21st Jul2014

Crosby, Stills & Nash Play Ravinia to a Sold-Out Crowd

by rockchicago

What a beautiful evening for an outdoor concert. I love Ravinia for many reasons such as the staff who are always very friendly and accommodating, and the atmosphere that the patrons create on the lawn. Everybody is here to have a great time with family and friends, and even waiting in line is not so bad because there is always a conversation going on which makes the line move faster. Ravinia is one of my favorite venues to review a show for those reasons alone.

The concert began promptly with the band coming out to a standing ovation from the crowd with Carry On/Questions, with David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills front and forward on stage along with Shayne Fontayne (Guitar), Steve Distanislao (Drums), Kevin McCormick (Bass), Todd Caldwell (Organ) and James Raymond (David Crosby’s son, on Keyboards). On this song, the music sounded great, but the vocals were a mess. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with their harmonies. After singing many years together, one would think that CSN would have this track down pat, but unfortunately, this song sounded vocally like a train wreck. Further into the song the harmonies got a little better, but clearly it was Stephen Stills who could not sing in tune. Still, the crowd gave them a standing ovation after this song was performed. Next, they played another old favorite, Marrakesh Express. The vocals got a little better, as I believe the sound guy adjusted the mics in order to accommodate the off-key singing by Stephen Stills, followed by another long-time favorite of mine, Long Time Gone. David Crosby sang lead on this one and was in perfect key, along with Graham Nash. The musicianship on these songs were remarkable, and adding James Raymond into the mix playing keyboards made CSN sound better than they have in years.

As a side note, this concert was probably the longest I have seen them perform with the first set lasting 70 minutes and the second set lasting 90 minutes, with a 20 minute intermission in between. For a group of guys in their 60’s and 70’s, I have to hand it to them for playing on stage for that long a period of time. Anyway, following were the songs Southern Cross, Lay Me Down and a song from David Crosby’s new solo album, Broken. This song was co-written by James Raymond. Next were a few songs that I had never heard before such as Delta, Don’t Want Lies and Cathedral which was written while Graham Nash was standing on a soldier’s grave. The one interesting aspect of this performance tonight that I had not seen in prior concerts, was that each songwriter explained their inspirations behind writing some of these classic songs that the baby boomers have been singing along with for generations. Some of the stories, which were told before the songs, were performed truly explained the meaning behind the song before it was played.

The first half continued with a solo song beautifully written and performed by Graham Nash called Back Home which was written about his family, Bluebird, a Buffalo Springfield cover and the classic Déjà Vu which was, in my opinion, the best song of the first set featuring the entire band going into a mini jam.

CSN led the second half with Helplessly Hoping which really sounded good. The harmonies seemed to be much better. Next, Stephen Stills sang a Bob Dylan cover song, Girl From the North Country. I absolutely could not understand a word that he sang and his vocals were totally off key. Don’t get me wrong, his guitar playing was flawless but his vocal ability is pretty much gone. Next, Graham Nash got back on the keyboards with a harmonica and sang his song Here For You. I had never heard this song before, so hearing it for the first time, the words and melody were truly beautiful. Keeping with the solo theme, David Crosby then sang another solo off his new album, What Makes it So, again co-written by his son, James Raymond. David Crosby then explained that he had written the tune Guinnevere for his wife of 38 years who was sitting in the audience. I was moved by how melodic they performed this song with keyboards and acoustic guitars. This time they left out Stephen Stills for the harmonies, which absolutely sounded spectacular. Other songs following included Burning For the Buddah and Treetop Flyer which I have never heard before. In my opinion, they were just okay. Then finally, the party begins!!! Our House turned into a giant sing-along with the audience, with the band pausing to hear us, which led to the song Chicago, which everybody got on their feet singing and dancing to the music, followed by the famous song written by Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth. This was the highlight of my night most definitely. These two songs brought me back to the protest days in the early 70’s at Grant Park. Everyone was on their feet with the final song by Stephen Stills, Love the One You’re With. This song is my favorite Stephen Stills song. This time, they got it right with the harmonies. I was wondering at this point if Stills lost his voice or if they cut out his mic. Regardless, it sounded really good.

