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

Captured

 
   
   
Effigy  
Folsom Prison Blues Jam  
Effigy  
I’m A Ram  
Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home  
encore
   
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

05th Oct2013

Old Venue, New Venue Direction, Bring The Outlaws & Dickey Betts Back To Chicago

by rockchicago

 

There is an old theater on the far west side, located on Lawrence Avenue a block east of Milwaukee Avenue in Portage Park, within walking distance from the Jefferson Park Blue Line stop, that is called The Copernicus Center. Deriving its name from fifteenth century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who shortly before his death in 1543 released a ground breaking book called “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres”, demonstrating his heliocentric hypothesis that it is the sun, not the earth that is at the center of the universe. The facility, formerly known as the Gateway Theater, one of the first movie theaters in Chicago to show “talkies” back in the 1930’s, has been known since it’s opening in 1981 for its Polish themed festivals over the years, as well as featuring other ethnic group related themed programs for the East Indian, Spanish, Korean and Philippine community’s. Having lived in the Chicago area most of my life, combined with my interest in attending live music performances, I thought I had heard of every venue by now. However, I had never heard of The Copernicus Center until The Outlaws & Dickey Betts were booked on a double bill recently. I asked several other concert goers in attendance Friday night if they had ever been to or heard of this theater, and each response was the same- “No, not until I heard about this show being advertised”.

A quick wiki search of the theaters name sake lead me to believe that there would be a constellation related theme to the venue, and I was correct. There were illuminated stars, some blinking, adorning the theaters ceiling, and statues of its inspirational leaders positioned to the left and right of the stage. The restoration process, which began in 1979, kept the original “waffle” style seating intact, as opposed to the more common modern “staggered” seating found in today’s theaters, where each row is offset from the row in front, giving theater goers a bit of a split from row to row, resulting in better site lines. Beside that one limitation of the aging seats, the theater is beautiful and just exudes a sense of history upon entering it.

The Outlaws took the stage at 7:35, as a spirited crowd of about 500 people filed into the 1900 seat theater. Performing several songs from their mid-nineteen seventies classic album releases “Outlaws” and “Hurry Sundown”, they opened and closed the show with their two most famous singles, “There Goes Another Love Song” and “Green Grass and High Tides” respectively. Henry Paul’s familiar vocals and Chris Anderson’s fine guitar playing went a long way towards compensating for the loss of the bands most highly regarded performer and founding member, the late Hughie Thomasson, who passed away unexpectedly in September, 2007. Having seen The Outlaws performance just two months prior to Hughie’s death at Summerfest in Milwaukee, I was very saddened at his passing, as they were as good or better that day then they were in their prime back in the 70’s. For me, Hughie Thomasson was to The Outlaws what Duane Allman was to the Allman Brothers, and Ronnie Van Zandt was to Lynyrd Skynyrd- the spiritual leaders. The band also performed the title track from its 2012 album “It’s About Pride”, a moving tribute to the three Southern Rock icons mentioned above, as well as The Marshall Tucker Bands Toy & Tommy Caldwell. The bands performance was solid and well rehearsed, not to mention quite loud. There was no threat of the sound of a jet taking off from nearby O’Hare Airport intruding on their set. The Friday night crowd was quite pleased with their show.

Next up was headliner Dickey Betts. Less than two months ago I reviewed Mr. Betts performance at The City Winery (http://rockchicago.net/legendary-dickey-betts-visits-city-winery/), pondering if and when, after a 4 year absence from performing in Chicago, the soon to be 70 Betts would return to the city. That question was answered in short order. For information about Dickey Betts set list, go to the link above, as Friday’s song sequence remained exactly the same.

I tend use the audience’s reaction as a factor in determining a bands performance quality, and if I went by that alone, I could report that Mr. Betts and his band Great Southern tore it up Friday night, drawing many in the small but enthusiastic crowd down to the front of the stage for the second of his two sets, while receiving several standing ovations throughout. However, I would be remiss and not totally objective if I didn’t mention a few moments of concern. Maybe Dickey is wearing down from his recent long tour, or perhaps felt a little jet lag from his flight in, as the band scattered to their respective homes the week prior after their New York performances, this time traveling by airplane as opposed to their customary bus. Or perhaps knocking on the door of his seventieth birthday has brought about a thing called “the result of Father Time”, but while there was still plenty of that classic Dickey Betts style and tone to be enjoyed, there was more than one occasion where it was apparent that Dickey Betts fingers weren’t quite getting to where he wanted them to go, or as fast as they once got there. But in each instance, he rebounded nicely, and moved on. And in what would have proven to have been a very unsettling situation, disaster was averted at the beginning of the Betts classic song “Jessica’, as Dickey lost his balance, staggered to his left, and lurched forward, and regained his balance, avoiding by a whisker landing face down on his guitar. As with The Outlaws, the Dickey Betts & Great Southern volume was excessively loud in my opinion. Louder then it needed to be, that is for certain. But as I mentioned, if I were to use the crowd as a gauge, a great time was had by those in attendance on a Friday night in Chicago.

