Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road


2 November 2018

Schottenstein Center; Columbus, OH

 

This is a much bigger show than I’m used to attending and I know that a lot of other publications have done reviews so I wasn’t sure if it would be worthwhile for me to do one. But I’m a man goddammit! My opinions matter! Plus, I may have some interesting insights you can’t get anywhere else… I doubt it, but it might happen.

First off, I paid a bit too much for the tickets. But to see a living legend like Elton John that’s to be expected. I tried to think of another artist I would pay that kind of money for, but couldn’t think of any. The nice thing was the seats were much better than expected. I didn’t realize how awesome they really were until we sat down and Elton* took the stage only a few moments later.

Second, his voice doesn’t sound like it did in the seventies. But do I really have to type that? No one’s voice can tour the world for 50 years and stay the same. Elton does a great job keeping the songs sounding strong with his cords in the condition they’re in. Most songs still sound great, and a few sound even better; Something about the older voice lends a few tunes more authority and authenticity. The only one I didn’t care for was “Tiny Dancer.” That song is missing something without those high notes (and there was no steel guitar!).

I was really surprised to find how much I enjoyed the songs he did solo. I’m not familiar with “Border Song,” but thought it was great and I missed the great guitar lick in “Candle in the Wind,” but it was still an awesome performance.

One of my mom’s favorites has always been “Indian Sunset” and I was surprised to find it on the setlist. I wasn’t looking forward to it as I’ve heard it more than enough for a lifetime, but I enjoyed the live version with just piano, voice and Ray Cooper ‘s percussion much more than the album version.

It also really says a lot that I’d be interested in going again when he comes back around next year. If I check up on the setlists and find he’s ditched something like “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” and/or “Believe” for “Madman Across the Water” or “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” I’d definitely be interested. I can only imagine how many other songs could take the place of “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” but then where would the wardrobe change take place?

My biggest bitch about the show was that there was no mosh pit. It was Friday, but when you end the show with “Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting” you have to expect some craziness. Of course, I’ve never seen ushers dancing in the aisle like they were for that tune!

 

Courtesy of Setlist FM

Bennie and the Jets
All the Girls Love Alice
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
Border Song (Elton solo)
Tiny Dancer
Philadelphia Freedom
Indian Sunset (Elton and Ray Cooper only)
Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
Take Me to the Pilot
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Levon
Candle in the Wind (Elton solo)
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Burn Down the Mission
Believe
Daniel
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
The Bitch Is Back
I’m Still Standing
Crocodile Rock (One of the best moments was when he looked at all of us confused because we weren’t singing the “Laaaaa Lalala la Laaaaa” part.)
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Encore:
Your Song
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

 

*AP Style says I should refer to him by his last name, but that just seems really weird when his last name is ‘John.’

 

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Dead Kennedys @ The Agora


5 May 2018

The Agora Theatre; Cleveland, OH

Stalker, The Snakes, Gay Black Republican, T.S.O.L., Dead Kennedys

I gave a serious pooh-pooh the first time I heard that Dead Kennedys were coming to town. Without Jello? Who gives a fuck? Then I remember how awesome East Bay Ray’s guitar work is. And I remembered Klaus Flouride has the coolest stage name ever. And I want to say something about D.H. Peligro, but who really cares about drummers?

So I plopped down my cash and bought a ticket. I can’t say that I regret it.

The show opened with local act Stalker. At first it sounded horrible, but I think that had more to do with PA problems. Every guitarist on the stage that night looked over at the sound booth and shouted obscenities. The sound guy was not having a good night. I enjoyed their sloppy, high energy punk. It’s neat to see a band where nearly everyone takes a turn on lead vocals and I appreciated the use of full chords on the bass guitar. It’s a sound that doesn’t get used enough and when done right it sounds huge and awesome.

The Snakes were another local act. They had a lot more metal in their sound, but I still enjoyed their fast punk tunes. I wasn’t extremely impressed and nearly wrote them off as a band with a hot blonde singer. When she announced they were going to play a cover I wondered if it would be Blondie or the Runaways, but they surprised me by doing my all-time favorite Ramones tune “Pet Cemetary” and won me over. Like my companion pointed out, they were a lot more put together than the first act. I didn’t disagree with him; I just noted that was the reason I enjoyed Stalker more.