The encore consisted of the song Teach Your Children, which the audience was still on their feet and singing along. The problem I saw with the performance of this song was CSN could not hit the high notes as originally written. Instead they transformed the song to go down on the harmonies. It was very awkward for me to hear it performed that way after decades of listening to this song the way it was performed originally on their album.

Overall, it was a very entertaining evening packed with a lot of good music from CSN, and a history lesson behind some of their most famous songs.

Reviewed by Debbie Pollack

18th Jul2014

Counting Crows Excites the Crowd at Ravinia

by rockchicago


It was a beautiful Monday night and a sold-out show for the Counting Crows at Ravinia tonight and everyone was busy setting up out on the lawn as it was filled to its capacity. The openers for the night included 90′s band Toad the Wet Sprocket and newer band Daniel and the Lion from Madison, WI.

As I sat down, Daniel and the Lion started promptly on time at 6:30pm. They didn’t play that long of a set because Toad had to go on next. But in their 25 minute set, Daniel and the Lion proved they have what it takes to stand up next to 2 great bands like Toad and the Crows. They played songs from their most recent EP Death Head which has great songs including their popular song “Need You.”

Next up, we had Toad the Wet Sprocket, a great band from the 90′s that I’m glad reunited because they were always a tight band with great songwriting, and they definitely proved that tonight. Original 4 members were here; Glen Phillips, Todd Nichols, Dean Dinning and Randy Guss. I’ve been a fan of these guys for a long time, and to the crowd, they were definitely pleased because they played some of their classic hits along with some of the new songs from their recent album New Constellation. Some of the classic songs that they played that you’d know include “All I Want,” “Walk on the Ocean,” “Something’s Always Wrong” and “Fall Down.” They also played some great songs from their new album including “New Constellation,” “The Moment” and “California Wasted.” I would definitely see these guys again on their own.

Lastly, the Counting Crows arrive on stage with lead singer Adam Duritz wearing a Daniel and the Lion shirt on while chewing gum the whole time, which I though was hysterical. Being a singer, I’ve always heard you shouldn’t chew gum on stage, but in this case it looked like it actually helped him. Tonight they were playing songs from their upcoming album Somewhere Under Wonderland, along with covers and some of their hits.

Some highlights included their hits “Mr. Jones,” “Mrs. Potter’s Lullabye,” “Hanginaround,” “A Long December,” “Palisades Park,” “Sullivan Street” and many others. They even did some great covers including “Untitled (Love Song)” by The Romany Rye, “Friend of the Devil” by The Grateful Dead, “Meet on the Ledge” by Fairport Convention and “Like Teenage Gravity” by Kasey Anderson.

Duritz was having a lot of fun with the crowd and the crowd responded back singing all the words to their songs. The crowd were on their feet for all their hits and people were dancing in the aisles as usual.

Overall, this was the ultimate concert package. I thought these 3 bands sounded great together and it was a perfect choice. Ravinia is always the perfect place to see a concert in an outdoor setting and these bands took advantage of it. I highly recommend you see this tour if it’s coming near you.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack

05th Jul2014

Summerfest 2014 Kicks Off With A Bang!

by rockchicago

Milwaukee’s annual celebration of music kicked off Wednesday with a packed bill and throngs of people, even though it was the middle of a work day with cool temperatures along the shore of Lake Michigan. Bruno Mars would star at the Marcus Amphitheater for a sold-out show that night, and other acts appearing that day included Rick Springfield, Neon Trees, Ray Lamontagne, and Ben Harper, but I decided to stay at one stage for the day to wait for the rare chance to see Arctic Monkeys in a smaller setting than their current status as world headliners allows. Apparently, many other people had the same idea, staying at the Miller Lite Oasis stage for many hours beforehand. The result was an odd mix of a crowd. Usually at festivals I’ve been to, people wander from stage to stage to watch a set by a band they are interested in seeing. On this day, however, the packed house busied themselves with iphone games and chatter, barely paying attention to a deserving set of acts playing just a few feet away.

