Category Archives: live review

The National – 12/5/17, Washington DC

Dates: December 5, 2017

Location: Anthem, Washington DC

Berninger & Co., supporting the recent Sleep Well Beast, had a sold-out crowd December 5 at the Anthem venue willing to follow them anywhere. (Photos follow the review.)

PHOTOS & TEXT BY ERICA BRUCE

The National’s Matt Berninger sounded more hoarse than usual at the sold out Anthem here in Washington, DC on Tuesday night. Hard to believe, as Berninger’s signature voice is usually like a more melodic Tom Waits. But like Waits, the extra rasp pushed the needle a bit more on the band’s often-melancholy lyrics, the voice breaking in all the right spots. It gave songs like “Empire Line” and “Slow Dancing in the Gym” more emotion, if that’s possible.

The scratchiness didn’t stop Berninger from his usual quips, political commentary, expressive lyric-screams, or the band’s intensity. The National are masters of the slow-burn song, the kind that starts out relatively simple then evolves into something breath-catchingly massive in terms of sound. This was, and has been largely thanks to the drumming of Bryan Devendorf. Devendorf was bathed in the darkest of the dark spots on the Anthem stage, but his presence was spotlight bright; his tribal pounding with a jazz skip is the band’s secret weapon, tapping into one’s neurotransmitters, making it visceral.

The band as a whole aren’t super active onstage and were darkly lit Tuesday, at times almost removing themselves physically to let the songs stand on their own. As the music swirled and tumbled about the ears, the audience was treated to very simple menageries of colors on the large screens behind the stage, at times looking like the splotches of a Pollock painting, at times the simplicity of a Mondrian. The latter could look cheap in the wrong hands, but the visuals were almost a pictorial representation of the music. During the moody “Lemonworld,” there were three black boxes on screen rimmed in green, with two random straight lines through them. It was not super interesting to see but it seemed to perfectly set the tone of the song.

The National didn’t remove themselves completely though. Berninger, who has a habit of heading into the crowd during a show, did just that during “Day I Die” and the encore-ending Ramones’ cover, “KKK Took My Baby Away” (which he dedicated to the “illegitimate white supremacist moron near here”). Some singers do that but are accompanied by security-not Berninger. He moved alone through the 6,000 person audience, full of faith in his fans that he’d be safe. He would have probably scaled the walls up into the balcony as he’s done before here at Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) Hall, but given the height of the first audience boxes at the Anthem, it’s probably better he didn’t.

Nine of the set’s 24 songs were from the latest release, Sleep Well Beast, but the show had a few interesting inclusions. The set started with “Santa Clara,” a song off of The Virginia EP that they’d only played in Lisbon and Amsterdam previously, but had to be scrapped due to what seemed to be an issue with Berninger’s in-ear monitor (“We’ll try it in Montreal,” he quipped). The encore kicked off with “Rylan,” a song from the early National days that has never been formally released. The Ramones cover of course (I heard someone say, “The National are the least likely band I ever expected to cover The Ramones” after the show). Nice to see a band who could just get by with the favorites still like to mix it up a bit.

The band even showed some love about the venue, which only opened in October. Said guitarist Bryce Dessner about Anthem, “Thank you so much, this place is really incredible. You guys are lucky, there aren’t many venues like this.” A unique venue for a unique band, and a crowd willing to follow them anywhere—that was The National at the Anthem last Tuesday.

 

Filthy Friends 9/23/17, Chicago

Dates: September 23, 2017

Location: Goose Island Block Party, Chicago

 

09-23-2017
Chicago, Il.

Down at the Goose Island Block Party, our man with the plan in the Windy City had the best view of all…

TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARTY PEREZ

What a way to celebrate this year’s Autmnal Equinox.

And in the good company of some Filthy Friends, all the while being able to sample some new fall batches of local craft beer. Where did all this goodness go down, you might ask? Well, friends at a block party put on by Chicago’s oldest and largest craft breweries; Goose Island. Let us praise and raise a toast to sir John Barleycorn.

