28th Feb2013

The Road to St. Patricks Day Begins: Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom

by rockchicago

 

This past Friday night the Dropkick Murphys brought their St. Patricks Day tour to the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.  Almost every time the Murphys come to Chicago or Milwaukee I am usually in attendance. This past September they were apart of Riot Fest in Humboldt Park and for the past three years they have played a post-game concert in Milwaukee at the Bradley Center after the Admirals game.  For whatever reason they are not doing their annual show after an Admirals game this year, so the Aragon looks to be my only local Dropkick fix this winter.

On this tour they have Old Man Markley from Los Angeles warming the crowd up.  Old Man Markley is a punk and bluegrass band that packed a wallop with their mixture of sounds that they brought to the stage.  Markley’s arsenal consisted of many unique instruments including an autoharp, a washtub bass, a banjo, a fiddle and a washboard. Now one might think with seven players on stage playing diverse folk esque instruments that the sound might not be mixed well, especially at the Aragon. But I have to tell you that the sound was great and not one thing was overpowering the other. Even the washboard was audible in the mix.

 

Most of the lead vocals were covered by guitar player, John Carey but on a few songs the reigns were handed to the autoharp player, Annie DeTemple. This group was equally bad ass. Fiddle player, Katie Weed was smoking and Joey Garibaldi was a mad man on the washtub bass, which was an actual steel washtub. It would not surprise me at all to see these guys pop up on the festival circuit this year. They had the Murphys crowd in the palm of their hand and I see many big things in the future for these bluegrass punks.

Around nine o’clock the lights dimmed back down and the sounds of “The Foggy Dew” by The Chieftains and Sinead O’Connor came blaring through the speakers. The Murphys have been using this Irish ballad as their stage intro for many years now.  Soon after,  the sounds of a fast paced acoustic guitar led the charge and boys jumped right into “The Boys Are Back” off their newest album,  Signed and Sealed in Blood. 

 

It has been sixteen years now that the Murphys have been on the scene.  I remember seeing them on their first tour in 1997 when they were the opening act for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.  Every year since then especially in the past ten or so, they seem to be growing in popularity and the venues keep getting bigger. This time at the Aragon, they had no problem filling it and if it wasn’t sold out it was damn close.

If you haven’t had the chance to see a Dropkick show then you are missing out. Guiness, whiskey, dancing, jigging, moshing and plenty of smiles are just some of the elements of a Dropkick show.  Their set was an hour and a half of Irish punk goodness. They held nothing back and gave the crowd what they asked for including the anthems, “The Warriors Code,” “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” “The Gauntlet,” and “The Irish Rover.” 

Their new album, Signed and Sealed in Blood is very good and their best effort in a while. Not dissing their last album, Going Out In Style at all but they definitely stepped it up a tad for this latest one. They did give us some treats from the last album including the title track, “Going Out In Style.”  They also broke it down and did an acoustic jam in the middle of the set with the sing along, “Worker’s Song.”  They kept the venue singing along when they went into the ballad, “Rose Tattoo” off of Signed and Sealed in Blood. They debuted that one back in September when they were at Riot Fest and that’s when I knew the album to come was going to be a classic.

The set concluded with the anthemic “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” in which the whole crowd loses their shit. They of course disappear and come back for a raucous encore as per usual. Surprisingly a lot of people started leaving but the bulk of the crowd stayed knowing that their encore is always a worthy treat. This time around the four song encore included the Murphys rendition of the AC/DC classic, “Dirty Deeds.”  For a couple years now they have been covering “TnT” by AC/DC, but keeping with their love for the classic rockers they just changed up the tune selection.

Overall the Murphys kicked ass like they always do. If they come your way definitely check them out, it’s a live show you don’t want to miss. Here’s to hoping they come back this a way in the summer.

Reviewed by Todd Anthony on 2/22/13

18th Feb2013

Yo La Tengo Show Their Roots in Chicago

by rockchicago

Yo La Tengo has deep roots in Chicago, from its first show here at the West End in 1986, to near yearly visits since then, to recording their newest LP, Fade, in Soma Studios with John McEntire.  They’ve graced small stages from the Lounge Ax, Rainbo, Lakeside Theater, and Subterranean to larger venues like Cabaret Metro and the Vic to outdoor settings like the Green Music Festival and Lollapalooza.  They even had one of their most (in)famous moments here during the Wheel of Yo La Tengo Tour when they performed an entire episode of “Seinfeld” (“The Chinese Restaurant”) to a crowd split between those demanding music and those relishing every quirk of this most original of bands.