It’s hard not to get excited about a band called Gay Black Republican. They played some great high energy rock without distortion but with a lot of catchy hooks. Sometimes I wonder why bands are on bills together (see Frank Ierno and The Descendents), but these guys fit right in with T.S.O.L. and DK. I’m guessing it didn’t hurt their chances that they let the headliners use their drum set.

I’m not sure why T.S.O.L. never achieved the same levels of popularity other first-wave punkers did. They play good tunes and feature interesting guitar work. They put on a good show with the singer doing a little bit of standup between songs. I guess their downfall might be a lack of good singalong choruses. The only tune I recognized was “Code Blue,” and while it is a humorous ode to necrophilia there really isn’t a great hook.

Dead Kennedys put on the show I expected. It sucked that I don’t know more of their songs, but I enjoyed the ones I didn’t recognize as much as “Looking Forward to Death,” “Kill the Poor,” “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and “Holiday in Cambodia.” Jello’s absence wasn’t felt too strongly as Skip Greer proved to be an entertaining and animated frontman. He did stand-up and political jokes to introduce songs and cheated a little by holding the mic in the crowd and letting us sing the choruses. I meant to stay out of this pit as I’m getting a little old, but at a certain point I said ‘Fuck It’ and slammed into old, sweaty people. Then I found my way to the front and stood in awe of Ray’s guitar work.

 

The strange thing was how the crowd got smaller as the night wore on. I guess a lot of Dead Kennedys’ fans have earlier bedtimes than they did in the early eighties, but I still thought everyone would stay around for the encore. It was a great set and I’m glad to have added this band to the list of live acts I’ve seen.

If this show comes to your town I would highly recommend getting out and seeing them. How many other chances will you have to mosh to “Viva Las Vega”?

 

The Descendents at House of Blues


17 November 2017

House of Blues; Cleveland, OH

Public Squares, Frank Iero and the Patience, The Descendents

The best news I’ve gotten this year was that the Descendents would be on tour and be stopping in Cleveland. These guys have been my favorite band for a few years and I keep hoping to make it to a concert, but I’ve only seen them playing at Riot Fest and my budget doesn’t allow me to go to Chicago for a long weekend.

I haven’t been to a show in about a year, so it was time to get to one. Music is best experienced live, but there’s that damn job thing that keeps me from going to shows every night… and also provides me with money to buy concert tickets.

The night began with Public Squares, a trio from somewhere not of this earth. I’m a sucker for extraterrestrial bands in matching outfits who tell us the only reason the rest of the universe hasn’t destroyed us is that we gave them rock and roll. Is there a way to not love that? If there is I haven’t discovered it.

Their music is great too. It’s your basic punk rock, which is exactly what I was hoping to hear. Things did sound a little too classic rock for my taste by the end of their set, but I’m still looking forward to checking out their album. They’re the best local band I’ve seen in quite a while.

I’ve gone on record about my dislike of emo music many times so it should come as no surprise I’m not a fan of Frank Iero and the Patience. I tried to give them a chance, but when I saw the long hair and incense burning on stage I had a feeling it wasn’t for me. On the bright side, I’ve finally realized what I dislike about the genre: it’s too serious. I can’t help but think that this might not have been the best group to open for a band who has written so many songs about farts.^

The lady friend wanted to head to the balcony for the Descendents to get away from the crowd, so we made our way up. I like checking out bands from a different vantage point, but the balcony at House of Blues isn’t the greatest. You have to pay more than double to get a seat and since I’m too cheap for that we were back in the standing room only section. I’m happy to say we still managed to get a good view.

