Showing posts with label live review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label live review. Show all posts

Monday, February 6, 2012

Live Review: Craig Finn of the Hold Steady at Slowdown

Finn performs with his band on Slowdown's front room stage.

With a big snowfall iminent, I wondered how many people would actually show up to see Craig Finn on Friday night. Granted, the snow wasn't supposed to start falling until after the concert would be over, but people in this town kinda freak when they see a few white flakes fall from the sky.

When we arrived at Slowdown at about 8:30, only about 10 people (not including the club's employees) were milling about. I was surprised to see it was a front room show, but it probably would have felt empty in the main room.

As I feared, there were very few people there. But when the frontman of The Hold Steady took the stage more than an hour later, it was very full.

With little grandiosity but lots of applause, Finn took the stage with the band from his solo album, "Clear Heart, Full Eyes."

"Hey Omaha. The last time I was here was in the parking lot outside here on a night much nicer than tonight," Finn said, mentioning this summer's outdoor show at the venue. "These songs - or most of these songs - are off my solo album. Thanks for coming out tonight. Thanks for being a part of it."

To be sure, there wouldn't be any songs by The Hold Steady. Holding an acoustic guitar instead of his usual Les Paul, Finn started into the leadoff track off of his new album, "Apollo Bay."

In an interview, Finn described this music as being much less celebratory than what you'd normally get from The Hold Steady. That's for sure. These songs were more subdued, more singer-songwriter style, but still good. The guys:girls ratio was about on par for a Hold Steady concert, but there was no fist-pumping, fewer people singing and no tallboys raised in the air.

A lot of these songs are about being an adult and dealing with transitioning from your teenage/twentysomething shenanigans to being an adult while still staying true yourself. Of course, nothing changed in your personality: you didn't stop liking whiskey or staying up late with your friends, but you're expected to grow up.

That was pretty well summed up by Finn before he and the band played the song "Rented Room."

"You know when you're in college or you're just out of college - whatever you do - late teens/early twenties and you live in a house with all these roommates? And all these fun things happen. You're drinking, you're carrying on. You have all these inside jokes. It's funny," Finn said. "But when you're 35 and you have a whole bunch of roommates, it's not funny at all. Take it from me."

No, it's not funny, but it still did get some laughs. Finn was a lot more talkative than he usually is and had a lot of good anecdotes like the one above.

He played every song from the album as well as some stuff that didn't make the cut. Some of those songs were the best ones he played, such as "When You're Going To A Show," "Some Guns" and "Sarah, I'm Surrounded." (Check out the full setlist.) Hopefully he releases an EP of extra songs sometime.

Other favorites of mine were "Honolulu Blues" and "No Future," which you can listen to below.

Also of note was opening band Mount Moriah. The North Carolina band was fronted by tiny woman with a big, melodic voice, which was matched up well with their very melodic lead guitar player. I highly recommend you listen to their song "We Don't Need That Much."

After the show, Finn took at seat at the merch table to sign autographs and meet fans. I always like to meet artists I've interviewed in person, so I made my way back there while my friends snagged a booth in the emptying club.

Finn signed merch items, talked to fans and posed for a few photos. He was cool enough to let me bug him for a minute, and sign a vinyl copy of "Clear Heart, Full Eyes" for me. Since he played several songs that weren't on the album, I asked if he had plans to release an EP of those songs. He said he'd really like to, but there were no definite plans.

Finn also mentioned that mentioned how awesome Slowdown is compared to other venues he's played at. I said I think he's the only artist to ever play the front room, main room and outside stage there, and he laughed. He said it's a fantastic venue, especially compared to the place they were at the night before, whih may have been his number one worst place to play at.

I appreciate artists that hang out and talk to fans (and me, too). It takes little effort and it's a memory that people will have for a long time.

Apollo Bay
No Future
When No One's Watching
Some Guns
My New Friend Jesus
Sarah, I'm Surrounded
The Man Around Your House
Dudes From St. Paul
When You're Going To A Show
Honolulu Blues
Rented Room
Terrified Eyes
Not Much Left Of Us

Monday, October 10, 2011

Live Review: The Head And The Heart at The Waiting Room

The Head And The Heart

Sunday was at least my fourth time seeing The Head And The Heart have made its toe-tapping campfire dance songs get better and better each time.

The Waiting Room Lounge was sold out on Sunday night, and while I've been there for many a sold-out night, I've never seen it packed up against the stage like that. And I've never heard a crowd go that wild for a band, especially a new band who was on its first ever headlining tour.

They sing songs about reading good books, playing music and enjoying the good life. "Heaven Go Easy On Me" personifies these themes the most (and carries the band's name in its lyrics) with the line "Don't follow your head/Follow your heart."

From the first song, the crowd knew the words and belted them out. It reached a crescendo with the end of "Rivers And Roads" where the band's harmonies and the crowd's shouts were so thick that I got chills down my back.