Often called iconoclastic or a favorite of critics, Yo La Tengo for me has never been a destroyer of musical conventions, but rather something quite the opposite – they embrace such a wide range of songcraft, and have introduced me to far more bands than I could name, and thus shepherd a wealth of sounds into every album and concert.  Their vision is at once unique and generous in its attribution of sonic influences.

All of this played out over the course of a 2 1/2 hour set at the Vic Friday night, their first stop on their current tour without the support of Calexico.  The result was a true “Evening With Yo La Tengo” ranging from a sweet acoustic set to noisy guitar freakouts to quirky covers, with the audience hanging on every tune.  Even without hit singles they managed to sell out the theater – an action impressive for what it says about their audience who will follow them down roads less traveled with hushed devotion.  This has to have been the most engaged, attentive crowd I’ve been jammed into for quite some time.

The first set was played downstage in front of three flat wooden trees, their set for this tour in support of their new record.  It wasn’t acoustic, but rather a showcase of their mellower side.  Georgia was only on drums for a few songs, and then used only brushes.  She played keyboards for many songs, and even donned a guitar.  James kept the bass house in order, adding guitar and keys to some songs. For me the focus of the set was Ira’s guitar, mixed with just the right mix of reverb and clarity, tastefully showcasing a lead line that never wandered too far and always sounded just right.

The emphasis was on songs from Fade, including “Ohm,” which they recently performed on Jimmy Fallon with Fred Armisen and Kid Millions from Odeida joining them on drums. The 3-way shared vocals of the song have quickly made it a fan favorite.  Other tunes from the new record included “Two Trains,” “Cornelia and Jane,” and “I’ll Be Around,” and all sounded just as lovely as they do in the studio.  On a side note, it is an exceptionally strong record from a mature band and for my money has quickly assumed the mantle of best of 2013. 

They also debunked a set of rumors that Jad Fair would appear with them but paid tribute to him by playing “Ashes On The Ground.”  They recorded a wonderfully odd record with that singer, from the band Half Japanese, called Strange But True, nearly fifteen years ago.  The opening set also included a hushed version of a song I’m used to hearing towards the end of one of their shows: “Sugarcube.”  It’s a tribute to this band to see them willing to remake this popular song, one that usually sends the audience into a head-bopping dance frenzy, into something quite the opposite.  Let it never be said this band rests on musical laurels.

The second set, with both band and trees pushed upstage, exploded open with “Cherry Chapstick” from And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. The sweet side of Ira’s guitar performance now lay in ruins as he coaxed noisy feedback shreiks from it, waving it in front of his amps while convulsing in a frantic dance.  It sounds crazy, and certainly is to watch it, and yet it’s always my sense he is in perfect control of the sound.  I’ve seen many bands punish their instruments and create waves of noise, but with Ira, quickly untuning strings and stopping just short of launching his guitar into the air, it all comes across as both tamed and unbridled.  I need to give a nod to James as well, who assumed drum kit duties for this song and pummeled them like a giant squashing toadstools, but again, it all worked.

James hit the drums (and maracas) again for “Autumn Sweater” as part of the set that ultimately included songs from 9 of their 13 albums. Highlights for me included “Nothing To Hide” and “Tom Courtenay,” the latter of which included Georgia singing a “bop bop ba-dop” refrain to even its loudest parts.  This little touch is emblematic of their approach to songwriting – there’s often an ooh or aah or bop bop there when you need it.

The culmination of the set was “The Story of Yo La Tengo” from their wonderfully-titled I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. This adventure starts quietly, sounding almost like the music they composed for an aquarium – since the song alleges to tell their story, it would only be fitting.  After ten minutes or so, the simple riffs has given was to an all-out sonic assault.  I would dare any metal band to match it for either intensity or power.  And just then, when they needed that extra push, they pushed themselves to eleven and into what I can only describe as sonic lift-off.  Ira and James waving screeching guitars around like flags, Georgia steadily pounding away, and the audience dazed and screaming.

