Category Archives: Concert Reviews

Our impressions from shows that we get to witness in person.

Legendary Bad Boys of Reggae Rock The Social


Inner Circle Show Review

Legendary Jamaican reggae band Inner Circle wrapped up their Spring Tour with an intimate show at Orlando’s Social Thursday night.  The staying power of these accomplished performers is a testament to their perseverance, commitment and premier musical talent.  They’ve suffered hardships and lost key band members over their forty year history, but they still sound as good as ever and continue to impress fans everywhere they go.

Founding members and brothers Ian and Roger Lewis have been the heart of Inner Circle since their childhood and still sound great today.   Roger is slowing down a bit and spends most of his time playing his guitar seated, but Ian is still a fantastic showman and is all over the stage while playing a killer bass. Bernard “Touter” Harvey is another long-time band member and a tremendous keyboard player, who stole the show this night.

Inner Circle at Social Orlando
Inner Circle at Social Orlando (see more photos at the conclusion of the review)

The band spotlighted selections from across their vast catalog throughout the ninety minute set and also threw in some nice classic reggae covers.  The band sounded fantastic all night, featuring two guitarists often trading off leads, including a few that would make any rocker proud. Ian Lewis had a constant smile plastered on his face and offered up a creative bass solo that included a playful snippet from “Billie Jean.”

The setlist highlights included “We A Rockers,” “Real Soldiers,” “Games People Play” and a nice tribute to deceased former front man Jacob Miller.  The high point of the set for the Social audience was a ten-minute extended version of “Sweat” which had the crowd dancing, immediately followed by the band’s biggest hit “Bad Boys,” which they stretched out to an entertaining fifteen minutes. It was a great way to wrap up a killer set.

The crowd pulled them out for an encore and after announcing that this was the last night of their tour and their last stop before home, they freelanced a bit and gave the house an unexpected treat.  They offered up a few more classic covers, before all of the band members walked to the front of the stage and sang an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s iconic “One Love.” with a nice assist from their fans. It was the perfect way to end a great night of music from a band that’s still entertaining fans across all genres.

All that being said, I need to do a little bit of whining about Orlando music fans. They’re just generally too damn safe.  You’ll drop hundreds to see the over-rated and over-priced Eagles, but we couldn’t scrape up 100 fans to spend a few bucks to see an entertaining band of this stature. That’s weak – and a poor reflection on our city’s music fans. Next time Inner Circle is in town, make sure you check them out, and while you’re at it, check out our concert calendar and take a chance on a band you don’t know well. You’ll be happy you did….

Check out photos from the show on our Facebook page.

Rock On!
Cretin


Night Beds in Orlando


Night Beds Orlando Show Review

The Americana music space has been dominated recently with talented singer-songwriters. Night Beds, the creation of talented twenty-three year-old Winston Yellen is another fresh offering in that genre. Yellen, a Colorado native who now calls Nashville home, brought his distinctive country-twinged Indie Rock sound to Orlando’s cozy Will’s Pub this weekend.

The music on Country Sleep, the band’s first full-length album, is dominated by tender, vulnerable songs with heart-touching lyrics. The songs spotlight Yellen’s fantastic voice, which translated well for the live show. Yellen’s mature voice belies his youth, but on-stage we saw several raw, unpolished glimpses of his still developing visage as an entertainer.

The show started just as the album does with a cold a cappella vocal and the song “Faithful Heights.” It was a brave and stirring start to the show, and Yellen pulled it off well. Most of the selections this evening were from the debut album, including the bouncy crowd favorite “Ramona,” which had the crowd dancing. It was one of a select few upbeat songs this night which was dominated by more mellow acoustic selections spotlighting Yellen’s dynamic voice.

Night Beds' Winston Wellen Will's Pub Orlando
Night Beds’ Winston Wellen at Will’s Pub Orlando – bc

Listening to Country Sleep, I was drawn to comparing Night Beds to Justin Vernon’s critically acclaimed Bon Iver.  Watching Yellen and mates on stage, I certainly saw the potential for them too to reach such heights.  Today the band is solely about Yellen and his majestic voice, but there’s room for them to grow as they’ll hopefully incorporate the other band members as they evolve.