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 9/27/13

05th Oct2013

Arctic Monkeys Rock The Riviera

by rockchicago

The mundane Monday night of Chicago was swept away by the no-frills, just rock ‘n’ roll nature of British rockers Arctic Monkeys and the youthful energy of opening act Twin Peaks at the iconic Riviera Theatre.

Chicago garage rockers Twin Peaks had the privilege of being the opening act. They were active, jumping and moving energetically to their fast, indie and often short songs. Their fresh-faced character is reflected by their occasional innocent humorous remarks. Energy seemed to be infinite for them as they looked to be having a lot of fun opening up for the experienced rockers.

Flashing lights, intense string music were part of the scene as the UK foursome came out. Hands raised in the air, waving the full venue as they proceeded to play the first song “Do I Wanna Know?” This song is also the opener of the recently released fifth album, AM, which they played 8 songs off of from a total of 20. The lighting was simple but was effectively reacted to the changes in the songs. The sound was clear enough to hear lead singer Alex Turner’s poetry, catchy riffs of Jamie Cook, and the ever-reliable rhythm section of bassist Nick O’Malley and drummer Matt Helders. The hip-hop drum beats, guitar from The Desert and the intricately arranged backing vocals from the new album were well received (“Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” “Snap Out Of It”). The peak of the night, however, was old fan favourites “Dancing Shoes” and the classic anthem “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.” The latter had the majority of the audience aged from 16-25 having the time of their lives.

The raging teen hormones that made up most of the audience also showed their sprightly behaviour with constant push and shove. The result was a general floor that’s packed tight, hotter than a sauna and constantly moving like a wave. Frontman Alex Turner got a taste when he had a microphone in his hands instead of a guitar, started walking around and making rockstar poses when the crowd catapulted a sweater into his face. He recovered effortlessly like he gets hundreds of them every night and stylishly threw it to the side of the stage.

The encore consisted of 3 songs of which two of them were new. Arctic Monkeys ended the night with a definite bang with the straight rocker “R U Mine?” The four lads from Sheffield, England were in top-notch form and never failed to move the audience in all sorts of directions. This is a band that is still growing tremendously with each album and that is especially true in their latest album. With the performance at the Riviera Theatre, it is clearly evident Chicago can’t get enough of a band that their best is still yet to come.

Reviewed by Uudee on 9/23/13

Photos by Alex Kluft

05th Oct2013

Steve Hackett Brings Genesis Back to the Arcada

by rockchicago

Let me start this review with a disclaimer. The first time I heard the album Nursery Cryme by Genesis (the first album where Hackett joined the band) I amazed by the unique sounds I heard from the guitar and I was hooked. He had such a unique sound and from that point on I became a huge fan. I have followed his career with Genesis, his solo work, GTR, and his guest appearances with other musicians. I have his entire catalog of music on CDs and own each and every one of his music DVDs. To see Steve Hackett in concert was one of the items on my bucket list and to meet him personally would be a highlight of my life.

Before the show there was a “Meet and Greet” which I signed up for as soon as the tickets were up for sale. Amazingly they were very reasonable, compared to the exorbitant prices charged by other rock stars. We all lined up in the theater and each had our chance to meet Steve and have our photo taken. I was absolutely amazed at how kind, accommodating and gentlemanly he was to each and every attendee. He listened respectfully to what each person had to say and held a nice conversation with them. He then personalized items for each attendee with his autograph. Not just a quick scribble of his name, it was written clearly and to whomever you wanted it to be for. Despite me being well-spoken, when I met him I almost babbled like a schoolboy explaining how he was my favorite guitarist, had all his recordings/DVDs and how much I adored his music. He was very appreciative and humble. His wife was with him and asked if she could be in our photo….how could I deny him that request! I was actually honored that she was in our picture together. I gained even more respect for him after that Meet and Greet experience.

