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

Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward, and John Lodge brought a show to the Ravinia stage that knocked out everyone who was in attendance. Two full sets of music packed with hits from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were the band’s musical offerings for the evening. Without a doubt, it was a musical setting that was great to see, hear, and feel.


There is nothing like going into a concert venue to see a favorite band. The crowds of people dress in their best going out attire and get all polished up like a pretty penny. They make their way to the seats to see some good music and moments later lights finally fade and the music starts. Excitement runs through the crowd as the first notes begin.

  
It’s just a magical time during the summer concert season at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois. The Moody Blues only add to that magic. The legendary band came triumphantly took the stage and played a no nonsense show, having lost nothing in their fifty plus years as musicians. Their music was absolutely flawless from start to finish.


The first set contained hits from their vast catalog. They opened the show with “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” and grabbed the attention of the audience right away. Hayward and Lodge both have amazing voices and hit every note with perfection. There wasn’t the slightest crack or imperfection in any of the performer’s voice.


Songs from the video age of the 1980’s were a big hit among the fans. “The Voice” and “Your Wildest Dreams” were definitely crowd pleasers. They kept reminding us of their amazing writing capability as their set list unfolded.


“The Story in Your Eyes” was a highlight from the first set that grabbed a few inexperienced Moody Blues fans by surprise. “Oh my God! They’re playing this song too?” If you listen to classic rock, it’s hard to not know The Moody Blues music. It’s still everywhere on the FM dial.

“Steppin’ in A Slide Zone” began with the melodic dynamic build and thrilled the more dedicated fans of this amazing band. The keyboards and guitars were blending so well in what was a great piece of ear candy. For the few that didn’t know the song, I’m guessing it had to impress them as well.


Set two was reserved for the fiftieth anniversary of Days of Future Passed. They played the album in its entirety and this is the reason a lot of people came out to see the famous band. A few people in attendance even gave up their Grateful Dead tickets to witness this once in a lifetime performance.


The monologues were prerecorded by Jeremy Irons and he nailed it. He sounded just like the original recordings. “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin” were the bigger hits from the album. Getting the chance to see this composition from start to finish was a real treat. It was a musical journey that everyone will remember from the orchestral interludes to the psychedelic writings of 1967. Originally released just after the summer of love, the album is a timeless recording that will always stand out as one of the best of all time.  


Graeme Edge was awesome on the drums and kept hitting them with finesse while not missing a beat. Billy Ashbaugh was an additional drummer brought on the tour to help keep the time within the show. Justin Hayward did such an amazing job on the guitar and vocals, the show wouldn’t have been the same without him while John Lodge provided the bottom end with his bass guitar and brought along some sweet vocals as well. Rounding out The Moody Blues sound, Alan Hewitt performed some amazing keyboards and vocals. Everything he did was just like the original recordings. Norda Mullen is a multi-instrumentalist who fills in so many gaps for The Moody Blues, but really stands out with her flute. The tour also included Julie Ragins, another multi-instrumentalist who just seemed to play everything. She quickly proved she wasn’t there to take up space. Together these people are the current lineup for The Moody Blues and they shouldn’t change a thing. These professional musicians stand out within their instruments of choice. They famously blend so well with one another.

The Moody Blues is just an amazing band in a live setting. Age does not seem to affect this band in a negative way, the musicians defying Father Time. Their musicianship seems to keep getting better as the years pass. It’s always a pleasure to see people refine their talents and put them on display for everyone to see. Ravinia was just a perfect setting for this nostalgic display. It was a delight for everyone who was there.

 

Published in In Concert

“You were always on my mind …You were always on my mind”
 
Summer warmth and clear skies are finally here. It is time for summer concerts. Highland Park’s Ravinia was the setting for an amazing show. Willie Nelson and Family were in town and the show was spectacular to say the least.

The beautiful lawns we're decorated up with concert-goers that were excited about the show. Happiness and anticipation could be seen within each fan. The weather predictions were calling for rain and they couldn’t be more wrong; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Coolers were filled with beverages and the heat was starting to fade into the evening. It was time for a high-class concert, and, with that, Willie Nelson and his family brought several masterpieces to the stage for a nostalgic musical journey.

