Wilco: 4/21/2009

The first time I heard Wilco was when someone turned me on to their collaboration with Billy Bragg, which is an amazing album (check it out if you are not familiar). After that, I began to explore more of Wilco’s music and gained a deep appreciation for them. Since I had not seen them before, my wife and I jumped at the opportunity to see them at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, an intimate venue.

There really isn’t a whole lot to talk about with this show. Wilco was amazing, and I had a wonderful evening with my wife. Sometimes just enjoying live music with someone you love is all you need.

Here’s the setlist.

Setlist:

  • Sunken Treasure
  • Remember the Mountain Bed
  • You Are My Face
  • I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
  • Pot Kettle Black
  • Handshake Drugs
  • She’s a Jar
  • Impossible Germany
  • At My Window Sad and Lonely
  • Forget the Flowers
  • Jesus, Etc.
  • I’m Always in Love
  • A Shot in the Arm
  • Box Full of Letters
  • Heavy Metal Drummer
  • Hummingbird (with Lilac Rain – vocals)

Encore:

  • The Late Greats
  • Candyfloss
  • Hate It Here
  • Walken
  • I’m the Man Who Loves You

Encore 2:

  • Misunderstood
  • Hoodoo Voodoo
  • I’m a Wheel

Progressive Nation Tour – featuring Dream Theater and Zappa Plays Zappa: 7/29/2009

This was a pretty cool show. As a guitarist, getting to see John Petrucci and Dweezil Zappa on the same night was inspiring.

I went with my friend and bandmate, Bill (who is a keyboardist/vocalist). We got to the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium early enough to catch the first of the four acts, a band called Scale the Summit. I was unable to determine whether they were good or not, because they were so loud and distorted, I could not make out any of the music. Now I’m not one to shy away from some loud rock and roll, but these dudes were just painful. We ended up hanging out in the lobby until they were done.

Next up was a band called Bigelf. Neither of us had heard of them before, but we were both impressed. Not only did they sound great, but they had amazing stage presence. I highly recommend checking these guys out if you have not heard them.

After Bigelf, Zappa Plays Zappa took the stage, and they were incredible. Dweezil is really able to pull off his dad’s intricate and complex music, and make it look effortless. Additionally, he had a large screen behind the stage, and during several songs, they had video and audio of Frank performing and the band accompanied the virtual performance. It was very cool, and a nice nod to his dad’s genius.

Topping off the evening was Dream Theater. I was enjoying them, but the grimace on my friend’s face let me know he did not find them as interesting as I did. While he conceded that Petrucci is a “frighteningly good guitarist,” he said the singer was too screamo and he found that irritating. A fair critique. I was not impressed by the singer, but I was not bothered either.

Anyway, here are the setlists from all except the opening act. Rock on!

Dream Theater Setlist:

  • A Nightmare to Remember
  • Constant Motion
  • Beyond This Life
  • Hollow Years
  • Keyboard Solo
  • Erotomania
  • Voices
  • The Count of Tuscany

Encore:

  • Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper

Zappa Plays Zappa Setlist:

  • Peaches en Regalia
  • Inca Roads
  • Montana
  • Village of the Sun
  • Echidna’s Arf (Of You)
  • Magic Fingers
  • Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy
  • The Black Page
  • A Pound for a Brown on the Bus
  • San Ber’dino
  • Willie the Pimp

Bigelf Setlist (from Atlanta):

  • The Evils of Rock & Roll
  • Neuropsychopathic Eye
  • Pain Killers
  • Blackball
  • Hydra

Little Feat: 3/13/2019

I have seen Little Feat multiple times, but my wife had never seen them and she is a big fan of their music, so we figured we should go and check out their 50th anniversary tour. I had to chuckle, because when she told one of her coworkers we were going, who is in our age range, the coworker’s response was, “Little Feat. Oh yeah. My dad liked them.” Makes one feel old.

Thomas Wolfe Auditorium is very close to the house, walking distance in better weather. So we drove there, breezed in, and found our seats in the balcony. We saw our friend there, Jake, and he was all excited because he heard from a very reliable source that Warren Haynes was going to join the band onstage. I have to say, I was pretty excited about that prospect myself.

The lights went down and the band took the stage. No opening act. I have to say that the first two songs were pretty weak, totally lacking in energy. I had that sinking feeling that I just spent my money to see a bunch of old guys who could no longer perform. But they picked up steam and soon they were cooking and playing with the energy I expected from the band.

After a while, sure enough, Warren joined them on stage, and then they really ramped things up. The first song they did with Warren was “Spanish Moon,” without a doubt my favorite Little Feat song. The crowd was pumped. Warren played the rest of the show with them, except for the encore.

Warren Haynes joining Little Feat

Definitely a great show. My only disappointment was that they did not play “Fat Man in the Bathtub,” but other than that, it was a killer show. Here’s the full setlist.

Feats don’t fail me now!

