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What used to be a weekly activity has now become a once-a-year event (thus the very neglected and unfortunately outdated blog).  So, when you are you going to attend one concert for the year, you have to make it count. This year: Adele. Somehow with a lot of click, click, click, back (what?? ack, what did I do??), reload, click, add to cart, I ended up securing two really good seats last December.  July felt so far away, and I wondered if I really needed to spend so much money on one single concert, but I figured it could be a Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Anniversary, kind of thing.

Now, if you have tickets to the Denver show tonight, or tickets to any of Adele’s upcoming concerts, I will give you two pieces of information and then I suggest you stop reading. It’s more fun to be surprised and excited at the show than to be thinking “oh yes, this is the part where she is lowered from the ceiling on a trapeze.” So, first, there was no opening act, and Adele appeared around 8:00 p.m. She sang for about an hour and forty-five minutes. Ok, there, that is all you need to know, enjoy!

Now, for my review and some photos…

For an arena show, Adele has a way of making the show feel like it’s in a small theater. She sang, she chatted, and she posed for selfies with the crowd. She even invited a few fans onstage for a quick chat and photo. She talked about adjusting to the altitude of the Mile High City, getting a sunburn at the hotel pool, and the wonders of Bed, Bath, and Beyond (which she discovered after deciding to keep her sunburned self away from the afternoon sun). For the first couple of songs there was no jumbotron image of her to provide a close-up view of the singer, but I didn’t even realize it. It didn’t feel necessary. It may be because there were two stages (or perhaps I just had a really good seat), but I never felt she was too far away.

The concert was in no way a spectacle, but it was visually interesting enough to compete with, but not overpower, Adele’s voice. Her band was in the background, and sometimes backlit, for most of the night.  And her black-and-white image appeared on the screen behind her for much of the show.

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Adele sang a mix of songs from her three albums, and she even included a performance of “Skyfall.” My favorites were “When We Were Young,” “Hometown Glory,” “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” and “Someone Like You.”  Here she is on the second stage in the middle of the arena.

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And here she is taking some time out to crouch down so that fans could take photos or selfies. Seriously, she went around all four sides of the stage doing this. Some may say, “Hey, can we get back to the singing, please??” But, I think it offered her a much-needed vocal break. There were no outfit changes in the show, and Adele never left the stage, so  this allowed her a few minutes to breathe and rest. At least she was friendly about it.

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There were a few times she asked the crowd to sing-along with her.  It is during these moments that I think of a Sully and Denise sketch on SNL where Matt Damon plays a Bruce Springsteen fan at a concert. At the start of the show, he exclaims: “Oh look!! Here we go, here we go!! Hey, hey, hey, HEY!! Let me make something abundantly clear. I don’t want any of you drunks singing along to ‘Thunder Road’ in my ear. I came here to see The Boss, not the shipping department at Circuit City. And I got a sock full of penny’s for anyone who thinks I am joking!!”  In this case it wasn’t so bad and I was able to get some video of the Someone Like You sing-along.

The night ended in a paper explosion of handwritten Adele lyrics.

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Good times.


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So we meet again, Avett Brothers.

Much has changed in the seven years since I first saw the band play in a high school auditorium in New York City.  Not only has the band’s popularity grown, but the band itself has also grown in size, by three members, in fact. I guess when you start selling out large amphitheatres you need to add a few musicians to the mix to add some layers to your sound…or to save you from running back to the drums and piano during songs (though I do sort of miss watching that).

On Saturday night, The Avett Brothers played the second of three shows at Red Rocks amphitheatre in Morrison, CO. You would have to try hard to not enjoy a concert at Red Rocks. The sun and sky offer their own pre-show, and the view of the Denver skyline is an added bonus.  We lucked out and had lovely weather.  A rainbow even appeared in case anyone wasn’t convinced they were in for a special night.

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During the night’s opening song, “Satan Pulls the Strings,” one by one, each band member in the spotlight introduced themselves to the crowd through their instrument.  Slowly, the song grew. Drums, violin, cello, upright bass, guitar, banjo.  As the show progressed, the stage seemed to expand and contract based on the number of band members playing a particular song. It was a mix of full-band, foot-tapping numbers, and then slower, more introspective solo/duet performances.

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I appreciated that an Avett Brothers show is still all about the music. While there was definitely lighting for the stage, it was not a full production, and it certainly wasn’t distracting in any way. There was not much in-between song talk with the audience either. I’m not sure if that was done to preserve more time for songs, or because they just weren’t in a chatty mood.

The songs featured on Saturday night were from the albums I and Love and You, A Carolina Jubilee, Four Thieves Gone, Magpie and the Dandelion, The Carpenter, Country Was, The Second Gleam, and Migionette. I wish I could have heard more from Emotionalism, but it seems that was Friday night’s theme. Over the course of the three shows, the band played 78 songs, and not a single song was repeated. So fans with tickets to more than one show really lucked out.  It seems like this was meant to be a three-night “The Avett Brothers Festival at Red Rocks” experience. I really wanted to hear “I and Love and You,” but as suspected, that was their parting song during Sunday night’s encore. My favorite songs of the night were the ones sung just by just the brothers, like “Murder in the City” and “November Blue”.