How could they come out for an encore after that and what would they play?  The answer was typical Yo La Tengo – ZZ Top’s “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” naturally.  By fan request after that they played “Nowhere Near” from their Painful record – a quiet Georgia-sung tune that brought us all back to earth. But we weren’t done.  A second encore yielded two great covers – Neil Young’s “Time Fades Away” and NRBQ’s “What Can I Say,” a fitting end to an evening filled with songs you love and songs you didn’t yet know you loved played by a truly accomplished and always charming well-loved band who excel at giving hope and stellar performances to music geeks everywhere.

Reviewed by Neil Rigler on 2/1/13

Photo by Neil Rigler

18th Feb2013

Interview with Sum 41 Drummer Steve Jocz

by rockchicago

 

Interviewed by Alex Kluft

Alex Kluft: Is this the first time Sum 41 is doing Does This Look Infected live?

Steve Jocz: Ya, I think so. When the album came out, we didn’t play everything. It’s not a particularly long album so were going to try to rip through all that stuff then were playing stuff like Fat Lip, and songs from the new album. Our fans liked Does This Look Infected the most. That’s why were doing it.
AK: Did you think 10 years later it would be just as big as when it came out?

SJ: One of the things I think is funny with music in general now with YouTube, a lot of the videos from that album and before have millions of hits. Kids can go watch the “Still Waiting” and “Hell Song” videos. They’re still fresh and cool so it kind of gives it new life. Our fans still love that album, so it will be a fun thing for us to do.
AK: Do you have a favorite song to play live?

SJ: Regardless of the Does This Look Infected tour, I always like to play “Still Waiting.” The ones that we like playing are the ones that really get the crowd going. We’ve probably played “Fat Lip” more than any other song, because we’ve played it since our first album. Its still fun to play. There’s stuff from the new album that’s fun to play, but that’s relatively new so it’s the old stuff that shows we still really like it after playing it for 12 years.
AK: Will the set change each night after playing Does This Look Infected?

SJ: Were probably going to change it up. Were going to do the Does This Look Infected Stuff then once that’s over we’ll switch it up and do a bunch of different songs.
AK: How did you get into playing drums?

SJ: Wow, that is a long time ago. My dad played guitar when I was a kid. He bought me a guitar when I was really young. He was like “Boy, this a G-String” and he strummed it and every string on the guitar broke so my career as a guitar player was shot in one go. A few years later someone we knew had  a drum kit then there was a guy that moved in next door around when I was 11 that offered drum lessons. I took lessons from him for a bout a year then started getting into bands. I met Deryck when I was 14. We started Sum 41 shortly after that. It jus kind of happened when random things fell into place.
AK: Sum 41 started when you guys were still in high school.

SJ: I had met Deryck and played in another one of his bands. Then we dissolved that group and started Sum 41 when I was either 15 or 16. Jason [McCaslin, Bass] joined when were 18, and Dave [Baksh] our old guitar player joined early on. Now we have a newer guy Tom [Thacker] whose in the Canadian punk band Gob. In the early Sum 41 days we brought Gob on tour all the time and now he’s in the band. I’ve been in the same band for 16 years now. It’s lasted a lot longer than we thought it would.
AK: Who are some of your influences?

SJ: Early on it would have been Dave Grohl and John Bonham, all the rock music you grow up listening to. Then we got into the southern California punk scene so Erik Sandin from NoFx, Byron McMackin from Pennywise, Josh Freese from the Vandals, and Brooks Wackerman all of the guys helped develop that style of fast playing. I couldn’t really point to anyone specific. I was also into heavy metal so Lars Ulrich and Clive Burr. I’ve actually met all of those guys I just mentioned and know them to a certain degree. Its cool to have grown up listening to these guys then kind of know them whether or not you talk about drumming at all which we never do. When were on an early warped tour back in 2001 I got to watch Wackerman and Freese and see how they do things. That was a great opportunity to see people that are that good everyday. Then you get to become friends with them and ask how to play certain things.
AK: How many Warped tours have you done now?

SJ: We’ve done a lot, but from beginning to end of the tour only once or twice. Maybe 8 times altogether including the times we did a few shows. It’s a great tour to get on especially back a few years ago. When we first started it was all bands we were into and grew up with that were major influences on our band.
AK: What’s your drum set up going to be for the upcoming tour?