They opened with “Everything Sux” and “Hope.” Both great tunes, but it took Milo Aukerman a minute to warm up. After the first few songs the band was the well oiled machine I expected. I was a little surprised Milo is such a great frontman. I suppose I should be, he’s been doing it for longer than I’ve been alive. But I’ve heard him described as an ‘Uber nerd” and didn’t see anything to make me think anything else (especially the Camelbak he wore). When my girlfriend said “He looks like a college professor” I had to reply “I think he is.”*

I believe I pointed out in my review of Cool To Be You that the Descendents are the least cool band I’ve ever come across and that’s just as apparent live. Not that they don’t rock, but they definitely resemble the caricatures from the cover of the Live Plus One album. Except for Bassist Karl Alvarez who’s hair has moved from his head to his face and turned gray, making him look like a punk rock Tommy Chong. Caveman Bill Stevenson is the only drummer I’ve ever heard a crowd chant for. With good reason, he’s the main songwriter and quite a few of those great songs we heard sprang from his head.

Cover illustration for the Descendents’ “Live Plus One” album by Chris Shary

I was surprised to recognize so many of the songs they played. It wasn’t until I started researching this post that I realized I own 7/9 of their full-length albums. I’d love to just post the entire setlist because it contained so many great tunes. “Clean Sheets,” “Silly Girl,” “Pervert,” “Suburban Home,” “When I Grow Up,” “Weinershnitzel/No All” and about a million more. Most tracks came from the new Hypercaffium Spazzinate and I Don’t Want To Grow Up.   

The biggest highlights were the resistance anthem “Who We Are” which I wasn’t familiar with, but I’m pretty sure I like better than anything off the most recent album, and Milo running into the crowd for “Thank You.” There were definitely a few ecstatic fans that got to sing that chorus with him on the floor. I managed to get in the pit for the encores and do a bit of slam dancing for “I’m the One” and “Bikeage.” It was a good thing I took my girlfriend to the balcony. I forgot how intense those punk rock pits can get.

Of course, there were a few songs I was disappointed to not have heard, but I’m guessing just about every attendee could say the same thing. When you have as massive a catalog as these guys there’s going to be a few that don’t make the final cut. If I had it my way I’d just go see them the next day and hopefully they’d play “Cool To Be You” at that show.

 

^As always I say this with the caveat that they were playing to a much larger and more interested audience than I’ve ever entertained.

*He was an adjunct professor at the University of Deleware. I can’t help but wonder what his lectures were like.

 

 

Has Anyone Else Noticed…


…A shift in the modern rock radio format?

It seems like when I tune in lately I hear a lot more of Everlast’s “What It’s Like”, Beck’s “Loser” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.” I also hear a lot less Three Days Grace, Shinedown, Breaking Benjamin and other middle-of-the-road modern rock.

I’m not complaining. This is a huge improvement. I actually didn’t listen to much rock radio for a few years. I couldn’t get reception in my car and the morning show sucked, so I switched to a local mix station.

Plus there was that time I almost overdosed on “Kashmir.”

The Ultimate Driving Mixtape*


I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with my mental state. I’m off in the head.

For the past month and a half, my girlfriend has been in the hospital and I’ve managed to visit her three or four times a week. This is a bit of an inconvenience as she’s about an hour drive away**.

So last week I took a vacation day… to drive two hours in the other direction and take an introduction to solar energy systems and design class in the southern part of the state. It wasn’t until I was cruising back on the highway that I realized this isn’t something most people do. In fact, most people would probably say I’m in desperate need of a psychiatrist.

And after I finish installing these solar panels and save on my electric bill I’ll make an appointment.

The insane part is that I actually enjoy the drive. Southern Ohio/Northern West Virginia is filled with beautiful scenery. It was a gorgeous day, and I got to enjoy it in my own way.

The best part is that my new*^ car has one of those newfangled ‘radio’ contraptions so I was able to listen to music the whole way. When I needed a break from the Creedence CD I brought along I was able to scan through the stations and usually land on something descent that made time pass a little quicker.

This got me thinking “what would be on the ultimate driving playlist?” And because one of my hobbies is blogging I had to turn it into something.

Granted, most of this is low hanging fruit, but give me a break; I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately.


