Tag Archives: Concert review

TSO – Wizards of Winter

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The Wizards of Winter are back on the road this winter bringing their unique show to cities across the country.  I wondered if a review of their show belonged on a website dedicated to Rock and Roll Animals.

So, let’s do multiple choice; What exactly is a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show? A.  Rock Concert; B.  Broadway Show; C.  Opera; D.  Christmas Pageant?

The answer: “E” – All of the Above.  These guys rock, but it’s so much more than your standard rock concert. The best description, with all due respect to BNL has to be a Rock Spectacle.

I’ve heard folks knock them for being overly commercialized. They might be, but they clearly care about their fans. They stick around and sign autographs after the show, they give away programs and concert T-Shirts to lucky fans in the arena, and they donate serious cash to local charities.

Then there’s the refrain “they’re not a real rock band, their members change all the time.” They do, and truth be told, they have two touring bands during their hectic Christmas season. But, the core members have been together since they formed in 1993 as a band called Savatage. The same core group writes the music, designs the shows and then divides and conquers on the stages.

“OK, fine, they’re still just a big Broadway show, with nice actors, right?” Uh, no. These guys (and gals) can rock. Sure, they all have hair the Jennifer Aniston would kill for and look like Glamour models, but they are pure musicians, too. They play with an orchestra, feature an assortment of rotating vocalists, but make no mistake, their sound is powered by the seven primary band members – and they absolutely rock.

The first half of the concert primarily revolves around the band’s trilogy of Christmas albums.  A storyteller weaves the thread tying all of the songs together, and features some of their bigger hits. The vocals are spectacular, the eight piece string section spot on, the keys magnificent, the drums and bass powerful, and the lead guitars excellent.  It’s sort of Meatloaf meets Emerson Lake and Palmer, only in the 21st Century and with an amazing stage show. “First Snow,” “An Angel Returned” and “Christmas Eve Sarajevo” were the highlights.

This was my first full blown rock show in the new Amway Center, and the sound was great.  We sat opposite the stage in the second level – a perfect spot to enjoy the full breadth of the show.  The light show is the best I’ve ever seen, the lasers are fantastic, the pyrotechnics dynamic, and the sound was perfect.  Add in a flying catwalk that raises up 40 feet over the crowd and spans the entire floor, and a telescoping 2nd stage on the floor, and you see some cutting edge stuff.

The second half of the show offered a bit more diversity from the band including a few strong songs from their Night Castles double album. This portion is a bit darker, with the selections punctuated by a heightened pyrotechnic and fireworks show.  It was quite easy to forget we were inside.  Throughout it all, the music was pristine and the band thoroughly entertaining. The best song of the night was their classic “Wizards in Winter.”

For “Queen of the Winter Night,” the female vocalist climbed onto the secondary stage at the back of the arena and blew the crowd away with her amazing vocals. The band then threw in a nice drum solo on the most tricked up drum kit I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a bunch…

As the night wound down, they kicked into a spirited dueling keyboards segment that included a cool Charlie Brown symphony, and then slid directly into one of their own classic Christmas tunes “Wish Liszt.” From there, 2 1/2 hours after we started our journey, they brought the house down with their finale, the reprise of “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo.”

All told, a family friendly rock and roll spectacle, well worth checking out.

Rock On – Cretin

Social Distortion Shares Some Nursery Rhymes at HOB

Mike Ness and Social Distortion delivered a powerful set at House of Blues in Orlando last night in front of an electric and packed House. Ness has long epitomized the consummate bad-ass rock and roll front man and he still carries that torch.

Social D is touring in support of Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, their first studio album in the past seven years. Still they only included two songs from the latest album: “Machine Gun Blues” and “Bakersfield.” Instead of shamelessly pushing the new tunes, they reached deep into their catalog, featuring classics from the past three decades, and throwing in a few nice surprises along the way. Perfect for the fervid fans in attendance.

