09th Jul2014

Sarah McLachlan Brings Her Living Room to Ravinia

by rockchicago

 

I could not think of a better way to spend the 4th of July weekend other than at Ravinia on a beautiful breezy summer evening. It was especially a real treat to see one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Sarah McLachlan, performing with her band on her Shine On Tour. What a lady!

First, let me introduce the set. A simple, yet elegant mock of a spacious and artsy looking living room (her living room). On the ceiling hung three large circular objects with lights around the rims that symbolized chandeliers. They, along with other hanging light fixtures, lit up and created an awesome looking light show. Occasionally on certain songs, there were 3 large screens that served as a wall for the stage. There was a purple couch on the side of the stage with a coffee table facing the band, and there were white string lights hanging that helped create a soft lamplight effect.

Sarah walked on stage along with her band, as humble as ever, wearing a shiny silver loose top that showed off her toned arms and black pants. She grabbed a guitar, and made a brief introductory speech, and told us what a great city we have (I think artists say that about every city, but this one is true), and how she spent the 4th of July here in Chicago. She mentioned her new album, Shine On, which was just released a couple of months ago, and acknowledged that some people might not know the new songs, so she would intertwine the new with the old ones that everyone was most likely there to hear.

There’s 25 songs on the set list, so I will mention the ones that I particularly enjoyed the most. The first half of the night she sang and played familiar songs such as “Building a Mystery,” the tender “Adia (one of my favorites),” the emotionally powerful ballad that I think everyone can relate to, “Stupid,” and “World on Fire (famously played in commercials).” She would explain the meaning behind her songs which I appreciated. She had a way of talking to her audience as if she was talking to her friends in her living room. Very conversational, and I think that aspect brought us closer to her and her music. “Broken Heart” was a beautiful and moving song with her at the piano. The title is self explanatory, but it basically reflects the events that were going on in her life, and how she moved on from divorce, raising her two kids, and finding another partner.

The second half of the set included a mix of her spine-tingling ballads and soft-rock slightly harder edged songs which were very cool and different from her usual material. She opened up the second set with a song about her father, whom she lost a few years ago, and the lessons he taught her, and how she will reflect that onto her children. Next, she played and sang “I will Remember You,” probably one of her most well known songs in the late 1990s. That was played at my 8th grade graduation, so it definitely brought back memories for me. “Brink of Destruction” is oddly enough a very positive song about how life can bring you down, but you get right back up and move. She talked about how she was used to writing about sad and tragic situations, so her songs were sad and solemn, but her new partner helped and inspired her to take that kind of energy and create something different and more uplifting while still keeping her signature sound. I really loved “Hold On” which was a song for her children, and I think children in general. She went back to her epically tragic and witty form of songwriting with “Sweet Surrender,” and of course, the haunting “Possession,” which was about a stalker.

The encore was much longer than I expected. She began with “Angel,“a slow ballad that became popular as it was played in the City of Angels movie. “Beautiful Girl” was written about her daughters, and I loved it as it was sentimental. She ended the night with “The Sound That Love Makes,” which was a little bit of a jazzier and uplifting piece; perfect for ending an amazing evening of good music and fresh air.

I’d like to mention that the couch on stage not only served as a piece of furniture that completed the living room like set, but select members of the audience who won a certain contest on her website were invited to go sit on it and watch her play a song. She also went up to them, and talked and answered any questions that they had. I thought that was really neat and showed that she is a down to Earth person. Audience members were also allowed to write questions on a piece of paper, which she drew from a hat and answered them. Some were quite funny, and her answers seemed very honest.

I totally enjoyed watching and hearing Sarah, with her signature Celtic-like voice and microphone effects. Her voice, her songwriting, her multi-instrumental abilities, and most of all, her personable, calm and wordly attitude and personality make her a lovely artist and a must see.

Reviewed by Sarah Breidenbach

05th Jul2014

Earth, Wind & Fire Get the Party Started at Ravinia

by rockchicago

 

It was the start of what was to be a fantastic evening at Ravinia Festival with none other than Earth, Wind & Fire! This is my second time seeing them and I have to tell you, it was definitely worth it! The show wasn’t sold out but it was very close. As the stage was set with lots of video screens, I took my seat.