Tom Cochran “Life is a Highway”

The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter”

The Carpenters “Superstar”

 

Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”

AC/DC “Highway to Hell”

Elton John “Tiny Dancer”

 

 

Meat Loaf “Bat Out Of Hell”

Heart “Barracuda”

 

Jimi Hendrix “All Along The Watchtower”

Red Hot Chili Peppers “Soul 2 Squeeze”

Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody”

 

So I know all of your typing fingers are burning up right now to tell me which I missed. And that’s great! I purposely left enough space on this virtual disc for a little feedback. That’s what comments are for.

Have at ‘er!


 

* I’m sure someone has already done this post in a different way, but now it’s my turn!

**But she’s totally worth it.

*^Actually, it’s a year older than my previous vehicle, but the owner took much better care of it so it’s like a new car.

 

Trump Promises “Big, Beautiful Scandal”


In the interest of keeping my political rants / satire pieces separate from the music posts I’ve started another blog. If you enjoy this stuff, give the page a like and a follow. If not, just sit back and I’ll get to doing more album reviews soon.

This may not pan out and I might go back to just the one blog, but I wanted to give it a try.

The Suppository

Washington- President Trump promised voters a “big, beautiful scandal” that will be announced by the end of the week.

“It will be, I believe, the biggest scandal in American history,” said Trump. “Bigger than Sally Hemmings, Lincoln’s sexual preference or Calvin Coolidge’s Cocker Spaniel put together. It will be bigger than Watergate. It will be so big that after this we’ll have a new suffix to replace -gate on political scandals.”

President Trump has been facing serious backlash for his firing of FBI Director James Comeyand spilling government secrets to Russian officials. He hopes this new revelation will take the focus off other scandals.

“It’s going to be so yuge that people at my rallies (which are the biggest rallies ever held, bigger than Stalin’s or Castro’s rallies) will begin yelling ‘Lock him up!'” bragged the obviously confused chief executive. “Even sycophants like Paul Ryan and Bob Gibbs are going…

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The A.N.C. @ The Cleveland Agora


ANC in Cleveland 17/7/201617 July 2016

Agora Theater & Ballroom; Cleveland, OH

Sunless Sky, Two Dead Roses, Garblejunk, Otep, Suicide Machines, Helmet, Green Jelly, Ministry, Next to None

When I heard the Republican National Convention was going to be held in Cleveland, my first thought was that there was going to be an awesome punk rock show going on somewhere in town at the same time.

I was half right. The A.N.C. wan’t a punk show, but it was fucking awesome.

Me with Vermin Supreme

Me with Vermin Supreme

I made it to the Mistake on the Lake a few hours before the show to join a march to shut down Trump and the RNC. It’s both good and bad that this was a peaceful protest. Good because I didn’t get hurt and bad because it doesn’t make for a very good story. The most exciting part was that I got a selfie with presidential candidate Vermin Supreme.

Then we hoofed it from 18th street all the way back to 50th in time to catch the first notes of the evening. I wished we would have stayed a little longer. Sunless Sky were a good band, but not really my thing. They had a sound like an updated Judas Priest.* It was good enough to get my head bobbing and their singer had an awesome set of pipes, but I was hoping for some incendiary political commentary.

Things didn’t really start to heat up until Garblejunk took the stage. Unlike when I saw them at Scio Showcase a few years ago they didn’t sound Garble-y or Junky. I was somewhat disappointed, but their acoustic metal came through the PA crisp and clear. A good sound coupled with good energy made for an enjoyable set. The best part was looking at the crowd and seeing the looks of confusion… followed quickly by smiles.

The Suicide Machines

The Suicide Machines

One of the main reasons I bought the ticket was to see Otep. I saw her perform at Ozzfest in 2004 and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Sadly, her performance Sunday was about the same length as at Ozzfest. They rocked their asses off for the half-hour they had and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I would have loved to have heard more than five songs from them.

While it was an awesome show with a great eclectic mix of artists it would have been nice to have had more time with a few of them. I also didn’t care much for having to bounce back and forth between the theater and the ballroom, but I suppose having both stages going was the only way to fit all the bands into 6 hours. Still, it was a little much.