I arrived for the second half of the set from King Washington. Their 18th-century-Sergeant-Pepper-Beauty-Queen outfits and three-part harmonies pulled me in right away. Their brand of rock stretched from pub to arena, and their personalities made for a more than serviceable festival set. They were clearly having fun and were able to engage the slowly building crowd. During the show I spoke with a few people who knew the drummer they added for the show, and the fit worked well. Hopefully they picked up more than a few followers on social media from this quick stop in the midwest. Their strong set of songs deserves it.

Next up were White Denim, a band I’ve seen several times in a variety of settings in recent years, from the small stage of Schuba’s to Lincoln Hall to opening for Tame Impala at the Riv. They’ve been opening for Arctic Monkeys on their current tour and I understand the sonic fit – both bands recapture a wide range of sounds and energy from rock bands of the 70’s. The difference is White Denim focus more on sophisticated musicianship, with songs featuring quick time signature shifts and complex solos. The lyrics are not the focus, although James Petralli’s vocal work is excellent. The problem on this day, and I’m curious if they faced it on the rest of their tour, is the lack of energy coming from the crowd. Even a shout-out to Robin Yount got no reaction. But that also says something about the fans at the Miller Lite stage that day – most were no older than college age, all freshly-minted Arctic Monkeys fans, who knew neither Robin Yount nor the Black Sabbath riffs thrown into the headliner’s set later. So while White Denim were busy re-digesting everyone from Jerry Garcia to Jimmy Page and re-spinning it into brilliant sonic tapestries, not many took notice. But I, for one, thought their set was up to their typically high standards, and am looking forward to seeing how the Lollapalooza crowd welcomes them to Chicago later this summer.

Hamilton Leithauser is on an extended hiatus from his usual band, the Walkmen. His recent solo debut is a re-examination of the crooner tradition, taking advantage of his gifted trademark baritone voice. Going from jazz to pop to moody rock songs, it tweaks the Walkmen sound to shift the focus to him. On the record, the songs receive full instrumentation, with as many as fifteen musicians providing a full range of sound. Live, on this day, he was accompanied by two relatives and two friends who worked hard to replicate the full depth of the songs. From piano to marimba to tambourine to maracas, there were nice touches, but it often fell short. Many of the songs fell into a mid-tempo U2-like sound, which wasn’t bad in and of itself, but it left me wanting more – or to see him in a smaller club setting. There, the subtleties would be clearer and the crowd, once again, more focused.

I’d say the same goes for the next band, San Fermin. Their self-named album was one of my favorites from last year. Its compositions combine an exploration of dissonance and vocal interplay, and include violins and saxophone. On paper, seeing this band on the same stage as White Denim makes sense – both bands are charting out new territory built on a re-examination of musical ideas. But again, seeing it live on this day fell a bit short of what I had hoped to see. the crowd stood up to greet them at the start of their set, but soon found itself sitting and texting. After an extended sound check beforehand they had the right levels, but it didn’t fully cohere. Part of the issue might be that Milwaukee native Rae Cassidy left the band back in April and new addition Charlene Kaye feels a little less invested int he songs. Add to that Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s vocal becoming almost indecipherable, and the result is the masters of baroque pop delivering a sub-par performance. But that won’t deter me from seeing them again this summer at Lollapalooza – detect a theme here?