But this review is about the music! Hackett had released the album Genesis Revisited several years ago to great acclaim, featuring Genesis classics, performed by a wide range of performers. Recently he released Genesis Revisited II, a two CD set, which was superb and this current tour was in support of that album. In Hackett’s own words he said, “On both Genesis Revisited I and II albums to varying degrees I altered the detail within the songs whilst aiming to preserve the authentic spirit of the originals. Every time I changed a solo I felt I was in danger of messing with people’s childhoods but sometimes the muse just had to have her way with me. Now I’m embarking on the world tour of Genesis Revisited and working with a tremendously talented band to bring the music back to life in a special way that bears our mark whilst being true to the original material. It’s been quite a journey to tap that muse on the shoulder and re-open these pages.

Well all I can say is that Hackett and the band succeeded in their goal. Musically this was one of the finest concerts I ever attended. The old Genesis music never sounded more alive. The band was an amazing collection of musicians who played these iconic songs respectfully as this music was the soundtrack of many of our lives and the music was not to be profaned by too much improvisation.

His band was outstanding and some have been playing with him for some time. Roger King, on keyboards, spent twenty years in the recording studio backing a wide variety of musicians. He first worked Steve in 1995 on the first Genesis revisited album, then on four of Steve’s solo albums, finally went onstage in 2001, and has been there ever since.

Gary O’Toole, drummer and vocalist (especially the Phil Collins vocals) has been with Steve since 2000, touring and playing on many of Steve’s albums. Watching him play the drums at this concert I realized what an amazing drummer he really is and I gained a great appreciation for his talents as he handled all the intricacies of the Genesis music so masterfully.

Lee Pomeroy on bass had toured with Steve’s band in 2010 and 2012, also playing on seven tracks on the Genesis Revisited II album. Out of all the musicians in the band he seemed to be having the most fun. He was always smiling and when Steve would start blazing on the guitar he would look over at Steve in appreciation. You could tell he was a fan of Steve and this music. He was a great addition to the band.

For this concert to really work a great vocalist is essential and wow, did Steve find one. Nad Sylvan had played with a number of prog bands, including the Unifaun album in 2008, a project of original music playing homage to the 70’s era Genesis. One day he received an email from Steve Hackett and then joined the band. Nad Sylvan was absolutely amazing, his voice sounding both like Gabriel and Collins when needed. In addition, he was VERY theatrical ala Gabriel and it was very effective and enhanced the experience. His performance and vocals were absolutely top notch, making you think that you really were listening to Genesis in their prime.

Rob Townsend, sax, flute, keyboards, and percussion, is another long time member of Steve Hackett’s band, since 2001. He can be heard on most of Steve’s live albums and DVDs since then. A very talented musician he nailed the iconic flute pieces and was a nice addition with his sax playing.

The band walked on stage to raucous applause and a standing ovation. The keyboard intro and staccato drumming invoked a huge cheer from the crowd as the band opened with “Watcher of the Skies” from the Foxtrot album. Steve patiently remained seated until he joined in with his guitar. It reminded me of the old days with Genesis when Steve had a beard and moustache, wearing black glasses and playing amazing guitar while seated. Not anymore. He was front and center on stage, amazing everyone with his prowess all night! Nad Sylvan milked the drama out of this song at every turn. When the song opened he stood with a telescope scanning the skies….very dramatic and entertaining. His poses and facial expressions were priceless all night, coupled with his spot on vocals. Many in the audience were singing along, they were heads bobbing and air guitar all over the place….the crowd was really into this music/performance. Needless to say, this song and every one all night were rewarded with standing ovations.

Steve then said, “This is our second night here (he played Arcada on Friday night as well), it feels like home. How many of you were here last night?” There were a significant number of people responding with an affirmatory cheer. Steve then thanked them. I should take a moment to remark that I met people from all over the country who came to attend this concert. In fact, there was one person from Atlanta, Georgia, who was following the tour across the country. There were a number of people who were similarly going to a number of the concerts on this tour. Interestingly, I met a professor from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine (where I conducted my Master’s research) who flew from Alabama into Chicago and drove to St. Charles for the concert….and I thought I was a devoted fan!

He introduced the next song with “This is a very English sing-along. You know what is coming.” He was right….the crowd did and cheered wildly as the familiar strains of “Dancing with the Moonlit Night” from Selling England by the Pound were heard. Nad nailed Gabriel’s vocals and dramatic posing on this song as well. Townsend on the flute was superlative. Another great performance.