The band came out and went right into playing some of the hits including “Boogie Wonderland,” and “Sing A Song,” and even played a brand new song off their new album Now and Forever called “My Promise,” which evokes the early sounds of EW&F.

The concert was not just a celebration of their music, the new album and the fans, but it was treated like a big party. Everyone was dancing in their seats and in the aisles. I even caught myself dancing in the aisle as well! EW&F have that sort of sound, where it’ll sound good years later when they play their music. The band was very tight and at the top of their game.

The band included Maurice White (Vocals, Kalimba, Drums, Percussion), Verdine White (Bass), Philip Bailey (Vocals, Conga, Percussion, Kalimba), Ralph Johnson (Drums, Percussion, Vocals), B. David Whitworth (Percussion, Vocals), Greg “G-Mo” Moore (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Myron McKinley (Keyboards), Morris O’Connor (Lead Guitar), Kim Johnson (Vocals), Philip Bailey, Jr.- (Vocals), John Paris (Drums), Reggie Young (Trombone), Gary Bias (Saxophone) and Bobby Burns. Jr (Trumpet). An awfully big band, isn’t it? The 3 original members are Maurice White, his brother Verdine White and Philip Bailey.

It was truly amazing seeing all these guys onstage. They were having a lot of fun, interacting with the audience and doing solos galore! Including a great sax solo from Gary Bias. I’ve also got to tell you, Philip Bailey definitely has one of the best voices in music. The notes he was hitting in some songs were ridiculous!

Other songs played that night included “Shining Star,” “After the Love Has Gone,” “Reasons,” “Devotion,” “That’s the Way of the World,” “Serpentine Fire,” “Fantasy,” “September,” “Let’s Groove” and encored with “In the Stone.”

The coolest part of the night was running into film actor Craig Robinson, who was not too far away. You may have seen him in such movies as Hot Tub Time Machine and This is the End. After he was nice enough to take pictures with the crowd, he ended up on stage playing tambourine with the band!

Overall, Earth Wind & Fire knew how to keep the party going. Non-stop energy, lots of talent and a whole lot of fun. I highly recommend everyone out there to go see an Earth, Wind & Fire show because you will not only have a great time, but you’ll want to come back and see them again. I’m glad I came back and saw them again this year, having seen them last year. The only difference this year is they stepped it up a notch.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

28th Jun2014

Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour Spreads the Magic and the Music to Sears Centre

by rockchicago

 

Anybody that is a Michael Jackson fan, you would’ve seen tonight at Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, which was an amazing spectacle that you have to see to believe. Cirque du Soleil gets into the imagination of Michael Jackson and brings it alive on stage. The show was at the Sears Centre Arena which is not my favorite venue. First and foremost, it’s too big of a place for a show like this and the sound quality is not great there at all. For this show, the sound was great, but could’ve been louder.

 Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime electrifying production that combines Michael Jackson’s music and choreography with Cirque du Soleil creativity to give fans worldwide a unique view into the spirit, passion and heart of the artistic genius who forever transformed global pop culture. The show is written and directed by Jamie King, the leading concert director in pop music today, and features 49 international dancers, musicians and acrobats.

A riveting fusion of visuals, dance and music that immerses audiences in Michael’s creative world, Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour unfolds Michael Jackson’s artistry before the eyes of the audience. Aimed at lifelong fans as well as those experiencing Michael’s creative genius for the first time, the show captures the essence, soul and inspiration of the King of Pop, celebrating a legacy that continues to transcend generations. The show also features a top-notch band including alumni who have played with Michael Jackson on tour. His band included: Don Boyette (band leader and bass guitar), Charles “Charlie” Wilson (keyboards), Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett (drums), Jon Myron Clark (guitar), Bashiri Johnson (percussion), Desiree Bassett (guitar), Michael Ghegan (saxophone), Ravi Hassan Best (trumpet), Mariko (cello) and Jason Woods and jMarie (vocals). All the musicians were top-notch!

