night as the stage illuminated with stars and blue lights.  During the high energy songs, such as “Me & My Gang”, Rooney and DeMarcus came to the forefront with their instrument playing and joined LeVox as the stars of the show.  The three men really feed off of each other and there is no jealousy displayed from any of the members. 

The show concluded with a cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An All American Band” as the Flatts welcomed Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, and Eden’s Edge to the stage. 

It really was a great sight to see all four bands on stage at the same time and trading vocals back and forth.  The harmony that proceeded with each of the bands was stunning.  I would love to hear the four of them record this song and release it as a single. 

Overall the show was excellent and I am always a bit taken aback at how big of a following the Rascal Flatts have.  The streets were flooded with cars and traffic and the arena was filled with fans of young and old.  The All-American Bands really shined bright on the opening night in Hartford, Connecticut. 

SETLIST:

  1. Banjo
  2. Bob That Head
  3. Fast Cars and Freedom
  4. Play A Country Song
  5. Each Day
  6. Here Comes Tonight
  7. Hot In Here
  8. Sarabeth
  9. Praying For Daylight
  10. All About the Sunset
  11. Mayberry
  12. Why Wait
  13. Broken Heart
  14. Life Is a Highway
  15. Feels Like Today
  16. Every Day
  17. Summer Nights
  18. Me & My Gang
  19. Come Wake Me Up
  20. What Hurts the Most
  21. Unstoppable
  22. All American Band (Grand Funk Railroad Cover performed with Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, and Eden’s Edge)

VIDEOS:

Intro & Banjo
Me & My Gang
Why Wait
Mayberry
Born This Way
Boondocks
Pontoon


Lukas Nelson & His Band Deliver on Their Promise of Real Music

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
May 25, 2012
Arch Street Tavern, Hartford, CT

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real kicked off Memorial Day Weekend in Hartford, Connecticut with a spark and a flame.  The band performed an amazing eighteen song set at the Arch Street Tavern and packed it with original material, legendary covers, and gifted instrumental performances.  Lukas, son of living legend, Willie Nelson, displayed his amazing vocals as well as a plethora of electric guitar licks that could rival anyone in the music business. 

The last time I saw the band was as an opening act on the Country Throwdown Tour last Summer.  Since then, the band recently released a new album entitled, “Wasted”, and Lukas was featured on various songs in his father’s newest album, “Heroes”.  Lukas’ appearance has drastically changed as well.  He used to have long hair and wear a cowboy hat; however, he showed up with much shorter hair, a go-tee, and dark black eye-glasses (which he did not wear while performing).  But, much to his fans delight, his sound has not wavered at all.  Lukas’ vocals were spot on and his guitar playing was impressive as ever.  From the opening note of “Golden Rule” to closing jam-out, Lukas showed exactly why the Nelson Family is often referred to as one of the most talented musical families in the business. 

Each song had its own added “jam-out” strategically placed within the song.  Songs such as “Ain’t No Answer”, “Wasted”, “Don’t Take Me Back”, and “Four Letter Word” seemed to stand out to me as each member of the band got to shine on the tracks.  Lukas is backed by Anthony LoGerfo on the drums, Tato Melgar on percussion (mostly the bongos), and Corey McCormick on bass guitar.  The band is equally as impressive as their band leader as each member is clearly skilled at their craft.  In fact, their music is very unique in today’s world.  I cannot say what genre of music I would place the POTR in as they cross-over into everything from country to folk to rock with a bit of a Latin touch with Melgar’s infectious bongos.  Each song seemed to be extinguished with a jump kick and final intense guitar strum from Lukas. 

Lukas delighted the crowd with a slew of his own takes on some legendary covers.  He performed a dark and spirited version of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me In the Morning”,  had everyone singing along to David Bowie’s “Major Tom”, and brought the fans back in time with Pink Floyd’s “Money”.  However, I really thought the highlight of the set was when he sang two song’s from Willie Nelson’s newest album, “Heroes”.  As I stated, Lukas was featured on multiple songs on that album (nine in all) and he performed two of those tracks.  “No Place To Fly” is the traditional old style country song that fans are accustomed to Willie singing.  However, father and son combined for an incredible version of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” which I think is one of the best covers of any song I have heard in a long time.  Lukas did his best solo rendition without his father by his side and nailed it.  It has a hauntingly beautiful melody while Lukas’ unique voice, on that night, flowed over the song with brilliance

The POTR finished off their set as one would assume they would, with a heart-melting jam-out session where each band member had their time to shine.  The jam lasted well over ten minutes and the band took a group bow together once they finished.  Lukas and the band waiting by the stage after their performance and greeted each of their fans.  I took a photo with Lukas and discussed his home town of Paia, Hawaii as I recently visited there – and coincidentally, Lukas was wearing a t-shirt with the town displayed on the front.  I will not hesitate to see Lukas and the POTR again and again.  Their music style is refreshing in this day in age and I hope more fans will be able to appreciate and witness their unique and talented artistry. 

SETLIST:

  1. Golden Rule
  2. Ain’t No Answer
  3. Peaceful Solution
  4. Wasted
  5. Meet Me In The Morning (Bob Dylan Cover)
  6. Can You Hear Me Love You
  7. Wasn’t That Great
  8. Sound Of Your Memory
  9. The Joint
  10. Don’t Take Me Back
  11. Major Tom (David Bowie Cover)
  12. Don’t Lose Your Mind
  13. Money (Pink Floyd)
  14. 4 letter word
  15. Just Breathe (Pearl Jam Cover)
  16. No Place To Fly
  17. Amazing Grace (Acoustic Version)
  18. Solos by each band member individually

VIDEOS:

Just Breathe

4 Letter Word
Meet Me In The Morning

Lady A, Darius Rucker, & TS Kick Off CT’s Summer Country Concert Series

LADY ANTEBELLUM
WE OWN THE NIGHT TOUR
w/ DARIUS RUCKER & THOMPSON SQUARE
Comcast Theater
Hartford, Connecticut
May 18, 2012

It was absolutely perfect weather on Friday for the first country music concert of the year at the outdoor Comcast Theater when Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, and Thompson Square brought the We Own The Night Tour to Connecticut.  The New England music fans came out early and in full effect to enjoy the weather and the amazing entertainment that would follow the parking lot party.  I was lucky enough to have access to the meet and greets with both Thompson Square and Darius Rucker.  Thompson Square, consisting of Shawna and Keifer Thompson, were extremely nice and told me they were working on their next album.  They hope it will be out sometime next Spring or Summer.  After a quick discussion and a few jokes, Keifer told me he was not named after Kiefer Sutherland (I had to ask, I am a giant 24 fan). 

Darius Rucker and I discussed his golf game since I know how much he loves the sport.  He put my handicap to shame when he told me his was a 5.  He also said that his new single is set to hit country radio on May 22nd and his new album will shortly follow.  He was personable when talking with me which is always refreshing for an artist who has had so much success for the greater part of twenty five years. 

I got to my seat in time for Thompson Square’s set which was spirited despite only singing a few songs and not having the production effects their touring mates would.  Keifer plays the guitar and sticks to his microphone stand as he lets his wife Shawna use the stage.  They have an excellent chemistry that is neither forced and nor phony.  Giant lips popped up on stage for their smash hit and final number, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”.

Darius Rucker, formerly the lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish, followed up TS with an incredible set that rivaled most headline acts I’ve seen.  He had the crowd in the palm of his hand from start to finish.  Dressed in a simple t-shirt, jeans, and nike baseball cap, Darius belted out a setlist that displayed the uniqueness that makes up this mega-star: his musical diversity. 

He sang all of his number #1 country tunes, including “Alright”, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” and “Come Back Song”, as well as, to the crowd’s delight, two Hootie songs “Only Wanna Be With You” and “Hold My Hand”.  He even sang a few covers such as Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”, Hank Williams, Jr.’s “Family Tradition” and Prince’s “Purple Rain”.  It does not get more diverse than that and he absolutely nailed each song. 

Darius sang thirteen songs in all and his time on stage nearly equaled that of Lady A’s.  In fact, as much as I was impressed by Lady A’s performance, I think Darius’ overall set was better.  He has a stage presence that has clearly been refined over the course of his stellar career.  There is nothing he does that is staged and Darius’ free spirit is on display throughout.  Whether it is classic rock, country, or even R&B, I only hope he continues to make music and perform for a long time because all of what Darius Rucker does is flat out great. 

After a short delay, Lady Antebellum took to the stage.  I had seen Lady A perform a few years ago as an opening act for Tim McGraw and was really interested to see if they had grown as a live act since then.  My answer was very clear right from the start.  The trio dominated every foot of the guitar shaped stage and had the crowd dancing from start to finish.  They not only improved a great deal from the first time I had seen them, they absolutely passed my expectations. 

While Lady A kept to most of the chart-topping singles, they did throw in a few of their deeper cuts from their albums.  They even performed a few cover songs and brought out each of their tour mates, Thompson Square for the Allman Brothers classic, “Midnight Rider”, and Darius Rucker (with TS sticking around) for the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water”.  I did not particularly love their take on the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman”, but that was one of the few misses from their set. 

The one thing that I enjoyed most was the band’s use of Dave Haywood.  The last time I saw the band live, Haywood seemed a bit lost on stage.  This time they showcased his musical abilities and gave him a plethora of different guitars and solos.  Instead of looking like the third wheel, he truly was at the forefront along with Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott.  Moreover, on the deep love songs which the lyrics really speak to a man and woman, Dave let Charles and Hillary take the spotlight and did not step forward as he had done in the past.  I thought it was a lot more effective and made their performance much more polished. 