A spectacular setting sun illuminated the short, fun and upbeat set put forth by Corin Tucker and the Friends: Pete Buck, Scott McCaughey, Kurt Bloch, and Linda Pitmon. After that they had to cram into the van and bust out of Chicago for the drive to Cincinnati to make Saturday’s afternoon festival show.

Highly recommend catching thee Filthy Friends, should they make it out your neck of the woods. Considering the members of the Filthies and their varying schedules, it does make for a special occasion and/or a logistical nightmare to get all them Filthy Friends under the same roof for a house party.

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Puddles Pity Party 12/15/17, Nashville

Dates: December 15, 2017

Location: Marathon Music Works, Nashville TN

The singing clown at Marathon Music Works packs ‘em in.

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY: MARK JACKSON

Puddles, the 6’8” singing clown, who you might recognize from the hit TV show America’s Got Talent, first gained popularity on YouTube with the help of Postmodern Jukebox in a viral hit cover of “Royals” by Lorde. Puddles brought his modulated voice to a packed house at the Marathon Music Works on a Friday night. This show was a little different than most of the shows that I cover, as it was a combination of comedy and singing — a perfect night out for a couple, or a fantastic family night that is safe for any age children.

As you might suspect from a clown, Puddles, who doesn’t speak, did entertain the crowd with some comedy, such as a chair that he pretended to be so heavy that he could barely push it across the stage, playing a fake guitar, and a few props. This act could have very easily fell into the cheesy overdone traveling comedy show if it were not for the genius mind of Puddles who uses a projector with great videos and props that blend seamlessly with his magnificent voice to tell a story and keeps the crowd entranced. Puddles also used the crowd as part of the show, from bringing people up on stage during some songs, to become part of the show, to a crowd sing along karaoke style. I simply cannot stress enough how entertaining this show was, but the true magic of the show is the voice of Puddles.

Puddles covers a wide variety of songs and genres, but he makes them all his own. A few of my favorite covers of the evening were “Dancing Queen” by Abba, “Under Pressure” by Queen, “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, and “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.,  but my favorite and the one I couldn’t wait to hear was Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me”.

Instagram: @markjacksonphotography1

 

 

 

Smith & Myers 11/11/17, Nashville

Dates: December 11, 2017

Location: Cannery Ballroom, Nashville TN

Live at the Cannery Ballroom with the Shinedown guys going acoustic.

PHOTOS & TEXT BY MARK JACKSON

Brent Smith and Zach Myers from Shinedown are out touring with an acoustic show covering several of Shinedown songs, but this is tour is so much more than that. This tour is a mashup of storytelling and cover songs in an intimate setting in smaller venues. The bad news for you is that if you don’t already have a ticket to this great night of music you have missed your chance as all remaining dates have already sold out.

Both Smith and Myers are from Tennessee which I think made this night even more special for the guys to play in the Music City. The guys had the night before off in Nashville, so Zach, who is a huge Garth Brooks fan and friend, surprised Brent by taking him to meet Garth, who was playing at Bridestone Arena.

The setlist changes nightly so you never know what you will hear, but that doesn’t matter because they are all awesome. The first song of the night was “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden. They also of course played “State of my Head,” “Simple Man,” “Cut The Cord” and “Second Chance” by Shinedown,.  The guys played everything from Adele to Tom Petty to Prince. Zach even told one of his secrets of how he, as a boy, wanted to be the guy in a boy band who didn’t sing, but who did the sexy breakdown talking in a song to the ladies. He even gave a little sample of how he would do it. I think the ladies in the crowd approved.

***

The opening act who is from Myers’ hometown of Memphis was Zack Mack (Myers is also a member). Zack Mack returned to play with the boys a few songs at the end of the night. This was a night that people in attendance will be talking about for awhile.

Whitney + Julie Byrne 12/4/17, Denver

Dates: December 4, 2017

Location: Bluebird Theatre, Denver CO

Bluebird Theatre hosts a pair of well-regarded up-and-coming indie artists. 