Ages of the fans in attendance greatly varied as it was a family friendly show. A young girl by the name of Sienna was attending her first concert. She was just learning to walk and was being corralled in by her family with the help of a few others in the lawn. It was a delight to see the smile on her young face and she quite possibly the youngest person there. With pretzel in hand and baby curls in her hair, she was the preshow entertainment with her cute chubby cheeks.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real were the opening act for the evening and without a doubt talent runs through the veins of this young man. His voice, writing style, and guitar ability was like seeing a young Willie Nelson. They were nothing less than incredible.

The song “Find Yourself” was a highlight in Lukas’ show. “Find Yourself” is a funky reggae style song that has a groove and feeling to it that just runs through deep into your soul. A ballad type song singing to a love with disappointment with a blues feel that just tore it up. Lukas undeniably has his father’s genes.

The time came for the main act Willie Nelson. A feeling of joy instantly took over the crowd that glazed their faces when the first lyric was sung; “Whiskey river, take my mind”. The opening three songs, “Whiskey River”, “Still is Still Moving to Me” and “Beer for My Horses” were just amazing choices to kick off this Friday evening show. Everyone sang along with every word.

The band was on fire, following the lead of the country genius as he jam-packed his show with a no nonsense approach. “You Were Always on my Mind” was played while the words were coming out of the mouths of the sea of people in attendance. A lady in the audience had tears in her eyes. She said with a joyful heart, “We can go now.” She was truly happy.

“Mamas’ Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, “Crazy”, “On the Road Again”, and “Georgia” were among the set list prompting one sing-a-long after another. “It’s All Going to Pot”, “Shoeshine Man”, and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” were played so well that everyone had to be impressed with the overall performance of each.

Lukas plays with Willie’s band as well and the most powerful moment of the show was during their performance of “Texas Flood”. Lukas took the lead vocal and the pipes were like a gift from the heavens above. The song wasn’t just another cover of a song. He became the song and he did as good if not better than anyone else had ever done. It came time for his guitar solo and the man’s entire body twitched with convulsions with every note played, his soulful rendition seen, heard, and felt. If anyone didn’t enjoy this masterful jam, they’re probably not a fan of music.

Bobbie Nelson, Willie’s older sister, graced the stage on piano. She is always referred to as “little sister” by the band leader and for this show it was no different. She really can just tickle the keys and did so in a dim light to one side of the stage.

Since the early seventies Mickey Raphael has been in the band. It just wouldn’t be a Willie Nelson concert without the man. Some of the greatest moments in music history involved him playing harmonica. Raphael is son entertaining, most people could probably have listened to this man just stand there and play by himself. All the members within the band are stand-alone musicians, each as impressive as the next.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The show was highly engaging and the atmosphere just perfect. Every note was flawless and carried with it the perfect sentiment. It was priceless to see one of the musical greats of the twentieth century. Ravinia is an incredible setting for a show as always. Having Willie Nelson and Family just goes to show the high caliber of talented acts brought in by the famous concert grounds in Highland Park. The weather cooperated and it was a great start to the summer concert season. It’s a time that will not be forgotten. To see a list of upcoming musical acts appearing at Ravinia, visit www.Ravinia.org.

 

Published in In Concert

There is nothing better than seeing a concert driven with high energy. The audience waits with excitement for the concert to start. The introduction takes place and the band walks out onto the stage. The first notes on the electric guitar come through the monitors while everyone cheers and shouts the name of the man leading the show. A power chord drives the adrenaline up and is followed by fast paced minor riffs. Martin Barre has come to entertain you and the entire performance will be nothing less than spectacular. He’s is just amazing!

Martin had gone his own way in 2011 after Jethro Tull finally dissolved. Several years of performing within one of the toughest groups to ever exist had come to an end and left this six string master without a band. Mr. Barre had decided to start a new group. His current concert experience is fresh with a straight up rock and blues feel. The band is made up of some really great players that are having a good time playing some incredibly intricate music. The overall skill level is just off the charts!