The band then went right into two songs from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album, “Fly on a Windshield” and “Broadway Melody of 1974.” Gary O’Toole provided a superb vocal performance on the second song. Needless to say the audience once again was singing along and gave the well deserved standing ovation. “Fly” is a great showcase for the unique guitar work of Steve Hackett, and as he did all night, absolutely nailed it. After the ovation he said, “You really enjoyed that. I enjoyed that one too!”

Hackett introduced another piece from The Lamb by stating “One of the more poetic moments” and then commenced with one of the truly lovely songs from that album, “The Lamia.” Another grand performance, highlighted by wonderful vocals, great drumming, outstanding keyboard work, closing out with a superlative guitar solo by Steve where he was trading licks with Rob Townsend on sax. A new spin on this classic but it worked and the audience loved it showing it by a standing ovation. This was one of my favorite songs from Genesis Revisited II with vocals by Nik Kershaw. I enjoyed it so much I created a slideshow to it which I posted on youtube, using images of Lamia I obtained off the internet (The link for the slideshow if you are interested in viewing it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E05vNKnL9rA)

Roger King began the next song with a tinkling sound of a music box and we all knew what was coming, “The Musical Box” from Nursery Cryme. The note I made in my notebook during this performance was one great big WOW! Nad Sylvan was spectacular, vocally, and dramatically….he was channeling Gabriel at his finest. This just reaffirmed how unique and outstanding this music is and the fact that it still holds up so well after all these years speaks volumes.

Steve then took his acoustic guitar and had a seat, then played one of the iconic acoustic guitar pieces “Horizons” from Foxtrot (it is almost like an intro to “Supper’s Ready” on the album). However, instead of going into “Supper’s Ready” like I anticipated they went into another mellow Genesis classic “Blood on the Rooftops” from Wind and Wuthering. (which was the last studio album Steve Hackett played on with Genesis). Gary O’Toole once again displayed that he is a fine vocalist and expertly sang the Phil Collins vocals.

Continuing in the sequence from the Wind and Wuthering album, they played the next song on that album; the instrumental “Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers….in That Quiet Earth” a piece that starts out very serene and then erupts with intensity. That was followed with the ensuing song on the album, a very popular ballad, “Afterglow.” The audience once again went wild.

Hackett then introduced the band and they took a twenty minute break. The crowd was abuzz with superlatives about the concert and the masterful guitar work of Hackett.

When they returned to the stage Hackett said, “You guys are back? I was worried you wouldn’t be back!” (There was no way in hell anyone was leaving this show!) He then introduced the next song as one of the first songs he did with the band. He said “When we would do it live the audience would walk out about halfway through and go to the bar. Just for you “The Fountain of Salmacis” (from Nursery Cryme). The audience roared its approval at the dusting off of this old chestnut. After the applause died down after the song completed Hackett said, “Thank you for not going to the bar.”

One of the most popular, crowd-pleasing songs from the Gabriel era was next; “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” from Selling England by the Pound. The melody is infectious and the audience really got into it. They were singing along as well. One of the definite highlights was Rob Townsend’s jazzy sax solo.

“Dance on a Volcano,” the opening song from Trick of the Tail (the first post Gabriel album), was next. As per usual it was well-played and well-received.

The closing song was the 20 plus minute magnum opus, “Supper’s Ready” from Foxtrot (loosely based on the Book of Revelations). The audience sang along full-throatedly and the performance of this classic piece was outstanding. It ended with some dramatic extended soloing by Steve that was the cherry on the top of the sundae. The audience sprang to their feet and gave an overwhelming standing ovation. The concert had been ninety minutes of pure musical bliss to this point. But it wasn’t over yet.

They returned to the stage for the encore and were greeted with deafening cheers/applause. The band opened with “Firth of Fifth” from Selling England by the Pound, definitely one of my favorites, especially because of Hackett’s guitar solo. He did not disappoint tonight with that solo. I was in absolute hog heaven as he played. The beauty of this solo is its beauty, emotion, and simplicity. I have heard others reinterpret this solo and try to jazz it up, put all sorts of runs in it, and in my opinion diminish the mood of this solo. I could see by the way he played it Steve understands this and played it simply and beautifully…..sigh.

Steve then remarked “I thought last night was great (referring to the spectacular response he got this night, Saturday). Now a special treat, turn the treble on my guitar to 4.” The band then launched into a spirited and energetic “Los Endos” the closing song on Trick of the Tail. What a spectacular end to a spectacular concert experience.

