Country 92.5 Presents the 2013 Concert for Kids Dustin Lynch, Jerrod Niemann, Jana Kramer, Randy Houser & Courtney Drummey Cadillac Ranch, Stonington, CT February 25, 2013
Each year, Connecticut’s Country Music radio station puts together an acoustic show at the Cadillac Ranch, in Southington, CT. The show is a benefit for St. Jude’s Children Hospital in Memphis, TN, a charity country music singers have always greatly supported. This year’s show included Jerrod Niemann, Jana Kramer, Dustin Lynch, and Randy Houser.
Before the show, the ticket holders lined up in the cold to get entry to the Cadillac Ranch. Jerrod Niemann appeared and walked up and down the line greeting fans, taking photos, and making jokes. I caught up with him and cracked some jokes about the time we spent on the Blake Shelton Cruise this past October (see: http://millertimemusicspot.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-blake-shelton-friends-cruise-review.html). He joked with me, saying: “those were better, warmer times. Also blurrier times”. I thought this accessibility to the fans was a classy move by Jerrod and it made the time spent by the fans on line a lot easier.
The show consists of a guitar pull, as each of the artists stay on stage the whole time, joining in on each other’s songs. Jerrod carried the show’s banter, as he added numerous jokes and comments about each of the artists. He even added a baseball themed song about an old man getting hit by a ball that had everyone cracking up.
Jana Kramer tried to add into the banter and discussed a bit of her new engagement with Brantley Gilbert. She got a huge round of applause when she sang her new single “Whiskey” and “Why You Wanna” became an instant sing-a-long with the crowd. The actress (One Tree Hill, Entourage) turned singer’s live voice has improved each time I have seen her perform.
Jerrod sang his top four hits, including a slower version of his new single, “One God Can Love You More” The slower, acoustic version added to the beautiful lyrics of the song, which he co-wrote with Lee Brice. All throughout the show, Jerrod was making jokes, but there is no comedy when it comes to his music as he is a true hit-maker. When he belted out “Lover, Lover” during the last pull, the crowd may not have been louder all night.
Dustin Lynch had the girls in the crowd straight giddy as I overheard numerous comments about his looks. But his voice is most impressive about him. Backed by a ridiculously impressive guitarist from his band, Dustin took us through four of the cuts from his debut album. But “Cowboys & Angels”, his first #1 single, was the absolute highlight of the whole night. One of, if not the best country song of the year had all the significant others in the crowd holding on to each other tight. I expect great things from him in his career.
Randy Houser has one of the best vocals in music today. And in the intimate Caddy Ranch, those booming vocals were straight bombastic. He soared on “Like a Cowboy”, had the place rocking during “Boots On”, and his new single, “Running Out of Moonlight” had people ready to immediately request it on Country 92.5. The final song of the night was very fitting as his first #1, “How Country Feels” was belted out by Randy as well as every last person in the crowd.
Each of the artists was on point and were quick to acknowledge both Country 92.5 and St. Jude’s Hospital. I am proud to have donated to St. Jude’s as well as attend this event the past five years. There was a poster signing at the end of the night, where those who bought the posters could meet the artists and get their signatures. An overall classy evening where it’s always great to see musicians get together for a worthy cause.
George Strait The Cowboy Rides Away Tour w/ Martina McBride February 23, 2013 XL Center, Hartford, CT
When George Strait left the stage on Saturday night in Hartford, Connecticut, I felt a feeling that I’ve never experienced post-concert before. It was a sadness that came with an immediate realization that it would most likely be the final time I’d ever hear his voice live again. The feeling for the two hours before that was of great admiration for a true musical living legend. The thirty three song set that King George performed was done so with passion, grace, and without the frills that most performers need to accompany their live performances.
Martina McBride opened the show with an hour long performance of her own. I had never seen her live before and her voice was very impressive. The squared shape “in the round” styled stage, which placed a microphone at all four sides, seemed to take away from Martina’s performance as she did not capture the audience’s attention as much as when George was out there. Nonetheless, her vocals were beautiful as she went through her catalogue of hits. She also appeared on stage during George’s set for a Johnny Cash & June Carter song, “Jackson”‘, as well as “Golden Ring”‘, a George Jones & Tammy Wynette cover.
Before George took to the stage, video clips of award shows and past memories played on the various screens around the XL Center. Also, clips of other artists played with messages for King George, including Tim McGraw, Reba, Ronnie Dunn, Kenny Chesney, and Blake Shelton. The lights went low, and George walked on stage with his signature black hat and black guitar. He belted out “Here For a Good Time” and the two hour sing-a-long began.