Blues, rock, folk, and much more are the genres that make them up, but they don’t fit into any one category. This group is a four piece that is ready to blow anyone away who comes to see them. It’s a show that is a must see it to believe it. Do you like rock, blues, soulful guitars, and a super band? The Martin Barre Band is the band to see.  

George Lindsay is filling the role of drums and percussion with style that can mimic men who have been in Tull. His skill with sticks and mallets grace his kit with every beat. The foot work on the double bass pedals sounds like machine guns rapidly firing. This young man is big in every way. The percussive sound is huge and fills up any room he is playing in, but he is not lacking in the height category either. Standing six foot eight in height, he is quite an intimidating guy and appears taller than he admits. Don’t let his size spook you because he is a gentle giant and an awesome drummer. After a show, a concert attendee yelled up to him on stage, “George!” to get his attention. He responded back quickly, “That’s Big George!” Then he smiles.

It’s always great when a singer can belt out a song and push it over the top to excellence. Taking the role of singer can be difficult, but Dan Crisp has done an outstanding job. He is not attempting to fill the shoes of a one legged flute player, but rather he stands solidly on the ground as his own man. He has a voice that is very pleasant to listen to. Dan also plays guitar leads and solos that are quite difficult to undertake, but he does songs justice in everything he plays. He has a mad scientist, comical way about him as he moves around on stage. Mr. Crisp has been with this band for quite a while and with a little luck, he doesn’t leave anytime soon.

Providing the bottom end for the band is an extremely talented musician, Alan Thomson. His playing style is filled with dynamics as no notes better be played that don’t belong. It’s not possible for Martin to have picked up a better all around musician for bass. Alan sings backup and also plays slide guitar on the song “Bad Man.” His expertise shines with every swell during his mournful lead. Alan is so into the music that he appears as if he is not having a good time at all. “I may look like I’m not having a good time on the outside, but on the inside, I’m having the time of my life.” This low end master is fantastic to see live and a true gentleman to his fans. All bass players who have played with Martin in the previous years have been incredible and Alan Thomson is no exception. He can’t be compared to anyone else.

Martin Barre is just an amazing guitar player and he won’t let you forget it during any song that he performs live these days. He has taken Jethro Tull songs, ripped them apart, and put together arrangements that just impress the ears. Smiling from ear to ear, this man appears to be enjoying himself. He is actually quite funny too as he converses with the fans between songs. He talks about being a “bad guitar player” and hanging out with the Queen. You don’t have to be a fan of his previous band to enjoy his new show.

Some Jethro Tull fans seem to be divided into two separate camps, but still with respect for each other. Some are diehard Ian Anderson followers and others have preferred to watch the new and improved Martin Barre. Both are performing great shows solo, but most would just like to see them together again. Dave Pincus who has seen Jethro Tull over 150 times said, “Martin’s new band has a freshness and energy level that makes the show two hours of awesome entertainment.”

Martin being the band leader he has formed this concoction of musicians and blended these guys into awesomeness. The crisp sound of the guitars, the bass tone, and an excellent mix on drums helps capture their stage sound for the audience. The man behind the mixing board helps out a bit as well.  

New Day Yesterday, Teacher, and Fat Man are usual Jethro Tull songs that you will hear at a Martin show. In addition, other songs like Crossroads by Robert Johnson will feature Martin on mandolin and for a while it becomes a heavy metal mandolin. The arrangement is nothing like the Cream version at all. Having the mandolin lead the song was a good choice as it gave the song a sharpness that it never had before.

In late August, Martin kicks off his Fall US tour in Iowa. He will be touring the Midwest and upper East coast. He has over 30 shows scheduled and is already posting new shows for 2017! There seems to be no stopping this man. Complete show listing can be seen atwww.martinbarre.com

Martin Barre has come to entertain you and it will be nothing less than spectacular. The towns and cities wait with excitement for Martin Barre to come to the stage. Seeing him and his band is something that will make you happy and feel at home. The show is mostly musical, but he does make you feel like you’re the only person sitting in the audience. It’s just amazing!

