The other night I went to Ravinia Festival. I am not afraid to admit that, after all my concert going years, it was my time going to the Ravinia venue located in Highland Park, Illinois. But there must be first time for everything and a double bill with Lifehouse and Switchfoot, two of my fave bands in the past, made it all the more enticing. Simply put, if you have never gone to Ravinia before, you need to go. It is just beautiful. Well-manicured lawns surrounding the pavilion area make an inviting temporary home for its large number of picnickers. And a friendly staff member is always nearby, ready to help, adding to the venue’s pleasant ambiance. The atmosphere is quick to relax its attendees from the moment they arrive. Picnickers can bring their own food and drink though there are a handful of food choices available on the Ravinia grounds making it easy to fill a hearty appetite before or during a concert. In short, I quickly discovered Ravinia is the perfect place to have a great family or date night. Its enchantment is only heightened by beautiful trees strategically placed throughout the grounds. Though easily accessible by car, a Metra stop is just right outside the gates, offering an even easier option of transportation for many and an easy escape route after the concert. But not to worry. Even for those that choose to drive, it's still easy to leave in a timely manner.

The night’s opening Act was Brynn Elliott, a senior college student from Boston. Ms. Elliott is a very energetic young lady whose soulful and jazzy voice is full of life. The young music artist sang eight catchy songs that got the attention of those sifting into the pavilion and having many thinking, “Have I heard that voice before?” Brynn interacted with the growing crowd well, many jumping around and dancing with her to her faster paced songs. As her set came to an end, Brynn couldn’t be more grateful to Lifehouse and Switchfoot for inviting her to open for them.

Switchfoot then hit the stage to a loud roar of cheers. The pavilion quickly filled, while no doubt a few slices of pizza were quickly scarfed down upon the band’s opening notes. Switchfoot appropriately opened their set with “Hello Hurricane” in the wake of the Harvey devastation, a stark reminder of those in need. Frontman Jon Foreman came out strong, his vocals rich, his energy at a high level matching his talent. Foreman commanded the stage, leading a band that also appeared to be in peak form. The years have been good to Switchfoot, an added maturity gracing each number played, each note struck, each address to the crowd made.  

Throughout the evening, the band, still fresh off their 2016 release Where the Light Shines Through, performed a variety of material sure to please Switchfoot fans from all eras, touching on albums from earlier in their career to current. As the set played on, Foreman walked around the pavilion, shaking hands and hugging people in the crowd, as he so often loves to get close and personal, a quality his fans don't mind one bit. He even shared a handful of interesting stories as to how and why some songs were written and the meaning behind them. Guitarist Drew Shirley was ripping through leads while Chad Butler kept a steady rhythm on drums along with bassist Tim Foreman, Jon’s brother. Jerome Fontamillas chimed in with guitar and keys to help create the band’s signature wall of sound that has so well defined the California quintet.

After seeing Switchfoot’s live show, it’s easy to believe the accomplished studio artists are happiest on stage where they can spend quality time with the fans who have supported them for so many years.

Lifehouse took the stage next. This surprised me, thinking Switchfoot would headline, but thus the double bill. Lead vocalist and guitarist Jason Wade reminded the crowd that, despite hailing from Los Angeles, they haven't toured the United States in seven years. Women in their late twenties and thirties began to flood into the pavilion, some screaming, as the band found its rhythm on stage. The band was not rusty, displaying a strong stage presence, their fans excited to see them after such a long drought.

Opening with the song “Hurricane” (obviously a theme here), the first of their fifteen-song night swiftly got their fans excited for what would be a truly rockin’ performance. The band played a good amount of material from their first two albums, songs from seventeen or so years ago, that made everyone feel a bit nostalgic, reminding us of an exciting time when a band is in its breakout stage. Fans sang along at the top of their lungs with the band’s heartfelt songs of heartache and hope. Seen around the stage were a handful of women crying and signing along with tears of emotion streaming down their faces, making the moment all the more unforgettable and powerful.

And now for the downer… Despite their powerful catalog of material and showmanship, the band truly lacked when it came to audience interaction. This was a bit disappointing. Song after song was played with little or no introductions in between and Wade did very little at all to connect with the crowd. It was almost as if they just wanted the night to end.

