(Little Caesar’s Arena, Detroit, MI - May 29th, 2019)
The Who changed my life when I was 11 years old. That sounds lofty, I know, but it’s true. My Dad played Tommy for me for the first time that year, and I have never thought of music in the same way since.
So when I told my Dad that our mutual favorite rock band was playing what could well have been their farewell tour (they christened it “Moving On”), we both knew that we had to be there.
And we were.
At Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit last Tuesday, surviving members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, along with the rest of the band that comprises the Who these days, gave us the show that we’d been hoping to see.
But before them came the Arkells, a band from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. They were an eight-piece outfit who were kinda groovy with a lead singer that reminded me a bit of The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie.
The Arkells played to an enthusiastic house that was about two-thirds full, which can only be explained by the outrageously long lines at the merch tables. “We see you singing along,” their front man told us. "We appreciate that.”
The band played through half an hour’s worth of material, most of which suffered from lack of song identification; I was able to pick out ‘People’s Champ,’ though, only because I’d read before the show that ‘People’s Champ’ was written as a protest song against the current American Presidential administration.
By the end of their set, I was able to draw exactly three conclusions about the Arkells:
First – they delivered mightily on their pledge to “do our best for you tonight.”
Second – the small section of horns in the band could have easily moonlighted in the orchestra that would play later in the evening.
Third – I would absolutely check out their studio stuff. Maybe then I’d find out useful information like the names of songs or the names of the musicians.
The Arkells went off, and it was set change time. Normally set changes can be boring, but this particular set change included a photo montage of the Who, promos for the Teen Cancer America foundation that Daltrey and Townshend patron, and a very special tribute to the lately deceased Russ Gibb, head honcho of the Grande Ballroom; the legendary Detroit venue that hosted the Who in some of their earliest American gigs.
Before too long, though, it was time.
The Who took the stage to thunderous applause, and maestro Pete gave a lovely little welcome, cheering on the progress that Detroit has made. “You’re gonna get it right,” he told us.
But enough talk. The 1969 masterpiece Tommy was up first, and the orchestra that had been the Fun New Thing for this tour dove straight into the ‘Overture.’
Orchestral arrangements are everything that Pete Townshend’s grand works demand, and my hands could barely take notes they were shaking so much with pure excitement and ecstasy at hearing my favorite album already done so well.
‘Amazing Journey’ (personal album favorite) brought Daltrey’s trademark microphone spins, which was further proof that he just owns the stage.
Drummer Zak Starkey and the orchestra masterfully took the lead in ‘Sparks.’
The Tommy set was abbreviated, so we skipped right ahead to ‘Pinball Wizard and the audience’s collective mindfreak. Even further on, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ seemed very much a 2019 disillusionment anthem, and the majestic ‘See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You’ at the end of the song was absolutely transcendent.
It was here that Pete let loose a proper series of guitar windmills – a fitting end to that portion of the show.
And honestly, if that had been the end of the entire show, I would have been completely content – a testament to how effin’ good it was. Pete addressed the crowd once again, expressing gratitude for all of us taking the time and money to come out and support them, recognizing that this was “not a cheap gig.”
Whatever. If the Who showed out like this each time, I would pay more than the cost of my ticket – that’s how effin’ good it was.
A string of radio hits came next. ‘Who Are You’ had everyone singing along like it was an episode of CSI, and ‘Eminence Front’ got an inexplicably loud cheer.
Some lite string work at the beginning of ‘Imagine a Man managed to turn a song I normally dislike into something excellent. And ‘Join Together’ melded several elements of The Who’s dynamic in general that I love the most: Multi-instrumentalism could in keyboardist Loren Gold rocking the mouth harp, crowd participation when Daltrey conducted the crowd in the singing of the chorus, and most importantly – the sense of unity the band cultivates with their audience; it is this aspect that I’ve always appreciated the most.
The post-script to that particular number was a personal highlight, in which Pete shared an anecdote about the late, great John Entwistle and how unimpressed he always seemed, and how Pete echoes the sentiment by the time ‘Join Together’ nears its end.
“If you haven’t joined the band by minute eight, you’re not getting any more promotions,” he concluded, laughing. And we all laughed too.
It’s that unity I’d mentioned.
The orchestra took a well-deserved break, and the hits kept coming with only the band to supply them. If there was a “lowlight” to the show, it was a plunky false start on ‘I Can See for Miles.’
But even that was amusing as Roger sheepishly blamed it on a “senior moment,” while Pete pinned the misstep on “Roger being creative.” Needless to say, the banter was on point.
An acoustic ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ seemed a weird flex, absent all but Roger and Pete onstage, and missing the iconic bombastic scream near the end. But it certainly commanded the largest audience participation of the evening so far.
‘Tea and Theatre’ off of 2006’s Endless Wire was another odd duck because, according to Pete, “many of you have never f***ing heard it!” But at the same time, he admonished us to “listen to this one, it’s nice.”
And it was – a quiet, pensive sort of song reflecting on the relationship between the guitarist and the singer.
The Quadrophenia set brought back the orchestra to play Pete’s other, 1973 magnum opus as the rock god had intended. And while the title track from the album would have been the best choice to make full use of the instrumentation, cuts like ‘The Real Me,’ ‘The Punk and The Godfather,’ and ‘5:15’ did the job.
On the previous Who tours I’ve seen, the latter track featured a thundering video cameo by bassist Entwistle. Here, however, the interlude space was filled with an absolutely shredding guitar run by Simon Townshend.
Pete’s solo turn on vocals for ‘Drowned’ was nothing short of excellent, while the instrumental ‘The Rock’ was accompanied by a video montage showing mostly the lowlights of the last fifty years or so, which included – among many, many other things – Vietnam, Nixon, John Lennon, the Berlin Wall, Princess Diana, September 11, and the immigration crisis, mashed up with footage of the band and a raging sea.
The orchestra sawed through the song, becoming equally the cause and the cure for the splitting headache I’d leave the venue with.
The absolute highlight of the entire thing was the last song of the Quadrophenia set. ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ began with an absolutely stunning piano solo by Loren Gold, and only got better from there.
Daltrey took what has always been my favorite rock vocal to the absolute height of his limits, never once sounding weak or worn even after a two hour show.
He gave 1000% percent of himself to the song, and to us, more than earning the standing ovation we leapt up to give as the final notes crashed down. I wish I could link video of it to this review so that I could show you just how effin’ great it was!
Pete introduced the main band – Simon Townshend (guitars), Jon Button (bass), Zak Starkey (drums) – and gave a special nod to the orchestra, saying they would give us one more song, closing the whole thing out in “a traditional way.”
‘Baba O’Riley’ was the perfect final touch, with the enduring lyrics about teenage wasteland and the skills and presence of lead violinist Katie Jacoby wrapped the whole evening up quite nicely.
The band took their bows, we cheered ourselves hoarse, and that was it. It was over. I’ll happily put my hand on my record collection and swear I have never been more disappointed to see the ending of a concert – and I’ve been to many excellent ones in my twenty-seven years.
But this was next level. Was this the Who’s final show in Detroit? I sure hope not. But on the off chance it is, to my all-time favorite band, all I can say is thank you.
Thank you for Tuesday, thank you for being the soundtrack to so much of my life, and for being the source of so many wonderful memories for my Dad and me.
Even if the Song is over, the Note is eternal.
Long Live Rock.
Review by: Ashley J. Cicotte
Photos by: to Elaine Cromie (Detroit Free Press)
Midge Ure & Paul Young
(Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - June 14th, 2018)
Having been here to our shores, and indeed the very same venue for a few years now, Ultravox front man Midge Ure this time brought his fellow '80s pop star friend Paul Young with him to the Magic Bag in Michigan for the self-proclaimed The Soundtrack Of Your Life Tour 2018.
The Grammy and Brit Award winning musician kicked off his North American tour a few weeks back and here, on a very humid, yet very tolerable June night just outside of Detroit, the accomplished guitarist took to the stage as "opener".
In a small, darkened club, on a black stage with a black backdrop, at 9.00pm Midge Ure quietly, semi-unnoticed, came from behind the black curtain. Joined on stage by his (and Young's) traveling band of musical minstrels, dressed head to toe in black, Ure politely waves at the packed house, before opening the show with a stunning ‘Passing Strangers.'
"How are you all doing?“, he inquires to the devoted Ure fans in his midst. “It’s great to be back ... and I'm bringing my old pal Paul with me this time," he adds, to rapturous applause. Next up comes a pair of his big solo hits, the first being 'Dear God,' which he backs ("Let's see if you know this one ...") with the monster chart topper 'If I Was.'
"Are you having fun so far," he asks the crowd, before jokingly adding, "because I'll soon stop that! This is something from my last album, Fragile," he continues, as he then launches into 'Become.' A simply stunning 'I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)' is next and after Midge thanks the crowd once again, he then passively berates the fact that they, as artists on stage, are fighting a new era where when a song ends, people (like the one he points out in the crowd in front of him), instantly go to their cell phones to check Facebook and/or other forms of Social Media!
Introducing the next song as one for all those people, the Visage classic (that he co-wrote) 'Fade To Grey' is up next. Then a classic Ultravox quartet (no pun intended) of hits come flooding through his still-amazing guitar work. Starting off with a vibrant 'New Europeans,' he then backs that seamlessly with 'Hymn,' before the always-brilliant-to-hear 'Vienna' is swallowed up whole by the adoring crowd.
But then comes the true highlight of the night, for me and most all the crowd, for Ure unveils an Ultravox song that, to my best recollection, he just doesn't perform live all that often; and yet it's a song that symbolizes the '80s just perfectly: 'All Stood Still.' My goodness, bathed under the most perfectly-suited, densely green spotlights, it was both an audio and visual delight.
Bringing his set to a close (sadly) with the title track from his last solo outing, 'Fragile,' and then (after a minute's worth of guitar creativity) powering up the monster 'Dancing With Tears in My Eyes,' as the crowd sung along, Ure's last moments on the stage were as prolific a musical genius in motion sight as they must have been back 30+ years ago.
But, come to and end it must, for 20 minutes later and with the backing band now returned, on strolled the enigmatic '80s crooner himself, the uber well dressed, suited and booted Paul Young.
Opening with 'Some People,' between that and his infamous cover of The Four Preps' 'Love of the Common People,' he informs the audience that he's "... enjoying this little tour together" (with Ure); and why wouldn't he, let's be honest.
I mean, Young might not exactly be able to command a stage, or an audience, or even a vocal riff any more, but he's on a high profile tour of the US nonetheless!
Moving on and after thanking the audience for their applause, he admits that he made a mistake in not coming back to the US for 25 years, and that he was going to try and make up for that tonight. He didn't, far from it, but watching him sing his "drunken" old man karaoke set was, however, highly entertaining!
His big hit of the day, the Marvin Gaye classic 'Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)' is up next and is appreciated by the now-thinning crowd, and then a song that he manages to passably crawl through, 'Everything Must Change' is up next. A totally butchered 'Senza una donna' (the Zucchero duet) is up next before he dips into his recently released Good Thing album re: Memphis Soul tunes, for what turns out to be one of his best vocalized songs of the night, 'Gotta Get Back to You.'
"Thank you very much,", Young adds after the song, for as much as the crowd was now down to only half that watched Ure perform, the ones remaining were actually enjoying Young's set. 'What Becomes of the Brokenhearted' (Jimmy Ruffin) manages to sound half decent, given the obvious and severe lack of vocal range Young now showcases, and then we get a rallying cry from Young on a cover of his own Q-Tips ode to Southern soul singer Joe Tex, 'Get 'Em Up Joe.'
Expertly backing that up with more Memphis Soul (which is truly where his vocals are now best suited) in the form of the vibrant 'Slipped, Tripped and Fell In Love,' Young then sings (and I use that word very loosely) one of my own personal favorites (before tonight), 'I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down.' Man, oh man. Wow. Young just doesn't possess the lungs for this rock/pop vocal depth any more and it was a noticeably big mistake to try and bluster his way through it tonight.
Bringing the set to a close with both his big UK hit 'Everytime You Go Away' (Hall & Oates) and a rangy, over-reaching 'Come Back and Stay,' leaving the stage to an overly-generous amount of applause, he's soon back out though for a duet, of sorts, with Midge Ure on the thunderous Thin Lizzy cover (that Ure also co-wrote), 'The Boys Are Back In Town.'
Sadly, Young's vocals have all but gone at this juncture, but he tries to make his stage presence felt with some '80s mic stand spinning and cheesy lean-in poses with his guitarist. He fails, and as much as Ure was always going to be the stand out performer of the night, Young did at least give it his best shot; but came up well short, nonetheless. Sorry, mate.
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Live Photos by: Eric J. Wertanen
BREAKING NEWS! Lost Concert Reviews Content
Due to a GoDaddy server error, we here at Exclusive Magazine subsequently lost the last two (2) years worth of Concert Reviews!
We shall endeavour to go to new shows soon and get some new reviews up for you to read, you have our word.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter at this time and we look forward to having brand new Concert Reviews up here sometime soon for you all to read.
Russell A. Trunk
Director & Editor in Chief
(Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - October 23rd, 2016)
For those not in the know, Security Project started performing in 2012 in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the release of the album Security by Peter Gabriel. The band performs Gabriel's early progressive repertoire, generally taking material from his first four albums. Well known members of the band include drummer Jerry Marotta (who played on those first four albums and toured with Gabriel for 10 years), Warr guitarist Trey Gunn (who was a member of progressive band King Crimson), and guitarist Michael Cozzi (who was a member of Shriekback, himself replacing Fuzzbee Morse).
Add to that both David Jameson - keyboards, Eigenharp - and the extraordinary Gabriel-vocal styling of Brian Cummins, and you had a touring band that not only did eloquent justice to Gabriel's work, but with Cummins' unique, spot on perfect Gabriel inflection, brought it all to life on their first two recordings (Live 1 & Live 2).
But, since then, and just weeks before the release of Live 2 and these subsequent touring dates, Cummins quit the band. The voice that channeled Gabriel was no longer and so the Security Project hastily turned to a beloved friend of theirs to take the lead role - Happy Rhodes. Well known and highly respected within the industry, Rhodes duly learned all the lyrics and took over the vocal reins therein.
But, and as witnessed here tonight on just their third live gig together, things did not go well. Worse yet, Rhodes, being female, just doesn't have either the vocal inflections required to sing these songs, nor is her stage presence anything to write home about. Not her fault, having been thrown in at the deep end, sure, but to head this third reinvention of the Security Project they needed another male in the Cummins vocal mode. What they ended up with was a band that now comes across as nothing short of a mid-afternoon casino lounge bar band.
And so, in a small, darkened club, on a black stage with a black backdrop, electric instruments abound, seemingly making it hard for any musicians to find a space to stand. At precisely 7.45pm, the band comes quietly out, semi-unnoticed as the house music still plays. With Rhodes now center stage, the crowd begin to look at each other, also seemingly unknowing of Cummins having left the band. Rhodes, a songwriter, instrumentalist and electronic musician with a four-octave vocal range, begins the first half of the set with the spoken word introduction to 'Lay Your Hands On Me', but it's very obvious looking around at the hushed hand whispers that a lot of the audience are bemused by her presence.
And, to be fair, rightfully so, for as much as this is a celebration of Peter Gabriel's work, when the Security Project had Cummins' vocals bringing forth the spirit of Gabriel, all you had to do was shut your eyes and the great man was there on stage. Rhodes doesn't have that range, that allure, and so her voice simply cannot resonate; replicate even, Gabriel's. Again, and I can't stress this enough, that's not her fault given the circumstances, but it was a massive let down for me on the night - and for the majority of the gathering also.
Moving on, and under blue then yellow spotlights, we next get the dark slow funk bass opening to 'Intruder', with the pleasant storytelling of 'Family Snapshot' along next. Then, due to Gunn's screeching Warr guitar we lurch into 'No Self Control' which, when done right, is a gem of a song. But as Rhodes seemingly isn't invested, the passion of the song is sorely missing. Which was an ongoing theme here tonight. Thanking the crowd, she then asks for the smoke machine to be turned of as it was affecting her voice. It was then that I realized that she was seemingly embarrassed at having had to actually speak. A running theme as it turned out for almost all the night, there was no chit-chat, no idle banter, no behind-the-scenes info on why certain songs were written. Nope, save for late in the show when Marotta took over the mic for promotional purposes, there was no interaction with the audience at all.
Under red and blue lights a gentle introduction is brought forth and we are into the beautiful 'Blood Of Eden', which upon completion, allows Rhodes to go backstage for a glass of water. Soon back and we stroll into the dark, moody 'The Family and the Fishing Net' which allows Jameson to vacate his upright keyboard and bring his stand alone Eigenharp out for us to view. Lit up by different colored little lights, it is just the most perfect instrument to engage the sounds needed for one of my own personal Peter Gabriel favorites, 'I Have The Touch'. Bathed under yellow lights now, it seems that Rhodes has finely found her smile, for she not only dances in subtle, quietly programmed shapes on stage, but she literally has a broad smile on her face for the upbeat song.
"Thank you for coming out and seeing us tonight," Rhodes says. "We very much appreciate you being here," and with that, and to an oboe opening that bleeds into a dulcet piano, 'Wallflower' is then with us. The weakest song of their entire set, the Eigenharp is now out again, along with both Cozzi and Gunn standing in front of their very own solo drum heads to drum out a regimented beat to 'The Rhythm Of The Heat'. A definite fan favorite they stand to applaud at its end. Their first act is subsequently brought to a close with that song, and as they walk off backstage through the draped black curtains, with the lights now up, a lot of people are now seen nose deep in their iPhones; one can only assume Googling the band to try and learn more about what had happened to Cummins.
As the second part of the show opens, we find just Rhodes, solo with an acoustic guitar taking center stage as she, without any guff nor puff, begins to gently play David Bowie's 'Ashes To Ashes'. A nice enough song, sure, and played and sung well enough, but it has zero connection to the Peter Gabriel show that these fans had come to see. Next, and with only Gunn by her side, she puts on her best Kate Bush vocal tone, which happens to be a damn great one, and brings us Bush's 'Mother Stands for Comfort'. A beautiful rendition of a Bush song, sure, but, and again, nothing to do with why the fans were there tonight. Indeed, it was plainly obvious that the Security Project guys were simply giving her a mid-set chance to "introduce herself" to the audience; so they knew she could do other things - and better.
Up next is possibly my all-time favorite Gabriel song, 'I Don't Remember' that heard through the vocals styling of Rhodes, unfortunately fell flat and exhausted on the stage at her feet. Complete with a low static feedback throughout, that seemingly only Jameson could hear (on stage), Rhodes, once again, forgets words, looks more than a little nervous, and has an expression that begs for the show to be over.
"And that's how it's done," bellows Marotta from back behind his drum kit, the song now over. "I've been keeping quiet back here, but not any more," he adds as he stands up and proceeds to walk to center stage. "That song ... how many times have I played it? We've only been doing it for a couple of years and I still get so excited about playing it. And we had a great version already, then she came along", [he says, pointing at Happy] "and we kinda all fell back into it again," he says, as the crowd applaud his heartfelt sentiments. Then, for the next four minutes, Marotta (over) sells the merchandise they have for sale, relentlessly going over and over the items, before adding something else. "We're gonna now do a song, it's one of Happy's songs ... here it comes," he adds, finally now back behind his drum kit.
After yet another Rhodes promotional moment, the song bleeds (rather perfectly, as it turns out) into 'Red Rain', but Rhodes is visibly not feeling the heart of the song. Her static stage presence is barely registering the beat, her vocals now hers, not even trying to emulate Gabriel's any more. The Eigenharp is out again, this time to fall in line with the jingly introduction to 'San Jacinto', before the atmospherically loud 'Moribund the Burgermeister' is performed. With a Gunn bass line that veritably pounds through your chest, after a drum solo it fades out, allowing Rhodes to pick up her acoustic guitar, and we are soon propelled into 'Fly on a Windshield', and then 'Broadway Melody of 1974'.
Up next is 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway', a classic among classics, and done very well tonight, it has to be said. The wild piano introduction, inclusive, one assumes, of a little solo moment for Jameson, ensures a vibrant, upbeat song is sung by Rhodes. A song that, once again, allows a smile to come to her face, creating a noticeable bounce to her shaped movements. "Thank you for coming tonight," she addresses the crowd afterwards. "We appreciate it more than you know." The group all then come front and center for a bow, before Marotta once again takes the mic. "I've played here before," he reveals. "I love this place. I really do. Sorry, but I have a tendency to talk with a microphone in my hand," he laughs. "I'm so happy to be here, on the planet, first of all", he again laughs. "I see people I recognize here. I love playing this music and I love the addition of Happy Rhodes on this tour."
Marotta then goes off on a small rant about the lack of people that had come out to see them tonight, asking us, nay begging us to bring someone along with us next time, and to spread the word for him. Although he also admitted that they might never be offered the chance to come back after tonight! He tells everyone again that they should go buy the bands merchandise and that if they do he'll be up there to whisper some secrets about his playing days with Peter Gabriel to them. He talks about some of the songs that they don't usually get to play, such as both 'Wallflower' and 'San Jacinto' and then announces that they are now going to play a little more. Also thanking us for all coming out, he adds one final notification about all the tour merchandise they have for sale, and then the barefooted drummer is finally back behind his kit.
'Games Without Frontiers' is the one and only "encore" song and, once again, Rhodes just doesn't have the chops for it, sadly. It has a wonderful lead in, and is inclusive of a band jam session that sees Rhodes slide off to side stage several times, before it is all brought to a close. In what was one of the highlights of the night, to see the band jam like that for six minutes, now it was all over. "Thank you, once again," Rhodes says. "Have a great night. Thank you for coming out tonight," she adds, as the band come to the front and bow again, before waving themselves off stage for the last time.
Review: Russell A. Trunk
Photos: Gil Goodrow
Security Project @ Facebook
(Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - October 9th, 2016)
Having been here to our shores, and indeed the very same venue back some two and three years ago now, Ultravox front man Midge Ure brought his Live+Electric North American show to the Magic Bag again last night. The Grammy and Brit Award winning musician kicked off his North American tour a few weeks back and here, on a very acceptable, very tolerable October night just outside of Detroit, MI (and with only a handful of dates left yet to play), the accomplished guitarist took to the stage.
In a small, darkened club, on a black stage with a black backdrop, at 9.10pm Midge Ure quietly, semi-unnoticed, came from behind the black curtain. Joined on stage by L.A. based bass/keyboard player Tony Solis and his drummer, Right The Stars‘ BC Taylor, dressed head to toe in black (as is his thing), Ure begins to fiddle with the new strings on his guitar, before gently opening the show with a delightful ‘Dear God’. "How are you all doing?“, the he inquires to the devoted Ure fans in his midst. “It’s great to be back. Talking of back, I’m going to go way, way back now”, he smiles, as he and his backing band then bring us a storming ‘The European’.
“Thank you very much” he once again says, which was also a running theme for the man who, after 40 years, has become a staple of music collections everywhere. “Are we missing the big debate?“ he asks them, referring to the televised official second debate between Trump and Clinton. “I’m not”, he laughs. “Ok, this is old as well. I read on Twitter, because I’m hip with the kids, you know, that this next song was #1 in the UK 35 years ago. So that’s old. It was #1 everywhere … expect here”, he adds, dryly, before launching into his hit solo single, ‘If I Was’. A vibrant ‘Call Of The Wild’ is next, before some more chit chat. “So, the last time I toured I had no friends with me”, he laughs, referring to his 2015 Live+Acoustic tour, “and, as you can see, I still have no friends with me” he sarcastically notes, as he steps back to point at both his band members. “I found these two outside busking in the cold” he adds, before announcing the next song. “This is a special song for me. It was written 25 years ago and if you know it, and know the words, please sing along. If you don’t know the words, then please don’t!”. And with that he get a wonderful rendition of Visage’s ‘Fade To Gray’.
As the song comes to an end, the red and blue lights that had once lit it merging back to white, Ure speaks, once more. “This is something different. I wrote this 20 years ago watching bombs hitting targets on TV. You never saw where they came from, but always saw where they landed. It made war into a video game for me”, he adds, before bringing us the poignant ‘Beneath A Spielberg Sky’. “Ok, you know those moments when you go see your favorite bands and their songs take you right back to good times. And then the singer says, Here’s something new … well, here’s something new”, he laughs. ‘Become’ from his last solo album, Fragile is now on deck, and is easily one of his best solo recordings to date. “Right, back into my history again” Ure says, as he and the band bring us a brilliant ‘Hymn’ which is followed by yet another spot of bother for Ure with his aforementioned new guitar strings. As he stands there working on them, come completion (for that moment), and before the next song, he audibly mumbles, “You don’t see Bono fixing his guitar or moving his own speakers!”
A smashing, and given he is delving back into his early Ultravox days and trying to make these live versions as authentic to their original creations as possible, chillingly dark and mysterious ‘The Voice’ is next. Ure plays keys the whole way through, and just closing your eyes you can hear the crisp quality of the live sound as if it were a CD playing instead. “Good singing”, he says, “Thank you very much. Great stuff … but not on this one”, he tells them as he brings forth the spine tingling ‘Vienna’. The heavier guitar work combined with an overall darker sensibility, this was the first time I’d ever heard it sound so raw, so honest. It was breathtaking, there’s just no other way to say it. That seamlessly then bleeds into a pulsating ‘All Stood Still’ which was also performed and sung in this very same moodier structure. Huge applause rang around the room, everybody up on their feet (where they should have been the moment Ure came on stage, in my humble opinion). “That song was written 37 years ago”, Ure reveals. “You guys were awesome, thank you. Ok, here’s some more older stuff”, and with that we get one of my personal favorites of the night, ‘Passing Strangers’, before a sincere, and thoughtful guitar solo moment, not to mention a subtle lead in from the drummer, finds its path into ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’.
“Thank you” he says, once more. “We’ll see you soon”, he adds as he and his band make their way backstage. Back on stage some 30 seconds later, he introduces the two band members (as his sons!), before talking one last time, in earnest to the audience. “We wanted to do something special for you next. We lost so many people, so many brilliant musicians this year … and in February in NYC we lost one of the biggest stars that the world has ever known.” With that Ure and his band bring us a hauntingly spectacular ‘Starman’ from David Bowie. With Ure’s vocal tones matching the cadence of Bowie’s perfectly in the opening to the song, this was, without a shadow of a doubt, the true highlight of tonight’s show. Come the songs end, and with the audience applauding loudly, Ure thanks everyone for the last time, waves goodbye and is gone for the night.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI - June 17th, 2016)
Whitesnake, the hard working, hard singing, hard rockin' band, founded many moons ago by the incomparable David Coverdale after his departure from his previous band, Deep Purple (which he combined a new album and highly underrated tour with last year), may well now only be Coverdale and a traveling band of troubadours, but tonight they performed as if they had been together for 40 years!
As the clock strikes 9.00pm from stage left guitarist Reb Beach wanders out, guitar already slung, ready for action, a broad smile emblazoned. Next comes bassist Michael Devin, with both guitarist Joel Hoekstra and drummer Tommy Aldridge striding to their marks quickly thereafter. Then comes the man himself, DC. Dressed, as always, in one of his very own Whitesnake designer shirts, his hair as perfect as it was back in the glory days of MTV, the boys launch into the guitar throbbing opening of 'Bad Boys’. Coverdale throws his cheeky grin around, suggestively grabs the mic stand, asks the audience to “Make some f@ckin’ noise”, and powering out his uniquely throaty vocals, we are officially off and running.
With The Purple Album and tour behind them from last year, this was now entitled The Greatest Hits Tour, and as much as there were only 13 songs, one of which was far from a “hit“ of any kind, this band still have what it takes to convince their fans they have every right to still be charging $35 for a tour tshirt! Sure not everything was perfect with the show, which we‘ll get to shortly, but having seen a lot of bands still trying to reclaim their 80‘s/90‘s heady spotlight of fame, Whitesnake just never lost it. It‘s that simple.
Without DC saying much of any note, after ’Bad Boys’ we get the powerhaus trio of ’Slide It In,’ ’Love Ain’t No Stranger,’ and the lush mid-tempo ballad, ’The Deeper The Love.’ Once ’Fool For Your Loving’ has been brought forth, DC finally addresses the audience. “Good evening, Detroit.” Then spotting a few men in uniform in the front row, perhaps just the well-dressed Fox Theatre staff, to be honest, he says, “Ohh, I do love a man in uniform. And look,” he adds, walking the front row, “we’ve got the Righteous Brothers here also!” As he then turns back to look at Joel, he quickly spins back to face the crowd once more. “OK, we’ve got a song for ya, but before that, I want you to know that the first time I ever performed here in the US I played here in Detroit with Deep Purple. It was at Cobo Hall. You remember that place?” he asks, referring to a building that still stands tall, and is the current home of the Detroit Red Wings.
“I f@ckin’ love that I’m here now with you all tonight,” he further says. “So, here’s a song for ya that Mr. Hoekstra will introduce,” he adds, as they then bring us the only non-hit of the set, ’Sailing Ships.’ Not an obvious fan favorite, people look at each other, begin to chat amongst themselves, and even leave for either a beer or a piss (or both), but when that track powers on through seamlessly into the massive ’Judgement Day’, just like that the fans are back and singing along as loud, and as proud as ever. Ending that song with his trademark wail, it’s obvious early on that DC is struggling with his throaty vocals. Not only does he now proffer the mic more and more to the front row “singers” to sing entire lines of songs, but his band take over whole chunks also. DC said back when The Purple Tour got so much flack that that was probably it for Whitesnake and touring live, so there is obviously a dire possibility DC is going to call it quits after this tour now.
“Thank you so much, Detroit, “ DC comes to the front of the stage, grinning like the cat that got the cream, “and please say hello to the insanely talented Reb Beech and the incredibly talented Joel Hoekstra.” What comes next are two guitar solo spots that, much like the upcoming bass guitar and drum solo spots, are an old school fixture of bands like this (and blues bands, in general), and yet something that has to stop! They are no longer required listening and viewing for the fans, whose attention spans, when before were rockin’ out to a “greatest hit” are now lost, bored, begging for another hit to come along - and quickly! Don’t take just my journalistic word for it, for these were statements being heard all around me, as Beech definitely won the battle of how to make his guitar sound one minute like a speeding train about to derail, the next a rocket screeching its way skyward. Hoekstra just played his sparkly purple WS guitar as if he had come in midway through a power ballad, before turning his attention to a Flamenco guitar; expertly showing off his quick-fingered plucking skills thereafter.