"Lost In My Mind" was the biggest number. From the first words, the crowd was into it and opening band Thao + The Get Down Stay Down jumped onstage to make for 14 performers.

Another highlight was the encore, which started with Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell performing "No One To Let You Down" and ended with the whole band performing "Down In The Valley." (Watch video.)

Only one part of the show was unfortunate. It was short. But that's no surprise considering the band has one album and a few new songs, which is what Mumford & Sons ran up against at this summer's Stir Concert Cove show.

Wait until this band has another album under its belt (you shouldn't have to wait long... they already played a bunch of new tunes on Sunday). You'll see them rise even higher, taking a course similar to Mumford or The Civil Wars.

They're incredibly talented, somehow able to take folk songs and make some into something you'd dance to and others that you'd be comfortable singing at church with a lot of other pretty voices. I mean, if my 2-year-old nephew knows the band well enough to say "rivers and roads" repeatedly whenever the band comes on, they must be doing something right.

They were on of my favorites at SXSW earlier this year and I can't wait to see where they go. Should be a fun ride, especially if crowds keep loving them like this.

Setlist and video come after the jump.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Live Review: MC Chris at the Waiting Room

I'm a music guy, but I'm also a big nerd, so when the two worlds collide in nerdcore hip-hop, I'm pretty excited. (For the record, I'm not one of those people that try to apply the "nerd" badge in an effort to be cool. My giant comic book and action figure collections speak to my geek cred, if there is such as thing.)

Probably the biggest nerdcore artist is MC Chris. His songs play in Honda commercials and whenever Blink-182 or Kevin Smith take the stage. And it's not just that he raps about Star Wars and Batman, it's that he's good at it.

So, I finally took the plunge and got to see him at the Waiting Room on Sunday, where he's performed a bunch before, but I've always missed it.

Not this time. I unfortunately missed the openers (I've heard good things about both MC Lars and Adam Warrock), but made it just before MC Chris took the stage.

For starters, it was a good show, though pretty short (an apt way to describe both MC Chris and his songs as well).

He kicked things off with "I Like Candy" and then tried three separate times to do "Nerd Cave" from his latest album, but he couldn't quite keep up with the backing track. So, to get it right, he started the entire set over, and from there was flawless.

He queued up songs from an iTunes window on a laptop and launched into excellent rhymes in songs such as "Hoodie Ninja," "Motorbike," "Nrrrd Grrrl," "Pizza But" and his "Star Wars" anthem, "Fett's Vette."

My personal favorite was "OMC," in which he rapped over a combo of the "Back To The Future" theme, "Power Of Love" and "Axel F."

A couple times during the show, I thought MC Chris came off as kind of a jerk to his fans. He made one kid who was using his phone during the first song go to the back of the crowd. Later, he asked another fan not to sing along so loudly. To be fair, it's his show and you have to have a little respect for him vocalizing frustration with obnoxious fans, but it certainly takes balls to tell a fan exactly how they can or cannot enjoy themselves at your concert especially when those people paid $13 to see you perform.

Still, the audience respected and adored him. He had total control as the crowd calpped, waved and sang along with whatever he asked. He also silenced the backing track during one song and the crowd shouted back every word.

A big part of is love by fans is evidenced by how he stays after every show - including Sunday's - and stands by the merch booth to talk to every last fan. Very few artists (Ben Kweller and Matt & Kim are only ones that come to mind) do that, but it's an excellent way to build an audience and I love when artists do that.

Between his songs, he also cracked a lot of jokes about video games, obscure movies and all the stuff that nerds love. He's genuinely hilarious and I was laughing hard, which made me wonder why there's not a group of stand-ups that riff on pop culture and nerd stuff. They'd sure have my support, but I've never heard of any. (Of course, feel free to tell me I'm wrong and direct me to someone to check out.)

In the end, it was a perfectly excellent hybrid of geekiness (especially with the costume contest mid-show) and music that I'd love to see replicated more often.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Live Review: Bright Eyes at Westfair Amphitheater

Conor Oberst performs with Bright Eyes at Westfair Amphitheater on June 4, 2011. Photo: CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD
Sorry that I'm so late in posting this, but better late than never, right?

Anyway, I feel safe in saying that Saturday night's Bright Eyes set at Westfair Amphitheater was the best one I've ever seen from the band.

It was very similar to the set they played in Austin for SXSW, which I reviewed then. The set was once again heavy on the band's latest album, "The People's Key," though it also sampled from a lot of old material.

What I enjoyed was the influence that "The People's Key" had on the rest of the set. Since it's a more keyboard-heavy, forceful album, it caused the band to perform the rest of the songs that way.