All in all, I left the amphitheater with a full understanding of why this Tour has been so successful.  Each of the three acts were wholesome, unique, and professional.  I really gained newfound respect for Lady Antebellum and Thompson Square, and continued my admiration for Darius Rucker’s craft.  No matter what age you are, this Tour, more than most, has something to appeal to the music fan in you. 

Setlist:

Thompson Square:

  1. I Got You
  2. Let’s Fight
  3. Getaway Car
  4. One Of Those Days
  5. Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not

Darius Rucker:

  1. Love Will Do That
  2. Alright
  3. The Craziest Thing
  4. It Won’t Be Like This For Long
  5. Only Wanna Be With You (Hootie & The Blowfish Cover)
  6. The Joker (Steve Miller Band Cover)
  7. Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It
  8. Come Back Song
  9. History In The Making
  10. Hold My Hand (Hootie & The Blowfish Cover)
  11. Family Tradition (Hank Williams, Jr. Cover)
  12. This
  13. Purple Rain (Prince Cover)

Lady A:

  1. We Owned The Night
  2. Stars Tonight
  3. Our Kind of Love
  4. Dancing Away With My Heart
  5. Wanted You More
  6. Perfect Day
  7. Love Don’t Live Here Anymore
  8. Just A Kiss
  9. Hello World
  10. American Honey
  11. Midnight Rider featuring Thompson Square (Allman Brothers Cover)
  12. Black Water featuring Darius Rucker & Thompson Square (Doobie Brothers Cover)
  13. I Run To You
  14. Honky Tonk Woman (Rolling Stones Cover)
  15. Looking For a Good Time
  16. Need You Now (Encore)

VIDEO CLIPS:
Darius Rucker – Only Wanna Be With You

Darius Rucker – Hold My Hand
Darius Rucker – Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It
Lady A – American Honey
Lady A – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

The Hag Leaves CT with Legendary Memories

Merle Haggard
Warner Theater
Torrington, CT
April 19, 2012

In a time where music is dominated by autotune, backup dancers, and absurd clothing, it is not every day an audience can see a real living legend.  Thursday was the exception, as country music legend Merle Haggard took to the stage at the intimate Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut.  The Hag, as he is often referred to by his real fans, has overcome a recent bout with pneumonia and has taken on an ambitious tour packed with plenty of back to back tour nights. 

Despite all of these speed bumps, Merle sounded absolutely magnificent on Thursday night.  His son, Noel, and his daughter started things off with a short set.  They sang some classic style country music and you could see that the talent has spread throughout the Haggard Family.  At approximately 8:15, The Hag took to the stage with a black hat, sunglasses, and electric guitar.  He started things off with a lesser known song, “All My Friends” (see video below), and followed it up with a slew of mega-hits: “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down”, “Mama Tried” (see video below), and “Big City” and “Silver Wings”.  The night quickly turned into a sing-a-long as fans, young and old, knew the songs word for word.

I read a review of Merle’s show from this past weekend at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and saw the setlist from that night.  I was expecting an identical setlist, but was very surprised that it was not.  He sang some of my personal favorites on this night, such as “Heaven Was a Drink of Wine”, “I Am What I Am” and his closing song, the legendary song “Pancho & Lefty” (see video below), originally recorded with Willie Nelson.  He even sang a song, “Back To Earth” from the iconic double album “Last of the Breed”, which he recorded with Willie and Ray Price.  It was a dream setlist and Merle’s vocals were spot on. 

Merle did not do much talking between the songs, but when he did he showed his sense of humor.  He poked fun at himself when he introduced his Band, The Strangers, and said they were the Band of the Year when he was twenty years old and now his is forty.  He told the crowd that he expects his song “If We Make It Through December” to be more valuable and royalty checks to go up because of all of the doomsday predictions for this coming December.  He also facetiously stated that his career was going so well until he had to release a song called “Okie From Musgokee” (see video below) and everything was downhill from there. 

I have had the pleasure of seeing various artists who have achieved legendary status, such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Carlos Santana, and Paul McCartney.  Merle’s performance and vocals stacked up to the best of the icons I have seen live.  He even surprised me when he took hold of a fiddle and played it to perfection during his new song “Working In Tennessee”.  Everything Merle did that night was just that, in my eyes, perfection.  It has been a long wait for me to see The Hag, but sitting in the 13th row in such an intimate theater such as the Warner Theater, it made me appreciate what he has done for music history, that much more. 

VIDEOS:

“Pancho & Lefty”

Intro & “All My Friends”
“Mama Tried”

“Okie From Muskogee”

“Are The Good Times Really Over”

SETLIST:

  1. All My Friends
  2. Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down
  3. Mama Tried
  4. Big City
  5. Silver Wings
  6. I Am What I Am
  7. The Highway Is My Home
  8. Ramblin’ Fever
  9. What Am I Going To Do With the Rest of my Life
  10. Heaven Was a Drink of Wine
  11. Are The Good Times Really Over
  12. Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink
  13. Back To Earth
  14. If We Make It Through December
  15. Working In Tennessee
  16. Sing Me Back Home
  17. Okie From Muskogee
  18. Pancho & Lefty

Kevin Costner Brings His Modern West Show to Connecticut

Kevin Costner and Modern West
April 10, 2012
Ridgefield Playhouse
Ridgefield, CT

On Tuesday, April 10, 2012, Kevin Costner and Modern West brought their tour to the intimate Ridgefield Playhouse, located in the beautiful Ridgefield, Connecticut.  Costner and his band are set to release their third album and have embarked on a nationwide tour.

 Modern West features Teddy Morgan on lead guitar, Larry Cobb on drums, Park Chisolm on guitar, and the impressive Bobby Yang on fiddle.  Also appearing as a special guest on numerous songs this tour is Costner’s daughter, Lily Costner. 

Thanks to Allshows.com, I was able to attend a pre-party at the Playhouse before the show which included a backstage meet and greet pass to meet Kevin Costner.  I was able to speak to him for a few minutes and he seemed relieved that I asked him about his music rather than his acting career.  We discussed the music chords to a few of his songs and he was extremely talkative to me. 

In case anyone is wondering, “Superman 14” is played with a G major, A Minor, and a C Major.  After the party and my time with Costner, we took our seats in the unbelievably intimate Ridgefield Playhouse.  There is simply not a bad seat in the house. 

The band came out to “Red River” and followed it up with “Long Hard Night”.  Costner explained (as you can see in the video below) he wrote “Long Hot Night” about the night with a woman, which you realize, whatever is broken with her, is just not going to get fixed.  This set the theme for the night, Costner takes his music seriously and set up each song with an explanation on why it was written. 

Costner explained that “90 Miles an Hour” was a metaphor for how he wants to live.  Especially since he thinks it must be a bad feeling for father not to know how to help his son. He made a few jokes about his father and his relationship.  His stories really brought to life Modern West’s songs and lyrics.  The explanations were meaningful, deep, and extremely creative. 

The crowd, for the most part, was very respectful.  There was a moment where a younger woman shouted out “My Mom loves you Kevin!”  He laughed and responded with “wow, that’s the point I am in my life.”  He was playful and interactive throughout the night.  At no point did you see any sign of the arrogance one might expect from an Oscar Award Winning Actor.  Instead, his humble approach and love for music made me admire the man even more. 

Costner brought his daughter, Lily, out for three songs including one of his hits, “Let Me Be The One” (see video below) as well as new songs “Indian Summer” and “All the Women In The Hills”.  Lily has a beautiful voice and an attractive appearance.  Costner explained that she went to school in Connecticut and called her his “little rascal who was a joy to raise”.  On “All the Women In The Hills”, Daddy let his daughter take the spotlight as the entire band stood behind her as she took lead vocals on a song about the women who raised the men who fought and died in the Civil War.

  Costner explained that his next acting project is going to be a series on the History Channel entitled “Hatfield and McCoys” in which he plays Devil Hatfield.  He states it relies a lot of the Civil War and the Appalachian feeling going into the next century.  He also wrote a song for the series, entitled “How Deep The Water Runs” which he performed (see video below). 

Costner told a story about 1969 when he was young and politics were “moving fast”.  He said he saw people with blue glasses and tie die shirts.  However, all he wanted to do was kiss Debbie Anderson at the county fair.  He said his friend told him to buy her some jewelry so he got her a St. Christopher pin, thinking that would do the trick.  In the crazy 1960’s he was lost and only wanted a kiss at the county fair.  And that was the basis for writing his song “Where Do We Go From Here”. 

The encore consisted of two songs, the first is the Band’s newest single “Angels Came Down”, which is about the last moment a soldier has before he dies on the battlefield.  The final song is clearly the band’s most popular, “Superman 14”.  As you can see in the video below, Costner explains it comes from a time where you a small child and think you can be or do anything.  The fiddle, played by Bobby Eng, on the song is infectious and it was the perfect way to end an impressive night. 

Costner made sure his Band got credit as he got them all together for a final bow.  He then came back out with a bottle of champagne, which he poured a few glasses for the lucky ones up front.  He showed his appreciation for the crowd and took a final bow. 