BY TIM HINELY

I believe Chicago’s newest indie darlings Whitney had played the 3 Kings Tavern here a year or so ago during the UMS festival but I missed ‘em and wondered when they would come back. Well they hit Denver at the end of this tour and played not one but two sold out nights at the Bluebird. I have to admit, I was a bit shocked, I had no idea that they’d gotten that big, especially here in Denver (I don’t think any other tour stop had two consecutive nights at a venue). Good for them.

Opening was wispy folkster Julie Byrne. Byrne is touring on her latest record, Not Even Happiness, which came out at the beginning of the year on the Ba Da Bing label to rave reviews. Byrne is a folkster in the tradition of Joni Mitchell and she has a gorgeous voice and a perfect guitar style. She also had, I believe, a pedal steel player with her (a woman sitting next to her…I was far in the back and couldn’t see very well) and the set was lovely, but Byrne kept shushing the crowd (one of my biggest pet peeves). You’re in a bar (or in this case a theatre with a bar) and people are going to be loud and talking no matter what.  Having said that, I’d like to see Byrne sometime again.

Whitney hit the stage at 9:15 PM as a 6 piece, 2 guitarists, bassist, organ player, horn player and the drummer who sings.  The core of the band is drummer/vocalist Julian Ehrlich and guitarist Max Kakacek (Ehrlich was in Unknown Mortal Orchestra while Kakacek was in DAGGER favorites Smith Westerns) and their sound is an interesting mix of pop, country rock and folk with some jazzy flavors tossed in as well. Their terrific debut, Light Upon the Lake, came out in the summer of 2016 and they just released a demos version of the same album (that didn’t sound all that different from the regular versions) and according to Julian, the band has been touring for nearly two years.

They nailed all of the songs from said debut and included a few covers.  Ehrlich was quite chatty in between songs and even called out some guys in the front for being knuckleheads (not sure what they said or did).

They opened with “Dave’s Song’ and ended with “Follow” and in between played Neil Youngs “On ther Way Home” and Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” Live the versions of the songs on the album were a little looser and not quite as pristine sounding (but still clear enough, not sloppy).

For encores they busted out Dolly Parton’s “Gonna Hurry (as slow as I down)” and the fan favorite “No Woman” and called it a night.  These guys are on to something and I’m glad I got a seat on the bus for the ride. Where they’ll be this time next year is anyone’s guess as they seem to be constantly evolving. I’m very curious.

Photo of Whitney by Amanda Leigh Smith, via the Whitney Facebook page.

 

Alex Lahey + Dude York 12/2/17, Denver

Dates: December 2, 2017

Location: Lost Lake Lounge , Denver CO

Live at the luscious Lost Lake Lounge (aLLiteration intended).

BY TIM HINELY

Not sure how long Seattle trio Dude York have been around for but their Hardly Art debut, Sincerely, came out earlier this year (to plenty of good reviews) then they came back before years end and just released a Christmas record too, the  fun and worthy Halftime for the Holidays. From the former we heard “Black Jack’ and “Something in the Way” while from the latter they turned us all info Canadians with their reworking of BTO’s ‘Takin’ Care of Business” (now known as “Takin’ Care of Christmas”). Their set had plenty of spunk and bite and they definitely earned some new fans this night. At the end of the set smiling lead guy Peter took a walk into the crowd and made some new friends.

Aussie gal Alex Lahey came out with a full band (Aussies, too) and shook the floors of the Lost Lake Lounge. She gets plenty of comparisons to fellow Aussie Courtney  Barnett, both female Aussies, but their music is quite different. Lahey’s stuff is more energectic, more emotionally charged and on this night she played an exuberant set of originals (off of her sole album, the terrific I Love You Like a Brother out now on Dead Oceans) and one cover for an encore (the surprising “Torn” by  Ednaswap).

Of the originals the album has many highlights including sprightly numbers like “Every Day’s the Weekend,” “Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder,” ‘I Want U” and the title track, which all have relatable lyrics, mostly about busted relationships, but plenty of big hooks, too. Lahey may be young (she’s only 25) but has a certain world weariness that she’s seen more than her 25 years, but her songs offer plenty of hope as well

Lahey genuinely seemed surprised by the reaction she got from the generous Denver crowd but she earned it. I can’t wait for the next record.