SJ: It’s usually the same kit 1 rack tom, 2 floor toms with Zlidjian cymbals. I think it’s a brand new one, because when we toured in Europe it was all rentals. This is going to be the first time I play on it.
AK: Do you do any backup vocals live?

SJ: Not really, Jason and Tom do that. It just sounds like sh*t for the sound guy if theres has a bunch of drum sounds blending in with the mic, and Toms a better singer than I am anyway.
AK: How did you become a director for music videos?

SJ: I haven’t done that in a while, but it’s really fun to do. In all of our videos I’ve been really involved and the guy that did all the classic Sum 41 videos. His name is Mark Klasfeld. I was doing videos in Toronto, and when I moved to California he hit me up. He asked if I wanted to videos for his company.  I did a bunch with him. It was something I enjoyed doing that was fun. Because I knew him he helped me to do. I never went to film school.  I don’t really know how that stuff works, that’s we have a director of photography. I like coming up with the ideas.
AK: Are the Sum 41 videos a collaborative effort among you and the other members?

SJ: Not necessarily, whoever is directing will come up with the idea, then all of us agree on what the idea is. Everyone has a say in editing. For the actual filming that’s more of the director’s job. The guys trust me not to f$%k it up. When someone else is doing it we do the same thing. As far as coming up with the idea or at least accepting the idea, we’re kind of involved in the stages of how it’s going to look. Each video is very different. Sometimes we might be very involved, other times less involved. With the most recent video “Blood In My Eyes”, we were part of the beginning stages, but on the day of the shoot, we just showed did the performance part and left. It was the easiest shoot we’ve done. In earlier videos like “In Too Deep,” it was like filming a movie. We did it over 2-3 days in different locations.

15th Feb2013

Interview with Rival Sons’ Lead Singer Jay Buchanan

by rockchicago

 

Interviewed by Alex Kluft

Alex Kluft: I saw you with Rival Sons at Rock On The Range last Summer, that was a great performance.

Jay Buchanan: We had come down that day from Toronto. We drove straight down, and we didn’t really have any sleep. We showed up there, played, did a bunch of press, a couple photoshoots, and then we took off and drove right back up to Canada to play some more shows up there. It was quite a day though.
AK: You just came back from a big European tour, how did that go?

JB: It was 40, 41 days, something like that and 36 shows. It was pretty grueling. Things are getting pretty crazy out there for us. We have a lot to be thankful for. We had a great crowd each night, and there was a lot of press. The fans are just incredible.

AK: How did become so big in the U.K.?

JB: The label that we ended up signing with is based out of Nottingham in the U.K. All of the connections like our publicist were already involved with the European and U.K. market. For us in Europe, we can tour 19 countries in a month. In the states you could do in Texas for a month alone, and that would be a whole different tour. It’s like Texas then head up north towards you guys and hit more states. Were planning hitting the states really hard in January and February. The record came out last September in Europe and the U.K. I think it just came out in Canada.
AK: It seems like the albums doing very well overseas.

JB: Ya, its doing well. We have a lot of great fans. That makes everything a lot easier. The crowds are doubling and were selling out all over the place, you feel like you’re in a movie or something.
AK: How was playing the Download Festival?

JB: It was fun. We played a sh*tload of festivals in Europe and the U.K. in the past year. Its always a trip being on a bill with all of these different bands, hanging out with them in catering and backstage. It’s really something. You realize what a small world it is.
AK: Do you get watch any of the bands you want to see?

JB: Absolutely, if you got the time. If our tour routing allows us to. Sometimes it doesn’t. It could be play your time slot then leave because we have a 9 hour drive. It’s like show up, play your set, do 1.5 hours of press then get back in the van and hit the road. It’s really nice when you get to check out the other bands. We’ve gotten to see some great bands. This past summer we got to see Soundgarden, the Refused, Queens of The Stone Age. It’s inspiring to see these bands nail it. They’ve been around a lot longer than us. You get to see how it gets better.
AK: How did you get into the blues in the beginning?

JB: It really came from hearing Robert Johnson when I was 8 or 9. I was always a music freak. I had a bunch of vinyls. He sounded like a ghost to me. It had that feel. From there I heard Blind Willie Johnson, you want to talk about sounding ghostly. Then you get other artists like Blind Willie McTell who don’t sound scary at all. I fell in love with it. It’s the blues, it’s the truth, that’s what it always felt like. They’re singing about their troubles, and singing about their girls. Whatever there singing about, they could be telling stories it always sounds true.
AK: Would you site blues/rock bands like The Yardbirds and Cream as influences?

