Infinite Shuffle

February 7, 2013

The Vaccines and the nature of encores

Filed under: Concert, V — assman41 @ 4:55 am

When: February 6, 2013

Where: Lincoln Hall (Chicago)

Opening act: San Cisco

So, what exactly is the etiquette when it comes to encores. Should fans just expect them to happen, or do they need to fight for them?

That was the question my friend and I were pondering after watching The Vaccines play a rather blazing set last night. Having listened to the band’s live album earlier in the day, I knew that it might take a little longer for them to return to the stage for an encore.

As it turned out Wednesday night, the band members had played their last note well before anyone in the audience realized it.

This is a phenomenon I’ve never fully grasped. Before I ever started attending concerts, I’d read about encores and had assumed they were exclusive to only the most special of shows. According to a different friend of mine, encores have likely been around as long as there’s been rock ‘n’ roll.

Either way, by the time I was regularly attending concerts, it’d apparently become commonplace for bands to perform encores. And I quickly grew accustomed to the routine of the band leaving the stage, fans cheering for a bit, then eventually chanting “One more song! One more song!” And, without fail, within a minute or two, the band would return to the stage, re-tune their instruments and play anywhere from 1-4 more songs.

But that hasn’t always been the case. When seeing the band, Glasvegas, a few years ago, they weren’t able to do an encore because they only had about 11 songs under their collective hat, so they just played them all — in a less than lively manner I might add — then called it a night.

Another Scottish band took a different tact. I’ve seen the group, We Were Promised Jetpacks, thrice now. At the first show, they left the stage and fans assumed they’d be back shortly. But then the lights came up and that was it. The next two times I saw them, they at least warned fans ahead of time that they don’t do encores, then proceeded to fulfill that promise.

And that’s when I started wondering about the nature of the encore and what its point was. I mean, if basically everyone was doing it, is it really special anymore? Why not just forego it and play all the songs you want to in one fell swoop? Why throw in an unnecessary break just to build some suspense for the last few songs?

And what about the fans who are conditioned to expect an encore? Do we need to be corrected of this bad habit? Should we make sure, if we want an encore, to clap and chant and make it clear to the band that we want to hear more?

Unfortunately, at the end of The Vaccines’ show, the crowd was a little too lackadaisical in its request. There was a brief chant of “Three more songs!” and an even briefer “10 more songs!” but that was about it.

As we eventually filed out of the venue, one guy in the audience applauded the move by the band. To paraphrase his thoughts, when a crowd is really into a show and cheering loudly for an encore, it’s impossible to turn that down.

Maybe that’s all it boils down to. An encore should only happen when both the band and the audience have earned it.

What are your thoughts?

I posted on The Vaccines’ Facebook page asking them why they didn’t play an encore. If they happen to respond, I’ll be sure to update this post.

UPDATE

Based on posts from other fans on Facebook, and a brief status update by the band, lead singer Justin Young’s vocal chords were shot after pushing it too hard during the show. According to one commenter, they had an encore built into their set list, but they had to bail early. It would’ve been nice if someone could’ve at least told us what was going on, but what are ya gonna do?

April 17, 2012

My favorite live shows

Filed under: Concert — assman41 @ 12:01 am

As I prepare to attend tonight’s Portugal. The Man/The Lonely Forest concert in Chicago, I realized that this will be my first show of 2012.

How can that be? Last year was by far the busiest of my concert-going life. I went to 10 shows in addition to attending three great festivals.

But now, as I ready myself for hopefully another solid year of concerts, I look back at my top 10 (actually 11) favorite shows from the past decade.