Mid-way through the show, George strategically placed songs in a chronological order of his time as an artist as he sang older songs such as “80 Proof Bottle off Tear-Stopper” and “Honky-Tonk Crazy”. He broke up the normal chain of events when he sang “Happy Birthday” to his wife and gave a wounded warrior and his wife a new house plus groceries for a year. The crowd was in the palm of his hands with every move and each song.
There were no flashy screens, extravagant light shows, or pyrotechnics needed. Just a man with a guitar and a microphone, making his way around the stage so each side of the arena could get a glimpse of him as he sang his stories. It is what makes George Strait so unique in comparison to most artists, you don’t need the “show” of a concert; instead, you just want to hear and see the man who has fifty-nine #1 hits do what God intended him to do.
The crowd cheered just by the opening notes of a few songs, such as “Amarillo By Morning”, “Ocean Front Property”, “Stars on the Water” and “Give It Away”. Other tunes, such as “I’ll Always Remember You”, “Troubadour” and the final number, “The Cowboy Rides Away” brought the emotional feelings on as you could see those song’s words meant as much to the man himself as it did for the crowd.
All in all, it was a concert event that I will never forget. I really hope this was not the last time I ever see George Strait live, but with the announcement of his retirement from touring it seems inevitable. But if it was, it was a display of perfection by the King of Country Music, complete with true class all the way… but would anyone expect anything else as the Cowboy Rides Away.
Here For a Good Time
Ocean Front Property
Check Yes or No
I Saw God Today
A Showman’s Life
Love’s Gonna Make It Alright
Jackson (Johnny Cash & June Cover, sung with Martina McBride)
Golden Ring (George Jones & Tammy Wynette Cover, sung with Martina McBride)
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.
As She’s Walking Away
Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band Cover)
Jump Right In
Keep Me In Mind
Wherever We Break Down (Acoustic Song with Levi Lowrey)
One Day (Acoustic Song)
Sweet Emotion (Acoustic Song – Aerosmith Cover)
Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
Sic Em On A Chicken
Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
Drum Solo’s by Chris Fryar & Daniel De Los Reyes (ENCORE)
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.
Rain Is a Good Thing
Someone Else Calling You Baby
Drunk On You
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
Drinking Beer and Wasting Bullets
Easy Like Sunday Morning (Lionel Richie Cover)
Faithfully (Journey Cover)
All My Friends
Enter the Sandman (Metallica Cover)
I Don’t Want This Night to End
Country Girl (Shake It For Me)
Big Green Tractor
Take a Ride in the City
Fly Over States
Tattoos On This Town
Don’t You Wanna Stay
Dirt Road Anthem
My Kinda Party
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.
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.
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.
Bob That Head
Fast Cars and Freedom
Play A Country Song
Here Comes Tonight
Hot In Here
Praying For Daylight
All About the Sunset
Life Is a Highway
Feels Like Today
Me & My Gang
Come Wake Me Up
What Hurts the Most
All American Band (Grand Funk Railroad Cover performed with Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, and Eden’s Edge)
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.
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.
I Got You
One Of Those Days
Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not
Love Will Do That
The Craziest Thing
It Won’t Be Like This For Long
Only Wanna Be With You (Hootie & The Blowfish Cover)
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.
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.
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:
Someone Else Calling You Baby
Drunk On You Acoustic
Drunk On You
Drinking Beer, Wasting Bullets
If You Ain’t Here To Party
Someone Like You (Adele Cover)
All My Friends (Enter the Sandman snippet)
I Don’t Want This Night To End
Country Girl (Shake It For Me) w/ Lauren Alaina
Jason Aldean Setlist:
Big Green Tractor
Fly Over States
Glory Days – with Luke Bryan (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Amarillo By Morning – with Luke Bryan (George Strait cover)
Time Marches On – with Luke Bryan (Tracy Lawrence cover)
We Rode In Trucks with Luke Bryan (Luke Bryan cover)
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.
My Kinda Party
Hell On Wheels
Country Must Be Country Wide
Dirt Road Anthem
You Don’t Know Her Like I Do
My Kinda Crazy
Hell On An Angel
Take It Outside
Kick It In the Sticks
Country Music Jesus
Guys Like Me
Hell On the Heart
Pledge Allegiance to the Hag (with Pancho & Lefty rifts)
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)
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
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.
These Are My People
Cabin In the Woods
Take A Back Road
Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old (Garth Brooks Cover)
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.
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.
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”.
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 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.
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)
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.
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
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
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)