Indeed Arctic Monkeys will also be in town for the big Grant Park party in August, and until then will be wowing the world with their confident, powerful set and well-deserved status as major headliner. Why Summerfest decided to put them on this awful stage under the highway I’ll never understand. They easily could have been a Marcus Amphitheater draw, or benefited from better sight lines at the BMO Harris Pavilion. Instead, the crowd stood on their metal benches, stopping virtually all dancing and movement except for head bopping and screaming. It also made for a strange arrangement of people who were close to the stage, but interspersed between rows of people on those benches and thus unable to see anything but a glimpse of the video screens. Outside the main seating area the densely-packed crowd pushed as close at they could get. It was nice to be able to stand up on those benches and not feel the crush of the masses, but it felt like many people had a hard time seeing the band. Too bad – they missed a stellar show, filled with hits and strong songs. Here is where White Denim and Arctic Monkeys differ – the latter focus on tight songs – singles that zoom to the top of world charts and lead to a crowd of people singing along. Alex Turner had the audience in his pocket from the moment he hit the stage, and never let go, taking us along through songs from the band’s five albums. Their sound continues to evolve impressively from one record to the next, and their recent move to Los Angeles has added a moodier texture resulting in a set that felt more like listening to a great record collection than a bunch of similar-sounding songs. On this night Matt Helders’s drumming stole the show, providing both a powerful anchor and driving pulse. Jamie Cook and Nick O’Malley are consummate professionals, but left virtually all of the work of engaging the audience to Alex – and why not? They are one of the biggest bands in the world at the moment because of him. Like he sang in “Library Pictures,” “Eenie meenie miney mo, give me an ip dip dog shit rock and roll” – and that they did, bringing a great first day of Summerfest to a close.

One piece of advice I must pass on to those planning to attend the festival: avoid parking close to the gates in the main parking lot. Walk a few blocks into the city or take one of the many shuttles offered by area bars and clubs. I had the pleasure of waiting 90 minutes – I kid you not – to get out of the parking lot, watching many impatient people jockey for position without any help from the absent police presence. For such a well-run festival, the last bite left the wrong taste in my mouth – take the time to not make the same mistake.

Reviewed by Neil Rigler

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

09th Jun2014

The Monkees Raise the Bar at the Star Plaza

by rockchicago


THE MONKEES TOUR at Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville Indiana was a two hour jam-packed concert with 32 songs and no intermission. In addition to the live playing it was complimented by some great video montages which included television appearances, screen tests and blooper reel. It was pure entertainment, however I have two observations which unfortunately made it less enjoyable. The sound system could have beefed up the vocals and turned down the percussion. I would also have liked to hear the amazing back- up singers who were singing their faces off to no avail. Secondly, it would have been nice to use the big screen with a camera setup so we could see The Monkees in their current likeness up close instead of seeing them just as we remember them in their younger years.

Micky Dolenz was Mr. Showbiz. He has the strongest voice and most versatility of the three remaining Monkees. His vocals soared and he played guitar, drums and kettle drum which was featured in “Randy Scouse Git”. Peter Tork was his usual goofy and narcissistic self which made up for him being somewhat weak vocally due to a recent throat surgery.  He played guitar, banjo and keyboard.  Mike Nesmith came across shy and amiable while playing the guitar and in the organ for “For Pete’s Sake”. The three vocalist/musicians were accompanied by other musicians and backup singers which included Mike’s son and Micky’s sister.

The show started ten minutes late with a great 10 minute video montage followed by “Last Train To Clarksville” which set the tone for the evening. Familiar renditions of “I’m a Believer” and “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” were in the first set. The second segment opened with “Sunny Girlfriend” and ended with “No Time”. The third segment started off with “The Door into Summer” and ended with “Goin’ Down” in which Micky invited an audience member to sing and he did sing perfectly with all the right lyrics for the captive audience of 3000.

The next segment featured all the music and video from “Head” which was a pretty amazing highlight of the evening. Following this segment the group sang “What Am I Doin’ Hangin’ Round” and ended with “Daydream Believer” which became a fantastic communal sing-a-long with the audience.

