Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rising Star Chris Stapleton Wows Crowd at Forest Hills Stadium on 7/24!


When Chris Stapleton played a show at Forest Hills Stadium on July 23rd, he had tough shoes to follow. In the past few weeks Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and other artists played shows there. 

The 2X 2016 Grammy winning artist ( Best Country Album and Best Country Solo Performance) lived up to the task.

Any of my loyal readers would guess I went to Greg Allman's Laid Back Festival in Jones Beach this past Saturday evening instead. To the contrary, one of my New Years' resolutions has been to listen to more Post-1980 music. I'd lie if my new liking for Chris Stapleton had not nothing to do with the Allman Brothers though. I first heard of him when I saw this video of him guesting for Warren Haynes during " Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" in Nashville last October: 

Unsurprisingly, he did play lots of hits off his Grammy winning album "Traveler", including the title song itself, the opener "Nobody to Blame", "The Devil Named Music" and "Tennessee Whiskey". 

Whiskey turned out to be a theme of the show; in addition to "Tennessee Whiskey", he played "Drinkin' Dark Whiskey" and "Whiskey and You". 

The highlight of the one long set show was a cover of "You are My Sunshine", in which Chris Stapleton and his wife Morgane Stapleton exhibited high-pitched vocals and encouraged a lot of audience participation ala Paul McCartney. 

After "Fire Away", we got a tease of the song everyone wants to hear at a rockshow- none other than "Freebird". It would have been nice if the band played the whole thing; Stapleton and his backup guitarist played some nice bluesy solos. 

For the encore, I was able to get up to the third row and snap some good shots from my phone camera. Stapleton did a good job singing "Sometimes I Cry" in a low but loud pitch like Greg Allman does on "Whipping Post." 



Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sir Paul McCartney Makes History with a Special Friend at Fenway Park!


On Sunday, July 17th, Sir Paul McCartney took
This billboard was not there the prior night for
 Dead and Company; must have been put it up the day of!

his One to One “Magical Mystery Tour” to Fenway Park in Boston. It was my third time seeing Sir Paul live on my third night row at Fenway, having been there two nights straight for Dead and Company. As Sir Paul said himself, he played “old [tunes], new [tunes] and in
between tunes.” Songs ranged from The Quarrymen tune “In Spite of All the Danger” to Beatles hits such as “Blackbird “ and “Love Me Do” to his newest tune FourFiveSeconds.
My friend Lauren and I waiting for the show to begin!
 It was my first time sitting in State Street Pavillion,
which has a nice little counter to put your drinks on.
We were high up but had great views of the band,
as you can see in photos below.


If I had one major regret of the show, the audience was kind of left hanging from 6:30 PM
to 8:00 PM. Normally if show is listed as 6:30 PM and does not list an opener, I would try to get there around 7:00 PM for 7:15-7:30 PM start time. However, Dead and Company almost promptly started each of the previous nights at 6:46PM; therefore I thought Paul would start around then or 7:15 PM the latest. If he is going to start as late, that is OK, but he should have an opener as he usually does.

Firstly, I'll dig into the songs everyone wanted to hear most, the famous Beatles ones. At 8:10 PM, Sir Paul opened the show with a bang: “A Hard Day's Night”. Most people were sitting down, perhaps they were tired from the late start; however, many were singing. The guitarist Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray, bassist/guitarist, and drummer Abe Laboriel JR, drummer all contributed vocals “I've Got a Feeling”, “ We Can Work it Out” and other major Beatles hits. Some of the songs led into some extended jams; Rusty Anderson played a nice upbeat, fast solo on “Lady Madonna”.

One should note that this current band has been touring with Sir Paul so long that they surpassed the length of time that he toured with the Beatles and Wings. Similarly, Jeff Chimenti has toured with members of the Grateful Dead longer than other keyboardist lasted with the band.

