Recap: Neil Young and Promise of the Real in Telluride, CO (10-1-2016)

Neil Young and Promise of the Real 10-1-2016
Neil Young and Promise of the Real 10-1-2016

Where do I even start? Months ago, when it was announced that Neil Young would be playing two dates in Telluride, Colorado for the very first time, I knew I’d make the trip up from Phoenix. Not a doubt. On my live music bucket list, Neil ranked at the top, numero uno.

It took me 46 years, but there I was Saturday night, leaning against the barrier left of the stage, my 12-yr old daughter by my side, watching Neil Young – just a few weeks shy of his 71st birthday – rock our faces off with his amazing backing band, Promise of the Real.

The setting? Telluride Town Park. Not your run of mill venue. Rather, one of the most picturesque settings on God’d green earth. See for yourself:

Up front for Neil Young.. (Hour til showtime)

A video posted by Pete (@ick1999) on

Friday night, we rolled into town just before Neil took the stage around 6:30. My folks have a place just across the beaver pond from Town Park, so although I didn’t go to Friday’s show, I grabbed a beer and parked myself on the balcony. Neil’s voice filled the box canyon as he started off the night with “After the Gold Rush,” “Heart of Gold”, and “Long May You Run”… The sound was so crisp and clear that I took in the whole show, all the way to the final notes of “Cinnamon Girl.”

Saturday, it was time to get in and get close. My daughter and I walked into Town Park about an hour and a quarter before show time, and, as you can see above, we did just fine.

Neil walked out from stage left and quickly took a seat at the piano for the opener, “After the Gold Rush.” The next few songs featured Neil with his acoustic guitar and harmonica: “Heart of Gold,” “Sugar Mountain” (the first time he’d played it outside of his Bridge School Benefit since 1993), and “Old Man.” Then, a seat at the organ for “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)”, which sounded sacred in the beautiful setting.

Then out came Promise of the Real. It’s worth mentioning each of these guys, because they each add so much to the experience.

Lukas Nelson – guitar; Willie’s 27 year old son and de facto front man of POTR. Great voice and guitar chops.

Micah Nelson – guitar, keys, etc.; Willie’s youngest son, early/mid 20’s I’m guessing. More vocal chops and handy with the bow and guitar.

Corey McCormick – bass; Corey is the most animated of the bunch, jumping around, dancing, deep in the groove. His spirit is infectious and he’s a lot of fun to watch.

Anthony LoGerfo – drums; partnering up with Corey for a killer rhythm section that held down Neil’s tunes, old and new.

Tato Melgar – percussion; solid percussionist, although I couldn’t see him from my far front/left-side vantage point.

I heard Neil in a recent interview talking about Promise of the Real, their talent, and how intimate & familiar they were with his back catalog – deep cuts included. And how apparent that was. Their playing was the perfect accompaniment to Neil: raunchy and raw, or dialed down to a mellow folk-rock feel – whatever the song called for, they were there delivering it just as well as any band that’s ever backed Neil.

And the background vocals and harmonizing! Lukas, Micah and Corey were on point the whole night, enriching classics like “Powderfinger,” “Down by the River” and “Harvest Moon” with beautiful harmonies (three of my all time Neil favorites).

The “moment” for me came during the raucous and powerful choruses of “Down by the River.” Live music lovers all know it. That moment when the goosebumps are in full effect from the sheer force of the Music, a smile plastered across your face…and a glance around the crowd shows you hundreds of others feeling exactly the same way. It’s transcendent and inspiring and gives you hope for humanity – much needed these days.

Down by the river 🎸🎸🎸 #neilyoung

A video posted by Pete (@ick1999) on

“Winterlong” was a cut I wasn’t all too familiar with (released on Neil’s 1977 compilation album Decade, and limited pressings of Tonight’s The Night). I loved the feel of that tune – the wistful tinges of sadness and the really pretty melody.

“Out on the Weekend” !! Also one of my favorites, and the first tune of the night with Promise of the Real.

We were treated to “Cortez the Killer” with its sinister vibe, made all the more interesting by a nearby woman succumbing to a combination of altitude and substance – passing out a few feet behind us, then being lifted by security over the front barrier. “Cortez, Cortez, what a killer.”

Family highlight: My daughter was fully aware she was seeing a legend that Saturday night – she was reminded often by yours truly in the weeks and days leading up to the trip. By the end of the night, she was bouncing and singing along to “Rockin’ in the Free World” with all the rest of us. Smiles all around as the song was about to end three or four times, with Neil counting off “1-2-3-4!” and lunging back to the microphone for another round: “Keep on rockin’ in the free world!” It’s something special to make memories with your kids – especially live music memories.