The band did two encores “Listen To The Band” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”  The technology which put the video in perfect sync with the live singers is to be commended. The lighting was great and the sound needed more voice and less instruments. Overall a very entertaining evening  and the Monkees sure know how t put on a good show.

The full tour continues through June 7th. Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith are going solo through December. For full tour information go to www.monkees.net

Reviewed by John B. Boss

25th Nov2013

The Rascals are Spreading “Good Lovin’” at the Cadillac Palace

by rockchicago

After more than 40 years, The Rascals returned to Chicago with their “Once Upon A Dream” show at the Cadillace Palace Theatre.

The production is the brainchild of Little Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. It was a concert in Matwan, NJ that Van Zandt (and Springsteen although unknown to each other at the time) first saw The Rascals (then known as The Young Rascals).

While other pop culture Broadway shows like Jersey Boys and Million Dollar Quartet recreate the mood and events, The Rascals’ show is a full concert played by the original four members, interspersed with video screen interviews conducted recently.

The music is a rich mixture of hits and album tracks selected from the band’s seven album output. No filler, no cheap shots. This is the real deal.

The Rascals’ convictions carried over into a stand on civil rights with the group members themselves. A deep appreciation of R&B and Doo-Wop. Dino Danelli’s sparkling drumming drawn from his admiration of the great Jazz drummers like Krupa. He still creates a wonderful hybrid in the music on stage.

Their musical legacy intact, their social consciousness as relevant as ever, and perhaps best of all, their music is back alive on stage.

Reviewed by Joe McMichael on 11/5/13

28th Oct2013

Gov’t Mule Rock’s Chicago On A Friday Night

by rockchicago

You get the impression that Warren Haynes fears that if he ever put his guitar down for more than eight hours that he would somehow forget how to play it. There seems to be only one reason that Warren is not out on the road performing in either one of his own two bands, Gov’t Mule or The Warren Haynes Band, or joining one of the other 87 bands he participates in from time to time. That reason is that he is in the studio recording. After a lengthy hiatus from Gov’t Mule, and on the heels of their Twentieth Anniversary, “The Mule” is back and better than ever. Performing at the not aging so well Vic Theater on Sheffield Ave., Haynes, fellow founding member, drummer Matt Abts, long time key boardest Danny Louis, and bassist Jorgen Carlsson, the man that seems to finally be the permanent replacement for the sweetest teddy bear of a big man you could have ever met, Allen Woody, hit the road to promote their new studio release, which is titled “Shout!”. Allen passed away just over thirteen years ago, and Warren proceeded to play and record with several replacement candidates, including the 2003 release “Deepest End”, which featured more than a dozen bass players over the course of the recording in tribute to the late Mr. Woody.

Usually by the time a band reaches two decades of existence, their tours tend to include one or two, maybe three songs from a new release, and they rely on their early, familiar, crowd pleasing back catalog of material. Not this band. On this night six out of the twenty songs performed were from Shout! They opened the night at 9:20 PM with track one off the new album, titled “World Boss”, and opened the second set at 10:45 PM with the second track from the new release, titled “No Reward”. Other songs from the new recording “Scared To Live”, “Captured”, “Whisper In Your Soul” and “Funny Little Tragedy” were also played. This night’s live performance is available for purchase at Mule.net. For the complete set list, see below.

There is probably no other performer in the world that has a repertoire of songs as extensive as Mr. Haynes. On any given night, and depending which band he is playing in, he could play any one of what seems like 1000 songs. What really made the fact he is so versatile resonate with me was that after seeing one of his former band mates from one of his “other bands”, The Allman Brothers Band, just the week before, and realizing that person, though while his career is winding down, has honed his set list down to about twelve comfortable songs, Warren is constantly striving to play, write and record new material. And I don’t see that ever changing. I believe Warren would become bored silly being limited to a ten to twelve song available set list in about four days.