I have always been a big fan of Kevin Costner.  Tin Cup, Dances With Wolves, and The Untouchables have always been some of my favorite movies.  When I heard his music I was very impressed.  He has a country vibe mixed with a Paul Simon/Bruce Springsteen feel to it.  He obviously has a great passion for the music and that really shined bright in his live show.  I look forward to Costner’s next project, whether it be in music, acting, or whatever he decides to do next. 

VIDEOS:

Long Hot Night

 
Superman 14
Let Me Be The One
How Deep the Water Runs

SETLIST:

  1. Red River
  2. Long Hot Night
  3. 90 Miles an Hour
  4. Moon So High
  5. Top Down
  6. Down In Nogales
  7. Let Me Be The One (with Lily Costner)
  8. Indian Summer (with Lily Costner)
  9. How Deep The Water Runs
  10. All The Women In The Hills (with Lily Costner)
  11. Hero
  12. Where Do We Go From Here
  13. Hey Man, What About You
  14. Angels Came Down
  15. Superman 14

Mr. 305 Ignites Radio City

Pitbull
Radio City Music Hall
New York City
April 6, 2012
Planet Pit Tour

On Good Friday, Pitbull brought his Planet Pit Tour to the immaculate Radio City Music Hall in New York City for a two night affair.  I was in attendance for the first night and the fiery hit maker did not disappoint.  Backed by a full band, a large projection screen, and a catalog of recognizable songs, the man who has self-proclaimed himself as Mr. 305 and Mr. Worldwide, showed that he is an artist who loves to give his fans exactly what they want.

The night began with an impressive DJ set from Alex Sensation, a latin DJ/producer.  Sensation mashed up popular latin songs with today’s top 40 hits.  He had half of the crowd already up and dancing – and had everyone energized.  The next two opening acts did the complete opposite and were the one real downfall of the night.  Jamie Drastik was especially terrible.  He wore orange sweatpants, a red sweatshirt and a jean vest and attempted songs such as “White Boy Wasted”.  He failed to connect with the crowd whatsoever.  For a venue as great as Radio City, I would have preferred a lot more of DJ Alex Sensation and a lot less of White Boy Wasted.  Nevertheless, the opener’s sets were short and it was time for the main event.  The lights went black and the curtains went up, and out walked Mr. 305.

The speakers pumped out the Intro from Pitbull’s latest album, “Mr. Worldwide” as he made his grand entrance.  The lights and giant screen behind him illuminated as he blasted into one of his biggest hits to date, “Hey Baby (Drop It To The Floor)”.  Pitbull is ever the performer.  He was dressed in an all black suit, complete with a black button down, black tie, and black sunglasses. 

Pitbull continuously and energetically dances around the stage with a plethero of latin dances moves mixed hip-hop swagger.  He jumps, he runs, he dances, and  he interacts with the crowd.  All throughout the show, he was very gracious, constantly thanking his fans in both English and Spanish.  Very often you heard him say “thank you guys and mucho gracias.” 

The setlist was designed perfectly and could pass as both a mix for a dance party at a club or a tracklist for a Zumba class at the gym. To the crowd’s delight he performed a great deal of the songs he has been featured on, such as “Party Rock”, “I’m In Miami”, “I Like It”, “Get It On the Floor”, and “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love”.  Lately, it is difficult to listen to a top 40 radio station for even twenty minutes and not hear a song Pitbull is, at least, featured on.  He has become a master a picking his guest spots. 

Pitbull certainly did not forget where his roots are as he gave a lot of love to the dominant group of people in the crowd that night: Latinos.  Several times during his show he busted out latin dances as merengue music exploded through the speakers.  He shouted to his fans phrases such as “latinos para arriba para delante y al que no le guste para el carrajo” and made it known his pride for being Cuban.

Real standout portions of the show included his hits “International Love”, “Rain Over Me”, and his final song, “Give Me Everything” (video below):

Although featured guests such as Enrique Iglesias, Chris Brown, Marc Anthony, Nayer, and Neo did not come out on stage, Pitbull’s energy and passion made up for the absence of such stars.  The crowd responded to his energy the entire night as no one sat down and everyone was sweating at the end of the night from dancing so much.  It is not often that an artist can carry a crowd on its feet throughout an entire live set. 

Pitbull did have one special guest, as latin rapper Sensato took the stage with him for a few songs.  The two did their Latino rendition of Jay-Z and Kanye West, as they performed “Latinos in Paris”, obviously a remix of the mega-hit off of the Watch The Throne album.  Pitbull ended his set by once again thanking the crowd and shouting out “Mister 305, checking in and checking out” and left the stage while his newest single played in the background, “Back In Time” off of the Men In Black 3 Soundtrack. 

It has been the second time I have seen Pitbull perform live.  This time it made is quite apparent that Pitbull has both real star power, and staying power.  He continues to crank out hit after hit and unlike many rappers before him, his live shows are spectacular.  He has been able to  take the best from all worlds, be it the Latin music community, the pop world, and the rap world and combine them into one extremely enjoyable experience.  I look forward to attending the next dance party with Mr. 305. 

SETLIST:

  1. Mr. Worldwide
  2. Hey Baby (Drop It To The Floor)
  3. Can’t Stop Me Now
  4. Give You What You Want
  5. WataGataPitusBerry (Black Point Cover)
  6. Sexy and You Know It (LMFAO Cover)
  7. International Love
  8. Pause
  9. Say Hello
  10. Party Rock Anthem (LMFAO Cover)
  11. I’m In Miami
  12. Move, Shake, Drop
  13. Shut It Down
  14. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana Cover)
  15. Let It Rain
  16. Bon, Bon
  17. Throw Your Hands Up
  18. Merengue Song Medley
  19. The Anthem
  20. Krazy
  21. Shake Senora
  22. Shake
  23. Culo
  24. I Know You Want Me
  25. Get It On the Floor (J Lo Cover)
  26. I Like It (Enrique Iglesias Cover)
  27. DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love (Usher Cover)
  28. Hotel Room Service
  29. I Got a Feeling (Black Eyed Peas Cover)
  30. Crazy People (with special guest Sensato)
  31. Latinos In Paris (with special guest Sensato)
  32. Give Me Everything

    Jason Aldean & Luke Bryan Bring Their Kinda Party To NJ

    Jason Aldean
    My Kinda Party Tour
    featuring Luke Bryan, DeeJay Silver, and Lauren Alaina

    March 24, 2012
    Izod Center, New Jersey

    This past Saturday night was the long awaited My Kinda Party Tour stop in the swamps of Jersey which showcased two of Country Music’s new stars: Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan.  The two artists, both from Georgia, probably never thought a few years ago that they would be able to fill an arena in Northern New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City, but they did just that.  In fact, www.countrymusicislove.com just reported that Saturday night’s show “set a new record for a Country concert with more than 19,000 fans, breaking Shania Twain’s previous record of 15,749 in 2003.” 

    The show started with a set from American Idol alum, Lauren Alaina.  I was unable to see her set, but was treated to seeing her stage presence during her tour-mates sets.  I walked in to the first of two sets by DeeJay Silver, a dj/remixer/producer who had the crowd entertained between acts. 

    DeeJay Silver cranked out remixed versions of everything from Eric Church to LMFAO to Garth Brooks to Flo Rida.  I really enjoyed his craft because the songs he mashed up really worked well although the genre’s are so different.  I look forward to hearing more from DeeJay Silver and I believe he is on to something with his mind for music mash-ups. 

     

    The lights went dim and rapper Flo Rida’s song “Good Feeling” played as the entire arena got on their feet.  Upon the large projection screen hanging high above the stage, a short video showed a Farmer in Georgia discussing how vital rain is to his life and crops.  This of course set up Luke Bryan’s mega-hit “Rain” which he emerged to from the back of the unique, but complicated stage set up. 

    Luke has recently emerged as major name in country music, but has been steadily building his name over the past five or so years.  He played homage to all his hits off of his three albums thus far.  After “Rain”, he sang “Country Man”, then went on to “Someone Else Calling You Baby”.  Throughout his set he was extremely active, using all sides of the stage and interacting with the crowd. 

    The one thing that truly stood out to me was the screams of the crowd.  I have been to well over 200 concerts and it is not often that the women in the crowd scream more than they sing.  Justin Timberlake, Enrique Iglesias, and the other pop heartthrob singers get that treatment, but this was the first country artist I’ve seen get that reaction.  Luke has become much more than a country artist, it was very clear.  And he played that up, to the woman’s delight, especially on his latest single, “Drunk On You”, where he did half the song acoustically (shaking his body and dancing playfully throughout), then fired it up with the band.

    He did not forget about the men in the crowd as he shouted “where are my deer hunters at? Where are my beer drinkers at?” And followed it up with the bombastic “Drinking Beer and Wasting Bullets”.  He interacted with the crowd and really seemed gracious with the streams and cheers.  He stated how much it meant for him “for coming up here and playing across the river from the greatest city in the world”.  Much of the crowd, admist the screams, yelled out a similar ode to Bruce Springsteen as they would call out “Luuuuuuuuuke” between songs. 

    He showcased his piano skills during his first ever #1 hit, “Do I” and a version of Adele’s “Someone Like You”.  He cranked out the inner rocker as he mashed up his first single “All My Friends” with Metallica’s “Enter The Sandman”.  He had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he had everyone singing to his latest number #1 “I Don’t Want This Night To End”.  But there was not a higher bit of energy the entire night than on his final song, an auto-tuned remix of “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)”.