"Lover I Don't Have To Love" is a great song, but Conor Oberst sang it with more conviction and it had a little more thump with the band that he had assembled, which included permanent members Nate Walcott and Mike Mogis as well as Clark Baechle on drums, Andy LeMaster on bass, Laura Burhenn on keys and backing vocals and Scott McPherson on additional percussion.

Baechle's drumming, which you all know from The Faint, has a drive to it and, coupled with MacPherson on another kit, fueled a lot of the songs.

Additionally, songs such as "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" fit in the set just as well as "Hot Knives" or "Bowl Of Oranges."

Oberst is way more confident onstage than I've ever seen him. In the past, Oberst had problems performing in front of crowds so bad that he was notorious for his freakouts. That doesn't happen any more, but even in recent years, I wouldn't have described Oberst as "chatty."

But on Saturday, he was playing the frontman role pretty damn well. He owned the microphone and though he mostly stayed behind a mic stand playing a guitar, he occasionally ran around the stage, danced it up and even crowdsurfed during the night-ending "One For You, One For Me."

He was relaxed enough to talk to the crowd a lot, too.

"Thanks so much y'all thanks for comin' tonight," he said. "We're so happy to be here to be here on such a beautiful night. Thank God for that. And we really appreciate y'all coming from wherever you came from, driving here to be with us."

Several people during the show (and a couple I've talked to since) remarked that the sound mix was unbelievably good. Westfair has never been my favorite venue, but it sounded glorious the other night.

I hope the band sticks to a similar formula for future tours, though you never know with Oberst and his pals. They like to change things up.

Good sets also came from the rest of the day's lineup. Con Dios, David Bazan (formerly of Pedro The Lion) and Jenny & Johnny (Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and singer-songwriter Johnathan Rice) rounded out the day's music.

* * *

World-Herald photographer Chris Machian was also at Saturday's show and he caught some pretty great images of the show. Check them out.

* * *

Bright Eyes' setlist

Jejune Stars
Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
Four Winds
Trees Get Wheeled Away
Something Vague
We Are Nowhere And It's Now
Shell Games
Approximated Sunlight
Arc Of Time
Falling Out Of Love At This Volume
A Celebration Upon Completion
Bowl Of Oranges
Hot Knives
Cartoon Blues
Triple Spiral
No One Would Riot For Less
Old Soul Song (For The New World Order)
The Calendar Hung Itself
Ladder Song
Gold Mine Gutted
Lover I Don't Have To Love
Road To Joy
One For You, One For Me

* * *

"Bright Eyes performs "Something Vague" at Saturday's show.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Live Review: First Girl Talk show since his new release; download his new album for free

As always at Sokol, it was a damn cold night outside, but a steaming hot one inside.

The reason this time? Girl Talk. The mash-up artist extraordinaire (or whatever you want to call him) threw out the beats for about an hour.

It was a UNO-sponsored thing, so there were a lot of college students. But the general public was also allowed to buy tickets, too.

Girl Talk (real name Gregg Gillis) does what he does better than anyone else. I've seen Hood Internet and the other groups who do the same thing and, while they're fun and good, they're no Girl Talk.

He drops beats, melodies and vocal samples together (without stopping) with ease. Everyone dances. The stage is flooded with people. Gillis jumps around like a crazy man. So does a guy in a monkey mascot costume.Confetti fills the air. Balloons flying around. Toilet paper everywhere.

Pretty impressive for a nerdy-looking white dude who used to be a biomedical engineer.

While my girlfriend, Ashlee, and I had a blast dancing the night away, it wasn't quite the same as Girl Talk's Slowdown performance a little over a year ago. At Sokol, the big (sold-out) crowd pressed to the stage and smashed us into the people around us. At Slowdown awhile ago, everyone had their space to dance around and go nuts freely.

Plus Slowdown just gives off the feeling of a dance club. Sokol Auditorium, which may technically be a polka dance hall, isn't really the same atmosphere.

Still, it was a blast. He's got a host of tour dates coming up next year, including Chicago on March 4, Minneapolis on March 8 and Denver on March 11. Those are the closest to Omaha.

This is an odd note, but there was no booze that night. The bar at Sokol was cleaned out, which I found odd. I never found out if it was a Sokol thing or a request of the UNO folks who booked the show, but it would have been a good show to knock back a few sodas and let loose.

Pretty sure that a lot of the gathered audience didn't let the absence of booze for purchase stop them because there were quite a few whose sway was due more to liquor and the music.

* * *

While you can, head over to Girl Talk's label website, Illegal Art, to download his latest LP, "All Day," for free.

[Update: I've been having trouble downloading the tracks, probably because of the traffic on Illegal Art's site. It was supposed to be a one-day-only thing, but it's still up at the site. Anyway, good luck. It's probably going to take you a few tries.]

Also, you can read my 2009 interview/story with Gillis.

[Update 2: I used one of the mirrors listed on the download site and it worked fine. Think that's the best solution.]