Of course Paul did play several The Wings hits. He pulled out his colorful electric guitar for the first time of the night for “Let Me Roll It.”
Paul with his Picasso style guitar during "Let me Roll it! 
 All week long, the words “My heart is like a wheel; let me roll it” have been stuck in my head! Band on the Run got everyone singing along and continued the July 4th spirit with its mention of Sailor Sam. If that wasn't enough however, Live and Let Die featured Paul's typical fireworks after the slow part.

Sometimes I do wish Paul could stick to the Beatles songs, Wing's hits and extravagant solo tunes like “Maybe I'm Amazed”. Paul played one of his most beautiful songs “Here Today”, a tribute to the John that is as bittersweet as Clapton's “Tears in Heaven”. Right after that he two lackluster songs from his new album- “Queenie Eye” and “New”.

If he is going to play those songs, he should put in somewhere else on the set list than after such a serious song. Later in the set, he followed likely one of the best songs of the night “Lady Madonna”, to what I personally think is the second worst song he ever wrote, his most recent one with Rihanna and Kanye West- “FourFiveSeconds”. This song was likely just a money grabber and a way to build his brand among teenagers who have not even heard of the Beatles.

Having seen Paul twice before, it was hard to not share too much information to my friend Lauren and the couple sitting next to us. I didn't want to spoil some of Paul's funny stories and additional entertainment like fireworks and dancing. One thing I was disappointed about was not hearing “Dance Tonight” and seeing Abe Laboriel get up and dance!

After the whole crowd contributed their parts to Hey Jude and a brief 5 minute break, Sir Paul came on solo for the predictable “Yesterday” encore. Then, magic happened............

My friend Lauren could attest that the whole night I was half-jokingly shouting for Bob Weir to come on for “Hey Jude” as that was a song the Dead covered a fair amount. I thought about the possibility of “Dear Prudence” as well but that was a John song.

My reaction when Bobby came on;
 photo credit to Lauren

After hundreds of people, including myself, shouted “me, me, me” when Bobby asked 'Who was here last night?”, they played a bluesy “Hi, Hi,Hi”. Not being a huge Wings fan myself, I actually wasn't familiar with the tune and thought it was just an old Blues standard. I had flashbacks when I saw Bobby play blues solos for the first time on “Corinna, Corinna”, a song that Clapton often plays,with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Peach Festival 2015.

Next Sir Paul screamed like a maniac and they exchanged solos on “Helter Skelter”. Sir Paul also brought up Patriots player Robert Paxton (Gronk) Gronkowski to dance and play air guitar. Honestly I could have done without him up there and I would have preferred Sir Paul to let Bobby sing but I can't complain as I got was begging for, as Bobby did come up. “You can always get want you want, but if you try so hard, you get what you need.”

Despite the Dead famously turning the Beatles on to marijuana, as Bill Kruetzmann describes in his autobiography “Deal”, it was the first time a Beatles ever played live with a member of the Dead! After Bobby walked off the stage, Sir Paul asked “Grateful Beatles- how does that sounds?!”

The band then went into “Birthday”, which was extra special to here live for me. In 2010, I saw Sir Paul as guest for Ringo on his 70th birthday, playing the song live ever for the first time! Paul then did his predictable nevertheless fantastic “Golden Slumbers-Carry That Weight- The End” trio.... What can I say- just like, when any Dead related band does, “Help on the Way- Slipknot- Franklin's Tower”, Sir Paul always wows the crowd with this ending.

Since the two Sir Paul shows I saw in 2009 and 2011 felt like they were almost identical in set list, I had a lots of hesitation about going to this show. Not only did he repeat a lot of songs both of those shows but he repeated a lot of the same stories e.g talking about how Jimi Hendrix played a cover of “Sgt. Peppers” a week after the song was written and writing “Blackbird” about a girl he had a crush on at the bar. This time he just said it was a song about civil rights:) I appreciated a little less talking and more playing than normal this time round.

So all-in all, it was a superb show, yes- we will still need him and feed him when he's 64 (+10 but who's counting!)




Drummer Abe Laboriel!



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Dead Heads Take Over Boston - July 15-16, 2016!

