Roger Waters Dazzles Orlando with The Wall

“Rock concert” isn’t the right description.  Rock show? Rock extravaganza? Rock experience? Rock spectacle? Rock theater? They’re are all more accurate descriptions of what we were able to witness from Roger Waters’ The Wall Live, Saturday night at The Amway Center.

Waters brought his show to Orlando with a two hour production that actually brought The Wall extravaganza to an even greater level.  1979’s masterpiece, The Wall was Water’s seminal moment, and he’s taken the thirty years of technology and politics that have unfolded since to ratchet up the experience for fans everywhere.

It’s hard to imagine, but the spectacle that Orlando witnesses was actually toned down from the one he performs at outdoor venues! Still, what we saw on display was a near perfect rock ‘n roll experience. The show takes one of the greatest albums ever, updates the vision and ties in three years of animation effort to deliver a fantastic sensory experience.

roger waters the wall live
Roger Waters The Wall Live in Orlando (B. Hoenig)

The show started with a wall partially built about half way around the stage.  As the band kicked into “In The Flesh?,” Waters performed from in front of the wall structure with the remainder of the band visible through the openings in the wall.  The 68 year-old Waters sounded fantastic from the start. We also witnessed the only significant pyrotechnics of the show. They were impressive and perfectly timed, culminating with a model plane screaming across the crowd and exploding into the wall.

From there, Waters and the band went through the first two sides of the album.  There was minimal straying from the script, but in those brief moments, Waters seemed to be more affable than his former prickly self, and truly appeared to be basking in the warmth of the appreciative crowd.

During “Another Brick in the Wall,” we had a few nice treats.  A local group of singers took the stage to sing the children’s chorus and theatrically battled a huge inflatable demented teacher.  We also had our first real taste for David Gilmour’s replacement, as  Dave Kilminster nailed the guitar solo. Over the course of the night, we saw three different guitarists filling Gilmour’s void and Robbie Wyckoff ably taking his vocal leads.  Not the exact same perfection we could have expected from Gilmour, but truthfully, they were pretty damn good.

Throughout the show, the wall was just as much a focal point as the performers.  It was a technological masterpiece, where each block became interactive the moment it was installed. We saw some wild effects: a surging red sea, a battalion of WWII aircraft, freakish animated characters, worms, various effects to the wall itself and so much more. Some mind-blowing stuff, and every bit of it perfectly choreographed. The Amway Center really shined, as well. The surround sound effects and sound in general were excellent, and the ability to handle all of the effects so smoothly was impressive.

Two of the earlier highlights were a stark version of “Mother” where Waters sang a duet with a video of himself from the 1980 version of the song recorded live in London, and “Goodbye Cruel World” which he sang through the only remaining hole in the wall.  After closing the song, the final block was placed, completing the wall, which then stretched three stories high and the entire width of the arena.

The political messages and imagery throughout the show were prevalent and most centered on Water’s anti-war sentiment, driven by the deaths of his father and grandfather in World Wars II and I, and mistrust of government in general.

After intermission, “Hey You” was played entirely with the band hidden behind the wall.  It sounded great, but was admittedly odd never seeing the performers.  Shortly afterwards, a large segment of the wall folded forward revealing Waters in a living room setting staring at the TV. It was a wonderful theatrical touch to “Nobody Home,” and again Waters’ voice was perfect.

The remainder of the band basically played the entire side 3 of the album behind the wall, until the crowd favorite “Comfortably Numb,” which began with Waters alone in front of the wall.  At the beginning of the “David Gilmour” vocals, a spotlight found Wyckoff atop the wall. The vocals were perfect, and just as Gilmour’s signature guitar solo started, we spotted Kilminster high atop the opposite side of the wall and he absolutely nailed it, receiving the largest ovation of the night.

Roger Waters performing The Wall Live
Roger Waters performing The Wall Live in Orlando

For the last segment of the show, a drum kit rose from beneath the stage and the band performed from in front of the wall.  “In the Flesh” was another theatrical highlight, and Waters dedicated a brilliant version of “Run Like Hell” to all of the paranoids in the crowd.  The latter cut was the highlight of the show for me with absolutely stellar vocals from Waters.

Ten minutes later, the wall was a pile of rubble as the full band came out for a whimsical close with a nice unplugged version of “Outside the Wall.”  They soaked in the two minute standing ovation from the crowd before Waters introduced the fantastic players in the band, thanked the crowd and exited stage left.

A wonderful close to rock theater perfection.

Rock On! Cretin

If you were at The Wall Live, let us know what you thought of the show below.

Jackie Bristow Enchants Orlando

Just a woman and her guitar, but, oh my… what a nice sound…

Jackie Bristow live in Orlando
Jackie Bristow live in Orlando. Photo: Hallie Ballie

Jackie Bristow brought her beautiful voice back to Orlando, opening for John Waite at Plaza Live. The New Zealand born muse now hails from Austin, Texas, and she’s developed a distinctive, melodic voice that I would best describe as Kiwi Country.

