Category Archives: Concert Reviews

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

River City Extension Rocks Orlando

River City Extension LiveRiver City Extension Live at The Social

Earlier this week, I had one of those moments that all rock music fans covet. I was out at a venue reviewing one band and stumbled across another act on the bill that really caught my attention. I was out at The Social in Orlando checking out The Drowning Men, who were great in their own right (see the review here) when I had the pleasure of catching the dynamic eight piece River City Extension.

The octet out of New Jersey crammed onto the small stage and delivered an energetic and diverse set that I would best classify as a creative merging of Mumford and Sons and Gogol Bordello! It might sound unusual, but they pull it off magnificently. Over the course of the night, the six men and two women traded off among fifteen different instruments, providing quite the aural feast. At different times, they featured two drummers, two banjo players, violin, trumpet, mandolin and more; a welcome diversion from much of the cookie cutter stuff dominating the airwaves these days.

Led by front man Joe Michelini, the band focused their set on music from their excellent new release Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger. I spoke to Michelini briefly after the set and asked him how he would classify their brand of rock.   There’s no easy classification, which is part of the beauty to their unique sound. We settled on Alt-Americana, but you can check out the link below and make your own judgment.

They kicked off the show with “Glastonbury,” the opening track off of the album and followed that up with nine other cuts from the new album as well as a few selections from their two prior releases.

“Welcome to Pittsburgh” was an early highlight. The track has a beautiful, optimistic feel to it, as Michelini shows off his broad vocal range.  The most impressive features of the song were Nicole Scorsone on violin and Dan Melius on trumpet! The violin absolutely powers the song and Melius also contributes some fantastic trumpet work.  Good stuff!

“Point of Surrender” and “Ballad of Oregon” were two other songs of the same vein that were crowd-pleasing favorites.

This band is quite diverse and they showed off their versatility all night. Other highlights included “Slander,” a poignant tune in the vein of classic rock, “Our New Intelligence” a nice boy/girl duet, and the stark “Standing Outside in a Southern Riot” which featured Michelini and vocalist Samantha Tacon alone on stage.

It was a great introduction to a talented band that we should be hearing much more from in the years ahead.

Rock On – Cretin

Setlist

Glastonbury
There & Back Again
Welcome To Pittsburgh
Our New Intelligence
Point of Surrender
Standing Outside a Southern Riot
If You Need Me Back In Brooklyn
Slander
Nautical Sabbatical
Ballad of Oregon
Everything West of Home
Something Salty, Something Sweet

Drowning Men Rock Orlando


In a sparsely filled room on a rainy night in Orlando, I saw the future of rock ‘n roll.

The Drowning Men brought their unique style of rock to The Social and absolutely blew away the energetic, yet small crowd. For those of you who don’t know the music of The Drowning Men, you’re missing something special. I’d characterize them as a cross between Arcade Fire and Pink Floyd, but I’m sure everyone else in attendance could come up with different comparisons. Bottom line: they’re unique, they’re creative. they’re interesting, they’re provocative, and they’re pretty damn good!

The band does things their own way, from their look, their arrangements and their sound, and it’s a method that works exceptionally well. The first impression you’ll get from the quintet covered in tattoos and facial hair is of a group of longshoremen or bikers, but then they start to play…  Pure majesty.

They exploded onto the stage with a rich versions of “More Than This” and “Caroline You’re A Mess,” both off of their critically acclaimed 2011 re-release of Beheading of the Songbird – a fantastic album that dominated the night’s set list.  It was apparent quite early that this group fits together exceptionally well.

Nato Bardeen and his distinctive voice are the focal point, but the band is comprised of five equally talented musicians. Drummer, Rory Dolan is the driving force that powers the band throughout all of the songs, and he’s joined by the very talented James Smith on guitar, Gabriel Messier on an old-school organ and Todd Eisenkerch on bass and keyboards.  Over the course of the night, we also get to see the talented Bardeen trading off instruments, from his magnificent Gretsch guitar, to a melodica, a mandolin and the keyboard.