 

 

 

Hollywood Undead + Butcher Babies 11/29/17, Memphis

Dates: November 29, 2017

Location: New Daisy Theatre, Memphis TN

New Daisy Theatre was the scene of the rock ‘n’ roll crime…

TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON

When I first heard that the Butcher Babies would be touring with Hollywood Undead I must say that I was surprised. The head banging, Scream rocking, hair whipping ladies of Butcher Babies just didn’t seem like the best fit for the rap rockers of Undead. It turns out that it’s a great fit and has introduced the band to a whole new group of fans.

As soon as the Butcher Babies hit the stage they began to win over the crowd and they didn’t slow down for the whole set.

After about a thirty minute timeout for the set changes and setup it was finally time for Hollywood Undead. As usual the guys took the stage wearing their masks. The first song of the night was “Whatever It Takes” and followed up with “Undead,” to which the crowd began to explode with excitement. Hollywood Undead had an excellent light show for the size of the venue, complete with several pyrotechnic sparklers that shot up about twelve feet high.

This was a great night of music—I recommend catching both groups when they are in the area. Hollywood Undead will continue touring the U.S. through December before Heading over seas in January. When they return to the States they will continue touring and playing festivals, including the Welcome to Rockville at the end of April in Jacksonville, FL.

Mark Jackson: @markjacksonphotography1

NATIONAL ANTHEM: The National Live in D.C.

Berninger & Co., supporting the recent Sleep Well Beast, had a sold-out crowd December 5 at the Anthem venue willing to follow them anywhere. (Photos follow the review.)

PHOTOS & TEXT BY ERICA BRUCE

The National’s Matt Berninger sounded more hoarse than usual at the sold out Anthem here in Washington, DC on Tuesday night. Hard to believe, as Berninger’s signature voice is usually like a more melodic Tom Waits. But like Waits, the extra rasp pushed the needle a bit more on the band’s often-melancholy lyrics, the voice breaking in all the right spots. It gave songs like “Empire Line” and “Slow Dancing in the Gym” more emotion, if that’s possible.

The scratchiness didn’t stop Berninger from his usual quips, political commentary, expressive lyric-screams, or the band’s intensity. The National are masters of the slow-burn song, the kind that starts out relatively simple then evolves into something breath-catchingly massive in terms of sound. This was, and has been largely thanks to the drumming of Bryan Devendorf. Devendorf was bathed in the darkest of the dark spots on the Anthem stage, but his presence was spotlight bright; his tribal pounding with a jazz skip is the band’s secret weapon, tapping into one’s neurotransmitters, making it visceral.

The band as a whole aren’t super active onstage and were darkly lit Tuesday, at times almost removing themselves physically to let the songs stand on their own. As the music swirled and tumbled about the ears, the audience was treated to very simple menageries of colors on the large screens behind the stage, at times looking like the splotches of a Pollock painting, at times the simplicity of a Mondrian. The latter could look cheap in the wrong hands, but the visuals were almost a pictorial representation of the music. During the moody “Lemonworld,” there were three black boxes on screen rimmed in green, with two random straight lines through them. It was not super interesting to see but it seemed to perfectly set the tone of the song.

The National didn’t remove themselves completely though. Berninger, who has a habit of heading into the crowd during a show, did just that during “Day I Die” and the encore-ending Ramones’ cover, “KKK Took My Baby Away” (which he dedicated to the “illegitimate white supremacist moron near here”). Some singers do that but are accompanied by security-not Berninger. He moved alone through the 6,000 person audience, full of faith in his fans that he’d be safe. He would have probably scaled the walls up into the balcony as he’s done before here at Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) Hall, but given the height of the first audience boxes at the Anthem, it’s probably better he didn’t.