Setlist:

  • Time Loves a Hero
  • Day or Night
  • One Breath at a Time
  • Home Ground
  • Tripe Face Boogie
  • Down On The Farm
  • Willin’>
  • Don’t Bogart That Joint
  • Long Black Veil >
  • The Weight
  • Truck Stop Girl
  • Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky
  • Lonesome Whistle Blow
  • Spanish Moon (w Warren Haynes)
  • Skin It Back (w Warren Haynes)
  • Dixie Chicken (w Warren Haynes)

Encore:

  • Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

Ray LaMontagne: 11/12/2017

I had seen Ray LaMontagne some years before this show at the Christmas Jam, and he was very good, but didn’t come on stage until about 1:30 in the morning, so I was somewhat less than enthused. But since then, I have developed a strong appreciation for his music and was very psyched to see him as a headliner.

My wife and I arrived at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and were greeted by our friends Wind and Althea, who were sitting two rows behind us. We chatted with them for a while, which was nice. It’s good to catch up with old friends that you haven’t seen in a while.

The show began promptly at 7:00 with Ethan Gruska as the opening act. He wasn’t the worst opening act I have seen, but definitely not the best either.

Finally, Ray came out. He had John Stirratt, the bass player from Wilco, with him. Also, on several songs, Ethan Gruska came out and assisted on three-part harmonies, which sounded great. I thought Gruska was much better as part of a group than by himself.

Ray’s set was excellent. He sounded amazing and the audience was very appreciative, almost to a fault. There were several people screaming during some of the more subtle moments, which I could have done without. And that leads me to a story about the people in front of us. Of course, we had to be behind a couple who were getting drunker and more obnoxious as the night went on. The guy kept trying to put his arm around the woman and inadvertently kept hitting my wife’s knee. Finally, during the last song of the encore, their talking hit fever pitch, at which point my wife leaned forward and nicely asked them if they could please not talk until after the show, to which the guy indignantly and loudly replied “NO!” I felt my muscles tense and had visions of me having to fight this jerk, but alas, he stopped talking for the rest of the song, and the person next to my wife gave her a high five.

After the lights came on, we saw several other of our friends, which was nice. I love seeing people I know at concerts. I don’t know why, but it just makes it feel more communal.

I looked at several of the setlists from the tour and it seems that the list was standard across shows. It seems right from what I remember, so here is the generic setlist from the tour.

Setlist:

  • No Other Way
  • Beg Steal or Borrow
  • Lavender
  • Shelter
  • In My Own Way
  • Airwaves
  • Hannah
  • Pick Up a Gun
  • Such a Simple Thing
  • Blue Canadian Rockies
  • Burn
  • Empty
  • To the Sea
  • Supernova
  • Like Rock & Roll and Radio
  • Trouble

Encore:

  • Jolene
  • All the Wild Horses
  • Wouldn’t It Make a Lovely Photograph

Buddy Guy: 9/26/2017

Buddy Guy is one of those guitarists that I always wanted to see but for one reason or another, never did — until now. When I heard he was coming to town, I knew I had to go see him. He is advancing in his years and I figured I might not have many more opportunities to see the legend live.

My wife did not want to go with me to this show (she had seen Buddy before), and none of my friends seemed interested, so I bought a single and went by myself. This ended up being fine. The Thomas Wolfe Auditorium was only about 2/3 full, so I went and got a better seat up on the balcony very close to the stage.

The show opened with a performance by a band called Blackfoot Gypsies. The band was comprised of three young white dudes and an older black man on the harmonica. They were pretty good. Obviously, the white guys were raised on a steady diet of Stones and Black Crowes, which reflected in their playing and stage attire. Not the best opening act I’ve seen, but definitely not the worst either.

Finally, Buddy came out and opened with “Damn Right I Got the Blues.” I was immediately impressed by his playing and by how energetic he was on stage. For a man in his 80’s, he played and moved like someone half his age. He played guitar with drum sticks, walked out into the crowd while playing, and channeled Hendrix by playing with his teeth and behind his back. All the while, exhibiting superb musicianship.

I was unable to locate a setlist from this show, so I will just say he did a great mix of his own stuff (including his work with Junior Wells) and some great blues covers. He played songs from Clapton, Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, and Muddy Waters, but gave each rendition his own unique style and sound.

If you have the opportunity to see Buddy Guy live, I highly recommend doing so. He is an incredible musician and an outstanding performer.

The Decemberists: 9/25/2009

People often tell me that bands today are just not as good as the bands of yore, but The Decemberists demonstrate that this is just not the case. They are ever innovative, unique, and inspiring.

This concert was a true family outing. My wife and I brought both our daughters, which was so much fun. The girls were very excited, and the feeling was infectious. I had that sense of rock and roll energy that I felt when I was younger. I guess it’s true that live music keeps you feeling young.

The band was excellent.  For the first set, they performed The Hazards of Love in its entirety. Then they took a break, came back, and played a really solid second set, which included a super-energetic cover version of Heart’s “Crazy on You.” I left the show with an even greater appreciation for the band. They demonstrated that they are not only superb studio musicians, but they are also outstanding live performers.