After Otep I stepped into the smaller room and found myself immediately bored by the Suicide Machines. It was such awful noise that I took a minute to check my Facebook. Then they broke into the catchy “War Profiteering Is Killing Us All” and I realized they were a hardcore band and supposed to be awful noise. From that moment I was hooked. I’m not a big fan of the clean guitars of ska, but in a live setting it is pretty enjoyable. And I think I was the only person in the room to cheer when the singer asked if there were any factory or steelworkers in the audience. It was the kind of political rabble rousing I paid my hard earned money to see.

Helmet

Helmet

Unfortunately, I missed the end of their set in order to get a good spot for Helmet. Helmet are dinosaurs. They started in the 90s and Page Hamilton is only two years younger than Al Jourgenson, which means he was born in the neolithic era when bands had to carve their instruments out of rocks. They’re also dinosaurs in the sense that they produce fucking monstrous sounds. You can say “It’s a shame I didn’t get to see them back in the day,” but I’m not sure how they could have been any better in 1996 than they are in 2016.** Then after they were done I felt like I’d been trampled by a herd of brontosauruses. (This concludes the prehistoric-comparison paragraph of this post.)

I wasn’t very impressed with Green Jelly, but I suppose that is somewhat to be expected. When you spend 30 years touring as a joke band and you only have one hit you’re bound to disappoint a lot of people. I was outside smoking when they did “Three Little Pigs” so I only caught the end. I did catch “Anarchy in Bedrock” but it wasn’t the same. By the time their singer climbed onto a ladder to sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” I was bored. I managed to find a chair and waited for Ministry to hit the stage.

Ministry

Ministry

MC Jello Biafra wasn’t quite as cool as I’d hoped for. I liked his political rants; though I don’t agree with everything he said. There wasn’t enough time for him to get his point across and he mainly just introduced the bands. I would have paid just as much money to go to an even that was just him, Al Jourgenson and Otep giving speeches, but I think a few other fans just wanted the music. Surprisingly, there were a few Trump fans in the building too. I wonder if they know they paid money to watch a refugee and a lesbian perform.

Ministry is a perennially awesome band. This was the third time I’ve seen them and though I haven’t cared too much for their last few albums it may have been my favorite performance. I loved their opener “Hail To His Majesty.” It seemed like a new song written just to mock Trump, but it turns out it’s on their most recent album From Beer To Eternity. They played a few songs from Rio Grande Blood, which is my favorite of their recent albums, but things didn’t get totally awesome until they hit the one-two punch of “N.W.O.” and “Just One Fix.” The best thing was that they’ve updated them up a little so it wasn’t the same performance I’ve already seen twice before.

Ministry

Ministry

I was shocked to hear them break into “Thieves” and “Stigmata.” I’ve never heard those songs live. I had to hand my buddy the Otep CD I’d bought so I could hop into the pit for the latter. When they left the stage and the lights didn’t come on I wondered how they could top that, but they did “Psalm 69,” “So What” and “Khyber Pass” as an encore. They wrapped up with DEVO’s “Gates of Steel.”

From there the show deteriorated to the point where it was just a commercial for Surgical Meth Machine, Al Jourgenson’s new project. The giant projector continued to play videos with some dancier music in the background. I was about to head out when I saw Uncle Al and guitarist Sin Quirin pop around the side of the stage. I managed to make my way over and get a handshake from both of them. I’m pretty sure that was the highlight of my night.

For some reason there was another band playing after Ministry, but I didn’t stay to check them out. I had been on my feet for 8 hours and still had a long drive home. I was ready to leave and I even called in sick the next day to get a little extra rest.

It was all worth it.

 

*Before you take this as an insult let me point out that I am a fan of Judas Priest. If I wished to insult you I would have compared you to Iron Maiden, who for some reason I’ve never gotten into.

**I ran into the drummer later on and made a comment about his Local H t-shirt. He told me they’ll be on tour with that band in the fall so they may be featured in another post this year.

I’m Not Dead


 

Seriously, I’m still around.