The show opens with “Working Day and Night” with five super fans praising the King of Pop with a giant mural of Michael Jackson. It was actually a very cool scene in which the fans (hip-hop dancers), jumped onto the screen and it was very 3D-like. The song then segued into one of my favorite MJ songs “Childhood,” in which the Mime (Jonathan Bayani) awakens the bronze statues guarding the gates of Neverland. As the gates open, we are introduced to the IMMORTAL band while dancers and acrobats in tribal costumes danced and moved to “Wanna Be Starting Something.” The energy stayed active as the next scene transitioned into an ironworks factory (almost reminded me of MJ in the sweat shop scene in the film The Wiz) for “Dancing Machine.” Each of the dancers in this sequence dance on different “dancing machines.” It was very cool to see the different machines they were dancing on because each performer performed a different dance style.

As we move forward, it quiets down as we hear “Ben” to a video of MJ with a bunch of animals on the screen. We then see Bubble the Monkey, MJ’s faithful companion. As the song concludes, we go into a very cool part of the show that blends 3 of MJ’s songs together as part of a “Murder Ballad-like” trio of songs. It started with “This Place Hotel,” one of my personal favorites, where the dancers were performing in the air. It then shifts into the famous “Smooth Criminal,” where gangsters are hanging on lamp posts reading newspapers. The coolest part was watching the dancers re-enact the choreography from the video including the famous leaning motion! As it segues into the third song “Dangerous,” we see the gangsters surrounding center stage as an acrobat performs a very cool pole dancing act. The 3 songs really did mesh together well as sort of alike a mini movie, which MJ was famous for.

In the famous Cirque du Soleil etiquette, the Mime, who is like a leader/narrator (without speaking of course), feels himself transforming more and more into MJ to the song “Another Part of Me.” When he feels the “magic,” we disappear into the darkness where a 3D version of the Neverland logo appear on the wall (Michael as a boy sitting on a crescent of a moon), and aerialists appear representing the constellations to a moonlit sky wearing multicolored LED costumes as they were soaring through the air to “Human Nature.” It was honestly the coolest and most magical numbers in the show. As the scene fades to black, a book appears in the middle of the stage. As it opens, we see the nightmares coming alive as MJ sings “Is It Scary.” A contortionist comes out of the Book of Tales and contorts every which way, turning the pages. As we get deeper into the story, it stays in scary-mode as we transition into “Thriller,” the final number of the first act. MJ’s original choreography is re-imagined as a bunch of mummies hit the stage to perform the ghoulish dancing.

As we start the second act to the story, we see an aerialist performing on white silk, like swans to MJ dueting with jMarie on a beautiful rendition of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” As it fades to black, the scene re-awakens with a giant pair of MJ’s signature penny loafers and a giant glittery glove coming to life onstage for “Beat It.” It was so cool to see them come alive. In the end, an electric cello and electric guitar get into a battle, which is cool for any rock fan. The clash theme continues with “Jam,” in which a group of basketball players perform some hip-hop choreography. The act was inspired by MJ’s original music video with Michael Jordan.

As the show progressed, it gets out of story-mode a little bit just performing scenes. We continue with the Mime coming out of center stage with an earth-like ball as MJ’s “Earth Song” blasts through the arena. This a very powerful song with a very powerful message and truly a highlight of the night. The next scene involved acrobats performing a tumbling act, while aerial dancers are performing ninja-like choreography to “Scream.” Both “Scream” and “Earth Song” are about the end of the world, so it made perfect sense to blend the two.

For the next number, “They Don’t Care About Us,” dancers dressed like soldiers wearing robot suits with LED breastplates light up to perform choreography in unison. This number is a reenactment of the number that was designed for the THIS IS IT concert tour the way MJ wanted it to be. At the end of the number, as the soldiers’ breastplates begin to glow, dancers come down from the audience onto the stage holding red glowing hearts for “Will You Be There.” It was one of the most heart-wrenching songs in the show. It then fades into just a video of MJ on a scrim on the stage to the song “I’ll Be There.”

