Fantastic Negrito: 10/16/2016

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I discovered Fantastic Negrito while listening to a Studio 360 podcast while driving. I was so blown away by his story and the power of his music, I immediately downloaded his album, The Last Days of Oakland. Every song was amazing and he catapulted to the top of my favorite-new-artist list. So when my friend Bill told me he was coming to Asheville to perform, I immediately went out and purchased tickets.

Fantastic Negrito (real name Xavier Dphrepaulezz) has an amazing story, one worth reading about. My friend Bill interviewed Negrito and published the story in the Mountain XPress (click here to read article). I encourage you to check it out.

Negrito played at the Asheville Music Hall, an intimate venue that allowed me to get close to the stage. I went with my friend Greg, and we met Bill and his wife Audrey there, so it was great hanging out with close friends.

Often times, when you have high expectations about a musical act, they can fail to meet those expectations. But that was not the case with Fantastic Negrito. His band was tight, energetic, and inspiring on so many levels. After the performance, all I wanted to do was create and express myself artistically.

In an effort to support him, I decided to purchase a vinyl copy of his album, even though I had the digital version through Apple Music. Xavier came out afterwards and mingled with the audience, graciously giving autographs and talking with fans. I got him to sign my album and let him know how inspiring he was. If you get an opportunity to see him, I strongly encourage you to do so.

To close, I want to mention that Fantastic Negrito was the overall winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. Click here to see that performance, and be inspired!

Brian Wilson: 8/18/2016

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The Beach Boys were responsible for the soundtrack to some of my more memorable summers growing up. We would have pool parties at this girl Wendy’s house and play spin the bottle and truth or dare while the Beach Boys constantly crooned through the stereo. And while I had seen the Beach Boys twice before this show, neither time had Brian Wilson, so this concert was a real treat and more than just a trip down memory lane.

This tour marked the 50th anniversary of the release of the album Pet Sounds, which is an amazing work of art. For the tour, Wilson also recruited two other Beach Boys: Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin. In addition, nine other musicians shared the stage, bringing the total to twelve that I was able to count. One of them, Al Jardine’s son, was an incredible vocalist and soared on all the high harmony parts.

I went with my wife and we had decent seats in the balcony to the left of the stage, so we could see quite well. The sound was balanced and clear, and the band was very tight. They started promptly around 8:00, no opening act, and played a nice set that included standard surf and car songs (California Girls, Surfer Girl, Shut Down, etc.). Then they took a break before coming back to play Pet Sounds in its entirety.

Before playing “God Only Knows” (one of my favorite Beach Boys’ songs), Brian told the audience that it was the best song he’d ever written. Almost brought a tear to my eye, because it was always a moving song, but knowing that the artist must have poured his soul into it makes it all the more special.

After Pet Sounds, the band played a nice long encore of about six songs, including “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Fun Fun Fun,” and “Surfin’ USA.” By the time they took their final bow together, I was so moved and musically satisfied, I could not think of a single other song I would have wanted to hear.

I think that the most inspiring part of the concert was the fact that Brian Wilson, despite his personal issues, was able to get on stage and perform, and that his friends who joined him were totally supportive of him. You could sense it. Brian had his moments, where he sat at the piano and looked around, or obsessively checked his watch over and over and over, but no one minded and he was still able to pour out his emotion through the music. It affirmed what I have always known, that music has the power to heal and inspire.

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I’d be without you

Elton John and Leon Russell: 11/16/2010

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This was a real hard ticket to get. This show sold out at lightning speed and I almost was unable to get tickets (since our good friends at TicketMaster were not releasing all the tickets at once). Anyway, after getting a message that tickets were gone, my friend told me to try again, and like magic, tickets were available. I got tickets for my wife and two daughters.

I had seen Elton before, but this was my first time seeing Leon Russell, so I was pretty psyched.

Our seats were behind the stage, but that actually turned out to be a good thing. Both musicians had their pianos facing toward the center of the stage, so we had a great profile view of Elton and Leon was almost looking right at us. And we were close, which was nice.

Leon opened the show and played several songs of his own. Then Elton came out and kicked his set off with “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” which was the perfect opener, in my humble opinion.

Elton played a long set, during which Leon came out and the two performed together, playing songs from their collaborative album, “The Union.”

I really enjoyed taking my kids to this show. They both loved it and were thrilled to be seeing two rock and roll legends. There’s nothing like passing down a love of music to your children.

Here are the setlists from the show.

Leon’s Set

  1. Tight Rope
  2. Prince of Peace / Out in the Woods
  3. A Song for You
  4. Delta Lady
  5. Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms / Stranger in a Strange Land

Elton’s Set

  1. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
  2. Philadelphia Freedom
  3. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  4. Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
  5. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
  6. Bennie and the Jets
  7. I’m Still Standing
  8. If It Wasn’t for Bad
  9. Hey Ahab
  10. Gone to Shiloh
  11. Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream
  12. Monkey Suit
  13. The Best Part of the Day
  14. A Dream Come True
  15. When Love is Dying
  16. Hearts Have Turned to Stone
  17. Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)
  18. In The Hands of Angels
  19. Burn Down the Mission
  20. Levon
  21. Tiny Dancer
  22. I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
  23. Daniel
  24. Candle in the Wind
  25. Take Me to the Pilot
  26. Sad Songs (Say So Much)
  27. The Bitch Is Back
  28. (encore) Your Song

The Police with The Fixx and Eric Burdon and the Animals: 10/28/1983

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As the ticket stub shows, this concert was originally supposed to be at the Miami Baseball Stadium. But because of the huge demand for tickets, the concert was moved to the Orange Bowl, a much larger venue. Even in the big stadium, it was a packed mob scene.