On July 15th and July 16th, Dead and Company played two shows at the world famous Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. As a New Yorker, you could guess that I'm not a big fan of the team that plays there, but that aside, its a nice stadium. I could not help but have flashbacks to the Fare Thee Well shows in Chicago, just a little over 1 year ago.

As I walked with one of my colleagues from my office in Boston Financial District to Dillons near Fenway, I saw lots of tie die. Many bars and pedicab drivers were playing Dead songs. Fenway has an excellent location smack in the middle of the city so all of the nearby restaurants were filled with Dead Heads. While at Dillons, I enjoyed a cold draft Pacifico, Siracha Honey wings , asparagus, friends and many other "Dead family members".

Donna Godchaux 
On the important stuff- the music itself! Night 1 opened with "Jack Straw"; I was excited to see Donna on stage. It wasn't too much of a surpris however, she has essentially been a honorary member of the band this year. She's been at many of the shows; I saw her guest at Citifield two weeks ago. That said, there her microphone wasn't up and I likely wouldn't have noticed she was there if not for seeing her.

To the contrary, this time around Donna's vocals were substantially more vibrant. During "Music Never Stopped", we heard lots of "oohs" from her.

While the first set was decent, it was tough to stay energetic with the the heat. It was said to be one of the hottest days of the year at 85-90 ° Fahrenheit. However the music kept our energy flowing; here's my friend Matt and I dancing to Jerry's "Loser".

 Unlike Sir Paul McCartney, who I am going to see at Fenway tonight, the Dead is known for avoiding small talk and just jamming. On the other hand, after "Loser", Bobby said " We're going to play something for the kids" and led into " Peggy-O".  The reggae-rock feel was very different the jazzy one I heard the last time I hard Bobby play the song with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Peach Festival 2015.

My Jewish-Dead Head friend Caitlin's foreshadowing than proved accurate as the band played the famous "Help on the Way"--"Slipknot"---- "Franklin's Tower" progression. With Oteil ripping it on bass, I was reminded of Wanee 2014, when I saw the Allman Brothers play Franklin's Tower with the help of Trey Anastasio. 

After a 40ish minute set break, in which I purchased necessary over-priced water and  ice cream to overcome the heat, the second set began with "St. Stephen". Just remember the important lesson: "One man gathers what another man spills." on the side is a nice and blurry selfie with my buddy Jordan, who's rocking his LOCKN' shirt.

The highlight of the set, which tends to me of any Dead related set  was "Terrapin Station. The lower pitched parts were similar of the Beatles. Unlike  the song "Don't Keep Me Wonderin", I was curious if Sir Paul might show up for "Hey Jude" or "Dear Prudence", two Beatles songs the Dead has covered in the past.

As he did at Citifield, John Mayer absolutely killed it, contributing lead vocals and a bit of shredding on guitar on Casey Jones.

We than got a "Black Muddy River"- "U.S Blues" double encore. It was nice to keep the July 4th spirit alive.

Dov and I entering Gate B!
The second night my friend Dov, who I met on the Halloween Dead and Company show last year that was staying at my place for the weekend, grabbed a quick beer and pizza at Sals and headed into the show early. I wasn't quite lucky like him to have an All- Access badge and get on the floor so I hung out in the Field Box. I won't hold it against him however as Don contributed most of these lovely photos.

Bobby with his fitting guitar strap
Here are Henry and I dancing to "Deal". 
The first set began with the predictable but good "Truckin". After a nice country-rock "Big River" Johnny Cash cover, my buddy Henry entered the show during Jerry's "The Love Each Other". He pretended to be a drugged up Dead Head creeping up on me. I was so invested into the music, he that scared me at first! Henry has been one of my music friends for several years now but this was only the second show we've been together, the first one being a Gov't Mule show at the Orpheum last year.  This was his first time seeing any of the members of the Dead since an actual Dead show with Jerry at the Meadowlands in 93.

Donna and Oteil contributed nice snippets of vocals to "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad". It made me want them to cover "Seven Turns", a song that Oteil has sung a lot on in recent years. Perhaps one day Dead and Company will play an ABB tune or two!