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The band exploded onto the stage with a powerful version of “1945” and immediately ratcheted it up a notch when they moved into crowd favorite, 1983’s “Daddy’s Little Monster,” which pushed the considerably-sized mosh pit into a fever pitch. Then it was directly into their current hit “Machine Gun Blues” and a great singalong version of “Bad Luck” before Ness finally caught his breath.

Ness was energetic and engaged the crowd all night.  His signature vocals may have been even a bit more raspy at this point in his career, but still sounded strong considering his three decades of heavy touring.

Longtime sidekick Jonny Wickershamm was back on guitar.  He and Ness traded off the lead throughout the evening while bassist Brent Harding and drummer David Hidalgo, Jr kept the hard driving rhythm guiding the set all night. The only issue all night was that the sound mix was a little muddy – especially earlier in the show.

Other setlist highlights included “Story of My Life,” “So Far Away” and another fun singalong, this time to “Six More Miles” – an old Hank Williams cover.  The band closed the core sixty minute set with “Nickels and Dimes.”

For the encore, they took the pitch up a notch and started with “Dear Lover” and “Don’t Drag Me Down” before closing it out with powerful versions of fan favorites “Prison Bound” and their fantastic cover of “Ring of Fire.”

Eighty minutes of energy and passion with a set-list clearly designed with the fans in mind; a great night with the greatest hard rocking punkabilly band ever.

Setlist

  • 1945
  • Mommy’s Little Monster
  • Machine Gun Blues
  • Bad Luck
  • So Far Away
  • King of Fools
  • Story Of My Life
  • Bakersfield
  • Sweet & Lowdown
  • Reach for the Sky
  • Six More Miles (Hank Williams cover)
  • Nickels and Dimes

Encore:

  • Dear Lover
  • Don’t Drag Me Down
  • Prison Bound
  • Ring of Fire
Chuck Ragan warmed the crowd up with an impressive set of his trademark folksy rock.  He and fiddle player Jon Gaunt and bassist Joe Ginsberg filled the forty minute set with an interesting and unique blend of contemporary rock.

Checkout our video snippets of the show on our YouTube channel: Social D in Orlando 

B-52s Land in Orlando

The B-52’s, the legendary 80’s Cosmic Rockers, touched down in Orlando for a show in the new Amway Center this weekend. WMMO, Orlando’s Classic Rock station hosted the free show. Typically these shows are hit or miss, and it’s always a dice roll as to whether you get a band playing with passion or just collecting a paycheck. Honestly I sensed a little bit of both on this night. The current edition of the touring B-52’s includes all four original living members. Front man Fred Schneider and fellow vocalist Cindy Wilson seemed to be going through the motions most of the night. On the opposite side of the specturm, guitarist Keith Strickland and timeless singer Kate Pierson were absolutely engaged and on the top of their game.

The other three touring members are all accomplished rockers and did a fine job keeping the rhythm and keys fresh throughout the evening. Stirling Campbell (Cindy Lauper, Soul Asylum) was on drums and Paul Gordon (New Radicals, Goo Goo Dolls) manned the keyboards. Former Waitresses member Tracy Wormworth was on bass.

Pierson’s vocals were spectacular throughout the night, and she still looks and moves like she did in the eighties. Truly amazing! Strickland seemed stoked from the first song, played with energy and gave a nice heart-felt close at the end of the show. Fred was noticeable, but lethargic, and his voice is showing signs of the many tours under his belt.

The show kicked off with a decent version of “Pump,” and then immediately moved to one of their classics, “Private Idaho.” Over the course of the evening they played 17 songs in their 80 minute set and played all of their classics including “Mesopotamia,” “52 Girls,” “Roam” and “Cosmic Thing.” The band was tight, and the musicianship was excellent all night.

Fred took a brief break in the middle of the set, and Kate Pierson moved front and center, and blew the crowd away on the lead for “Roam” and “52 Girls” with Wilson.  Schneider then returned with a strong version of “Party Out of Bounds.”