Yellen seems like he’s becoming more comfortable being “the man” in the spotlight. He joked around with the crowd several times during the set, including playfully offering, “You’re the best crowd ever, but this heat does make me hate you.”  It was one of several fun interludes during the show.

“Vulnerable” was a prevalent theme to this show.  Yellen’s voice perfectly accompanies the soul-searching lyrics. He’s a young man with a great propensity to convey his most heartfelt feelings and life experiences in his songs and lyrics. He’s humble, as well. Before kicking off “Borrowed Time,” Yellen noted “I like singing low like Randy Newman. I hate hearing my voice singing high.”  He delivered a nice version of the song in his “low” voice, but absolutely undersold the pure quality of his higher falsetto voice.

The highlight of the show were the last two songs of the evening. The other three band members, including Yellen’s brother on drums exited the stage for a delicate acoustic version of “Cherry Blossoms” followed by the rousing full-band closer “Head For the Hills,” which ended with Yellen jumping into the crowd and personally thanking many of the ardent fans in attendance.

(See the setlist below)

Mike G.

Setlist
Faithful Heights
Ramona
22
Even If We Try
Borrowed Time
Lost Springs
You Were Afraid
Tenn
Was I for You?
Unbelievers
Cherry Blossoms
Head for the Hills


The Fixx Concert Review


The Fixx Rock Orlando’s Velvet Sessions

These guys are a precious rarity these days.  Many of their 80’s rock contemporaries are touring with line-ups that are embarrassing shells of the original crew, and basically going through the motions until the typically disinterested fans hear the couple of big hits they longed for.  But not The Fixx, Cy Curnin and mates are back on the road with their original line-up and still making excellent passionate music, and putting on a a nice show to top it off.

(see my review below the photo and Luc’s recap in the comments section)

The Fixx at Hard Rock Velvet Sessions Orlando
The Fixx at Hard Rock Velvet Sessions Orlando

They headlined Hard Rock’s Velvet Sessions last night, and turned Orlando’s most famous cocktail party into a damn good rock show.  The band is touting the full line-up from their mid-eighties heyday, as they support the 2012 release of Beautiful Friction. Curnin returned to the stage where he put on an excellent Storyteller-type of solo acoustic set a year ago, and put on a very different performance this night, but one that was equally engaging.

Despite missing a few high notes early in the set, Curnin’s voice is still fantastic and was powerful all night. He’s a superb show man, singing every note in a theatrical manner, often connecting with the crowd. The remaining band members were on top of their game and offered up a tight set. The sound mix in the Velvet Sessions venue was the best I’ve ever heard, as well.

Admittedly, I was only familiar with the band’s hits, and was pleasantly surprised to hear their deeper cuts and newer material. They kicked off the set with four straight selections off of Beautiful Friction, highlighted by slinky rocker “Take A Risk” and the powerful “What God?”

The entire set was being recorded by Hard Rock for their future use, and there were almost as many cameras as musicians on stage (and almost as many models with their saccharine smiles mingling amid the crowd). At one point, Curnin mentioned the presence of the cameras and playfully asked “Happy faces all around please.”

The first hit the band played was their biggest commercial success, 1983’s “One Thing Leads To Another,” which had the crowd singing along loudly. They backed that up with a great version of “Less Cities, More Moving People” and “The Fool” which spotlighted the signature Fixx keyboards of Rupert Greenall.

“Stand or Fall” was powered by superb guitar from Jamie West Oram and a killer bass groove from Dan K. Brown.  West-Oram truly impressed.  His guitar does not include any over the top solos, but every note he played was precise and played a prominent role in the songs. Before playing “I’m Life,” Curnin offered “This one is my current favorite.” It was an excellent bluesy rocker off of their 1988 release Calm Animals.

The highlights for the crowd were singalong versions of “Saved by Zero” which closed out the main set and a rousing and loud version of their last offering “Red Skies,” the ideal ending to a superb set.