    Not only did he shake it for the crowd, but he brought out Lauren Alaina, who did her own country girl dance (and poked fun at the way Luke dances).  And he brought two males from the crowd to attempt their own dances, which did not work out that well – and Luke really had a good time poking fun at their lack of skills. 

    Overall he put forth one of the more spirited opening acts that I have witnessed. This man is very close to selling out arenas with his name at the top of the bill.

    DeeJay Silver came back out to keep the crowd on their feet and energized for the headlining act. He did a great job at doing just that as portions of the crowd were fist pumping and “jersey turnpiking” to the club hits. By the time Jason Aldean took to the stage, the Izod Center was transformed into a full on party atmosphere. Wasting no time, Jason smashed right into “Johnny Cash”. 

    Jason, for some reason, decided to slow things down a bit for the next three songs: “Big Green Tractor”, “Amarillo Sky” and “The Truth”.  Despite half the crowd losing a bit of their party tenacity, Aldean’s vocals proved to be enough to carry through.  He has such a brilliant live voice in which he can really showcase in all notes, whether it be high or low.  And in those three slower songs, I was mesmerized by the pipes he contains. 

    Jason then told everyone to get back on their feet and “get as crazy as you want to Jersey!” – following it up with the vigorous “Crazy Town”.  The stage set up contained several moving projection screens suspended by wires on large cranes.  It also contained several areas on both sides where Jason could perch himself up and show himself to his fans.  There was no large screen behind the stage, as has been the custom for most artists.  Instead, he had a 360 degree stage where fans could sit behind the stage as well.  It was a cool setup and has allowed for Jason’s streak of record breaking crowds. 

    After singing his latest single “Fly Over States”, he told the crowd he is finishing up a new album and wants to release it before the end of the year.  He then, abruptly, jumped off the front of the stage and ran through the crowd to the back area, where DeeJay Silver had been set up.  Then Luke Bryan jumped up on the platform with him. 

    The crowd went nuts as the two stars ran through a fun acoustic set.  Jason asked Luke why the crowd was boo’ing him and he responded that he wasn’t being boo’ed, but getting his “Springsteen moment”.  He then sang a snippet of “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. 

    The two friends discussed life in Georgia, their new found fame, drank some beers together and sang some classics like George Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning” and Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On”.  Jason then explained how he was upset Luke was not including his favorite song by him in his set anymore.  They then made up for that omission by singing “We Rode In Trucks” together.  It was a special alternative set and I always love to see artists collaborating live.  What made it that much more special is how the two Georgia boys seem to really admire each other.

    Jason returned to the main stage and pumped out a few more vocal delights, “Tattoos On This Town”, “Relentless” and the mega-hit “Don’t You Wanna Stay”, which originally features Kelly Clarkson.  Instead, he brought out a dressed up Lauren Alaina who did a great job with the very difficult vocals.

      Lauren really impressed me as she moved about the stage with the confidence of a veteran and Jason absolutely nailed his vocals giving everyone goosebumps. 

    Jason did not slow things down any longer as he pumped out “My Kinda Party” and “She’s Country” as the final two songs of his set.  Drummer Rich Redmond displayed his often humorous yet very effective drumming skills throughout the two energetic anthems.  Jason left the stage for a short few minutes and returned for his encore.

    As impressive as Jason’s live vocals are, his rapping skills are equally impressive.  He performed a perfect version of his rapid fire hip hop/country song “Dirt Road Anthem”.  Microphone in hand, Jason moved about the stage to the song with all the swagger and bravado of any rapper just over to the river in NYC.  The crowd helped Jason recover as they belted out the chorus to the catchy song. 

    He finished things off with his first ever single, the John Rich written “Hicktown”.  He included all the extra verses and gave the crowd everything he had left.  Overall, Aldean brought a hell of a party to NJ, full of rocking country anthems, love songs, great vocals, a unique stage set up, and a cast of tour-mates that had something for every fan.  I look forward to seeing this same tour again and would highly suggest you don’t miss out on this party. 

    Luke Bryan Setlist:

    1. Rain
    2. Country Man
    3. Someone Else Calling You Baby
    4. Drunk On You Acoustic
    5. Drunk On You
    6. Drinking Beer, Wasting Bullets
    7. If You Ain’t Here To Party
    8. Someone Like You (Adele Cover)
    9. Do I
    10. All My Friends (Enter the Sandman snippet)
    11. I Don’t Want This Night To End
    12. Country Girl (Shake It For Me) w/ Lauren Alaina

    Jason Aldean Setlist:

    1. Johnny Cash
    2. Big Green Tractor
    3. Amarillo Sky
    4. The Truth
    5. Crazy Town
    6. Fly Over States
    7. Glory Days – with Luke Bryan (Bruce Springsteen cover)
    8. Amarillo By Morning – with Luke Bryan (George Strait cover)
    9. Time Marches On – with Luke Bryan (Tracy Lawrence cover)
    10. We Rode In Trucks with Luke Bryan (Luke Bryan cover)
    11. Tattoos On This Town
    12. Relentess
    13. Don’t You Wanna Stay (with Lauren Alaina)
    14. My Kinda Party
    15. She’s Country
    16. Dirt Road Anthem (ENCORE)
    17. Hick Town (ENCORE)

    VIDEOS:

    NYC Spills Its Blood, Sweat, & Beer (with the help of Eric Church & Brantley Gilbert)

    Eric Church
    Blood, Sweat & Beer Tour
    Featuring Brantley Gilbert
    March 15, 2012
    Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC

    Eric Church brought his rowdy Blood, Sweat & Beer Tour to the concrete jungle of New York City on Wednesday night and his fans were ready to rock.  A long line of hundreds of fans lined the wall of the Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th Street hours before the show.  The City’s weather was unusually warm for mid-March and it all made for an even rowdier and party atmosphere.  There were plaid shirts, cowboy hats, and boots galore …

    I had a meet and greet with the opening act and rising country star, Brantley Gilbert.  I had never seen Brantley live, but have been listening to his “Halfway To Heaven” Album since its release.  Brantley was a soft spoken guy when I met him, but he was full of smiles and seemed to really enjoy meeting his fans backstage. 

    Once he hit the stage, this soft spoken guy became a dynamic firecracker. 

    The speakers exploded with “Boom” by P.O.D. as Brantley and his crew took the stage.  He took the mic and simply stated “let’s raise some hell”.  He ripped into a cover of Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party”, a song in which he actually wrote.  He flawlessly sang the song with passion and energy that rivaled Aldean’s own version.  He changed from song to song quickly without much chatter, but his stage presence, energy, and fist pumping had the crowd enticed throughout. 

    After “Hell on Wheels”, he played a few rifts of Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive” as an intro for his biggest solo song to date: “Country Must Be Country Wide”.  The New York City crowd sang along word for word and Brantley responded by allowing us to sing the chorus at points.  Upon the finish of the bombastic song, the crowd gave him the first of his many standing ovations.  His response was “wow, you guys are bad ass”.

    He got another standing ovation after his next song, which was another song he penned for Jason Aldean, the hip-hop/country anthem “Dirt Road Anthem”.  Brantley rapped the verses with perfection and showed great composure with the fast moving song.  He showed more admiration for the crowd as he stated “New York, ya’ll know how to throw down, I am impressed”. 

    The rest of his set included his newest single, “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do”, which shows a softer side of the rowdy artist, followed by “Hell On An Angel”, “Take It Outside” and “Kick It In the Sticks”.  His last song is as much of a hard rock song as it is country.  He had the crowd fist pumping and bouncing as he pumped the lyrics through the microphone with gusto.  I was extremely impressed by his entire set.  So much so that I can almost guarantee that he is an act with extreme staying power and the potential to be head-lining shows himself in the near future. 

    After a long wait, the main act was ready to hit the stage.  My only complaint with the night was the venue itself.  The Hammerstein Ballroom was extremely cramped and overcrowded, so much so that I would almost question whether they sold more tickets that the floor could handle.  But as for the actual performance, country music’s Chief was flawless.  He came out to the rousing “Country Music Jesus” and the show was off and running.

    Eric had his typical look: trucker hat, aviator sunglasses, and a black shirt.  It took him a few years to find a look, but he has certainly found one.  Smoke, dry ice, an intense light show, and backdrop changes were all a part of the show, but it was the energy from Eric that really produced the excitement.  He ran through hit after hit, as well as plenty of his non-radio cuts such as “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag”, “Carolina”, “I’m Getting Stoned”, “Jack Daniels”, and “Livin’ Part of Life”. 

    No matter the song, hit or album cut, the crowd seemed to know every word.  Eric changed instruments a few times, such as grabbing a banjo for the ferocious “Creeping” and sat down at a piano for the final song of his encore.  He slowed things down towards the end of the set as he sang 3 acoustic songs: “2 Pink Lines”, “Sinners Like Me”, and “I Love Your Love the Most”.  The latter, surprisingly, had the biggest response of the night and Eric allowed NYC to sing most of the song in unison back to him. 

    After the acoustic set, he really raised the decibels as he performed his first #1 Billboard song, “Drink In Your Hand”.  Pyrotechnics flashed the stage as everyone raised their glasses along to the party anthem.  He didn’t slow down there as he followed it up with “Lotta Boot Left To Fill”.  Back to back high energy songs had Eric slamming his own chest, throwing middle fingers in the air, and feverishly pumping his fist.

