Tag Archives: Hard Rock Hotel

Eddie Money Rocks Velvet Sessions

Eddie Money Velvet Sessions Show Review

In front of a packed house at Hard Rock Hotel’s Velvet Sessions, classic rock legend Eddie Money put on a hell of a show Thursday Night.  Money’ seventy-five set was filled with fan favorites that left the appreciative crowd well-satiated.

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Lou Gramm Offers Timeless Performance

Lou Gramm Review from RARA’s Farm

Lou Gramm Review Hard Rock Velvet Sessions Orlando
Lou Gramm in Concert at Hard Rock Hotel’s Velvet Sessions in Orlando
Lou Gramm Velvet Sessions Concert Review

The last time I saw Lou Gramm on stage was in the eighties, at Philadelphia’s Jam at JFK. With 100,000 raucous Foreigner fans packing the stadium, he commanded the huge crowd. Flash forward a few decades – on a balmy Orlando night, the setting was just a little more intimate, but the rock ‘n roll was timeless.

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Gramm and his new band headlined Velvet Sessions at Orlando’s Hard Rock hotel. The world’s greatest rock ‘n roll cocktail party is a different venue, one where the fans have a few drinks, grab some appetizers and catch rockers in a near-private setting. It’s always cool, but with Lou Gramm, the anticipation was clearly ratcheted up a notch. Most of the bands were once somewhat popular and had a few hits, but precious few had the hugely successful past that Gramm has.

The diminutive rocker clearly still has a passion for performing and on this night, he delivered a great show. I’ve been to a handful of Velvet Session shows in the past and it’s always a fun atmosphere, but on this night there was electricity in the air.  The show which was originally scheduled earlier in the year was rescheduled for July after Gramm experienced medical issues.

His voice might not have the same broad range it once possessed, and he definitely moves around the stage with a little less reckless abandon than the eighties model, but he still delivered a powerful engaging set to the packed crowd.

Over the course of the seventy-five minute set, Gramm played his solo hits, all of the classic Foreigner tunes and a few deeper cuts. He also threw in a handful of nice surprises that made the night memorable for the long time fans in attendance. (See the setlist below this review)

Gramm took the stage decked out in black, and Kicked the night off with the title track from Foreigner’s second album, “Double Vision,” After that, it was a non-stop journey through Gramm’s ample song-writing catalogue, and a set list that kept the fans engaged throughout. Early highlights included his solo hit “Ready Or Not” and an electric version of “Cold As Ice,” where the crowd sang along nicely.

Things ratcheted up a bunch when he invited out a ten piece choir to provide the background vocals for a beautiful version of “I Want To Know What Love Is.” He then invited sax player and Melbourne native, Carl Lewis to join him on stage, where the crowd was treated to the seldom played “Long, Long Way From Home” and its underrated sax pieces. Lewis tore it up, and then absolutely nailed one of rock music’s most iconic sax solos in a searing version of “Urgent.”

The highlight of the night was one of my personal favorites., “Jukebox Hero.” Gramm sounded great in a song that surprisingly translated well in the small setting. The band absolutely nailed it, but Gramm absolutely shined with lyrics that seemed as timely as ever: “Couldn’t get a ticket, it was a sold out show. Heard the roar of the crowd, he could picture the scene… Now he needs to keep rockin.’ He just can’t stop. Gotta keep on rockin’…”

Lou Gramm Review: Melbourne's Carl Lewis sax
Lou Gramm’s Band with Melbourne’s Carl Lewis on sax

The band sounded great throughout the show and offered non-stop energy. The highlight was the drumming. Lou’s brother, Ben is touring with the band, and it’s certainly not a charity act. Ben is an uber-talented jazz drummer and kept the band tight all evening. As great as he sounded, everyone was more excited when he stepped aside and let Dennis Elliott jump behind the skins.

Elliott, the original Foreigner drummer joined the band for their encore, a searing version of “Hot Blooded,” that sent the crowd into the warm night thoroughly satisfied.

The Velvet Sessions crowd was comprised primarily of 40 and 50-somethings, most of whom left thoroughly satisfied. I actually bumped into two separate couples from upstate New York, who saw Lou play with Rochester band Black Sheep in the early seventies before he teamed with Mick Jones to join Foreigner. Cool stuff.

Simply put, it was a special night for a small group of fans, who saw a rock ‘n roll legend up close and personal. If he’s in your town any time soon, this one is a can’t miss show.

If you were there, leave your thoughts on the show in our comments section.

Rock On!
Cretin


Setlist
Double Vision (Foreigner song)
Ready or Not
Feels Like The First Time (Foreigner song)
Just Between You and Me
Cold as Ice (Foreigner song)
That Was Yesterday(Foreigner song)
I Want to Know What Love Is(Foreigner song)
Long Way From Home (Foreigner song)
Urgent (Foreigner song)
Drum Solo
Blue Morning, Blue Day (Foreigner song)
Midnight Blue
Juke Box Hero (Foreigner song)

Encore:
Hot Blooded (Dennis Elliott on drums)

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


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.


Live’s Ed Kowalczyk Entertains at Velvet Sessions


It was about twenty years ago when a friend called to see if I wanted to check out this hot new Pennsylvania band playing a gig at the Jersey Shore. I passed on the show in order to take advantage of some cheap drink specials at a local dive – Stupid decision! A year later, Throwing Copper was released, and Live was a worldwide smash. Somehow in the ensuing decades, I never caught them “live,” but finally the stars seemed to align.