10. (tie) Northern State (Grog Shop, Cleveland, 2008)

10. (tie) Lovers (Beauty Bar, Las Vegas, Jan. 29, 2009)

It’s impossible for me to think of one of these shows and not suddenly recall the other. Both bands are all-girl trios, and I attended both shows with my pal, Sean. The first was during our first Great Lakes rendezvous after I moved to Indiana. It included an Indians game and a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the highlight for me was still this show. Neither of us new anything about Northern State other than that they were supposedly a rap group and their name was a reference to a highway in Long Island. What we experienced was a really fun show, full of old-school rhyming from a bunch of white girls who went to liberal arts college. It was one of the first shows on a tour supporting their new album Can I Keep This Pen? and they put on a great show, highlighted by crowd-pleasers such as “Mother May I?”, “Sucka MoFo” and “Better Already”. We ended up buying their CD and talking to the band members for a bit.

The more recent show came during a vacation to Vegas. Again, we knew nothing about Lovers other than that they were playing a bar about a block from our hotel. We showed up early and didn’t have to pay a cover. We sat at the bar and played various games, including Break the Ice and Connect Four. (Turns out Sean had never played it and was quite horrible.) While at the bar, I’m pretty sure we actually were sitting next to a couple of the band members, but I can’t be positive. As it turned out, we had landed in an absolutely perfect spot. The venue was very small and quite narrow. After turning around in our barstools, we were only a few feet from the stage. And from our vantage point, we were able to soak up the amazing sounds coming from lead singer Carolyn Peck. Every song was amazing, but the highlights were “Igloos For Ojos”, “Tonight” and “Wrestling Horses”.

9. Those Darlins (Off Broadway, St. Louis, March 5, 2010)

This is one of two shows on the list that I attended solo. I was in town for the Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament, and rather than go to some games one night, I chose to go to this concert. I had downloaded Those Darlins’ self-titled debut album before my trip and listened to it about four times on the way there. So, by the time I arrived at the venue, I knew every song rather well. Also, since I was by myself, I ended up sitting off to the side by the bar and getting rather loaded. Once the main act appeared on stage, I was in a very festive mood and ended up doing more dancing at show than I have at all my other concerts combined. The band, another all-girl trio, seemed to be having a great time, and it really came out in the music. I enjoyed every song, but the obvious highlight was “Red Light Love”.

8. The Rural Alberta Advantage (Radio Radio, Indianapolis, April 23, 2011)

This was a bonus concert for me. My friend, Drew, and I were already planning a trip to Indy to see the New Pornographers an The Walkmen, the I saw that this show was going on the next night. The venue is in an area of town called Fountain Square. It seems like a pretty cool neighborhood that is in that pre-gentrification stage. Anyway, I already wrote about the show here, but to condense the evening, it was just a lot of good music from a trio of Canadians and some fun discussions afterward. Lead singer Nils Edenloff has a great voice, and one that I could listen to for hours.

7. Pearl Jam (Verizon Amphitheatre, Noblesville, Ind., May 7, 2010)

During my first trip to Indianapolis, I managed to get stuck in a 2.5-hour traffic jam and missed the opening act, Band of Horses. I was rather bummed, but the main act managed to lift my spirits. As Drew noted at the time, it showed how much power Pearl Jam has that they were able to open the show with such a slow song as “Release”. The rest of the night is just a blur of awesome songs from an awesome band. It was the first time I’d ever been to a show with multiple encores, one of which included one of my favorite covers that they do, The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly”.

6. The National (Riviera Theatre, Chicago, Sept. 26, 2010)

This was the one and only time I’ve ever hung out with my good friend Mary Kate in a city other than South Bend. She took the train into town and I met her for some tasty Thai food before heading to the show. I don’t remember a great deal about other than that we were in the last row of the balcony, next to some decrepit seats. Oh, and the fact that we had a great time grooving out and singing along to one of our favorite bands.

5. The Decemberists (Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, July 25, 2011)

This was the second time seeing the Portland group. The first came a few years prior with my boy, Sean, in Norfolk, Va. Both shows were pretty similar in quality, but I picked this one only because the band had more songs to choose from and played several from my favorite album of 2011, The King Is Dead. I was familiar with enough of the songs that it was rather enjoyable. Adding to the fun of the evening was that my friend, Scott, and I had just taken in part of a show across town featuring Ted Leo + The Pharmacists. We ended up leaving early, hopping in a cab and showing up at the Aragon just in time for The Decemberists.