    The last two songs of his set before the encore, in my opinion, raised Eric to the A-list artist that he is now considered: “Homeboy” and “Smoke A Little Smoke”.  Each song had its own backdrop and guitar solo’s that perfectly placed to show emphasis on the mega-hits. 

    He came back out after a brief absence with a two song encore which began with the heartfelt “Boots”.  The crowd responded with many people taking off their own boots and holding them in the sky.  It was a pretty awesome sight to see (see picture #2 above).  He then sat down at a piano and played the intro to his latest single “Springsteen”. 

    The infectious song had most of NYC singing along, while others yelled out “BRUUUUUUCE”.  Eric had the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout and the entire show was fast moving, but packed with plenty of material.  Eric has certainly proven that he can headline his own tour as the venue was absolutely packed.  It has been quite a year for Eric and I expect his success to keep growing in the future. 

    Setlists:

    Brantley Gilbert

    1. My Kinda Party
    2. Hell On Wheels
    3. Country Must Be Country Wide
    4. Dirt Road Anthem
    5. You Don’t Know Her Like I Do
    6. My Kinda Crazy
    7. Hell On An Angel
    8. Take It Outside
    9. Kick It In the Sticks

    Eric Church

    1. Country Music Jesus
    2. Guys Like Me
    3. Hell On the Heart
    4. Pledge Allegiance to the Hag (with Pancho & Lefty rifts)
    5. How About You
    6. Carolina
    7. I’m Getting Stoned
    8. Jack Daniels
    9. Living Part of Life
    10. Hungover and Hard Up
    11. Creeping
    12. Keep On
    13. 2 Pink Lines (Acoustic)
    14. Sinners Like Me (Acoustic)
    15. I Love Your Love the Most (Acoustic)
    16. Drink In Your Hand
    17. Lotta Boot Left To Fill
    18. Homeboy
    19. Smoke A Little Smoke
    20. These Boots
    21. Springsteen

    Aaron Lewis Gets Unplugged for New England

    Aaron Lewis
    Acoustic & Unplugged
    February 16, 2012
    Mohegan Sun Arena, CT

    In a music world where production value and overpowering speakers are the  concert norm, Aaron Lewis took to an Arena stage with nothing more than a stool, a guitar, and a microphone.  Lewis is the former lead man of the rock band, Staind, who has recently come out with a solo country album, entitled “Town Line”.  On this night, he shared his mezmorizing voice with a rowdy New England crowd as he ripped through country songs, Staind songs, unreleased songs he has recently written, as well as a plethera of cover songs from all genres. 

    He was joined onstage with what he said was “my friend Ben.  He makes me sound good and keeps the bus clean”.  Ben took to the role of Silent Bob as he simply aided Lewis with musical accents on the steel guitar or an accompanying acoustic guitar.  After awhile, you forgot Ben was even there as all the focus shifted to the tattooed crooner.  Lewis wore a red, white, & blue trucker hat with the words HICK scripted in blue.   After every single song, he smoked a new cigarette.  But for the most part he was full of smiles and seemed to make the unique setlist up as he went along. 

    Right from the onset, he announced to the crowd: “it’s (the show) pretty loose tonight, I hope everyone realizes that”.  And indeed it was, he made jokes and took requests from the crowd.  It got to be a bit annoying when everyone from the crowd yelled out either “Country Boy” or “Outside” or “It’s Been Awhile” and Lewis must have agreed because halfway through the set, he said to stop requesting those songs because he would eventually play them.  However, there were a multitude of surprises in the setlist including “Mean” by Taylor Swift, “I’m With You” by Avril Levine, and “American Pie” by Don Mclean.  He may not have performed the full song of any of the covers he did, but he was clearly having fun on the stage and got a kick out of his song choices.  And in return, the crowd both laughed with him and sang along with no shame. 

    Of course, Lewis performed his biggest “Staind” hits to the delight of the crowd.  Songs like “So Far Away” and “Outside” became instand sing-a-longs for the crowd.  However, the track he introduced as a song he “wore his vagina on his sleeve for” seemed to hit the crowd in all the right spots.  This, of course, was the hit “Tangled Up in You”.  In fact, he had to stop for a few seconds because he got choked up.  At the same time, a couple got engaged right in front of the stage. 

    Above all, his country songs reigned supreme.  The song “Massachusetts” was responded to with cheers and yells as Lewis mentioned different areas of the state, such as the Berkshires, the North Shore, and Worthington.  He performed several new songs that will be coming out on a new country album which he said will forthcoming in June.  The standouts included “State Lines” and “Party in Hell”. 

    “Party In Hell” was the song which stood out to me the most on this night.  The steel guitar shined as if it was an old school country tune.  His lyrics are humorous and cunnning:  ” I went to Saint Peter but he won’t let me in. So lets have a party and tell them I’m home. There will be Waylon and Whitney as well.  And Jamey Johnson will be drinking from a brown paper bag. So let’s have a party in hell”. 

    Above all, when Lewis sang “Country Boy”, the song which garnered him mutliple country award nominations this past year, the Arena screen illuminated with an American Flag and the crowd responded with applause.  The patriotic song is full of self appreciation for who he is, what he stands for, and where he came from.  It is a breath of fresh air for a man who has created songs mostly full of depression and self loathing. 

    I really enjoyed the show and wish more successful artists would do an acoustic and unplugged show.  Just hearing him discuss why he wrote certain songs and how they affected him was a pleasure.  And seeing the lighter side of Aaron Lewis made the night completely worthwhile and memorable. 

    Video Clip of “Country Boy”

     Setlist:

    1. So Far Away
    2. State Lines
    3. Massachusetts
    4. I’m With You (Avril Levine Cover)
    5. Mean (Taylor Swift Cover)
    6. Free Bird (Lynyrd Skynyrd Cover performed with a Bob Dylan impression)
    7. Rooster (Alice in Chains Cover)
    8. Greatest Love of All (Whitney Houston Cover)
    9. Party In Hell
    10. I Remember You (Skid Row Cover)
    11. Fill Me Up 
    12. Open Arms
    13. Everything Changes
    14. What Hurts The Most (Jeffrey Steele/Rascal Flatts Cover)
    15. Tangled Up In You
    16. Blown Away
    17. American Pie (Don Mclean)
    18. Forever
    19. Take It Easy (Eagles Cover)
    20. Country Boy

       Encore
       21. Outside
       22. It’s Been Awhile

    Dierks Bentley Goes Home To New York City

    Dierks Bentley
    iHeart Radio Theater, NYC
    February 6, 2012

    Original publication was on www.countrymusicislove.com

    Dierks Bentley performed a private concert last week at the iHeartRadio Theater presented by P.C. Richard & Son, in NYC, in support of his new album, Home. Thanks to our friends at iHeartRadio, we sent ten lucky winners and their guest to the performance, and as he always does for us, Ryan Miller attended the show and was kind enough to recap the night. Here’s his review, along with pictures via iHeartRadio.

    On February 7, the evening of his newest album release, Dierks Bentley performed a private, intimate concert at the iHeart Theater in New York City. Despite tickets being given out on an invite-only basis, the theater was packed with Dierks fans hoping for a sneak peak of some of his newest album’s material. They were not disappointed!

    Jonathan Clarke, an on-air radio personality from New York City’s Q104.3, introduced Dierks and his band who went right into a new cut off of their new release, “Tip It On Back”. The song is simply about getting ready to go out to a party; very much a prelude to what is destined to be a great night. The song is simple but catchy and had everyone geared for the night.

    Dierks’ appearance had changed quite a bit from his look over the past few years. Instead of the curly blonde hair he is well known for, he had a much shorter haircut with no sign of his famous curls. I overheard several women in the crowd debating which look they liked better, with the new look seemingly the winner.

    The second song performed was his well known hit, “Feel that Fire” and the crowd responded with cheers and the night’s first sing-a-long. Dierks lifted his guitar vertically alongside his body in what has become his patented chorus move. Immediately after finishing the song he shouted to the New York City crowd “am I the only one who wants to get it on tonight?” It was obvious what was next, his latest No. 1 Billboard single, “Am I The Only One.” As he sang the party anthem, Dierks’ crowd interaction was impressive as he was pointing, waving, smiling and running around the stage. He even added a third verse in which he called the “NYC only verse” and spoke about partying in the streets of the big city.

    He introduced his next song off of the new album as one inspired by the rock band Van Halen. He stated that Van Halen had an album that he loved when he was younger named “5-1 5-0” which was also the police code for criminally insane. This song was named after both of those. The song is a fast paced, excitable song which, in my opinion, would do wonderfully at country radio. He ripped off the leather jacket he was wearing and geared up for the bombastic song.

    Next he slowed things down for a song titled “Come Around,” which he states was recorded as a duet with Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. It’s a very bluesy sounding song with beautiful loving lyrics. This song also has the goods to be a big hit at country radio. He next re-called the four night “New York City residency” when he played four bluegrass shows in four nights in some of the most intimate venues of New York. He then gave the fans a taste of his bluegrass hit Up On The Ridge which truly showcased the immense skill the band contains.

    He then introduced his next song as a “song that is not country.” He stated that he created it for a Jimmy Fallon television special described as the Pink Floyd series. He was asked to do a country version of the Pink Floyd classic “Wish You Were Here.” I was standing next to Jonathan Clarke of Q104.3 and could see how impressed he was, as a rock music DJ, that Dierks did such a great rendition of the song. With the steel guitar and a fiddle, he transformed the song into his own, while doing great justice to the original.