Musically, this was one of the best concerts I had ever seen. Obviously, a big part being that I adore old Genesis music and Steve Hackett is my favorite guitarist. He played songs from each of the Genesis studio albums on which he played. His band could not have been any better, superb musicians, who played the iconic songs expertly. A special shout out to Nad Sylvan, who in addition to being a wonderful vocalist who nailed these songs, he was also very demonstrative and dramatic, evoking Peter Gabriel. Well done.

This was the realization of one of my dreams, seeing Steve Hackett in concert. My dreams really came true as I was in awe all night watching and listening. He could not have been any better. But what made the experience all the more special was meeting him and seeing what a fine person he is, and also seeing how he appreciates his fans, going out of his way to make them feel special (he sure made me feel special). All too often you will meet one of your idols, they turn out to be rude or a jerk and it diminishes your opinion of them Well, my opinion of Steve Hackett could not be any higher, his musicianship and his humanity. I know I am speaking for his legion of loyal concert goers/fans when I say thank you Steve for sharing your talents with us and being the person that you are…it is very much appreciated.

Reviewed by Peter S. Sakas on 9/21/13

All photos by Peter S. Sakas

14th Sep2013

Battle of the Badges 2013 Rocks Chicago!

by rockchicago

On Saturday night, September 7th, a charity fundraiser was held at the Copernicus Center, on Lawrence Ave. in Chicago, to benefit the families of Chicago Police Officers (The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation) and Firefighters (Ignite the Spirit Fund). Ignite the Spirit (www.IgniteTheSpirit.org) began in 2003 as an organization to help Chicago Firefighters in need, those who on the job have fallen victim to life’s unjust hardships. The Chicago Police Memorial Fund (www.CPDMemorial.org) is a not for profit organization dedicated to honoring the lives of fallen Police Officers. The Foundation provides support and assistance to the families of Chicago Police Officers who were killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty. Two worthy causes indeed!

The idea of a battle of the bands between police and fire started as a simple conversation at a retirement party. Officer John Garrido took the initiative and assembled a team to make it happen. Fellow Police Officer Russell Schultz (RAS Communications) and friend Dan Mahoney (Fort Knox Studios) joined forces with John and the notion became a reality.

The premise was that there were three bands from the Chicago Fire Department (had to have a Firefighter in the band) and three bands from the Chicago Police Department (obviously also having to have a police officer in the band) which would all perform before a panel of four “celebrity judges” who would then rate the bands. The top rated Police band would then face off against the top rated Fire band in a “playoff” and the overall winner selected by a vote of the judges. The judges were William Ludwig III (third generation owner of Ludwig Drums), Amy Jacobson (morning radio talk show host on the “John and Amy Show” on 560 AM), John Garcia (ABC 7 News), and your humble rock reviewer for Rock Chicago, myself.

There was great support for this event from the start with a flood of people eager to volunteer to be sure it was a success. The bands all donated their time to be part of this event for such a worthy cause. The Copernicus Center donated their venue, Ron Weiss at Shirts Our Business created a great t-shirt design, Chris Stone from Guitar Center contributed some awesome gear for the raffles, and Stan Wozniak from Trophy and Awards, Inc. provided amazing plaques for the winning “Rock Stars.” There were many other sponsors and donors who helped to make this fundraiser something special.

But let’s now talk about the music! The show opened with a recording of “The Star Spangled Banner” performed by Madison Rising. The six bands then each performed a forty minute set, with the judges’ scores collected immediately after each performance.

The Differents (Fire Band). Dan Garrity (drums), Chris Meziere (bass), Lou Hallwas (vocals and guitar), and Tony Richards (guitar). They had the tough draw as the opening act and did a pretty good job. It was a solid performance playing straight ahead rock, but the songs were not familiar to me and I suspect it was some original music. The lead singer had a very good voice and the band displayed good musicianship, they were enthusiastic, however, it did not carry over to the audience and they received a tepid response.

Pimp Slap (Police Band). Allison Clark (vocals), John Skibicki III (guitar), Tom Finnelly (guitar), Daniel Finnelly (bass), and Darin Hoeger (drums). This band describes themselves as “Loud. Fast. Rude. Fun.” When they took the stage they stated, “We have the most controversial name in all of band-dom” (I agree). They were a great rocking band and were indeed loud and raucous. Both guitarists were very demonstrative and were fun to watch. The rhythm section was solid with intense bass playing and solid drumming. I thought their musicianship was very good. They really played off the crowd and interacted with them, which made the set very enjoyable. Where the band was hurting was with the lead vocals. I do not know if Allison was nervous or just off a bit, but her vocals came off a bit flat and were not up to the standard set by the band. That being said, in the final song, which was a tribute to fallen Firefighters and Police Officers, she hit it and sounded absolutely great. At times she seemed to be channeling Stevie Nicks….if only she had started out as strong.