With temps dropping well into the 40’s, Neil and POTR wrapped the night with the encore, “Roll Another Number (for the Road),” then met at center stage where they all huddled, jumping up and down in a shared primal grunt.

After two hours and forty-five minutes of breathtaking folk and wild, reckless rock & roll, we walked off into the cold Telluride night, savoring the evening..

Age is irrelevant. Rock & Roll is timeless.

Linkage:

SET LIST – October 1st, 2016 Telluride, Colorado

Janelle Monáe: Electrifying [Tempe Marquee Theater Recap]

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This woman is one of a kind. The Electric Lady, the title of Janelle Monáe’s latest album, is no joke. Electricity surges through her on stage: in the manic dance moves that channel James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Elvis; in the instant, interactive connection she makes with her audience; in her powerful, silky smooth singing; in that smile… in that Stage Presence. Wow!

Yeah, Janelle owned the stage last night for a good hour and 45 minutes at the Marquee Theater in Tempe – my first, and definitely not my last time, seeing her live. A truly great performer is backed by a top notch, talented backing band, and Janelle brought one along: a powerful nine piece pop/soul/rock/funk outfit consisting of two backup singers, two horns, a drummer, a percussionist, guitarist, bassist, and keyboardist. Janelle and her band had the crowd, a couple thousand strong, buzzing from the start. It was the kind of eclectic crowd you’d see at a Prince show – black, white, young, old, gay, straight (“black, white, Puerto Rican everybody just a freakin’ good time..”as Prince once sang).

You just can’t pigeonhole Janelle into a category. It’s not straight R&B, soul (or neosoul) or pop/rock. It’s a grab bag of all of these styles and influences. The supercharged pop of  “Dance Apocalyptic,” one of my favorites, made an early appearance, along with the down tempo R&B of  “Give Em What They Love” and the straight ahead funk of “Q.U.E.E.N”.  She ripped through “Tightrope” (from her great debut full-length, The ArchAndroid), along with a cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”

The real magic, the full-circle realization that you’re seeing someone truly special, came during the four song encore. After coming back out to smooth out the crowd with “Primetime” (a ballad she sings with Miguel on Electric Lady), she launched into Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” which I first saw her perform during the 2010 BET Awards tribute to Prince (which you should watch here). If there’s any performer who’s fully qualified to cover the tune, it’s Janelle Monáe, with her manic intensity.

And then came the highlight of the night for me and I’m sure most of the crowd: “Come Alive (War of the Roses).” The song, about 3 and a half minutes long on the ArchAndroid album, turned into a 10-15 minute clapping & dancing & shaking interactive workout. At one point as the band broke it down, Janelle motioned everyone to get down low, and damned if she didn’t have almost the whole crowd in the room crouching down low for a good three minutes (give or take a few too-cool-for-school audience members, who received jokingly glaring looks from her). There was the interactive call and response between Janelle and the crowd. There were the high energy band solos, as each of them got a chance to showcase their talents for 20 seconds or so… and then there was Janelle, finally jumping out into the crowd, surfing her way a good twenty feet in (see the pic above)…

It was one of those live music moments every fan hopes for: when you say goodbye to reality for a few minutes and lose yourself in the moment. A deep connection with a performer that, when it’s all over, you realize you’re standing there with a huge smile plastered across your face.

There are very few live performers who can channel into that space and establish that core connection with the audience. I’m lucky to say I’ve returned to see Prince and Springsteen do that to me more than two dozen times…

Janelle Monáe has that magic too. I saw it last night.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_0gMYq6Odw&w=640&h=360

The Power and Mystique Of Minneapolis

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On the fourth song into their set in the Main Room at First Avenue last night, Tom Chapman, lead singer of Battle, East Sussex’s Keane, realized he was going to have a personally transformative evening. It was during the devastating and tender track from their 2004 debut, Hopes and Fears, entitled “We Might As Well Be Strangers.” I saw him look out into the audience during the peak of the song and his face visibly changed.