4. Arcade Fire (Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tenn., June 2012)

This is the lone festival show on the list. I feel confident including it since the band was one of the headlining acts and played a lengthy set. The whole thing was like one big greatest hits concert, which shows how many great songs have been on their three albums. I’d spent most of the day dealing with the aftermath of eating a “magical cookie” and by the time the show started, I had regained most of my faculties. Adding to the aesthetics was that right before the show, some dudes in hang gliders or something dropped thousands of blinking LED lights from the sky. By the end of their descent, it was if the stars were falling to the ground.

3. Neko Case (Starr Hill, Charlottesville, Va., 2006)

This was the other show I attended by myself. I was still rather new in town at the time, so I was often going to shows at what turned out to be a pretty great local venue. At the time, I didn’t know anything about Neko Case, other than that she came highly recommended by a friend of mine whose taste in music is usually rather divergent from my own. Despite this fact, I purchased a ticket anyway and hung out at the back of the medium-sized venue while sipping my beers. But that was perfectly fine, as Case’s amazing voice filled every corner of that room. I was immediately entranced by her and have been a fan ever since. That show was in support of Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, still my favorite album of hers.

2. Death Cab For Cutie (Fox Theater, Detroit, July 28, 2011)

This is the band I still proclaim as my favorite and the one I’ve seen the most times in person. Although, of the four shows, two of those were at the less-than-ideal setting of Lollapalooza. The first time, they were drowned out by another band, and the second, I think left early to go swimming in the lake. But the most recent time was last summer following a great day with my friend, Gabrielle. We attended a Tigers game, walked around downtown, went to a bar, then showed up at the venue during the first or second song of opening act Frightened Rabbit. I didn’t realize it beforehand, but this venue was much swankier than the other I’d been to in Detroit (see No. 1). We eventually moved from our filled section of the balcony to a nearly sparse section to the side. Then we proceeded to groove out to the sounds of Death Cab. Gab wasn’t very familiar with either band, but she definitely had a great time. I wasn’t especially fond of their latest album, Codes and Keys, but they thankfully played a lot of old stuff as well. There were at least two moments in the show that I wanted to hug my companion — including during the show closer “Transatlanticism” — but that would’ve been weird.

1. Rise Against (The Fillmore Detroit, 2008)

I’ve seen these Chicago boys thrice — all with Sean — and each show was memorable in its own right. The first was in Norfolk, but I spent most of that show hanging out at the back, while Sean battled it out in the pit. The most recent was in a less-than-desirable theater where we were stationed among many rows of seats and didn’t have a great deal of space to get rowdy. But the show was in Canada and afforded us the opportunity to take a road trip through Wisconsin and Minnesota.

But the middle show was by far my favorite. Rise Against was the last of four bands to take the stage. During another of our Great Lakes rendezvouses, Sean and I met up in Detroit and arrived at the show in time to see opener The Gaslight Anthem. They’d just released their debut album and put on a great show. We weren’t quite as interested in the next two acts — Thrice and Alkaline Trio — but we watched them a here and there. Then came the headliners, and once they started thrashing on their first song, Sean made a beeline for the mosh pit. This time I decided to join him, and it was great. I mostly remained on the edge of the fray, but I occasionally jumped in there a bit. But I definitely managed to let loose and get swept away by the energy of the show. As Sean has said, this band is carrying the torch for modern punk, and they’re doing it while holding true to their core beliefs, which just makes them that much more fun to watch.

I wouldn’t be surprised if someday this concert is transplanted from the top of the list, but it’ll take a pretty amazing show to do so.

HONORABLE MENTION

For the most part, I deemed performances at festivals ineligible for this list, since most aren’t full sets. But there were a few I saw during SXSW last year that I feel deserve a note.

This was the first show I saw during my first full day in town. From the time I walked into the air-conditioned barroom, I was immediately transfixed by the two performers on stage. While not romantically involved, they looked about as love with each other as two people possibly could. It was just a great set.