After the show, Smith acknowledged that the band got a little flexible with their set list, and the next three songs featured cuts off of their upcoming release All of the Unknown. Messier provided a nice lead-in into “I am the Beggar Man” the first of the three and carried the song, along with the steady driving beat from Dolan. Bardeen’s fantastic vocals on this one are reminiscent of Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Bardeen then took a seat at the keyboards for the interesting “Bored In a Belly,” which starts off with a bit of a carnival fun. It’s a new sound for The Drowning Men, but again an excellent tune.  They wrapped up thier sojourn into All of the Unknown with the mandolin driven “Lost in a Lullaby” which has the potential to become an anthem for the band.

The remainder of the set was a nice diverse mix of the old and new, with the highlight being a great version of “Courageous Son.” It’s a consummate rock song that came together perfectly on this night. Bardeen sitting at the keys and Messier on the organ got it off to a rollicking start, then the rest of the crew took over, featuring some of Smith’s best work with his Fender Telecaster.  The frenzied foot-stomping finish is damn near perfect in a song that I’d describe as beautifully chaotic.

For their closing song, it was their biggest hit “Rita,” which had the band still passionately pouring it out on stage. It’s an addictive tune that had the crowd dancing and singing along.  An excellent end to a great set (see the full setlist below)

I suspect the next time I have a chance to see these guys, it’s going to be in a much larger, more crowded venue, but that’s okay for me: losing a bit of that intimacy means good news for the future of rock ‘n roll.

Rock on!
Cretin

Leave a comment and let me know what you thought about the show, the band, the review, facial hair…

Setlist

More Than This
Caroline You’re A mess
I Am The Beggar Man
Bored in a Belly
Lost in a Lullaby
Courageous Son
The Waltz
Michelle is Getting Old
Smile
Rita

 

Mickey Thomas and Starship Touch Down in O-Town

When I first heard that Starship featuring Mickey Thomas was playing at Hard Rock’s Velvet Sessions I was ambivalent about attending.  I was a big Jefferson Starship fan, but “We Built This City” was one of those eighties rock songs where I felt rock music was jumping the shark. Then I remembered how much I enjoy the cozy venue at Orlando’s Coolest Rock ‘n Roll cocktail party: The Velvet Sessions at Hard Rock Hotel.  I made a late decision to attend the show and Damn, am I glad that I did!

In 1992, after ten years of leading Jefferson Starship to unprecedented chart success, Thomas created Starship; and for the past twenty years, he’s been touring with his own incarnation of the band, playing many of their classics hits. His recognizable voice  is still as pure and powerful as ever, he looks fantastic and is backed by an excellent band. Thomas got the show off to an energetic start, strutting around the stage and belting out a strong version of “Layin’ It On the Line,” featuring longtime Starship keyboardist Phil Bennett.

From there, the setlist was jam packed with the highlight tracks of the Jefferson Starship era, coupled with some nice surprises. Thomas interacted with the crowd throughout the evening and seemed to be having a great time. The band offered up powerful versions of classics “No Way Out” and “Jane” and then slowed things down with monster hits “Sara” and “Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now.” The latter featuring a nice duet between Thomas and the beautiful Stephanie Calvert.


Calvert took the spotlight a bit later in the set, as she conquered the Jefferson Airplane era Grace Slick anthems “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love.” Calvert took the songs and made them her own. The the band was spot on, with Jeff Adams on bass and Darrell Verdusco on drums powering the classics and having a blast doing so.

Thomas then returned to the stage and shared a great version of Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell In Love,’ a song he sang for Bishop’s band a few years before replacing Marty Balin in Jefferson Starship. The guitar work of Mark Abrahamian was solid all night, and he lent a fantastic solo to this one. He carried that through as the band closed the set with a fantastic extended version of “Find Your Way Back.”