Switchfoot stole the night away and the reason is simple. They relate with the crowd and the crowd with them. They connect. It’s clear Foreman and company are having fun and hold a great appreciation for their fans. That’s what it’s all about, right? The venue was perfect, the staff amazing and, thanks to a fine sound system, the music performed sounded as if we were in a studio outside of the loud cheers. In all, it was a fine night of music and beautiful memories were created.

Switchfoot Setlist:

Hello Hurricane
Stars
Bull in a China Shop
Love Alone Is Worth the Fight
Your Love Is a Song
I Won't Let You Go
If the House Burns Down Tonight
Live It Well
The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)
Where I Belong
Meant to Live
Float
Only Hope
Dare You to Move

Lifehouse Setlist:

Hurricane
Halfway Gone
Sick Cycle Carousel
Nerve Damage
It Is What It Is
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Flight
Broken
Everything
Whatever It Takes
First Time
Spin
You and Me
Hanging by a Moment

 

 

Published in In Concert

These days – these days of fractured politics and fraudulent politicians and fake news, and all of the fear they’ve collectively caused our country – perhaps we could all use a little comfort food, be it literal or figurative. And for a couple hours on Sunday night at Ravinia, that’s what John Mellencamp and Carlene Carter dished out – American music that was comforting while still completely captivating.

American music, of course, is Ms. Carter’s birthright. By nature and by nurture, the daughter of June Carter and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash was meant to grace the stage, and oh boy, did she ever. The strains of her guitar and twang of her voice filling the night air, Carter welcomed the crowd as they filed to their seats. Regaling us with stories of a life lived among musical royalty (one yarn involved a late-1960's Kris Kristofferson in leather pants and a helicopter), Carlene gifted us with her own God-given talent. Setting down her guitar to sit down at the piano, she shared the personal loss of her mother and stepdaddy with the hymnal “Lonesome Valley.” Leading us north shore folks in an acapella “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” she winkingly assured us that our rendition was alright, even though we’re no Carter Family.

This professionalism continued as members of the headlining band took the stage, decked out in black suits and armed with hollow-body guitars, a violin, faux-distressed drumkit, and even an accordion. The music of a newer number, “Lawless Times” from 2014’s Plain Spoken, began. And then that familiar face and comforting form of John Mellencamp strolled out, Telecaster guitar strapped over black duds that would’ve made the afore-mentioned Mr. Cash proud, as confident and cocksure as he was decades ago.

The opener was a newer song, but the weathered voice, the still-handsome face, and the populist politics – sentiments both working-class and progressive? How vintage! How quaint! – were anything but. This was the guy – the legend, the hall-of-famer, the working man’s musician – the crowd had come to see. And their hero delivered.

After another more recent number, Mellencamp dove into his back catalogue with renditions of “Minutes to Memories” and “Small Town” off the once-ubiquitous Scarecrow, the crowd eager to leap to its feet and sing along.

After introducing himself and his band, Mellencamp traveled back in time even further with a modern blues take – just vocals, slide guitar, and upright bass – on Robert Johnson’s haunting “Stones in My Passway.”

Again returning to his own work, Mellencamp sang “Pop Singer,” which could just as easily critique today’s fleeting and narcissistic culture as the one nearly three decades ago, as could 1987’s “Check It Out.” The only updates these songs got were thanks to the mature and polished backing band Mellencamp brought and the weathered rasp that age has brought him.

The next song didn’t need the stellar backing musicians or their bevy of instruments to make it powerful. Clutching his acoustic guitar, today’s John Mellencamp told the tale of how a 24-year-old version of himself penned “Jack and Diane” while torn between dreams of songwriting stardom and the more worldly concerns 20-somethings have always had. And strumming said guitar, he allowed the crowd of equally aged folks to take the lead, literally, singing the lead vocal we all know…or at least thought we did. When the crowd skipped the second verse, instead plowing into that beloved chorus, Mellencamp corrected us before continuing. But that chorus of voices made “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone” float through the summer air, sounding every bit the hymn or old standard it has become.