Rock On!
Cretin’

 

Setlist

Anyone Else
Just Before Dawn
Take A Risk
Beautiful Friction
What God?
Happy Landings
Outside
One Thing Leads to Another
Less Cities, More Moving People
The Fool
Stand or Fall
Follow That Cab
I’m Life
Built For The Future
Saved by Zero

Encore:
Deeper and Deeper
Shaman
Red Skies


Bad Veins Orlando Show Review


Bad Veins Concert Review

For the past year, I’ve had Bad Veins near the top of my must see list. This talented indie rock duo out of Ohio ripped through Orlando a few times in the past year steadily gaining new followers, including a killer set opening for Two Door Cinema Club at The Beacham earlier this year. RARA’s FARM reader, Debbie, couldn’t heap enough praise on their live show. Now, I understand why.

The unique sound of Bad Veins is highlighted by lush alt-rock melodies,a  heavy use of keyboards and punctuated with clever guitar riffs. On stage, we saw a bit more of a guitar-driven show which is equally entertaining. Singer Ben Davis bounced across the stage throughout the show and was joined by new drummer Jake Bonta, a non-stop bundle of energy.

Davis, the affable front man, is the creative force behind the band, in fact, the band name is an anagram for Ben Davis. He writes all of the music, provides the vocals and plays most of the instruments, and he’s a hell of a performer on stage. He’s an energetic and passionate artist who developed a quick rapport with his fans. Davis worked with the crowd all night and seemed to genuinely enjoy the interactions.

Ben Davis of Bad Veins
Ben Davis of Bad Veins at Social Orlando

See more photos on the RARA’s FARM Facebook Page

On this “New Jake Tour,” the Social’s stage set-up was cool, as you can see in our photos. A bit of sensory overload with red roses everywhere, clever lighting and an interesting stage set-up. Drum kit to the left, mic stand and keyboards to the right and a reel to reel tape player in the center of the stage. The tape provided the background music (typically bass and keyboards) while Davis and Bonta tore up the stage. It was a unique approach and quite fun, but I am intrigued to think what their sound would be like with a full four piece on the stage.

Their set was about an hour long and packed with eleven energetic cuts that had the crowd thoroughly pleased and longing for more. The Social was less than half full, but those in attendance were passionate about Bad Veins and sang along throughout. They opened the show with “Don’t Run,” a guitar driven rocker that nicely spotlighted Bonta’s aggressive drums. It’s the first song of their 2012 release The Mess We’ve Made which was prominently featured throughout the set.  Speaking with Davis before the show, he noted that they’d probably be back in the studio working on their next effort after this tour closes.

The highlight song of the night for me was the rocking “Dancing on TV.” which had the crowd bouncing and singing along throughout. Other crowd favorites included “Nursery Rhyme” and “Gold and Warm,” and the fantastic “If Then” which had the entire crowd providing harmonies throughout.

Davis has been touring as Bad Veins for a scant four years, and I would not be at all surprised to see their popularity grow as they continue to evolve and add more material to their current catalog.  Good stuff…

Rock On!
Cretin

See more photos on the RARA’s FARM Facebook Page

Setlist

Don’t Run
Gold and Warm
Falling Tide
Child
Nursery Rhyme
Dancing On TV
Crosseyed
Afraid
If Then
The Lie

Encore:  Doubt

Paul McCartney Amazes as he Kicks Off US Tour


Paul McCartney Out There Concert Review

Paul McCartney kicked off his U.S. Tour at the Amway Center last night, and the show was spectacular. He made his first visit to Orlando in thirty years a memorable one; a show that was amazing in every sense of the word.

  • 165 minutes of amazing hits.
  • 38 songs.
  • 25 Beatles songs.
  • A dozen priceless stories.
  • At least 5 Beatles songs never before played by McCartney in the US.
  • 2 encores.
  • 1 amazing genre defining show.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I’ve been attending rock shows for many years, and have probably seen a thousand rock artists perform live.  I was too young to catch The Beatles and somehow never caught Sir Paul. Saturday night in Orlando, I realized what I’ve been missing all these years. Simply put, it is just one of those shows that needs to be in any rock and roll animal’s concert-going portfolio.

“Oh my, that man is 70 years-old”

Uncharted charisma, boundless energy, superb musical talent, a liberal sharing of his immense library of timeless hits and a voice that is still one for the ages; it’s a sure-fire recipe for success.