 

Published in In Concert

Amazing times can be had at a live production. Summer concerts can be especially nice; the sun is setting, the crowd is excited, and the opening act is about to take the stage. This particular musical presentation couldn’t have gone much better. 

Opening the show was blues legend, Charlie Musselwhite. The talented musician came out blowing the harp and he gave it all he had. His entire performance was just fantastic, warming up the crowd on a chilly summer night. The audience was certainly amped and ready for the “Space Cowboy”, as the seats and picnic area were already well occupied for this amazing guitar man. 

The Steve Miller Band then took over and hit the crowd right between the eyes with “Jungle Love”, “Take the Money and Run”, and “Abracadabra”, and that was just for starters. If Miller’s performance wasn’t thrilling enough, the place really exploded with excitement when Charlie Musselwhite was invited out to join in on a few bluesy songs. They did a few old cover songs from Little Walter and Freddie King. It was a very memorable time for everyone. 

Longtime fan, Ron Marten says, “I became a fan in 1976 when I was six-years-old. My mom had just bought an 8-track player and joined Columbia house. She was stiffed with this 8-track that was the selection of the month, Fly Like an Eagle. At that time, I was really into the "Space Intro". She couldn’t send it back now. It was part of my nursery rhymes.  We ended up playing the hell out of it.”

Miller’s set continued on with more hits; hit after hit after hit! The night couldn’t be better for any true fan of Steve Miller. He performed very well and his sound is always top notch.  Highland Park was truly fortunate to get an act like this playing in their backyard. 

One fan, however, seemed disappointed during an intro the song "Wintertime". “That was the Window!” he shouted. He turned about to his friends and joined in singing, “In the wintertime ……….”. His mood couldn’t be ruined. 

Steve Miller brought out all of his classics that he could including “Serenade”, “The Joker”, “Fly Like an Eagle”, and closed his triumphant set out with another favorite “Jet Airliner”. Not a single fan in the crowd could be disappointed with the set list. Seeing this man live is like flipping on a radio. Instantly the ear candy is something you know and it hits you hard. 

Ravinia Festival in Highland Park is the place to be to see a live act and who could possibly be better than Steve Miller?                    

 

Published in In Concert
Saturday, 29 August 2015 13:02

ZZ Top Live at Ravinia

An amazing feeling comes over you when going to see a live band outside during the summer. It’s such a treat to be able to attend a show in beautiful landscapes of Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois. When ZZ Top is in town you know it’s going to be a party.  

On such a beautiful Thursday evening several thousand fans gathered into Ravinia to see that little band from Texas that wallops a big ol' punch. ZZ Top is going to take the stage tonight and you better watch out. The guitar riffs are amazing.

Opening out the night was Blackberry Smoke. Great musicians! Vocally they were just an amazing band. They tore into it with a nice country twang to them that really set your hair on fire.  The influence of Southern rock on this band can be heard. They have an Allman Brother’s feel to them within their big jam band style. Some real great playing was displayed. Great pickers!

The time had come for the main act to come out. The temperature was perfect, the mood was serene, and the crowd was ready. “Got Me Under Pressure” and “Gimme All Your Loving,” were just like the record and tremendous crowd pleasers as well. They brought out the choreographed dance moves and charmed the hell out of a sold out audience. They come complete with matching guitars, beards, hats, and matching attitudes. Bad ass!!

This band seems like it’s been going on forever. Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard got ZZ Top going strong and soon had a great following in no time. They had a good career in the 70’s with a few strong hits. Once the 80’s came they added synthesizers and became unstoppable. Each one of these guys was right on the money all night long.  

At Ravinia they displayed their MTV hits, old hits, and never stopped laying down a groove. The crowd was very well organized. Large displays of food, tables, chairs, bottles of wine were everywhere to be seen. Can’t think of a better way to enjoy ZZ Top live than in the plush lawn of Ravinia. It was a perfect setting for songs like, “Jesus just left Chicago”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, “Tush,” and “LaGrange”.

When ZZ Top is in town you know it’s going to be a party.  ZZ Top just played Ravinia and it was amazing. They played a great set that made everyone want more, but what did they leave out?  Nothing.

Published in In Concert

 

 

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