The second set began with a bang- "Playing in the Band". It's amazing how Bobby can still shout at 68. I could not be more happy when they are started playing "Sugaree". Earlier in the night when they were playing "They Love Each Other", I said those two songs were my favorite Jerry songs!

The next song was great but totally unexpected- "Fire on the Mountain"! This song almost always comes after Scarlet Begonias. Fellow Dead Heads- help me out- how often does this happen?

A nice shot of Jeff Chimenti, one of two keyboardists,
along with Bruce Hornsby, that also played at Fare Thee Well.
 Thanks to Dov for the photo.

As the next song began, a lot of people did a famous clap- you know what that means...... It was a "Not Fade Away" encore, which was also the encore at July 5th and final Fare Thee Well show last year. As in Chicago, everyone clapped a solid 10-15 minutes as we left the stadium.

The one thing I would like to see differently is not playing "One More Saturday Night" as an encore every Saturday night they play. While it's a great song, one of my favorite Dead songs, that and Ripple do a get a little too predictable as encores as they play it so much.



Here are some other good photos from the run:

Billy with Honorary Rhythm Devil Oteil!




Dov and I at After Party with Barely Dead
at House of Blues, dancing to Cumberland Blues!







Monday, July 11, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tedeschi Trucks Band Headlines 4th Annual Sold-Out Levitate Music Festival!


On Saturday, July 9th, 2016, 10,000 people attended the Sold-Out Levitate Music Festival at the Marshfield Fairgrounds, 40 minutes outside of Boston.  The festival was headlined by Tedeschi Trucks Band and featured performances from Luther Dickinson's North Mississippi All-Star Band, Twiddle, Lettuce and other bands. 

You certainly got a lot of bang for your buck, the tickets only costing $65, even less if you got them Early Bird. I paid a lot more than for each night of Tedeschi Trucks Beacon Run in October. Considering all the other good bands you see, steal Your Face right off you're head! 

Some of the sets, including that of Lettuce and North Mississippi Allstar Band, were too short, being about 45 minutes each If I were to change one thing about the festival, I'd say have 1-2 bands perform less and have each band play at least an hour. 

Here's my review of festival in photos: 


I arrived during middle of Moon Taxi set, when they were playing cover of "All Along the Watchtower" 
This is Mihali Savoulidis, guitarist of Twiddle. They played good mix of reggae and rock. They were at Peach 2015, but I didn't get a chance to see much of set as they were playing at same time as another band I was more interested in seeing. 



I was super excited to see North Mississippi Allstars as I saw Luther Dickinson several times as a guest for the Allman Brothers but never with his own band. Here he is playing a super funky guitar. He did a lot of bluesy rock numbers and added in a lot of shredding and a bit of tapping. 




I took this photo as he was walking off stage. He laughed when I shouted I hope to see him at Beacon with Allman Brothers soon! 




Lettuce without Eric Krasno- Good set but the band definitely isn't as good without Krasno.  

With a new friend that I met in line. Food Truck lines during dinner time were too long; had to miss a lot of Los Lobos set:(

Tedeschi Trucks played a nice rendition of the title track of their new album "Let Me Get By". It is the first time I heard the song live. I'm honestly not a huge fan of the recording but they jammed quite a bit on this one with Elizabeth Lea doing an extended trombone solo. 

Derek and Susan with Dave Hidalgo from Los Lobos!

With TTB, you never what you are going to get: blues, rock, funk, country, etc. Tonight Susan played a nice country cover of Color of the Blues.  Alicia Shakour and Mike Mattison provided backup vocals. I'm a little surprise Susan played electric guitar, not acoustic on this one. 

These are my friends Audrey and Jonathan during Joe Cocker "With a Little Help from My Friends" encore; This was a great song to end their first music festival!! 

Bob Dylan Contributes to Forest Hills Stadium on July 8th 2016!