For the encore, it was a little bit of the predictable and a nice dose of the unexpected.  They belted out a pure version of fan favorite (my least favorite) “We Built This City.” Then, as a few band members stripped off their instruments, Thomas grabbed an acoustic guitar shouted something to his mates, and started “Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota. There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon.” It was his second Beatles reference of the night, as earlier he slipped into a spontaneous stanza from “Sgt. Pepper.”

For “Rocky Raccoon” it was the full song, and it got the packed house dancing and singing along throughout.  Starship put their own twist on it, and it came off perfectly, a fitting way to end a great night. We spoke with Calvert after the show, and the diminutive rocker said “Rocky Raccoon” was a bit of an Orlando tradition.  Good stuff and a great end to a great show!

Check out their greatest hits on iTunes, or page down to see the setlist.

Rock On – Cretin

Setlist

Layin’ It On the Line
No Way Out
Jane
Sara
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
Stranger
Winds of Change
Set the Night to Music
White Rabbit
Somebody to Love
Fooled Around and Fell in Love
Find Your Way Back

Encore:
We Built This City
Rocky Raccoon

Cy Curnin – Unplugged and Engaged

Cy Curnin Live
Cy Curnin at Velvet Sessions Unplugged

Cy Curnin, has been entertaining rock music fans for more than twenty-five years. He continues to morph his sound and polish his approach keeping him a relevant voice in the rock music world. Best known as the distinctive voice behind The Fixx, he’s also had a successful solo career, and he impressed the crowd Saturday night with an engaging Unplugged set at the Velvet Lounge in Orlando.

This was my first trip to a Velvet Sessions Unplugged show and it was a great experience.  The stage is set up in the lobby lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel, and is a nice intimate arrangement.  There were reasonable priced reserved tables near the stage and plenty of free standing-room spots. The sparse stage this night included an acoustic guitar, a keyboard and the dapper Curnin, himself, adorned in his frock from Kilimanjaro

Curnin shared a nice mix of Fixx hits, a few deeper cuts and some of his solo stuff during the highly interactive 90 minute set. His voice was perfect, having held up magnificently after all of these years of performing. He conversed with the audience throughout, sharing many stories and life experiences and truly seemed to enjoy the interactions. He was an affable front man, who engaged everyone in the crowd throughout the show.

The highlight of the set was a haunting stripped down version of “Saved By Zero.” It was almost unrecognizable versus the original, yet was a fantastic spin on The Fixx classic. The audience favorite was “Red Skies,” which featured considerable audience participation.

He’s also a rocker with a conscience, sharing his experiences and affinity for  Love Hope Strength Foundation (LHSF) and a few environmental organizations with the crowd. LHSF is the brain child of Mike Peters (The Alarm) and is a musician driven organization focused on Cancer survivors.

All told, it was a fantastic, unplugged concert, showcasing a talented, engaging and caring performer.

Lit Tears It Up in Orlando

Lit still has it.  They’ve been relatively quiet over the last seven years dealing with some crushing tragedies, but have bounced back powerfully!

The Fullerton, California quintet is touring in support of their forthcoming release The View From the Bottom. As front man A. Jay Popoff shared, the band always seems to start or end their tours in the Sunshine State. True to his word, they just started  this tour the prior night in South Florida. But, they’re already in prime touring form.

The set list at Hard Rock Hotel’s Velvet Sessions featured most of the band’s hits, including a handful off of their breakthrough 1999 release A Place In the Sun, including their energetic opener “Four” and the fan favorite “My Own Worst Enemy” which closed the show. Overall, the band offered an energetic passionate set and were on top of their game, mixing in some choice cuts from their forthcoming release The View From the Bottom.

Brothers A. Jay and Jeremy Popoff (lead guitar) with Kevin Blades (bass) are the original core to the band and still dominate the stage. They engaged the crowd throughout the night and genuinely seemed to be having a fun time.  They were joined on stage by Ryan Gilmor on guitar and former drum tech Nathan Walker who has replaced the deceased Allen Shellenberger. The band was cohesive on stage and genuinely seemed to be having a great time playing along side each other. It carries through on stage,where they interacted with the crowd all night. (As a nice touch, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band shower the crowd with more souvenir guitar picks.)