The story slowly comes to an end for the Mega Mix, which included all kinds of dance going on for “Can You Feel It” and “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.” During “Billie Jean,” the whole place went dark as the dancers lit up with LED costumes and changed colors dancing to MJ’s signature choreography. One of the best moments of the show. As the mega mix finale closes out to “Black or White,” the dancers run from all corners of the audience to the stage with flags in a tribute to the nations and dance styles of the world, including African, Spanish, Thai and Georgian dances. The show’s finale is “Man in the Mirror” as the performers take their bows and close the Book of Tales by MJ.

This show really represented Michael Jackson’s imagination, dreams and feelings into a heartfelt show with Cirque du Soleil. The audience really reacted to the performers and to MJ with people screaming “We love you Michael” from time to time. IT was almost as if MJ was really there but he wasn’t. This show is no more or less a celebration of his life & legacy, and you can see that beautifully on stage.

For more information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/michaeljackson

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

28th Jun2014

James Taylor “Showers the People” with Love at Ravinia Festival

by rockchicago

 

Oh, what a beautiful evening it is. Night 1 of James Taylor’s sold out 2-night residency at Ravinia Festival, and what madness! As everyone rushed to take their seats, you know the band is just about to take the stage!

The first person you see is James Taylor greeting the crowd walking back and forth saying hi to the audience. Then he walked center stage, picked up his acoustic and went right into a beautiful rendition of “Something in the Way She Moves.” Song after song, you can tell Taylor just loves playing and he loved playing with his band as well. Taylor’s All-Star band included legendary drummer Steve Gadd (Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney), percussionist Luis Conte (Phil Collins, Madonna, Pat Metheny Group), Jimmy Johnson (a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section) on bass, Larry Goldings (Ray Charles, Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock) on keyboards, Michael Landau (Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Steve Perry, Seal, Richard Marx) on guitar, Lou Marini (The Blues Brothers Band, Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Blood, Sweat & Tears) on horns, Walt Fowler (Frank Zappa) on horns and keyboards, Andrea Zonn (Alison Krauss, Amy Grant, Lyle Lovett, Neil Diamond) on backing vocals and violin, Arnold McCuller (Phil Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Todd Rundgren, Carole King) on backing vocals, Kate Markowitz (Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, Neil Diamond) on backing vocals and songwriter David Lasley (Luther Vandross, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler) on backing vocals. How about that for an all-star band!!!

Taylor’s set list included a lot of his hits including “Everyday (Buddy Holly cover),” “Country Road,” “Carolina in My Mind,” “Sweet Baby James,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “You and I,” “Handy Man,” “You Are My Only One,” a beautiful acoustic rendition of “Fire and Rain,” “Up on the Roof,” “Mexico,” and “Your Smiling Face” among others. He performed a 2 and a half hour set with 3 encores including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” “Shower the People” and “Lassie Will You Go.”

Taylor also premiered new songs like the great “Today, Today, Today” and the bluesy “One More Go Round,” which makes you want to go out and buy the new album already. Throughout the show, Taylor was talking to the audience like he’s talking to his friends, telling stories of being on the road, working with Carole King, and how much he loved The Beatles. You can tell he was comfortable on stage and comfortable with the crowd. To prove that, during the 15-minute intermission, he even came out to the front of the stage to sign autographs and take pictures with fans!

The best song of the night by far was “Steamroller.” This is one of Taylor’s early bluesy songs, but it’s one of those songs that you can feel how he feels onstage. Michael Landau killed it on guitar during this song, as he’s able to show off playing the blues. But I have to give it to the rest of the band as well, because not only were they amazing, but you can tell they were having so much fun onstage. Especially the backup singers! At one point at the end of the show, Taylor even brought out his wife and his son to sing backup as well! Another highlight for me was a song Taylor wrote called “Mill Worker” for a musical by theatre composer Stephen Schwartz called Working.

Overall, this was one of the best concerts I’ve seen at Ravinia. Having grown up with James Taylor’s music, it was a real treat to see it live. It was almost like a celebration of some sorts. Hopefully, the people that went the second night will feel the same way I felt this first night!