They closed their set with a great sing-along version of “Love Shack” that had the crowd on its feet. The band returned for an excellent two song encore that kicked off with absolutely stunning vocals from Pierson. As the band kicked into Planet Claire, which s probably my favorite B-52’s tune, Pierson sang the entire intro perfectly on pitch. True confession – I always thought that intro was a synthesizer and not vocals. Absolutely fantastic! The song was great and raised the fever pitch of the crowd for their signature closing song, “Rock Lobster,” which brought the house down.

All-in-all, I’m glad I finally got to see these guys live, but can’t help but wonder how much better they were when they were all at their peak.

The band is touring in support of their just released live album, With the Wild Crowd! (Live In Athens, GA), that features many of the songs in the setlist noted below. Check it out on i-Tunes.

Finally, a shout out to the folks at WMMO. Due to tropical storm-like deluges, the show was moved from an outdoor venue to the modern new arena at the last minute. Kudos to WMMO and the City for pulling off that feat flawlessly.

Thanks – Mike G.

Setlist
Pump
Private Idaho
Mesopotamia
Ultraviolet
Dancing Now
Give Me Back My Man
Funplex
Roam
52 Girls
Party Out of Bounds
Love in the year 3000
Cosmic Thing
Hot Corner
Whammy Kiss
Love Shack
Planet Claire
Rock Lobster

 

Collective Soul Rocks Hard Rock’s 40th Birthday Bash

I’ll admit; attending this show was a total afterthought.  I went to the Downtown Throwdown to see a few other personal favorites playing in celebration of Hard Rock Cafe’s 40th Birthday in downtown Orlando.  As I left the powerful Everclear show (read about it here) I swung by the Main Stage to check out the night’s closing band.

I was not a huge Collective Soul fan, but I was pretty damn impressed.  These guys from Atlanta are great musicians, they were having a great time and still performing at a high level. The heart and soul of this band are three original members, Ed and Dean Roland on Guitar and  Will Turpin on bass, as well as long-time lead guitarist Joel Kosche. Ed Roland handles all of the vocals and is a strong presence on stage.

The free outdoor show had a great turnout, and the long city block was packed for their 75 minute set. I missed the first few songs, as their set overlapped with Everclear’s, but still got to hear the quintet play a slew of their past #1 Rock hits, highlighted by “Gel,” “Where the River Flows,” “December,”” and “The World I Know.”

The highlight of the show was a song that I was unfamiliar with “Hollywood,” which is from the band’s 2007 album Afterwords.  The track is a great modern blend of their classic sound.  It was great, but made even better by interspersing a medly including Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” (complete with Ed taking the lead and channeling his best Angus Young duck walk),  some more AC/DC with “Dirty Deeds,” and then back into “Hollywood.”  Fun stuff. One concert goer uploaded a fun snippet of the song to Youtube. Take a peek.

Another cool observation: instead of stepping off the stage for an encore, Rowland shared with the crowd, “we just stand over there, make you cheer for awhile and come out and play our final cuts. Let’s just stay out here and play.”  And, they did just that, rocking the streets of Orlando for an additional 15 minutes. They closed the show with an extended version of “Shine.” Kosche tore through an energetic solo, and Ed Roland led the crowd in an impressive singalong. He was the consummate front man interacting with the crowd throughout and generally having a great time.  His voice was superb, as well.

This time I saw them by chance. Next time they’re in town, I’ll be back by choice!

Cretin

A peek at “Gel” and “The World I Know”

Everclear Rocks the Downtown Throwdown

The Hard Rock Cafe celebrated it’s 40th Birthday with a free all-day blowout on the streets of Orlando on Saturday night.  West Coast rockers, Everclear put a nice end to the day’s festivities at the Wall Street stage with a powerful and engaging set that featured many of the hits that made them a stalwart act in the nineties when I first saw them live.

The band is still fronted by the energetic Art Alexakis, who is the heart and soul behind the band, and the only original member still with Everclear.  Alexakis seemed to be having tons of fun throughout the sixty minute set, often joking with the crowd and his band mates.  At times it was hard to picture the effervescent front man as the same guy who had endured a severely troubled and drug-filled youth.  The songs and the lyrics are still as poignant as ever, and his vocals still powerful and distinctive, but he seems to be having a blast sharing them. A decade or so later, all of the songs still ring true.