The stories in the music were the clear highlight of the show. She offered soulful selections off of her 2007 release Crazy Love and several more from her 2010 offering Freedom. The highlight of her forty-five minute set was the title track off of “Crazy Love” an introspective look at a woman who can’t seem to shake the memory of a former love. “‘Cause there’s something about the way you look at me, I forgive your everything, Oh love, such a crazy love…” It’s a beautiful, tender song perfectly matched to Bristow and her pure style.

The sound in The Plaza Theater is pristine and was the perfect setting for Bristow who played her entire set solo, accompanied only by her trusty acoustic guitar. Her songs are stories from her life, and she did a great job bonding with the crowd all night.  In one humorous exchange she shared that she was a Southern Girl, born in Southern New Zealand, then moving to Austin (she also reminded the crowd that Southern New Zealand is a bit more frigid than the Southern U.S.)

On this night, she was the ideal opening act for John Waite and his band (see that review here). Surprisingly, she plays fairly often in Florida, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the next time she’s in town.  Good stuff!

Cretin
(see the full set list below)

Here’s Jackie performing Crazy Love from her show in Orlando last year: Crazy Love: Live

Setlist

Tempted
Running
Come Down
Freedom
Crazy Love
Rolling Stone
Innocence
Holy Mess
Crying

John Waite Tumbles through Orlando

Shaun Hague and John Waite
Shaun Hague and John Waite. Photo: Hallie Ballie

Almost a year to the day, John Waite returned to Orlando for another strong show at The Plaza Live in Orlando.  He’s supporting his Rough and Tumble Tour with a strong band and this night, he was at his interactive best. It was clear early on that this was going to be a special night. The cozy crowd of a few hundred folks seemed to instantly put Waite into a story-telling mode and he shared quick snippets, chatting and joking with the crowd all night, seemingly having a blast throughout the sixteen song set. The sound at the cozy Plaza Live venue is just great, and was spot on for this show.

The setlist featured songs from all stages of Waite’s career as well as a few nice surprises. He kicked off the set with two rocking cuts off of the new album, “Rough and Tumble,” the title track and “Better Off Gone,” which featured a fantastic guitar solo from the uber-talented Shaun Hague. From there, Waite deftly navigated through his catalog as well as a few classics from past bands Bad English and The Baby’s.

It’s been 30 plus years since the heyday of The Baby’s, yet Waite’s under-rated voice is as good as ever, and he’s always pushing himself in new directions. For fans of that era, we got to hear “Back On My Feet Again,” featuring some phenomenal bass work from Philadelphia native and Dee Dee Ramone lookalike Tim Hogan. “Head First,” “Every Time I Think of You” and a stripped down version of “Isn’t It Time” were also on the set list. They were all decent and certainly crowd favorites, but on this night, the new stuff really shined.

“If You Ever Get Lonely” is a great love song just screaming for radio play and one of a handful on the new album co-written with Kyle Cook of Matchbox Twenty.  “Sweet Rhode Island Red” is a groovy Tina turner cover that conjures up nice memories of The Baby’s. We also had a chance to listen to two other covers, a smoking version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” where Hogan, Hague and drummer Rhondo dominated the stage and then a cool version of Vince Gill’s “Whenever You Come Around.”

When Waite introduced the fantastic “Bluebird Cafe” he shared a poignant moment with the crowd, noting that after composing that track, it was the first time he actually considered himself to be a story-teller.

He finished the night up with four huge crowd favorites. A nice Rhondo drum solo melded into Waite’s biggest hit “Missing You,” followed with his biggest Baby’s hit “Head First” which had the crowd on its feet and singing along.

The crowd pulled Waite back out for an encore and a solo version of Bad English’s “When I See You Smile.” It was a great singalong version that again had everyone on their feet and in fine voice.  His band mates then joined him for a powerful closing version of “Every Time I Think of You,” a great end to a great show.

I have to add that Waite did something almost unheard of these days after the show.  He and Hogan stayed around on stage mixing with the fans, until they had signed articles for everybody waiting; a wonderful touch of class!

Rock On – Cretin!

(Please check out the full setlist below)

Setlist

Rough and Tumble
Better Off Gone
Back on My Feet Again
If You Ever Get Lonely
All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover)
Whenever  You Come Around (Vince Gill cover)
Bluebird Cafe
Isn’t It Time
Mr. Wonderful
Downtown
Imaginary Girl
Sweet Rhode Island Red
Drum Solo
Missing You
Head First

Encore
When I see You Smile
Every Time I Think of You

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

 

Central Florida June Concert Calendar

SMS Audio LLC

Another great month of diverse Rock and Roll across Central Florida, highlighted by the Drowning Men in Orlando, as well as The Cult, Against Me!, Coldplay and The Rocket Summer.