The band played a handful of new songs off of the forthcoming album and they were well-received by the appreciative crowd.  “You Tonight” and “Same Shit. Different Drink” are two that are destined to be fan favorites, but they were all strong cuts. The album comes out on June 29th.  In the meantime, click on the Free Music Friday link on the top of this page for a free download of “Same Shit, Different Drink.”

The band came out for their encore with a great rendition of Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” then ratcheted up the frenzied crowd with a fantastic version of “My Own Worst Enemy.” It was a perfect way to wrap up a great set.

Rock On! – Cretin

Setlist

Four
You Tonight
C’mon
Something to Someone
Too Fast for a U-Turn
Looks Like They Were Right
She Don’t Know
Lipstick and Bruises
Over My Head
Zip-Lock
Same Shit Different Drink
Miserable
Miss U Gone
The Broken

Encore
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding
My Own Worst Enemy

 

 

Marshall Tucker Orlando Concert Review

Legendary rockers, The Marshall Tucker Band brought their tour to Florida last night, and they put on a strong show at the Orlando Jai Alai. Doug Gray is the sole original member still touring with the band, as they celebrate 40 years of classic Southern Rock.  Although not original members, the current version of the band has been touring together for years, and they are a tremendously talented, cohesive group of musicians.

Gray’s voice was rough, and he struggled to hit the notes that were originally sung by founding member and primary song-writer, the deceased Toy Caldwell. But, that was the only negative the entire night. Gray was still an affable, entertaining front man.  He interacted with the crowd all night, was constantly smiling and laughing, and shared more than a few priceless nuggets from the band’s storied past, including the fact that the last time they played a Jai Alai venue was in 1972 in Miami.

As for the venue, it was surprisingly a great place to see a show.  I’ll leave it at that for now, but we’ll have a review for the venue posted in the next day or two.

The band kicked off the show with a crisp extended version of “This Old Cowboy,” where Rick Willis and Stuart Swanlund traded off nice guitar riffs.  In total, they played just eight songs, yet played for over 90 minutes as most songs included extended versions and solos galore.

One of the early highlights was “Take the Highway,” where keyboard player and flutist, Marcus James Henderson, took the lead vocal.  Aside from nailing the vocals, he shared several powerful flute solos that brought the crowd to their feet.  Before this show, I hadn’t realized how prominently The Marshall Tucker Band featured the flute, but it was a welcome change.

During “24 Hours at a Time,” Marcus traded his flute for a sax, and absolutely tore up the stage.  Willis and Swanlund  again traded off guitar leads, and we also got to see nice bass and drum solos from Pat Elwood and B.B. Borden respectively.  The song lasted at least fifteen minutes, and went by in a flash as it was thoroughly entertaining.

The talent in the band was impressive throughout the night.  The solos were powerful and passionate, and the band members all had their moments in the spotlight.  Henderson, Swanlund and Willis all took lead vocals on for at least one song.  I loved Willis’s powerful vocals which were eerily reminiscent of Toy Caldwell’s back in the 70’s.  Good stuff!

They closed with a fantastic sing-along version of “Can’t You See” which was Gray’s shining moment. The song that some consider to be the greatest Southern Rock song ever, had the crowd fully engaged, on their feet and singing along throughout. They took a few bows, introduced their encore without leaving the stage and belted out a great version of “Blue Ridge Mountain Sky.”

Overall, a nice show with some fantastic musicians that helped bring back that great 70’s classic Southern Rock vibe, at least for a night.

Local musicians Charlie D and the Things opened the show with a fun thirty minute set. The band features Charlie De Cosa a local musician who has played with many bands over the years. The definitely give off a Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers vibe, and did a good job warming up the crowd.

Rock On – Cretin

See the Setlist below.


Setlist:

This Old Cowboy
Fire On the Mountain
Take the Highway
Heard It In A Love Song
Midnight Promises
24 Hours At A Time
Can’t You See
Blue Ridge Mountain Sky

The Karaoke Channel Store

Lovedrug Concert Review

Lovedrug touched down in Orlando this weekend as they tour in support of their excellent new release of Wild Blood.