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The one bit of feedback I have for the band is that I was disappointed that there were no show posters for sale. There were only limited-edition, signed “hand cranked linoleum block and silkscreen prints” created be Scott Avett.  I think it’s great that these prints are offered and it was interesting to see how they were made.  But, at $200-300 per print, it wasn’t really in my concert-going budget. I just wish there had been a less expensive alternative offered to remember the evening. These days I can’t even count on leaving with a ticket stub—just a lackluster 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper.

Throughout the night I couldn’t help but remember the last time I was at Red Rocks. It was nearly six years ago that I attended the Monolith Festival. Guess who else was there??

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Until we meet again…


Mumford!

10Sep12

Looking forward to their new album Babel out September 25. It’s also nice to see Red Rocks again.

 

 


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M. Ward played a sold-out show on Friday night at Webster Hall, and I lucked out with this fine view shown above. It was great to see M. Ward solo again. I admit I never saw him perform as She & Him, but I did catch Monsters of Folk at ACL, and I have been eagerly awaiting his return to his solo work. He did not disappoint on Friday. While playing pretty much straight through for almost an hour-and-a-half, he included songs from all of his albums. There was also very little chit-chat, lots of guitar work, and an ever-changing backdrop provided by four windows. Really, I think this back-drop was one of the more impressive ones I’ve seen lately. The show’s setting went from a desert sunset to a view of Manhattan high rise apartments to outer space.  There was very little light on the band members, most of the light was emitted by the windows in the background. So, I am guessing that the band could actually see the audience.

The band played some great ones like Poison Cup, Rollercoaster, To Go Home and Never Had Nobody Like You. Also included was one of his guitar solo songs, which is always nice to watch.  I wondered if there were going to be any musical guests, but then I realized those types of surprises might be reserved for the August Prospect Park show. But a female guest vocalist was invited onstage at one point, and then in one of the encores he invited Conor Oberst to join in. All in all, it was a solid show with an energetic audience and a great set list.


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We checked out Bob Schneider’s set last week at Bowery Ballroom and had a good time. I’ve seen him two other times, so the music wasn’t all new, but the setting was. We saw him in Madison Square Park two years ago for Big Apple BBQ, which was a fun show. I think that one will always top my list because I ended up winning a trip to Austin that day.  The other concert was at City Winery, and that one was more like “Storytelling with Bob Schneider.” He was seated and sang a bunch of songs, and told some stories throughout. It was pretty funny, and a very personal show. Anyway, so this time at Bowery Ballroom, the music was still great, but the setting was not as unique as the other times we’ve seen him. I’ve been to Austin twice now, but I have yet to see him play there.  So, that’s the next venue on my list—Antone’s in Austin.

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Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men made two stops in NYC last week, playing a sold-out show at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday and at Webster Hall on Friday. I got to see them at Webster Hall—after initially not being quick enough to snag a ticket, I got one when the venue was changed from Bowery Ballroom to Webster Hall. This venue change ended up being a bit of a problem, as I know that some people went to Bowery first and then had to make the trek to Webster Hall when they figured out that Of Monsters and Men were not playing where they were. Normally this would not be a big deal, but this particular concert actually started on time (gasp) a little after 9 p.m. and it was fairly short since they have only released one album.  So, I think they whole thing was said and done in an hour and fifteen minutes or so. So if you were late, you sort of missed out.

It was good to hear the band play live. It’s very much like their album, with one song flowing into the next. The songs all have a similar sound with slow build ups, occasional trumpet appearances and group shouts.  The band is made up two co-singer/guitarists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson, as well as guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, piano/accordion player Árni Guðjónsson, and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson. It was the drummer’s birthday, and in honor of the occasion the band gave him a crown to wear and also led the room in a Happy Birthday song.

There have been lots of comparisons made to other bands, like Arcade Fire and Mumford and Sons, but I wasn’t really getting that.  There are no banjos in sight, and the male lead singer’s voice reminded me more of Colin Meloy of The Decemberists than anything else.  Maybe they sound a little like Canadian band Stars? That might be due to the back and forth of the male/female lead vocals. “Little Talks” is the song that’s getting them attention, and it’s still my favorite–with it’s upbeat, rousing sound and its “hey”-filled lyrics. I can see this band being fun to see at outdoor festivals. Actually, at this point that’s probably the best place for them. They don’t really have the set list to headline yet, but clearly they are able to attract a crowd, so I guess they are just going with it.  But for the record, I think it was the earliest concert ending time that I’ve ever experienced.

The band’s claim to fame is that they won an annual battle of the bands competition in Iceland in 2010, joining past winners Andlát, Búdrýgindi, Dáðadrengir, Mammút, Jakobínarína, The Foreign Monkeys, Shogun, Agent Fresco, and Bróðir Svartúlfs. What, you haven’t heard of these bands? Well, I guess Of Monsters and Men are doing something right then to garner all this worldwide attention. Their name choice doesn’t hurt either. Now, if only I can stop accidentally referring to them as Monsters of Folk…


Check out NPRs stream of M. Ward’s A Wasteland Companion.