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

23rd Jun2014

Daryl Hall & John Oates Are “Back Together Again” at Ravinia Festival

by rockchicago

 

It was another beautiful but cold night at Ravinia Festival. It’s packed and there’s great music to follow from none other than Daryl Hall & John Oates!! Despite the big drop in temperature and the fog, it was still a great night once again.

This is Hall & Oates’ 4th time playing Ravinia and my 3rd time seeing them. But I must say, out of all the times I’ve seen them, this was the best. The reason I say that is because they dug out some deep cuts this time around which was exciting.

As soon as 7pm hit, the band started walking out onstage. Hall & Oates soon trailed out and they broke into one of their famous hits “Maneater.” Then the show just took off from there. The show only ended up being 90 minutes which I thought was fairly short for them. But they packed as much as they could into those 90 minutes.

The set list for the night included: “You’re Out of Touch,” “I Did It In A Minute,” “Back Together Again,” “Las Vegas Turnaround,” “She’s Gone,” “Sara Smile,” “Do What You Wanna Do,” “Rich Girl,” which was was fun to see all the band members waving neon tambourines! “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “Kiss On My List,” “Private Eyes” and the best song of the night “I Can’t Go For That,” where there was about an 8-minute long sax solo and exchanged singing with the percussionist!

Hall & Oates proved they still have it and were in full voice that night. They were feeding off the crowd and changed some of the arrangements for some of the songs. Like, for instance, at the beginning of “Rich Girl,” Hall was messing around on the keys solo before jumping in with a full band.

The show wasn’t sold out but it looked close, and it seemed like everyone else enjoyed the show. The crowd was on their feet most of the time anyway! The band was outstanding as well. It included Charlie DeChant on sax, keys and vocals, Brian Dunne on drums, Eliot Lewis on keys and vocals, Klyde Jones on bass and vocals, Porter Carroll on percussion and vocals and Shane Theriot on guitars and vocals. Each of them at the top of their class!

Overall it was great show and if you’re a Hall & Oates fan, you might want to check them out on tour at a city near you!

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

18th Jun2014

John Legend Opens the Ravinia Festival With a Bang!

by rockchicago

 

It was a beautiful summer night as the Ravinia Festival opens its season with none other than John Legend! It couldn’t have been a more perfect night than tonight, and what a crowd. As it’s the opening show of the Ravinia season, you can imagine how packed the place was, especially since the show was sold out.

For a certain amount you pay, you can get onstage seating which was really cool. Legend was in town for his “All of Me Tour,” in support of his new album Love in the Future. He had a string quartet, a guitarist and a grand piano. It was really beautiful hearing Legend play all of his songs on the piano instead of a full band. The concert was treated as a “living room-like” concert, and really felt like you were just sitting in a living room with him.

Some highlights from his 2-hour long set included “Get Lifted,” “Ordinary People,” “All of Me,” the haunting “Made to Love,” “You & I (Nobody in the World),” “Caught Up,” “Good Morning,” “Maxine” and the beautiful “This Time” plus many more of his hits. One special standout was his gorgeously haunting cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with just him solo at the piano.

What I really enjoyed about this concert was Legend interacted with the audience a lot in the show, bantering to the couples sitting onstage as well to people in the audience. As I said before, the show was really intimate. Legend told stories behind a lot of his songs, and last but not least, his songs took a turn for the best with new arrangements for the string quartet being added. The sound was lush and pure. Legend’s voice was as silky smooth as you can imagine, and he had no problem singing straight for 2 hours and playing. He treated the show like a living room party, and Ravinia was the perfect place to have it! At first, I was thinking, “Why isn’t this concert at a smaller venue where it would be more intimate?” But with the setup the way it was at Ravinia, they proved why it’s the perfect venue to stage a concert like this, so props to them.