Carlene Carter then returned for a couple of tunes, including “My Soul’s Got Wings,” whose lyrics were once written by Woody Guthrie, only to be given the Mermaid Avenue treatment (given music and a proper recording) by Mellencamp on this year’s Sad Clowns & Hillbillies. A lovely overture by the band’s violinist and accordion player was played before the crowd again got the classics, in the form of “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “Crumblin’ Down.” When each of these was played, the audience leapt to its feet, especially going footloose for “Authority Song,” whose authoritative target most of them have become all these years later.

But that was not the point of the show. Who we were – and how that’s not so different than who we are now – was what mattered. And as we embraced John Mellencamp’s songs, singing with him, all together for one glorious night, he provided the comfort and familiarity that was underscored by the main set’s closer, “Pink Houses”: “Ain’t that America, somethin’ to see…”

For one night, we forgot about the world outside. It sure was somethin’ to see.

 

Published in In Concert

Nearly fifty years since the start of an amazing rock band, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull takes up for another tour most recently making a stop at the Chicago Theater. With him, he brought his classic songs and jammed away. Needless to say, the night was filled with incredible music.

A few minutes after 8 p.m. the lights dimmed to let everyone know it was show time. People made their way to their seats excited in anticipation of an explosive show. The upscale Chicago Theater was an excellent setting for a night with a musical mastermind. The ushers were helpful, fans were happy, and then the lights faded.

The show started and the powerful rock band painted the canvas of music for the evening. The earlier portion of the show contained a couple gems; “Living in the Past” and “Nothing is Easy”. These crowd pleasers were just what everyone wanted. They kept nailing the riffs in a refined way and delivering the music.

Ian Anderson brought along some really sweet sounding flute to the theater. His musical ability and showmanship is second to none. Playing fast-paced flute while standing on one leg while making mischievous looks are all part of his unique skill set.

Up next was a rewritten version of “Heavy Horses” that had a different twist. New lyrics were added to the song, but there was also a virtual singer involved. Screens behind the band were in sync with the show and had singers on the screen that were pre-recorded.

A favorite among so many, “Thick as a Brick” was yet another a great selection from Jethro Tull. The current lineup of musicians did the piece justice duplicating it. The presentation of the edited version makes quite a nice show and demonstrates the musical insanity of Ian Anderson.

Band Members;
Ian Anderson – Guitar, Flute, Mandolin, and much more!
David Goodier - Bass
Scot Hammond – Drums and percussion
John O’Hara – Piano, keyboards, and accordion
Florian Opahle – Guitar
 
The night went along playing one Tull song after another. Ian’s magic flute shines on the song “Bourree”. The instrumental piece always makes the fans happy. The polished up version was a perfect selection for their set. It wouldn’t be an Ian Anderson show without a classical piece like this one from J.S. Bach. The only way to continue was with “Farm on the Freeway”, “Too old to Rock n’ Roll, Too Young to Die,” and “Songs From the Wood”. Then the band took a quick intermission.
 
The crowd was very pleased at the start of the first set with “Sweet Dream”. Florian Opahle had his guitar tone set just right to mimic the record. Everything he does shows he can handle the guitar work produced on Jethro Tull albums. He nails the riffs and sound all while making it his own.

“Dharma for One” is a jam that ends up in a drum solo. Scott Hammond played some of the most incredible rolls going all over the kit in what was a seriously hard piece to play. His style and ability match, or surpass, that of any drummer around.

The deep bass feeling from David Goodier on “A New Day Yesterday” was the start of the blues jam that got some people moving. He blended well with John O’hara on keyboards. All of the musicians have some seriously good chops.

“Aqualung”! The opening guitar riff is one that stands out well. The heavy guitar-based song had the crowd on their feet and moving. The solo was incredible as well as the rhythm section. Once the song was over with the cheering didn’t stop and unfortunately the words, “Bye-bye! Bye-bye!” were said. No one was going to let them leave without playing one more song.

The band did not let their fans down. The song began and the audience was happy. The FM hit, “Locomotive Breath” gave a final punch to the show. The bug eyes and over the top leadership within Ian provided a memorable show. His song writing and musical styling was a pleasure within a live setting to see. The man is way beyond a flute player. He is a showman.

After almost fifty years of being involved with music, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull continues to tour with no signs of stopping and no reason to. The Chicago Theater was a perfect setting for the magic flute work of Ian and his amazing band. As always, they were a delight to see.

 

Published in In Concert

Roomful of Blues is celebrating fifty years this year. That’s a long time playing together. Not all the members go back that far, but the history of the band does.

