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

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.

Don Henley with Katrina and the Waves: 8/2/1985

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In the 1980’s, before “Hell froze over” and the Eagles reunited, Don Henley had a pretty successful solo career. Despite his popularity, I wasn’t a huge fan of his music. It was OK, but a little on the pop-side for me. I probably would have passed on this show, but my girlfriend wanted to see him and I liked Katrina and the Waves (the opening act), so I figured why not.

Katrina was so fun. I really enjoyed her set. She was cute, cheerful, and energetic, just like in the “Walking on Sunshine” video which was playing on MTV about every hour. Her set alone was worth the price of admission.

Don Henley’s set was good. It was about what I expected. He played mostly his solo stuff with a few Eagles’ tunes tossed in (Witchy Woman, Desperado, Hotel California). It wasn’t great, but it didn’t suck either. It was OK. Basically, a fun date-night with the girlfriend.

When The Eagles reunited and I was the outrageous amount of money they were charging, I was disgusted and refused to go out of principle. At the time, concerts were still pretty cheap (hey, $15.75 for this show), so the idea that a band would charge over $100 for a ticket was insane for me. Unfortunately, once the bar was raised, it became the norm. Personally, I still can’t bring myself to pay that much money for a single band—a festival, ok—but not a single act.

Anyway, rant over. Have a rockin’ day and enjoy some music.

Emerson, Lake & Powell: 10/5/1986

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Keith Emerson was my favorite keyboardist of all time, and sadly, he died yesterday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. So, I figured it was appropriate to write about one of the times I saw him perform.

I was never fortunate enough to see Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but this show was pretty close. For the tour, Cozy Powell replaced Carl Palmer on drums. Powell is no slouch on the drum kit, and he was probably the best person to fill in.

The concert was nothing short of spectacular. The set included a nice mix of pieces spanning ELP’s career. Some of the high points were “Pirates,” “Pictures at an Exhibition,” and “Fanfare for the Common Man.” But the pinnacle of the show for me was the encore, which included “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression Part 2.”

“Karn Evil 9” is from the Brain Salad Surgery album, which is one of my all-time favorite album. Throughout the years, I’ve owned multiple vinyl copies, CD, cassette, and have even owned it on 8-track. It is just a phenomenal album. So how can I convey what it was like to see Keith Emerson perform this?

The band rocked through “Karn Evil 9,” and then Emerson went into a wild solo on the keyboards. He was like a madman! He was soloing, and then turned around and continued playing backwards, not missing a beat. He then extracted a pair of daggers from his belt and stabbed them into the keys, holding and sustaining notes while playing over the sustained notes. Then he hoisted the keyboard onto his back and began running around the stage playing the keys backwards and over his shoulder. I was floored! I had never seen anything like it, and I have never seen anything like it since. It was almost beyond belief.

Keith Emerson will be sorely missed. He was a virtuoso musician who pushed the boundaries of rock music. Here is a video of him performing. Be inspired!

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.

New Pornographers: 10/28/2007

NewPornographers_10-28-07

I went with my wife to this concert, and we were both really excited because we both really liked this band… a lot.

For those of you not from Asheville, let me take a moment to describe the Orange Peel. It is a small but great concert venue, holding only about a thousand people. I seem to recall Rolling Stone magazine ranking it among the top 10 small concert venues in the country.

Anyway, the concert was amazing! Neko Case sounded so good, and the whole band was really tight. We danced and rocked until we were sweaty, loving every second.

I don’t have much more to share about this concert. There were no wild stories or unusual encounters; it was just a fun and thoroughly enjoyable evening of live music with the person I love. What could be better?

Here is a clip of the band performing “Bleeding Heart Show,” which is my favorite song by them and was definitely the high-point of the concert for me.

Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam: 12/12/2015

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Warren Haynes, former guitarist with the Allman Brothers and currently with Gov’t Mule, has been hosting the Christmas Jam in Asheville for 27 years now. The Jam is a benefit concert that raises money for Habitat for Humanity and Warren invites a slew of artists to participate in the marathon event. I’ve been attending this show every year since moving to Asheville, so if my fuzzy math serves me well, that makes 13 years that I have been going to the Jam.

This year’s show sold out fast, boasting a solid lineup. Unfortunately, one of the performers who I was REALLY looking forward to seeing—Joe Bonamassa—had to cancel. In spite of that, it was a great show.

I went with my wife and we met a group of friends (Perry, Philip, Devorah, Mike, and Bob) and we secured a row for ourselves on the left side of the stage, which afforded us a great view.