This was one of the bands I was really looking forward to seeing, and I was not disappointed. The group of about six or seven people piled on to the tiniest stage I’ve ever seen and just had a rollicking good time. It was such an intimate performance, and, at one point, they gave the tambourine to a dude in the front row who did a pretty great job with it.

  • Wye Oak (Swan Dive, March 18, 2011)

This was during our last day of actually going to shows. It was the first day when the weather actually became something of an issue. And I’ll never forget standing in a crowded little bar, with no fans or air conditioning and watching the two band members sweating their balls off right along with everyone in the audience. You could tell those two had been at this game for a long time and really knew what they were doing.

October 9, 2011

CONCERT REVIEW: Rise Against and Flogging Molly

Filed under: Concert, F, R — assman41 @ 4:00 pm

When: October 4, 2011

Where: Thunder Bay (Ont.) Community Auditorium

Headliner: Rise Against

Opening act: Flogging Molly

It has become something of a tradition. Every time emo-punk band Rise Against put out a new album, my friend, Sean, and I invariably make our way to one of their shows.

It started in 2007 while the Chicago-based crew was still touring on the heels of their album, The Sufferer & The Witness. Sean and I were working at a newspaper in Central Virginia at the time, and we decided to make the trek to Norfolk to see the  group. It was definitely a solid outing.

A couple of years later, just days before Thanksgiving 2009, Sean and I met in Detroit to see the band play new stuff from Appeal To Reason. Rise Against headlined a show that included The Gaslight Anthem, Alkaline Trio and Thrice, and it absolutely rocked. For a while, that was my favorite concert-going experience.

Fast-forward to last week. Sean just returned to the States after a six-month stint in Jamaica. The last time I had seen him was when we went on our epic SXSW trip. The way the timing worked out, Rise Against was just wrapping up their tour for the album, Endgame, and the only date that worked out logistically was their show in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

I’d picked up my first passport earlier this year, so I was more than happy to break it in. Sean set out from NYC on Sunday and made the 12-plus-hour trip to South Bend. Then we embarked on our jaunt early Monday morning. The plan was to hang out with a friend in Milwaukee and crash in Duluth that night, head to Canada on Tuesday for the show, then make our way back to Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

I’ll skip all the minutiae, and just mention the highlights of  the trip before delving into the concert itself:

  • Meeting our friend, Audrey, for lunch in The Kee and walking around the grounds of UW-Milwaukee.
  • Stopping off in Osseo, Wis., at Norske Nook Kaffe Hus and sharing four of the most amazing slices of pie I’ve ever had.
  • Enjoying a tasty Oktoberfest meal (complete with proper brews) at Pickwick Restaurant in Duluth.
  • Hiking along the shore and taking some amazing photos at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park near Two Harbors, Minn.
  • Eating some awesome Havian BBQ Chicken pizza at Sven & Ole’s in Grand Marais, Minn.
  • Walking around the quaint and bucolic downtown of Grand Marais.
  • Driving through the Canadian countryside before sunset, marveling at the foliage and mountains.
  • Realizing Ontario is on Eastern time and racing to find the concert venue.
  • Rocking out to Flogging Molly and Rise Against.
  • Stopping at a convenience store in Thunder Bay and smirking at all the subtle Canadian differences.
  • Being detained at the border because the officers couldn’t understand why we traveled to Canada for a rock show.
  • Stopping at a beef jerky factory outlet store in Minong, Wis., for several packages of jerky and a few packs of tasty Madison-brewed beverages.
  • A return trip to Norske Nook for four more amazing slices of pie.
  • A frenzied search for a cooler large enough to keep a banana cream pie cold for a few hours.
  • A home-cooked dinner at Audrey’s followed by some bluegrass music and tasty brews at a neighborhood bar in The Kee.
  • Skipping breakfast and holding out until we reached Portillo’s for lunch Thursday before returning to South Bend.

Now, back to the concert itself.