Opening for Roomful of Blues at City Winery Chicago was Corey Dennison and his band. I think fans of Freddie King would dig this cat. I don’t see Dennison as a King imitator, but I did see some similarities in his appearance and the guitar he played. Dennison has a four-piece band - two guitars, bass and drums. The band pulls off some fun choreographed stage moves and display a ton of energy. Corey even did the Buddy Guy trick of walking through the crowd while playing. The difference being that Dennison started singing without a microphone in the middle of the club. Still, you could hear his strong voice without a problem. Sometimes Blues singing is almost like a holler, just shouting more or less. You can really feel it.

Dennison proved to be a decent Chicago Blues guitar player. He plays without a pick like a lot of the older players, using a lot of thumb. It seems primitive but it’s a great sound.

Roomful of Blues is a bigger band - three horns, keys, guitar, bass, drums and vocals and the crowd was responsive. Together, they present a powerful sound. The horns give more melodic information to chew on. Everything about the band was musically excellent. Well-seasoned players are such a treat to watch. The energy of the band was good but did not match Dennison and crew.

I have heard a lot of Blues music in Chicago. Having said that, I am dying to hear something new. I know a lot is tradition. The twelve-bar form does have limitations. I don’t really hear songs anymore. It’s all the same song. You can speed it up, slow it down…change keys…it’s still the same song. The Blues bands of yesterday had more going on. The missing ingredient is the dancing.

Once upon a time, bands were there so people could dance. Even Classical Music was based on the dances of the day. Dancing has been replaced by sitting. Blues bands of yesteryear would never have held a gig doing whole sets of twelve bar. Tough to dance to a shuffle beat.

Roomful of Blues started towards the end of the sixties Blues movement. Then it stopped moving. The Psychedlic era killed it and I don’t see it being much more than a novelty now. Stevie Ray Vaughan brought it back thirty years ago and that was really Rock disguised as Blues. In no way am I saying that I am down on The Blues. It is still a valid form of music but it needs to grow. This genre of music spawned Rock and Jazz and a lot of other styles. And I think there is more that can come from it in the future. But that will not come from repeating the past.

Published in In Concert
Thursday, 10 August 2017 22:14

Delbert McClinton - One of the Fortunate Few

 

I have been waiting to see Delbert McClinton for a while. It just never happened for me…timing, etc. Finally, it happened. I even took my Mom who is as big a fan as I am.

Warming up for Delbert was Amy Black, a singer/songwriter from Nashville. Black sang only accompanied by piano, which blended perfectly with her very strong voice that comes with powerful with awesome intonation. However, I didn’t feel that strongly for her songs. They were well written but just not overly catchy. In fact, I walked away with no memory of them at all, but only that of an amazing voice. I would like to see her with her full band instead of the simple piano/voice arrangements. Maybe that’s what was missing.

Then, after a brief intermission following Black’s set… Delbert McClinton walks onto the stage. I can’t even comprehend how many times he has done this. “Take Me to the River” was the opener. Del’s version is way more swampy feeling than Talking Heads - not even the same song. Del’s hand-picked musicians formed a tremendous band. No name brand guys. No one under fifty or sixty-years-old. I don’t even remember a band introduction. It was all about the music.

What about the music, you ask? McClinton’s music is self described as Blues but there is much more to it than that. It more like the intersection of Blues Road, Country Avenue and Old Rock and Roll Boulevard. If you think of music like cooking I guess it all kinda comes from the same kitchen, but his unique formula really makes the flavors that stand out. You have the basic recipe but when you start adding spices and such…things get extra tasty.

In a way, I feel here is a guy that should be headlining stadiums. But when I see him work a club, my thoughts change. An intimate venue like such is the perfect environment for Delbert. He is basically a breathtaking club act with great songs. Sometimes we put too much emphasis on the bands playing the hockey stadiums and forget the guys in the clubs exist. The lesson here - go see more musicians like this where you can see the expressions on their face and the watch each note played with finesse and passion rather than viewing a giant monitor.