Here is the set list…

Set 1 (The Hazards of Love)

  • Prelude
  • The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone)
  • A Bower Scene
  • Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
  • The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)
  • The Queen’s Approach
  • Isn’t It a Lovely Night?
  • The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid
  • An Interlude
  • The Rake’s Song
  • The Abduction of Margaret
  • The Queen’s Rebuke / The Crossing
  • Annan Water
  • Margaret in Captivity
  • The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)
  • The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)
  • The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)

Set 2

  • Angel, Won’t You Call Me?
  • Leslie Anne Levine
  • The Crane Wife 3
  • Down by the Water
  • Shankill Butchers
  • The Chimbley Sweep
  • Dracula’s Daughter
  • Valencia!
  • Crazy on You

Encore:

  • Raincoat Song
  • Sons & Daughters

Bob Dylan: 11/12/2016

bobdylan_11-12-16

So yes, this is one of those crappy print-at-home ticket stubs, but I am psyched to have it.

I had not intended to go to this show. It was expensive and I had seen Dylan multiple times already. I thought it would be nice to take my daughter to see Dylan, but not for $300 (figure about $100 per ticket). So I passed, and Dylan won the Nobel Prize, and the concert sold out. Oh well.

On November 12, my wife and I were shopping at the mall. I was trying on clothes at Old Navy when she texted me: “A friend of a friend has three tickets to Bob Dylan tonight that she is giving away for free. Should we take them?” Of course, my response was: “Ummm… YEAH!” So the person transferred the electronic tickets to us, we printed them out when we got home, and my wife, daughter, and I were heading to see Bob Dylan… for free!

This was a very different show than any of the other times I had seen Dylan. He played no guitar at all. He played piano, or else he stood at a microphone and just sang. He did play harmonica on one song, “Tangled Up in Blue,” which was awesome. He also played “Highway 61 Revisited,” which is probably my all-time favorite Dylan tune.

Performance wise, Dylan sounded better than any other time I had seen him. I expected him to sound wretched at best, but he was actually in key and you could make out the lyrics. It was kind of strange, but in a good way. He also played longer than any other time I had seen him. I expected maybe an hour and 15 minutes, based on prior experience, but he played a good two hours. All in all, a great show, and I was really happy that I was able to take my daughter to see the legend himself.

Here is the entire setlist from the show.


Things Have Changed

Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right

Highway 61 Revisited

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’

Full Moon and Empty Arms

Pay In Blood

Melancholy Mood

Duquesne Whistle

Love Sick

Tangled Up In Blue

High Water (For Charley Patton)

Why Try To Change Me Now

Early Roman Kings

I Could Have Told You

Desolation Row

Soon After Midnight

All Or Nothing At All

Long And Wasted Years

Autumn Leaves

ENCORE:

Blowin’ In The Wind

Stay With Me

STS9: 11/5/2016

sts9_11-5-16

I bought tickets to this concert intending to take my daughter. I had seen STS9 (short for Sound Tribe Sector 9) some years back at MoogFest, and they were pretty cool. They had a great light show, so I figured it would be a fun father/daughter thing to go to see them together.

Alas, my daughter got sick and was not up for going to the show. I called around to see if anyone wanted the extra ticket, and my friend Arwen jumped on the opportunity, saying she was planning to buy a ticket at the box office anyway. This made me happy, because Arwen is a good friend who I enjoy going to concerts with, and she had given me a free ticket to a concert not too long ago, so I felt good about being able to reciprocate the favor.

I met Arwen outside the US Cellular Center, along with two of her friends, Rich and Laurie. Since it was a general admission show, we were able to go in and get seats together. We were right up front and center, so we were pretty psyched about it.

The show started late, after 9:00, and the first thing that struck me was the overwhelmingly loud bass. It felt like I was getting punched in the chest. The rest of the band sounded great, and the light show was phenomenal, but that damn bass! I’m not one who is prone to complain about music being too loud, but this was one of those instances where it was just too much.

During the first set, someone inflated a few balloons and sent them into the air to be tapped around. I like balloons. They add to a festive feeling at a concert, and they don’t hurt if one hits you in the head, unlike a Frisbee. Anyway, one of the balloons reached a person in the row behind me, and he angrily grabbed the balloon and popped it. I then heard him ranting to his friend about how the band has a multi-million-dollar light show and these fucking balloons are ruining it. I was kind of taken aback by this comment,  and when I shared it with Arwen, she astutely said that if the light show is a multi-million-dollar show, then a couple balloons should not affect it.

It was around midnight when the second set started, and by that time, we were all feeling a tired. I for one felt like I had my fill. There is only so much instrumental electronic music that I can handle. So when the group said they were ready to go, I happily accompanied them out early. I couldn’t imagine that there was anything else that I would be missing, just more lights and loud bass.

Glad I went to see them as a headliner, but don’t think I will be seeing them again.

Brian Wilson: 8/18/2016

BrianWilson_8-18-16

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

Death Cab For Cutie: 6/11/2016

DeathCab_6-11-16

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