As I mentioned above, we were running late for the show and had no idea where the venue was located. My smart phone turned pretty dumb after crossing the border and I was unable to look up anything on a map.

Thankfully, we didn’t care at all about the opening act — Black Pacific — because we eventually found the place and walked in at about 8 p.m., just as the second act, Flogging Molly was taking the stage. They immediately tore into their most popular tune, “Drunken Lullabies”, as Sean and I found our seats.

Yes, I said seats. The show was taking place at Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, which had nothing but seats and a small orchestra pit. Much to Sean’s chagrin, we were not allowed access to the pit and were forced to thrash about in the small space between the rows of seats.

It was not ideal, but we made do.

I had never seen Flogging Molly before, but they absolutely killed it. There was just something totally badass about seeing six seasoned musicians lined up across the stage in front of the drummer, rocking out on their instruments. The way the were dressed to the nines and how expertly they played, they just looked like some sort of all-star team whose sole purpose was to rock my socks off.

Mission accomplished.

To be honest, even though I only recognized a few of their songs, I think I might have had more fun watching Flogging Molly than I did the headliners. That’s nothing against Rise Against, but I’d already seen them a couple of times, so I guess the novelty has worn off a bit.

That being said, Rise Against still definitely brought it. I was jumping up and down within minutes and zeroed in on the band for the entire show. I will admit that I have a few critiques with the setlist.

They played 16 songs, followed by a three-song encore. After they set the place on fire with “Prayer of the Refugee”, they slowed things down with “Swing Life Away” and “Hero of War”.

During the latter, frontman Tim McIlrath had a string break on his acoustic guitar, which took a few minutes to fix.

So, after that extended period of tameness, they followed it with a medium-paced song, “Audience of One”, which ended up creating this long lull in the show. They only had one song, “Architects” before closing out the set with “Ready To Fall”. Normally, the place would be shaking at that point, but because of that lull — not to mention the confining seats — the crowd wasn’t as lively as it could have been.

The encore was average. They did play “Give It All”, which is one of Sean’s favorites, but they played it second and closed with “Savior”. I would’ve closed with a hit to send the crowd out on as high a note as possible.

But these are minor nitpicks. I still enjoyed the show immensely and can’t wait for the next album — and, of course, the ensuing tour.

April 28, 2011

CONCERT REVIEW: The Rural Alberta Advantage and Lord Huron

Filed under: Concert, L, R — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When: April 23, 2011

Where: Radio Radio (Indianapolis, Ind.)

Headliner: The Rural Alberta Advantage

Opening act: Lord Huron

All along, my friend, Drew, and I had been planning to go to the New Pornographers show on a Friday night, then just hang out in Indianapolis the following night.

But as fate would have it, while doing research for one of my latest posts, I saw that The Rural Alberta Advantage would be in town that weekend. Not only that, but they were touring with Lord Huron, one of the bands I’d discovered at SXSW.

Needless to say, I was quite giddy.

And as an added bonus, the venue was located just outside of downtown in the Fountain Square district, a couple of blocks from a Thai restaurant Drew was a fan of.

The neighborhood, itself, looks like it was at one time cool and has since been a little rundown. But judging from some of the businesses there, I feel like it is on the brink of a resurgence.

If it happens, Radio Radio will definitely be a key component. The place is on the small side, but not too small. There is a circle of cozy sofas located on either side of the entrance. Past those were the bar on one side and an ample amount of tables and stools on the other. Then there was the dance floor leading up to the stage.

There is no real “backstage.” The artists’ area isn’t linked from the stage, so band members have to walk through the crowd to get there. It all just adds to the cozy quality of the place.

Within a few minutes of our arrival, a couple of dudes, who looked nothing like the guys I saw in Austin, took the stage and started performing. The guitarist was solid, but their music was mostly boring. I have no clue what their name was, nor did I care. I was just worried there was another band out there named Lord Huron and I got the wrong one.

As it turned out, that was not the case.