JB: Absolutely. For me I grew up on the blues, I never really got into the British Invasion. The one bad I did like as a kid was the Animals, because I liked Eric Burdon’s voice so much. It was so commanding. People never talk about Eric Burdon, or Van Morrison for Rock. Van Morrison could crush all those guys with one hand vocally.
AK: What was it like opening for Judas Priest?

JB: About a year and a half ago we toured with Priest, that was really interesting. It was cool, but I was never really a Priest guy. It’s pretty far away from the Blues. The other guys were like “Priest, ya! Living After Midnight!, Breaking the Law!” We didn’t know what was going to happen, because we don’t play metal we play Rock N’ Roll, and we were put on this tour. We were thinking “Were going to get in front of all these heavy metal fans opening up for metal royalty, what is going to happen?” “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but lets do it.” Rob Halford and everyone in the band was so cool and nice. They were really complimentar. Priest’s audience was incredible and supportive. At that point I wasn’t familiar with heavy metal at all. We’ve played Hellfest and Sweden Rock Festival where it’s all metal. These are the nicest, coolest, and most understanding people.
AK: What was your key to success?

JB: I don’t man, I really don’t know.  I took this band on as a side project when we got together. I thought we were just going to play some shows around L.A. I had never been in a Rock N’ Roll band before, I never wanted to be. For me it was “just have some fun,” because I was doing other things. Out of nowhere everyone started losing their sh*t, everyone started getting crazy about us. The thing I always try to tell people is just try to be yourself, and be as hard on yourself as possible when it comes to songwriting, and your technique, and It’s what you do. Don’t worry about your clothes or any of that stuff, just try to tell the truth, that’s all people want to hear. When they come to see you to play, they’re not just there to be entertained, they came there for a f#$%ing crucifixion, they want blood, they want everything you have, and you gotta give it to them. Always give everything.
AK: Do you have anything else coming up?

JB: We just released a video last month. Our album Head Down is coming out in the States in March. We don’t have anything going until January as far as a tour.
Don’t miss Rival Sons at Schubas This coming Monday the 18th.

06th Feb2013

Jason Bonham Shows His Dad What He’s Got at The Arcada Theatre

by rockchicago

 

Typically, I am not too keen on “cover” bands, having experienced many of the original classic rock acts through the years. However, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience promised to be something different. Mainly because Jason is the ‘flesh and blood’ of Led Zeppelin’s iconic drummer, John Bonham, and he has created quite an impressive resume of his own. I had seen Jason Bonham in the early 90’s when he was with his self-named band “Bonham,” when they opened for Emerson, Lake, and Palmer at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park, Illinois. His drumming blew me away and his ‘banging away’ style was definitely reminiscent of his father. So I was eager to see Jason Bonham once again at this show.

In advance of the show I viewed some videos of the band and sorry to say I was a bit disappointed as musically they sounded great, but vocally it left something to be desired. Well let me tell you, when I saw them live my impression from the video was so wrong…this band musically and vocally was absolutely spectacular!

Awaiting the show I scanned the sell out crowd and found it to be a strange conglomeration of concert goers. Some of the fans looked like they had stepped out of a time machine from the seventies; there were aging rockers who brought out their classic Led Zeppelin tee shirts, jackets, et. al., there were young and old of all sorts who were stoked to see this band. Many were primed with liquor and weed. It was quite entertaining to people watch.

The show was a multimedia affair. Kevin Pollack, a representative for Onesti Entertainment (the managing group of the Arcada Theatre), told me that this was one of the most involved productions put on by the Theater. There were a wide array of lights for the light show and a large video screen at the back of the stage.

The show opened with a video montage of home movies of the young John Bonham and later Jason Bonham. It was very nostalgic and heartwarming to hear Jason’s voice-over describe his youth, being the son of an iconic rock star. He mentioned that his dad acted like he worked in a factory and would dirty his face, so he would appear as the other fathers in their neighborhood! He then stated “John Henry ‘Bonzo’ Bonham, changed the world of drumming forever. This is my story and what Led Zeppelin meant to me.” The band launched into Rock and Roll, the audience went absolutely bonkers and one of the best concert experiences I have ever had began.