One of the treats for me this evening was the middle portion of the “wrap around” to the John Fogerty written classic Effigy. Sandwiched in the middle of a strong beginning, and powerful conclusion was an instrumental version of the Johnny Cash favorite Folsom Prison Blues. Warren’s ability to switch from Rock into a Country style of guitar playing in a split second was not only amazing, but spectacular. Mr. Cash had to be smiling down from the Heavens during this performance. Some of the other tunes that stood out to me this evening were the excellent Gov’t Mule originals “Broke Down In The Brazos” and “Slackjaw Jezebel”, two songs that while solid on their studio versions, really come to life when performed live.

There is also a fascinating aspect to the solid new release Shout! On disc one of the two disc offering, Gov’t Mule plays eleven tracks. The consensus of long time Gov’t Mule fans that I talked to is that the sound and style of the recording is very reminiscent of the first three Gov’t Mule releases back in the 1990’s when the band was a trio, and featured founding member, the late, great Allen Woody on bass. On disc two, the same eleven tracks are interpreted and performed as covers one-by-one by industry stalwarts such as Dave Matthews (Forsaken Savior), Steve Winwood (When the World Gets Small), Dr. John (Stoop So Low), Glen Hughes (No Reward), and my personal favorite by Elvis Costello- “Funny Little Tragedy”. In my personal opinion, Elvis’ rendition even out shines the Mule’s very own version. But knowing Elvis, that doesn’t come as a surprise.

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 10/4/13

1st Set

World Boss  
Steppin Lightly  
Inside Outside Woman Blues  
Broke Down On The Brazos  
Tributary Jam  
Whisper In Your Soul  
Temporary Saint  
Railroad Boy  
Beautifully Broken  
Funny Little Tragedy


2nd set
No Reward  
Scared To Live  
Larger Than Life  
Slackjaw Jezebel


Folsom Prison Blues Jam  
I’m A Ram  
Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home  
Cortez The Killer  


19th Oct2013

Tame Impala Impale The Riviera

by rockchicago

Tame Impala at the Riviera Theatre began their set at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 10 the intro spat out a groove of what seemed like psychedelic honey being poured into the audiences ears. The background projection set the bar on an outer worldly vibration with a green web that would expand from its flower of life center projection themed within its radar retro screen backdrop. The bare footed Kevin Parker and his fellow keepers of the flame seamlessly started the show as the veterans I feel they have now become with “Endors Toi” singing.

Soothing repeat,  I look down at my feet,  It’s a hypnotist’s arm,  And it works like a charm But I won’t be deprived,  Real worlds, surreal life, Do or die,  There is time, Go to sleep,  You’ll be fine. “ I found the band opening with this track to be the perfect invitation into Tame Impala’s multidimensional trip of endless australian sunshine.

This being my first time to attend the Riviera Theatre in Uptown Chicago I would have to say is the perfect place in town to host the grand jam of space rock improvisation. Which anyone who sees the band will find very early on in the set that it is the bands strongest musical asset proving this with the set lists third effort “Alter Ego”. Parker and the band brought such a great comfortability to the stage which was sure to resonate in the hearts of their like minded audience. As the show went on

I couldn’t help but be impressed by the fluid cohesiveness of the backdrop projection that responded to the mood of each and every song as if Parker and the guys were spiritually linked with it. Multi Color Shapes and themes ranging from the All seeing Eye Of God to the humble doodles it would create, almost as if Kevin Parkers Rickenbacker was a paintbrush producing creations on galactic proportions .The show gained momentum through out its entirety but I felt the crowds response met its summit when the song “Elephant” came through the speakers. At one part of the show the band took a step aside to convey that the background of the stages lighting set up was not just coincidentally related. The Encore is where things came full circle of the loner-ism themed vintage theater with “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” Ending the Set on “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control”. This band is without a doubt seasoned to their calling not only to the music that they make but by the demeanor of their live performance.