Ed Kowalczyk, the band’s charismatic singer and front man visited one of my favorite local venues, Hard Rock Hotel’s Velvet Sessions.  This event was billed as Live’s Ed Kowalczyk, as he and his band mates are going through a rancorous separation.  The rest of the original band is touring as Live, but now has a new lead singer. Kowalczyk is touring with his own band.  With that iconic distinctive voice, it was a no-brainer.

Kowalczyk is still a first rate performer, but quite honestly his band was mediocre.  The voice is the same and his on stage persona rocks, but this definitely isn’t the Live we knew and loved. The band took the stage and immediately ripped into a rocking version of “All Over You.” The crowd was rocking, but then came down a bit with “The Great Beyond” off of his 2010 debut solo album Alive. For most of the evening there was a similar ebb and flo.  Fever pitch for the Live classics, then a lull for the solo efforts.

His interaction with the crowd was excellent, and we had a chance to experience a bit of the storyteller in him.  He introduced his solo effort “Everlasting Love” as a song about his daughter, and “Heaven” a reflection on the women in his life.  Kowalczyk offered a nice nugget off of the first album, introducing “The Beauty of Gray” by offering “good songs hold up.”  He also spent a few minutes discussing a charity near and dear to his heart, World Vision, and actually auctioned off quick YouTube moments for folks willing to sponsor a child, rewarding them with instantaneous “Big Ed hugs.” It was a cool gesture.

For me, the highlights of the seventy minute set were an interactive version of “The Dolphin’s Cry” and “I Alone.” For their first encore, the band absolutely killed it with a romping version of  “Lakini’s Juice” that had the crowd in a frenzy.  But, then another dragging solo effort, this one the title track off of the new EP, “The Garden,” before closing the night with a stellar version of “Lightning Crashes.”

For those of you who have not been to a Velvet Sessions set, it actually takes place in the hotel lobby, and has a very cool vibe, and usually a surprisingly good sound mix.  For this show, it was off a bit, possibly caused by a rumored airline snafu, where the band’s equipment was lost the day of the show.  If so, certainly understandable.

All told, it was a decent show, but nothing spectacular.  Sure, we heard a bunch of Live classics and they sounded decent and were welcomed by the packed crowd, but there was just something missing.

Rock On!
Cretin

The setlist courtesy of a generous guy named Oliver is provided below.


Setlist from Ed Kowalczyk
Setlist from Ed Kowalczyk at Hard Rock Velvet Sessions in Orlando

Scott Stapp Offers an Intimate Show


It’s always cool catching a local musician playing an intimate show in a cozy venue; sharing stories about the songs he sings and mixing with the crowd. It’s even nicer when it’s free, and priceless when the singer is an engaging superstar storyteller like Scott Stapp of Creed. Last night at The Velvet Lounge at The Hard Rock Hotel a small group of fans were treated to a special evening with the reformed rock legend playing to a small appreciative crowd.

Scott Stapp at Velvet Bar
Scott Stapp at Velvet Bar in Orlando

 

Stapp was joined on stage by Brent Look on guitar. Look was introduced as the drum teacher for Stapp’s son Jagger and a cool guy to jam with. It set the stage for the laid back atmosphere. The duo seemed to be having a great time and enjoyed playing with each other in the kicked back Velvet Lounge acoustic setting.  The sixty-minute set featured some of Creed’s most enduring hits, a few solo Stapp selections and a couple of deeper cuts.

In the past, Stapp was often viewed as a bit of a pompous, self-centered ass, but throughout this show you’d never get that opinion.  He was just your local rocker chilling and chatting with some close friends.  He was humble and appreciative throughout and sounded great as he offered all of the songs with a new twist.

He’s centered on his family and his faith, and throughout the show was connecting with folks close to him. I’m fairly certain that his wife was keenly watching from the V.I.P. area, which just added to the comfortable feel of the set. But the relaxed atmosphere did nothing to slow down Stapp’s passionate performance.  He was quickly bathed in sweat as he poured himself into the songs. His voice sounded pristine and was powerful throughout the show.

The Creed front man was not at all over-bearing with his strong faith, yet he introduced “Higher” as a song about heaven; and before playing “Arms Wide Open” mentioned being inspired by Cristo Redentor, the huge Jesus status overlooking Rio de Janeiro. Over his career, he’s become quite the philanthropist and on this night focused raising money for Hard Rock’s Imagine There’s No Hunger foundation.

I enjoyed hearing “Justify” and “Weathered,” the latter one where he playfully admitted to forgetting a few words in the second verse.  There were also a few nice sing-along moments that left Stapp appreciative, including a dramatic version of “My Sacrifice” and the fantastic finale “One Last Breath,” where he closed with “That was beautiful my friends.”

Rock On!
Cretin

Stapp is currently touring in support of his new memoirs, Sinner’s Creed. I have not read the book yet, but Stapp has had an interesting life with numerous peaks and valleys, and word on the street is that it is deeply reflective. Visit his website to grab a copy

Setlist

Are You Ready
Higher
Arms Wide Open
Faceless Man
Weathered
My Sacrifice
Justify
One Last Breath

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