Northside (Fire Band). Rebecca Bolluyt-Presas (lead vocals, keyboards), Louie Kritikos (lead guitar), George Skoubis (guitar, backup vocals, keyboards), Bob Spilios (bass), and Chris Stamos (drums). This band is a Rock and Roll cover band, covering music from the 1970s to the present day; and cover it they did. It was a superb performance highlighted by a long classic rock medley, “20 in 25 Montage” where selected parts of 20 songs were played back-to-back in 25 minutes…it was great fun. Once again, the band was a solid group of musicians and seamlessly moved through the medley, as well in their other selections. However, the highlight of this band was their lead singer, Rebecca, who was an absolute dynamo on stage. She had a great stage presence, great vocalist, and played keyboards as well. She was really something to watch as she pranced around the stage, jumping, or gyrating furiously to the music. She drew the audience in and amped them up, ably backed by her equally enthusiastic band mates. When they had started out she stated, “I don’t care if we win or not, we just want to have a good time.” That they did! They were outstanding.

It’s About Time (Police Band). Terry Mullins (drums), Ray Hayes (bass, vocals), Fred Borek (guitar, vocals), Tony Callaghan (guitar, lead vocals), Madeline Callaghan (vocals), and Mary Callaghan (keyboards, vocals). As was the case with the other Police bands the crowd was very enthusiastic and crowded the stage. They were a very good cover band with solid musicianship, but it did not wow the crowd. Perhaps it was the music, which were classic songs from the sixties and seventies…..they were well done and a pleasure to listen to, the audience was dancing to the music, but after Northside, there was a definite vacuum of intensity. A definite highlight was when the Callaghan sisters wonderfully sang Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah.” Their uncle, the lead singer Tony, made a comment that made me cringe, introducing this beautiful piece of music as being FROM THE MOVIE SHREK. Well, yes it was, technically, but when I think of it, I think of all the wonderful covers by other musical icons and the very emotional version of Leonard Cohen, himself……oh well. This band played my favorite music and performed it well, but as I was judging the actual performance it was very good, but did not knock my socks off like Northside did….but I could definitely go out and listen to this band perform in a club setting.

Imposter Radio (Fire Band). Mark Dziwulski (vocals, harp), Joe Love (guitar), Pete Hart (guitar, keyboards), Scott Groves (drums), and Lori Stassen (bass). This band’s catalog contains massive hits from just about every era of the history of Rock and Roll, flowing from gritty 60’s rave-ups, through 80’s dance pop, 90’s rock anthems, and today’s current chart toppers. This band lived up to the advance billing, drawing on music from all eras, even performing a couple of oldies, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and the Animal’s “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” mixed in with other contemporary songs. This band is a group of first class entertainers and accomplished musicians. Each and every band member was jumping around, pogoing, you name it, anything to crank up the crowd…and that they did. They had the most significant audience response of any band all night. The lead singer was an absolute maniac, running back and forth across the stage, mugging and posing for the audience, jumping around…I was amazed he did not get winded as I was watching his hyperkinetic actions. Being a prog rock/60s-70s classic rock fan, I have to say I thoroughly was drawn in by their performance and though not familiar with some of the contemporary songs, thought they were the best of the night based on their enthusiastic performance.

Jenny Rockis Trio (Police Band). Jenny Rockis (lead vocals, drums, guitar), Paula Marr (bass, vocals), and Jason Mallow (guitar). Following the intensity of Imposter Radio, the Jenny Rockis Trio took the stage. I thought how can a trio compare to a band like that. What a pleasant surprise. When I heard the vocals of Jenny, I was instantly on board…she had the best vocals of the night, strong, clear, and outstanding. She was a bit hampered as she was playing the drums and stuck behind the drum kit, so she could not prowl the stage. (Kind of reminded me of Karen Carpenter when she first started, singing and playing the drums). Her band mates, however, were great musicians and very demonstrative with their playing, dancing around, posing, interacting with the audience. They had an eclectic music set and it was well-received by the crowd. But it really was tough to compare to the intensity of the Imposter Radio.