Once all the guys were back on stage, the brilliant’ Slow An’ Easy’ is performed, and then it’s during ‘Crying In The Rain’ that the set is once again broken up - this time by the nonsense of a bass guitar solo from Michael Devlin. Fair play that he funked it up, made it old school, but why oh why does anybody at a rock concert ever want to hear a bass guitar solo at the best of times, sorry? He then finishes, screams “Tommy …” whilst pointing backwards, and next up is Aldridge’s very own solo moment in the spotlight. As always, he goes from a riveting, if not typical drumming exhibition with sticks, to throwing them into the audience and just using the palms of his hands and his feet - on everything! The guys then come back out to finish off ‘Crying In The Rain’, DC (now in a different WS shirt, this time with 'Make Some F@ckin' Noise' emblazoned on the back). He introduces the band one at a time front of stage, informs us they have a song for us, and then we get the massive radio power ballad hit ‘Is This Love.’
That bleeds seamlessly into ‘Gimme All You Love,’ and sporting yet another big cheesy, but genuinely warm and welcoming grin, we get the last song of the set, ‘ Here I Go Again.’ “Thank you so much, Detroit,” DC waves at the crowd, before walking off stage, which doesn’t last long as soon they are back, with DC asking “You wanna make some real noise, Detroit?” The always epic ‘Still Of The Night’ is then the only encore song, and therein the last song of the night, wrapping up 90 minutes of pure Whitesnake perfectly. “A thousand thank you’s for your hospitality tonight, Detroit,“ DC adds, as the band group together for a final bow. "Be safe, be happy and don't let anyone make you afraid", he adds, waving again, bumping fists with those lucky front row hands And to the throes of 'We Wish You Well', which in turn is then followed by Monty Python’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ now left to play over the speakers, they all leave the stage, one by one.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(The Fillmore, Detroit, MI - March 26th, 2016)
The Cult, for those uninitiated, are a British rock band formed in 1983. They gained a dedicated following in the UK in the mid-1980s as a post-punk/gothic rock band with singles such as 'She Sells Sanctuary', before breaking mainstream in the US in the late 1980s as a hard rock band with singles such as 'Love Removal Machine' and 'Fire Woman'.
Since their earliest form in Bradford during 1981, the band have had various line-ups; the longest-serving members are vocalist Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, the band's two songwriters. John Tempesta – drums - has been with the band since 2007.
And so here tonight in Detroit, in support of their brand new 10th studio album, Hidden City - an album that is also the final part of a trilogy that began with both Born Into This (2007) and Choice of Weapon (2012) - The Cult brought both original members and newbies to the home of Motown. Taking quietly to the stage undercover of darkness, the band set themselves, whilst Astbury places some lyric sheets down by his speaker. Reaching for a tambourine, he then counts the band into the opening song, 'Dark Energy.' With no Cult banner backdrop, all the band in black, the stage lights always dark colors, the band still ride their cool Goth demeanor to the max - and rightfully so.
Midway through the first song a large man causes some trouble front row and as Astbury looks on, is dragged out by security and escorted out of the building. Heading into 'Rain,' 'Wild Flower,' and even 'Horse Nation,' Astbury is finding his ease with the stage still, chatting with other band members, even walking off stage mid-songs. But all that changes before 'Hinterland' is brought forth. "Good evening, Detroit," Astbury finally acknowledges the packed house. "We all good down the front now?" he asks the front section, based on the aforementioned incident during the first song.
"That was 'Hinterland'," Astbury acknowledges after the song. "Thank you for coming tonight. Well done, Detroit, I see you are getting it back together again," he adds, in reference to the rebuilding of our fair city after Detroit had sadly filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in 2013. 'Honey From A Knife' is next and is most definitely the most pop song-esque I think I've ever heard The Cult be, before Astbury addresses the crowd again. "Thank you kindly. Everybody good now?" Under a purple spotlight, the keyboards are lit and a gentle piano intro brings us 'Gone'.
But it's around this time that Astbury begins to crank up his rants. Seemingly getting more and more irritated by all the cell phones and lack of audience participation for the new songs, he shuts the band down. "Are we going to connect tonight, Detroit? Is it going to happen," he asks. "You've all got to participate. Anyway, you guys should know that here tonight is the best band we've had ever," he then admits, opening up his arms to showcase the foursome around him. But he is right as nobody does connect with the new songs. Indeed, there is absolutely no crowd moshing, no en masse arm waving, no out of tune chorus singing. Nothing. They are still. Silent. Quiet throughout each of the new tracks.
But all that changes when Astbury admits "If it wasn't for the MC5 and Iggy And The Stooges we wouldn't be here today" and The Cult then launch into their own 1987 classic hit 'Lil' Devil.' "Thank you," he says, come its end, before sidestepping into a stage-pacing conversation about his reducing man boobs, about good and bad luck, about life controlling our every moves and more. Then as he quietens the crowd down with his finger to his lips, next the band bring us 'Birds Of A Feather,' which again, being a new track, doesn't do much for the paying audience.
Raising his dark sunglasses for the first time away from his eyes and up, momentarily to his forehead, Astbury talks again about his desire to see all the cell phones put away, before a long instrumental lead in finally brings us yet another new cut, 'Deeply Ordered Chaos.' The crowd, as expected, remain unaffected.
After that, Astbury delivers a message to the younger members of the crowd. "Young bloods. The new generation. Don't believe what they are telling you," he instructs, before we get a rousing double act of both 'Sweet Soul Sister' (the third single taken from the brilliant album Sonic Temple) backed by the song of the night, 'Fire Woman.' And sure, Astvbury's vocals are torn a little by now, and he seems a little out of breath, but the power, the intensity of the tracks themselves bring the crowd to life - finally!
During 'The Phoenix' (a track from their underrated 1985 second album, Love) each band member gets a 30 second solo moment to showcase their talents, which also includes Astbury breaking yet another cheap-looking tambourine mid-song. "Thank you," he says, as the show nears its end. "You guys having a good time," he asks, before we get an underwhelming 'She Sells Sanctuary,' complete with a mid section break where Astbury mumbles the words, hopefully in tribute, I'm a Blackstar.
"Thank you, Detroit City," Astbury says, ending the set. "OK, you wanna hear some more music?" he then adds, before immediately leaving the stage! Less than two minutes later he is back, alone, and rambling into his mic like some off-track comedian at an empty club. Hitting hot topics of the day, he moves through each one like wildfire, never fixating long enough on one before he's into the next. He even mentions Justin Bieber's current tour, Purpose, and the fact he just split his own new pants on stage tonight! "Alright, please, can we connect tonight, Detroit," he asks them, once again. "Turn off your f**king phones. You're missing your lives. We love you and we just want you to be right here with us tonight. You're coming back, Detroit. You're not f**king dead. Come on now, Detroit," he fist pumps into the air before we get another new track, 'G.O.A.T.'
As that song ends, Astbury is once again at the mic, addressing the crowd. "Thank you kindly. That was fun. That wasn't written too long ago, but this next song should have you up and dancing. Detroit, are you ready to put your dance pants on? Ladies and Gentlemen. Boys and Girls. Are you ready to break out the killer jams, my Brothers and Sisters?", he pleads, as The Cult bring us the last song of the night, and one that has everybody up, singing, arms waving, 'Love Removal Machine'.
Come it's end, the crowd (finally) baying their love, appreciation for the band, Astbury destroys yet another tambourine, introduces the band one by one, thanks everyone for coming out (especially those from Windsor, Canada), and then the band are gone - for now.
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
Terri Nunn & Berlin
(Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Sterling Heights, MI - September 24th, 2015)
Berlin, tonight opening for once-mega 80's UK band Tears For Fears, have always been one of my favorites to listen to. Whether it be back in the day, or lead singer Terri Nunn's version of Berlin on "their" last album, Animal, the American new wave band - formed in Los Angeles in 1978 by original member John Crawford - have survived admirably in this swallow-them-whole business.
For those that recall their brand of music, they first gained mainstream-commercial success in the early 80's with singles such as 'The Metro', 'Sex (I'm A...)', 'No More Words' and then in the mid-80's with the uber chart-topping single 'Take My Breath Away' - from the 1986 film Top Gun.
After a short video montage of the band's greatest hits, Nunn and her trio of new-Berliners take the stage. Sadly, its obvious from the off that she is in pain though for she is wearing a big, clumsy brace on her right knee. Distracting mightily from her chosen combination of a flowing red evening wear dress topped with a crow's next collar wrap, it also restricts Nunn from anything more than the odd gentle stage stroll. With only a handle of people on the lawn of this expansive 7,500 outdoor venue, and just close to around 300 in the seats, it must have been ominous for Nunn to witness, but the trooper she is, she launches straight into 'Trash' and never looks back.
"How are you doing tonight, Sterling Heights?" she asks the now-growing crowd, before the opening song bleeds right into a brilliant 'No More Words.' With a slightly out of sync video playing behind them, the band nail the track, Nunn's vocals already proving that she still has what it takes to sing live in these latter years. "Can this side sing louder than them?" she says, pointing at the other side of the venue, before ensuring her whirling arms at least make up for the fact her legs cannot do anything close. "How are you, Sterling Heights?" she asks again, adding "This is the last concert of the summer season here, and so we are honored to be here tonight. Thank you all for coming out."
With that, the electronic air raid sirens are heard and we're into 'Metro,' and yet another massively spot on rendition of one of their classic songs is brought forth. Indeed, old songs or new, it has to be firmly stated here that Nunn's vocals are fantastic on every single song, never faltering, never failing her. She is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best-sounding 80's artists - male or female - that I have ever had the pleasure to witness live in this day and age.
Moving on and after a bow to the audience's applause, Nunn and company give us 'Masquerade.' "Detroit," Nunn speaks, now changing the local city's name to a more rounded, globally-known one, "this is a really special night for us as it is our drummer Chris' birthday today." As the applause rings out, she adds, "Thank you all, and on the count of three, will you wish Happy Birthday to Chris with me." Which, of course, they all chime in with. "Thank you. Thank you. This is our newest song and video, and it's called Animal," she introduces, and suddenly we are forgetting birthday cake and are instead knee deep in some "new" new wave/synthpop from their 2013 album.
"This is a song from my childhood," Nunn next reveals, "and is a woman I always wanted to be when I was a kid." Jefferson Airplane's infamous Grace Slick-sung 'Somebody to Love' is then brought forth, albeit with an 80's pop/synth twist, of course. "You probably have already figured this out, but I tore my ACL," she says, pointing at her knee, "and so I can't dance. But I can sing and so I will do my best for you," she adds, to a loud round of applause. "This is for all the die hard Berlin fans out there. It's called Pleasure Victim," and with that she not only sings her heart out, but halfway through, walks out into the aisles of the venue to "meet" her fans.
Now back on stage, she lets everyone know that the next song is a "brand new song, that's coming out next year." She adds that she wants to know what they think of it, and then we get to listen to what actually turns out to be a rather decent song, 'All For Love.' Sometimes new songs from old school 80's synth bands can be, well, cheesy and halfhearted, but not this one. The gentle sway of the song combined with the synth back beat actually made this a mighty favorite of mine tonight. "Are you ready to dance?", she asks, adding "I need you to dance for me tonight. This is a song about how I like to watch my man striptease, and it's called With The Lights On." But before she launches into the song, she brings up on stage around 30 early bird's from the front few rows to dance, in one long line behind her. Which they all do admirably, and as Nunn twists and turns among them, it's obvious that she is having as much fun tonight as they are.
As they are escorted off the stage at the songs end, the band bleed into another of their monster hits, 'Sex (I'm A ...),' a song sung now barefoot by the still-going-vocally-strong Nunn. However, it has to be said that the shared vocals with her male guitarist didn't sound good at all, as he just doesn't have the voice to accompany her, sadly. That aside, she bows, collects herself, and then we get, with no introduction needed, the smash hit ballad, 'You Take My Breath Away.' "We want to thank Tears For Fears for having us here tonight," she says, at the songs end, and now back on stage from yet another audience foray, "and for everyone here, including the hot lighting guy that I don't know the name of," she laughs. "Thank you all for coming out and bringing this alive tonight. We've got time for one more song so get up and dance," she requests, before the band give us yet another highlight of the night, 'Dancing In Berlin.' As the song ends, she solo bows, they then group bow and as she waves goodbye, she adds, "Thank you so much for having us," and then, for now, Terri Nunn and Berlin are gone.
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Photos by: Chris Schwegler @ www.ChrisSchwegler.com
(The Fillmore, Detroit, MI - September 12th, 2015)
In Rock & Roll, you don't get to be a continual recording and touring success, nay behemoth, by sheer luck! So, having been an original recording artist for 40 years, one that spans a staggering five decades, the fact that Motörhead are still treading the boards, and in support of a brand new album, shouldn't shock anybody.
Motörhead, for those uninitiated, are an English rock band formed in 1975 by bassist, singer, and songwriter Ian Fraser Kilmister, professionally known by his stage name "Lemmy." Indeed, it is Lemmy who has remained the sole constant member of the band, which is something I myself didn't even know before writing this review; even though both Phil "Wizzö" Campbell (guitars) and Mikkey Dee (drums) have collectively been in the band now for 54 years!
Moving on, and the band are often considered a precursor to, or one of the earliest members of, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which re-energized heavy metal in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Despite this, or maybe simply because of this, Lemmy has hence forth always dubbed their music as simply "Rock 'N' Roll".
And so here tonight in Detroit, in support of their brand new 22nd studio album, Bad Magic, Motörhead entered into the final few shows on their tour of North America. Having been opened by both Crobot and Anthrax, come the witching hour, the lights go off, the yells (along with clenched fists) go up, and Motörhead take to the stage. With their slogan being 'Everything Louder Than Everything Else', you already know what kind of a night you are in for. But to experience it live, standing by the stage taking photographs, by all those speakers, well, WOW ... it was unbelievably, nay, terrifyingly loud tonight!
Anyway, with the three guys now in place, Lemmy announces the band: "We are Motörhead. We play rock 'n' roll," and with that, the opening chords of 'Damage Case' are struck up and the night has begun. Next comes 'Stay Clean' and before 'Metropolis', Lenny speaks to the crowd again: "It's great to be back in Detroit." Then peering into the crowd he adds, "A Full house, I see." Then guitarist Campbell asks for the house lights to be turned on before both he and Lemmy ask the crowd to scream as loud as they can. Which they do, but it's not loud enough for Motorhead! "That's not fuckin' good enough," Lemmy warns them. So they try again, and then once more, the last one seemingly just what the band wanted to hear. "Much better. Now you sound like you're from Detroit," Lemmy praises.
After 'Over The Top' we get a rather tuneful guitar solo from Campbell, before 'The Chase Is Better Than the Catch' and 'Rock It' are unleashed. "Has anyone bought our new album, Bad Magic?" Lemmy inquires. "It's the last album we'll make for a long, long time, but if you don't like it, you don't like it," he admits, shrugging his shoulders. "This is a song about some Lost Woman Blues," he adds, as the band set off into that very same-named track.
"Thank you very much," Lemmy acknowledges the baying crowd afterwards. "Do you remember when we used to play at Harpos," he further asks them. "Our feet used to stick to the carpet," he gently smiles, before setting the rabid fans up for a rousing, highly-extended version of 'Doctor Rock.' Complete with a massive drum solo, that itself featured eerie yellow lights beaming down upon a drum set that seemed to be smoking, it was easily one of the stand out highlights of the night.
"On the drums, Mickky Dee," Campbell announces, before Lemmy takes over, informing everyone about the true meaning to the next song: "This song is about businessmen and politicians and all those cunts. It's called 'Just 'Cos You Got the Power' that don't mean you got the right to use it." As the song ends, and with Lemmy always watchful of Campbell's guitar bringing a song to a close, he then verbally stumbles slightly. "Thanks. This is gonna be our last song tonight ...", but Campbell quickly intercedes: "No, it's not!" "Oh, that's right," Lemmy corrects himself, "It's not!" We've put in another golden oldie for you!" And with that, Motörhead launch into a cut from their Ace Of Spades album (from 1980!), the western-themed 'Shoot You in the Back.'
"Okay, THIS is really the last song," Lemmy gently smiles, "unless you clap loud enough afterwards and we might come back," he slyly adds. "It's the one song of ours that everyone knows. You can all sing along, but I won't be able to hear you," he personally admits, and with that they bring forth the monster that everyone has indeed been awaiting, 'Ace Of Spades.' The song ("...that's the way I like it baby, I don't wanna live forever") might not have the same depth, the same brutal smash-your-face-in vocal power that it once did, but with Lemmy's distinctive deep growl driving it home, it still resonates a huge sonic memory punch, that's for sure.
Leaving the stage, the crowd baying as hard as they can for the return of the magnificent three, Motörhead stroll back out; as promised. "I can't hear you. I'm deaf!" Lemmy truthfully informs them, as the crowd then turn their vocal love up a notch. "This will be the last song tonight, but before it I'm gonna introduce the band for the first time tonight." After he has put both Campbell and Dee under the spotlight, the former then "introduces" us to Mr. Lemmy Kilmister. "So, even though Detroit's in a state of redecoration," Lemmy continues, "I still love the old Detroit. You are still very good to us," he beams. "Thank you very much for all your support over the years. Don't forget us. We love you. We are Motörhead and we play rock 'n' fuckin' roll," he adds, as the band then bring forth the beloved 'Overkill.'
Complete with flashing lights, both on Campbell's guitar and from revolving spots encompassing the stage, Lemmy aims his guitar at the crowd like a long-necked machine gun. Once finished, the band come stage front to collectively bow, wave, and throw guitar pics and drum sticks into the front few rows. Lemmy leaves his bass propped up against the still-live speaker, the gentle feedback hum the last sounds that the band will make tonight.
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI – August 2nd, 2015)
The Church is an Australian psychedelic rock band formed in Sydney in 1980. Initially, they were associated with the new wave / neo-psychedelic movements, but later, the band's music occasionally became more reminiscent of progressive or jam rock; featuring long improvisations and complex guitar interplay.
The Church - Steve Kilbey (lead vocals, bass guitar, keyboards, guitar), Peter Koppes (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Tim Powles (drums, percussion, vocals, guitar), Ian Haug (guitars, vocals) - are now here in North America for a 27-date tour, one that began on August 7th in Toronto, ON and will wrap in Los Angeles, CA at The Roxy on September 10th. The band, who no longer employ the guitar, vocals, and bass guitar work of Marty Willson-Piper, are co-headlining with The Psychedelic Furs for 20 dates, along with seven headline shows on their own.
Touring in support of their 25th studio album, Further/Deeper, perhaps this brand new tour was always fated to happen. You see, an aborted 1988 U.S. tour plan that would have put post-punk stalwarts The Church and The Psychedelic Furs on the same bill back in the day is now finally gracing North American stages this summer.
As the lights go down, the packed house turn their collective heads to the stage, the five members of The Church quietly take their respective positions, and without further ado, the band launch into their opening song, 'Is This Where You Live.' Their unique brand of music turns the low brow storytelling up a notch with new track 'Delirious,' and after lead vocalist and bass guitarist Kilbey thanks the crowd, once the opening chords of 'Laurel Canyon' begin, the crowd applauds en mass. 'You Took,' 'Operetta,' and 'Myrrhis' are next, and with every song bleeding into the next seamlessly, it does make for an evening of one-long-song at times, so to speak.
Kilbey, a distinguished gentleman, always taking the audience by the hand, combining a balance of debonair and ham in equal measures, doesn't stray much from his mic stand center stage, nor does he interact with the crowd much between songs early on. But when he finally does, his self-depreciation is heartfelt. "I feel like I'm in a rock band tonight," he gently smirks, as the band then bring us an excellent 'Toy Head.' "25 years ago," the now chatty Kilbey informs us, "we had a song in the charts for whatever f**king good that did us," he adds, with a low laugh. "We're gonna do it right now for your listening pleasure," he reveals, as the band next play 'Metropolis.'
"Roll up. Roll up, for The Disillusionist. Roll up. Roll up, for The Disillusionist," Kilbey announces into his hands, clasped around the mic head. The Church then allow us to enter their theatrical, subculture world of Halloween Goth with 'The Disillusionist,' a song that runs for nearly ten full minutes and showcases Kilbey's ability to be a Ringmaster supreme. After thanking the crowd for their hearty applause, Kilbey then leads the band into a poppier, mid-tempo song 'Old Flame,' which is backed by the lighter guitar-led 'Lightning White', before the rockier, 'You Took.'
The quite brilliant 'Block' is next, complete with a wicked screechy guitar central break, it is easily (for me, at least) one of the true highlights of the night. "Now we're going from the sublime to the ridiculous. It's a song that doesn't need any introduction, nor never will do," Kilbey admits, before their monster hit 'Under the Milky Way' comes forth. "Ladies and Gentleman, we only have time for one more song tonight. It's from our new album, and it's called 'Miami'."
The new track is a good one, contains all the musical elements that The Church are renowned for, but before the song has even ended, I kid you not, as Kilbey stands his guitar upright, slowly spinning his way around it center stage, before cradling it up the side of his torso in military fashion (complete with actual marching maneuvers), two roadies come on and start dismantling the bands' equipment!
Perhaps it's common practice for The Church, who are celebrating their 35th year of making music, to have their set broken down whilst still performing. Maybe not. But it was something that I had never, ever seen before and is definitely imagery that will stay with me, as will this concert, for a long, long time to come.
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
The highly-impressive Royal Oak Music Theatre is located at 318 W. Fourth Street, Royal Oak, Michigan. It was built as a vaudeville theatre and opened in 1928.
Get Royal Oak Music Theatre tickets at AXS.com
Huey Lewis And The News
(Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Sterling Heights, MI - August 21st, 2015)
You may not know this (I certainly didn't, once upon a time), but back in 1972, singer and harmonica player Huey Lewis and keyboardist Sean Hopper joined the Bay Area jazz-funk band Clover, who would eventually become the original backing band for Elvis Costello's first album My Aim Is True - before he attracted The Attractions!
After getting a singles contract from Phonogram Records in 1979, Huey Lewis united his former band mate and three of his former rivals to form Huey Lewis & the American Express. The group would release a single "Exo-Disco" (a disco version of the theme from the film Exodus) that was largely ignored. But in 1980, the band would woo guitarist Chris Hayes and move to Chrysalis Records, changing their name to Huey Lewis and the News.
And so it is that phenomenal musical legend that came to town yet again and wowed the packed house here in Sterling Heights, MI. Playing a venue that stands loud and proud in suburban Michigan, it truly is a beautiful outdoor arena to see concerts at, no doubt. But it does get a bit chilly when the sun goes down!
Anyway, to the "heartbeat" sounds of 'The Heart of Rock & Roll,' the show kicked off in fine, free flowing style. They then backed that up with the mid-tempo pop rock hit 'If This Is It,' before heading swiftly into 'I Want A New Drug.' Huey then begins his first of many chats with the audience, by telling them he had very fond memories of playing Michigan. He then adds, "A lot of people don't want to hear the old songs anymore. So, OK, we'll play the old ones later, but here's a new one," and with that we're into a track from the upcoming new album, 'Her Love Is Killing Me.'
"I always love to go back to a little place we call The Rhythm Ranch," Huey says, as they launch into that particular song, but it's the next song, 'Jacob's Ladder' that, for my money, truly steals the entire show tonight. What with Huey's deep, gnarly harmonica playing, Stef Burns' incredible, invigorated lead guitar playing, and Johnny Colla's stunning rhythm guitar and sax work combined, the extended version is a powerhaus to behold. "OK, screams Huey, let's get the party started and let's go Back In Time." And with that, their infamous soundtrack song is brought forth and delights the crowd.
"Are you with me so far?", Huey inquires. "Very good. That was the right answer," he responds back to the affirmatively baying audience. "How many of you have seen us perform before this evening?", he asks, and when confronted with en mass of positive response of hands held high, responds with "Excellent. So, how many of you saw us at Harpo's back in the day?" Again, a massive, positive response is noted, to which he replies, dead pan, "You are all lying ... because Harpo's only held up to 300!" He continues this talk fest by further asking them, "How many of you are seeing us perform for the very first time", to which yet another massive amount of hands pop up! "Impossible," Huey jokes back. "You must still be lying to me, because we've been around for 37 years" he laughs. Then, before a couple of acapella songs, he introduces the band. 'Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um' and 'Little Bitty Pretty One' follow, with all the guys lined up front of stage, an old fashioned mic with stand positioned in front of them all.
"Before we get back to all the hits, we're gonna make a mistake," he jokes. "We're gonna play another new song. It's not me, I don't want to, but the band wants to play it for you. This one is for those of us who are a little bit older, but we're not done yet," he winks, before the band bring us a quite delightful, 'While We're Young.' During the song, not only does Huey veritably skip around the stage, but he also twirls some circles, and makes contact with a young girl in the front row. It was a very sweet moment and showed Huey still has the soul of a kid, when required, on stage. "Alright, let's dance", he next screams, before the guys bring forth a very powerful 'Heart and Soul,' backing it seamlessly with 'It's Alright.' That, in turn, bleeds perfectly into 'We're Not Here For A Long Time (We're Here For A Good Time).'
With that having been, rather unexpectedly, the end-of-set song, the band wave goodbye, Huey leaving first, but not for long as back they all soon come. "Thank you very much," Huey acknowledges the emphatic baying and clapping crowd. He then introduces the trio of guys that make up the Sports Section Horns, before launching into a stunning 'Power of Love.' That's backed by a mid-tempo version of 'Do You Believe In Love,' which in turn has Huey looking at the watch of a front rower for the time. "Wow, where has the time gone?" he mocks the crowd. "You have been a great audience, but it's 10:40pm and you know what that means to a guy like me," he jokingly retorts.
"OK, so what do you guys want to hear next?" Given that 20,000 fans bay their individual choices all at the same time, Huey then raises his hand. "You are going to have to speak one at a time, sorry!" When that doesn't work, obviously, he adds, "OK, let's just jam a little bit. Cool is the rule, but sometimes Bad Is Bad," he adds, as the guys launch into that very same song, before bringing the entire two hour show to a close with 'Working For A Living.' "Thank you," Huey acknowledges the crowd, and as they all come stage front for their traditional elbow-bent, fist-pumpin' trademark of a group bow, they are just as quickly then finally gone. Bill throwing his drum sticks to the little girl front row that Huey had sung to earlier on, the final act of the night.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
Def Leppard wsg/ Styx
(DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI - July 17th, 2015)
As if the month of July isn't hot enough, we have just begun a long weekend of 90 degree + weather ... and to kick that off, into town come both 70's/80's rock giants, Styx and Def Leppard!
The time is 8:00pm, the weather is a balmy 92 degrees, and Styx collectively saunter out onto stage. Realizing however hot it felt to us, it must feel like a furnace to those guys on stage, a couple still with their jackets on, right out of the box keyboardist Lawrence Gowan asks if Detroit is ready for the 'Grand Illusion,' before hitting us with its intro. As it turns out, Gowan is Styx's ringmaster supreme, as he not only takes the entire show by the scruff of the theatrical neck, but he can play his keyboards facing away from them, and with his hands behind his back!
Tommy Shaw asks the crowd to "put your hands in the air," and then the guys launch into 'Too Much Time On My Hands.' "We're having ourselves a rock show in this house tonight," Shaw continues, as he then introduces to the stage original bass player Chuck Panozzo. A longtime member of Styx, he founded the group with his fraternal twin brother, drummer John Panozzo,and after three decades as a Styx mainstay, finally left the band shortly thereafter. These days he has since rejoined the band part-time and tours with Styx on a semi-regular basis. Tonight, with just his name being mentioned, the Styx gathering graciously welcomes their beloved son.
'Fooling Yourself' is next, and whilst Gowan once again plays his keyboard backwards, even managing to keep it spinning around with a flick of his back foot, for the next track, 'Miss America,' well, things just got even more incredible! Firstly, and as guitarist James "JY" Young is vocally taking the song for a ride, bassist Ricky Phillips flips a guitar pic into the air, then purposefully smacks it into the outstretched hand of Gowan with the backside of his bass guitar! Secondly, after successfully grabbing it mid air, Gowan goes and sits down at the base of his keyboard circular turntable, Shaw sits down alongside him, and Gowan proceeds to play a few chords on Shaw's guitar! Lastly, he then flips the said same pic into the outstretched hand of a front row audience member, smiles, bows, and goes back to the keys! Remarkable!!
Gowan then takes to the keys, once again, given that for most of this short set he is found to be bouncing, prancing around it like some uncaged tiger, talks about their recent trip to NASA (Styx has had their name used as a small natural satellite of Pluto whose discovery was announced on 11 July 2012), and his distinctive vocals open up one of the true highlights of the night, 'Lady.' Shaw then tells the Michigan audience that "the next song is very dear to me," that he wrote it when he was living here, and asks if the packed house can help him out. A full on, balls to the wall rendition of 'Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)' is that song and thereafter, they all leave the stage, save for Gowan on his keys. For the next few minutes it's as if he is filling in time as a piano bar player, because he simply performs songs such as 'Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time),' 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' and '(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay'! "OK," he finally says, "I feel as if we're all ready now," and with that the band is back on and ploughing through 'Come Sail Away.'
Having all left the stage, they quickly come back for their two song encore, Chuck Panozzo on deck again, and first Gowan - complete with ringmaster top hat emblazoned - brings us the most theatrical stage version of 'Rockin' the Paradise' I think I have ever seen them perform! Closing out the show with a brilliant 'Renegade,' Styx may well have been opening for Def Leppard tonight, but they all but showed they still have enough fuel left in their tanks to headline their own shows too.
Def Leppard, in many ways, was the 'definitive' hard rock band of the '80s. There were many bands that rocked harder, and were more dangerous, than the Sheffield (UK) quintet, but few others captured the spirit of the times quite as well.
Taking to the stage one at a time, Rick Allen sneaking up behind his drum set virtually noticeably, it's quickly evident that guitarist Phil Collen has forgotten to pack a shirt for the tour - and, at the same time, has lost a fight with a bottle of cooking oil! And with both Vivian Campbell and Joe Elliott cloaked in black jackets, Rick Savage kitted out in nothing but a black leather vest, they barely have time to acknowledge the baying, sold out crowd before they launch into a blistering 'Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)'. Following that up with an even hotter 'Animal,' the band are on fire, which given the uber humid conditions here at this outdoor venue, was always to be expected!