This is a show and a tour that any rock fan of any age needs to attend.  At seventy, there likely won’t be many more chances. And, regardless of the age, he puts on a performance absolutely better that almost any artist on the road today.

As an honest confession, I started the show as a reporter, but less than an hour into the spectacle, I had changed my perspective to “Screw it, I am going to just sit back (or stand up), enjoy this evening and soak it all in.” And damn sure, that’s exactly what I did.

Now, before I get into the details, here’s a spoiler alert: If you are going to see the show soon and want to be surprised, now might be a good time to stop reading.  The setlist is provided here if you’d like to check it out.

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Paul McCartney at Amway Center
Paul McCartney at Amway Center in Orlando

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Show Recap:

It didn’t take long to get the sold out Amway Center crowd on their feet. McCartney and his band mates took the stage to a rousing welcome and kicked into a smashing version of “Eight Days A Week,” a song Paul has rarely played, and not once since 1965! Not quite Beatlemania, but the crowd was instantly at near-fever pitch. He followed that with a powerful version of his Wings hit “Junior’s Farm” and the electricity never left the show.

The stage set-up was fitting for a rock show of this magnitude. Their was a large video screen behind the stage, flanked by two smaller ones for fans to the sides of the stage. However, the coolest video feature was a stage floor that was fully animated, adding an extra level of interactive entertainment to the experience.  The lighting was fantastic and the pyrotechnics excellent.

Throughout the evening McCartney showcased his broad musical talent. At various times, we saw him play an assortment of guitars, bass guitar, ukulele, piano and keyboards. Although the show is all about McCartney, he has again surrounded himself with a superbly talented band. Guitarist Rusty Anderson and the versatile Brian Ray traded off nice leads all night, while keyboard player Paul Wickens and Drummer Abe Laboriel were excellent, as well.  Most of the players have been touring with McCartney for years and they were extremely tight on stage.

McCartney dug deep into his robust catalog for a few other Beatles songs he had never played before in the United States.  We heard the American debuts for “Your Mother Should Know,” a rollicking version of “All Together Now” and a cool take on John Lennon’s masterful “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” He pulled out “Lovely Rita” during the first encore set and also played his seldom heard classic “Another Day.” Lots of unexpected treats for the fans from Florida.

During the bluesy Wings rocker “Let Me Roll It” we heard the now familiar tribute to fellow lefty Jimi Hendrix, and a nice long snippet of “Foxy Lady,” where McCartney nailed Jimi’s solo.  He again shared a nice story about how Hendrix opened his 1967 tour with a version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” just two days after the album was released. It’s a story, like a few others this night, that we’ve heard before. But, Paul, a master story-teller is like that beloved uncle sharing the same old stories and still bringing a smile to your face every time. We heard some new tales, too, including a few humorous stories from his recent Brazilian tour and the virally famous grasshopper incident. As McCartney said, “just Google McCartney Grasshoppers” to see it.

An hour into the show, McCartney grabbed an acoustic guitar and moved to a small platform in front of the main stage, while the band took a short break.  As he played the Civil Rights-era anthem “Blackbird,”, the stage elevated about twenty feet. Before descending, he also offered up a poignant version of his John Lennon tribute “Here Today.”  There were some minor sound issues on the latter, but still a highlight moment.

He pulled out the ukulele for a cool re-imagined version of “Something,” sharing a story about jamming on duel ukuleles at George Harrison’s place. He then shared Frank Sinatra’s timeless quote that “Something” is “the greatest McCartney/Lennon song ever written!”  Great compliment, but as Paul noted,”George wrote it.”

Towards the end of the main set, we heard a few popular Wings’ songs. “Hi, Hi, Hi” was a fun surprise and another one not often played by McCartney, and was followed up by a killer version of “Band on the Run.” From there it was “Back in the USSR,” an electrifying “Let It Be” and the explosive “Live and Let ie.”  He closed the set with an extended sing-along version of “Hey Jude.”

Over the course of the two encores, he offered up eight more Beatles classics, including “Day Tripper,” “Get Back,” a tender solo version of “Yesterday” and a heavy, powerful rendition of “Helter Skelter,” where the video boards and stage were fantastically animated.

As we neared the three hour mark, it was the familiar closing medley of “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End,” the fantastic culmination of “Abbey Road” and a fitting end to a magnificent night in Orlando.