After the bands had performed there was a lull as the scores were being totaled. To my surprise, and that of the entire large crowd, Mancow walked on stage. Needless to say he was typical Mancow for the few minutes he was up on stage, to the delight of the crowd.

The results were then announced. Imposter Radio was chosen as the best Fire band, but I know Northside had to be a close second. The best Police band was the Jenny Rockis Trio, an obvious choice. There was an ensuing “playoff” with each band performing a 20 minute set, the winner to be determined by the judges’ scores.

Jenny Rockis Trio led off with a solid set, followed by Imposter Radio with their typical barely controlled pandemonium on stage. In fact, when the set was done, they wanted to keep playing encores but as the show was tightly controlled time-wise they were prevented from doing so.

Imposter Radio was crowned the winner, pretty much based on their absolutely outstanding performance in all aspects, vocals, musicianship, stage presence, and the ability to work the crowd into a frenzy. Jenny Rockis Trio vocally was better, was solid musically, but could not meet the intensity of the crowd reaction created by Imposter Radio. That being said, I would be more likely to purchase and listen to a recording of the Jenny Rockis Trio; that is how much I enjoyed her vocal abilities. Overall, these were two outstanding bands.

Red Rebel County (the Aftershow Band). Mark Crowley (vocals), George Vanderschoot (guitar, vocals), AJ Shamus O’Simek (guitar, vocals), Gabe Lipari (bass), Rob Nedinger (drums), Nate Wilson (fiddle), Dan Sito (banjo, mandolin), Doug Crowley (bagpipes, vocals), and Steve Coyne (bagpipes, vocals). For the aftershow there was an amazing collection of disparate instruments and performers, an indescribable band. They had originally got together to play some fun Irish music and eventually turned into a nine person “tour de force.” They have sold out countless shows, played in front of thousands for various high profile Chicago Police/Fire Department benefits. Their repertoire is all sorts of party tunes, a handful of traditional barroom tunes and original music.

I watched the band begin preparing to perform on stage and was amazed, men in kilts, red ties, bag pipes, banjos, mandolins, guitars, drums…what the heck is this? When they began performing you could sense this was just a good old party type band. They were having great fun on stage, which swept over the audience who responded in kind. It was a very entertaining way to end the evening.

I would like to say on a personal level, I was honored and pleased to have taken part in this outstanding charity event for such a great cause. These first responders have dedicated themselves to keep us safe and I deeply appreciate them and we all owe them a debt of gratitude. It is also nice to see them “let their hair down” and slip into the persona of rock stars when they play with their band. (Much like my alter ego as a rock critic, when my “real job” is that of a veterinarian!)

There was a great turnout and I know it was a successful fundraiser, a testament to John Garrido, his volunteers, and his sponsors. I know with this success in 2013 we can be looking at an eagerly anticipated annual event. It was great fun, especially buoyed by the fact that it supported such a great cause.

Review and Photos by Peter S. Sakas

11th Sep2013

Cheap Trick Dominates Ravinia with an Orchestra

by rockchicago

 

Another evening at Ravinia Festival with Chicago’s finest, Cheap Trick! The Chicago legends return to Ravinia tonight to play 2 full albums in their entirety: Live at Budokan and Sgt. Pepper Live!

As Rick Nielsen walks out on stage, the other band members and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra come out as well and go right into the album Sgt. Pepper Live! As Robin Zander walks out out he’s dressed in a Sgt. Pepper costume all in white. Something that Freddie Mercury would have worn. They played the album in its entirety, which included songs like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Getting Better,” “When I’m 64,” “She’s Leaving Home” and of course “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Overall, they did a fantastic job of executing that album live especially with the added strings from the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, and the addition of musicians Magic Cristian and Conan O’Brien’s band leader Jimmy Vivino just added that extra special touch.

After the intermission, the boys came back out without the orchestra to perform Live at Budokan, which included songs like “I Want You to Want Me,” “Surrender,” (both those songs the Ravinia Festival Orchestra played with them on) “Come On, Come On,” “Hello There,” and “Lookout” just to name a few. Again, another album well executed by the Chicago boys. As an added bonus, Rick Nielsen announced Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan was sitting in the audience tonight. He caught the Live at Budokan album which Nielsen threw into the audience.