"Good evening," says Elliott, "It looks like it's a hot one out there. It's good to be here tonight. Can you please now make some more noise for my friend, the man who puts the fast in Belfast, the happy and healthy, Vivian Campbell." With that, the aforementioned Campbell takes center stage to unleash the opening chords to 'Let It Go.'
"Oh yeah, it's definitely gonna be a hot one here tonight," Elliott repeats, as the band then bring forth a stunning 'Foolin'. These old school Leppard tracks sound so incredibly fresh, so powerful here tonight, and seem to blow the newer ones away, each and every time. With Allen wearing his distinctive British headphones, he leads the charge into the mid-tempo, and basically lackluster track, 'Paper Sun' from their 9th album Euphoria. Then, lit under a beautiful blue blanket, the stage is transformed perfectly, new backdrop videos included, for a quite stunning 'Love Bites.' "Thank you, thank you," Elliott praises the crowd, "Hey, looks who's here," he adds, pointing to an advancing Campbell, guitar slung, ready for action. And action is what it gets, as he introduces a pounding 'Armageddon It.'
Savage now stands alone on stage, save for Allen back there on drums, and coming slowly to center stage, the stage lights dim down to a bare minimum, he and his bass guitar then get lit by a single white beam from above. Then, and quite unexpectedly, he starts the intro to David Essex's massive hit UK single, 'Rock On.' Recorded by Leppard back on their 2006 album, Yeah!, it was, for me at least, one of the true stand out highlights of this entire show tonight. Elliott's voice may well still have most everything that it did back 30 years ago, but when the band come together for this track, well, it just couldn't have sounded any better. Studio or no studio.
"It's hot and sticky," Elliott comments, as he comes to the front of the stage, alone and with an acoustic guitar. "Just the way I like it," he adds, "so thank you all for being here with us tonight. It's now the part of the night where you all get to be in Def Leppard. So, if you know this one, sing-along with me," and with that he gently strums his way through the ballad, 'Two Steps Behind.' A blistering 'Rocket' is backed by a fiery 'Bringin' on the Heartbreak,' which then allows the guitarists to have their solo moments, before Allen gets his moment to shine on the drums also.
'Switch 625' allows the band to showcase a video montage of their late guitarist, Steve Clark, before a quite brilliant 'Hysteria' is brought to the fore. Saving two of their most powerful singles until last, Elliott says one final hello to the "Detroit" crowd, before asking if they "wanna get rocked?", which they obviously all wish to! After 'Let's Get Rocked' sounds out, they then launch straight into the final song of the set, 'Pour Some Sugar on Me' and ride that home to an electric audience wave of vocal participation. Coming back out a couple of minutes later, Elliott informs the audience that the first time they ever played Michigan they opened for Ozzy Osbourne. After a couple of band member intro's, but weirdly not all, a dynamite 'Rock of Ages' is then backed by the true final song of the night, 'Photograph' - complete with en mass of black and white photos from their heyday amassed as a fantastic, artistic back drop.
Review: Russell A. Trunk
The Rolling Stones
(Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY - July 11th, 2015)
Initially muddled into the vanguard of the British Invasion of bands that became popular in the US in 1964–65, English rock band The Rolling Stones formed in London in 1962. The first settled line-up consisted of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Ian Stewart (piano), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar), Bill Wyman (bass) and Charlie Watts (drums).
Stewart left the line-up in 1963, Jones departed the band less than a month prior to his death in 1969 and after having already been replaced by Mick Taylor, and so Ronnie Wood has now been on guitar in tandem with Richards thereafter. Indeed, to wrap this up completely, following Wyman's departure in 1993, Darryl Jones has been the regular main bassist to stage left. Funnily enough, the band was first led by Jones, but after teaming as the band's songwriters, Jagger and Richards assumed de facto leadership.
And what a smart move that turned out to be, because as we all know this writing partnership has gone on to rival that of Lennon & McCartney, Strummer & Jones, Tyler & Perry, Marr & Morrissey, Page & Plant, John & Taupin, etc. And the reason that quick Stones history lesson was laid out for you before the actual concert review is simple. It's to understand just what an INCREDIBLE show this truly was! To really get to grips with what a spectacular event was about to unfold. Indeed, you have to honestly understand that this is the bands 50th anniversary of their hit single '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' and yet they show no signs, not one, of slowing down or being ring rusty.
The last time the Rolling Stones played in western New York was 1997 and so as the clock strikes 9.20pm, the huge outdoor spotlights inside the massive, and sold out Ralph Wilson Stadium (home to the Buffalo Bills) click off, the stage lights up, and suddenly the crowd find their collective roar of anticipation for the last US tour date on this Zip Code Tour 2015.
Kicking-off the two and a half hour show to the massive booming guitar chords of 'Jumpin' Jack Flash,' the first fireworks of the night are let off and quickly the whole atmosphere of the massive live show is shrouded in smoke. "How are you?", Jagger asks the massive, cheering crowd. "You all okay?", he adds, before the band launch into the blistering 'It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It).' Having removed his bright red jacket, a lighter red shirt billowing underneath from the draft of the stage fans, and with a stellar supporting cast behind him, a hyperactive 'You Got Me Rocking' allows Jagger to begin his first real saunter down the elongated catwalk laid out before him. Stretching deep into the floor crowd, it enabled all those halfway down on the sides of the stadium - such as myself and the lovely Marianne Widmalm - to actually nearly see the sweat on his animated face.
Now the red shirt is off and he shows an incredibly taut, well preserved body under a very tight, hugging black tshirt. "Good evening, Buffalo, New York," Jagger announces. "Anybody here from New York? Anybody here from Ontario? Anybody here from Tikiwonda? Or TokiTiki?" And with that verbal nonsense now out of his system, they launch into 'Tumbling Dice,' which allows a serious amount of "Jagger moves" to come out for those at the end of the catwalk. "How are you all today, Buffalo?" Jagger asks the crowd again. "It's great to be back in the Ralph. Everything looks the same, except that they've added gold taps to the sink in my bathroom, which is nice," he jokes, as they then bring us a quite brilliant 'Out of Control.' The harmonica-driven blues rock track, third single from the album Bridges To Babylon in 1998, for me, it was one of the highlights of this tight show. A soulful, gospel chorus complete with Jagger's harmonica, meant that it melted 50,000 hearts instantly.
"We're gonna now do a couple of songs from the Sticky Fingers album," Jagger announces, complete with a new, different colored shirt, as the band then bring forth both 'Wild Horses' and 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking.' Complete with a massive saxophone solo and some fun guitar work from Wood, this is yet another stand out highlight of the night. Right about now, Jagger reveals - quite literally, as it comes up on the big screen behind them - that the next song was voted online by the Buffalo fans as the song to play at this very moment of the show - and it turns out to be a bouncy 'Let's Spend the Night Together.'
"How you feeling tonight Buffalo?", Jagger asks yet again. "You feeling good?," he then adds, as Richards lights up his guitar for 'Honky Tonk Women.' Bathed under a delicious yellow blanket of light, and complete with Jagger's rubber bendy body moves at the end of the catwalk, it's a remarkable live moment to both hear and see. "I'm in a great hotel," Jagger reveals, "and I'm actually staying in the Tom Brady Suite!" The crowd boo, ever so gently, ever so politely, but they needn't have worried. "It's great, except the pillows are a bit deflated!" he adds, to finish off his "Bradygate" joke. He then performs a round robin of band introductions, before getting to Ronnie "Wings" Wood, "Charlieeee" Watts, and "Keef" Richards.
It's the latter that then comes front of stage, as Jagger walks off, and introduces himself to the crowd. "Good evening, motherf**kers," he quips, smiling broadly. "It’s good to see you guys,” he continues, "actually, it's good to see anybody," he adds, with a chuckle. "Anyway, before they make me run from here, here's a song for you," and it's then that Richards gets to sing both a hearty version of 'Before They Make Me Run' and a distinctly fun 'Happy.' With Wood now on a lap steel guitar, akin to something Jeff Healey always played, the song is actually a delight to hear; given the fact Richards couldn't carry a tune in a rusty ol' bucket, of course!
Still only just two thirds of the way through, Richards waves to the fans as Jagger comes back on stage. "Thank you, and God Bless all of America," he says, still waving, stage bowing, rightfully so milking his private solo moment in the spotlight. Next up is an extended, drawn out to the max blues romp through 'Midnight Rambler,' where Jagger stutter-stepped up and down the catwalk, even boxing with an invisible opponent as he masterfully slid, nay thrust his way along in front of the baying front row fans. With 15 shows in 15 North American stadiums (well, save for the last festival show this week in Quebec!), coinciding with the recent reissue of the aforementioned 1971 album Sticky Fingers, the band still managed to cull from other historic albums. 'Miss You,' from 1978's Some Girls was next, and with Jagger on guitar, and its throbbing bass line, it brought another great funk moment out of the now-sweating guys.
Watching Jagger seemingly hover above the heated air emanating from the stage, you get the feeling that he’s like the coolest cat that ever lived! His confidence is never waning, his physical demeanor is second to none (for a man his age), and his vocals are as impressively robust throughout the show as they were back fifty years ago. With the audience singing along to the chorus, as instructed to by Jagger, come the end the entire stadium is clapping to the grateful lead singer. "Thank you so much. You sounded fantastic." Jagger then swigs from a bottle of water on stage, drop kicks it into the audience, before announcing to the crowd that the Stones have been coming to Buffalo since 1966. He thanks them for still coming out to see them and for allowing them to keep coming back to play for them.
That launches the band straight into a fantastic, heartfelt 'Gimme Shelter,' which in turn allows back-up singer Lisa Fischer’s solo vocals to crush everything in their path! What a vocal star this lady is and well done to those that were putting the tour together and thought of using her. She was something else up there at the end of the catwalk, alongside Jagger, both doing their thang.
As Richards strummed his guitar into life, Wood, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, suddenly we were into one of my all-time favorite Stones songs (from the modern era), 'Start Me Up.' Sadly, it was around now that Jagger's voice was obviously starting to feel the pressure of the long sets on this 14th of 15 in a row shows. But all that was forgiven when next up, and as the three giant video screens came alive with fire, we were treated to a very theatrical 'Sympathy for the Devil.' Jagger, now complete with flowing red cloak, spellbound the audience, that moment captured as if he were performing Hamlet or Macbeth. Complete with audience participation when it came to the "woo woo's," the song went down a storm, and was then backed by a rousing end of set barnstormer in the form of 'Brown Sugar.' "Thank you, Buffalo," waved Jagger to the en mass gathered here tonight, "Goodnight."
But, as we all know from these types of stadium concerts, that's never the real end to a show, and sure enough, some two minutes later, out they come once more. Joining the local Calvary Episcopal Church Choir on stage, already having delivered the opening bars of the ethereal 'You Can't Always Get What You Want,' the song was definitely another highlight of the set. "You sounded f**king great on that," Jagger compliments the crowd, before he and the guys launch into the final song of the two and a half hour set, the 50th anniversary birthday boy itself, '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.' Complete with so many fireworks, the planes flying above us must have had a wonderful show all of their own, after some stage bows, some more waves, and Jagger's "Thank you, Buffalo. Goodnight," once the Stones had left the stage this time there was no more thereafter - sadly.
Being that these 2015 shows are the first time the Stones have played North American stadiums since A Bigger Bang, the phenomenal energy behind Jagger's constant stage dancing, hip moves, and overall entertainment showcases just what this sold out audience means to them. For, without them, packing stadiums around the world to come see them, the Stones might possibly not be as big as they still are today. Jagger appreciates that though his energy, his dancing, his love for each and every person out there that paid to see them on this Zip Code tour. Of that, have no doubt, which most likely points to the Stones (arguably) being the greatest band in rock ‘n’ roll history!
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Sterling Heights, MI - July 3rd, 2015)
Whitesnake, the typical hard working, hard singing, hard rockin' band, founded many moons ago by the incomparable David Coverdale after his departure from his previous band, Deep Purple (which will come into play tonight BIG time), may well now only be Coverdale and a traveling band of merry men, but tonight they performed as if they had been together for 40 years!
As the clock strikes 9.00pm from stage left guitarist Reb Beach wanders out, guitar already slung, ready for action, a broad smile emblazoned. Next comes bassist Michael Devin, with both new recruit guitarist Joel Hoekstra and drummer Tommy Aldridge striding to their spots also. Then, as the boys launch into the guitar laden opening of 'Burn,' Coverdale himself confidently strides out. Grabbing the mic with one hand, the actual stand with the other, after some phallic symbol stances, he then vigorously sways it around to the guitars, before unleashing his trademark vocals to the classic Deep Purple track.
With this new Whitesnake record, The Purple Album, being a complete re-imagining of Deep Purple tracks from the bands Mark III and Mark IV line-ups, those in the audience that were confused by that opening, an extended Purple track therein, stayed that way for quite a while! You see, a lot, and I mean a LOT, of people (nay, fans) just didn't know what to expect tonight from a band touring an album entitled The Purple Album. And so, with a set list nearly 75% chock full of old Deep Purple songs, it left a lot of the fans bewildered, unknowing of these 70's-created songs! That said, when they next launch into a stunning 'Slide It In,' and back it immediately with a brutal 'Love Ain't No Stranger,' those confused among the gathering at least had some old school Snake to sing-along to.
Dressed in a vibrant purple Whitesnake tour shirt, his hair as perfect as it was back in the glory days of MTV, Coverdale doesn't say much for the first few songs, inclusive of the next DP track, 'Gypsy,' but does smile a lot! Reaching the mic into the front row so that audience members/fans can sing the chorus lyrics happens more then once in the opening few songs, but when he does finally speak, he thanks the crowd for coming out and supporting the tour. "Most of you weren't even born when some of these songs were first created," he laughs. "Tonight we're gonna play some older ones for you, so here's one you might know," and with that the band powers up 'Give Me All Your Love.'
Coverdale then, as usual, reminds us of his first time playing the States, by reflecting back 40 years. "I first played here in Detroit with Deep Purple at Cobo Hall, but along the way you lose people, you lose friends. So this next song is dedicated to Mel Galley, Cozy Powell and Jon Lord." Always passionate about the memory, always grateful to those that showed up there that night that might well be in the audience tonight, they play 'You Keep on Moving.' "We want to play a song that as written for all of you," Coverdale then reveals,"for all the love you've given us over the years." That song is a quite brilliant 'Forevermore.' Coverdale then introduces Beach's guitar solo, which is backed seamlessly by one from Hoekstra. Both much the same in showing each others skill set off, it's the latter who reverts back to the 80's hair tossing, guitar held at an angle upwards from his crotch style poses for those with front row cameras!
Coverdale then asks the crowd to help him out vocally on the still-vibrant DP track, 'Mistreated,' and backs that with the lesser known 'You Fool No One.' Next he introduces Devin, who actually does less bass guitar work and more Harmonica. Next is a wicked drum solo from Aldridge that had to be seen to be believed. An incredible virtuoso turn on the drums, Aldridge first uses his sticks, but then after launching them high into the audience, finishes the set off with the palms of his hand and even his feet! This then allows Coverdale to go change into a fresh shirt, a black one with 'Make Some F**kin' Noise' emblazoned on the back, and soon the band are knee deep in their biggest radio play song ever, the power ballad 'Is This Love.'
DP tracks 'Lady Double Dealer' and the first single of the new Purple Album, 'Stormbringer' are next, which meant that four out of the last five tracks had been 70's DP songs. Hardly, in all honesty, what the average WS comes to see their musical heroes for, but with Coverdale having changed yet again into a new shirt, this time a cooler-looking white affair, he then introduces the band.
Luckily for all the WS fans, the band ride the show home with a slew of hard hitting WS hits. All ignited by Coverdale's trademark screamed order of "Make some f**kin' noise," they are now more than willingly oblige. The best song of the night, for me, a show stopping 'Bad Boys' comes off the bat first, and has everyone fist pumping and screaming the lyrics out. That's followed by the one track that seems to resonate with American WS fans more than any other, 'Here I Go Again.' As the guitar trio come together center stage for a musical climax, the show ends and the band walk off.
Not to worry though for two minutes later they are all back out, at their respective stations, and a pounding 'Still Of The Night' is brought forth as the one, and sadly only, encore song. "Thank you for coming out and being with us tonight," Coverdale says, as the band group together for a final bow. "Be safe, be happy and don't let anyone make you afraid." And as he signs CD sleeves, guitar pics are thrown out, each band member shakes hands with those lucky enough to be up front. And to the throes of 'We Wish You Well' gently playing behind them, they finally turn and are gone for yet another year (or two).
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
NEW! Sixx: A.M.
(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI - April 21st, 2015)
Hard rock band Sixx: A.M. may well have only formed back in 2007 as a "bit of fun," but the band from Los Angeles, California created by Nikki Sixx, that includes both DJ Ashba and James Michael, is most definitely now a powerhaus musical machine of their own making. A side project of Sixx, better known for being the bass guitarist for Mötley Crüe, Sixx: A.M. (a combination of all of the member's last names: Sixx, Ashba, and Michael) came to town on their first headlining tour - and blew the roof off the Royal Oak Music Theatre!
As the lights go down, the pumped in music soon fades and most all the band members take to the stage. Two female backing singers, a drummer, guitarist DJ Ashba and bassist Nikki Sixx are quick to strike up the chords of the first song, just as the seemingly self-proclaimed rock God, James Michael, finally comes from stage right to center stage. Dressed head to toe in black, inclusive of fingerless gloves that he wears all night, his long flowing leather jacket opens to reveal black pants, black vest, and a black tshirt underneath! His blonde hair spiked, sunglasses firmly on, he outstretches his arms and bathes in the screams from the people before him; much like the Messiah himself.
"Let's Go," he screams into his mic, and as the band crank up their instruments, he adds, "Make some fuckin' noise for me, Detroit." The track of the same name is a brilliant, loud, flashy opener to the show, although it has to be said that the duel set of revolving bright white lights set amongst the backdrop were very blinding after a while! Next up is 'Give Me Your Love,' and by now Michael has removed his sunglasses. Sixx, however, hasn't - and never does! "How we doing, Detroit?", Michael asks the baying crowd, as the colorful light show behind and above them continues to be as ferocious as ever.
Michael then tells the story that it's been seven years since the band got together, that they've been making music all the time, and have never once stopped since then. He then thanks the two opening bands, before the band head into 'Relief.' Both Sixx and DJ Ashba have fun throughout the entire show with each other, literally bouncing off each other, trying to put each other off their musical stride and more. All in good fun, the trio are always smiling, always striving to bring the best version of the album track live to their fans.
During the last song, Michael leaves the stage to remove his long jacket, returns and encourages fist pumping to the still-playing 'Relief' from the audience. The tremendous title track from 2011’s 'This Is Gonna Hurt' is next and is backed by (finally) something from The Heroine Diaries, 'Pray For Me.' "How are you guys doing tonight?", Michael again inquires, before the piano is gently played to introduce, 'Dead Man's Ballet.' With Sixx posing, seeming zoned out a lot of the time, the song soon changes into a ball's out rocker, with audience arms swaying side to side under rich purple spotlights. Ashba then takes, somewhat reluctantly, to the mic to tell people his background and where he comes from in IN. He relates how he was stuck in a bubble, told to stay within it, in case things went wrong for him, but that he broke out of that bubble and look where he is today. He adds that he is just like us, and tells us never to stop trying. Never to give up.
The band then launch into 'Miracle,' which features an incredible guitar rock-off between Sixx and Ashba. Slipping off stage once more, Michael returns now without his vest, and the band then bring us the storming 'Live Forever,' which turns out to be a massive crowd favorite. With Canadian drummer Dustin Steinke performing like his life depended on it, during the song, Nikki reverts back to his good ol' days of 80's rock 'n roll - by swigging some water and then spitting it back into the front row! Next comes 'Live Forever,' before the piano is brought center stage for Michael to have a solo moment with The Cars cover, 'Drive.' That solo, quite moment doesn't last more than one chorus though, before the others all come back on stage to rock the crap out of it, quite like you've never heard it performed before!
Then it's Sixx's moment to speak, as he himself now comes center stage, drinking from a water bottle [watch out, front row!], he brings his hands together in a prayer motion to thank the fans, kneels, and begins: "When you make music, you make it to play for people," he explains, "but for me, at the beginning, I was just writing this book, The Heroin Diaries. And so for me, personally, this tonight is a dream come true, because we weren’t a band. That was never the original intent. So this whole Sixx: A.M. thing was an accident. I got James and Ashba to dig deep into their wounds, everything that had fucked them up to create these songs, because there's always hope in those wounds. So, we wrote the single, 'Life Is Beautiful' and then we started to get this itch," he continues, "and so now we stand here before you as a live band! You guys wouldn't stop tweeting us, telling us you wanted us to tour, and I honestly thought I was getting ready to retire! So, I have a promise to make to you all and that is next year there will be a new album, a new tour, and that's all down to you."
With that speech done, the band break into the epic 'Help In On The Way,' which culminates in all the band, save for the drummer, coming front and center for the songs finale. Another quiet piano intro leads us into the rocker, 'Goodbye My Friends,' which in turn ends with a stunning operatic moment from one of the lovely duo of backing singers. One of the best songs of the night for me, 'Lies of the Beautiful People' is next, which also allows the two backing singers to share the vocal spotlight more, before Michael warns the singing crowd that that was just their warm up, because the hit single 'Stars' was next!
Fittingly, as small, yet en masse of glittering "stars" fall from the ceiling as the song comes to an end, Michael gives one more shout out to Detroit, and the boys leave the stage. Back for the encore with barely a minute gone, Michael is alone back at his piano center stage, a dinner jacket now on, he gives us 'Skin, before Ashba comes to sit on the piano for his solo moment also. Under four purple spot lights, the scene is beautiful and fitting for the song. "Detroit, what a fucking great night," Michael admits, "and that means there is only one thing left to say ... life is fucking beautiful," and with that the rock pop bounce of the aforementioned 'Life Is Beautiful' track is brought to the fore.
"Let me hear you scream," Michael implores the by-now hoarse crowd, and as he introduces the band in full, then asks the crowd to sing the chorus themselves, come the final burst ending to the song, and with Michael announcing the name of the band and the fact that they would be back in Detroit soon, it has to be said that Sixx A.M. are better live than on CD! And that, right there, is a massive testament to the guitarists and the highly impressive vocal chords of the rock God Messiah himself, James Michael!
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
The highly-impressive Royal Oak Music Theatre is located at 318 W. Fourth Street, Royal Oak, Michigan. It was built as a vaudeville theatre and opened in 1928.
Get Royal Oak Music Theatre tickets at AXS.com
Midge Ure (2015)
(Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - March 5th, 2015)
Having been here to our shores, and indeed the very same venue back some two years ago now, Ultravox front man Midge Ure brought his ‘Fragile Troubadour’ one man show to the Magic Bag again last night. The Grammy and Brit Award winning musician kicked off his North American solo acoustic tour back in early January in Portland, OR in January and on a cold, bitter night in Ferndale, MI (and with only three tour dates left: Milwaukee, WI, Chicago, IL, and Bethesda, MD), the accomplished guitarist took to the stage naked; so to speak!
In a small darkened club, on a black stage with a black backdrop, at 9.20pm Midge Ure quietly, semi-unnoticed, came from behind the black curtain to the solitary mic stand. Dressed head to toe in black, he begins to fiddle with the leads and wires associated with his, yup, you guessed it, black guitar. "I've just got to get my bits together," he gently announces, as the politely filled venue begin to roundly applaud his arrival. "How are you all doing," he asks, as he continues to fiddle. "These are the joys of doing this tour alone," he adds, "I just don't know how all this stuff works. When I toured with Ultravox we had people to do this for us," he smiles broadly, having now accomplished his connection to his one and only amp.
After thanking everyone for coming out, the only thing now lit in the whole room is Midge himself under a dull yellow spotlight, the first song of the night is 'Waiting Days.' "I've just driven down from Canada this morning and it was warmer there than it is here," he comments afterwards. "What's wrong with you people. You live in a fridge!" 'Call Of The Wild' is next, before Midge makes the "more astute" of us aware that he doesn't have any friends with him on stage tonight. He then relates a story about how he dreamed the next song, 'Dear God,' one of the only times he's awoken and remembered the lyrics, before telling us about how the popularity for 'Breathe' came about. "I thought it was the best song that I'd ever written, but the world never agreed. A fan in Japan submitted it to Swatch and they used it for a TV advert and then it became huge all around the world! Except for here and the UK! So, I'm gonna play it for you now to make you all feel guilty," he smiles.
The opening track from his new solo CD, 'I Survived' is next, before he lets the applause subside to pay tribute to his late friend, and fellow band mate, Steve Strange. "Life throws you some strange and odd curve balls and just before I left for this tour a dear friend of mine passed away way too early. I wrote and produced this for Visage back in the day and so tonight, this is for Steve." A quite hauntingly beautiful 'Fade To Grey' is then brought forth. "Scottish accents seem to be everywhere these days," he randomly next throws out. "Like some sort of disease!" After naming TV characters with them, fake or otherwise, Midge then slides into a story about his time back 25 years ago in Berlin, watching as the Wall was being knocked down. After going into great detail about how he was meant to be working when all he was doing was watching as gun towers and roadblocks and the Wall itself were being demolished, he decided to write a song; in the style of a 1930's cabaret, 'Tumbling Down.'
That bleeds right into the always-impressive 'Hymn,' and then taking a break from singing, Midge relates how he got to town earlier than last time (in daylight) and that he walked around Ferndale. "This city is really nice. I love it here. It's really fabulous. And on top of that you get me too," he laughs, before he continues to converse about next playing a song that he didn't write, but he still thinks is "the most beautiful song ever written." That song turns out to be Fleetwood Mac's 'Man of the World,' written by Peter Green.
"I've been asked to play so many songs in this acoustic style on this tour. Some are just downright stupid and this was one of them! But it seemed to kinda work so I'll give it a try again for you now." With that he brings us a stunning 'Reap The Wild Wind' in all its unplugged, save for the obvious electrified implement to his side, glory. The Scotsman is truly at his finest on this song, throwing his head back and forth in an attempt to layer the vocal power. After the applause dies down, Midge talks about the dawn of MTV, how he was amazed that anyone got the funding for the channel to begin with, and all without any actual music videos to play. Save for all the bands in England that had them ready to go.
Next Midge plays two love songs back-to-back, 'Light in Your Eyes,' and 'Guns & Arrows,' before relating the story of how Ultravox regrouped back some five years ago now. After 25 years apart, they felt "we wanted to go out and play these songs one last time the way we wanted them to sound." Midge then tells the long story of how the foursome came together in the same room to decide which songs were to make the set list. To make that decision, they all had a list of Ultravox songs on a sheet of paper, ticked the ones they each wanted to play and whichever songs got four ticks was on the set list. It turned out only four songs were chosen in that manner, one being 'Lament.' "We kind of rediscovered this, because we had all forgotten the song," he then admits.
Straight after that, and without any introduction or hesitation, we get the one true song of the night that everyone had come to hear, the still-powerfully awesome 'Vienna.' Afterwards, as the applause dies down, he freely admits that for someone his age it was written "stupidly high," but then quickly introduces something new from Fragile. A song that he actually, in another form, had originally written for Steve Strange and his Hearts & Knives album for Visage back in 2012, 'Become' is now brought forth. A blistering 'If I Was' is next, before some highly intricate guitar play unexpectedly gives way to a brilliant 'Dancing With Tears In My Eyes.'
Thanking everyone for coming out tonight, one arm waving, the other holding down his shoulder slung guitar, he leaves the stage - only to return one minute later. "This song is the title track from my new album and I'm really pleased with it," he admits, as he gives us 'Fragile.' "OK, this really is the last song that I have to play for you tonight," he then laughs. "I have this pet hate of encores. It's just a load of bollocks! You all know I'm coming back out when I first leave so why don't I just stay here and play all the songs anyway," she shrugs, smiling. "Anyway, for this I will need your help," and with that he launches into a stirring 'The Voice' before again thanking everyone for coming out and for "keeping music alive."
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI - October 8th, 2014)
With British super group, ASIA having announced its 2014 World Tour and the release of their brand new album, Gravatis, once again the band came to town, and back to the Royal Oak Music Theatre.
With now three of the original band members - John Wetton, Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer - still forming the mainstay of the band, the replacement for Steve Howe is new kid on the block, guitarist Sam Coulson.
After a quick burst of the 1812 Overture, the four band members come on stage, one by one, gently waving, fist pumping, saluting their adoring fans. Not quite a sold-out crowd, it deserved to be. Quickly behind their equipment, Wetton waits patiently until Downes hits a key that kick starts 'Soul Survivor' and then another classic in, 'Wildest Dreams.'
"Thank you," Wetton says, "It's great to be back here." With Wetton's voice as big, as distinctive as ever, it really doesn't matter that the trio of original artists are showing some personal girth and grey hair. I mean, if you can still do what these guys do, all in perfect harmony with each other after 30 years, does it truly matter what they wear or look like?
"Good evening," Wetton continues, "How are you all tonight? Wanna have some fun? This one is from a more recent album," he adds, before the band launch into 'Face On The Bridge.' Once done, they soon move into one of the early highlights of tonight’s show, a powerful, scorching 'Time Again,' which quite rightly receives the first standing ovation of the night. A song that showcases the fact that Wetton has lost none of his 30 years in the making re: Asia vocal tones, it was a great rock moment to behold.
"Here's a new song for you. It's the first song on the new CD," Wetton says, as he introduces, 'Valkyrie.' Thanking everyone for their love for the song afterwards, Wetton - the mouth piece of the band - tells the fans that they are going to play a lot of songs from the past 30 years. They then play a great track, and one unknown to me, 'Finger On The Trigger,' and back that up with a different version from the album of, 'I Know How You Feel.'
"For those that remember back to 1985," Wetton says, "here is one from the Astra album that is about your country," and with that we get a very country-inspired, 'Voice of America.' Wetton and Coulson play acoustic guitars, Palmer a tambourine, and Downes' keys are quietly understated. "This is a little tearjerker from 1983," Wetton continues after, as the band launch into the heartfelt, 'The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.'
After a 20 minute intermission, the band come back out and now Palmer is doing the talking. "We're gonna begin the second set with a piece from the Phoenix album. This is 'Extraordinary Life'." After that, Wetton thanks everyone and reveals that they are going to play the title track from their new album, 'Gravitas.' But, as he tries to continue to talk about the break-up origins of the song, he physically breaks down a little, stutters in his speech, and simply adds, "It's a very, very sad song."