    He followed up the song with his former No. 1 hit “Sideways” and his energy was at an all time high. He jumped into the crowd and was handing out the microphone to fans for the vocals. He next explained to the crowd that he has a 1959 Martin Guitar which always makes him feel like he is at home. He proclaimed that “Washington D.C. is the capital, but New York City is the pulse of the country. The whole country feels what happens here. And I feel like it is part of my home.” He then did a moving rendition of his latest single and title track of his new album, “Home.”

    He finished off his set with arguably his most famous song to date, “What Was I Thinking.” He cranked the energy up to 10 for one final song, thanked the crowd for coming, and grabbed his fellow band members for a group bow. The theater gave him a standing ovation and, with the love that Dierks got from the crowd, you could tell why he considers NYC his ‘home.’

    The iHeart Radio Theatre was a perfect venue for such an intimate concert which really allowed Dierks to give some inside information about why he wrote some of the new songs while showcasing the full band’s vast talent. All in all, it was an exceptional show in a fantastic venue. Thank you to CountryMusicIsLove, iHeart Radio, and Clear Channel Radio for such a great opportunity.  Photos courtesy of Jennifer Pottheiser for iHeartRadio. 

    Zac Brown Band Lights Up Nashville

    Zac Brown Band
    w/ Nic Cowan, Sonia Leigh,
    Sarah Dugas, and Arnold McCuller
    December 30, 2011

    Bridgestone Arena
    Nashville, TN

    I attended the Zac Brown Band concert in Nashville, TN this past week.  It was my first time and first night in Nashville and everyone seemed to be just as excited as I was.  Honky Tonk Row aka Broadway was jumping with people for hours before the show and you could feel the energy oozing up and down the block.  Bridgestone Arena is a massive building, as far as Arenas are concerned, and the inside appeared to be very clean and well thought out.  I made my way down to the floor level where the show had a General Admission Pit. 

    I walked into sounds of the initial opening act, Sarah Dugas and was a bit confused about what I heard. She at first was not singing in English, then proceeded to belt out sounds, not words, in a high octave that made myself and others around me cringe. I was happy only to hear a few songs by her and will certainly pass on her in the future. To my surprise, Mac McAnally, the Grammy and CMA Award Winner, was in crowd next to me.  I spoke to him for a few minutes and, at one point, he stated “well you are in for a great show, the guys are really talented”.  He was humble, gracious, and allowed a few fans to take pictures with him right there on the floor. 

    The next two opening acts up’d the ante from the rocky start and the night finally was on its way.  Nic Cowan performed his funky Country/Americana songs: “Hard-Headed”, “Woke Up This Morning”, and “Cut It Loose” and he had the crowd dancing throughout.  I have really enjoyed Nic’s music and was hoping for a longer set than just four songs, but he did perform a new single that has a lot of promise.  Sonia Leigh was next and she came out with high energy right away.  She is a very unorthodox female singer who is way more Americana than Country, but it works for her.  “Money” and “Bar” are catchy songs and she has a passion for her songs.  I do not think she will ever be a regular on country radio, but her fans could care less. 

    It was finally time for the main event and the extravagant stage illuminated with stars, lights and lazers and the Zac Brown Band jumped into their newest #1 smash hit, “Keep Me In Mind” and never looked back.  I have seen ZBB over seven times and they keep getting better and better.  No setlist has ever been the same and each show has new surprises. 

    I was half expecting Alan Jackson to show up for “As She’s Walking Away” since we were in Nashville, but when he didn’t it did not bother me all that much.  Especially since they followed up those first two #1’s with their rendition of Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”.  Excuse me for saying this, and I may get hate mail for it, but I think Zac and the boys’ version is better than the original.  Jimmy De Martini is an absolute master with the fiddle.  That, and the intensity and skill the other members of the band play their instruments with make that song a must at each ZBB show. 

    For the first time since I have seen them live, Zac added two new band members to the stage.  One  was a saxophonist that resembled Justin Bieber and another was a bongo player who later on had a “drum-off” with ZBB’s Chris Fryar.  Both were highly skilled and really added a new flavor to the already overly talented Zac Brown Band. 

    The setlist flowed perfectly with #1 hits and deeper cuts off the Band’s two albums in which all the fans in the sold out arena seemed to know word for word.  There were several songs that were meshed with other classics, such as “Free” mashed with “Into the Mystic” and “Where The Boat Leaves From” and some Bob Marley classics.  One highlight was when “Isn’t She Lovely” was mashed up with John Mayer’s “Neon”.  If I thought Jimmy De Martini was amazing on their earlier Charlie Daniels rendition, he showcased his ridiculous talent even more on a spellbinding fiddle solo on “Neon”. 

    Zac brought out Sarah Dugas along with soul/R&B singer, Arnold McCullen for a cover of “Use Me”.  ZBB let Arnold and Sarah handle the vocals and Zac really seemed to be enjoying himself during the funky song.  This song was suprisingly followed up by a cover of hip-hop group Outkast’s “So Fresh and So Clean”.  That is the real beauty of the Zac Brown Band, their range of songs are unlike anyone in the business.  I have seen them cover songs from Pink Floyd, Outkast, Sir Mix A Lot, to Tom Petty, Alabama, and Rage Against the Machine. 

    The stage for this tour was much more extravagant than the recent tours.  It had rotating and moving spotlights as well interactive screens that changed colors and showcased live images of each of the Band members. 

    The Encore began with the drum-off that I spoke of earlier and was followed up with a masterful version of “Can’t You See” with Band member, Clay Cook, on vocals.  He too has a wonderful voice and really put his all into this song.  The whole crowd responded with applause and their voices back. 

    The Nashville crowd exploded during the next few songs.  First was “Colder Weather”, arguably the Band’s most successful single, to date.  Bridgestone Arena sang along to the song word for word and Zac’s voice was never better.  I heard reports that Zac was sick during the show and needed an emergency shot of antibotics before the concert.  I would have never known unless for those reports because, to me, his voice was as clear and strong as ever. 

    Lastly was a mashup of “America. The Beautiful” with “Chicken Fried”.  The two songs flow so well together and the whole crowd went crazy during the chorus of the latter.  Zac and the boys ended the song with a jam-out in which each member had a short solo.  Zac finished and stated to the crowd in a loud, booming and passionate voice: “I know a lot of you have seen us at Awards shows lately and we have come up empty handed. But we do not judge our success by those Awards, it is by this right here – you the fans! And as long as you guys keep coming out and filling up these Arenas for our shows, I guarantee we will be here in 20 years still doing this for you. So thank you Nashville!”. It was powerful and obviously truthful statement in which Zac really exclaimed with passion. 

    The show was incredible and everyone walked away completely entertained and extremely satisfied.  As the Nashville crowd walked out of the Arena and right onto Honky Tonk Row, they knew that in twenty years they would indeed be seeing Zac and the boys again, because this Band is not going anywhere but the top. 

    Setlist:
    1. Keep Me In Mind
    2. As She’s Walking Away
    3. Devil Went Down To Georgia
    4. Free
    5. Into The Mystic
    6. Where The Boat Leaves From
    7. Islands In The Stream
    8. Jolene
    9. Highway 20 Ride
    10. Not Okay
    11. Who Knows
    12. Knee Deep
    13. Whiskey’s Gone
    14. Use Me (with Sarah Dugas and Arnold McCullen)
    15. So Fresh and So Clean
    16. Sic Em On A Chicken
    17. Isn’t She Lovely
    18. Neon
    19. Make This Day (with Mastiff)

    ENCORE

    20. Drum Solo’s by Chris Fryar
    21. Can’t You See with vocals by Clay Cook
    22. Colder Weather
    23. America The Beautiful
    24. Chicken Fried

    Grande Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium 12/30/11

    GRAND OLE OPRY
    at the Ryman Auditorium
    Nashville, TN
    December 30, 2011
    Various Artists

    I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the Ryman Auditorium on December 30, 2011 for the Grand Ole Opry show.  First of all, just to enter into the legendary Ryman was the real highlight of my trip to Nashville.  All of the history can be felt immediately as soon as you walk into the building.  It was, to my delight, much smaller than expected and in prestine condition. 

    As for the show itself, it was amazing to see all of the different acts come out for their 1 or 2 song sets, and how flawlessly and professionally everything was run.  Little Jimmy Dickins had the crowd roaring with his hilarious stand-up between songs.  He was not announced on the bill before the show, so when he showed up on stage it was a great surprise to all.  For being over 90 years old, he sounded clear and much better than expected. 

    There were highlights all throughout the show: Jimmy Wayne put forth an emotional performance with “Paper Angels and “I Love You This Much” and Craig Morgan had fans singing along to “What I Like About Sundays” and “This Old Boy”.  Mandy Barnett showed her vocal talents as she belted out Ernest Tubb’s “Walking The Floor Over” and “Faded Love”.  Riders in the Sky had fans reminiscing with their song “Rawhide” and Jean Shepard sang her classics “Tennessee Waltz” and “I’m Tired Of Playing Second Fiddle to a Guitar”.  Russell Moore & 3rd Time Out, who are the reigning Bluegrass Vocalists of the Year, showed off their skills with guitar rifts, banjo’s and fiddles galore.  Restless Heart closed out the show with two of their #1’s from the 1980’s: “I’ll Still Be Loving You” and “Why Does It Have To Be”. 