Orlando

6/4, Two Door Cinema Club – These Alt-Rockers are all over the airwaves on Sirius-XM and for good reason. Check them out at The Beacham. They’re also touring with a nice opener: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

6/5, The Drowning Men open for River City Extension at The Social. Check out these guys. We loved their last album Beheading of the Songbird, and have heard they are great live! Here’s our album review to whet your appetite.

6/5, Bon Iver at Hard Rock Live

6/6, John Waite at The Plaza Theater.  The former Baby’s front man puts on an excellent show and sounds great still today. We caught him last year. Check out our review, and don’t miss Jackie Bristow who opens, beautiful voice…

6/6, City and Colour at The Beacham

6/13, Puscifer at Hard Rock Live

6/16, BoDeans at The Plaza Theater

6/16, The Cult with Against Me! tear up HOB.  Both bands are fantastic live; required attendance for all of you Rock and Roll Animals!

6/16, ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down. Both bands are playing at Universal Studios, which requires park admission. Might be worth going if you already have passes.

6/16, Roger Waters. The legendary guitarist from Pink Floyd performs The Wall. It will be a great show, but break open your piggy bank for this one.

6/18, G. Love and Special Sauce, Beachside Tavern in New Smyrna Beach

6/20, The Rocket Summer at The Social

6/28, Eric Johnson at The Plaza Theater

Cheap concert tickets

Tampa Area

6/3, Styx at Ruth Eckard Hall

6/5, City and Colour at The Ritz Ybor

6/6, Two Door Cinema Club at The Ritz Ybor with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

6/7, Bon Iver at Carol Morsoni Hall

6/8, John Waite at Capitol Theater in Clearwater with Jackie Bristow

6/11, Puscifer at Ferguson Hall

6/14, BoDeans at Jannus Live in St. Pete

6/17, ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down at Tropicana Field

6/19, The Rocket Summer at The State Theater in St. Pete

6/28, Coldplay in support of their fantastic Mylo Xyloto album comes to the Tampa Bay Times Forum

6/29, Boston at Ruth Eckard Hall. This one intrigues as I’ve never had the chance to see “this local band out of Boston…”

6/30, Def Leppard and Poison at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. This one is a guaranteed fun time.

Jacksonville

6/8, ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down at St. Augustine Amphitheater

6/27, Eric Johnson at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall

6/29, Rinog Starr and His All-Star Band at St. Augustine Amphitheater. Ringo’s touring with Steve Lukather and Todd Rundgren among others.

6/30, Chevelle at Mavericks. Check out our album review here.

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

Joey Ramone’s New Music is the Answer

Sixteen years after parting ways with the godfathers of punk rock, and ten years after losing a long battle with lymphoma, Ramones front man Joey Ramone is again making waves with his latest album, …Ya Know?

Like so many other posthumous releases, I suspected the album would be a pure money grab packed with leftover dregs from earlier projects. I was wrong.  The album is a nice collection of earlier stuff, but with a cool twist. The project started when Ed Stasium and Ramone’s real brother Mickey Leigh obtained the rights to the remaining tapes of Joey’s unreleased vocal tracks, all recorded in the dozen years preceding his passing. From there, they assembled an all-star band to lend their music to the project; folks like Richie Ramone, Steve Van Zandt, Joan Jett, Bun E. Carlos, Mickey Leigh and a slew of other contemporaries from New York City.

The result is an album that’s pretty damn diverse, and a fitting tribute.  You’ll hear a few cuts that hearken back to the Gabba Gaaba Heydays of the Ramones, but you’ll also hear Joey stretching himself in numerous surprising ways throughout the album.

The album kicks off with “Rock ‘N Roll is the Answer,” the first single.  It’s a decent song, but there are plenty of better choices as single releases.  “New York City” is reminiscent of classic Ramones and a hell of a lot of fun.  It’s a straight forward ode to the city where Joey reached legendary status.

A couple of the songs remind me musically of Social Distortion, just with Joey subbing in for Mike Ness.  Check out “What Did I Do to Deserve You” and “Seven Days of Gloom” for a taste.  “Eyes of Green” and “I Couldn’t Sleep” could have been plucked directly from the happy hard-driving regional rock of the late 80’s. “21st Century Girl” is of the same vein, and as a bonus, features Joan Jett on guitar and backing vocals.

“Party Line” is surely a holdover from the Phil Spector days and is the most intriguing track on the album. It comes off as a duet with Holly Beth Vincent, who you may remember from Joey’s “I Got You Babe” cover. The song also features Van Zandt on guitar, and shows Ramone singing in a new range.  It’s addictive stuff.

…’Ya Know? also displays Joey’s tender side on “Make Me Tremble and “Waiting for That Railroad.” Neither will remind you of Ramones, but they’re both interesting peeks into Ramone’s soft side, and the former is a pretty good song. You’ll also get to hear Joey put a nice spin on his previously released Christmas tune “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).”

The album is a nice surprise and leaves me reminiscing once again about the Godfather of American Punk and wishing we had been given the chance to watch him mature and adapt to the times.  On …’Ya Know? at least we finally get  a glimpse.

Rock On – Cretin

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