The mystique that is the club First Avenue wrote its fire in the sky long ago, even before Purple Rain. It used to be a cool place to hang out even when it was a Greyhound Bus Station back in the 1930s, with its art deco vibe, air conditioning and floor checked terrazzo (which is still there today and serves as foundation of the pit). In 1970, the club opened with a two set performance by Joe Cocker and his Mad Dog Englishmen. Fitting, really, that a Brit Rocker should christen what was to become the musical mecca of the Midwest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the years and as seen by the many stars painted on the exterior of the building, god-like geniuses from rock mythology have played the Main Room and the glorified closet known as 7th Street Entry, located in the same building. Clearly, the weight of this history overwhelmed Chapman, keyboard player Tim Rice Oxley, drummer Richard Hughes and bass player Jesse Quin. But they didn’t fail under the weight of it all. Instead, they rose to the occasion played a 21 song set that heated up the hearts of the 1500 strong audience in from the below-zero temperatures outside.

After each song, I turned to my show companion, Todd (an Essex man, born and bred for musical mythology just like me) and found that his jaw was nearer to the floor than mine. We were bearing witness to yet another legendary performance at First Avenue being born. It was a shovel to the head stunning show with Chapman’s choir boy voice at the center of it all. Keane prides itself on being flawless during performances and last night was no exception. They were greatly aided by the addition of a new sound system (and a wider pit area…so long, spirally staircase with forbidden step!) and the magnificent crowd that became immediately connected to the band early in the evening.

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It was this synergy that created something quite magical last night and the emotion was evident on Tom’s face, growing stronger with each song. The set list  was a nice collection of their now 10 year history. Highlights for me were “My Shadow,” “She Has No Time,” and, of course, “Bedshaped,” one of the top ten most romantic songs of all time. Their new album, Strangeland, is a return to the feel of their debut and contains many fantastic songs, the title track being one of my favorites. The first cut on the record, “You Are Young,” is a wonderful testament from parent to child and has now become the show opener. I recommend picking up the deluxe edition as it has four extra tracks.

With each song, I gazed around and looked at the denizens of the Ave and saw it all wash over and comfort them. Lovers snuggled, arms were raised, several thousand photos were taken and every word was sung by a chorus. Before the traditional show closer, “Crystal Ball,” Tom let his feelings on the evening be known. He was humbled by the connection that was made between band, venue and audience. He struggled to find the words to describe the nature of the relationship between music and Minneapolis and it was in this moment that I realized how deeply honest he was being.

Words don’t come easily when the power of the heart and soul drives the light that is within all of us.

Here are the rest of Keane’s tour dates in the United States. Here is the link to my photos of the evening.

Recap: Cameo at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix

Everyone’s allowed a pure and simple nostalgia trip from time to time, right? For me tonight, it was the funk/soul/R&B of Cameo that brought me back to simpler days. Crazy to think that the last time I saw Cameo in concert, Ronald Reagan was president and I was a junior in high school.

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After discovering Prince in ’84, I threw myself into all the funky sounds I could get my hands on. Cameo was a huge part of that mid-80’s funk explosion in my life. Sitting in my room, cranking up the volume on “Flirt”, “I Just Want To Be”, “Candy”… and taping all the videos on BET’s Video Soul and New York Hot Tracks – “Attack Me With Your Love”, Single Life”, and of course “Word Up.”

So when I saw that Cameo was stopping through Phoenix in this year 2013, I jumped all over it.

The wife and I headed down to the Celebrity Theater, an old school theater-in-the-round room in Phoenix (Bruce Springsteen played there in 1974). It was around 9:30 when the house lights went down and out walked the familiar faces of Tomi Jenkins, Charlie Singleton (covered in a space-age silver Mardi-Gras mask), and of course the one and only Larry Blackmon.

Larry’s put on a few pounds, shall we say, and can’t jump around with his bandmates like he used to, but the big ol’ red codpiece was still on display, and he was still busting out his signature moves… The rest of the band were fit as could be. They looked great. They busted out all the familiar moves, shaking it to “Candy”, “Single Life”, “Attack Me With Your Love”… slowing it down for “Why Have I Lost You” and “Sparkle”… and laying down the old school funk with “Flirt” and “Keep It Hot.”

The crowd participation during “Candy” was a crowd favorite – with the ladies and the fellas trading off the line “It’s like Candy” one after another. Overall, the crowd was full of energy, and showed some serious love to the veterans of Cameo, now in their 34th year as a band.