    Overall, the show was an amazing performance of entertainment: from music to jokes to legendary figures and stars of today.  If you are ever in the Nashville area, make sure you take a Tour of the Ryman and catch a Grand Ole Opry show. 

    John Conlee:
    Craig Morgan:
    Little Jimmy Dickins:

    Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press:

    Mandy Barnett:

    Riders In the Sky:

    Russell Moore & 3rd Time Out:

    Jimmy Wayne:

    Mike Snider:
    Jean Shepard:

    Restless Heart:

    Other Pictures from outside and inside the Ryman Auditorium:

    We also traveled to Opryland and saw the adjoining Grand Ole Opry House.  We took some pictures of the outside of the House, but since the Opry shows were being played at the Ryman, the House was closed.  Here are a few pictures of the Grand Ole Opry House:

    Rodney Atkins Takes a Back Road to NYC (original publication on countrymusicislove.com)

    Rodney Atkins
    iHeartRadio Theater
    Tribeca, NYC
    Nov. 4, 2011

    The original publication of this article can be found on www.countrymusicislove.com

    On Friday night, New York City was treated to an intimate live performance from one of the rising stars of country music, Rodney Atkins.  I was greeted by Vanessa Wojtusiak, the Manager of Digital Marketing & Programming at Clear Channel Online Music & Radio, who informed me that the Theater was just renamed to the iHeartRadio Theater (formerly known as the PC Richard & Sons Theater).  This music venue is one of the best I’ve ever been to.  It gives fans an up close experience to top artists while providing exceptional acoustics.

    At approximately 7 p.m., Jonathan Clarke, an on-air personality from New York’s Q104.3 came out to warmly great the crowd and introduce Rodney.  He asked the crowd if anyone was from Rodney’s home town of Knoxville and informed us that Rodney’s last single (“Take A Back Road”) was the fastest rising of his career.  Rodney came out and modestly stated “This first request is for you guys.”  The fiddle sounded and his band jumped right into “These Are My People”. 

    Rodney is not flashy at all.  He was dressed simply in a trucker hat, a grey sweater, and brown cargo slacks.  He was very soft spoken between his songs and really lets his music do the entertaining.  He prides himself on singing about real life events that normal people can relate to.  He took the time to sing the next two songs about his son, Elijah, who was actually in the crowd.  He stated “this is for my little bear” and emotionally sang the smash hit “Watching You”.  As the yellow and blue lights swirled and filled the theater, it was an amazing moment to see his son react to the song his father was singing.  He was full of smiles and jumped up and down singing right along with him. 

    The next song was also about his son as Rodney jokingly explained that his son had just hit double digits (in age) and Rodney knew what he did when he was younger was going to come back haunt him.   But he always wanted his son to know he loved him “and it’s unconditional.”  He then sang his new song on country radio, “He’s Mine”.  It sounded even better live than it did it does on the radio as extra emotion was pumped through Rodney’s vocals.  He certainly has yet another hit on his hands. 
    Rodney took the time to introduce his band before he sang “Farmer’s Daughter” which included amazing instrumental moments from a band member playing a banjo and another on the steel guitar.  It is good old country music at its finest.  He introduced the next song as the first love song he has ever done.  He said its “hard to find a real love song because once you are in a relationship it’s not all blue skies and no bills”.   He, of course, was talking about “Cabin In The Woods”, a real stand-out song off of his newest album. 

    His next song was the one the crowd was obviously waiting for as the entire Theater sang “Take A Back Road” in unison with Rodney.  In fact, he seemed to be getting more comfortable on stage as he was very animated and interactive during this huge hit.  He followed it up by singing to a fan in the crowd who was celebrating a birthday.  He performed an acoustic version of the fan’s favorite song, Garth Brooks’ classic hit “Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old”. 

    Rodney finished up his set by proudly toasting all the soldiers who were serving abroad and stating “may we all be in heaven five minute before the devil knows we’re there!”  He of course was eluding to arguably his biggest hit “If You’re Going Through Hell”.  Rodney did not use his guitar for the first time that night as he used every inch of the stage.  He was clearly most at ease singing this song and he was nothing but energy and smiles throughout. 

    I was able to speak to Rodney after the show and I asked him what he was most proud of with the new album.  His response was “Not to be trite, but we love keeping the music real to who we are. And our album’s material has not wavered from the first album. And I love the way I can keep my music true to who I am.”  He also explained to me that the album took a long time to make because he really wanted the right songs to be on the record.  My friend Max who came with me to the show explained that from one father to another, he hoped he could see his son’s face during “Watching You” and “He’s Mine”, because it was a powerful reaction. Rodney as always, was very gracious and humble.  For such a soft spoken guy, his music really speaks loudly and you could tell everyone at the iHeartRadio Theater that night really connected with his music. 

    All photos are courtesy of Jeremy Harris of iHeartRadio.  All in all, it was an exceptional show in a superb venue. Thank you to CountryMusicIsLove, iHeart Radio, and Clear Channel Radio for such a great experience.

    Setlist

    1. These Are My People
    2. Watching You
    3. He’s Mine
    4. Farmer’s Daughter
    5. Cabin In the Woods
    6. Take A Back Road
    7. Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old (Garth Brooks Cover)
    8. If You’re Going Through Hell

    Watch The Throne: The Madison Square Garden Edition

    Watch the Throne
    Jay-Z & Kanye West
    Madison Square Garden, NYC
    November 8, 2011

    The stars were out in New York City at Tuesday Night’s “Watch The Throne” concert at the world famous Madison Square Garden. As I took my seat in Section 107, Row 8, I could see the likes of Beyonce, Neo, Serena Williams, Fat Joe, and more. In fact, Alexandria Ambrosio and three other Victoria’s Secrets models sat down in the seats right next to me! About five minutes before the lights went out, Carmelo Anthony walked onto the floor and got a New York City home crowd standing ovation accompanied with chants of “Melo”. For all of the big names in the Garden that night, no one shined more than the true stars of the show.

    The lights went dark at about 9:30 p.m. and it was on.  Kanye appeared on a platform on the right of the arena and Jay-Z came out a few seconds later on a platform to the left.  They were facing each other as they ripped into the egotistical “H.A.M.”, a bonus track off of the “Watch The Throne” album.  Jay-Z was immediately in showman form as he kept yelling to the crowd “What’s Up?”.  After the initial song, the platforms rose into cubes thirty feet off of the ground and transformed into giant shark tanks as they rapped “Who Gon Stop Me”. 

    This was one of the highlights of the show and the shark stages are getting a lot of buzz in the world of twitter and facebook.  It really was a sight to behold.  The back and forth interaction across the arena between “Hova” and “Ye” while standing atop these giant cubes was memorable and the two rappers seemed larger than life. 

    The cubes descended back into the floor and the two superstars vanished for a few minutes as they made their way to the main stage.  For the next two and half hours the fans were treated to a sing along catalog of Jay-Z’s solo hits, Kanye’s solo hits, the duo’s collaborations over the years, and of course a heavy dose of Throne songs.  The stage set up was unique and featured a plethera of pyrotechnics, giant images on the big screens of the two, as well as a laser light show that was breath-taking. 

    As you know from my previous post on this blog, I attended the same concert two nights earlier in New Jersey.  While that show was incredible and had a distinct “wow” factor, this night was extra special.  I have never, in all of the 200 plus concerts I have attended, been part of a crowd that was so energetic. 

     The entire crowd danced, rapped, sang, jumped, swayed, and bounced along with Jay-Z and Kanye West.  And the two of them responded in due fashion.  Kanye was acting like a maniac running sprints, dancing wildly, and giving it his all.  Meanwhile, Jay-Z was as cool as ever, delivering his lyrics clearly and smoothly, and his interaction with the crowd was really what made MSG shake. 

    “Empire State of Mind” and “Encore” never sounded so good to me.  It was like Jay-Z thought of those lyrics while standing on stage at the Garden.  He was smiling throughout the show and geniunely looked like he was having the time of his life.  I took a lot of time to just study his facial expressions as well as to look around the arena at all of the people going crazy.  There was a special, special feeling in the air that night and everyone was a part of it. 

    Kanye’s wardrobe was as bizarre as ever.  He changed his clothes at least five times that night and made his way through a collection of  Bill Cosby-like sweaters.  All throughout he wore a leather skirt and leather tights.  But he gave extra that night into his performance and for once, I even saw him smile a few times.  He and his big brother clearly have a lot of admiration for each other and that was evident that night as their on stage interaction was flawless and real. 

    The setlist was a bit different from the show I saw at the Izod Center as Kanye, to my delight, added in his first single “Through the Wire” and the two sang “Made in America”.  During the latter, they dedicated the song to Heavy D, who had died that same day.  They had everyone take out either a lighter or their cell phone and the entire arena became a spectacle of lights. 

    A funny moment was after Jay-Z performed the smash hit, “Big Pimpin”, Kanye stated to the crowd “Jay-Z was my hero growing up and I always wanted to be like him. But every time I would try to live Big Pimpin, I couldn’t because ….” and the speakers broke right into the Jamie Foxx chorus of “Gold Digger”: “she take my money”. You can see the video below of this humorous scripted moment.