Rock On!
Cretin

 


Asia- Heat of the Moment Left Me Cold


ASIA, Featuring John Payne Show Review

How do you review a show where the band and the audience were falling asleep?

Asia featuring John Payne, was just that… Painful.  The Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando featured the band at their monthly Velvet Sessions.  The crowd of about 400 people, seemed extremely excited on anticipation of the performance of the band. But, from the moment they came on, all I could think is that these guys are “collecting a paycheck”.

When John Payne started introducing a song that they were about to play, and then said, “wait a minute, we just played that one,” you could sense that they really weren’t there. For the rest of the show, no interaction, no excitement. Lots of “look at me, I’m from Asia” stares. You could sense from everyone, “let’s get this done so I can continue at the bar.”

The only 2 songs that the crowd was really excited about were “Heat of the Moment,” and “Only Time Will Tell.” And, lets not forget “Sole Survivor,” which is what I labeled myself after the show.

Luc

 

Editor: I caught the show, too, and generally have to agree with Luc. The show was uninspiring and rather boring, which is hard to believe with the catalog of hits ASIA had to offer. There was a definite buzz in the room before the band took the stage, but that quickly diminished, to the point where half the crowd disappeared  when the open bar did.  Thankfully, the Hard Rock staff still does an amazing job with the sessions, the food and the drinks.

I saw ASIA in their heyday.  This was not ASIA. Sure, John Payne played with the band as the replacement for John Wetton, basically after he, Carl Palmer and Steve Howe left.  That version of the band released a slew of mediocre albums that never got a sniff of airplay and rightfully disappeared into oblivion, where they should have stayed.  This crowd was here to see the ASIA songs that were hits, and that’s not what Payne delivered; instead we got the Payne-era mediocrity.

Truthfully, the musicians were talented and we did get a nice drum/keyboard solo in the middle of the set, but these guys are understandably not at the level of the original line-up.  If Payne is going to take advantage of the name, it is unconscionable that he doesn’t put his pride aside and play all of the early stuff.  It’s pretty simple; precious few folks were there to see John Payne, they were there to hear ASIA hits. Next time, make it less Payne-ful on everyone and give the people what they want.


Brit Floyd – Wished you were here.


Brit Floyd Show Review

So here I go again attending another cover band on Sunday night. I guess since I really can’t afford the prices of the real band, cover band it is.   Brit Floyd (Pink Floyd cover) played on Sunday at Hard Rock Live in Orlando.  This was a new venue for Brit Floyd because they had never played at the Hard Rock.  The crowd of about 2000 people were treated to a musical and visual smorgasbord that showcased the band’s professional and musical talents.

The talented band consisted of Damian Darlington (Musical director, guitar, lapsteel and vocals), Ian Cattell (Bass guitar, vocals) , Bobby Harrison (guitar, vocals), Rob Stringer (Keyboards, vocals), Rick Benbow (Keyboard), Arran Ahmun (Drums), Carl Brunsdon (Saxophone, bass,  percussion, clarinet, keyboard), Emily Jolland, Jacquie Williams and Rosalee O’Connell (Vocals).

This Brit Floyd concert, was more of a rock show than just music.  Granted, the music sounded incredible, but the stage show with lights, lasers, video and choreographed movement by everyone was really a spectacle for all  senses.

The show opened with “In the Flesh” with Carl Brunsdon alone on stage with a clarinet which then exploded into the full spectacle of the song. It showed the audience what they were going to experience over the remainder of the set. With Pink Floyd, there are so many great songs to choose from and this band did a great job of playing all the best from across their entire catalog.  When the band changed from one album to another, we viewed a video of a child going through different albums and picking out the one in which the songs were being played from – a cool touch.

As expected, “Money,” “Mother,” “Wish  You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb,” received the biggest pop from the crowd and the encore of “Run like Hell” was a great finish to a great show.