Let’s get back to the songs. “When Rita Leaves” was played early in the set and another crowd favorite “Ain’t I Got a Right to be Wrong?” was included in the first five, six songs. He has SO many great songs. Two of Delbert’s songs that always stood out were songs at least partially penned by a guy named Jerry Lyn Williams – the same guy that wrote a chunk of Clapton’s later hits. “Giving It Up for Your Love” is a classic that was on the set list. The other is a beautiful song called “Sending Me Angels”.

Music like McClinton’s is good for your cardio-vascular system. It even gets the older people dancing…did I mention that? Well, I just turned fifty and took my seventy-one-year-old mother…and there were people older than her dancing. Some of you youngsters should get out and watch a band like this. You might not be able to keep up…unless somebody breaks a hip.

 

Published in In Concert

The summer concert season kept rolling at Ravinia with Stephen Stills and Judy Collins. The manicured lawns were graced with the musical talents of two folk singers that started their careers a half century ago. As they went along through the course of a ninety-minute set they presented their own style of serene music for everyone to hear.

Concert-goers were allowed a dry spell long enough to enjoy a good show. The humidity was starting to fade into night as people munched on short rib tacos and sipped wine from Ravinia’s restaurants. The well-groomed crowd mostly decked in white pants and khakis were preparing themselves for a time to remember.

Kenny White started out the evening with a solo piano show. He tickled the ivories for a short warm up to set the tone for the evening. Calm and mellow was the mood for this outing. The opening act was brief, but filled with soft tones that were easy on the ears.

Then came the time for the main act and the legendary artists came out together as if they owned the world. The first song for the evening was the Traveling Wilburys' hit song “Handle with Care”. It was a great way to start off the show and get the crowd’s attention. After nearly fifty years since these two performed together live, Collins and Still fell back into it as if it were meant to be.

Stills had some guitars with him that were not just for an everyday player. Two mid-fifties Fender Stratocasters made their way into the hands of the guitar legend and he was more than worthy to play them. His sound was smooth and pristine. His solo capabilities were incredible and he could even up with any guitar great out there. His voice was crystal clear and very pleasant to hear.

Stephen changed guitars after almost every song. He went back and forth between one of the Strats to a Gretsch Stephen Stills Signature model and a few Martin acoustics. He told a story about buying one smaller bodied Martin acoustic while on tour. He joked how if you are traveling North in Minnesota in February that your musical career was just about over with. After a good laugh from the audience he continued by saying he bought the guitar to perform for the evening.

A white light came up from behind Collins and lit up her hair as if she were an angel. Her voice was refined and her guitar abilities were excellent. Her instrument of choice was a Martin Judy Collins Signature Model. She strummed chords on the beautiful twelve-string while providing some incredible vocal harmonies. She is truly just a stunning woman to see and hear.

The two pulled out some songs that made the crowd very happy as toes tapped and bodies swayed. Judy brought out a bigger hit “Both Sides Now”. The mellow upbeat song was an excellent choice for the set list that put a smile on so many faces. Stills played the classic rock anthem “Carry On”. The CSN masterpiece was like a shot in the arm of adrenaline. After all, they were being entertained by one of their heroes.

Stephen started to strum out the chords to a song that turned out to be a high point for the evening. Once lyrics came out, “There’s something happening here…” the crowd started to applaud with excitement. The Buffalo Springfield song “For What It’s Worth” was heard through the venue and everyone knew the words. The show would not have been the same without the iconic protest song about the Sunset Strip curfew riots.

It came time for an encore and they saved the best for last. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” written for Judy Collins was a reason that a lot of people attended the show. The torch song was first unveiled for the public at Woodstock in 1969 and it brought this crowd to their feet. Singing along with every word it made the evening complete.

The show ended and everyone started to make their way back to their mode of transportation. The fountain outside the main entrance was lit up in every spectrum of the rainbow. As the colors changed a few raindrops started to fall. Thankfully it held out just long enough for this perfect evening.

Ravinia Festival in Highland Park provided the setting for this great concert that was brought together from the love felt within two musicians. Stephen Stills and Judy Collins graced the grounds with their unbelievable talent and performed a mellow musical set for its well-behaved onlookers. It was a night to remember.

 

Published in In Concert

A rainy summer night and this party was a guarantee to go on no matter what. The indoor concert venue The Arcada Theater in St. Charles, was the place to be Friday night. The people packed into the ninety-one year old building for a rock show and Femmes of Rock starring Bella Electric Strings gave them just that.