After my absence during most of the month of April I meant to start posting more regularly during the month of May. But how does that old saying go? The best laid plans of mice and men often go array.

During the week from the 14th – 21st I was on vacation with my sister and her family. Vacation isn’t a great time for writing blogs, but the weather wasn’t agreeable for laying on the beach anyway so I thought I’d give it a go. I was still debating on whether or not to write one when I caught the stingray.

This is the wrong way to pick up a stingray.

This is the wrong way to pick up a stingray.

I love to go fishing on vacations. I live in a landlocked part of the world so the chance to cast a line into the ocean is always a treat for me. Unfortunately, my moronic Yankee ass didn’t realize the correct way to pick up a stingray is by it’s tail… with pliers.

This is why.

This is why.

So that put a bit of a damper on writing for a few days. I still enjoyed the aquarium, Jamestown and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but I didn’t do a whole lot more fishing.

And no, I didn’t get any super powers.

Then on the way home my car broke down in Hagerstown, Maryland. That would have been the perfect time to do a little bit of blog writing. But alas, my heart wasn’t in it. When you’re 300 miles from home and not sure if or when you’re going to make it back it makes for a pretty stressful day. I had hoped to get back into the swing of things quickly, but I’ve spent the last week taking long naps and catching up on Game of Thrones.

So please excuse my absence. Hopefully you’ve noticed I’ve still been liking your posts and occasionally commenting, but I’m hoping to have a few new posts for you in the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy.

The Best Drummers


drum-2I’m not a huge fan of the “Name Four Musicians to Form Your Dream Super Group” game. I usually just rattle off the members of Alice in Chains or Tool. Sometimes it’s fun to pick a trio or quintet and add or subtract a member, but that was never my game.

I do really enjoy “Best of…” lists though. And I thought it would be a good idea to do some for this blog. That’s not because I’m running out of ideas or anything. I swear I’m not. I’ve got tons of ideas. Make sure you check in next week when I do this with Bass Players.

 

Brooks Wackerman (Bad Religion, Suicidal Tendencies) – Wackerman lands on this list not only because of his awesome chops and stamina, but also for his great last name. It’s like his ancestors knew that someday one of their brood would become the drummer for a great punk band so they picked the coolest surname they could think of.

Frank Beard (ZZ Top) – Yet again, here is a man who’s name is as great as his ability to keep a beat. He gets bonus points for being the guy without a beard but having the name beard. God, will that ever get old?

Jimmy Chamberlain (The Smashing Pumpkins) – The best of the pumpkins if you want my opinion. And you must or you wouldn’t be reading this.

sexy drum machineMax Weinberg (E Street Band, Meat Loaf, Max Weinberg 7) – I had to add someone to make this list ten names. He was the most obvious choice.

A Drum Machine (Too Many To Name) – I was in a band with one of these for a while and I have a ton of praise for these guys. He was always on time (both for and during practice), never got too drunk to play, never had girlfriend drama and never threatened to quit. Aside from his lack of stage presence and sleeping with my old lady he was perfect.

Tommy Ramone/Marky Ramone (The Ramones) – I’m not sure if the trophy should go to Tommy for inventing the Ramones’ drum beat or to Marky for perfecting it.

Raymond Herrera (Fear Factory) – I’ll just let his feet do the talking:

 

Tim ‘Herb’ Alexander (Primus) – Both he and Larry LaLonde are pure geniuses just for being able to work with Les Claypool.

Sean Kinney (Alice in Chains, Jerry Cantrell) – Do you know anyone else who could come up with those great intros to “Angry Chair” and “No Excuses”? I don’t.

Neil Peart (Rush) – I’m honestly not a huge fan of Rush. I like them, but I can’t say I love them. Still, Neil deserves a spot on this list.

Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Probot, Scream) – I read him saying in an interview once that he is completely overrated as a drummer. And that may be true. He isn’t flashy, over the top or as machine gun fast as some other guys. But he has been very prolific as a timekeeper and has a knack for playing beats that accentuate the song without overpowering it. Sorry dude, you may be the best drummer ever.