Palmer than announces that this portion of the show is the first of the solo features of the night, and then introduces Geoff Downes on the keyboards. A five minute keyboard showcase, it could easily have been omitted from the night (sorry). "We're gonna continue on with a number one single from many years back," Palmer reveals, as the band then give us a fantastic, 'Days Like These.' "Thank you, but we didn't write that," Wetton admits, before the runaway train of, 'Go' is brought forth.
"So, who was around in 1983," Wetton asks, slyly himself pointing at the young Coulson. "If you were, you might have heard this on the radio," and with that we get one of the best sung, best felt classic ASIA songs of the night, 'Don't Cry.' Next up we get an incredible, simply amazing solo drum spot from Carl Palmer. What he does with his drum set, and his sticks therein is mesmerizing.
"Want another song," Wetton asks the now-standing crowd. Of course, they scream their positive response back, which leads us into the monster worldwide hit, 'Heat Of The Moment.' Complete with an audience sing-along mid-section, once done Wetton thanks the audience: "God Bless, Royal Oak," and after a group bow they are gone. No encore, no band introductions, no finale more than the extended last track, this is how ASIA roll, bitches!
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
The highly-impressive Royal Oak Music Theatre is located at 318 W. Fourth Street, Royal Oak, Michigan. It was built as a vaudeville theatre and opened in 1928.
Get Royal Oak Music Theatre tickets at AXS.com
(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI - October 3rd, 2014)
Chris D'Elia, best known as a comedic actor/writer on such TV shows as both 'Whitney' (2011) and 'Undateable' (2014), came to town Friday night - and we all wished he hadn't!
A few minutes later than advertised, D’Elia’s opening comedic act introduces him to the stage - and promptly manages to screw his name up at the same time! As “Delia” slouches on from stage left, dressed in ill-fitting dark blue jeans, a faded black t-shirt, for the most part his unkempt hair slicked back, the sold-out audience loudly applause. It also turned out to be the last time they felt the desire to do it again.
Sadly, this is also the very same moment that stand-up comedy, as we know it, died a horrible death for the next hour!
Simply put, when Chris D’Elia is scripted on TV shows like ‘Whitney’ and ‘Undateable’ he is very funny. Very funny. He is fast-thinking, he is fleet of foot, he is the comeback king. But put D’Elia on stage alone in front of a live audience, each who have paid $30 a ticket to see him, and suddenly not one of those things applies to him!
Indeed, for the first seven minutes he said barely anything! Holding his microphone close to his mouth, he giggled, he mumbled, he grunted, he shuffled from one side of the small stage to the other, and all with his head bowed down. Add to this most pathetic of live comedic openings the fact that he then spots someone taking flash photography of him, whom he then proceeds to seriously berate, and you could sense that tonight was going to be a train wreck early on.
D’Elia begins his act, if that is indeed the correct word to use for someone aimlessly rambling on stage about school boy smut, talking about his early days in the business. We get stories of him working a Laundromat and a 20 minute retelling of the night he performed to just 14 people at a boarded up bar in LA. Inclusive of a woman that reminded him of 'Blanka' from the Street Fighter II video game, D’Elia loses his way several times. As too does the wholly inane story.
He then lets us know he is just back from South Florida, where he was surrounded by Cubans. “Never ask a Cuban for directions unless you want to have the best time of your life along the way,” he remarks, as he flails his arms around his ever-twisting body in a vain attempt to portray what the visual would look like. Another needlessly long segment, he ends it by telling us the opposite of a Cuban is a Russian!
Together with his horrible Russian accent, he launches into a skit about why, in his mind, they are so rightly perceived as being anti-fun, when a shout from the audience telling him he is wrong suddenly disrupts his so-called comedic process. “Shut up!,” he immediately fires back at the shocked audience member. “This is not TED talk, so shut the f**k up.“ Meant with complete venom, D’Elia quickly refocuses on his act. With his chin down, he puts a faux giddy smile back on his face, takes a sharp intake of breath, and adds that Russians never show their necks; as the neck is for family only.
As his punchline lands into silence, he then comes front of stage and tells the audience that he thinks what he just said was the shit! The best! Obviously now seeing that he was losing his audience, he then pays mention to the fact that a lot of people were obviously dragged out tonight who didn’t even know who he was. So, of course people weren’t laughing as they didn’t know when to, he supposed.
D’Elia then says he has one word for all the women of the world: “Relax”. He admits that’s how he had wanted to start the show and then shovels the hole deeper for himself by doing a impression of a girl replying to a guy asking what was wrong: “I can’t … I can’t even … you wouldn’t even know what happened even if I told you!” D’Elia comments that at that moment if a dragon had f**ked her he would have to know more, because he would need to comprehend it all!
Next up is a 20 minute section on any girlfriend’s best friend, usually named Lisa, and how it is always, in a guys mind, the mental middle finger towards her of, “F**k, Lisa!” He explains that whenever a girlfriend is talking to him, that she’ll always reference a Lisa. And that when said girlfriend is talking to Lisa, all Lisa is thinking is, “When she’s done telling me her story, I’m going to tell her mine.” Next we get the difference in a hard days work between the sexes when Lisa says to anyone who will listen that she’s “… literally been running around all day!” D’Elia then does his what-if-she-really-had-been-running-around-all-day hop, skip and run routine; arms flailing, high-pitched voice at the max to enable us to seemingly recognize that he’s doing an impression of a flaky girl!
Yet again camera flashes come from the same area of the audience they had before and yet again D’Elia angrily launches into the culprit. He tells him he wasn’t joking the first time, he was dead serious and he was getting very angry. An accidental, yet perfectly timed segue way, he then moves into a section on arguments and awkward encounters with ex-girlfriends. He recants a seemingly-true story of the day he purchased an orange shirt, how he wore it out with his girlfriend, and how she constantly told him it was actually pink! This bleeds into meeting her mother, a whole bit on him saying, “Hello, mom” to her, and his girlfriend having to tell him that wasn’t his mother, but hers! It’s another 20 minute, needlessly elongated pile of drivel without a punch line.
Next, D’Elia takes the level of the show to the well-trodden fodder of the gutter by informing women that the only reason men associate with them is because they want to be in them! “If there’s a guy hanging with you, he wants to get in you. If he says he just wants to be friends with you, he’s lying … he wants to get in you! We all want to get in you, but there’s nothing in there when we get there!” He then goes on to suggest that women should put things inside their pu**ies as treats for men. Like a roll of quarters, tickets to Coachella, and other such items of wonderment. D’Elia then does his tried and tested Nicholas Cage cum face and head flip to show what all men seemingly look like at that moment, before adding that even a Blue Jay or a ring pop would be nice to find down there!
D’Elia then talks about the only thing that comes out of pu**ies, … babies! “A baby is the worst prize, ever,” he loudly laughs, albeit by himself. He then distinguishes the birth of a baby as something beneath the birth of a baby deer. A baby comes out, it’s not dressed, it can’t talk. It wants help. It needs help. But a baby deer pops out and straight away it’s saying, I’m here to help! I’m going to get some berries! “Women should just give birth to fully grown, fully dressed adult men and women who when they pop out immediately say they’re late for work!"
Next, D’Elia talks about when you have a daughter you have to be a constant dick blocker, but to have a son would be harder for him. He’s not a sports guy, so if his son asked him how to throw a ball he would have to find out for himself first! He then reveals he has a soft side by talking about the old Shaquille O’Neal movie, ‘Kazaam’ where come the end, with the little boy dying, cradled in Shaq’s arms, D’Elia broke some tears free. In much the same vein as a Japanese anime, they seemingly fired up and out at great speed and with great distance!
Continuing his lack of sports interest, D’Elia then says he would get much more fun out of watching a football game between REAL Dolphins and REAL Bears! He then suggests other match ups such as actual Cowboys vs. actual Jaguers, actual Pirates vs. actual Vikings, and actual removal Packers vs. tall-ass Giants! Then he tells anyone who wears a jersey with another mans name across the back that they are a “f**king loser!” He adds that it’s a “bitch move” and that it means that the named person should have the right to butt f**k you whenever they wanted to!
Again, someone from the audience breaks his stride, but this time all they do is whoop, in a fleeting moment of either overly-excited enjoyment or the release of trapped gas! However, D’Elia doesn’t like even that so-called interruption and tells the person to “Shut up,” and quickly adds, “Just let me get through this show. You’re not gonna suck my dick!” As if to tip him over the edge, somebody else shouts out his catchphrase from ‘Undateable,’ Baby Bird, but D’Elia thankfully chooses to ignore it.
D’Elia then brings us the overly-mined theme of the fact he believes that girls want sex some of the time, whereas all the guys in the world want sex all of the time … and with every woman on the planet! And even with the ones they have just invented in their heads! To prove his point, D’Elia picks a woman from the audience, gets her to stand up, then picks a guy, gets him to stand up, and then asks the woman if she would f**k him! She leans to look, politely shakes her head no, and D’Elia quickly responds that the guy has already said yes without even looking at her!
Now, for some unknown reason, D’Elia then does his entire last act in a Keanu Reeves ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’-esque voice! Even the women he portrays seem to simply be a female version of said same character. He then gives us, in a very unnecessarily long-winded fashion, the 3 Rules to getting into a woman’s pu**y: Firstly, you have to take her to a restaurant she wants to go to, but you have to know what it is and choose it yourself! Secondly, you have to take her to a movie she wants to see, but have to already know what it is without asking! And, thirdly, you have go to a museum with her, even though she doesn’t want to go, because all she wants to do is watch the look on your face as you dislike it all as much as she does!
Finally, and thankfully, D’Elia then begins to wrap up his act, but again it’s nothing but a regurgitated old standard. He warns us to be careful about who we talk to online. He relates another supposedly true story about how someone posted a comment under one of his YouTube videos that simply said, “You’re not funny.” D’Elia responded with, “Dude, whatever. I’ll f**k your whole family!” This then escalates, with D’Elia saying worse and worse things, until the mystery poster suddenly ends with, “But I’m only 7!”
So, what does D’Elia do in both this supposedly true story and for his finale of a punch line. Well, he simply tells us he went and found this kids personal YouTube page of cute videos of him bouncing up and down on a trampoline, and added under one of them, “F**k you, you’re ugly!”
An hour ago, when the opening comedian introduced Chris D’Elia to the stage he also announced that the latter comedian’s show was full of "never-heard-before, all-new material". Not only did he blatantly lie, but D’Elia obviously couldn’t string a coherent patchwork of solid jokes together if his life depended on it.
I applauded as hard as anyone when D’Elia first came onstage, thus I truly wanted to walk out of the venue smiling, my jaw and belly both aching from laughing. But sadly for everyone there, as we walked out there wasn’t a positive element to be heard in anyone’s summaries. As one woman put it to her friend on the phone, I too wish I’d stayed at home and watched him on ‘Whitney’ reruns instead!
BTW, when you Google Chris D’Elia’s name it immediately comes up as ‘Stand-up Comic’! Ahhhh, Google, thank you for giving me my first real laugh of the night!
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
The highly-impressive Royal Oak Music Theatre is located at 318 W. Fourth Street, Royal Oak, Michigan. It was built as a vaudeville theatre and opened in 1928.
Get Royal Oak Music Theatre tickets at AXS.com
Queen + Adam Lambert
(Palace of Auburn Hills, MI - July 12th, 2014)
Ever arrive to a concert minutes after the time stamped on the ticket and race through the corridors, fighting the crowd like an upstream-bound salmon, trying to get to your seat before the lights go out? If that scenario seems in any way familiar, you have a taste of the first few moments of my experience seeing Queen in concert Saturday night.
The stage was bathed in purple light, as the band’s logo stood as the backdrop. A single guitar chord exploded, and the crowd’s cheering intensified. Frontman Adam Lambert strutted onstage, clad in leather from head to toe, rocking a pair of oversized shades. Original members Brian May and Roger Taylor came round, too, telling us all “Now I’m Here.” ‘Let’s go crazy,’ Lambert said, leading into the jam that was “Stone Cold Crazy.” The thing with American Idol alum Lambert is that he made absolutely no effort to be Freddie Mercury (let’s face it, he’s irreplaceable) and instead, made every attempt to bring his own flair to the music.
And it was with this in mind that we cheered him through “Another One Bites the Dust” during which Brian May was inexplicably made to play John Deacon’s iconic bass lick on his guitar. Weird. Sexy Adam went onto the catwalk, then, and led us in a game of vocal run follow-the-leader. A Bic was flicked a few rows down during “Fat Bottomed Girls.” The musicianship was stellar, with Taylor providing smooth, brilliantly placed drum fills. Likewise, May’s guitar solos reminded me why he has a place on my Top 5 Guitarists lists.
Adam Lambert was all style as he donned a sequined tank top and bizarre fringed sleeves, singing “Killer Queen” from a fainting couch while playfully guzzling a bottle of champagne. ‘None for you?’ he teased Brian as the guitarist sat next to him to solo, ‘More for me.’ In the best segue of the night, Adam told us all that his stage presence was really more of a character, and that escapism is a coping mechanism for those of us desperately seeking “Somebody to Love.” “I Want it All” came next, and I was pleased that my all-time favorite Queen song made the setlist.
During the lull in between songs, Brian May stepped forward to thunderous applause, and spoke for the first time that evening. ‘We’re gonna sing a song together, he said. I believe that when good-hearted people sing together, magic happens. And tonight, there’s a lot of magic in the air.’ And it did, as Freddie Mercury appeared on the screen, and assisted Brian on the beautiful acoustic tune, “Love of My Life.” Long after the video faded, the crowd cheered. For his part, May was visibly emotional, wiping away tears for his fallen friend and band mate.
Anyone who says they didn’t choke up at all in that moment is lying. Just saying.
Roger Taylor had a remarkable turn on lead vocals for “These Are the Days of Our Lives,” during which more footage of the band was shown on the screens. There was even a smattering of applause for MIA bassist John Deacon. As image after image was shown, it occurred to me that one of the secrets to Queen’s longevity must surely be Brian May’s hair. As long as he keeps it as large and coiffed as it was in their heyday, the band will thrive, no matter how old and grey they are!
That’s my theory, anyway.
The other musicians, bassist Neil Faircloth and back-up drummer/Roger’s son Rufus Taylor had their moments in the limelight, with the latter and his Dad sparring in a bout of dueling drums. Adam Lambert reappeared, then, for “Under Pressure,” with Roger Taylor flawlessly taking on the vocal part originally held by David Bowie. Brian May formally introduced Lambert, who then thanked his predecessor, which ended in rousing chants of ‘Freddie! Freddie!’ by the audience.
“Who Wants to Live Forever” gave us a really cool laser show, but it led into the lowlight of the evening, in my opinion: The guitar solo that never ended. It was a solid ten minutes long, with over half the thing played above the twelfth fret. And let’s be real here, just about any note played above the tenth fret on an electric guitar tends to lean less toward ‘melodic’ and more toward ‘noise.’ I was generally unimpressed by the lack of audience participation during “Radio Gaga,” having hoped that there would be more Live Aid-esque ‘clap-clap’s during the chorus.
After a few more songs, Queen decided to go out with a bang and gave us what were arguably their best songs as the set closer and encore. Crowd pleaser “Bohemian Rhapsody” made fantastic use of the groundbreaking music video, allowing it to pretty much carry the vocals while the musicians played live. When the notes faded, the stage darkened for only a moment before they came back with “We Will Rock You” (‘stomp-stomp-clap’) and “We Are the Champions,” for which Adam Lambert rocked a crown, May, a ‘Made in Detroit’ t-shirt, and the audience, side-to-side arm waves.
Classic rock concerts can be something of a risk for a fan to take, particularly if a member of the band in question has passed away. I found myself wondering if Queen would be one of those groups that just hung onto their name long after they should have hung it up. After this show, I can say with absolute certainty that they could (and hopefully do) keep touring for at least another year, maybe two. The seasoned musicianship of Brian May and Roger Taylor combined with the youthfulness and flat-out sex appeal of Adam Lambert is a recipe for success. And with Freddie Mercury as the band’s guardian angel, a fantastic tour is surely written in the stars.
So at the end of the day, the bottom line is this: “The Show Must Go On.” And Queen must be forever enthroned in the pantheon of rock royalty, where they obviously belong.
Review By: Ashley J. Trombley
Photos Provided By: Chris Schwegler
(The Crofoot, Pontiac, MI - March 28th, 2014)
English singer, composer, and musician Gary Numan (actually born Gary Anthony James Webb) is most widely known for his chart-topping 1979 hits 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' (which was backed by Tubeway Army) and the ever-popular 'Cars.'
Having realistically achieved his peak of mainstream popularity in the late 70's and early 80's, he still managed to release ten (10) solo albums in the 80's alone.
With his choice to now musically couple to Trent Reznor (NIN) for his brand new album, Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind), it's now great surprise that touring live in the US was to follow. I mean, both men still maintain a loyal cult following here so why the hell not, am I right!
And so when the man with the self-diagnosed mild form of Asperser’s Syndrome finally takes to the stage at nearly 11.00pm, the darkness descends within the small homely venue - and (basically) "Gary Reznor" takes to the stage!
Clasping his hands to the mic stand in an appreciative manner to the baying fans, he takes a step back and humbly bows to them. It's then that Numan undertakes an industrial-cloaked musical journey; and all without saying one solitary word in-between songs! Indeed, the show is one long, barely broken up dark soundscape that forgoes most all of his pioneering electro music ie: Numan’s legacy.
The consistently musically strong evening begins with the short intro 'Resurrection,' before heading into the first single off the new album the anthemic statement of 'I Am Dust.' Then we are treated to a newly-industrialized cut from Numan's The Pleasure Principle album 'Metal,' the epilepsy inducing light show that is 'Everything Comes Down To This' and both 'Films' [another TPP cut] and with some crushing guitars, scratchy electronics and even the echo of stifled strings, 'Here In The Black' follows.
Dressed head to toe as you would expect in black, Numan doesn't seem to look any older than he once used to back some twenty years ago when I last saw him here in the States. The hair is as black, as softly-punked as always, his wrist wear the mixed leather norm, even his eye liner and lip snarl for certain growled notes hasn't seemingly diminished. Indeed, perhaps the only thing that has changed here, but this could just be a live small club issue, is that his vocal tones aren't as strong, as overpowering as they once were.
Moving on and we get both 'The Fall' and the primarily orchestral 'The Calling,' before we finally break the dense fog of a pseudo NIN show when Numan breaks down and gives the fans what they truly came here to listen to tonight: old school Numan. The first evidence of this was a brilliant rendition of 'Down In The Park,' a song that you had to be a true NuFan to appreciate live.
He then follows that with the vocal respite synth heavy 'Lost,' but is soon back to what he does best when a strained electronic intro finally gives way to the known opening sounds of his worldwide smash hit, 'Cars.' One of the true highlights of the night, it just felt like an invisible knife of light had cut through the heavy density of the musical darkness - and just in time. The audience loved it, the cell phones went up to record it, the lyrics were sung along with.
After that it was back to "Gary Reznor" basics re: 'Pure,' 'Splinter,' 'We're The Unforgiven,' and then both the electronic dance floor vibe of 'Love Hurt Bleed' and the extremely haunting 'A Prayer For The Unborn.' Standing center stage, his arms gently swaying and twirling above his head in the white light shadows, Numan dances for himself more than the audience. Occasionally he even takes to his own private keyboard, but he's obviously more of a guitar slinger these days.
However, the three song encore was most definitely the highlight (for old school NuFan's, of course) as he gave us a rousing 'I Die You Die' and then a piano-infused version of 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' that was just so beautiful to listen to live. With a devilish glint in his eye, and even a wry smile on his face, Numan's self belief in his new body of work is deeply evident. Worn proudly on his sweat-drenched sleeve for all to see he then brings the show to a genuine close with the powerful new album track 'My Last Day.' Numan then verbally thanks everyone for coming out, waves, bows and then steps into the darkness of stage left for the last time.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Palace of Auburn Hills, MI - November 6th, 2013)
The Palace of Auburn Hills was absolutely packed Wednesday night for the Pink concert. Among the crowd that gathered there was an odd-looking man in a red and cream sequined suit. He prowled around the aisles, interacting with those around him in a matter that seemed almost creepy, including licking a bald man’s head!
s the lights went down, Creepy Sequin Man came onstage and intro’d himself as Rubix Fookithertz--you fill in your own joke--our official emcee for the evening. And after a dramatic soliloquy about love, (this was the Truth About Love tour, after all) Pink finally made an appearance, literally exploding from the stage, taking flight on a giant bungee harness! She sang her opener, “Raise Your Glass,” remarkably well for hanging upside-down in parts, while her team of scantily-clad, buff-as-hell backup dancers did their thing below.
And we had ourselves a show.
“Walk of Shame” came next, and the subsequent “Just Like a Pill” saw Pink mingle with the lucky fans in the first few rows, signing things and shaking hands. She ended up walking away from that encounter with a feather boa. ...Bet you’ll never guess what color it was... “Thank you guys for coming to party with us!” she said after the tune ended, “How much fun you wanna have tonight?” Judging by the raucous screaming, we wanted to have lots of fun, and Pink and company continued to deliver.
As the night wore on I couldn’t help but notice two things: First, just how fit this woman was. The black, studded half-shirt and matching pants showed off Pink’s impossibly toned physique. I’m jealous. Secondly, it seemed like the backup singers carried a lot of the weight, since there was a lot of acrobatics and other theatrics. But I’m not sure anyone really minded. During “Leave Me Alone,” Pink dared us all to dance badly, and proceeded to do so herself. After the number, however, she left us alone...with Rubix. Our bizarro emcee gave a long spiel about leather and other highly-sexual subjects, making it painfully clear that this was not a show for young children. Indeed, after being told all about our primal urges, I was so much more than ready for the show to go on.
Mercifully, Pink reappeared and gave us “Try,” complete with an interpretive dance. A cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” followed. The biggest crowd response up to this point was “Just Give Me a Reason,” which included an angelic chorus by the audience and a screen cameo by the singer from Fun. Pink’s backing band was pretty rad, with an Andy Dick lookalike on drums, a shredding guitarist, and a chick bassist. The latter got very little face time on the screen, which was kind of a shame, because she was quite good. I’m sure all these fine people had names, but the introductions were so brief, I didn’t catch any of them. “Are We All We Are” came next, and was instantly a contender for favorite song of the evening.
Pink’s stamina continued to astound me as, at one point, she and a bevy of beautiful backups climbed into and onto a sort of spinning, spherical cage that hovered high above the stage. And she didn’t even miss a note! “The Great Escape” saw Pink play the piano, downplaying her own skills and plugging those of her keyboardist. Afterward, she signed more audience trinkets, which even included someone’s grandma--for a future tattoo, we were told. Acoustic versions of “Who Knew” and “F***in’ Perfect” added a touch of simplicity and class to the evening, with the latter being expletive free. It was here, more than any other point, that I came to realize what a remarkable vocal range Pink had. If she did a stripped down greatest hits record, I’d absolutely buy it.
The fun and sassy “Slut Like You” and my personal favorite, “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” were among the songs that rounded out the set. But Pink had one last song to rock us with, and emerged after a momentary disappearance for “So What,” flying around the whole auditorium like the most badass Peter Pan you could ever imagine. She bid us goodnight, and then left the stage. Before the house lights came on, a short video montage of rehearsal footage and adorable shots of Pink with her daughter, Willow.
And then, it was over.
Looking back on the night, I suppose the only downside was the fact that “Get This Party Started”--AKA the best set opener ever--was left off the list. Say what?! But maybe it was just an oversight.
So, did I learn the “truth about love?” I don’t think so. But I did learn that Pink puts on one hell of a show. And I think that’s a more valuable lesson, anyway.
Review By: Ashley J. Trombley
Peter Hook & The Light
(The Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - September 11th, 2013)
For those not in the know, Peter Hook is an English bass player, musician, singer, DJ, nightclub owner, record company boss and author. Oh, and he is currently lead vocalist and bassist for Peter Hook and The Light.
What's that? You think you know him from some other bands? Well, Hook was a co-founder of the seminal post-punk band Joy Division along with Bernard Sumner in the mid-1970s. And following the death of lead singer Ian Curtis, the band reformed as the modern rock band, New Order, and Hook played bass with them until his departure in 2007.
Never one for being a true-blue lead vocalist, Hook only ever sang co-vocals on one Joy Division song and only two New Order songs. So to come see him sing center stage tonight for three hours was an undertaking that I took with reverence, that's for sure.
Taking the stage at 8.30pm as his own opening act, together with The Light he gave us 40 minutes of old Joy Division material. And no, 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' was not played, much to the disappointment of the gathering. It's noticeable that Hook's right arm seems to have a life of its own when not strumming, as it continually wants to introduce progressive beat changes in an Elvis-like manner!
He doesn't chat with the audience, which is an ongoing thing throughout the entire three hours, the stage lights are either blood red, burning orange or musty yellow, and all the JD songs are, as you would expect, dour and foreboding.
After a 10 minute break, they come back onstage. Still wearing his 'GEEK' tshirt, Hook mumbles, "You all look vaguely familiar," before they launch into the first New Order album of two to be played tonight at length, Movement. In truth, a set of electronic New Order songs is much like a set of JD songs, save for the fact that the tempo has risen. Hook stops one song in to quickly pay mention to it being a "bad day for everyone" and that as much as he didn't know what he could do about it he just wanted to play a song for us all to sing along to.
As the band played their way through the gloomy, melodic sounds and raw beats that were instantly recognizable to each and everyone stood here tonight in this small club, it should be noted that Peter Hook and the Light is a band for people who were there the first time around. This is not music for those new to the scene, trust me.
Let me put it this way: As we plow through Movement and then after a scant three minute intermission into Power, Corruption & Lies, it's more than obvious the mohawked British bass player isn't the best singer in the world. And after three hours, and with his voice going and no crowd interaction to allow him to get his breath back, Hook begins to look and act like nothing more than a punk thug with a mic circa '77.
Resembling actor Ray Winstone, in more than one way, Hooky (as he likes to be known) is at his best when knee-deep in an emotional song. And that song tonight was the stirring rendition of 'Ceremony.' Already drenched in sweat, vocals at the strained max, the emotion and relief that flowed through the song was immense.
Ending that third set, they leave the stage and put on a recorded mix of 'Blue Monday,' before six minutes later coming back on stage to perform three songs - including the quite brilliant crowd-pleaser, 'Temptation.' Culminating in a by-the-numbers 'Blue Monday' they had performed a Joy Division back catalogue combined with two stand-alone New Order albums back-to-back. Indeed, Peter Hook & The Light brought all they could to the masses for three solid hours. And my goodness, it was worth every incredible second spent standing there watching.
Review & Photo by: Russell A. Trunk
(DTE Energy Theatre, Clarkston, MI - August 9th, 2013)
Robert James Ritchie, better known by his stage name Kid Rock, is an American musician and actor. He is most popularly known for his first commercial success, the 1998 studio album Devil Without a Cause, which sold 13 million albums worldwide.
But over the years his albums have sold more and more, his fan base has expanded beyond belief, and his love for his home town of Romeo/Detroit, MI has never, ever faded.
Indeed, he was Soundscan's number one selling male solo musician of the 2000s, selling 17.6 million albums; he was 17th overall for the decade!
And with $20.00 ticket prices bringing in sold-out crowds for all 8 of his shows, Kid Rock had already shown his fans that this was quite easily going to be the "$20 Best Night Ever" tour!
And so on this record-breaking night of hometown shows, and with Detroit area rockers Citizen Zero, and the legendary Texas trio ZZ Top both having done their collective opening act stints, it was 9.00pm - and time for Rock to rock the house!
As a Kid Rock "$20 Dollar Bill' curtain is brought down, the lights go down, a "journey through life" (voiced by Rock) video plays on the screens, Journey’s 'Don’t Stop Believin’ intro is heard, and suddenly there is Rock. Silhouetted right in the middle of the bill where Andrew Jackson's should be, slowly rapping a musical Prayer to God. And then with a burst of light, the dropping of the curtain, there he is in full, and very colorful glory!
After a very loud pyro, he blasts himself into 'Devil Without A Cause,' before clipping both 'Celebrate' and 'Never Met A Motherf**ker Quite Like Me.' Next up he's powering though 'American Bad Ass' (complete with a tribute to the late George Jones) and an acoustic version of 'Wasting Time,' before finally taking a moment to breathe - and speak to his sold-out audience. He explains all about how they created the song 'Redneck Paradise' with the late Hank Williams Jr., before launching into what was easily one of the song highlights of the night.
For 'Cowboy' Rock sits down at his piano for a third of the song, before it kicks up into the musical frenzy that it is known for. And together with his wonderful back-up singers, he swiftly moves on into yet another song highlight of the night, 'What I Learned On The Road.' A fan favorite, obviously chock full of Rock experiences, it brings him and the crowd together in one big musical group hug. Now with his sweat-ridden long hair brushed back, his black hat now in place, he tells us we're now going a long way back. A faux 'Tom Sawyer' vocal intro is song and is accompanied by a green laser light show as he then brings us 'Forever.'
Next up is the powerhaus 'Cocky,' which sees more Rock trademark one-hand-on-hat, both-feet-off-the-ground chorus jumps! "We are feeling very lucky that you guys still want to see us here at Pine Knob," he finally speaks again to the crowd. "I am honored that you still come to see us perform night after night, especially here tonight, on this first night of a world record tour. Thank you, Detroit." And with that he glides gently into 'Son Of Detroit.'
Taking it down even further he sits stage front on a stool and after a delicate sax opening solo begins to sing 'Picture.' He is then joined by one of his female backing singers, Shannon Curfman who takes the role of Sheryl Crow. A lovely song sung perfectly by both them and the crowd is then followed by '3 Sheets to the Wind,' before Rock asks the crowd, "Do you know what time it is? It's show-off time." He then gets the girls to scream 'Kid,' the guys to sing 'Rock' as he sets sail into 'Rock N' Roll Jesus.' But then something weird happens! He actually doesn't utilize them like he usually does, because just two minutes into the song he breaks to show of his DJ skills on the turntables.
Drinking bourbon, smoking a cigar (both huge no-no's for a live stage performance, especially at THIS venue!), he spends 10 minutes doing that, before coming back stage center for 'Only God Knows Why.' Combining that with some 'Take Me To The River' bursts, he then brings the 90 minute set to a close with a speech. Thanking everyone for having come out to see them, and even naming all the sponsors, he then tells the crowd why he set out to make this a $20.00 seat ticket tour. Explaining that the more you give people the more you get back, the fact that he'd sold out 8 shows in a row at Pine Knob showed that he was proved right. He thanked everyone, again for spending their hard earned money in coming to see them and then; with his Rock the Michigan mascot proudly standing in front of the state flag, he brought us 'Born Free' before the set was complete.