The upscale concert hall was the perfect setting for a rock concert. The walls are decorated with artists that have performed at the Arcada and other music related items. A drum-set chandelier helped to illuminate the main entrance.

From the moment the show started these young ladies strutted their stuff around the stage and played with precision. Each move was well rehearsed. With a pumped up audience to play for, this incredible band performed some of the coolest classic rock songs ever written.

“Kashmir” seems to be a perfect song for this band to play. The Middle Eastern feel is such a natural fit for the violin. These top notch players made a version of Led Zeppelin’s masterpiece that was a perfect opener. Only thought was, how can they possibly keep that energy of the first song? Somehow they managed to do so.

The Femmes of Rock is led by Nina DiGregorio. She dresses in a heavy metal manner similar to that as the Kelly Bundy character, but can play a heavy metal violin. She shreds on the instrument and moves in such a powerful way. This wild child is much more than a pretty face. Her abilities are amazing to see and hear especially with such an amazing band behind her.

Four beautiful women playing violin with a rock band is just something to see. The idea brings classic rock music and a burlesque style show to the stage. The amazing talent and collection of songs selected was all just a perfect combination.

Earlier in the day they were on WGN’s channel nine in Chicago. They played their cover of “Eleanor Rigby” and it was just a version that was remarkable. The choppy swipes at the strings were done so with good mechanics in an almost robotic sort of way. Of course, they played this one at the show as well.

A major highlight of the evening was their cover of the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The girls sat down and sang out the song. It was a very beautiful vocal moment that led into violins playing one of the most popular songs ever.

The long jam at the end goes through some of the best guitar solos from the classic rock era. One guitar god after another was displayed out on violin. Music from Deep Purple, The Eagles, AC DC, Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin and many more!! They played a full show, but it ended too soon; left the audience wanting more. Everyone wants to see more of a good show.

The incredible venue of The Arcada Theater does it again by bringing some of the best shows to downtown St. Charles, Illinois. The monumental size of a show that Femmes of Rock with Bella Electric Strings can bring to the stage is amazing. The pure talent is packed into a fun filled night of fast paced violin runs that was a pleasure to see.

Published in In Concert

Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses are packed with energy and are – just pure fun. At no point during the show do they let you forget that they are entertainers. For two solid hours, their upbeat show played hits going back to a different time. Every moment was absolutely enchanting.

The City Winery is an upscale restaurant/concert venue with a superb wait-staff. Their food, wine and, decorated tables made a perfect atmosphere for Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses. A well-dressed crowd entered the establishment after using valet parking, ate edible creations that were out of this world, and sipped on delicious wines just prior to the show. Candle lit tables, glass bottles of water and cloth napkins set the scene for one of the best shows on Earth.

For approximately five decades Louis Prima Sr. entertained crowds with his musical show in a positive and comedic way. Performers have been covering his music and style since the 1930’s. Benny Goodman, David Lee Roth, and Brian Setzer are among the most popular names to do versions of the great Louis Prima’s work. His son, Louis Prima Jr., is now paying homage to the music his father wrote and other work from different artists.

The Witnesses came out and started to prepare the audience for an incredible band leader, Louis Prima Jr. The horns were pumping and out walked the man in his striped suit who immediately started to sing the opening number “Jump, Jive an’ Wail.” The music was right on the money with every beat, note, and song performed.

A favorite song for so many people was “Just a Gigolo (I ain’t got nobody)”. The song was performed so well that it was just like the original recording. The Keely Smith role for the evening was covered by the extremely talented Leslie Spencer. Her voice was just as powerful as Keely’s was and she nailed every note with perfection during the concert. The mixtures of the male and female voices were done in the same vein as the original artist to whom this show was patterned after.

Louis took time to speak to the audience like they were friends. He made eye contact with anyone and everyone who was close enough to the stage. He mentioned that recently his son had been sick and was in and out of the hospital a lot over a year and a half. He continued to explain that, “The only thing that held it together was playing with his band and performing on stage for such wonderful people. The people in the band are very important to me.” Without their personal relationships, he would not have been able to go on.