I walked into the Hard Rock with minimal expectations and 2 1/2 hours later, walked out thinking, I am glad I was here…

Luc

Setlist:

In the Flesh?
The Thin Ice
Another Brick in the Wall Part 1
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Mother
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
Welcome to the Machine
Money
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage
Eclipse
Pigs on the Wing Part 1
Dogs
Take It Back
Coming Back to Life
Keep Talking
High Hopes
Time
The Great Gig in the Sky
Wish You Were Here
One of These Days
Comfortably Numb
Encore:
Run Like Hell


Oh God, Am I A Country Boy?


Blake Shelton Sanford Concert Review

So, let’s just set the record straight right away. I am a rocker.  You look up Rock And Roll Animal in the Rock Almanac and there’s a picture of me.  I’ve been going to concerts for decades, seen hundreds, maybe thousands of bands over the years; all kinds of rock ‘n roll, and up until last weekend nary a country artist.  And, that was just fine for my rock ‘n roll heart.

Then, the stars seemingly aligned against me.  My wife is a huge Blake Shelton fan. Shelton was headed to our area for a big show on Saturday night when word started to circulate around social media that he’d be playing a free show at a small country bar. Local country station K92 started spreading the word and it quickly exploded on Facebook and Twitter. If you didn’t know about the show, and you don’t follow us on Twitter, your mistake…

Doors opened at 6:00 for the 8:00 show, and it was destined to be packed. She got home just before 6:00 and wanted to go, so we took a chance and made the fifteen minute drive to The Barn in Sanford. The Barn is a legendary country bar, where many current country stars passed through on their way to the top.  These days, you’re more likely to find a bikini contest or Texas Hold’em tournament, but on this evening, it was host to one helluva special event.

When we arrived, we hiked out to the back of the winding line somewhere Lake Monroe. We were about 400 spots from the door, and not very optimistic. But, luck was on our side, and by 7:30 we were inside the club, and fairly close to the stage.  Today, to buy lower level Blake Shelton tickets on his upcoming tour, you need to be prepared to shell out $200 a piece   We were in the equivalent of the tenth row, for FREE.

Shelton was due to take the stage at 8:00. So, I did what any good rock music fan would do and hit the bar.  $5 domestics, not cheap, but no one was complaining. There was an incredibly positive vibe in the building.  Being the beer snob that I am, I grabbed a Yuengling and a Stella, then toured the club.  It was packed with happy country fans, lots of cowboy hats and denim, and walls plastered with photos of huge country stars who had passed through those doors over the years.

Shortly after 8:00, Shelton took the stage with his six other band members.  From the second he stepped in front of the mic, it was electric.  I didn’t know any of his music, but had a blast, almost as much fun as he was having on stage.  He offered right away, “Grab a beer we’re going to be here awhile,” and I did. “We’ve got four pages of songs, and we’re going to play them all.”  And, they did…

According to my wife, he played “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” “Over,” “Drink On It,” “Some Beach,” “Home,” “The More I Drink,” “Kiss My Country Ass” and my wife’s favorite “Austin.”  The crowd loved them and sang along passionately to all of them. The fans were euphoric. There was the one obnoxious Weeble incessantly ramming her ample ass against me all night, pissed at me for being tall, but 99% of the people there were having an absolute blast.

The touring band was extremely talented, all taking their turns in the spotlight, and each one appeared to be having a great time, too.  Shelton took requests from the crowd, told stories and interacted with everyone all night.  You could tell he was having as much fun as the thousand sweating fans packed into the club.

Shelton mentioned that the night was a celebration of Country music and he absolutely held up that end of the bargain.  By hour three I was drinking Bud, because that’s what we Country fans do, and singing along when I could, making lots of friends, and smiling constantly, but only half as much as my wife and all of Shelton’s other fans.

Blake Shelton at The Barn in Sanford
Blake Shelton at The Barn in Sanford

The band covered George Jones, George Strait, Brooks and Dunn, Eddie Rabbit, Toby Keith, Earl Thomas Conley, Garth Brooks and a few other country legends. A few of the songs I recognized included “Footloose,” “I Love The Rainy Nights,” “Little Sister” and “Driving My Life Away.”

Three and a half hours later, Shelton exited the stage, wrapping up an amazing once in a lifetime evening for 1,001 area country fans.

The staff at The Barn was fantastic; bartenders, security, the parking lot folks, snack bar team, everyone.  They made a fantastic night even better.

Mike G

The Barn in Sanford