Coming back out five minutes later to take a seat in an old wooden chair put center stage (and fashioned to look like the Mitten State), Rock (now in his change-of-tshirt with Bad Ass motto emblazoned) and the Brown Trucker Band bring us the mid-tempo Flyin' High,' before the wonderful sing-along of 'All Summer Long.' And as the camera zooms in on Rock slowly putting his fingers to each side of his head and popping up the Devil Horns, he closes the near two-hour show with a rip-roaring; and smothered in a rich, deep red light complete with thunderous pyrotechnics 'Bawitdaba.'
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(DTE Enegery Theatre, Clarkston, MI - August 6th, 2013)
A throng of people gathered together at DTE Music Theater on Tuesday night to observe the sabbath--Black Sabbath, that is. Indeed, heavy metal masters Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and the incomparable Ozzy Osbourne dropped by to show us what they could do, make us play some air guitar, and, perhaps, offend a few of us in the process...all in the name of rock and roll.
Insert 'devil horn' hand gesture here.
I'd never been much of a Sabbath fan, but was immediately taken by the fact that nearly everyone else in the place seemed to be, the audience pretty much provided backing vocals on opening number 'War Pigs.' "Lemme see your f***ing hands!" the vocalist commanded. And when Ozzy tell you to do something, you freaking do it.
Insert 'devil horn' hand gesture here.
The night carried on with a setlist that included songs such as ‘Snowblind,’ ‘Age of Reason,’ and the eponymous ‘Black Sabbath.’ For his part, Osbourne seemed more energetic than I’d have ever given him credit for, bouncing up and down a little bit, and directing us in side-to-side arm waves. He appeared happy to be there, too, punctuating songs with “Thank you. God bless you all.” The background display included pretty impressive lasers, while the video screens occasionally showed anti-reliigous imagery, which left me asking “is all that really necessary?” I’m still not sure.
But the screens and what few lyrics I was able to decipher (it is Ozzy, after all) seemed relatively small potatoes when stacked against the music itself. Both Iommi and Butler shredded their instruments, especially Geezer, who played so fast I could barely see his fingers move! He was instantly catapulted into my Top 5 Bassists list.
Another one of the things that stuck with me over the course of the evenings were the sheer stupidity of some of the song titles: ‘Fairies Wear Boots?’ ‘Rat Salad?’ Come on, now... And just what the hell is a ‘Methademic,’ anyway? Nonetheless, it was all well-received by the raucous crowd. ‘Rat Salad’ dissolved into a drum solo by drummer Tommy Clufetos that lasted several minutes. It sounded awesome, and I’m sure it looked just as cool...but I couldn’t see very well for the blinding yellow light shining directly in my face and the haze of smoke that engulfed the area I was sitting in.
My personal highlight of the show came next, with Iommi giving us one of rock’s most memorable--and most pluckable--riffs: ‘Iron Man.’ This one had everything: Fist pumps, head banging, singing along, and a whole lot of air guitar, for I’d be a proper liar if I said I didn’t fake my way through one of the very first licks I ever learned on my own guitar! It was rad.
Insert ‘devil horn’ hand gesture here.
The very next song was one that I still find myself thinking about, a number called ‘God is Dead.’ From the outset, it would seem to have profound atheistic themes. However, Ozzy and co. totally throw a curveball with lyrics like “Lost in the darkness I fade from the light/Faith of my father, my brother, my maker and Saviour/Help me make it through the night.” The song lyrics wonder about Heaven and Hell, but the conclusion that is eventually reached is “I don’t believe that God is dead.” If Sabbath had turned me off toward the beginning of the set with images of exploding crosses and burning Bibles and other such things, this song almost seemed...redemptive. And that was comforting. We left before the encore happened, but I’ve heard that the set included ‘Paranoid,’ the other song I knew. Rats.
I had gotten tickets to Black Sabbath’s concert as a 22nd birthday present. And I had come there absolutely laden with pre-conceived notions. Now, less than 72 hours later, I can safely say I’ve been able to draw my own conclusions: The first and biggest one is that they are musically fantastic. As a ‘newbie’ on the heavy metal scene, I can see exactly why all those rock and roll magazines hold them in such high regard. I also learned that any band can have an image, and that they will strive to uphold it for the sake of their fans. Black Sabbath has cultivated over the decades a very sinister--some would say evil--image, but I never once saw on their stage a pentagram, goat head, altar, or any other overt Satanic icon, which leads me to believe that it’s all more hype than anything else, and the band just rolls with it. And regardless of belief or unbelief, I dig Ozzy. He seems like a pretty mellow dude.
Just my take, anyway.
Would I go see Black Sabbath again? Probably not. It’s just not my scene. But I’m certainly glad I got the chance to see them once.
Review by: Ashley J. Trombley
(DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI - July 24th, 2013)
Whitesnake, the typical hard working, hard singing English hard rock band, founded many moons ago and yet led still-to-this-day by the incomparable David Coverdale may have lapsed in their group cohesion of the last few years, but tonight they performed as if it were 30 years ago!
As the clock strikes 9.00pm and The Who's 'My Generation' begins to ring out over the PA, from stage right guitarist Reb Beach wanders out, guitar held aloft in the air, a broad smile emblazoned. But then he wanders off to a guitar tech and then out walks guitarist Michael Devin. He just lingers behind the drum set, as does a passive David Coverdale. It's as if they aren't aware of the 3,000 people baying their collective group name just feet away!
Finally they all take to the stage, Coverdale smiling from ear to ear, his arms outstretched, his stride to the mic stand both meaningful and purposeful. With the backdrop that of The Year of The Snake, it's a large set that they try to fill. And wholly succeed. "Here's something for ya," Coverdale growls, before picking up his mic stand, twirling it and slamming it back to the stage three times. 'Give Me All Your Love' is that song and they back it up with a rip-roaring 'Ready an' Willing' and a brutal 'Love Ain't No Stranger.'
That segues into 'Is This Love,' which allows Coverdale to relax the vocal screaming for a hot second or two. "Hello, Pine Knob," Coverdale speaks to his gathering, paying homage to the name that the newly-christened DTE Energy Theatre once lovingly had. "It is so good to be back in your company again tonight, Michigan. This is the Year of The Snake tour. 35 years of Whitesnake. I remember you all when you were younger," he laughs, turning to look at his own band members too.
It's at this point he takes a sip of something handed to him from the front row, shrugs thereafter, pulls a few faces of dislike, and goes back to his own drink to wash the taste away! "Anyway, I first played here in Detroit with Deep Purple at Cobo Hall, but along the way you lose people, you lose friends. So this next song is dedicated to Mel Galley, Cozy Powell and Jon Lord. See if you remember this one," he adds as the band launch into 'Gambler.'
'Love Will Set You Free' is next, and not only comes complete with a thunderous guitar moment from Doug Aldrich, but he sings the first few lines also! With three guitars crankin' the sound levels to a point where I was wishing I had ear plugs, Coverdale asks us to "Make some noise" before introducing solo guitar work from both Aldrich and then Beach. They then work together for 'Pistols At Dawn,' before Michael Devin brings his harmonica to the fore for the start of 'Steal Your Heart Away.'
Next up is an incredible virtuoso turn on the drums from Tommy Aldridge as he first uses sticks, but then after launching them high into the audience, finishes the set off with the palms of his hand and even his feet! After introducing each member of the band one by one, after a shirt change Coverdale then offers a shot of whiskey around to the front row to each sip. Resting his vocals a bit more for the passive (to begin with, at least) love song 'Forevermore,' he dedicates it to all the fans that have followed the band for the past 35 years.
A blockbuster medley of both 'Slide It In' coupled with 'Slow An' Easy' is all-to-short, but is backed by a show stopping 'Bad Boys.' With Coverdale's vocal chords definitely now taking a beating, it's noticeable that with the final two songs he is letting the audience sing a lot of the lyrics. Ergo both 'Here I Go Again' and 'Still Of The Night' still have the high octane Coverdale feel, but the lyrics are tonight owned by the baying crowd of Snake Heads.
"Thank you for coming out and being with us tonight," he says, as the band group together for a final bow. "Be safe, be happy and don't let anyone make you afraid." And as he signs CD sleeves, guitar pics are thrown out, each band member shakes hands with those lucky enough to be up front, and to the throes of 'We Wish You Well' gently playing behind them they finally turn and are gone for yet another year.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Palace of Auburn Hills, MI - July 20th, 2013)
As everyone on the planet knows, Beyoncé (Giselle Knowles-Carter) is an American singer, songwriter and actress. Married to Jay-Z and a mother to boot re: Blue Ivy, a self-described "modern day feminist", Beyonce's songs are often characterized by themes of love, relationships and monogamy; as well as female sexuality and empowerment.
Beyoncé's opener, newcomer Luke James came onstage bang on 8.00pm and held the crowd in his hand from the off. During his 30 minute set he not only gave us his two debut singles - the Grammy Award-nominated 'I Want You' and 'I.O.U.' - but charm and moves that combined were enough to take the Beyonce fans' minds of the fact she wasn't on stage yet! Well, that and the fact he got them all to spell out his name several times!
But when she did take the stage, OMG - the noise levels nearly blew the roof off the building! In front of a sold-out 12,000 strong audience of her devoted fans, those enduring comparisons to entertainers such as Tina Turner, Prince and Michael Jackson ensured some highly dynamic, incredibly choreographed performances come to the fore.
Having publicly attended a Trayvon Martin rally earlier in the day with her husband, rapper Jay-Z, in New York, here in Detroit (well, Auburn Hills, actually) Beyoncé sang for nearly two hours. As most artists seem to do now, she first gave us a quick video screen message where she informed us that she would have us all at "Hello!"
Funnily enough, that Detroit/Auburn Hills thing aside, when artists keep saying how much they "love Detroit" whilst on stage it fast becomes faux. But here tonight, after she has said it three or four times, hearing her say "I love this city" actually felt 100% genuine and heartfelt.
Oh, and add to that Beyoncé's incredible, spiritual-even version of the Sam Cooke track 'A Change Is Gonna Come' being accompanied by a Detroit video montage that included such "D" notables as Kid Rock, Eminem, Bob Seger, various Motown singers, and even the White Stripes and boxer Joe Louis and even before the video ended with the words "Nothing Stops Detroit!" you had this feeling she was one of us.
To name each and every one of the 22 songs performed on this wonderful Mrs. Carter Show would be a task, so allow me to just throw some highlights and snippets at you here. The only true stand-out solo singer from the Destiny's Child bandwagon, her set of songs - noticeably drawn primarily from both I Am ... Sasha Fierce and 4 — all came accompanied by OTT and yet precise ensemble choreography, high-concept video moments, and even endless pyrotechnics. And, of course, around ten costume changes!
With the 11-member all-female Suga Mama Band behind her at all times, their sound combined with around ten primarily-female dancers allowed Beyoncé to confidently take center stage. 'Run the World (Girls),' a funky 'End of Time,' a softer 'Flaws and All,' and a bit later the inspired blending of 'If I Were a Boy' with The Verve's 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' were delicious to hear and see live.
And yes, there was some OTT sexuality on display. Non more so than when Beyoncé began to writhe on top of a grand piano during '1+1.' But (for me) it's when she "appeared" through en masse of glitter onto a second (smaller) stage set up near the rear of The Palace floor for three songs that had me clapping loud and hard. Singing a pounding 'Love On Top' and the only DC track tonight 'Survivor,' she returned back to the main stage and brought things to a powerful end with pulsating 'Crazy In Love,' 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)' (that also included, unless I'm going senile, a touch of 'Movin' On Up' from The Jeffersons TV show theme!), and 'Grown Woman.'
The a capella openings of 'Get Me Bodied' mixed with some Whitney Houston in the form of 'I Will Always Love You' before the encore (accompanied by a shower of gold confetti!) of 'Halo' was totally worth the entrance fee (had I actually paid!). And even guitarist Bibi McGill got spotlighted with the mix of 'Freakum Dress' and 'I Care.' And with a Beyoncé audio message informing us all that at the end of her days she hoped to be able to say "I was here. I did. I've done," one has to say that as far as that goes, Beyoncé is most certainly well on track already.
Review By: Russell A. Trunk
(DTE Energy Theatre, Clarkston, MI - July 8th, 2013)
Formed in Los Angeles, CA back in '83, Megadeth has since released an amazing 14 studio albums. A pioneer of the American thrash metal movement, Megadeth rose to international fame in the 1980s and is ranked as one of the "Big Four of Thrash" along with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, who were responsible for creating, developing and popularizing the thrash metal sub-genre.
Performing here tonight as the headliners on their very own Gigantour date, the sporadically organized traveling heavy metal music festival brought forth Black Label Society, Device, Hellyeah, Newsted and Death Division before Megadeth took to the stage.
And so as the current band members of Megadeth (Dave Mustaine – Vocals, Guitar; Chris Broderick – Guitar, Backup Vocals; Dave Ellefson – Bass; and Shawn Drover – Drums) take to the stage one by one (as over the band's 30 active years, more than 20 different people have officially performed as part of the group!) it's the only constant member Mustaine who delays his own entrance. Side stage, just his guitar neck showing, gently swaying, he suddenly marches out. Playing in full stride, his strawberry blonde hair flowing and covering most all his face he heads to the mic stand.
Kicking off with one of their biggest hits 'Trust,' without breath they plough on through 'Hangar 18,' 'Kingmaker,' and then both 'She-Wolf' and a song that gets a rousing welcome, 'Countdown to Extinction.' Mustaine paces the stage in a slow, brooding manner, his hair constantly over his face, his eyes shut tight as he grumbles into his mic. And that's something that I noticed all too often last night the fact that he doesn't shout when he sings. Far from it, he barely opens his mouth. I never knew that before. But have to say I also thought his vocals could/should have been turned up a wee bit too.
Moving on and we get thunderous cuts such as 'Architecture of Aggression,' the beloved 'Sweating Bullets,' 'Ashes in Your Mouth,' 'Dawn Patrol,' and then both 'Poison Was the Cure' and 'A Tout Le Monde.' With the horrible weather having reduced the audience down to only a few hundred in this 9,000 outdoor venue, Mustaine never once paid mention to it - although it was obvious as he looked around he knew the fact.
Known for its distinctive, technical instrumental style that often features dense, intricate passages and trade-off guitar solos, Megadeth never take any musical prisoners and plow on with 'Whose Life (Is It Anyways?),' 'Public Enemy No.1,' the title cut from their new album 'Super Collider,' and then a brilliant, stunning cover of 'Cold Sweat' from the great Thin Lizzy.
Ellefson's bass provided another standout moment as the band wrapped up 'Symphony of Destruction' and Ellefson then again launched into the iconic opening bass line of 'Peace Sells' to close out the main set. Coming back on to perform the stoic 'Holy Wars ... The Punishment Due,' the band then came front stage, took a group bow, waved, drum sticks were thrown, and that was that for the wet and humid MI night.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
Huey Lewis and the News
(Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Sterling Heights, MI - June 4th, 2013)
You may not know this, but back in 1972, singer and harmonica player Huey Lewis and keyboardist Sean Hopper joined the Bay Area jazz-funk band Clover, who would eventually become the original backing band for Elvis Costello's first album My Aim Is True - before he attracted The Attractions!
After getting a singles contract from Phonogram Records in 1979, Huey Lewis united his former band mate and three of his former rivals to form Huey Lewis & the American Express. The group would release a single "Exo-Disco" (a disco version of the theme from the film Exodus) that was largely ignored. But in 1980, the band would woo guitarist Chris Hayes and move to Chrysalis Records, changing their name to Huey Lewis and the News.
And so it is that phenomenal musical legend that came to town yet again and wowed the packed house here in Sterling Heights, MI. Playing a venue that had been closed since 2009 the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre is a beautiful outdoor arena to see concerts at, no doubt. But it does get a bit chilly when the sun goes down!
Being that this was the Sports 30th Anniversary Tour, the band came on and broke into the album, both sides, all tracks one after another. So the show kicked off with 'The Heart of Rock & Roll,' 'Heart and Soul,' 'Bad Is Bad,' and followed with the first song to get everyone out of their seats and onto their feet, 'I Want A New Drug.'
"This is our Sports 30th Anniversary tour and we want to thank you folks for coming out and sharing this experience with us," Huey announces to the packed house. "Wow, back then there was no internet, no cell phones, no wrinkles, no glasses," he says adjusting his own! "So as you might have guessed we're doing the Sports album from beginning to end. That was side one, the video side if you will and now we're gonna turn the record over and rock a little harder on side 2. This song was written and performed for the Vietnam Vets, but tonight we're playing it for all the Veterans everywhere." And so up next comes one of my all time HLN favs, 'Walking On A Thin Line.' Together with its moody bass beats and moody lighting, it is still a powerhaus of a track to hear live.
That song bleeds seamlessly into another great lesser-played song, 'Finally Found A Home,' which the audience sit back down to due to just that. The mega hit 'If This Is It' is next and has them back up again, and an older couple at the front begin slow dancing together. The equally great live, and chock full of fun 'You Crack Me Up' is next and comes complete with a nice sax middle from Johnny, before the Hank Williams cover of 'Honky Tonk Blues' brings the LP to a close.
"Are you with me so far?," Huey asks the crowd. "OK, that was the Sports album, all 42 minutes of it so ... what now?" The crowd then take that to mean they should shout out song titles to him, which they do. "OK, OK. Well, this song we're gonna do right now is not 30 years old, but 30 days old. This is a brand new song for you Harpo's people," he laughs, referring to the bands first Michigan gig venue back some near-35 years ago. The new track 'While We're Young' is then performed and I have to say it was delightful! Really nice melody, great harmonies on the chorus, and just the perfect little summer song to put on whilst lazing on a boat.
"OK," he continues, "from the new to the old. We're gonna go back to the very beginning. This was the first song we ever wrote together," he announces, before they launch into 'Trouble In Paradise.' "Alright, let's get this party started," Huey continues. "Are you ready?" he asks of us three times, before they launch into old Motown with a cover of Soul Brothers Six's 'Some Kind Of Wonderful' and back it with the soul of 'It's Alright.'
"Are you still with me?," the overly-chatty Huey asks his raptured audience. "OK, prove it. Everybody clap their hands," he instructs as the band play 'We're Not Here For A Long Time (We're Here For A Good Time).' "Did you have a good time," he asks them. "Good, thank you," he says, as he waves goodbye and heads off stage.
Coming back on for the encore, Huey stands stage front, arms outstretched, lapping in the high octane applause being bellowed at him. A sly smile on his face, a small towel dangling from his left hand, he brings the mic to his mouth: "OK, OK ... if you insist!" After a few seconds of chit-chat with the band he's back: "Thank you all for coming out tonight. We obviously love what we do, but couldn't do it without all of you." He then promotes the new Sports 30th Anniversary Expanded 2-Disc CD with live tracks, before saying that there was a special on tonight and tonight only: "If you buy the CD I will personally come over to your home and mow your lawn!" After the laughter had died down, he then added, "This is a newer song for us, just 27 years old. And who knew all those years ago when we wrote it we'd have to play it every single night thereafter! This is for you, Motor City," he adds as they launch into a fantastic 'The Power of Love.'
Still in a wonderful playful mood, chatting back and forth with the audience like I've never seen him do, he admits we might need to help him out on the next song, a slowed-down version of their massive 1982 hit, 'Do You Believe In Love.' Taking a look at someone’s watch, he then sighs deeply and shrugs: "Thank you very, very much, you've been a wonderful audience, but it's 10:23 ... are you kidding?! Do you know what 10:23 is for an old guy like me? That's nearly an hour after my bedtime!" Not seeming to care, the audience bay for more songs. "OK, so what do you want to hear next," he asks, the crowds screams of various titles swarming into one deafening blast. "So many hits, so little time," he admits, before holding his hand up, turning to grab his harmonica, and then leading us into a brilliant 'Jacob's Ladder.'
"OK, here's one for the ladies," he announces before the band bring us the smooth sounds of 'Doing It All for My Baby.' "We're gonna dedicate this next song to all the working people here tonight, as we always do," he lets us know, before he once again uses his harmonica to intro the musical tour de force of 'Workin' for a Livin'. After he has introduced the band, he brilliantly adds, "My name is Huey Lewis and once again, you just heard the News."
And so after an elbow-bent, fist-pumpin' trademark of a group bow, they are finally gone. And all we're left with is an hour and forty minutes worth of musical memories that will definitely last a lifetime.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Martyrs club, Chicago, IL - March 3rd, 2013)
To anyone who knows anything about rock music, the very name conjures up images of smashed guitars, epic rock operas, and eardrum-shattering power and volume. But visitors to Martyr's club in Chicago who may have come to the show expecting similar theatrics from Simon Townshend (yes, he’s Pete’s brother) were in for a bit of a different story, as he was armed only with an arsenal of acoustic guitars.
Decked out in a cool pair of sunglasses, he set right to work. As a longtime listener of his music, I was immediately struck by how much he sounded exactly as on the records--a fact I always find comforting at a first performance. After a few songs, Townshend took care to plug his forthcoming album, due for a UK release in July of this year. Here's hoping there's a US date coming soon. Next came "She Asked Me" off most recent release Looking Out, Looking In, an interesting twist on the art of songwriting.
"This is a song about trust in relationships," was the intro to "Making Waves," during which Simon Townshend proved himself as forceful and as skilled an axeman as any other rockstar in the business. Another new tune, "All So Real," is now in contention for the title of Personal Favorite, despite it being, by Mr. Townshend's own admission: "All about getting naked, actually...something I've never done," he added with a sly grin. A lighthearted exchange with an audience member about sexual innuendo after the song was over demonstrated Townshend's mastery of engaging the audience--another of my personsal favorite aspects of his performance as a whole.
"Gone" was another new track, attached to a poignant message about seizing every moment that's given to us; written in celebration of New Year 2013. Lyric sheets were required for this one, and he made a great joke of having to kind of squint to see the words on the page, explaining that the Joe Cool shades from earlier were actually bifocals, but wouldn't stay on; so if we saw him wander away from the mic for a bit, that'd be why.
It's all in the facial expressions, I guess.
The prize for Best Riff went to "Leaving This Town," which also received the biggest ovation thus far. Any fan of Simon's has to give him credit for being very frank and open about the inspirations behind his lyrics. Indeed, a string of songs including "Denial" offer a retrospect on a substance habit, one which he's proudly vanquished. That having been said, we were all a little confused when the management brought him a beer in the middle of the set. He politely declined the offer, brandishing a water bottle. "I've got this," he said, taking a swig, "Vodka." And there was that smirk again. We laughed and applauded, and some lucky fan (alas, not me) got to slam a free beer.
Two songs from Looking Out followed: The album's title track, and "Forever and a Day," which made brilliant use of a 12-string guitar. (But I hold fast to my belief that the latter was lacking without the drums to provide a backing.) We cheered and cheered as the good humor kept flowing, with Simon making a momentary disappearance by hiding behind a pillar, and then behind a curtain before emerging for what I'll consider his encore set. (The club was literally so small that there was no backstage area.)
He then offered us something of a "self assessment," explaining that these intimate kinds of gigs were good, because it allows him to gauge what songs work the best, and so on. It was at this point--to raucous applause by we disciples smooshed at the foot of the stage--that he mentioned his recent involvement in The Who's North American tour, as well as gently plugging his upcoming stint as opener for Heart on their Canadian series of shows.
Crowd-pleaser "The Way It Is" happened then, followed by "Ecstasy Heaven," a cut off of 1996's Among Us. But the evening wouldn't be complete without one more song, so he busted out the 12-string again, and gave us "I'm the Answer," which has become my go-to song whenever I need cheering up.
(Oddly enough, it's playing as I type this. Convenient.)
Though the concert was over, he stayed and hung out with us, taking pictures and signing copies of his CD's. Prior to this, I'd seen Simon Townshend play live twice before, but never so close, and never his own material. And to actually meet him? That made it even more special.
On a personal note, he's the nicest guy--incredibly gracious, and he truly does value the support the listeners give him. You can tell. And there was a lot of support there, that night, as something like twenty--perhaps more-- of his devoted fans from all across the Twitterverse gathered to hang out with each other, and take in the show. It was a very cool thing to be a part of.
Bottom line: I can't wait to see what Simon does next. Whatever it is, I'm sure I'll dig it. But I may be a little biased. For as far as Townshends go, Simon is hands-down my favorite.
Review by: Ashley J. Trombley
Photos by: Lisa Ann Volpe
(Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - January 17th, 2013)
Ultravox front man Midge Ure announced just before Christmas a rare North American solo tour. With 16 dates confirmed, inclusive of a single Canadian show also, he is taking the time to test the water re: the possibility of bringing the reformed Ultravox over later in the year.
The trek, which Ure announced on his Facebook page, actually had the singer/songwriter himself imploring his fans to spread the word, as "it’s a long way to come and play to 3 people and a dog!”
But he needn't have worried for cometh the hour cometh the man. At precisely 9.30p Midge's backing band (and opening band Right The Stars) take the stage, with Midge just behind them. Greeted by a hearty round of applause, he nods his appreciation to them before launching into 'I See Hope In The Morning Light' (from his 1991 Breathe album). Wearing an all-black attire of suit, tshirt and shoes, Midge looks just like he did some twenty years ago. And aside from a "man flu" he's picked up that wrestles with his high notes, he is on fine form tonight.
During some slight technical difficulties, Midge then reveals something: "I hate technology," he laughs. But when it's all fixed, he tells the crowd that "It's great to be back", before bringing us the first Ultravox song of the night, a rip-roaring 'Love's Great Adventure.' It truly is a song that sets the tone for the incredible music to follow tonight.
"This is something old, just like everything else I'm gonna play tonight," he laughs again, before giving us another Ultravox cut, 'Call of the Wild.' It is such a fantastic song to hear live and still sounds so fresh, so radio-now to listen to. "Where have you all been for 25 years," he next asks the crowd. "I've been waiting over there on a plane, but nobody called me back! Oh, and I might be losing my hair," he jokes, before explaining more about the next song, 'Fade To Grey.' "This is something I made a long time ago, but I only wrote and produced it. Never really sang it. So this is my version of it." And, trust me when I say, as a true fan of Midge's various works, that this Visage hit was the BIG highlight of the night to hear live (for me, at least!).
"You're all very quiet tonight," he states, as the crowd end their gentle clapping of appreciation for a song that, perhaps, they had never even heard before. "I thought all American's were whooping and hollering at concerts? Anyway, I wrote this a long time ago," he again laughs, "and when I did I convinced myself it was the best song that I'd ever done. And two years later it turned out to be the worst song I'd ever done! But then it featured on a watch commercial and became a success. But not here and not in the UK!" This was his comical anecdote for the simply stunning 'Breathe.'
Swapping guitars, the pounding keyboard keys the intro to one of his great solo hits, 'Cold, Cold Heart,' a song that you can see his love, his passion for in all his vocal expressions throughout. "We were at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame this morning," he continues afterwards, "which is a great day out ... if you like looking at guitars! I did ask someone where the Midge Ure wing was and he said this was the closest I was ever going to get to this building," he playfully laughs. 'Answers To Nothing' is next, with more chat following: "Thank you, thank you very much. I honestly haven't played that in years, can you tell? I'm suffering right now though. I've got the Man Flu. So forgive me if you think there's yodeling in the middle of the songs!"
The all-out rocker 'Just For You' is next, before Midge intro's the next song: "I didn't write this next song although I wish I had. I heard this when I was doing a radio show back in the '70s. When I had a #1 record. One that I didn't really even play on! They didn't even want me to! But, I heard this song and said that one day I would do my own version of it. So, here it is now." And with that he launches into an iconic version of the old Tom Rush ballad, 'No Regrets.' Then, with a slight nod to the drummer, we are quickly lead into the musical world of their classic known-throughout-the-world #2 hit single, 'Vienna.' And my goodness, the song brings chills to your spine to hear live; especially with the original lead singer at its helm.
After a poignant, and heartfelt 'Dear God,' Midge thanks the crowd once again: "I've just completed a three month tour with Ultravox of Europe and if I can get their old sorry asses over here we might be touring here this year," he reveals to a rapturous crowd. "So keep your fingers crossed. And this is something we played on that tour." And that leads us into a pulsating 'One Small Day,' a song that still sounds perfect for the radio today. After thanking us all again, Midge's voice is noticeably getting hoarser, which he addresses: "I've realized that over the past few years that I've been writing songs in high keys! I should have been a Bee Gee," he laughs.
Then, as he is slowly warming up into the beautiful Ultravox song 'Hymn,' some moron from the crowd slow-claps him! "That's quite possibly the most off-putting thing that I've ever heard," Midge admits, glaring at him. The man then shouts out that he sold his house to see the show tonight, to which Midge smiles, and a woman from the crowd comically adds the punch line of 'Welcome to Detroit!' Singing the song, he then thanks the crowd before bringing us the last song of the set - his biggest solo hit back in the UK, the bouncy 'If I Was.' And then, once sung, he thanks every one, jokingly tells them he'll see them again in another 25 years, smiles broadly, waves, and is then off backstage.
Coming back out alone from behind the black backstage curtain, Midge reveals something else to us all: "This is my pet hate. Not doing encores, but pretending to do encores! It's all bollocks and you know it! In reality, I'd meet you all at the door, shake your hand and say 'Hi, I'm Midge and I'm gonna be the one making all the noise tonight. And I'm not gonna do an encore, but I'll sing all the songs I was going to sing.' But you would still want an encore," he laughs.
And so with that, he performs some solo guitar work, the band come back on stage, and they launch into a stirring 'Dancing With Tears In My Eyes.' With his vocal chords obviously ripped by now, two of the band take over his usual trademark high pitched chorus yelps, but they blend in seamlessly. "Thank you, thank you all very much," Midge says, guitar down, band to the fore. This is my band, Right The Stars. Thank you." And then he's gone, behind the black curtain, another show on this 16 date Ultravox trial run successfully under his belt.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI - November 24th, 2012)
What do you get when you take two men, both nearing seventy years of age, an arena full of spectators whose median age was probably fifty, and one of the most ambitious albums to ever come out of the 1970’s? The answer was a gamble that, in a sense, was worth so much more than any amount of money patrons had plunked down at the local casinos before the show.