The time during the show was held together by A.D. Adams on drums and Johnathan Frias on bass. These two kept the time so well and paved the road of songs for all the other stand-alone musicians on the stage. On guitar was Ryan McKay with a nice hollow body electric and blended well with the keyboard player Gregg Fox. Their high notes were in sync all night with the sax player Marco Palos and Ted Schumacher on trumpet. Another bottom end performer was the baritone sax player William Pattinson who hit notes that you felt deep down in your soul. Phillip Clevinger was the trombone player and together they all made up an incredible band.

All of them displayed incredible showmanship as they didn’t just come out and play their instruments of choice. They played and moved around without stopping. They aren’t just musicians; they are entertainers.

When “Angelina” began, almost every concertgoer in the place was singing with joy. “Oh, mama zooma zooma baccala” was being belted out at every table during the song about the waitress at the pizzeria.

The comedic number, “Banana Split For My Baby” was a definite highlight during the show. Louis warned everyone that he can never remember all the words of the storytelling song that put a smile on so many faces. He started to fumble the words, but regained himself immediately and laughed. No one seemed to care as he went on with grace describing all he wanted his baby to have.

The Witnesses talent is not just within the instruments they play. They all sing well and proved it throughout the night. Louis took a seat behind the drums and A.D. Admas came out to the front of the stage and they started in with the Chicago song, “25 or 6 to 4.” The horn section played every piece with accuracy. The band also continued to belt out the songs “Evil Ways”, “Proud Mary”, and “Your Mama Don’t Dance”. The entire band was like a jukebox for the evening playing one hit song after another.

Toward the end of the show Louis marched out into the audience with his band members following him in a single file line. They slapped hands, did high fives, and showed everyone how down to earth they really are. They finally made it back to the stage and unfortunately the show was over.

Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses laid out such an awesome evening that no one in the entire venue could have been disappointed. The vibe itself expressed from the music and the band’s personality created an overall feeling of warmth. No band could ever leave an audience in a happier mood. The entire evening was just a joy and an honor to see. As people waited in the streets for the valet parking attendants to bring back their vehicles, one man made a comment about the show. “I’m so stoked! I can’t wait to see him again.” Everyone nodded in agreement. It was just a tremendous evening at The City Winery.

 

Published in In Concert

It’s summer at Highland Park’s Ravinia and the concert season continues with Sheryl Crow and Lukas Nelson. The grounds were jam packed with people ready to see a quality show and they were not let down one bit. The weather was nice, the drinks were cold, and the music was hot! It was a night of pure pleasure.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real took the stage first just as the sun was starting to set. This is a super tight group with skills beyond the levels of so many bands in existence today. The band was absolutely powerful and a real treat to see. Unfortunately, as the case with many opening acts, there were a lot of empty seats because too many people are only interested in the headliner. Big mistake, as the openers are sometimes just as good as the main act. A lot of people only came to see Sheryl Crow, but those in attendance for Lukas Nelson undoubtedly became fans of him as well.

Nelson was just at Ravinia a few weeks prior with his father Willie Nelson. Just before the show many music lovers who caught Willie’s show were still talking about Promise of the Real in anticipation of another great performance - and that is exactly what they got. Nelson’s band impressed so many people and left a few asking, “Who is he?” Now they know. Growing up in a family filled with some of the best musical minds, talent has truly rubbed off onto this young man.

Promise of the Real put together some great songs for the audience. “Four Letter Word” is a great little song and well written piece. “Find yourself” was being belted out to a few people who swayed their drink of choice back and forth to the almost reggae style beat created by the rhythm section.

Just before Lukas started to play “(Forget about) Georgia”, he talked about the inspiration to the song. He dated a young lady once by the name of Georgia and sadly, their relationship ended. He stated that he would forever be tormented during performances with his dad as he was constantly reminded of her every time they played “Georgia on My Mind”.

Lukas has put together a band of musicians that could challenge any band to a duel. They had to be a real tough act to follow, but if If anyone could follow them it would have to be someone with super musical powers like Sheryl Crow.

Night time had finally come and the cool breezes graced the pavilion seats and manicured lawns, creating the ambiance for a perfect night of music. By the time she took the stage, Crow was playing to a packed house. She opened the show with “Everyday is a Winding Road” then taking the audience down a musical path of her most popular hits.