For any John Legend fans out there, the “All of Me Tour” really was incredible. You should definitely check out Legend when he comes to a town near you with this tour. Though, seeing it outdoors really makes it magical, but that’s the magic of Ravinia.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

25th Nov2013

THE MAGIC OF MOTOWN LIGHTS UP THE HOLIDAY SEASON WITH THE “MARY WILSON HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR Featuring special guests The Four Tops”

by rockchicago

 

The Holiday Season gets a taste of the Motown Sound as “Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular Featuring Special Guests The Four Topsblows into the Windy City December 23, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the Harris Theater (205 E. Randolph St.) Presented by Reach Out Entertainment and Starvox Entertainment and Marketing, audiences will be taken on a journey through some of the greatest Motown hits as well as Holiday classics by Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes and the legendary Four Tops, celebrating 60 years of performing in 2013. Pre-sale tickets ($59.99 – $119.99) go on sale Tuesday, October 22 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com with an American Express Card. General Public tickets go on sale Sunday, October 27 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, HarrisTheaterChicago.org, by calling 312.334.7777 or at the Harris Theater Box Office. For more information visit marywilsonandthefourtops.com.

It is a dream to celebrate the Holiday season in Chicago,” said performer Mary Wilson. “To perform with my good friends The Four Tops while singing the great songs that introduced us to world combined with some of my favorite Holiday tunes, is the perfect way to usher in the New Year and celebrate the spirit of the season.”

Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular” stars the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and Vocal Group Hall of Fame recipient Mary Wilson who will treat audiences to rousing renditions of some of the signature songs that catapulted the Supremes to become the most successful “girl group” in history. Favorites include “Stop In The Name of Love,” “I Hear a Symphony,” “Come See About Me,” “Can’t Hurry Love,” “Back In Your Arms Again,” Someday We’ll Be Together” and many more. Abdul “Duke” Fakir, leading The Four Tops will also bring the music of Motown to life with “Baby I Need Your Lovin’,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” “Bernadette” and “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got” and “In The Still of the Night.” Wilson and The Four Tops will then join together on stage, putting the Motown sound into everyone’s favorite holiday classics including “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” “Winter Wonderland,” “My Favorite Things” and a special rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” sung by Wilson and Fakir. These living legends bring their soul and passion to the stage, embracing the warmth of the season and welcoming in a new year with memorable songs that are sure to have audiences singing along and embracing the spirit and the sounds of holiday.

We are so thrilled to bring together some of Motown’s living legends and present them to Chicago audiences during the holiday season, said Starvox President Corey Ross.” Both Mary Wilson and the Four Tops have continued to delight audiences for decades and to see them join together on one stage and showcase their incredible talent will be a holiday treat for all.”

Performance Schedule and Ticket Information

Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular Featuring Special Guests The Four Tops:”

Monday, December 23, 2013 – Sunday, January 5, 2014

December 23, 25 – 29, 31 and January 2 – 4 at 8:00 p.m.

December 28 and January 4 – 5 at 3:00 p.m.

December 31 at 10 p.m. (Special New Year’s Eve performance, details TBD)
*no performances December 24 and December 30

Tickets ($59.99 – $119.99) are available online at Ticketmaster.com, by calling
312.334.7777 or in-person at the Harris Theater Box Office (205 E. Randolph St.). Discounted Group Ticket reservations are available for groups of 10 or more at
Grouptix.net or by calling 773-327-3778.

30th Aug2013

Frankie Moreno: The New Star of Las Vegas

by rockchicago

On my second day in Las Vegas, I was eagerly awaiting to see the amazing performer Frankie Moreno. Frankie’s show is at The Stratosphere hotel, which is one of the tallest hotels in the country.

I am just going to say this right now. Frankie Moreno’s show is THE best show to see in Las Vegas! From the opener Tommy Ward to Frankie’s 10-piece band consisting of drums, bass, guitar, a 3-piece horn section, a string section and Frankie on piano and guitar.

I’ve seen a lot of performers and Frankie Moreno tops a lot of them. He is not only an amazing songwriter, but he can play piano better than anyone I have seen before. Frankie has written songs for people like Ray Charles, Air Supply and many more.