After they played both albums, the orchestra came back on stage and they ended the show with The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End,” which I thought was a great way to end the show. I was surprised there were no encores, but even still, it was a great show and a great night indeed.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 8/31/13

30th Aug2013

Saturday in the Park with Chicago and The Stanley Cup

by rockchicago

 

What a gorgeous night for a concert at Ravinia with perfect weather conditions and a legendary band I grew up with…..Chicago! Even before we reached the pavilion, the smell of candles, the groups of people sitting on the lawn with tables filled with food, fresh flowers and wine bottles helped me get in the mood for a very exciting evening of entertainment.

As my friend and I were sitting in the pavilion waiting for the show to start, appearing on stage was #81, Marian Hossa, carrying the Stanley Cup. Surprise!!! The crowd cheered and just as quickly as he appeared on stage, he left. Okay. That was a real treat but why didn’t anybody make an announcement? More to come on the Stanley Cup….read on.

The concert began with Introduction, Questions 67 and 68, Dialogue and Alive Again. Shortly thereafter, the band introduced Catherine Burgess from the American Cancer Society to speak and introduced the band’s manager to come out and accept an award for the band’s efforts in the fight for breast cancer. The band is very involved in the fight against breast cancer and encouraged everyone to go to their website, chicagotheband.com, and donate for breast cancer for a chance to sing with the band at an upcoming concert. The winner of the previous contest came out to sing If you Leave Me Now with Keith Howland, the lead guitarist. It seemed as though she needed a little bit of help with the song but she got through it with his help and the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

Afterwards, the band announced that we should check out the movie, “Clear History” which is presently showing on HBO with Larry David, featuring the music of Chicago and an appearance by all the band members in the movie. I happened to watch this movie last week and thought it was really funny and very entertaining. No Chicago fan should miss this movie.

The band then continued to play solos, the first featuring the horn section (Lee Loughnan, James Pankow and Walt Parazaider, all founding members of Chicago), keyboard player, Robert Lamm (founding member and vocalist) singing Call on Me, Jason Scheff (bass guitar and vocals) singing Will You Still Love Me and Lou Pardini (vocals and keyboard) singing Look Away. After several solos, the band came together with one of my favorite songs, Make Me Smile, going into my all time favorite song, Colour My World featuring the trademark flute solo on the song by Walt.

The second set began with Old Days followed by Does Anybody Know What Time it Is and then Hard Habit to Break. It seemed as though everyone in the band was more energetic and dancing around the stage than the first set, especially James Pankow. In my opinion, he was the most entertaining and animated member of the band on stage. It amazes me to see a group of accomplished musicians in their 60’s with this energy level. Having seen Chicago perform several times in the last 40 years, they still know how to rock and bring the house down…..which leads me to the best combination of songs and best jam of the night. Performing Beginnings and then going into the song, I’m A Man was the highlight of my night. I could not stop dancing in my seat. The song featured both the drummer, Tris Imboden and percussionist, Walfredo Reyes, Jr. dueling it out for about 15 minutes having a good time with the crowd and getting them involved, all keeping with the rhythm. These guys really brought the house down and then the rest of the band joined in to finish the song off. Wow…..only at a live concert can you experience that. I was exhausted just watching them. Then, the band played Just You ‘N Me which featured Walt Parazaider on the flute which slowed it down a bit.

Knowing we were in the home stretch, the band started playing Saturday In The Park, and the entire crowd got on their feet clapping and dancing which everyone could identify with the song as it was a Saturday and we were at Ravinia Park. Very appropriate and the audience made it known that it was “this park.” As the audience remained standing at the conclusion of the song, the band played Hard to Say I’m Sorry, followed by the final song of the second set, Feeling Stronger Every Day.

As the lights remained off, the crowd, still on their feet from four songs ago, were clapping, whistling and making noise for the encore. The band came out with another one of my Chicago favorites, Free. Sitting on an aisle seat, I saw people running down the aisle towards the stage to dance with the band. Even the security staff sitting next to us told us it was okay to go down there and dance if we wanted. With all audience members dancing, the band dancing while playing and everyone really getting into the song, a giant American flag dropped down in back of the stage. Just when I thought this was the final song, the band continued into one of their all time biggest hits, 24 or 6 to 4. Wow….what a great end to what was a fantastic 2-1/2 hr. concert. But wait…….it’s not over …….

Heading up the aisle to try and beat the crowd out to the parking lot, there was an announcement made and people stopped dead in their tracks and turned around to face the stage. The famous Blackhawks theme song, Chelsea Dagger, started playing over the sound system and once again, Marian Hossa walked out with the Stanley Cup. As I was exiting the pavilion, you could hear the remaining crowd singing the famous duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh!!!

Reviewed by Debbie Pollack on 8/24/13

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