Lord Huron

As I noted in my last post, Drew and I have pretty different musical tastes. So, when we discussed Lord Huron’s Mighty EP, it was no surprise when he described the title track — my favorite — as the most annoying one on the disc.

And much to Drew’s disgust, the band actually opened their set with “Mighty.” I found it surprising, as most bands will save their big single for later in the show.

But no biggie. It definitely grabbed the audience right off the bat and had it hooked from the onset.

I didn’t keep count, but they probably about five to seven songs. The one thing that really struck me was how different they seemed compared to when I saw them at SXSW.

I think it’s because during their Indy show, they stretched their songs out a lot more and did more jamming. That’s understandable, as they were on a pretty strict time limit in Austin and were probably just trying to play as many songs as they could in order to let the fans hear their sound.

The Rural Alberta Advantage

While I could only pick out one particular song of Lord Huron’s, I recognized nearly all of the tracks in The RAA’s set. I suppose that’s because I’d listened to their two albums about four or five times during the weeks leading up to the show.

And although I was mildly torn on the awesomeness of their most recent release, seeing the songs performed live erased any doubt as to whether it’s one of the best albums of the year so far.

From researching the band, I knew that all or most of the songs were based on growing up in rural Canada. But I guess I didn’t realize the extent until lead singer Nils Edenloff gave us some background details before playing a lot of the songs.

Nils Edenloff sings his heart out while Amy Cole (left) bangs the tambourine and Paul Banwatt (right) pounds the drums.

The band had just played in St. Louis the night before, when some powerful tornadoes ripped through the city and did some major damage, including to the airport. Edenloff brought that up as he introduced the song “Tornado 87”, which was written about a tornado.

Another song of theirs is based on a natural disaster as well. “Frank AB” is about a landslide in Frank, Alberta, that killed nearly 100 people in 1903.

My favorite song on their second album, “Barnes’ Yard”, came to Edenloff when he thought back to his days delivering newspapers and the yard of one of his subscribers, Mr. Barnes.

That song was the second of four that the band played during their encore, which was prompted not only by clapping and cheering but also foot stomping.

The final song of the evening, and the most rocking, was “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge”, which, as one might guess, alluded to an actual bridge.

The show was definitely a rollicking good time and is one that should be seen.

But just as great as the show, was the after-party that Drew and I took part in.

Epilogue

At a lot of shows I’ve been to, bands will hang out at the merchandise table after their set and sell their wares and greet fans. But on this night, the members of Lord Huron and The RAA did more hanging out and fraternizing than I was used to.

Drew and I naturally took advantage of this to talk to most of the guys — and girl — about their music and backgrounds.

Drew decided he’d give the members of Lord Huron a piece of his mind and let them know that they should stick to the more melodic and downtrodden stuff and get away from the island sound.

Thankfully, they took everything with a grain of salt and seemed to actually be amused by Drew. We proceeded to drink some more with the bands and followed them to a nearby bar.

The RAA left a little early — probably because of Drew’s creepy obsession with percussionist Amy Cole’s ear lobes.

But it was definitely a solid night and makes me want to try to get to know more of the bands I see in concert.

April 26, 2011

CONCERT REVIEW: New Pornographers and The Walkmen

Filed under: Concert, N, W — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When: April 22, 2011

Where: The Vogue Theater (Indianapolis)

Headliner: New Pornographers

Opening act: The Walkmen

My friend, Drew, and I are both big music fans and we both have relatively eclectic tastes. But, for the most part, we don’t really overlap too much. He generally likes his music on the heavier, guitar-laden side, whereas I lean toward lighter fare.

But there are definitely plenty of acts where we see eye to eye — or would it be “hear ear to ear” — and nowhere more so than when it comes to the New Pornographers.

I’ve loved Neko Case ever since I saw her performing solo in 2006, and became a fan of the rest of the crew soon thereafter. Drew’s love of the band peaked after seeing them at a festival a few years ago, and his infatuation with Ms. Case would probably be labeled as unhealthy.