They played an energetic, yet short set in the cozy confines of Back Booth.  The quartet sounded excellent and seemed to truly enjoy their limited time on stage, from Michael Sheppard’s opening guitar riff on “Pink Champagne” through the powerful closer “Anodyne.” The group was tight, and sounded excellent during the forty-five minute set.

Lovedrug Michael Sheppard Live
Lovedrug Michael Sheppard Live at Back Booth

The first three selections were all off of Wild Blood. “Pimk Champagne” and “Wild Blood” had the crowd bouncing and singing along to kick the show off, and singer/guitarist Michael Sheppard sounded great.  Jeremy Gifford, who played guitar most of the night shifted over to keyboards during “Dinosaur” which was one of the early crowd favorites, particularly during the call-and-answer segment.

The highlight of the show was the fantastic “In Red” off of the band’s Pretend Your Alive album. Drummer James Freshwater and bassist Thomas Bragg absolutely powered this driving song, and seemed to have a blast doing it. Gifford and Sheppard traded off impressive guitar leads, with the latter displaying his broad vocal range hitting some nice high notes.

The foursome closed out the show with a great version of “Anodyne,” the song that also closes out the new album.  The crowd packed the small club and knew all of the songs. Speaking with the band after the show, they felt good about the Orlando welcome, and were looking forward to the next few months on the road.

I was hoping to hear “Ladders” and “Premonition” but imagine they were casualties of the shortened set time.  All told, it was an evening that whet my appetite for more Lovedrug.

Local bands Valise and Savannah did a nice job opening the show.

Rock On – Cretin!

Check out our Album Review of Wild Blood

Setlist:
Pink Champagne
Wild Blood
Dinosaur
Blood Like
Ghost By Your Side
Pushing the Shine
Great Divide
In Red
Black Out
Anodyne

Huey Lewis and the News

The first time I saw Huey Lewis and the News was at one of those all-day rock festivals in the early eighties with about 80,000 of my closest friends. Their set was relatively short and included all of their hits. It was an energetic, electric, fun time. A few years later, I saw them headlining an arena tour, pimping their newest album; this time they failed to impress. When they visited Orlando this weekend for a free concert on the streets of the City, I was curious to see what show we were going to get all these years later.

The band launched into their 90 minute set, entering to a pounding heartbeat and one of their biggest hits, “The Heart of Rock and Roll.” The band played all of their hits and truly seemed focused on reminiscing their successful career. Huey Lewis, at the age of 61, is still a strong front man. He interacted with the crowd all night, still bounced around the stage (albeit a little bit more slowly), retaining a decent semblance of his trademark gravelly voice, truly seeming to enjoy himself.

All of the expected tunes were there, and they also included a few twists. At one point all of the band members came front and center and sang a few a cappella doo wop songs. They all seemed to have a blast, yet I couldn’t help thinking of an aged local lounge act legends Mark and Lorna, as they belted out “Sixty Minute Man.” In any event, the large crowd was clearly happy.

The band also added a few other covers, including an excellent version of JJ Jackson’s classic Motown hit “But It’s Alright.” They closed the set with “Back In Time” and then returned for a two song encore that had the crowd singing and dancing in the streets, as they closed with a nicely slowed down version of “Do You Believe In Love?” and their signature “Working For A Living.” They embody the spirit of that song and absolutely worked hard to please the satisfied crowd.

Long-time News members Johnny Colla on Sax, Bill Gibson on drums, Sean Hooper on Keyboards, John Pierce on bass and Stef Burns on guitar are still touring with the band. It’s a welcome anomaly these days as most 80’s bands tour with one key member and a bunch of recent graduates from The School of Rock.

All told, not spectacular, but a fun night out with a band aiming to please. Kudos to the group at 98.9 WMMO for putting on an excellent free downtown concert!

Mike G…