It wasn’t a long show – only 12 songs with no encore, lasting about 70-75 minutes. But we didn’t mind. Sure, we all wanted more, but we were happy just to forget about the day to day for part of a Friday night; to listen to the sounds that bring back those good memories, and be just fine with letting the nostalgia wash over for a little while. Music, sweet music…

~~~ Set List ~~~ 

Cameo
January 18, 2013
Celebrity Theater
Phoenix, AZ

She’s Strange
Single Life
Attack Me With Your Love
I’ve Got Your Image
Why Have I Lost You
Hangin Downtown
Sparkle
Candy
I Just Want To Be
Keep It Hot
Flirt
Word Up

Here’s a little bit of “Flirt” from the show…

Recap: Band of Horses at the Marquee Theater in Tempe

It was starting to feel like Band of Horses may never actually make it back to Phoenix. Last year, they were scheduled to open for Kings of Leon at Ashley Home Store Pavilion, but that got axed. Then this year, they were scheduled to play downtown Tempe as part of the second installment of the Railroad Revival Tour with Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson, and actor/musician John C. Reilly, but that fell apart a few weeks prior to the October 26th date.

Luckily, Band of Horses wasted no time and promptly booked gigs in the cancelled tour towns, including an October 26th stop at the Marquee Theater in Tempe. For fans like me, it was a big win, now getting a full headlining gig versus an abbreviated festival-like set.

And so deliver they did, playing a roughly two hour set for (what had to be) a sold out crowd – the set list drawing from all four studio albums. In fact, at the end of the night, only four songs showed up from their latest release, Mirage Rock.

Some friends and I got to spend about fifteen minutes chatting with lead singer Ben Bridwell after the show, and he talked about the fun they’re having with these last minute headlining dates. They’re giving themselves the freedom to relax, have some fun, and play outside of the box a little.

It showed with the 23-song set list that included a couple of rarely seen covers: keyboardist/guitarist Ryan Monroe took to the organ for “Ain’t No Good To Cry,” a late 60’s tune by Hour Glass – the L.A. band that Gregg and Duane Allman were a part of before forming the Allman Brothers Band. How’s that for obscure? (Thanks to Ryan Monroe for the Twitter reply confirming the song name). The other cover was the encore finale, an old deep soul track called “Am I A Good Man?”, originally by a group called Them Two. They’ve pulled that one out quite a bit in the past.

We got a song premiere too, “A Little Biblical” from Mirage Rock, a tune they had never performed live.

But by and large, the band delivered lots of familiar Band of Horses favorites:

  • The night opener, “The First Song,” with Ben sitting down with this pedal steel.
  • “Marry Song,” with Ryan and Ben synched up perfectly with that gorgeous harmony.
  • “No One’s Gonna Love You,” a night highlight, with only Tyler Ramsey on guitar and Ben on vocals – a very intimate few minutes and clearly a crowd favorite.
  • Another slow burning highlight: “Detlef Schrempf,” where Ben came down to the crowd to share the mic during the chorus, letting crowd members sing “My eyes can’t look at you any other way…”- and by the way, I asked Ben after the show if former NBA star Detlef Schrempf knows there’s a song named after him. The answer is yes – Detlef and Ben keep still keep in touch, and try to hang out when Ben stops through Seattle.
  • “The Funeral” was the regular set closer, and since Ben’s amp blew out during the prior tune, it didn’t feature the familiar guitar riff from his Les Paul Standard. Instead, Ryan worked the riff on the organ. They may have stumbled on something there… very cool to see an oft-played tune done in a different style.

Just an amazing night overall – for the super fans like me on down. And to be able to chat it up with Ben after the show was the icing on the cake – such a genuinely nice guy.

Back in October 2008, on the morning after their Austin City Limits Festival set, I saw Ben in the Austin airport, so I went up and said hi. When I mentioned that encounter last night, unbelievably to me, he remembered meeting me on that bleary-eyed morning. So naturally, I asked him to reenact the photo we took in the airport. Kudos to Ben for removing his ball cap to style his hair a la 2008…

2012

2008

Ben promised the crowd that it wouldn’t take so long for the band to make it back to the Phoenix area. From what I can find, the last time they were in Phoenix was a June 2006 stop at the Rhythm Room. That is a long time.

Here’s hopin’ and beggin’ and prayin’ they stop through again soon. Special band. Special night.

Band of Horses Web Site

Band of Horses on Amazon

Set List

Marquee Theater
Tempe, AZ
Oct 26, 2012

The First Song
Laredo
Great Salt Lake
Islands on the Coast
NW Apartment
Electric Music
Ain’t No Good To Cry (Hour Glass cover)
Blue Beard
Cigarettes Wedding Bands
On My Way Back Home
Marry Song
Everything’s Gonna Be Undone
Older
Knock Knock
A Little Biblical
No One’s Gonna Love You
Is There a Ghost
Weed Party
Ode to LRC
The Funeral

~ Encore ~
The General Specific
Detlef Schrempf
Am I A Good Man? (Them Two cover)

** Thanks to Nicole LaRochelle for some of the photos above.