I went with my girlfriend at the time and my brother Mike. We got there plenty early, since it was general admission and I wanted to see The Animals, who were opening the show. The Animals were great and Eric Burdon’s voice was strong. The only downer song was “House of the Rising Sun.” They kind of changed the arrangement around and it felt like they were playing it half-assed. I felt like, really? I’m sure you are getting tired of the song, but if you are going to play it, at least put some energy into it and realize that it is such an iconic song that futzing with the arrangement  is akin to Led Zeppelin playing a reggae version of “Stairway to Heaven.”

The Fixx played next, and they were cool. They had some hits at the time: “Saved By Zero” and “One Thing Leads to Another.” They definitely had a good energy and light show. Plus, their style fit in well with The Police.

So I have to say that The Police were way better live than I expected. They always seemed more like a studio band than a good live act. But I was pleasantly surprised. They were really high-energy and sounded great, even in an acoustic hell hole like the Orange Bowl. My big complaint, though, was the overcrowding. It was really uncomfortable to be mashed among so many people sweating in the South Florida heat for the entire day. But other than that—good times!

Here is the Police’s setlist, courtesy of setlist.fm:

  1. Voices Inside My Head
  2. Synchronicity I
  3. Synchronicity II
  4. Walking in Your Footsteps
  5. Message in a Bottle
  6. Walking on the Moon
  7. My God
  8. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
  9. Wrapped Around Your Finger
  10. Tea in the Sahara
  11. Hole in My Life
  12. Spirits in the Material World
  13. Invisible Sun
  14. One World (Not Three)
  15. King of Pain
  16. Don’t Stand So Close to Me
  17. Every Breath You Take
  18. Murder by Numbers
  19. Roxanne
  20. (encore) Can’t Stand Losing You / Reggatta de Blanc
  21. (encore) So Lonely

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: 6/14/2008

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The Rolling Stones may be the greatest rock and roll band, but Led Zeppelin embodies the mythos of rock and Robert Plant is the archetype of the rock god. So when Robert Plant booked a show in lil ol’ Asheville with Alison Krauss, I had to grab a ticket, even though I had seen Plant multiple times before. The two had recently collaborated on an album, “Raising Sand.” Then I discovered that T Bone Burnett was also part of their band, and I was really psyched. I knew this was going to be a special show.

I went with my wife and we had decent seats about halfway back on the side. The Civic Center is far from acoustically perfect, but it really didn’t matter, they still sounded incredible.

Plant and Krauss each sang some songs separately and many together. I was really impressed by how well they harmonized. Many rock singers suffer from voice damage in later years, but Plant still sounded great. He performed three Zeppelin tunes: Black Dog, Black Country Woman, and Battle of Evermore. I can honestly say that the performance of “The Battle of Evermore” was one of my most memorable moments of live music performances ever. I managed to find a YouTube recording of the performance. The quality of the video is not the greatest, but it at least gives a sense of how magical the performance was.

The Battle of Evermore – Asheville Civic Center

Overall, it was a wonderful date night with my wife. I’m fortunate to be married to someone who loves live music as much as I do.

For those of you who are interested, here is the complete setlist from the concert.


Setlist:

  • Rich Woman
  • Leave My Woman Alone
  • Black Dog
  • Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us
  • Through the Morning, Through the Night
  • It’s Goodbye and So Long to You
  • Fortune Teller
  • Black Country Woman
  • In the Mood
  • Bon Temps Rouler
  • Shut it Tight
  • Trampled Rose
  • Green Pastures
  • Down to the River to Pray
  • Killing the Blues
  • Nothin’
  • The Battle of Evermore
  • Please Read the Letter
  • Gone Gone Gone

Encore

  • Don’t Knock
  • (I’m a) One Woman Man
  • Your Long Journey

Death Cab For Cutie: 6/11/2016

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This concert almost didn’t happen. After the NC government passed HB2 which discriminates against transgender persons, the band considered joining the ranks of other artists who are boycotting the state. But instead, they decided to turn the concert into a benefit show, giving the proceeds to two groups: Southerners on New Ground and The Freedom Center for Social Justice. I applaud the band’s decision.

I went to the show with my wife and daughter, which was really nice. Going to a concert with the ones you love is really bonding and makes the concert all the more special.

We arrived a little late and the opening act, Pure Bathing Culture, was already playing. We got to see most of their set, though. They were pretty good. They had the mellow alternative sound going on, sort of like The Cranberries or 10,000 Maniacs. While I’m not rushing out to buy their album, they were enjoyable as an opener.