The answer was: The Who’s Quadrophenia and More tour. Surviving members of the legendary rock band, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, along with a fantastic ensemble of backup musicians, dropped by the Joe on Saturday night to trod out their “other” rock opera. And blow all our minds in the process.
Quadrophenia tells the story of a young man named Jimmy, and his struggles growing up and finding a place in the 1960’s, English, ‘mods-vs.-rockers’ society. Originally released as a double album in 1973, hearing it now was nothing short of a treat.
A video opener with the short ‘I Am the Sea’ interlude showed footage of The Who in their early days, but when it came time for the bombastic ‘The Real Me,’ we finally had ourselves a show. Lead vocalist Daltrey started off incredibly strong, tearing through the song with ease. For his part, Pete Townshend was already rocking hard, wind-milling as only he can. The piece’s overture, ‘Quadrophenia,’ had Simon Townshend--Pete’s younger brother--shredding his guitar part. Daltrey was armed with two tambourines, and Pete donned a pair of sunglasses, looking like the coolest old dude you could ever meet.
And let’s face it, he probably is.
‘Cut My Hair’ was our first taste of Pete Townshend’s turn on vocals. His voice had a certain gruffness to it, but he sounded as good as ever. The irony in the track’s title wasn’t lost--on me, at least--as a visibly grey Townshend sang the ode to teenage angst. ‘The Punk and the Godfather’ came next, with Daltrey flawlessly swinging his microphone like it was a giant lasso. I was pleased to see my favorite track on the album be accompanied by such a spectacle.
The next two tracks belonged to the Townshend brothers, as Pete masterfully delivered ‘I’m One’ and Simon stepped up in a big way, taking lead vocals on ‘The Dirty Jobs.’ The only disappointment there was that his bus driver’s cap was missing. Here’s hoping it shows up at some point. Simon’s contributions to the show became all the more meaningful as it progressed; he perfectly filled in the empty vocal spaces occasionally left by Daltrey. And I, for one, am grateful for it.
The crowd immediately leapt to its feet for ‘5.15,’ which featured an absolutely stunning run by the brass section. The coolest part about this song, though, was a special cameo by the late, great, John Entwistle performing a phenomenal bass solo, that had us all going out of our brains. The magic of video is a powerful thing, and that was only the beginning. ‘Bell Boy’ had footage of legend Keith Moon dropped in, allowing him to take lead vocals for a portion, while the live band simply played along. The ovation Moon received was undoubtedly a mix of adrenaline and emotion from a profoundly moved crowd.
May both of them rest in peace.
‘Dr. Jimmy’ saw Pete working both his guitar and the crowd like a man half his age, with a contagious energy. Roger Daltrey, for his part, was still going strong. I have to admit, he surpassed my expectations. I figure it’s all about knowing one’s physical boundaries, which explained some of the lower keys, but Roger definitely played to the heights of his limits. Even as our singer left the stage for a well-deserved break, the band gave us ‘The Rock,’ an instrumental piece with a video backdrop that showcased many highlights and lowlights of the 1960’s through the present: Everything from Vietnam to Richard Nixon, to John Lennon, Princess Diana, September 11th, and more.
The album’s climax--and final song--‘Love, Reign O’er Me’ was a valiant effort by Daltrey, who, again, performed as well as his limits allowed him to. I’d give it a solid 95 out of 100. And by this point, the man’s white shirt was completely unbuttoned, revealing what I’ve affectionately begun calling ‘grandpa abs.’ Roger Daltrey unknowingly shamed dozens of patrons in that moment, I’m sure, into hitting the gym this weekend with his impossibly fit body.
How do you think he does it? I don’t know. Just sayin’.
As the final chords faded, surely the band could feel all of our love and good vibes raining down on them. At least that’s my hope.
When at last we quieted down, Pete Townshend introduced the band which included Loren Gold on keyboard, Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son) on drums, Pino Palladino playing bass, and Reggie Grisham and JG Miller filling out the brass section. He then went on to talk about Michigan’s undying devotion to The Who, including speaking fondly of one of their first U.S. stops, in Ann Arbor.
The encore set launched right into ‘Who Are You,’ during which nearly all the performers had an instrument. “We know who you are,” Daltrey told us as it ended, “you’re family.” Now, I can’t speak for anyone else in the room, but I felt damn special hearing that! ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ came next. Before the third song started, Pete Townshend had a slight problem with his guitar, which garnered a reaction from the crowd. “Yeah, you shout,” was his answer. “That’ll make it better.” ‘Pinball Wizard’ offered a taste of my personal favorite Who record, Tommy, and simultaneously brought back cherished memories of seeing Roger Daltrey and Simon Townshend play in Windsor, Ontario last year. But now, it was even more special, thanks to Pete’s presence.
‘Baba O’Riley’ brought with it what was probably the biggest audience participation of the night, with Daltrey playing conductor, guiding us through the song’s enduring lines about “teenage wasteland.” Synchronized fist-pumps went on as the harmonica wailed to the song’s instrumental end. The Who had one last track to rock us with, pulling out ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.’ Pete, by now stripped down to a plain white t-shirt, leapt about, reminding us all why he is a veritable rock god. Roger, too, gave everything he had for the final, barbaric scream near the end. And he nailed it.
“You’re f**king nuts,” Pete Townshend told us with a smile, and we hollered back in assent. Things got a little strange when Roger mused about how much more affective government would be if we put aside political agendas, realized music was the answer, and gave Congress some really good rock and roll. “They need you, Roge,” Pete informed his bandmate, laughing.
I’m calling it now, folks. Daltrey/Townshend in 2016. …Wouldn’t that be something?
Detroit’s problems are well-known throughout the country, and Daltrey took the opportunity to give our fair city a pep talk: “Detroit won’t be down forever. This is just a season, and season’s change.” The recent death of The Who’s former manager, Chris Stamp, was acknowledged. The band honored him with a lovely eulogy, and we paid our respects with applause. And perhaps the passing of Mr. Stamp made the final number, ‘Tea and Theatre,’ even more poignant. “A thousand songs - still smolder now/We played them as one - we're older now,” pretty much summed up the relationship between Roger and Pete, who, by now, were the only ones left on the stage. Theirs one of those partnerships, I think, that only comes along once in a lifetime, and that only few of us are privileged enough to have. And they know how lucky they are; you could see it on their faces.
They bid us goodnight, and then, it was over.
Seeing The Who as completely as I’m able got me thinking about things I’d tell them if I had the chance. And since VIP tickets were beyond my price range, I’m going to take a moment to say it now, just in case this little review ever gets back to them.
To Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend: Thank you. Thank you for being the spokesmen for a generation, and for providing the soundtrack to so much of my life. Though I am barely in my twenties, I am beyond proud to call myself an admirer of not only The Who, but of your individual pursuits, as well. Your creativity is humbling, and your philanthropy is inspiring. I owe you so much.
To Simon Townshend: You deserve so much success, sir. Looking Out, Looking In is a fantastic record. And I think I speak for quite a few people when I say thanks for being so generous to your fans, both in person, and on Twitter. You have an incredible support system, and we intend to make you famous…well, even more so than you are.
To Zak Starkey, Pino Palladino, Loren Gold, JG Miller, and Reggie Grisham: You all had giant shoes to fill, and did so marvelously. It was a privilege to see you perform.
Prior to this concert, I’d heard a lot of people shoot the concept down, saying that The Who wasn’t really The Who anymore, if only two of them were left. Personally, I don’t buy that. As long as we have the voice of the band, and the one who wrote the songs, we have The Who. It’s taken a different form, sure, but hasn’t forgotten its roots. And isn’t that the most important thing?
Long live rock!
Review by: Ashley J. Trombley
Photos by: Lisa Ann Volpe
(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI - November 1st, 2012)
With British super group, ASIA having announced its 2012 World Tour in celebration of the band's 30th Anniversary and new CD, XXX, all the original band members - John Wetton, Steve Howe, Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer - brought their considerable rock sound to my home town.
After a short intro, the four band members come on stage, one by one, gently waving at the sold-out crowd. Quickly behind their equipment, Wetton waits patiently until Downes hits a key that kick starts 'Only Time Will Tell, and then suddenly we're off and running! Once done, they soon move into one of the early highlights of tonight’s show, a powerful, scorching 'Wildest Dreams.' A song that showcases the fact that Wetton has lost none of his 30 years in the making re: Asia vocal tones, it was a great rock moment to behold.
"It's lovely to be here tonight," Wetton says to the baying crowd. "We're here to promote XXX, which also marks our 30 years on tour," he adds, as the crowd stands up to applaud in appreciation. New track 'Face On The Bridge' is then played, and together with a green lit backdrop, the song ain't half bad. 'Time Again' has a slight intro to it in the form of some funky bass, and soon the flashing stage lights begin to enhance the already frenetic track.
"Are you all OK?," Wetton asks his captive audience. "Good. We're gonna do another song now off XXX, the second of three tonight. This is 'Tomorrow The World'." After the song he thanks the crowd once more. "Thank you. And so from one of the newest tracks we wrote to one of the earliest songs we ever made. And it didn't make it onto the debut album, because of record company interference," he adds. "But we love it so we're gonna play it for you now."
With that 'Ride Easy' is brought forth, but it truly looks like all of them are out of sync with the song. Howe constantly looks at Downes, who constantly looks at Palmer, who constantly looks at Howe, who alternates on to Wetton too! With a midsection that seemed to dip and swerve just a wee bit too much for its own good, they manage to make it through without too much else troubling them!
As a chair is brought stage front, Wetton introduces us to Howe's solo moment in the spotlight. "The three of us are going to leave the stage for a few moments and leave you in the hands of someone we like to also listen to, Mr. Steve Howe." Lit only by a bright white spot, Howe hunkers down over his acoustic guitar and brings us a new work of his backed by a Vivaldi cut. One moment Renaissance Festival in styling, the next upbeat and fingerpickin' good, he shows why he is the master of his trade.
"Thanks very much," he says to the crowd after, shyly acknowledging their standing ovation. He then explains the two pieces before doing this weird one minute stand-up routine about a TV show host and the suits he wears! But, once that bizarre sixty seconds has expired he then introduces both Wetton and Downes back to the stage for a couple of duo moments. After the soaring 'I Know How You Feel' ballad, Wetton thanks the audience and then introduces the next song. "This next one is from 1989 and was a mega hit for us - and also broke the band up," he laughs. "I'll let you sing the chorus, but I'll let you know when," he adds, as the guys then launch into a tame version of 'Don't Cry.'
Constantly singing all his songs, whether he has his bass strapped to him or not, with a black and white guitar pick attached to his right thumb, Wetton is in fine vocal form tonight. But then again, they all truly are playing at a high level. 'Cutting It Fine' is next, and with the whole band back on stage, and lit under a pinky red glow, the song is just so great to hear. Downes solo key work leads us into 'Holy War,' which in itself eventually then bleeds into a ten minute Palmer drum solo! Full of smashes and crashes, tinkles and wrinkles, he stands up, sits down, turns around and even lets his sticks go solo sometimes too! Ending with some gong smashing and frantic drums, his standing ovation is well warranted.
He then takes to his own mic and introduces himself. "How are you all doing tonight? Wow, that was hot. Fantastic. In case you didn't know, that was the drum solo," he laughs. "Hey, I hope you are all enjoying this as we've got a lot more for you," he adds, as he then introduces a track from the Phoenix album, 'An Extraordinary Life.' Thereafter, Wetton then mutters deeply into the mic that "This is 'Open Your Eyes'," and under a red and purple lit stage the song comes alive. With Howe doing double duty on two lead guitars at the same time (kinda), at one point he even leaves his sanctuary of stage right and migrates closer to Downes all the way to stage left!
After the applause has died down, the band leave the stage, noticeably not shaking any hands, just waving. A few minutes later and they are back - Howe with an APPLAUSE sign cheekily under his arm, aimed at the audience! But, as you can expect, they didn't need to be told what to do at this point. A stunningly-vibrant 'Sole Survivor' under bright red spots is next, and together with audience handclapping also includes a wicked end-of-song Howe solo.
Wetton indicates to the crowd that there will be one more song, and after a terrific Howe guitar lead in, their monster hit 'Heat Of The Moment' is brought forth. Under yellow lights, it sounds pitch perfect in all facets and has the crowd up on their feet, slowly swarming to the front of the stage. As the song comes to an end, Wetton thanks the audience and then gets us all to sing-along. The band then rock out a powerhaus guitar ending, and then that's that for the night. "Thank you, Royal Oak, Michigan," Wetton salutes the crowd. "God Bless you. You've been fantastic tonight. Thank you all." The group bow together, all of them wave, but still there's no shaking with the hyperactive front row's now extended arms. They then all leave the stage - in triumph.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(The Crofoot, Pontiac, MI - October 11th, 2012)
Adam Ant (actually born Stuart Leslie Goddard) may well be better known as the flamboyant Englishman who gained massive popularity as the lead singer of New Wave/Post-Punk group Adam and the Ants, but he also had a semi-successful solo career afterwards. Scoring ten (10) UK top ten hits between 1980 and 1983, including three #1's, his biggest crossover was sadly also his last musical offering - 1995's 'Wonderful.'
And so, here tonight on his North American tour (and after a 17 year absence from the US), in a small club in Pontiac, MI, the singer once voted sexiest man in America (by the viewers of MTV) took to the stage to flash us all back to those heady days of when Ant Music (in general) seemingly ruled the world.
As a taped voiceover speaks about the birth of music, the four-piece backing band took their places - Joe on bass, Tom on guitar and as ever, two drummers! One a blonde beehive beauty in a shiny party dress named Jola, the other Andy Woodward! As the opening bars of 'Plastic Surgery' are played, Adam comes out to the still semi-darkened stage, his back to us and starts to sing. As he hits the chorus, he finally turns around to the cheers of the in-their-40s+ crowd!
Looking like James Franco doing an impression of a sober Jack Sparrow, himself trying to pull off a hip Napoleon, Adam is dressed half in the '80s, the other for a Pirates convention. His highly-distinctive tunic is still part of him, his slightly-expanded waistline swathed in a big red sash. And these days we get a what-looked-to-be American bandana around his head, topped off with a pirate hat.
Watching Adam Ant play live is a rare treat, especially here in the US! I know the UK has him out on tour at '80s festivals, but we rarely get such luxuries over here. And as much as Adam isn't the Ant of old vocally, he most definitely is what we all expected - a great showman who still has that wonderful trademark yelp in his grasp.
'Dog Eat Dog is next, and as much as the bespectacled Adam already sounds out of breath, his pitch wavering occasionally, he soon puts all that right with a rip roaring 'Beat My Guest.' One of my favorite of his early tracks is next in the form of the bouncy 'Car Trouble,' which is also warmly greeted by the sold-out crowd. The pounding 'Ants Invasion' is next and then a sexy female singer named Georgie Girl (Georgina Baillie) comes on stage to back him on 'Deutscher Girls.'
Having still not said a word to the audience, next up is a thunderous 'Stand & Deliver, before playing a song that I think only true Ant fans would know, a solo UK hit 'Room At The Top.' Adam then finally addresses his legion of fans. "Good evening. This next song, every time I sing it, it always feels like it's the first time I've sung it." And with that he launches into the hugely popular 'Kings of the Wild Frontier.'
He then removes his glasses, the only occasion he does so in the set, for a heartfelt 'Wonderful,' before chatting about the song. "That was my one and only shot at writing a love song," he laughs. Putting his glasses back on we get 'Whip In My Valise,' which is backed by a brand new song from his upcoming 2013 album, 'Vince Taylor.' Adam then promises us that a new release date for the new album has been set. This time its due out January 2013.
Georgie Girl comes back on stage now dressed as a shiny PVC-clad Little Red Riding Hood - complete with stockings and suspenders! An obvious distraction away from Adam's weaker vocal moments, half the time it doesn't even sound like her microphone is even turned on! Anyway, moving on and we get a by-the-book 'Strip,' but a great 'Desperate But Not Serious' makes up for that. Adam then speaks. "This next song is a song I wrote after watching Cleopatra. And for Elizabeth Taylor." The song, of course, is 'Cleopatra,' which is backed by the odd 'Never Trust A Man (with Egg On His Face),' and then a fantastic 'Zerox.'
I can only think that Adam’s early punk material was "new" to the majority of the US crowd tonight for as much as they got into it, their lips never moved. Anyway, after thanking the crowd for their collective appreciation of him, he introduces the band; otherwise known as The Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse. Once he gets to Jola on drums, he stops to make a comment. "Now that's girl power for you!"
A thunderous 'Antmusic' is next and is followed by 'Goody Two Shoes,' before Adam starts to get chatty again. "You might wonder why I came back to America. It's because I want to ROCK! Do you want to ROCK? I said, do you want to ROCK?" And with that he launches into the excellent 'Vive Le Rock,' before getting a little up close and personal with the front row on the fetish-inspired 'Christian D'or.'
"Some songs just get made up, but this next song is from a true story. It was while I was in London filming Jubilee. And I knew that if I survived it I would write a song about it. This is 'Lady'." The rampant classic 'Fall In' is next, and the last of the set, as immediately afterwards the band leave the stage.
Some three minutes later and they are all back for an encore. "Thank you very much," Adam acknowledges. "You all seem a little hot and sweaty up front, so here's something quiet to calm you down a bit." He lies though as the band thunder into a fast and furious 'Fat Fun.' With his lovely Red Riding Hood now cape-less and skirt-less alongside him, the beloved b-side 'Red Scab' is next, with a mediocre cover of British glam rock group T. Rex's 'Get It On' thereafter.
As the two drummers stand up and Adam begins to set himself into a familiar arms-up hands-crossed pose, it's obvious the infamous 'Prince Charming' is coming out to play next. And it does and, instigated by Georgie Girl, includes a sing-along portion for all the fans too. 'Physical (You're So)' is next, and as they all walk off stage again, the crowd hoping for another encore song, knowing what's to come it's only Jola that waves. Suddenly the stage goes black, the piped-in music is turned on, and the house lights come on. The show, without a goodbye from Adam, is over.
The first time I saw Adam & The Ants was in 1981 in St. Austell at the Coliseum in Cornwall (UK). The next time in 1994 at a club next door to The Crofoot there in Pontiac. And now again here in 2012 I have witnessed my musical youth come to the fore in the US.
And so, he might not have Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee, and Gary Tibbs any more; like he once boasted, but "yours truly" was still here tonight. Witnessing my musical idol live again was definitely a musical treat that I am never, EVER going to forget! Plus, I picked up a signed poster, a signed autobiography and a concert t-shirt - so it will be pretty hard to even try!
Review by Russell A. Trunk
Photos by: Kyle Richards & Russell A. Trunk
(Michigan Theatre, Ann Arbor, MI - September 27th, 2012)
“Good things come to those who wait…” I don’t know exactly who it was that coined that phrase, but if they were into music, they were probably at the Joe Jackson concert Thursday night in Ann Arbor. A throng of concertgoers were stuck out in the autumn night for about a half hour later than they should have been, thanks to some pesky sound check issues. But when at last the doors were open, everyone was seated, and the lights were turned down, Joe Jackson took to the stage.
“Good evening,” were his only words as he sat down at the keyboard to a chorus of “Welcome back, Joe!” And then, sans any other musicians, Mr. Jackson gave us a few lines of 'It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing.') He continued on as a “solo” act through 'Be My Number Two.' And as I listened, I couldn’t help but think that I’d be perfectly content if the night consisted of what I was hearing at that very moment: Just Joe and a piano.
But that notion was (obviously) proved untrue as half of the band joined Jackson onstage. When the number ended, Jackson shared with us all an anecdote about a past gig he’d played in Detroit--in an English accent! I hadn’t previously been aware that he hailed from England, and the Greatest Hits CD I’d listened to on the way over to the venue gave no indication, either, so that was a really nice surprise. At that point, the band launched into a very quiet, relaxing arrangement of Duke Ellington’s 'In a Sentimental Mood.'
This aspect was half of the appeal of the concert for me; Jackson was incorporating into the set songs off of his 2012 release, The Duke, a collection of revamped Ellington tunes. At the end of the number, the rest of the aptly-named The Bigger Band appeared onstage, and now the lineup was complete: Regina Carter on violin, Jesse Murphy on bass, guitarist Adam Rogers, percussionist Sue Hadjopoulos, Allison Cornell on keys (and a few other things,) and finally, Nate Smith on drums.
From there, it went into another song from The Duke, a number called 'Caravan.' This one was much more up-tempo, with a little bit of a Mediterranean flavor, with maybe a dash of Latin thrown in. It was here more than any other place where Hadjopoulos really showcased her talents, beating the bongo and conga drums into submission! And it was also this song in which I discovered the single aspect about Joe Jackson’s stage presence that I loved the most. He was 150 percent in tune with his band; he saw to it that they performed as one well-oiled machine, not just seven people sharing the same stage.
And when Jackson himself wasn’t singing, he was just groovin’--rocking in time with the music as his fellow performers helped carry the whole thing along. I was very much taken by his ability to completely rock out! Jackson’s own 'You Can’t Get What You Want (Until You Know What You Want)' came next, and it occurred to me that Jackson sounded like a slightly older version of the guy I’d heard singing the same song on a CD only an hour or so before; and that is a welcome conclusion to draw: That a performer is as good live as they are on record.
The songs tended to bleed into one another, it seemed, making it hard to distinguish one’s beginning from another’s end. Whether this was done to make up for lost time, however, was anybody’s guess. 'It’s Different For Girls' brought with it intermittent claps and head nods from the audience. The night waned with songs that included Ellington medley 'Beginning to See the Light/Take the A Train/Cotton Tail,' 'Rockin’ in Rhythm' (which featured a tuba, in parts,) and something of a live rarity, by Jackson’s own admission: 'We Can’t Live Together.'
'Real Men' didn’t seem to quite fit in with the rest of the songs thus far, perhaps because it actually had a statement to make, pertaining to the way society expects men to behave. It was just a little too “preachy” for my taste. More Ellington happened then, with Allison Cornwell singing lead on 'Perdido/Satin Doll'--in Portuguese, no less! And when that was done, the crowd burst into applause, causing Jackson to comment: “Anyone who performs onstage is a whore for applause.” Needless to say, we went bonkers.
Having Carter and Cornell both play fiddle on the slightly haunting 'Satin Doll/Black and Tan Fantasy' had me hoping for dueling violins, but hopes were dashed. One slightly low note was that sometimes, the stellar music the band played would overpower the vocals. During one instrumental jam session, Jackson whipped out a cowbell, bringing to mind a certain Saturday Night Live sketch. It left me wanting, of course, more cowbell.
'Steppin’ Out' and a full-on reprise of 'It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)' drew impressive back-to-back standing ovations. The stage went dark, then, and it all seemed to be over. Jackson and company came back out, though, and played what was perhaps the signature hit: 'Is She Really Going Out With Him?' This particular song included audience participation to the extreme during the “Look over there!/WHERE?!/There!” portion, and was probably the highlight of the show in my book.
'Sunday Papers' had the entire house on its collective feet. Jackson reintroduced the band, and informed us all that Regina Carter was a Michigan native! The very final number was the oddly-placed 'A Slow Song,' during which the band went offstage one by one.
And so we ended the night the same way we began it: With Joe Jackson, and his piano. So was this night worth the late start, and even later night? Absolutely. Would I do it again? You bet. The only disappointment was the absence of my personal favorite Joe Jackson song, 'Look Sharp!' But that’s okay…maybe next tour.
I just hope I’ll be able to wait until then!
Review by: Ashley J. Trombley
'La Cage Aux Folles'
(Fisher Theatre, Detroit, MI - September 25th, 2012)
The instant you walk through the door of the Fisher Theatre, you step into “the envy of the cabaret world,” LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. Patrons take their seats and are warmly greeted by Georges (George Hamilton) , the owner of the club who proceeds to introduce the resident drag-queens-slash-performers, Les Cagelles. These six lovely ladies also welcome visitors, talking about the e’er-interesting life of an…entertainer, and offering the disclaimer “We Are What We Are.”
When the main drag act, Zaza, fails to appear, Georges goes to the upstairs flat to find Albin, Zaza’s everyday alter-ego and his partner of over 20 years (Christopher Sieber) in the midst of pitching a fit about the distance that he feels has grown between them. Georges assures him that nothing has changed, and Albin begrudgingly agrees to go on, bemoaning just how much of his own self gets tucked away every time Zaza takes the stage and how “A Little More Mascara” helps him cope.
With Albin being kept busy, Georges entertains a much younger, handsome man, shortly thereafter revealed to be his son, Jean-Michel. The younger comes bearing news: He is getting married ... to a woman, no less. He also mentions, though casually, that Anne is the product of a strict, conservative family whose patriarch sees it his personal duty to impose moral regulations on the French Riviera. Jean-Michel swears up and down that his beloved is different than her parents, and that she brings out nothing but the best in him (“With Anne on My Arm.”) Georges eventually comes around, but is reluctant to let Albin in on the secret. The other ultimately hears anyway, and is bummed that their only child is getting hitched. Georges makes it clear that they’ll face it together and even the most ordinary of days is grand “With You on My Arm.”
Time appears to drag on and on as Jean-Michel asks Georges to meet with his fiancée’s parents--without Albin. The love-struck youngster even requests the presence of his otherwise absent biological mother. Out of support for his own flesh and blood, Georges relents and invites Sybil, though still left with the daunting task of informing his lover that he’s not only uninvited, but has been altogether replaced for the occasion.
Georges dodges the conversation for some time until he and Albin hit up a moonlit, seaside tavern for a drink. He attempts to bring it up, but the subject gets switched to when the couple first met (“Song on the Sand.”) An old fire rekindled, Albin comes around on the whole marriage concept, and even begins to get excited. Georges can’t bring himself to deliver the crushing blow. But he needn’t tarry for too long…fast forward to showtime at La Cage: Jean-Michel has been making some “minor” adjustments to the apartment décor to aide the “normal” look he’s going for. His dads catch him in the act, but once again, the conversation is halted as Zaza and the other Queens are called to perform (“La Cage aux Folles.”)
In between acts, Georges, unable to keep the secret any longer, tells Albin that for one night, everything must change. He offers the solution that Albin masquerades as Jean-Michel’s Uncle Al. Having none of it, the other triumphantly declares “I Am What I Am” in a powerful anthem of self-expression, throwing off his wig and storming offstage.
Act II opens on a much slower note as we find Georges and Albin back at the tavern, this time with the former convincing his partner of not only of his love, but how much Jean-Michel (unknowingly) wants him to participate, just in a different role. (“Song on the Sand Reprise”) So begins the hysterically funny attempt at teaching the normally flouncing, sashaying Albin the in’s and out’s of “Masculinity.” The scene jumps to later in the evening as George and Jean-Michel watch as Zaza does her thing, and the father begs the son to “Look Over There” and reconsider throwing the one who has already sacrificed so much in the name of family, out of it. Jean-Michel remains adamant. The moment of truth arrives as Anne, Monsieur Dindon, and Madame Dindon arrive at the perfectly normal-looking apartment, complete with a large crucifix and a church pew for a sofa!
“Cocktail Counterpoint” is a jumbled, fast-paced exchanging of words between all five occupants as they discuss such things as Greek dishware, and Georges’ alleged post as a Legionnaire. When Jean-Michel’s biological mom does not show, Albin decides to step in--as Mother. The moments that follow are comedic gold as Albin makes a valiant (and surprisingly successful) effort to charm his future in-laws.
Anxiously awaiting something to go wrong, the party makes reservations at Chez Jacqueline in hope that nothing will. The equally-flamboyant restaurateur immediately recognizes Albin from the club, and begs--more like demands--that Zaza give an impromptu performance. The result is the optimistic, catchy production number, “The Best of Times.” At the end, completely lost in the moment, Albin tears his wig off, thereby revealing his true identity. Deputy Dindon is furious, of course, that his prospective relatives are not only gay, but involved in the drag business. He at once demands that Anne vacate the premises, but the love-struck girl refuses to leave her boyfriend. Jean-Michel, for his part, is deeply ashamed of the way he has treated Albin, and seeks his forgiveness (“Look Over There Reprise)”.
Monsieur and Madame Dindon now find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place, as fame-whore Jacqueline—of Chez Jacqueline—has alerted the media that anti-homosexual activists are at La Cage aux Folles! Georges and Albin agree to help the Dindons escape the club, under one condition: They give their blessing to Anne and Jean-Michel’s marriage. Permission granted. Emcee Georges addresses the audience once more, telling us that our time at the club has come to an end. The final revue features a special guest, the Dindon’s, completely disguised in drag (“Finale.”) As all the other revelers leave the stage, only Georges and Albin remain, sharing a tender kiss as the final curtain falls.
I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to review this show, having seen it once before on Broadway, in New York. When I stand the two productions up next to each other, this one comes in second place, but there were a few highlights that I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t mention. The first one is Broadway veteran Christopher Sieber as Albin. Everything he did was magic. The very best part about Mr. Sieber was all of the subtleties he brought to the character. Albin is supposed to be over the top, which he was, but occasionally, Sieber would give a shifty look, or make his voice go down a register, or even move his hands in a certain way, and the audience would crack up laughing. He is truly a wonderful performer.
Also cast-wise, the handsome young actor playing Jean-Michel, Michael Lowney, was lovely.
Another aspect of the show that I especially enjoyed was the music itself. Jerry Herman’s score was interpreted in a very loving way by a very small band, which added to the “nightclub” atmosphere. And to similar ends, Harvey Fierstein’s libretto takes such touchy subjects as homosexuality and transvestitism and presents it in a way in which even the most conservative theatregoer will laugh.
And even after all of this, there’s still the case of…
What didn’t work:
I begin with George Hamilton. His Georges just fell kind of…flat. It’s not for lack of trying, mind you; Mr. Hamilton was a more than decent actor, but his singing was rather sub-par. He gave a valiant effort, but it just wasn’t up to snuff for me. I felt the same way about Jeigh Madjus, the actor playing eccentric housekeeper, Jacob. The problem here was that Jacob is supposed to be flamboyant, and a bit of a pest, always popping in and out of scenes…but Madjus’ performance, once again, left something to be desired.
And finally, the single worst part about this whole production actually took place before the curtain even went up! Drag queen “Lilli Whiteass” attempted to entertain the crowd, but surely offended some of us with off-color remarks about everything from politics, to religion, to marriage, to sexuality, and more. And she just dragged on for forever! I, for one, was not amused.