Nevertheless, when their tour schedule was announced in November, we quickly decided we needed book a trip for the Indianapolis show.

And it was definitely an added bonus to see that The Walkmen would be the opening act.

The Walkmen

When I first heard The Walkmen about seven years ago upon the release of their second album, Bows + Arrows, I deemed them another one of the many Strokes wannabes that were on the scene at the time.

But after a few more releases, I started to hear a definite Bob Dylan influence in the vocals — especially throughout A Hundred Miles Off.

After listening to their latest release, Lisbon, a few times, I detected a slight vibe of The National — most notably in the drums. That opinion was cemented after seeing them in concert.

Not only did the drummer — Matt Barrick, who was excellent by the way — remind of The National’s man on the skins, Bryan Devendorf, it quickly became apparent that the two bands are very similar in overall tone. They both play a lot of dark, sorrowful songs that dig into the listener’s soul. Even their more upbeat songs are still haunting lyrically.

As Drew noted before, during and after the show, about one-third of The Walkmen’s songs are boring and the rest are really good. We ended up getting a mix of both types during the band’s set, which was just shy of an hour long.

Personally, I find that The Walkmen’s songs sound a lot alike, so I can never really differentiate one from another. But I was able to pick out a few of their hits, including “The Rat”, “Donde Esta La Playa”, “Woe Is Me” and “Angela Surf City”.

The one thing I noted was that, for pretty much every song, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser waited a longer-than-usual amount of time before singing any lyrics. You can see for yourself in the above clip.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it allowed me to enjoy the solid instrumentation more than I normally would. It was just something that stood out to me.

Drew complained that they ended on the wrong song and should’ve finished on their second-to-last one. I agreed. Unfortunately, I don’t know the title of the last two songs, which might help clear things up a little.

All in all, it was a solid set. Leithauser had great energy during most of the songs and they managed to get my feet tapping and head bobbing on multiple occasions.

New Pornographers

I’d never properly seen Neko Case perform with the New Pornographers. Before last weekend, I’d seen the band twice — once at Pitchfork Music Festival and again at a venue in Chicago. The first time, I was pretty tired and slept through much of the set. The other time, Neko was not touring with the band.

So, needless to say, I was pretty excited to finally attend a real New Pornographers show. (OK, so Dan Bejar wasn’t there, but I’m still counting this.)

Immediately upon taking the stage, they displayed the stature to which they have ascended as they opened with a cover. It was Shocking Blue’s “Shocking You”, which I doubt more than a few in attendance actually recognized. (I certainly didn’t.)

Drew would later note that few bands can get away with such a stunt. Pearl Jam did something similar when we saw them last year and they opened with an acoustic tune.

They then proceeded to churn out songs from all throughout their catalogue, including such ditties as “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”, “Crash Years”, “Twin Cinema”, “Your Hands (Together)” and “The Bleeding Heart Show”, which ended the set.

I found an unofficial setlist online that seems pretty accurate from what I can recall. There’s some debate as to whether they actually played “Jackie, Dressed In Cobras” or not. A couple of people on that site think they did; Drew vehemently disagrees.

Anyway, they quickly returned for a three-song encore that started with my favorite tune of theirs, “Challengers”, the title track from their penultimate album. They sent the crowd home happy by closing with “Sing Me Spanish Techno”.

It was a great set from top to bottom. My only complaint was that Carl Newman’s vocals seemed somewhat muted. Also, Neko’s vocals stood out from time to time, but not quite as much as one might expect.

No matter. Still a great show.

May 28, 2010

CONCERT REVIEW: Pearl Jam

Filed under: Concert, P — assman41 @ 6:01 am

When: May 7, 2010

Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (Noblesville, Ind.)

Opening act: Band of Horses

For much of the day, there was concern that the weather could turn ugly and the show would be canceled. As my friends and I were preparing to leave our hotel for the venue, we watched the weather forecast and saw an ominous band of severe weather heading straight for our location. When we were on the highway and getting hit by a downpour, we figured, best case scenario, we’d be stuck on the lawn, getting absolutely soaked.