The show began promptly at 6:45 with Love Canon, a fun bluegrass act who plays bluegrass versions of 80’s pop hits. They played between acts while the crew was setting up and breaking down equipment. After a few songs, Warren came out and played a great acoustic version of George Harrison’s “Give Me Love.”

After Warren, we had an electric set from Hot Tuna, one of my favorite bands. Hot Tuna was formed by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, the guitarist and bass player from the Jefferson Airplane. They were great, but too short, playing a mere five songs if memory serves me well.

After Hot Tuna, Bruce Hornsby played an acoustic set. It was good, but strange. I had seen Hornsby several times and this was the first time I had seen him that he did not play any piano, playing dulcimer for the entire set. It was not what I expected, but I feel like I got to see something that most people will never have the opportunity to experience.

Next up was the Tedeschi Trucks Band, who were the highlight of the evening in my opinion. They were incredible! The energy was so high and the musicianship was so impressive, I was kind of dumbstruck. If you have never seen this band and have the opportunity, do not pass it up.

Following TTB was Dawes. I was not too familiar with them, but I knew they were somewhat popular. They were OK in my opinion, but not great. They also seemed less interesting following such an outstanding performance. They did a nice version of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” to close their set, which was fun.

The next act to perform was Blackberry Smoke. Personally, I was not impressed with this band, at all. I know they are very popular, but they were not my thing and their sound was wretched, which did not make things any better. My friend Bill texted me during their performance and called them Black Pickup Exhaust, which caused a chuckle.

It was now getting late in the evening, and the Doobie Brothers took the stage. They opened with “Jesus is Just Alright” and played one hit after another. I loved their show! You knew every song and the crowd was singing along. It was fun and brought back lots of memories for me. The Doobies were huge when I was growing up, and I listened to “Black Water” over and over as a kid. They were a close second to Tedeschi Trucks, in my humble opinion.

The Doobies finished about 1:30 am. Warren’s band was still scheduled to play, but by this time I was tired. Since I have seen Warren more times than I can count, I decided to skip the last set and get some much-needed sleep. I heard it was good, but looking at the set list, I could tell I didn’t miss anything special.

Just to give you all a taste of the Christmas Jam, here is a video that my good friend Robert made: Tedeschi Trucks Band with Warren Haynes joining them on guitar. Enjoy!

Dead & Company: 11/14/2015

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This is the newest stub in the collection, and I figured I would post while the memory is fresh.

Sometimes, something magical happens at a concert, and that was the case with this show. First off, it was almost 35 years ago to the day that I saw my first Grateful Dead concert, so there was some definite nostalgia happening. But it was also special because I went with my youngest daughter and it was her first time seeing a “Dead” show. She was very excited and she pointed out that although I had taken her to some great concerts over the years, this was the first time that it was just the two of us, so it was really great father/daughter bonding.

We drove to Greensboro, which is about a two-and-a-half hour drive. We got there early and decided to grab dinner first. Hops burgers place was highly recommended, so we went there. It supposedly has the best burgers in the country. Don’t know about that, but the burgers were pretty damn good!

After we ate, it was a short drive to the Coliseum. The first thing I noticed was that parking was $20! Talk about sticker shock. That was less than what I paid for many of the concerts I’ve seen over the years, but I paid my dues and we got a nice spot right near the exit.

In keeping with Dead tradition, there was the typical parking lot bazaar with vendors selling all kinds of stuff: some legal, some not so much. I bought a couple tee shirts and my daughter bought a nice hoodie. I marveled at the throngs of people who were still desperately trying to keep the legacy alive.

We went inside and our seats were on the side of the stage: not bad, but we could not see the screens that made up the background. We decided to move to some open seats, which ended up being fine because no one else came to claim them. The move afforded us a great view of the band and the colorful light show.

The band sounded great. John Mayer did a nice job playing lead guitar, and the rest of the band sounded relaxed and together.

So here is the magic moment. My daughter’s favorite Dead song is “Friend of the Devil.” The Grateful Dead played it the first time I saw them and I was hoping, for her sake, that they would play it this evening. The first set ended, and no “Friend of the Devil.” I told her that it was highly unlikely they would play it, since I have only ever heard the song played in the first set. She seemed OK and was really enjoying the music and the dancing. Second set ended, which was an amazing set, but still, no “Friend of the Devil.” Then Bob Weir and John Mayer brought out acoustic guitars for the encore. I figured “Ripple,” but no, they played an amazing acoustic version of “Friend of the Devil.” I could see the joy and excitement bursting from my daughter’s happy eyes. I felt like they played it just for her. It was truly one of those special concert moments when the unexpected happens and it makes the live concert experience something transcendent.

Anyway, here is a video clip of the encore from the Greensboro show, a moment that will live on in my memory as one of the best concert experiences ever.