The band was an outstanding collection of musicians. Obviously, Jason Bonham was stellar on drums all night. In addition, there was Stephen LeBlanc on keyboards, slide guitar, and 2nd guitar, Michael Devin on bass, Tony Catania on lead guitar, and James Dylan on lead vocals. Catania is a very talented and demonstrative guitarist, channeling Jimmy Page, displaying some great facial expressions in the process. Absolutely impressive. As I stated earlier, I was concerned about the vocals and was concerned that there was no one who could recreate the amazing vocals of Robert Plant. Well, my jaw dropped when James Dylan began singing. This was Robert Plant incarnate. I could close my eyes and feel like I was back at a Zeppelin concert in the seventies! My son and brother-in-law were with me and as he was singing, doing the trademark Robert Plant screaming, we were turning to each other shaking our heads in amazement. At the end of the concert when he was introducing the band, Jason Bonham stated that he found James Dylan on the internet…..what a find indeed. What a performer, vocally as well as having a great stage presence. Bravo.

All night long the crowd would sing along to a generous set of Led Zeppelin classics, expertly performed. Heads were bobbing, hands raised in the “rock on” position or fists pumping. A outstanding Led Zeppelin “Experience” indeed.

The band followed up with Celebration Day.

Bonham then took the mike and said “Welcome to the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience. We are honest and we love the music as much as you do. People ask why are you still playing your dad’s music? If he wasn’t my dad I would still play the music, it’s just great music.” (Truer words were never spoken, Jason!) “I never had a chance to tell my dad to me he was the greatest. This music is as fresh now as it has ever been. I am playing this music in tribute to my dad and his band mates.”

The band then played Your Time is Gonna Come. The audience sang along full-throated and enthusiastically.

The ensuing song absolutely blew me away and was probably my favorite of the night because of the mind-blowing vocals of James Dylan, Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You. Great! The audience jumped up to give a raucous standing ovation.

The band continued with You Shook Me and What is and What Should Never Be.

Bonham took the mike once again and related some stories. He said because of his last name he has been banned from most hotels in Chicago. He related that, “You knew John Bonham as a wild man, but I knew him as dad and I loved him dearly.”

He then introduced some footage he got from his dad’s mother of his dad when he was growing up, saying that this brought tears to his eyes. He then paid tribute to his dad with the song, Thank You. He asked the audience to sing along if they knew the words.

When the familiar driving beat of the next song was heard, the audience rose, sang and gyrated as The Immigrant Song was played. Bonham asked, “So far, so good?” The crowd yelled back a resounding, “Yeah!”

The next portion of the show was another highlight and what I was looking forward to, when Jason would be playing the drum solo from Moby Dick in unison with his dad who was shown playing on the video screens behind Jason. As he introduced the segment Jason said, “When I do this part, I’m the old man, because he’s 22 years younger than me. (His dad died in 1980) His dream was to play alongside me at the Royal Albert Hall. Now due to Tommy Lee and technology I do.” The band then exploded into Moby Dick. I had always thought Jason Bonham was a good drummer, but I gained so much respect for him this concert, further heightened by his drum soloing “with his dad.” I don’t need to say that this portion of the show was spectacular, that was obvious, and the audience gave another resounding standing ovation.

There was then a short intermission. Opening the second part of the show some home movies were played, the first showed John Bonham on bongos accompanying his young son on drums and then they switched, the second showed the young Jason dancing and mugging for his parents. It was bittersweet to watch these tender, private moments, knowing what would soon happen to his father.

Bonham got behind his drum kit and began, “Are you sitting comfortably? Are you sure? If everyone is ready (which they were), we will begin, one, two, three!” They opened with The Ocean and then a huge crowd favorite, Houses of the Holy.

Bonham introduced the next song saying that this was the first song he played with his current guitarist, Tony Catania, many years ago, Since I’ve Been Loving You. That was followed by a rousing version of The Song Remains the Same. After the energetic performance Bonham said, “Drink the Red Bull and by this stage of the night, it kicks in!”