Nine of the set’s 24 songs were from the latest release, Sleep Well Beast, but the show had a few interesting inclusions. The set started with “Santa Clara,” a song off of The Virginia EP that they’d only played in Lisbon and Amsterdam previously, but had to be scrapped due to what seemed to be an issue with Berninger’s in-ear monitor (“We’ll try it in Montreal,” he quipped). The encore kicked off with “Rylan,” a song from the early National days that has never been formally released. The Ramones cover of course (I heard someone say, “The National are the least likely band I ever expected to cover The Ramones” after the show). Nice to see a band who could just get by with the favorites still like to mix it up a bit.

The band even showed some love about the venue, which only opened in October. Said guitarist Bryce Dessner about Anthem, “Thank you so much, this place is really incredible. You guys are lucky, there aren’t many venues like this.” A unique venue for a unique band, and a crowd willing to follow them anywhere—that was The National at the Anthem last Tuesday.

 

Spoon – 12/1/17, Poughkeepsie NY

Dates: December 1, 2017

Location: Chance Theater, Poughkeepsie NY

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY GREG KELLY

Spoon played to a full house of super attentive loyal fans at the Chance Theater. After playing two sold out shows in Brooklyn I knew this was going to be a packed theater. Opening the show with “Do I have to talk you into it” from the band’s newest release “Hot Thoughts”.  About half way through the show the band slowed it down with a heavy synth intro to the song “I’m not the one”, the crowd was entranced with lead singer Britt Daniels stage presence. These guys have been touring since the mid- nineties and it shows with how tight they play live. Closing the show with “Rent I Pay” the band and audience clearly had a great time together. I don’t know that Spoon will be playing that small of venue again, but I felt lucky to see such professional musicians in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Brian Setzer Orchestra – 12/6/17, Christmas Rocks! Atlanta

Dates: December 6, 2017

Location: Symphony Hall, Atlanta GA

For his 14th annual Christmas Rocks! Tour, at the Atlanta Symphony Hall, the Stray Cat became Santa Claws…

PHOTOS & TEXT BY JOHN BOYDSTON

One of the cool things about rock and rollers having incredibly long careers is that some of them never stop getting better.  A case in point is Brian Setzer – who jumped outta the gate 35 years ago already an accomplished, confident player and entertainer, mature beyond his years even.    Now, at 58, he’s matured yet retained the exuberance and swagger that has made him so fun to watch.  At his holiday performance this week in Atlanta, I had the sense I was at a Masterclass in guitar chops and showmanship.

Setzer’s currently in the middle of his packed house crowd-pleasing 14th annual Christmas Rocks! Tour with the Brian Setzer Orchestra.   He’s clearly the driver of this engine, a 19-piece big band swing orchestra; all eyes in the band are on him, digging and feeding off his non-stop energy, just like the crowd is doing.   So much going on, all very entertaining.   Every few licks Brian stops to smile at the crowd – hoping they are having as much fun as he is. They are.

Lots of timeless Holiday standards in the set – all of them re-worked to swing and rock.  Also lots of Setzer’s hits (Stray Cat Strut, Rock This Town) from his days as leader/founder of the The Stray Cats, the rockabilly trio that crashed the gates of American Top 40 radio with their Dave Edmunds-produced platinum LP ‘Built for Speed’ in 1982.

A highlight was about half-way through the show — the orchestra leaves the stage so it’s just Brian, standup bass, 3 piece drum set and a honky tonk piano — all wailing for 20-minutes of nothing but flat-out rockabilly starting with a full blown version of Johnny Burnette’s ‘Rockabilly Boogie.’  What a treat.

Other highlights were full-song heartfelt tributes to the recently departed Glen Campbell and Tom Petty.   For me, one of Setzer’s all-time greatest moments was his guitar solo in the movie ‘La Bamba’ playing ‘Summertime Blues’ as the late great Eddie Cochran.  He played that lick at this show, albeit in another song, and it was magic.

The 30-city tour in in progress in the US through December, then Japan in January.   The who/ what/ when/ where are here:  https://briansetzer.com/tour-dates/

I read a 2016 interview wherein Brian says another Stray Cats tour is going to happen, but for now, Here Comes Santa Claws, er, Claus.

(John Boydston’s bigger photo galleries are here: jobo.smugmug.com  (or follow him on Instagram @johnboydstonphoto)