La Cage aux Folles has been on my Top Ten Musicals list (yes, I have a list) since I first saw it in 2010. And after taking the good with the bad in this touring production, I can safely say that it remains on that list. I would recommend this show to anyone looking for a good laugh in their night at the theatre. After all, to quote Zaza, “The best of times is now.”
Review by: Ashley J. Trombley
(DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI - August 10th, 2012)
As we all know, Kelly Clarkson first came into prominence after becoming the winner of the inaugural season of the TV series American Idol in 2002. Since then, a decade later and still not even 30, Clarkson has seemingly done it all - musically, at least!
Tonight, at an outdoor venue in rainy MI (Clarkston, would you believe!), after some AC/DC to deliberately pump the crowd, the lights go down and the thin white veiled curtain begins to show snap shots of Kelly through the ages. And then it lifts completely, a stunningly-bright white hot spotlight beams center stage (like its trying to signal a space ship), and suddenly out of nowhere there she is.
Dressed in all black, head to toe, save for some gold designs on her top, Clarkson wastes no time in getting straight into both 'My Life Would Suck With Out You' and 'Hazel Eyes.' Screaming 'Are you ready?" mid-song, bathed in red and yellow lights she already has the young crowd eating out of her hands. Kicking off 'I Forgive You' with her trademark "Come on" yelp, Clarkson ends that and begins to chat with the audience. "How y'all doing tonight? I have to tell you about a drink I just found. It's called an Orange Creamsicle cocktail. And after one drink, trust me, you're havin' a gooooood night," she laughs, raising the red solo cup to her mouth to drink from.
New single 'Dark Side' is next, which also enables Clarkson to remove her gently flowing black wrap to reveal a painted Basque, of sorts. She looks great, is loving every second of being up there, and with her powerhouse voice and vocal versatility in general, she is definitely making the most of everything. After a quick change mid-set she comes back out wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt for her rendition of FUN's 'We Are Young,' which is loved by the young crowd.
The slow-paced 'Already Gone' is next, but the first real highlight of the night was when she brought out The Fray's Issac Slade (as it's a co-headline tour) to sing the Jason Aldean portion of 'Don't You Wanna Stay.' "I just love singing that song," Clarkson comments after. And I love singing it with him. He has such a great voice and he's so sexy!" Indeed it was simply brilliant to hear and they sounded so good together. Once the applause for that had died down, Clarkson then brings on a member of her team from NBC's The Voice, Jordan Meredith to duet on Miranda Lambert's rockin' 'Mama's Broken Heart.' "Isn't she so hot and so talented," Clarkson asks the crowd after, as she hugs and, for some strange reason playfully face-slaps Jordan off the stage!
And then comes the strangest moment of the show thus far. Grabbing a grey hooded sweatshirt from one of her backing singers, Clarkson explains to us all that now is the Fan Request portion of the night. Having asked through her website for song ideas for tonight's "Detroit" show, the overwhelming response was for Eminem's 'Lose Yourself.' A tough song for anybody but the man himself, and with Kelly herself admitting "I'm not being too brave with this," she belly-flopped straight into it. Predominantly head down, reading the stage-placed lyrics as if her lyrical life depended on it, after what seemed an eternity, she was finally done. Out of breath, a mouth full of saliva, quite what the in-attendance daughter of Eninem made of it would be interesting to hear!
Moving along and next was 'Breakaway,' before she then introduces the entire band. "OK, you've heard country, you've heard slow, you've heard rap, ... are you ready for what's next?", she screams at the crowd, before turning up the heat with a scorching 'Since You've Been Gone.' Next her Music Director, Jason Halbert (always found on keys at the back throughout the show) comes forward to play piano center stage. Clarkson then re-emerges in a shiny gold mini-dress, and bathed in a stunning blue light, between the two of them they bring us a stunning 'Because Of You.'
"This is for all the jerks out there," she then lets us know, before heading into a spirited 'Mr. Know It All.' Bathed in bright fire-red lights, it bleeds seamlessly into 'Miss Independent.' As the final chords of that song are struck, she tells us that "everybody knows this one," and launches into the powerhaus 'Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You).'
Overall, Clarkson is so charmingly sincere at her shows, her songs sung with so much power, so much honesty that you could think she's there singing directly at you. But, in truth, she also seems to get distracted a lot of times, babbling on about whatever random tidbit of info she had come across that day. Sure her younger fans love that about her, but if she just learnt to weed that side of her show out a little, minimizing the white noise between songs, she would perhaps be able to include one or two more songs in her set. Just a thought.
Review and Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
1964 The Tribute
(Meadowbrook, Rochester Hills, MI - July 20th, 2012)
1964 THE TRIBUTE has been greeted by cheering audiences and sold out crowds wherever they have appeared world wide, headlining over 120 shows around the globe each year.
Indeed, fans from eight to 80 have been enthralled by the band's accurate re-creation of a Beatles concert performed live, with exact detailed reproduction of the songs, voices, instruments, suits, haircuts and even the iconic "Beatle Boots" made famous by the Fab Four.
Tonight, at an open air venue on a truly beautiful evening, come 8.40pm the sparce black set suddenly bursts into life with the musical magic of The Beatles. Casually walking out on stage, beige old-school Beatles jackets adorning straight black tailored pants, they wave, nod at each other, and then burst into both 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' and then 'I Saw Her Standing There.'
"Paul" asks the near-packed house if they are doing ok tonight, but what is immediately noticeable is that his impression of McCartney is obviously not meant to be spot on; moreover that of a Londoner whose spent way too much time on Merseyside! In truth, they all come across like that, not one of them nailing the true Liverpudlian accent of their heroes. Next up is 'From Me To You,' bathed in red light it is beautiful to hear on this summers night.
"John" gives us a "I, 2, 3, 4" lead in for 'Please, Please Me,' which features the true-to-life Paul and George-shared mic experience coupled with John adding the harmonica break. After most all songs, the trio bow in sync together, which is a very nice touch. "George" then comes stage front, as he does often in the show, to chat. "The next song we'd like to do is an oldie," he laughs, as do the audience and the band. That was another welcomed aspect to the show, the fact that these guys didn't take themselves too seriously and had fun at their own expense along the way. The song that follows was 'I'm Happy Just to Dance with You' which leads into 'All My Loving.'
"Paul" then announces that they are going to slow it down, as they break into 'This Boy.' Everything this band puts its musical mind to is incredible. The songs are spot on, the outfits locked into an amazing time warp, their approach to getting it all across incredible. Although, being that I was told by a man next to me that "John" was actually bald underneath his wig did tend to sit with my inner thoughts for the remainder of the show!
After 'And I Love Her,' "Ringo" gets to sing again on 'Act Naturally,' before "John" asks the audience, "How many people out there tonight are here tonight?" Next up is 'Eight Days a Week,' before "John" riffs a few more jokes, and then leads us into a frantic 'A Hard Day's Night.' "Next up includes a very special feature," explains "George," "because it features John on lead." It's at this juncture that "John" steals some mic time by informing him it also features Paul and Ringo. Which enables "George" to continue. "It seems it also features Paul in some small way, and Ringo too, sorry! It is a song from the Hard Day's Night album ..." It is at this point that he turns off mic to "John" and asks him for the title, which "John" gives him back as "Should Have Known Better, You Twit"! In fact, it turns out to be 'Love Me Do,' which is followed by 'I Should Have Known Better' and then 'If I Fell.'
With most everything centering around the rhythm guitar work of "George" it's his Harrison-esque footwork that seals the deal of true impersonation. His cuban heels just do that gentle shuffle oh so well, so perfectly, and his guitar work is fantastic too. In fact, they all personify their heroes in one way or another: "Paul" has that innocent look up to his left whilst singing, and his audience finger pointing after each song down to an art; "John" has the slung high guitar work perfectly suited to him; and "Ringo" has the little head flicks from right to left down to a tee when singing!
"George" then acts the goat again by introducing a cover of a Carl Perkins song ('Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby'), but stating he was from MI - when in fact, as "John" points out, he was from Tennessee! Next up is 'We Can Work It Out,' before "Ringo" brings everyone to their feet to sing, dance and clap away at 'Twist and Shout.' They then slow it down with 'She's A Woman,' sung by "Paul" with another "1,2,3,4" intro from "John" on 'I Feel Fine.' The brilliantly-sung (by "George") 'Drive My Car' is next and that bleeds into 'Ticket to Ride.' "John" thanks the audience for showing up, tells them that it's been 28 years now that they've been doing this show, and that wearing these shoes each show kills them come the second half of the set!
He then asks us to call a loved on, a friend, or just someone we want to annoy, get them on the line, and hold the phone up whilst they sing for them re: 'In My Life.' Then comes a splendid "George"-sung 'Tax Man,' before "John" introduces "Ringo" on 'Boys.' After "Paul" sings 'Till There Was You,' "Ringo" stands up to encourage us all to do the same thing, and backed by the rip-roaring 'Day Tripper' we all do just that. "John" then announces that this has to be the last song, and so they give us 'She Loves You,' before leaving the stage.
Back for an encore some three minutes later, 'Mr. Moonlight' is backed by 'I’m Happy Just to Dance With You.' Then they rock 'n roll their way through 'Roll Over Beethoven' and after "Paul" sings 'Long Tall Sally,' "John" again thanks everyone for being part of the show, before they all leave the stage for the very last time.
Review & Photo by: Russell A. Trunk
1964 THE TRIBUTE CONCERT SCHEDULE FOR 2012/13:
8/3 (Friday) Bass Hall (w/ Orchestra) Ft Worth, TX
8/4 (Saturday) Bass Hall (w/Orchestra) Ft. Worth, TX
8/10 (Friday) The Tennessee Theatre Knoxville, TN
8/24 (Friday) Red Rocks Amphitheatre Golden, CO
9/6 (Thursday) The Zwermann Theatre Robinson,IL
9/14 (Friday) Bronson Centre Ottawa, Canada
9/20 (Thursday) St. Joseph County Fair Centerville, MI
9/22 (Saturday) The Majestic Theatre San Antonio, TX
10/5 (Friday) The Apple Festival Paintsville, KY
10/6 (Saturday) The Civic Theatre Akron, OH
10/12 (Friday) The Dunn Center for the Performing Arts Rocky Mount, NC
10/13 (Saturday) Northside High School Jacksonville, NC
10/20 (Saturday) The Rosemont Theatre Chicago, IL
12/7 (Friday) Birchmere Music Hall Alexandria, VA
12/18 (Tuesday) Citrus Hills Country Club Citrus Hills, FL
January - 2013
1/12 (Saturday) Carnegie Hall New York, NY
1/18 (Friday) The Weinberg Center Frederick, MD
1/19 (Saturday) The Stadium Theater Woonsocket, RI
Ted Nugent wsg/ REO Speedwagon & Styx
(DTE Energy Theatre, Clarkston, MI – June 28th, 2012)
With a title that could have been taken directly from Stevie Wonder's 'Hotter Than July,' tonight on a late June night at the DTE Energy Theatre in Clarkston, MI the heat index was pushing an incredible, sizzling 99 degrees.
REO Speedwagon takes the stage first. Lead singer Kevin Cronin and the Wagon were primed, ripped and ready to bring more heat. And the crowd was more than ready to rock. 'Don't Let Him Go' was first on the docket followed by their mega hit 'Take It On The Run' and 'Keep Pushing.' Cronin tells us that the next song was left off the set-list for a while "... because we thought it was irrelevant at the time!" Continuing, he adds, "What people need to do today is continue to talk to one another, BUT listen a lot more!" Thus bringing the meaningful 'Golden Country' to the fore.
After a roar from the crowd, Cronin reminds us that Uncle Ted is the "... self-professed greatest love song writer of all time" with hits like 'Cat Scratch Fever,' however Cronin adds, "I think we get a spot in the top ten with this next song." 'Can't Fight This Feeling' adds just a little more heat to the night, but the crowd doesn't seem to mind. Followed closely is 'Time For Me To Fly' which has the lively lot of party revelers standing and singing along. Fast forward into 'Back On The Road Again,' before a short pause in the action whilst Cronin composes himself and informs us, "Now it's time for some classic rock artillery!" We're soon made aware of what the secret weapon would be unleashed on us when we're given direction to place our arms out to our side in a hokey pokey-type position. And, making sure we have enough room to move, it is now that 'Roll With The Changes' is set free on our sweat-soaked souls!
Oh yeah, the Wagon hasn't lost a step. Directly rolling into 'Keep On Loving You,' before REO leaves us they hit us once more with 'Riding The Storm Out.' Let's see, late June, 99 degrees, AND REO Speedwagon! Yeah, it doesn't get much hotter than this!
After a short pause Tommy Shaw, James "JY " Young, Todd Sucherman, Lawrence Gowan and Ricky Phillips; better known as STYX take the stage to continue the classic rock onslaught on our senses. 'Blue Collar Man' greets the sun-soaked crowd as Tommy yells "We're playin' DTE," as they then roll into the epic 'Grand Illusion.' After this Shaw welcomes us all, "Hello Detroit, we got some work to do. You know who comes on next," referring to Ted Nugent. 'Too Much Time On My Hands' nestles in our ears next as Tommy then informs us he lived here in Michigan for over 10 years.
Joining Shaw and the gang on stage at this point is Chuck Panozzo, an original band member. 'Fooling Yourself (the Angry Young Man)' and 'Miss America' are next, then comes a short piano solo from Lawrence Gowan (which covers Eric Clapton's 'Layla' and Elton John's 'Pinball Wizard') and thrills the crowd no end. When the band rejoins Gowan on stage they all launch into 'Come Sail Away,' 'Rockin The Paradise' and 'Renegade.' And so, as they left the stage they had done their job in preparing us for the in-your-face upcoming performance we all came to see - from our beloved Uncle Ted.
OK, it's 9:41pm and only 89 degrees so things are cooling right?! WRONG!! Taking the stage is none other than the Motor City Mad Man himself, the self-proclaimed savior of the Constitution, the Voice of The People, yes the one and only Uncle Ted Nugent. Greeting us the only way he can, with a strong, loudly screamed "Kick out the jams, motherf**kers," after a few guitar licks (like no other I've ever heard), Ted is quick to remind us that "Everything's gonna be alright 'cause Uncle Ted is BACK in town."
As he roars into 'Just What The Doctor Ordered,' the classic 'Wango Tango,' 'Turn It Up,' the always-brilliant 'Free For All' and then 'Stormtroopers,' 'Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,' 'Live It Up,' 'Hey Baby,' the uber-classic 'Fred Bear,' the powerhaus 'Cat Scratch Fever' and lastly wrapped it with 'Stranglehold' bring his set to a close. Sprinkled in-between songs Ted gives us his unsolicited views on certain political policies while reminding us not to forget where we came from. That freedom isn't free and to give thanks to the men and women of the armed forces for doing what needs to be done.
Say what you want about Ted's views, but a couple of things are more than clear: 1) The man is Patriotic, and 2) Uncle Ted can rocks like no other!
Reviewed by: Ray Trevino
Photos by: Jennifer Shumney
Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, Ypsilanti, MI - November 16th, 2011)
Russell Brand, the popular British comedian and so-called actor, made a stand-up appearance last night at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center in Ypsilanti.
Described by the comedian himself as an evening with a "... nice blend of intelligence and filth,” the show labored heavily towards the latter. Containing chunky bouts of rambling monologue, some moments of hilarious self-help antics, and even some personal memories, Brand’s performance was manic, erratic, contrite, and yet weirdly charming and, at times, bloody hilarious!
Having been opened for by two lame-ass student comedic wannabe's (why ... especially the second one?!), come 8.40pm and Russell Brand is introduced to the half-filled auditorium. Gently bouncing out onto the sparcely created stage for him tonight (basically a large raised square box with a stool and a small table), Brand is given a standing ovation. “Hello, I'm so excited to be here with you tonight," he says, as he looks over the audience. "You're all full of energy and life ... and hormones," he adds, laughing.
Brand then goes off on his first-of-many rambling rants, this one about getting to learn more about Michigan. He mentions he knows Eminem, Michael Moore and then drops the EMU school name of the Eagles, followed by the Wolverines! He then suggests we learn a few British words tonight, as we're gonna hear them anyway! He then gives us the following: Wanking, Sausage Roll, and finally Bumming! Explaining what they mean in an American accent, it was quite easily one of the funniest parts of the show.
"This is like performing at a school assembly," he jokes, as he casts another eye out across the uniformly seated audience. Somebody shouts out 'Katy Perry,' to which Brand replies, "Thank you, yes, Katy Perry, my lovely wife. But, for tonight I am single and all yours."
Jumping off the stage, Brand then walks down one side of the audience, stopping to shake hands, banter, and then finally land on a Frat (fat) guy named Chris. Chris then, unwittingly one assumes, became the focus of the night for Brand. But more on that later.
Once back on stage, Brand notes that "... I kinda say things that are unacceptable, so you're all gonna have to help me," before he then explains why he said that. A story of the VMA Awards the year he hosted it, the very same year that Kayne West stole the limelight from Taylor Swift, Brand tells us how he didn't get to read certain intros he'd written that night. And so wanted to read one, for the introduction of the Twilight cast to us now. It takes time to tell this story, a lot of back and forth, repetition, but when we get to the punchline about how if it's a Vampire's girlfriend's time of the month it can also be the actual Vampire boyfriend's 'time of the month' too, well, the groans are heard echoing throughout!
Brand then rants on about how Fox News is always telling us to fear everything. And that he had never actually seen a fox on the channel! He informs us it isn't natural to always fear such things as Immigrants, Snowmen, or Pedophiles - given that he's 36 years-old and would f**k the guy to death if he tried it on with him anyway! He then grabs the stool, sits center stage, and reads a recent article about him from Britain's Daily Mail. A story that relates how he 'enlisted' both Cindy Crawford and the 'ageless' Sharon Stone(henge) to accompany him to a show, whilst Katy was away on tour, is another long skit. Also inclusive of how 'enlisting' made him sound as bad as the Vietnam War, he finishes the bit drinking some expensive VOSS bottled water.
Asking the audience for inspiration for the next segment of the show someone shouts of 'Puff Daddy,' which leads Brand into an oft-told story of how he and Puff went to Las Vegas to watch the Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton boxing match one year! He then sits back down again to read the local Ann Arbor newspaper. Scouring the gay and bisexual want ads, he brings Chris up on stage, quickly followed by Gabe. Desperately wanting to get Chris set up on a date, it's actually a girl from the audience who agrees to date him. Not thes ex Brand assumed would volunteer for the date, Brand brings her up on stage regardless!
Still somewhat upset that he didn't get Chris set up with a guy, he sets them up on a date (yeah, right!), kisses him goodbye, calls him darling as he leaves (he calls everyone darling though!) and brings Gabe center stage - for a gay phone encounter! Brand then calls a gay massage parlor, tries booking a date for Gabe, before inexplicably breaking out into a created-before-the-show, yet seemingly random sexual innuendo ditty. All whilst keeping the open phone line to the poor gay guy to his mouth/microphone! Come it's end, he thanks Gabe and send him back into the audience - this time without a kiss!
For his final act of the night, Brand suddenly, and alarmingly out of nowhere takes on a strong, impassioned vocal tone to inform us that "... 2012 is going to be our transformation - this is the time for all of us to rise up - this is the time for ... some jokes about Twitter!" And then, and in what turned out to be the funniest portion of the now-being-drawn-out show, Brand reads out some Tweets that both he and Katy have recently received. They start out with lovely words from an unknown male admirer to her, but each end with subsequent posts (minutes later) on Brand's own Twitter page, where the very same once-sedate male is SCREAMING AND SHOUTING PROFANITIES at Brand!
Come the end of that skit, and Brand admits it must be time to go. He thanks everyone for coming out, waves a big, cheesy wave goodbye, and speaks one last time into the mic. "I love you all, " he adds. "Our time here may be done, but it's not over. I'll see you all in the foyer for hugs and photos." And then, much as he came on stage at the start, he leaves it in the very same bouncy manner.
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Photos by: Jeff Sainlar
(Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI - November 6th, 2011)
Sting’s Back To Bass tour came to Detroit's beautiful Fox Theatre last night. Performing his greatest hits and more, all stripped down to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his solo career, it was one incredible night to behold, believe me!
“Hello, Detroit,” Sting says, as he takes to the stage - and a standing ovation. ‘All This Time’ is the first song, and unlike most all concerts at the luxurious Fox Theatre (that I’ve ever witnessed), the audience didn’t sit right back down and be ‘polite’ in their seats! Nope, far from it, for this audience made sure they got no value for money from their seats and choose to stand for every song that wasn’t a ballad!
After the opening song, Sting then pays compliments to the beautiful, truly stunning Fox Theatre, before acknowledging the city again. “Detroit, it’s great to be here tonight. Wow, this place is incredible. I’ve never been here before.” Then we get the reggae-flavored ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,’ before stopping (too early in my mind) to intro the entire band!
The beautiful ‘Seven Days’ is next and is followed by the frantic fan-favorite rock song ‘Demolition Man.’ With a simple stage, dressed in black, it’s the spray of white strip light beams from behind him that make the stage suddenly seem 4x as big! “I’m gonna bring you down now,” Sting laughs, as he begins his Storyteller vibe of the night. “This is a song about divorce,” he adds before ‘I’m So Happy’ comes forth. “I have a great love for country songs,” he further reveals, “I don’t know why though as I’m English and come from the North East! This is a song from the late, great Johnny Cash,” he introduces, as ‘Hung My Head’ is next.
After a loud round of applause for the song that sounded oh-so-great, Sting then talks about his writing ethic. About his process. In this case, for ‘Stolen Car,’ he reveals he simply went for a walk in the woods with an iPod on random shuffle. That said, he also nearly put his foot in his mouth, as he remarks that the song is about a physic car thief, and that the latter was a dying job - which was something Detroit should know about! The rock-driven ‘Driven To Tears’ has everyone back up on their feet, the stage beautifully lit.
His voice is incredible, CD-quality still, his passion for playing is ageless. His desire to slap-beat his worn, beaten bass guitar obvious to all. “Before I came here today I looked into how many Detroit shows I’d played. There’s been quite a few, but the first one was at Bookies, back in 1978. I was 10,” he laughs. He then relates a story of a golden field that sits alongside his castle in England, before rolling into ’Fields Of Gold.’ “The next song is about two of my favorite subjects - sex and religion,” he admits, before he sings ‘Sacred Love.’ Sting then tells a long tale of how Halloween originated in England ie: All Hallows' Eve, before revealing that “… this song is about my daddy. We had a difficult relationship. ‘Ghost Story’ says things I should have said to him when he was still alive.” A dark, moody song, Sting alone center stage with two solo white spots beamed down on him. As the song ends, he cocks his head to the side and looks up to the heavens, as the final lyrics ’I must have loved you’ are uttered. The standing ovation is incredible, passionate and has Sting repeatedly thanking everyone.
“Heavy cloud ...”, he then shouts into the audience, to which he gets the correct response of ‘No Rain’ back, before he begins to talk about his partner of 30 years, Trudi. He tells us that there’s no magic formula to their success, but that over the years she has healed him, fixed him, and made him whole. He then adds that she can also annihilate him at any given moment, which gets a huge laugh. ‘Inside’ is the song that follows. A song that features a last three minutes where he lyrically relates ‘love like …’ to 100 different things, it is incredible that he never slips up or lyrically trips up!
Sting then tells us he has a passion for Westerns, with his favorite being ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ followed by ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.’ He then tells us he thought it would be kinda fun to conflate the two stories together in ‘Love Is Stronger.’ The song includes an incredible bass vs. fiddle duel which sees Peter Tickell nearly burn the strings off his instrument! The standing, prolonged ovation for Tickell seems to embarrass him, as he slinks back to the shadows of the stage set. “This is a song about being really cold,” he says, as ‘Hounds of Winter’ is sung next. Featuring a wickedly incredible controlled-wail from backing singer Jo Lawry, her time in the spotlight was perfectly timed.
Sting then talks about fox hunting, how he had respect for the woodland creatures, until one got into his chicken coup and killed all of them. Still, he shows love for foxes with the song he wrote about two of them, one male one female, and their life and death in ‘The Death of The King.’ With no chat in-between, Sting and his full-on band, backed by some beautiful stage light work, launch into ‘Never Coming Home.' Inclusive of more great fiddle work from Tickell, once done, all come to the front of the stage, bow and wave goodbye.
Just some sixty-seconds later, Sting and his band mates re-take the stage and bring us one of the best songs of the night - the incredible ‘Desert Rose.’ Complete with hip shakes from Sting and ethnic vocal expressions in its midsection, the audience applauds it for a full two minutes at its close. Sting then rolls straight into ‘Every Breath You Take,’ before he re-introduces the band again. “Detroit, thank you … goodnight,” he waves, and is gone once again. Swiftly back again for a brilliantly-frantic ‘Next To You,’ he ends it with his trademark guitar-wearing, sideways stage jump.
And, as the band leave the stage, he goes to, but grabs an acoustic guitar instead, walks back center stage, takes a seat on a stool, and under a bright white spot, brings us an exceptional version of ‘Message In A Bottle.’ “Detroit, I love you, goodnight,” Sting says, finally meaning it. For, as he leaves the stage for the last time, the house lights come on, the house music begins to play, and the audience prepares to leave - their collective ears still stinging!
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Royal Oak Music Theatre, MI - October 24th, 2011)
Multi-platinum and Grammy winning rock band, Evanescence, the American rock band founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1995 by singer/pianist Amy Lee and guitarist Ben Moody, have certainly undergone some band member transformations over the years. But one thing, luckily for all fans of their music, has remained constant: Amy Lee's soaring vocals.
Now being the only surviving original member, with their third self-titled studio album (the band's first since 2006's The Open Door) now in stores, it's obvious that the group could simply be called The Amy Lee Band. But Lee would never allow that to happen.
Tonight, in front of a sold-out audience, and having been opened by both New York rock band The Pretty Reckless and Rival Sons, come 10.10pm the lights went down and the screams went up! The band walks out on stage, Amy comes to the front, smiles, waves, turns her back and suddenly we're into both 'What You Want' and 'Going Under.' "Thank you, Detroit for being here tonight with us," she acknowledges. "It's been a long time since we were here," she continues. New song 'The Other Side' is next and showcases Amy's incredible depth of vocal in the most magnificent way.
Dressed in back, save for gold leggings and a white belt ensemble, Amy prowls the stage like a chained tiger. Rocking back and forth on her heels as high notes are hit, bowing down, her hair covering her face for the deeper ones, her songs are a cluster of riff-heavy gothic metal, nü-metal with a twist of melancholic, and balls out rock!
'Weight Of The World' is followed by a trip to the keyboard for 'The Change,' before she addresses the crowd again. "Hello, how is everyone tonight," she asks, always smiling, always cheerful. As the stage spots from behind the band light up in thin lime green beam strips, 'Made Of Stone' is next, and then the uber impressive 'Lost In Paradise.'
As a piano is brought onto the stage for Amy, heavy back beats then mix sublimely with some beautiful piano work for 'My Heart Is Broken.' Another piano-led song in 'Lithium' follows, and together with the pounding bass and drums the song is a definite highlight of the night. The rock-bounce of 'Sick' is another audience favorite, with slower new track 'Oceans' right behind it.
The always-brilliant 'Sober' has the crowd in a frenzy, especially as it is first brought to us by Amy on the keyboard. Bathed in a bright, demonic red mist, once she hits center stage the whole ambiance of the track is perfect for Halloween! That bleeds (all pun intended!) into the slower 'Imaginary,' before the final track of the set, the mega hit single from the Daredevil soundtrack 'Bring Me To Life' threatens to blow the roof off! But, sadly there are no other mics on stage and so where Ben Moody would have come in, there is either silence or Amy covers for him. It's just not the same and lets down the song, in truth.
After the song, the band simply walk off, leaving Amy thanking Detroit, once again. A few minutes later and they are back with the slow piano track, 'Never Go Back.' Looking beautiful with all the spots revolving in time behind her, the band then join in halfway through. 'Your Star' is next, before Amy introduces the last song of the night. "Thank you. We've just one more song for you tonight. You have been amazing. The best show on the tour so far." And with that she begins her piano intro to the powerful, beautiful piano ballad 'My Immortal.' Then the strobe lights begin to whirl into action, and finally the band back her up for all their worth. "Thank you, Detroit," Amy says at its end, waving, smiling, shaking front row hands, "We hope to see you all again soon."
I agree, Amy for this was a wonderful, solid, Amy Lee Band ... er, sorry, Evanescence show! And one that my fellow bday journo, Dr. Danny Fox, couldn't get enough of either ... inbetween games of iPhone Scrabble and checking the World Series updates, bless him!
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Colosseum at Caesars Windsor, Canada - October 22nd, 2011)
Back in the day, Duran Duran personified new wave for much of the mainstream audience. Their reputation was built through music videos, which accentuated their fashion-model looks and glamorous sense of style. The clever videos also helped Duran Duran's rise to popularity between 1982 and 1984.
Sure their fall from grace was equally fast, but after the group's line-up had fragmented, they eventually pulled off a surprising comeback in the early '90s as a sophisticated soft rock trio. And then, as if suddenly realizing they still had a baying fan base out there, four out of the original band members (sans Andy Taylor) got back together a few years ago and launched a series of harder albums; and lucrative comeback tours!
And so tonight, as the All You Need Is Now Tour 2011 brought the wild boys to Canada, the 5000+ casino crowd were all Tweeting up on the DuranLive screens behind the stage prior to their arrival on stage. And then, come 9.15pm, the house lights went down, the screams went up, and Duran Duran took to the stage.
Lit under a white hot spot only, the still-darkened stage together with billowing dry ice eerily silhouetted Simon LeBon like some form of vampire movie star! But with the applause raised to a new level of expectancy for a cracking, fast-paced classic song to get us in the mood, the boys slid into the slow new track, 'Before The Rain'! Not what anyone expected, and in truth somewhat of a downer to let loose first. Bathed in red, it's a nice enough song, but not what was wanted.
The throbbing bass of John Taylor unleashes one of the true highlights of the night, the always brilliant-to-hear 'Planet Earth,' before the bearded LeBon and company bring us their James Bond song, 'A View To A Kill.' Complete with dancing girls images (ala Bond) on the video screens, LeBon then addresses the audience, "Canada sounds good tonight! It's just amazing to be here. And you're just across the water from America. Well, good evening, Windsor. This is a new song about the one commodity you need all the time." The industrial-sounding 'All You Need Is Now' is then played, before LeBon notes that the following song is for all the shy boys in the audience - 'Girl Panic!' Inclusive of some great percussion drumming from the fiery red head Chastity Ashley, the song is another stand-out on the night.