Last week I witnessed Paul Simon make history in what might be his last show of his career in Forrest Hills Stadium. Last evening Bob Dylan made another big mark in Forrest Hills Stadium History. For more information and a detailed review of the show, check out this guest post by my dear friend Jerry Graham. We attended a Bob Dylan show together at Barclays Center in November 2012.
This is a picture of Jerry,
his cousins ad I at a Furthur Show
 at Cyclones Stadium in July 2010. 

The Bob Dylan concert was great, which actually was not what I expected. It was 51 years ago that he played his first all-electric concert at the same stadium in Forest Hills (Newport was only half electric). It was great to see and pay homage to the man who wrote so many songs I enjoy. In my opinion the best contemporary poets in the English language are Bowie, Dylan, Lennon and Reed. Of those four, Dylan wrote the most songs by far. This Dylan concert was way better than any of his other recent concert in the NYC area. Having said that, I will now dissect it as systematically as possible.

Audience: Compared to a Grateful Dead related audience, the older people were older. There were far more women. There were young African American women (all with white men), but no African American men. I should note that Dylan’s second wife is African American. In general the audience members didn’t show a visible connection between their life style and their musical interest. They seemed like mostly middle aged and elderly white people from all walks of life, with some young people mixed in. It seemed like most were sincere fan, but like always there were a few assholes with too much money who kept on getting up to buy beer and piss.

Engineering: The engineering was superior to the last two or three times he was in New York. You could hear all the instruments and his voice pretty distinctly, or as distinctly as humanly possible. Of course I imagine it is less of a challenge to accomplish this in a smaller venue.

Lighting: As with the previous visit to Jones Beech the lighting was dim. People criticized him for wearing dark glasses to receive a medal from President Obama. I put two and two together and say his eyes are extremely sensitive to light.

Music: Dylan always gets the best backup musicians. It seemed the instruments were one guitar, a double bass, an electric bass and drums. He got a sound that was raw, bright, and articulate. Dylan played the piano and the harmonica. The harmonica riff was short and simple, but at least he did it. The piano playing was not terribly technical. It was beautiful, what you would expect from a good musician who is relaxing and not showing off.

Opening Act: The opening act was Mavis Staples. She’s a great singer and she knows how to work a crowd. She played some very danceable numbers She talked about the civil rights movement, how she had attended the March On Washington where Dr. King spoke. She sang a song that her father had wrote at the time for the occasion. She also had a small band: two backup singers, a male one and a female one with a tambourine. There was just guitar, bass and drums.

Rapport: By all accounts, Dylan is not a friendly man. And he has a lot of trouble with his voice, so when he speaks, no one can tell what he’s saying anyhow. But he did say “Thank you” and I think he thanked us for helping him sing Tangled Up and Blue. But no one could really tell exactly what he said. We were all asking each other. I thought his body language seemed appreciative rather than hostile or aloof.

Singing: Toward the beginning of the concert he seemed to have trouble with his voice, but he was going out his way to be audible and expressive. Later on he seemed to be doing better. You could hear almost every word he was singing. Interesting how he likes to keep touring despite this problem. My impression is that he really likes to see his fans as much was we like to see him, and aside from the voiced problem, which must be pretty frustrating, he enjoys it. I should note that he had a operation on his voice and overall it was somewhat better than in recent years.
I should clarify that I am not one of those people who thinks he always had a bad voice. I think he generally used it differently than other singers, very expressively if not always melodious.

Song Choice: He always plays the more recent songs more. Except for Blowing in the Wing, he played nothing earlier than Tangled Up and Blue. He also used to be more confrontational. For example he made a return from a long absence in Tanglewood during the beginning of the first Gulf War. He had his publicist tell everyone that most of his songs aren’t protest songs. Then of course he opened with Masters of War. I don’t know why he doesn’t play his early songs, but I can guess. I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t like them anymore or that he can’t sing them. Anyone who thinks he isn’t a businessman is mistaken. In addition to his songs, he intends to leave this world two herds of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are multi-millionaires. He probably gets a much lower percentage of royalties on the earlier recordings.