Unfortunately, the weather was the least of our problems. That designation was saved, instead, for our actual drive to the venue. It was only about 25 miles from our hotel to the amphitheatre, but it took us roughly 2.5 hours to get there because of gridlock that had us sitting motionless on the highway at multiple times.

By the time we finally got parked, we could hear music in the distance. As it turned out, that was Band of Horses closing out its set. I was less than pleased, as they were the main reason I wanted to come to the show in the first place.

We grabbed our blankets and headed for the gate, chugging a few beers on the walk up. We were alerted that it was a “no blankets” show, due to the large number of attendees. I decided to wrap my blanket around my upper body and hide it under my windbreaker and ended up as one of the few patrons with a blanket to sit on.

It would come in handy as the once warm, windy conditions turned to cold and windy by the end of the show. The precipitation, however, had cleared, and it ended up being a rather pleasant evening.

We arrived in between sets and weren’t waiting around too long before Eddie Vedder and the boys came on stage. They opened with “Release” off their first album, Ten. According to their website, it’s somewhat rare for them to play that song as they’ve only included it in a handful of their sets in recent years.

Clearly, we were in for a good show.

As for my Pearl Jam fandom, I mostly just know the main hits and a few other songs off the various live albums I own. So, throughout the show, I was asking my friend what each song was.

They did play some that I knew during the initial set, including “Elderly Woman …”, “Daughter”, “Even Flow”, “Jeremy” and “The Fixer”. Unfortunately, I was in line for the bathroom during those last two, which closed out the set.

Most of Vedder’s banter was enjoyable, and he really seemed to make an effort to connect with the fans. At one point, he thanked the “Gods of Indiana” for keeping the rain at bay, then he said that the God of Indiana was Larry Bird. Although, he later referenced Salt Lick, when he should’ve said French Lick (Bird’s hometown), but I’ll let it slide.

Other nice touches were the concert tees, which not only had that show’s date and location on the front, but also a pair of checkered flags, an homage to Indy’s racing history. I think it was the first time I’d seen a concert tee made exclusively for the show I was at. They also played a cover of “Goin’ Back To Indiana”, much to the crowd’s delight.

The first encore opened with Vedder sitting on a stool and playing an acoustic guitar. The first highlight of the night for me came during the second-to-last song of that encore when the mass of humanity that was the audience sang along for the bulk of “Better Man”. It gave me goosebumps. Afterwards, Vedder relayed to us what guitarist Mike McCready said during the song: “I fucking love the Midwest!”

My next treat was when they finished with “Do the Evolution” then came back for a second encore — another first for me. They opened with a couple songs that I didn’t know, then went into “Alive”, which got me all revved up. I shedded the blanket that was keeping me warm and just started jumping around to the song.

Before the show, I had told my friend that I wanted to hear “Yellow Ledbetter” and one of two covers they like to play — “Last Kiss” or “Baba O’Riley”.

I ended up getting both wishes granted, as, following “Alive”, McCready started into that familiar riff of “Baba O’Riley”. Early in the song, Vedder ripped off his flannel shirt to unveil The Who shirt he was sporting underneath.

The last official song was “Yellow Ledbetter”, which was an awesome closer. But then, at the end of that, McCready played the “Star-Spangled Banner” a la Jimi Hendrix. That was a pretty awesome treat and one final goodbye.

One other highlight toward the end of the show came when Vedder was talking about growing up in Chicago and hanging out with his friends and how he was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to see any of them before the show. Then one of those friends, someone named Chris, hailed him from somewhere in the front of the crowd. You could see Vedder get a little choked up, and I thought that genuine show of emotion was really cool.

In the end, Pearl Jam played for more than two hours and were probably fined for going past curfew, but they didn’t care.

So, despite a rather annoying trip to the venue and missing an opening band I really wanted to see, there’s no way I can walk away from a Pearl Jam show with anything but fond memories.

Blog at WordPress.com.