    The encore was completely different from Sunday night’s show and was a true fan’s delight.  “***** In Paris” was played for the third time and, of course, they did “Encore”.  The whole crowd was chanting “Hova, Hova, Hova” and Jay made sure the crowd also gave love to Kanye.  Then Jay-Z went off script and asked a fan in the crowd what time it was and said “no really, what time is it?  Like the real time”.  He then said that they had fifteen minutes to run through some more hits.  The two broke into some old classics like “Guess Who’s Back”, “Dead Presidents”, “All Falls Down”, “Get Em High”, “Jigga My *****”, and more.  They just kept turning back to the DJ behind him and called out a song that seemed to come off the top of their head. 

    Like I said, there was a special feeling in the air on that night.  The two music powerhouses combined at the World’s Greatest Arena to put on one of the best shows I have ever seen.  It was an amazing 50 song setlist, performed flawlessly and with great pride, swagger, and passion.  I have been absolutely blown away by the Watch The Throne Tour and this night was, perhaps, the best of them all. 

    SETLIST:

    1. H.A.M.
    2. Who Gon Stop Me
    3. Otis
    4. Welcome To the Jungle
    5. Gotta Have It
    6. Where I’m From
    7. Jigga What, Jigga Who
    8. Can’t Tell Me Nothing
    9. Flashing Lights
    10. Jesus Walks
    11. Through the Wire
    12. Diamonds From Sierra Leone Remix
    13. Public Service Announcement
    14. U Don’t Know
    15. Run This Town
    16. Monster
    17. Power
    18. Made In America
    19. New Day
    20. Hard Knock Life
    21. H to the Izzo
    22. Empire State of Mind
    23. Runaway
    24. Heartless
    25. Stronger
    26. On To the Next One
    27. Dirt Off My Shoulder
    28. I Just Wanna Love You
    29. That’s My B****
    30. Good Life
    31. Touch The Sky
    32. All Of The Lights
    33. Big Pimpin’
    34. Gold Digger
    35. 99 Problems
    36. What A Wonderful World
    37. No Church in the Wild
    38. Lift Off
    39. ****** In Paris
    40. ****** In Paris
    41. ****** In Paris
    42. Encore
    43. Jigga My *****
    44. Blow Your Whistle
    45. All Falls Down
    46. Get Em High
    47. Lucifer
    48. Dead Presidents
    49. Guess Who’s Back
    50. Why I Love You

    VIDEOS:

    Big Pimpin’ into Gold Digger
    Dirt Off Your Shoulder
    Kanye’s Cube Rise

    Made In America

    Who Gon’ Stop Me

    Watch The Throne Lives Up To the Hype In NJ

    Watch The Throne
    Jay-Z & Kanye West
    Izod Center, East Rutherford, NJ
    November 6, 2011

    Wow.  I attended the Watch The Throne Tour stop in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday Night expecting to see a great concert.  Instead, what I witnessed was a magical moment where two performers took their music to heights where no Hip-Hop artist had every taken it.  The show literally made me say “wow” out loud multiple times. 

    The show did not begin until approximately 9:15 p.m. and there was no opening act.  As the crowd sat in their seats with the lights on you saw a stage with raised platforms in an almost maze-like manner, with two other platforms shaped like squares, and at least six men on a hanging trapeze fixture with gigantic lights and cameras.  Yet, no one knew exactly what was going to come next.  As the lights went dim, the “Throne” instrumental music that is heard between each of the tracks on the actual Watch The Throne album could be heard.  And you could see Kanye West walk to the squared platform on the right and Jay-Z to the one on the left.  Surpringsly, the first song of the night was “H.A.M”, a bonus track on the new album.  No one seemed to mind as all of a sudden, the two squared platforms started to rise and within a minute the two superstars were on cubes thirty feet in the air trading verses filled with bravado and swagger.  

    The astounding 40 song setlist was perfectly planned.  It was a constant and entertaining trade off between Jay-Z and Kanye.  They performed songs together and then separately, each with an even amount of stage time.  Jay-Z clearly got more love from the crowd, most likely because the show was so close to where he grew up.  That’s not to say Kanye did not get love because the crowd was cheering and dancing right along with him as well. 

    The two stars traded verses on the raised cubes to “H.A.M.”, “Who Gon Stop Me”, and “Welcome To the Jungle”.  At one point the cubes pictured both pitbulls barking and then transformed into giant fish tanks with great white sharks swimming in them.  It was truly amazing to witness these effects.  Once they finished these three songs, the cubes came back down to their starting level and the lights went dark.  For the next three minutes, “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding played over the speakers and a huge American Flag was spread along the main stage.  The two came out and ripped into “Otis” and the crowd went wild.

    What I really loved about the show was the interaction between the two.  They genuinely looked like they were having a great time.  They were smiling and even traded lyrics on each other’s singles.  For instance, Kanye sang the lyrics as the police officer in the second verse of “99 Problems” and Jay-Z helped Kanye out on “Gold Digger”. 

    In fact, after Jay-Z did “Big Pimpin”, Kanye stated to the crowd “Jay-Z was my hero growing up and I always wanted to be like him. But every time I would try to live Big Pimpin, I couldn’t because ….” and the speakers broke right into the Jamie Foxx chorus of “Gold Digger”: “she take my money”. The two shared what looked like a lot of good laughs to their obviously rehearsed song set ups. 

    Jay-Z was the most interactive with the crowd that I have ever seen him.  He strolled around the stage in his typical coolness and got the crowd to put their hands in the air and make the “Roc Diamond” in the sky multiple times throughout.  Kanye had a lot less interaction, but really showed a lot of emotion during his songs dancing like a maniac and giving it his all. 

    All throughout the show, large amounts of pyrotechnics were used and the dual stages were utilized.  Kanye used the large platform on the left of the arena for a three song set highlighted by the effectious “Stronger”.  Most people seemed to take a bathroom break during the autotuned “Heartless”.  I could have done without that fairly lackluster tune. 

    I really enjoyed their rendition of “Diamonds From Sierra Leon” and “Monster”, two songs from Kanye’s past solo albums.  The two have a natural showmanship and do things so differently, yet the combination at the same time is an amazing transformation.  Kanye is self absorbed rapper, dressed in a leather kilt; Jay-Z is the crowd pleaser dressed simply in his trademark Yankee hat, black shirt and jeans.  They are so different, but somehow when they blend their styles, sure genuis is the result. 

    Another great moment was when the two slowed things down and sat next to each other on the stage.  They rapped to “New Day” and “Hard Knock Life” while sitting down as if they were just old friends sharing a moment.  It came across as genuine and really showcased the real love they have for each other.

    Three of the last four songs played was their latest #1 on the Billboard Charts, “****** In Paris”.  When the clip of Will Ferrel from his movie “Blades of Glory” came on, the energy in the building amplified to a ridiculous level.  The two blasted into the song and the crowd responded by jumping up and down.  The entire building was shaking, it was truly a sight to behold.  They finished the song once and Jay-Z stated “**** it, let’s do again” and they went right back to it. 

    The two left the stage for a brief minute and came back out for an encore.  They went right back to “Paris” and no one in the building seemed to mind.  They finished their masterpiece with Jay-Z’s “Encore” and the crowd was heard chanting “Hova, Hova Hova …” on repeat in honor of the superstar.  They finished up with Jay-Z thanking the crowd and walked off together into the dark. 

    While most of the concert was absolutely brilliant, there were a few minor things that were a bit strange.  First, was Kanye’s choice of clothing.  At first he was wearing a t-shirt with his face on it, a leather kilt, leather tights, and basketball sneakers.  He then changed halfway through into an atrocious sweater, yet decided to keep the kilt on.  Also, there were images on the two giant HD screens that were confusing.  At one point there was a police chase where police cars were getting blown up and crashed into.  Then duing “No Church In the Wild”, there were images of the Klu Klux Klan – quite disturbing. 

    But all in all, out of the 200 plus concerts that I have attending in my lifetime, this one ranks up there in the top few.  The stage design, the pyrotechnics, the setlist, and special effects all lived up to the hype that “Watch The Throne” has been receiving.  I cannot wait until I see their show at Madison Square Garden tomorrow night.  All I can say is wow. 

     SETLIST:

    1. H.A.M. 
    2. Who Gon Stop Me
    3. Otis
    4. Welcome To the Jungle
    5. Gotta Have It
    6. Where I’m From
    7. Jigga What, Jigga Who
    8. Can’t Tell Me Nothing
    9. Flashing Lights
    10. Jesus Walks
    11. Diamonds From Sierra Leone Remix
    12. Public Service Announcement
    13. U Don’t Know
    14. Run This Town
    15. Monster
    16. Power
    17. New Day
    18. Hard Knock Life
    19. H to the Izzo
    20. Empire State of Mind
    21. Runaway
    22. Heartless
    23. Stronger
    24. On To the Next One
    25. Dirt Off My Shoulder
    26. I Just Wanna Love You
    27. That’s My B****
    28. Good Life
    29. Touch The Sky
    30. All Of The Lights
    31. Big Pimpin’
    32. Gold Digger
    33. 99 Problems
    34. What A Wonderful World
    35. No Church in the Wild
    36. Lift Off
    37. ****** In Paris
    38. ****** In Paris
    39. ****** In Paris
    40. Encore

    VIDEOS:

    H.A.M.

    Who Gon Stop Me

    ****** In Paris
    Stronger
    U Don’t Know
    On To The Next One
    Jigga What, Jigga Who
    Diamonds Remix
    99 Problems
    H To the Izzo
    Empire State of Mind
    Outro

    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:
    and
    and

    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.