"How you doing out there," LeBon inquires. "We're gonna play something for the girls now, as that last song was obviously for the boys." They then flow into the beautiful 'Come Undone.' Lit by five lime green spots, and a live video feed of the audience on the screens, it is certainly a sight to behold. Introducing backing singer Anna, we then get the disco-themed 'Safe,' before LeBon jumps into the front row! He then picks on a guy to sing the opening words to one of their songs. Those opening (so-called) words turn out to be 'Nunununah, Nunununah' and lead us into the best energized song of the night, 'The Reflex.'
Complete with a row of their faces high above them that digitally had them singing along to their own song (which was both freaky weird and very cool at the same time), John then asks everyone to clap along to 'The Man Who Stole a Leopard.' A creepy song that comes with its own video news feed of the actual truthful event, LeBon, now jacketless, then introduces another new song; the old school-sounding 'Blame The Machines.' The pounding 'Is There Something I Should Know' is next, featuring a wonderful sax solo, after which John encourages everyone to Tweet during the next song. A weird instrumental, where all but LeBon stay on the stage for four minutes, the audience's Tweets do indeed light up the screens behind the band, as requested.
LeBon then bounces back out, and together with his new shirt brings us their new single, 'Leave A Light On.' Having asked the audience to call their local radio stations and request it; to save him from having to do so, the slow song isn't classic Duran but it's nice enough. He then mentions The President's speech yesterday about bringing all the troops back from Iraq before Christmas, and goes on to dedicate 'Ordinary World' to all those people who have lost people in the conflict.
"John," LeBon asks, "how are we going to get the people up and dancing tonight?" "Whatever we do, it's got to be funky," he replies, as the band then strike up the delicious opening funk-laden chords to 'Notorious.' And they are right as the crowd rises to their collective feet for it. After he introduces the band one by one, the loudest screams of devotion are shown to be for John! After LeBon then leads us into the chant of 'play that f**king bass John' (over and over!), he has a pretty female front row audience member come up on stage and introduce him! Which actually works out well, as she knows what she should say to appease him! "Let's get the BPM's up, Rog,", John suggests to his drummer, before LeBon wonders aloud if anybody is hungry?!
After a rousing, loud and heavy 'Hungry Like The Wolf,' they then bring us an equally energetic, '(Reach Up for The) Sunrise,' before heading off stage at shows end. Coming back just two minutes later, LeBon notes that all the applause makes him feel like he's "noise bathing!" John, now with his own jacket off, then leads us into 'Wild Boys,' which mysteriously (and for my money needlessly) includes a Frankie Goes To Hollywood mid-section break of 'Relax'! Bringing the show to a close with the grand 'Rio,' I can report, hand on heart, that Duran Duran are as good now as they ever were! They musically sound incredibly tight, LeBon's vocals are still on the mark; or close to it, and their stage persona is vibrant, polished, and (still) seemingly effortless.
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Photos by: Roger Lauzon
Caesars Windsor Upcoming Shows
Thunder From Down Under
Straight No Chaser
Jay Leno, and More!
Box Office hours:
Non Show Day...........12pm-8pm
(Sound Board, MCC, Detroit, MI - October 16th, 2011)
For over 30 years, one way or another Richard Marx has consistently made his mark on the music industry. His debut single 'Don't Mean Nothing' and self-titled debut album may well have kicked-started his career as a solo artist back in 1987, but his 14th and latest chart topper, 'Long Hot Summer' (performed by Keith Urban) has given Marx the distinction of having a song he wrote (or co-wrote) top the charts in four different decades!
And so, now out on the road performing different stylings of all his hit singles and more, his first-ever solo acoustic tour made its way to the Sound Board (located inside the Motor City Casino) here in Detroit, MI.
As the 20 string orchestra take their places on stage, Richard Marx slowly walks out. The crowd suddenly burst into life and are up on their feet applauding him. He bows in thanks to them, grabs his acoustic guitar, steps center stage, and what follows is pure, unadulterated musical wonderment for two solid hours.
He first brings us ‘Endless Summer Nights,’ then bowing again to the audience’s applause at its end, goes straight into ‘Take This Heart.’ Done with that classic track, Richard takes a seat on a stool before addressing his fans: “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in your neck of the woods. I’m so excited in doing these songs in a different way. This next song comes from an album that went Double Plywood,” he laughs, as do the audience. “It was the first single from My Own Best Enemy. This is called ‘When You’re Gone’.”
Treating the evening as very much a storytelling mode of opportunity, Richard finishes and says, “I’m gonna sing my favorite songs from my albums tonight. But, we should probably get one of those pussy ballads out of the way!” With that said, and the laughter dying down, Richard goes into ‘One Thing Left,’ which features a beautiful cello solo towards the end. Richard is then joined on stage by his pianist, Steve Hornbeak (a fellow recording artist, producer and songwriter). “So, I’m thinking we should sing a more upbeat song,” he ponders aloud. “A fast song. So, I’m gonna sing a song about a girl who gets murdered!” After a shout from the crowd that it’s a fitting song as we’re in Detroit, he laughs, admits the comment was sadly funny (because he didn‘t say it), and then continues to tell us how it was his wife who made him record the next song we hear, ‘Hazard.’
Backed by some video images for the song, once done the crowd clap the loudest so far this evening. “Is everybody doing alright so far,” he inquires. “I want to bring us all up to date. I just heard my new song on the radio the other day. I was driving and it was sandwiched between Nickelback and Lady Gaga! It’s called ‘When You Loved Me’.” Having played that he moves to the piano, reveals he’s going to play a couple of songs (after telling everyone he couldn’t even actually play the thing!) and that he thinks we’ll all know them - but doesn’t want us to sing along to them! “I write songs for other people. I wrote this one with Linda Thompson.” When nobody mutters anything in the audience, he adds, “She was Elvis’ girlfriend,” to which their gasps suddenly become audible. “I don’t sing like Josh Groban, just so you know,” he adds, before heading into ‘To Where You Are.’ Moving back afterwards to his guitar, Steve back on piano behind him, he continues: “Somebody in this room wrote the number one song currently in America! I won’t say who it is, but his initials are Richard Marx,” he laughs. “There was ‘Better Life,’ ‘Everybody,‘ and now this new song, ‘Long Hot Summer’.”
Unaccompanied by strings this time, the song is country hit pop culture personified and has the audience back up on their feet applauding once again. “I was in the car the other day,” he continues, “and Katy Perry came on. And who doesn’t love these Katy Perry songs. So, this is super poppy, but there’s something about the song and the lyrics. So, I wrote a string arrangement for ‘The One That Got Away’ - I hope you like it.” Funnily enough though, the fact he seemingly can’t keep a straight face going into the opening lyrics is proven when he stumbles (over a tempo issue) and has to begin it all again!
Moving on and we next get a video of his three sons (the Marx Brothers … get it?!) singing and playing drums, bass and guitar to a new rockier pop song of Richard’s called ‘Save Me.’ “My three sons are all really talented. I wrote this next song for an album I’m gonna put out next year. They all played on it and all sang on it. But, we took my vocals out the mix. So I’m gonna sing those live now.” Come the songs end and, once again, the applause levels rise. “I’m gonna skip generations now,” he explains. “This is a song I wrote about my dad.” Richard then talks about his dad, growing up with him as a professional jingle writer (Raisin Bran and Chicken Of The Sea), and then ends with, “He was the coolest, greatest dad ever. I hit the dad lottery. I want to sing this for him.” And so the beautiful, truly heartfelt ‘Through My Veins’ is then brought forth. Bathed in red, the song is emotional to the core and has Richard barely able to look at the image of his dad on the screen come its end. We then get the rockier, poppier ‘The Way She Loves Me,’ a song that has everybody handclapping along. Without strings it is pure acoustic heaven.
“I’m gonna do a new song for you now,” Richard reveals. “I know, people are like 'Oh shit,' but for this one I want you singing along. I know you are now all sitting there wondering how you can sing along to a song you’ve never heard before, but it’s easy, trust me.” He then teaches us two 'Naa-naan-naan Naa-naan-naan' chorus lines and we’re off, following him anywhere his wink leads us throughout ‘Over My Head.’ Steve comes back again to the piano and Richard tells us he’s going to sing a song he wrote for someone else. “I got a phone call and was asked if I could write a song for *NSYNC. I said sure, wrote it, and the next day they said they loved it.” He then goes on to tell us that they flew him to the small recording studio in Florida where he spent three days and three nights recording 'This I Promise You’ with them.
Now seated back on his stool, Richard informs us that he’s “… now gonna do two songs back to back,” before launching quickly into snippets of both ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ and then ‘Poker Face’! Introducing the former as his first number one single, ‘Hold On To The Nights,' the latter as ‘Now And Forever,’ the double shot of acoustic Marx is wonderful. The latter having featured yet another fine cello solo, he talks a bit about audience memberstaking photos. And how he is okay with the fact. That they should definitely do it. And that they should record the show too if they wanted! Or, as Richard himself puts it, “If you got ’em, whip ’em out!”
“I wrote this song when I was 19. About the first girl I ever had,” he laughs, before giving us the last song of the main set, ‘Should’ve Known Better.’ Leaving the stage thereafter following a standing ovation, he is quickly back. “I know how hard it is to be in the business today. So thank you all for coming out and spending whatever money you spent tonight and being with me. I really, really appreciate it.” With that, he picks up his guitar and brings us a wondrous version of ‘Don’t Mean Nothing,’ before sliding gently into the show closer, the always-will-be-known-for pussy ballad, ‘Right Here Waiting.’
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
(Colosseum at Caesars Windsor, Canada - October 15th, 2011)
Canadian stand-up comedian, television host, and actor Howie Mandel is these days better known as either the once-host of the NBC game show Deal or No Deal, or as a judge on NBC's America's Got Talent (having replaced David Hasselhoff in the fifth season).
But, before his career as a game show host, Mandel was best known for his role on the NBC medical drama St. Elsewhere. And, being a voice actor too, he is rather well-known for being the creator and star of the children's cartoon Bobby's World.
And although he hasn’t done much in the way of stand-up recently, unless you count his quick wit when he either judges the acts on AGT or is trying to make co-host Piers Morgan squirm alongside him, I assumed going into tonight’s show that his routine would be funnier than sh*t - absolutely timeless, worth every penny to both young and old. But, I was sadly very, very wrong!
With a recurring clip from a song by Larry Hooper on the Lawrence Welk Show ('Oh Happy Day') having played several times already on the video screens, John Mendoza was the opening act at 9.15pm. Playing for just 20 minutes, normally I have unwarranted distain for warm-ups (I just want to get to the main act), but BY FAR he was 1000% funnier than anything Mandel-inspired to come! I am so happy I caught his act as Mendoza is a class act, a very funny man, and deserves his own Caesars Windsor show.
As he leaves to a huge round of applause, Howie literally skip-bounces onto the stage to a louder one - the loudest he received all night, in truth. Expecting a completely original routine, perhaps with bouts of his classic stand-up thrown in for good measure, Howie began the night talking about his elevator finger-smelling countermeasure, before doing his usual thing of picking on the security stage front.
One of them, an older man named Frank was his target the entire hour, but being older didn't have the comeback's that Howie was looking to feed off. And yet, Howie kept on and one and on with Frank throughout the show, trying desperately to throw the man a comedic bone. It never quite worked. After making us aware he was from Toronto, ON, Howie then wondered if hair can grow on the butt, and so asked if there was a doctor in the house. All he got, for extended periods of time to chat to was an eye doctor and a Nurse from a nursing home!
The toilet humor soon kicked in with discussions on anal exams and how after one 'real life' proctology exam, after acting up with his own doctor he is now banned for life from his surgery! He then riffs on shopping with his wife, hedgehogs, and even has a chat with various audience members about parrots as household pets. Frank comes back from a break - from sitting stage front to sitting for 20 mins in the break room - so Howie wonders aloud how one can have a break from sitting for a job, to sitting on break!
He than talks about women's clothing, the size '0' dresses, and Shrugs - and how useless they are! Sometimes he does manage to tell a humorous story, sure, but there are no tears of laughter streaming down the faces of the audience. Indeed, for the most part there are huge patches of silence coupled with awkward I-think-I-should-laugh-now snuffles. His interaction with the audience is dicey at best as he cannot hear what they say/shout each time, and so we all have to sit back and watch the clock tick down whilst he and they have a shouting match!
Howie then admits that he has found a way to make every joke funnier re: his 'Ta Da' moment (see photo to right!), and then breaks into Bobby for sixty seconds. But then he actually reveals things that, by the gasping sounds of it, not many knew in the 5000 strong crowd: that he was not only the voice of the Muppet baby Skeeter, but that of Gizmo from the film Gremlins! Then he reveals that they were basically all the same voice, before going into a helium-voice skit that should have been so much better.
Howie then reveals that Allen Funt, creator and original host of the landmark television series Candid Camera, was his original inspiration for comedy. Then he introduces an 'undercover' camera stunt filmed at a Supercuts where he (Howie) was undercover as a hair washer in back - and a bad, chaotic, and yet crazy funny he was too! Now THIS was quite easily the funniest bit of the night!
Not afraid to pull punches, or showcase a sometimes sharp wit and speedy comeback, it's the fact (I think) that he overly tries to convince people he’s insane that weighs him down. ADHD, sure, and his admitted Mysophobia aside, I can see that. But a fine line is drawn throughout this entire show that borders on pockets of revelation. And as if more proof was needed, after the video was played, Howie comes back out to more applause, holds up his iPad for an audience group photo, and then tells us all to f**k off and go home!!
Further explaining that he ran out of material long before the Supercuts video even played, Howie then reiterates that he's not joking, that's it for the night ... and then walks off stage glued to his iPad!
Cue house lights ... and bemused audience faces aplenty!
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Photos by: Paul Medved
Caesars Windsor Upcoming Shows
Thunder From Down Under
Straight No Chaser
Jay Leno, and More!
Box Office hours:
Non Show Day...........12pm-8pm
(Fillmore Theater, Detroit, MI - October 6th, 2011)
In 2010, lead singer Gavin Rossdale put Bush back together and on the back of that this year they released their fifth studio album, The Sea of Memories - through Rossdale's very own Zuma Rock Records.
With a line-up these days featuring founding members Gavin Rossdale (vocals, guitar) and Robin Goodridge (drums) they are joined by Chris Traynor (guitar) and Corey Britz (bass) (Long-time member Nigel Pulsford took his leave shortly before the band's hiatus).
Now touring on the back of that new album for the first time in over ten long years, after both Filter and Chevelle had warmed up the packed house, at 10pm the lights went down, the screams went up, and Bush sauntered onto stage.
Crashing straight into 'Little Things,' it's quickly apparent that Rossdale has lost none of his deep vocal growl as he is straight into its depths. Bathed by only dark color spots, Bush then bring us 'I Believe In You' before the first song to truly excite the crowd, 'The Chemicals Between Us.' Blanketed in a green lit haze, Bush pound the song out.
Continuing on, never a word spoken by any band member, next we get the hard 'Greedy Fly, before finally Rossdale addresses the crowd, "Thank you, good evening," he says, peering out into the darkness. "How are you all doing? What an unbelievable crowd. Unbelievable. Detroit rules. Thank you so much for coming out tonight. This next song is the first song from our new album. This is 'Sound of Winter'."
They follow that so-so track with a blistering extended version of 'Everything Zen,' which not only includes a mid-section break of 'Once In A Lifetime' (Talking Heads), but allows Rossdale to step into the photo pit to get closer to the front row! "Detroit, it feels like here is where it all began for us," Rossdale admits, "so this show feels like a homecoming for us." Bathed in a deep, rich red light, 'All My Life' is next, with the frantic 'The People That We Love' following. And with Rossdale sans guitar, the girls scream as he lets his hair down (literally!) and starts to sing whilst in the pit, head deep in the adoring front row's arms, once again.
Another new track in the form of 'The Heart Of The Matter' is next and is memorable more for the small lime green spots that illuminate Rossdale from behind. Very picturesque. 'All Night Doctors' is introduced as "something different," and it sure is as it is a slow album-track-filler that story tells sweetly. After thanking the crowd for singing along to even the new songs, we're back on track again shortly after with the highly impressive rock-out of 'Swallowed.'
New track 'The Afterlife' is next and it's highly extended mid-section means that Rossdale can spread his legs and run around the venue! Mic in hand, singing every step of the way, never dropping a lyric or note, he mingles with the crowd all around the venue - top to bottom, save the balcony! For a solid eight minutes he does this, nobody doing anything silly to him, he never gets angry - just sings, sweats, and smiles the whole time.
The show is brought to a close with a powerful, loudly-sung-along-to 'Machinehead,' and even after all that running around Rossdale is hardly out of breath. He and the band show great energy from start to finish and are a credit to the music industry. "Unbelievable,", he says as the song ends, "Just unbelievable. Thank you," and then they leave the stage.
Coming back some five minutes later the first of the trio of encore songs is a break-neck version of The Beatles' 'Come Together.' With the guitars wailing, the drummer keeping the backbone solid, Rossdale clings to his mic like it would shatter if he dropped it! "Thank you all so much for coming out tonight," he says, "Wicked."
Then Rossdale takes center stage alone for 'Glycerine,' which brings the energy levels of the crowd down, but the lighters go up, lighting the darkened venue. Lit by those small lime green spots from behind again, the imagery is stunning of Rossdale and his guitar. Ending powerfully as a band, they then launch into 'Comedown, before finally calling it quits on an unbelievable night of rock music at its alternative finest.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
Roger Daltrey Performs 'Tommy' ... and More!
(Colosseum at Caesars Windsor, Canada - October 1st, 2011)
Tonight was always going to be a musical oddity. One of which I was very excited to be a part of. The billing was simply Roger Daltrey Plays 'Tommy’, suggesting that he would perform The Who’s landmark rock opera from 1969. Albeit without the band’s only other surviving member, Pete Townshend, their guitarist and author of this complex and much-debated work.
'Tommy' was the fourth album by The Who. A double album telling a (rather) loose story about a "deaf, dumb and blind boy" who becomes the leader of a messianic movement, 'Tommy' is to this day still billed (albeit overtly) as one of the very first rock operas.
And so tonight, here at the Colosseum at Caesars Windsor in Canada, Whooligans young and old filled the 5,000 seat auditorium. All brimming over with intense anticipation for the show and what they would behold, come 9.30pm, the lights went down and for the next two and a half hours Daltrey held us all captivated.
The stage dark, save for a white spot above Daltrey now center stage behind his mic, arms raised, the two minute 'Tommy Intro' is brought forth. Smothered in a rich, dazzling blue stage light, he and his band - Frank Simes (guitar), Scott Deavours (drums), Jon Button (Bass), Loren Gold (Keyboards) and, also on guitar, Simon (younger brother of Pete) Townshend - then lurch into 'Overture.' Now covered in a deep red light, Daltrey bangs his tambourines, all singing thus far covered by Simon Townshend. And boy, does he sound like his older brother!
After a guitar and tambourine jam/huddle center stage, 'It's A Boy' is next, and yet still no Daltrey vocals have come forth. But come '1921' he finally steps to the mic and we hear his vocal tones for the first time tonight. Already sounding rough, throaty, it's actually when he informs us all some two hours later that due to his vocal chords having had surgery on them recently that his throat is delicate these days, that I forgive him right there and then!
Moving on and after a slow lead in the clanging riff to the five minute 'Amazing Journey' allows Daltrey to give us his first mic leash swing performance of the night. As always, he never fails to land said mic in his left hand, never allowing it to hit the floor. His hoarse vocals continue, but it's more noticeable that none of the audience - save for one or two drinking souls - are on their feet. Sure 'Tommy' is not always an explosive, fast-paced concept, but gazing around me it is a very sedate viewing scene.
Behind the band a video screen constantly plays computer generated digital images to flow alongside each song. 'Sparks,' 'Eyesight To The Blind,' and 'Christmas' are all next, before the recurrent “see me, feel me” melodic strand is followed by the storytelling of 'Cousin Kevin.' Townshend then attempts to sing Tina Turner's lead in 'The Acid Queen,' but it has to be said it just doesn't work. He gives it all he's got though, but it just lacks everything that the song was vocally about. 'Do You Think It's Alright?' is next before the erratic 'Fiddle About' allows Daltrey to dig deep into his vocal depths.
The intro to 'Pinball Wizard' gets rousing applause and Daltrey does not let us down. He gives us his best high notes, growls through the chorus, and brings the juggernaut of a song home safely. The quick 'There's A Doctor' is next, before 'Go To The Mirror' and the uber-fun, bouncy, 'Tommy, Can You Hear Me?'. 'Smash The Mirror' is then followed by 'Sensation,' which allows pure, unadulterated Daltrey to ooze through its every musical pore. But, at this juncture of the night, it's obvious his voice is shot.
Standing with a humidifier directly beneath him, pumping moist air up into his face at all times throughout the show, Daltrey knows he has to carry on regardless. As if stiffening his back, let alone his resolve, he brings us a powerhouse 'I'm Free.' Backed by his rock solid tight band, the song is a definite highlight of the show. Interlude track 'Miracle Cure' is next, before the totally brilliant 'Sally Simpson' tells us a five minute story. Complete with South Park-ish video to back it, the Townshend-sung song is spot on perfect.
'Welcome's operatic vibe is then followed by a trip to Tommyville in 'Tommy's Holiday Camp,' before 'We're Not Gonna Take It' bleeds into the glorious "listening to you" finale. After a standing ovation, Daltrey speaks for the very first time to everyone gathered: "Thank you. Thank you so much. Did you enjoy that? I love doing it every night." He then introduces the band, before telling us that he now feels like playing a half hour of Johnny Cash songs!
But, for the time being, his mind is still on The Who. "I'm now gonna play some Who songs in ways I haven't for many years," he explains. "I'm gonna do them my way. Just larkin' about," he adds before the band strike up 'I Can See For Miles' and then a wonderful 'The Kids Are Alright.' With everyone now up on their feet, the best song of this set comes next in a stunning 'Behind Blue Eyes.' Bathed in blue, of course, he closes the song with a drink in hand. Explaining that it wasn't water, he opts to sing what he calls some "survival" music. "I wrote this song about my days working at a factory. When all you had to look forward to was Friday. When I used to get suited and booted and then went out with the band." The song that follows is the wonderful, gritty 'Days of Light.'
The Townshend-sung 'Going Mobile' is a crackin' track to hear live, and is followed by Daltrey explaining that the next song, the bluesy, Celtic-inspired 'Freedom Ride' was the type of song that all modern music came from. However, immediately following the song Daltrey becomes stern with the audience. He tells them he can smell cigarette smoke and 'funny stuff,' before revealing his throat operations and such. He asks whoever it is to put it out, because if it gets into his throat it will "shut me down in two minutes." Then, as he gently strums his guitar, he mutters "Bollocks to you all," but adds a sly smile too!
The near-seven minute 'Who Are You' is next (can't help thinking of CSI every time I hear this song now!), before Daltrey explains his love for Johnny Cash's music growing up, and how it inspired him as a musician. He then brings us a long Johnny Cash medley, which allows him to keep his vocals at a grumbled hush; very Cash-reminiscent, in truth. After that comes a rockin' 'Young Man Blues,' which in turn is backed by another CSI-themed track, the always-incredible 'Baba O'Riley.'
He then thanks everyone for staying with him his entire career, that he couldn't have done it without them, and reveals that the slow-paced 'Without Your Love' is dedicated to each and every one of them/us. He then tells us about the first time The Who came to Detroit to play, which the audience helped remind him was actually Southfield, and wished all the workers looking for jobs all the best. Admitting, now with ukulele in hand, solo on stage save for a bass, that this was going to be "a weird way to end the show," he gives us a beautiful, truly beautiful 'Red Blue And Grey.'
As the song ends, some of the band members come back out on stage for one more bow, and Daltrey speaks to the audience one last time. "Thank you for coming. It's been great to play for you. And I hope things pick up for you all soon." And then, in one final nod to the fact he had just played to a casino crowd, he adds, "And, be very, VERY lucky tonight!"
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Photos by: Paul Medved, Caesars Windsor.
Caesars Windsor Upcoming Shows
The Moody Blues
Barry Manilow ... and More!
Box Office hours:
Non Show Day...........12pm-8pm
(Colosseum at Caesars Windsor, Canada - September 9th, 2011)
Being British, I've been a long time fan of Blondie. The rock band, founded by singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein were pioneers in the early American New Wave and punk scenes of the mid-1970s. Their music infiltrated England from the very beginning, their first four albums - Blondie, Plastic Letters, Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat - all beloved and adored over there; and all very successful.
Sadly, I never saw them in their heyday and just as I got old enough to consider traveling to see them live around the country, Blondie broke up after the release of their sixth studio album, The Hunter in 1982.
The band than reformed in 1997, achieving renewed success (even a #1 single in the UK with 'Maria' in 1999), and has toured and performed throughout the world during the following years. They even got themselves inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
And so, here in the 5,000 seater Colosseum at Caesars Windsor, Ontario Canada, Blondie's Panic of Girls tour has come to entertain - and I was very excited. Admittedly, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I am mates with drummer Clem Burke (freshly a PhD), but I promised him that this review would reflect my true, honest journalistic viewpoint of the show. Which, for better or for worse, it most certainly does!
Conservatively taking the stage at 9.10pm, the three original remaining band members (Harry, Stein and Burke) combine forces with guitarist Tommy Kessler, bassist Leigh Foxx, and Matt Katz-Bohen on keyboards and are quickly into their musical groove with 'Union City Blue.' With all eyes, and ears on Harry - herself dressed like a reticent Cyndi Lauper - it is instantly noticeable that she seems to be going through the motions of the song. Thankfully she then gives us a more spirited 'Dreaming.' Bathed in yellow lights, the crowd applaud the classic song.
Musically, one of the best moments of the show comes when a spirited drum solo connects with some wailing guitar and suddenly, rather like an old school 12" remix, 'Atomic' is brought forth. With the band set up in the middle of a huge, otherwise empty stage, Harry then proceeds to wander into the unlit wilderness of stage right. Sadly though, as she begins to sing, her vocal strains show weary depreciation. Couple that with the aforementioned impassive approach, in general, and we most certainly weren't off to the musical races.
"This is a big night for us as we haven't been here for a while," Debbie announces. "We are celebrating the release of our recent album, the Panic of Girls. But, we won't panic! We're gonna start out with 'D-Day'." A new song, it was instantly noticeable that Harry summons more depth of spirit for these tracks.
'Call Me,' coupled with an audience sway and en mass clapping of hands is next, but it's certainly not vocally close to what it used to be. "You look good tonight," Debbie informs the audience, as she sips from a white china mug. "We traditionally do this next song for the girls. Or all those that think they are girls," she laughs, before going into 'Maria.' A song of their latter years that I've always loved, under these purple and blue spot lights, and some nice vocal control, the song was proved to be a nice highlight.
New track 'Girlie Girlie' is next. A reggae, island-flavored number (originally sung by Sophia George) it changes the tone of the show completely. Noticeably though, Debbie has to unsubtly refer to the teleprompter between her speakers for a large amount of the lyrics. Which isn't surprising as that portion of the song must include the name of every single country in the world! 'What I Heard' has a great, pounding flow to it and actually sounds like it could be an old school Blondie track.
Debbie then takes the time to introduce the band. Starting with Chris Stein she also shares the fact that he is known as 'McNasty,' before revealing that Clem Burke had just been certified as a Doctor. And that he was available to do any medical thing that we wanted tonight! The could-do-without 'China Shoes' is next. With the opening lines sung by a Chinese-sounding Harry - which thankfully didn't last - at least it gave the audience a chance to visit the bathrooms.
The Latin influenced, flamenco fast-fun number 'Wipe off My Sweat' may have a questionable title, but man does it shake things up! Just perfectly placed in the set, the song has everyone up and hip shakin'. Bathed in Devil red lighting it was a true highlight of the set. And with Debbie (finally) removing her flimsy white tutu-ish clip-on skirt, now dressed solely in a black top, black leggings with a cool buckle belt for image, at long last this was the Debbie Harry image that everyone had come to see behind a mic.
"Alright, you guys, here we go," she shouts as the crowd get off their seats and rush the stage for a standing-only viewpoint. And it was perfect timing as new track 'Horizontal Twist' was unleashed next. Complete, obviously with massive amounts of actual Twist moments, it was yet another flashback sound to their heyday. 'Mother,' which refers to a club in Manhattan that Debbie used to frequent is next, but it's a set filler; and one that Dr. Burke works hard to keep a decent live track.
A solid drum solo combined with a guitar swagger suddenly get joined by some keyboard-supplied chimes that all lead into the always-beloved 'Rapture' - which itself then bleeds straight into the Beastie Boys' '(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right.' Sadly, the former contained the weakest vocal performance of the night from Harry, but at least there was no teleprompter required for the infamous rap chorus. But the latter turned out to be a wicked extended rock version and a lot of fun to listen to.
And as the fist-pumpin' crowd dies down, Blondie give us the last song of the set, 'One Way Or Another.' Amazingly, and out of nowhere, Harry's deep vocal power is riding high now and she sounds great throughout the song! A true classic song from a truly in-her-prime-sounding singer, this was indeed a very cool way to close the show.
Of course, an encore was inevitable and as the band returns just some three minutes later, Harry (complete with china mug) addresses the audience. "Are you all having fun so far?" After a generous response from her fans they bring us 'Love Doesn't Frighten Me.' A rather catchy pop song for sure, but as it ends and a telephone rings in the background, it's the fan-cherished 'Hanging On The Telephone' that gets us all to our feet. As the fourth ring kicks in, Debbie 'answers it' - "Hello, is this Caesars Windsor. This is Blondie calling." And then we're headlong into it, but by now Harry's vocals are cracking, her actual fortitude of vocalized effectiveness ripped away.
The final song of the night, the highly-anticipated 'Heart of Glass' does, however, give everyone a glimpse of Blondie as they once where. Everyone, and I mean everyone are up on their feet, the stage lights spinning colorfully out of control, the band rockin' it out. And an arm-swaying Harry is trying to give it all that she has left in the tank. With an extended ending, one that included a really instrument-powered finale, the song is done. And as the band walk off waving, Harry's final words ring in our ears, "Thank you so much, everybody. Have a wonderful weekend."
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Photos by: Roger Lauzon
Caesars Windsor Upcoming Shows
The Moody Blues
Roger Daltrey, and More!
Box Office hours:
Non Show Day...........12pm-8pm