Throughout the show, Frankie performed some of his songs off his new debut self-titled album. He really has some great songs on the album including “Beautiful,” “Tangerine Honey” and “Black Mascara.” He also performed an incredible rendition of The Beatles’ song “Eleanor Rigby,” which was the best cover of that song that I’ve ever heard.

One of the things I loved about the show was that Frankie loved talking with the audience, which, as an audience member, makes us feel special. At one point, the stage manager brought a bottle of whiskey out and did shots with Frankie onstage. I didn’t know it was a special occasion, and I don’t think it was. Frankie’s brother Tony plays bass in his band and also helped write some of the songs, and their other brother Ricky is known as the “crazy one.” Ricky also does Frankie’s merchandise.

I don’t want to sound like I am obsessed with this show, but not only do I think that this show would be great in any state, but if you are ever visiting Las Vegas, you DEFINITELY have to see Frankie Moreno. Frankie was seen on TV shows like Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent and first got discovered on Star Search.

To hear and see more about Frankie Moreno, visit his website at www.frankiemoreno.com

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 8/24/13

01st Aug2013

Brian Wilson Settles In At Ravinia

by rockchicago

 

On the heels of last year’s very successful Beach Boys 50th Anniversary celebration tour and the release of their first studio album of new music in 20 years titled “That’s Why God Made the Radio”, Brian Wilson seemed like a man who was very pleased to be back where it had all begun- a member once again of the band he and his brothers Carl and Dennis had put together in the early 1960’s. The success of the tour and the favorable reception to the new CD had appeared to reinvigorate the then 70 year old California rocker to the point where he seemed destined to carry onward and forward with more tours and Beach Boys studio recording releases to come. Unfortunately, his cousin Mike Love, who in 1998 won the rights to the name “The Beach Boys” in a lengthy legal battle, had other plans.

Prior to the end of last year’s 70-plus show reunion tour, Love was already moving forward with plans for a new tour without Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and David Marks, as well as a majority of the supporting band, which was made up largely of Brian’s own touring troupe over recent years. Once again Mike Love was demonstrating himself to be the chameleon that he has shown himself to be over the course of history by making plans behind the others backs. Wilson was clearly disappointed in Love’s actions and lack of flexibility in keeping the most successful rendition of the band in decades going into 2013, instead of going back to Love’s pre-2012 reunion lineup. When that was brought to the public’s attention, Love responded by stating ““Let me get right to it: I did not fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys, I cannot fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. I am not his employer. I do not have such authority. And even if I did, I would never fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. I love Brian Wilson. We are partners. He’s my cousin by birth and my brother in music.” He then proceeded to in fact fire Brian Wilson, as well as Al Jardine and David Marks. Al Jardine attempted a petition drive to get the three performers re-instated, however that was to no avail. Talk about “All My Beach Boys”, to paraphrase a long time soap opera. That led to Wilson giving this statement to CNN: “I’m disappointed and can’t understand why he doesn’t want to tour with Al, David and me. We are out there having so much fun. After all, we are the real Beach Boys.”

To play on an old cliché, Wilson decided “if you can’t join them, beat them”. And that brings us to Ravinia in Highland Park on this stormy, wet Friday night in July for the performance of The Brian Wilson Band, the 5th of 6 BWB concerts scheduled this month. A single west coast show is slated for later this year, with possible additional shows being added around that one.

 

A twelve piece musical entourage featuring the afore mentioned Al Jardine front and center, with David Marks flanked to his left and Brian Wilson perched behind his white Baby Grand to his right, the band took the stage at exactly eight o’clock. From the opening “California Girls” through the 6th song “Girl Don’t Tell Me”, the band was well received, but for me there was something missing when compared to last year’s very enjoyable performance at the 50th Reunion tour show I had seen at the Chicago Theatre. In a word, the missing element was “energy”. I’m not saying it wasn’t upbeat, and there is no debating that this is a tight, well honed ensemble of talented musicians. But it just seemed rather placid to me personally. As well, there is one thing that puzzles me. And that is the need for five guitarists on stage. I haven’t seen that many ax grinders on stage at once since the encore at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival. But these guys are not, for the better part, “lead” guitarists. They play their instruments in very much the same way the band expresses its masterful vocal harmonies- but more subtle and to support the larger picture.