Bonham then described the nature of this tribute show. He said, “Each time we play this show it is my way of telling my dad he is the greatest. We did this show three years ago and it was fun, now we are keeping it going.” He then told the audience that he wanted to have his dad come down and play the drums so he told the crowd to yell “1,2, 3, Bonzo!” They screamed at the top of their lungs, but Bonzo did not appear. Jason said, “He’s not in Chicago, he’s not here!” He then urged everyone to get up and clap their hands, which they did, and were treated to a great version of When the Levee Breaks. The audience sang along once again and gave another of the many standing ovations the band received all night.

Kashmir began and it only served to heighten the fervor that the crowd was already experiencing. Another superb version and a well-deserved standing ovation.

For the final song of the evening, everyone knew what was coming and they were not disappointed, Stairway to Heaven. The hits just kept on coming and they sounded absolutely great, the music holding up so well after all these years, which is a testimonial to this band’s musicianship and interpretation of the music. As the audience gave a heartfelt standing ovation and the band walked offstage, Bonham said, “The more noise you make, the longer we play.” And boy, did the crowd make the noise!

For the encore I knew the song that that would have to do, which they did, Whole Lotta Love. They stretched it out a bit in the middle section and gave a interesting spin to this classic rock chestnut. The crowd gave a standing ovation as the band took their bows. After being entertained by a talented band who performed seventeen Led Zeppelin classics, everyone in the audience who experienced Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience really got much more than their money’s worth and no one walked away disappointed.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the guitarist, Tony Catania. My son and I noticed something he was engaging in during the concert, which may not have been noticed by the crowd. To our right were two young handicapped boys in wheelchairs, who were just in front of the stage, near where Tony was. All during the show they were entranced by the music, really getting into it, gesturing with their hands (rock on), etc. Catania went out of his way the entire show to interact with them. He kept acknowledging them, gesturing to them, mugging for them, and at the end of the show flipped them his guitar pick, it really made their night, I am sure. Mr. Catania, what you were doing did not go unnoticed and was an absolute touch of class. It really touched both my son and I (and any others who were astute enough to notice what he was doing).

I began the night with a bit of trepidation and left the show overflowing with positive vibes from the Led Zeppelin Experience. Granted, we can never see the original again except on film/video, but this is a close second. Kudos to all the musicians in the band for expertly recreating the Led Zeppelin magic. I gained more respect for Jason Bonham’s ability as a drummer, was impressed with the guitar work of Tony Catania, but absolutely enthralled by the performance of James Dylan. I never thought anyone could come close to Robert Plant, and James Dylan proved me so wrong!

If you are a Led Zeppelin fan or if you are curious about their music, this is one concert experience not to miss. It is a generous helping of the Led Zeppelin classics, with a great deal of nostalgia and as well as the back story of John and Jason Bonham. The tribute of the son to his father adds a certain poignancy to this excellent show.

Reviewed by Peter S. Sakas on 2/2/13

01st Feb2013

Soundgarden Night 2 @ The Riviera

by rockchicago

 

Night two of Soundgarden’s two night stand in Chicago was exactly what I thought it would be, amazing. I really wanted to catch both nights knowing that the sets would be different. Unfortunately I only got to see night two, but believe me I am not complaining because it was way worth it. These guys still put so much power and ferocity behind their live shows. They haven’t missed a step at all  since reforming in 2010.

Soundgarden held no punches by slamming out three classics right from the start of the show. They opened with “Searching with my Good Eye Closed,” which they also opened with back in 2010 at Lollapalooza. It is such a great slow grinding song that always serves its purpose as a show opener. They followed that with two big hits. The big surprise was “Spoonman” as the second song in the set. Usually that song pops up in their encore but hearing it early on was even more of a treat. At this point I thought they would delve into some of their new material but no they threw “Jesus Christ Pose” at us. Cornell’s screams were right on target and the band seemed so locked in and tight.

 

After those three they finally gave us a taste of their new album, King Animal. The first from this album was “By Crooked Steps,” their newest single that also has a great new video directed by the one and only Dave Grohl.  They played a good amount of songs from their new album. They also went back and gave us some good treats from their early material off of Louder Than Love. Of course the popular songs from Super Unknown and Down on the Upside were scattered throughout their set.

It was so refreshing to see a band come back many years later after not being together and just plain and simple, kick ass. Their new album sounds like it could have been released in the nineties. They didn’t try to change much, they just do what they do best and that’s deliver some bad ass bluesy rock.  After an awesome twenty one song set the band left the stage but the crowd wasn’t ready to go home and we knew the band wasn’t either.