The set was highlighted by great versions of “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom” and a few songs from their fantastic 1995 album So Much For the Afterglow; a song Alexakis introduced as a song about love, not money, “I Will Buy You a New Life” and “Everything To Everyone.”

The guys spent the middle of their set focused on 2000’s Song From an American Movie. playing “AM Radio,” “Wonderful,” and then their excellent rendition of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” performed this night with Alexakis alone on stage with just his acoustic guitar.  “Brown Eyed Girl” was just one of many cover tunes they toyed with during the show.  It was followed immediately by an acapella version of the Rolling Stones “Faraway Eyes” which featured the entire band crowded around a microphone in the middle of the stage.

They continued their focus on cover tunes when they kicked off their encore with a very cool medley that featured

  • Judas Priest’s “Living After Midnight”
  • Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”
  • Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing”
  • Deep Purple’s “Smoke On the Water”
  •  The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane”
  • And, finally an awesome close with a rousing version of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Rock and Roll” featuring the Parlor Mob’s Mark Malicia on vocals.

They closed the night out with an audience sing-along to their signature hit “Santa Monica” which is still as relevant and timeless today.

Alexakis noted that the current configuration of the band will be headed back to the studio soon to record some new music. Looking forward to hearing the new stuff and discovering what’s up next for Alexakis and crew.

Cretin

A Peek at “I Will Buy You a New Life”


Worth the Waite

Definitely, worth the wait!

I finally had a chance to check out one of my early favorites; about 30 years after I should have.  John Waite made a stop in Orlando on Sunday evening for a show at Plaza Theater Live. Waite first hit my radar as lead singer of The Baby’s late in the Seventies, then had some hits of his own in the 80’s and with Bad English in the 90’s, but for some reason, I never saw him perform live.

He got the show off to a rousing start with a version of The Baby’s “Back On My Feet Again,” in front of an appreciative yet small crowd at this fantastic venue. His distinctive voice is still perfect, and his three piece band sounded sharp.  Truthfully, I went to the show hoping he’d play every song off of Anthology (The Baby’s 1981 Greatest Hits album), throw in a couple of other hits and call it a night, but John has grown up a bit over the years, and I think it is safe to say he’s moved on since the band broke, as he noted “It’s hard to believe that The Baby’s BROKE UP over 30 years ago.”

Over the remainder of the night, Waite only played two other Baby’s tunes, but filled the 90+ minute set with a diverse group of songs that spanned his last three decades.  “If You Ever Get Lonely” from his newly released “Rough and Tumble” album was great and would be a huge hit if he were an 18 year-old American Idol finalist, instead of a classic rocker in his 4th decade of touring. Other highlights included, Bad English’s “When I see You Smile, his own hits “Missing You” and his closer “Change.”  More than a few of his songs were clearly influenced by his Nashville days, and just added to his appealing musical diversity.

Waite frequently interacted with the crowd, shared some cool anecdotes, and genuinely seemed to be having a fun time.  The highlight for me was his unexpected cover of Dylan’s (and Jimi’s) “All Along the Watchtower.” He tore it up, with a nice assist from his guitarist – some young dude from Philly, who literally joined the band a few weeks earlier.

I have to confess that I missed the line-up of band members during a trip to the rest room  Did I mention that the Plaza has Longboard on tap?

The opening act was Jackie Bristow. a beautiful Kiwi with an equally beautiful voice. She play unaccompanied acoustic guitar and was very intriguing. Her voice was unique.  Mix Australian with a hint of Nashville and you’ll have an idea.  Lots of promise, for sure.

All told, it was a really good show from start to finish, highlighting Waite’s amazing voice and deep diverse music catalog. Not a weak song in the bunch. I’m thinking that I won’t wait 30+ years to catch him again.