Although the show may have started out a bit under whelming in the sense of electricity, there were many fine moments. During the 7th song, “In My Room”, the band seemed to start to hit its stride a little bit more, and then a subsequent invitation by Al Jardine to get up out of their chairs and move around, the crowd starting coming to life in the Pavilion as well. A decent version covering The Crystals “Then I Kissed Her” with Jardine on vocals followed. Then, a solid melody of “Old Man River and Cotton Fields” changed up the tempo nicely. The 13th song, “Little Bird”, was sung by David Marks in tribute to Carl Wilson, and there was even a banjo brought out for that one.

After a 30 minute intermission, Brian reached back to his solo career for the title track of his 1998 CD release “Your Imagination”, a song co-written with long time local radio and webcast personality Steve Dahl. After a strong rendition of Pet Sounds, which demonstrated the musical talent of this outfit, the hit parade began, with the familiar crowd pleasers once again bringing the energy level in the Pavilion back up a few notches. A string of 7 golden oldies was followed by the more conservative song “Summer’s Gone” to close out the night. It was a fitting finale on this cool, rainy late July evening. It actually did feel like the summer was gone.

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 7/26/13

Photos by Pedro de Jesus

 

Set List:

01. California Girls

02. Catch a Wave

03. Hawaii

04. Dance, Dance, Dance

05. Little Deuce Coupe

06. Girl Don’t Tell Me

07. In My Room

08. Surfer Girl

09. Please Let Me Wonder

10. Then I Kissed Her

11. Don’t Worry Baby

12. Old Man River/Cotton Fields

13. Little Bird

14. Do It Again

15. Summertime Blues

16. Do You Wanna Dance?

17. I Get Around

…..Intermission……

18. Our Prayer

19. Heroes & Villains

20. Your Imagination

21. Goin’ Home

22. That’s Why God Made The Radio

23. God Only Knows

24. California Saga: California

25. Sail On Sailor

26. Marcella

27. Darlin’

28. Pet Sounds

29. Wouldn’t It Be Nice

30. Sloop John B

31. Good Vibrations

…….Encore…….

32. All Summer Long

33. Help Me Rhonda

34. Barbara Ann

35. Surfin’ USA

36. Fun, Fun, Fun

…….Second Encore…….

37. Summers Gone

02nd Jul2013

Jackson Browne “Never Stops” with the Ravinia Crowd

by rockchicago

 

It was another beautiful night at Ravinia Festival. Especially for a Thursday to sing pop/rock icon Jackson Browne. Tonight, Browne was joined by Nickel Creek alum Sara Watkins with her brother Sean Watkins.

For the Watkins’ set, they played a lot of songs from Sara Watkins’ latest solo album “Sun Midnight Sun.” Having been a fan of Nickel Creek when they were big, I, personally liked Nickel Creek together more than Watkins solo. Even though it was just her and her brother on stage, I still think it would’ve been better for her to have a full band. It would have sounded a lot more fuller. For the last track of their set, Jackson Browne played with her.

For Browne’s set, which was most of the show, he performed songs from his vast catalog including songs like “Black and White,” “Call It A Loan,” “Never Stop,” “I’m Alive” and “Looking East”. For most of the show the Watkins’ joined in on vocals; Sara playing fiddle and Sean playing guitar.

Everyone was on their feet most of the night with Browne transitioning between playing guitar and piano. In between songs, he shared stories of being in the music business and the different acquaintences he’s met as well. To be honest, he’s a very funny guy.

It was the calm before the storm. The “storm” came when Browne performed songs like “The Pretender,” “Running on Empty,” “Doctor My Eyes” and the encore “Take Its Easy.” These are the songs where everyone was over the top.

Overall it was a great show. I was little upset that he didn’t play my favorite song of his, “Somebody’s Baby,” which was big in the 80′s. I best remember that song in the film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” But other than that, Brown proves he’s still got it.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 6/26/13

Photo by Pedro de Jesus

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