Venue: The Forest Hills Stadium is the smallest venue I’ve seen him at, which I think is best for all concerned. There are much fewer bad seats. It is outdoors and most of the seats are benches with no backs. Also each exit serves more seats, so it would take forever to evacuate in the case of a terrorist attack. Otherwise a better venue. Not far from the city like Jones Beech. So why does he play places like the Barkley Center at all? Again it’s probably the grandchildren and great-grandchildren again.

Visual: It wasn’t really possible to see him, but it was still better than his other recent concerts. I remember when I saw him years ago at the Hurricane concert, I could see him pretty well. I think it’s the lighting rather than my eyes. He did at least where a white hat and pants with a vertical stripe on each side so you could kind of see what he was doing. He looked like a mushroom with that hat.

Weather: There was a light rain as people arrived and Mavis Staples started singing. The benches were wet. Fortunately there was a light breeze and I soon got dried up. I had on a hat very similar to Bob Dylan except that mine was black and waterproof.
















Friday, July 8, 2016

Paul Simon's Last Show in Forest Hills?!

Fun fact- Paul Simon is a fellow Brandeis alum as he got an honorary degree in music in 2010. He honored his fellow “classmates” with a rendition of Boxer.

Lots of people on their phones during Rain Delay..
 If its it was Dead and Company show, people
would be signing,dancing and Not Fade Away Clapping! 
 On Friday, July 1st he played the last show of his 2016 “Stranger to Stranger” tour at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY.  The show the night before (Beatles reference alert!) sold out so they added this show. At 7:30 PM, the show was supposed to start; however as Bob Weir would have said, “It[ looked] like rain.” Finally at 8:56 PM my first Paul Simon show began with Proof into Boy in the Bubble.

Like Sir Paul McCartney, Simon still wows audiences of ages ranging from kids to senior citizens. To the contrary to fellow Paul, Simon continues to produce top-of-the line albums. Sir Paul has continued to release new albums in recent years but his latest one “Kisses from the Bottom” does not live up to the expectations of his Beatles and Wings hits. 

Not knowing Simons’ catalogue, I wasn’t actually 100% which songs were old and which ones were new! One of my two favorite new songs was the upbeat “Werewolf”; I could not help but flashbacks of Dead and Company’s “Werewolfs of London” encore on Halloween last year.  A woman behind me laughed when she heard me exclaim “Ooooh…. Werewolfs of London” midway through the song. The other was “Wristband”, which got everyone up and dancing towards the end of the set.  
Of course the show did feature a lot of greatest hits as well. “Slip Slidin’ Away” was very appropriate given the rain.  The first dance party of the night took place during “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”. Lots of chuckling occurred when Simon shouted “ Queen of Corona”! Homeward Bound couldn’t have been more meta; after all Simon chose to wear a Queens t-shirt.
The band’s worldy rhythm (up to 5 percussionists at a time!) was featured in El Condor Pasa. However, it would have been nice if Paul could have added in some vocals; the lyrics of that song are beautiful: “I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail; yes I would, If I only could, I surely would.”  

The set ended with “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” followed by “You Can Call me Al.” It magically started heavily raining so people wouldn’t sit on the soaked benches and got up to dance.
Most bands will come out for a song or two as an encore; however, not several as Paul Simon generally does. My mind started jogging when he sung “Still Crazy After All These Years” as I started to think about other songs that actually gained more meaning several decades after they were written:

-When I’m Sixty Four: “Will you still love me, will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m Sixty-Four?”
-Truckin’: “Lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it’s been”
-Midnight Rider: “The road goes on forever.”

Paul Simon begun the encore with an upbeat cover of Elvis Presley’s “That’s Alright Mama.”

video 
The highlight of the encore was a rare live version of “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Although Simon wrote the song, Art Garfunkel generally sung it.
video
Paul Simon made up for the rough start by playing way past the venue’s 10:00 PM curfew until 11:10. As many people left before and after show began, a lot of spots opened up so my dad and I were able to get to the second row for the encore to take some nice videos.

It’s crazy after all these years that this very well might have been Paul’s last show in his hometown. We’ll see if rumors are true or not. 

This cool poster was all over the place in Queens;
very true statement about the borough!