Zac Brown Band’s Bucket List Moment at Madison Square Garden

Zac Brown Band
Madison Square Garden
November 17, 2012
w/ Blackberry Smoke & Levi Lowrey
 

There are not many venues in the World that bring about an immediate sense of excitement.  Madison Square Garden is absolutely one of them.    On November 17, 2012, the Zac Brown Band displayed an amplified version of themselves as their performance was one of passion, talent, and excellence.  I can honestly say it was the best country music concert I have ever seen. 

After short sets from Blackberry Smoke and Levi Lowrey, two acts that Zac has signed to his Southern Ground Record label, the crowd’s energy began to grow each second.  The headliners were streamed live on Fuse TV and HD Camera’s were out in full force.  As the giant white screen that covered the stage displayed a ten second countdown, the screams, clapping, and cheering from the hyped up crowd was at a defeaning level.  The white sheet dropped and the Band ripped right into their #1 hit “Keep  Me in Mind”.

The setlist was perfectly planned out, with a rollercoaster feel of fast, upbeat songs to emotional ballads and masterful covers of epic songs.  A few songs in, during “Colder Weather”, Zac took off by himself to the middle of the catwalk and looked up at the crowd and around the sold out arena as he sang the powerful lyrics.  It was clear to all that Zac could not hold back his emotion as tears began to roll from down his eyes.  It was a powerful moment for a fan like me and it was clear that Zac understood the moment.

Most of the Band’s hits were played that night as “Toes”, “Free”, “The Wind” and “Kneep Deep” were instant sing-a-longs.  There were songs where each Band Member  showcased their jam-band skills.  “Who Knows” became a fifteen minute jam out and “Uncaged” was an all out Southern Rock Jam.  Zac indicated that he needed to make a new Bucket List because headlining the Garden was at the top of his current list.   

There was even an acoustic set where the Band sat on crates and barrels at the front of the catwalk as they played a new song called “One Day”‘ and covered “All Apologies” by Nirvana and “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith.  Combine that set with the cover of Metallica’s “Enter the Sandman” during the bombastic encore and I challenge you to find me another band, be it in country music or any other genre, with the range to be able to pull off each of those classics without a flaw.

At one point, Zac’s father surprised  him on stage during “Highway 20 Ride” as they shared an emotional hug.  There was a drum off between Chris Fryar and Daniel De Los Reyes.  Jimmy D’Martini ripped out fiddle solos that had people shaking their heads in amazement.  Clay Cook took over vocals on “Can’t You See”‘ and took over the catwalk on several amazing electric guitar rifts with the charisma that only he contains.  Coy Bowles and John Hopkins switched instruments from guitars, Cellos, mandolins, to steel guitars.  There was not a second where each Band member wasn’t a key part of the act, each equipped with immense skill and musical talent. 

Of course the night ended with the biggest hit of the Band’s career thus far, “Chicken Fried”.  The entire crowd exploded as the Band played the megahit with grace, passion and pride. The crowd danced and sang with sheer happiness.  Zac and the Band took a bow and thanked the crowd.  After the two plus hour set, I found myself more satisfied with a live concert performance than ever before. 

 

I saw ZBB for the first time, in February 2009, when they were a relatively unknown Band playing the small Bowery Ballroom in NYC. I was there a year later when they upgraded to Terminal 5, a ballroom sized venue in the City. Last summer, I was there at Metlife Stadium when they served as the opening act on Kenny Chesney’s Stadium tour. But Zac understood this moment, he understood what it meant to headline at Madison Square Garden.  During “Colder Weather” he showed the emotion and the entire Band responded with an epic performance sure to be talked about for years to come.  I’m sure everyone hopes they return to the Garden year after year.  I just don’t know how another show can ever compare to his one.  #ZBBMSG lived up to the hype and much more.

SETLIST:

  1. Keep Me In Mind
  2. As She’s Walking Away
  3. Uncaged
  4. The Wind
  5. Colder Weather
  6. Natural Disaster
  7. Toes
  8. Goodbye In Her Eyes
  9. Who Knows
  10. The Problem with Freedom (w/ Levi Lowrey)
  11. All  Apologies (Nirvana Cover)
  12. One Day
  13. Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith  Cover)
  14. Fiddle Intro into Free
  15. Free
  16. Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
  17. Whiskey’s Gone
  18. Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band Cover with Blackberry Smoke)
  19. Knee Deep
  20. Highway 20 Ride
  21. Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
  22. Percussion/Drum Solo (with Massif)
  23. Jump Right In (Encore)
  24. Enter the Sandman (Encore – Metallica Cover)
  25. America The Beautiful (Encore)
  26. Chicken Fried (Encore)

Mr. 305 Ignites Radio City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SETLIST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Setlists:

    Brantley Gilbert

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

    Eric Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Setlist

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

    Watch The Throne: The Madison Square Garden Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    SETLIST:

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

    VIDEOS:

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

    Made In America

    Who Gon’ Stop Me

    Toby Keith On the Mike Huckabee Show

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

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

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

    VIDEO VIA FoxNews.com

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

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

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

    Dierks Bentley Feels at Home in New York City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Setlists:

    Jerrod Niemann

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

    Dierks Bentley

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

    VIDEOS:

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

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

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

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

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

    The cast members who performed that night included:

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

    Nick Kroll

    Stephen Rannazzisi 

    Jon Lajoie 

    Paul Scheer
    
    The League