 

They came back for a four song encore that blew the roof off of the Riviera. The venue erupted when they went into “Rusty Cage,” but it was the next song that was a nice surprise. “Slaves and Bulldozers” off of my favorite album, Badmotorfinger came roaring out of the speakers. With its slow crunch it builds and builds and just punches you in the face. Towards the end of the song the band built up a wall of feedback and one by one they started to leave the stage. It was a little weird because I thought they would let the feedback go for a while and have guitarist, Kim Thayil start a riff to another song. That was not the case because eventually Thayil left the stage too and let the feedback keep ringing till the house lights went on.

 

Other than the ending I was in grunge heaven. They sounded so good and fresh and I would go see them again in a heartbeat. The only thing I was disappointed about was that two of my favorite songs, “My Wave” and “Fourth of July” weren’t played. Of course I found out they did both of those the night before, but I have nothing to be down about because they made up for it by kicking our ass from beginning to end. If you have the chance to catch Soundgarden on this tour, by all means do yourself a big favor and do it.

Reviewed by Todd Anthony on 1/30/13

01st Feb2013

Reel Big Fish Return to Chicago

by rockchicago

 

On a blistery cold Monday in January, the Fish returned to Chicago to once again rock the House of Blues stage. They are still on the road supporting their most recent album, Candy Coated Fury. Almost six months ago to the day they were here at the House of Blues debuting tracks of that album. Being the road warriors that they are, a short six months isn’t a big deal for them to be coming back to a town that has always truly supported them.

A second time around usually means not as big of a crowd as the first time and this held true. In July of last year the House of Blues was packed to the gills and maybe even sold out. This time there was a lot more room but still a very decent crowd. I was able to catch a few songs by The Pilfers but not enough to give a true critique.  Finally at eight pm the curtain opened to the tune of the Theme from the original Superman movie and the members of Reel Big Fish took the stage.  They opened with the snappy number, “Everyone Else is an Asshole.” This got the crowd into a frenzy and started the first of many sing alongs.

Reel Big Fish were formed in 1992 but didn’t burst onto the scene until the late nineties ska revival and had a major hit in 1997 with “Sell Out.”  That song as usual got the crowd even more into a happy uproar of dancing and bouncing all over the House of Blues. Their set wasn’t too different than the one from July but it definitely lacked the excitement and energy that they had at that show. Not saying that there wasn’t any energy because these guys have a lot of fun when they are on stage and they wear it on their sleeve. Lead singer Aaron Barrett can’t be contained and constantly runs laps all over the stage with guitar in hand.  I just think that they were a tad more into their first leg of this current tour and it is starting to show a little bit.

The one liners and wise cracks between band members was still there as always and they threw pieces of popular songs into their own songs, including the refrain from “Call Me Maybe.”  If you are not familiar with Reel Big Fish’s material the best way to describe what their songs are about is either drinking or ex-girlfriends. They never changed their style and their content and that is what I love about them. You cannot help but smile when you are at a Reel Big Fish show and it carries for the rest of the night. There’s nothing like leaving a live show and having a good vibe stay with you.

One thing that has always been consistent with Reel Big Fish is cover songs. They always like to pull out a good cover tune and they record their versions of classic songs on almost every album. This night they pulled out their rendition of the When in Rome classic, “The Promise.”  That song also appears on their album, Candy Coated Fury. We also got treated to a little bit of the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars after a guitar versus trombone battle, in which trombonist, Dan Regan pulled out the popular anthem and guitarist Aaron Barrett conceded. He gave up stating, “I can’t compete with Star Wars.” 

Throughout the night Barrett kept teasing asking if they did “Sell Out” yet and he would start the riff. He did this a few times and it’s this kind of goofy humor that makes their live shows a lot of fun. The best line was when he introduced a song stating, “This one is from the late 1900’s.”  He pulled that line out a couple times, and even though the songs might be almost twenty years old they still sounded as fresh as ever. The show ended on a high note with their classic cover of Ah Ha’s “Take on Me.”

I am really glad these guys come to Chicago often and I hope they will be on Riot Fest later this summer. If you enjoy ska and good times then I highly recommend going to see Reel Big Fish next time they are in town.

Reviewed by Todd Anthony on 1/21/13