Before Death Cab came out, Ben Gibbard, the lead singer, came out and talked to the crowd, explaining why they are “not not here.” He said they decided to not follow their contemporaries and instead make it a benefit show. He brought members of the action groups on stage and introduced them, and the groups pledged to work hard to overturn this heinous law.

Shortly afterwards, the lights went down and the music started. Wow! They were awesome! I liked their studio music, but I have to say, Death Cab For Cutie is one of those bands that are better live than on record. The sound was impeccable. Perfectly balanced and just the right volume. They played about two hours and there were no weak spots. It was all great.

DCFC
Photo I took from the concert.

I hope other artists follow suit and book benefit shows to help overturn HB2. It’s important to know that North Carolina is home to a lot of progressive and open-minded people. It saddens me that a small group of individuals in positions of political power are able to pass legislation that discriminates against people in this state. Anyway, for those of you interested in getting involved, here are the links to the organizations that Death Cab are supporting.

southernersonnewground.org

www.fcsj.org

Grandmothers of Invention: 8/11/2012

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This was a really cool show, featuring members of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. I had seen Zappa many years ago, and he was great, but as my musical tastes developed and expanded, my appreciation for his music grew.

For those of you who have never been to Asheville, the Grey Eagle is a small venue, basically a bar which also serves some food. But the vibe there is great. So needless to say, I had seats quite close to the stage with my friends Bill and Robert.

Musically, this band was incredible. Napoleon Murphy Brock was brilliant as the front man, chatting up the crowd, making jokes, dancing up a storm, and directing the music. They had a young guitarist who looked a lot like Frank and he was scary good on the guitar. But for me, it was Don Preston on the keyboards who stole the show. He was getting ready to turn 80 and he looked and sounded great. Not only was he all over the keyboards, playing incredibly intricate music, but he also performed magic tricks on stage, much to the delight of the audience. And if that wasn’t enough, he took out hi iPhone, opened a synthesizer app, and played a killer solo on his phone. It was impressive… most impressive.

The band returned to the Grey Eagle again the following year, and I went to see them again, convincing my brother (a long-time Zappa fan) to drive out to Asheville for the show. But that’s another stub and another story.

Here’s a video clip that my friend Robert took.

Marilyn Manson and Hole: 3/30/1999

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So, this stub is misleading. Hole never played at this show. They were scheduled to, but Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson got into some pissing match and Hole backed out of the tour, which was a bummer because I actually wanted to see them more than I wanted to see Manson. But, I figured I would go and check out the show anyway.

I went with my friends Erin and Jim. We showed up a little late and missed Jack Off Jill, the opening act. It didn’t bother me since I had seen them open for the Genitorturers. So the first band we saw this night was Monster Magnet. In my opinion, there was nothing magnetic about these dudes. I was wholly unimpressed. I cannot tell you a single thing about them other than we sat in our seats the entire time.

After they were finished, we made our way down to the open floor for Marilyn, but not too close to the stage. I was already way too old to get sucked into a pit with crazed teenagers. And I was glad I didn’t. After the music started, people were coming past us leaving the pit, literally dripping with blood. This kind of freaked me out. Not that I cared if people chose to mess themselves up; I just didn’t want anyone bleeding on me. So after a little while, we went back to seats in the stands.

So my overall thoughts on Marilyn Manson? Meh. He was OK, but not great. I found I liked him better on recordings or in interviews than on stage. Maybe I was expecting something more outrageous. The “wildest” thing he did was pull down his pants and moon the audience, and frankly, his skinny white ass did nothing for me.

Thankfully, I got an opportunity to see Hole later on, but that’s another stub and another story.

Rock on!

Barack the Vote: 4/17/2008 (w Arrested Development; and Abigail Washburn, Ben Sollee, and Bela Fleck)

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One of the cool things about living in Asheville is that it boasts a truly eclectic music scene. That is evidenced by the mix of music at this fundraiser concert for Barack Obama. We had hip hop combined with acoustic music that included the great Bela Fleck on banjo. Those two styles are about as far apart on the spectrum as they come, but somehow, it all seemed to fit together well.

There was a diverse group of people at this show, individuals of all ages, races, and orientations. And for me, that was the coolest thing about this concert. I remember everybody dancing together, a total blending of individuals. It made me feel really happy to live in this community.

I don’t have much more to share about this concert. Honestly, I was mainly focused on the social aspects, and really, that is one of the great things about live music. It is a social experience.

B.B. King: 1/14/2012

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I feel pretty fortunate that in my life I have seen many great blues artists, and I am really glad I managed to see B.B. King before he passed away in 2015.

I got to see him at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, and although he was showing his age physically, he was still magic on stage. He did not play for a very long time, but it was the quality and not the quantity of the music that stands out for me.

I could try to expound on how influential he was, and how talented he was, but I would only be rehashing what everyone already knows. So instead, I will let the music do the talking. Here is a great video clip that my friend Robert took from this concert. Thanks B.B. for all your great music, and the thrill lives on.