“All I Wanna Do” was definitely a crowd pleaser and a great way to get people involved in singing the chorus. The music was extremely well rehearsed and vocally she sounded better than ever. As her set of gems continued, she mellowed out the crowd a bit with her cover of “The First Cut is the Deepest”. Then she quickly pumped everyone right back up with her next song “Halfway There”. The lady really knows how to work a crowd.

It wouldn’t be a Sheryl Crow show without the song “If It Makes You Happy”. Her set was just dynamite and arranged very well, as she kept hitting fans right between the eyes with one great song after another.

Possibly the youngest in the crowd was a not quite two-year-old child named Michael who was experiencing his first show. He put his hands together and started his uncoordinated dance during “Soak Up the Sun”. He was an enjoyment to the section he was in and added to the music in his own innocent way.

A major highlight of the entire evening was Sheryl’s cover of an Allman Brothers song, “Midnight Rider”. She gracefully nailed the vocals in her own style that put a smile on everyone’s face. She later ended the night with “I Shall Believe”. Even though it was a full show of boundless material by both groups, a lot of people left wanting more. When the music is that good, who would want it to ever stop?

Highland Park’s Ravinia has a great reputation of putting together incredible performances. The park has been the place to go for entertainment in the area for over one hundred years. Ravinia put yet another notch in the belt of their list of great shows with Lukas Nelson and Sheryl Crow. The festive outdoor concert venue is never a disappointment and always delivers a magical experience as they constantly keep their sites on perfection. Hats off to Ravinia, Sheryl Crow, and Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real for the great event they put forth. Collectively they created a show beyond the wildest of dreams of most. It was just priceless!

 

Published in In Concert
Friday, 07 July 2017 18:13

Buddy Guy is Real

Buddy Guy is real. In a music business where people often portray an image onstage - a persona - Buddy Guy is real. When you go see him play, that’s what you get and nobody walks away not knowing a little something about the man.

Before Guy’s set at Ravinia Festival, we were treated to the music of Booker T. Jones. Some of you might say, “who’s he?” Booker T. and The MG’s were the house band at Stax Records. They were on many songs that you remember, but they were not the faces on the record. Most people do recognize their hit “Green Onions”, but if you asked who it was…

His was a nice short, but effective, set. I had hopes of Buddy coming out and playing a song with Jones but that might have actually taken the focus away from Booker’s music in a way. It was really nice to hear the Hammond Organ being played by the actual person you heard play those melodies. Booker even played guitar and sang…but…that organ, that sound… It’s almost become a lost instrument today. I say almost because you do still see them but we could be witnessing the tail end of the instrument’s impact. I’d love to see bands today bring back the organ.

On the other hand, Buddy Guy was born to play the guitar - to quote his own song. I think that is true. However, he does not play the way your guitar teacher will tell you to play. What does that mean? It means he just plays the guitar. He doesn’t study it. He doesn’t analyze it. He plays the guitar. Guy’s playing has been a huge influence on Rock’s elite but many just don’t get it unless they see the man play live. You cannot capture Buddy Guy on a recording. It’s just not the same. His performances should not be repeated. They should not be recorded. They should be experienced. You need to be there when he walks out into the crowd, and this could not have been truer than at Ravinia the other night.

I don’t want to go off on a tangent here, but go see more live music. Before music turns into a complete corporate clown show, go see more live music. Live music has so many benefits. Musicians pay their bills nowadays largely in part by playing live. Free downloads killed CD sales. We need to support these artists. Maybe the decay of integrity can be slowed down or even repaired if we did this. Go see more live music.

Artists too are to blame. They need to be real. That’s why the music of some people lasts forever. Formulas are for scientists, not musicians. Just be yourself and make some music. Be like Buddy Guy. I do not mean imitation. Just be real.

Guy’s set was amazing. You will never see the same show twice. He starts one song and may finish it or he may jump to anther song. The band needs to be on their toes. I am sure they rehearse most of that but I am sure a huge part of rehearsal is learning how to follow Buddy’s lead. The Blues as a musical form has always involved a lot of improvisation. You actually get to hear music at its point of creation. You can’t rehearse that part of the process, the creation. To witness this is a gift to you from the artist. This leads me back to the reasons to go see live music. It’s like gift exchange. They give you the music. You go see them so they can pay their bills. It’s good for the economy. Go see more live music.

Published in In Concert
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