Reviewed by Bobby James Flavin on 10/10/13

05th Oct2013

Stereophonics Light Up The Vic

by rockchicago

There are only a handful of singers out there that can effortlessly switch from a soft croon to belting out a fully-fledged, sherry-coated rasp. 16 years since the rock band from Cwmaman, Wales debuted their first album, Kelly Jones is still one of those singers. Since then, the lead singer’s “whiskey” vocals has graced on 8albums including their latest effort, Graffiti On The Train. In fact, the performance at Chicago’s Vic Theatre on the 28th of September proves Kelly Jones’ voice is stronger than ever.

It has been 5 years since the last time Stereophonics played a show in Chicago. This time they rocked out at the Vic Theatre where dozens of fans were lined up right before the doors opened at 7pm. It wasn’t difficult to claim a position on the floor near to the stage if one came early. Majority of the audience were 25+, which helped set a calm, respectful but excited atmosphere before the show. This was a showcase of Stereophonics’ fans maturity. They didn’t push and shove unlike other band’s shows with a younger fan base. “We drove all the way from Atlanta to see them,” said Chris who with his girlfriend Clair came to Chicago for one night just to see their favourite UK band. Shortly after our friendly conversation, the opening act The Wind & The Wave came onstage.

The duo from Austin, Texas gives off a husband & wife dynamic similar to Delaney & Bonnie but with a driving, straight bass drum beat. The Wind & The Wave played an upbeat 30min set with tinges of country, folk. Even though they lacked a backing band (and resorted to using backing tracks), their songs had soulful singing, tasteful guitar accompaniment and pumping drums. They were also nice enough to stick around after the show to sign promotional copies of their upcoming debut album.

As the clock struck 9pm, the lights turned off and the audience’s cheer was overshadowed by the sounds of traffic and helicopter playing through the PA. They came on with all their leather, got plugged in and a voice started a countdown. “4…3…2…1…” and off they played a few straight rock numbers (“Catacomb,” “Local Boy in Photograph,” “Superman”). After the 1st song, it was clear that the lighting was top notch and tailored to suit each song’s arrangement, dynamics and mood. The sound was clear especially for vocals but at times the two distorted guitars can be sonically overwhelming.

Out of the 22 songs, 8 of them were from the new album. All of the big hits, anthemic rockers, brooding midtempo songs were played that more than pleased the fans. While most Stereophonics songs are songwriter Kelly Jones’ observation of life around him like “A Thousand Trees”, the newer songs have a dark introspective feel to them (“Violins and Tambourines,” “In A Moment”). They played two songs from their back catalogue that isn’t a regular entry to their nightly setlist (“Nothing Precious At All,” “I Stopped To Fill My Car Up”). The latter surprisingly had Kelly playing keyboards, while he was facing away from the audience and a single blue light shined on him. The other surprise was he playing a Martin acoustic guitar which is a change from his usual Gibson Jumbo acoustic guitar.

During the encore, Kelly showed his softer side with by playing a song from the first album by himself (“Billy Davey’s Daughter”). They played 4 songs during the encore and finished it off with their biggest hit “Dakota.” During the song, I was front row and air drumming impeccably to the song. The new drummer, Jamie Morrison, noticed my air drumming and he started laughing. After the show, about 30 fans waited outside for autographs. Only Jamie came out, had photographs taken and signed merchandises. When I asked him, “Do you remember me drumming to the song?” he responded joyfully, “Oh yeah I remember!” He signed my copy of the new album but I forgot to take out the plastic cover before that. So now I can’t open the CD!

Overall, Stereophonics played a nonstop hour and a half show to a crowd that was having a great time. They had pleased the fans and won over the crowd that didn’t know about them by playing a concert many declared “greatest.” What the show proved the most is that this is a band still finding inspiration after decade and a half in the business.

Reviewed by Uudee on 9/28/13

Photo by Alex Kluft