Shakin’ With the Money Man Before He Rocks Orlando’s Velvet Sessions
Eddie Money is a legendary performer who ruled rock music airwaves for long stretches of the 70’s and 80’s. Despite some well known struggles with addiction, he’s stood the test of time and is doing better than ever. Simply put, Eddie has got his act together. He’s happy, he feels great and he still has that iconic voice. Orlando rock fans are the beneficiaries, as he’s headed to The City Beautiful for this week’s Velvet Sessions.
These days, there are a crapload of classic rock bands who are a mockery of their former selves. There are countless bands out on the road, prostituting their name on a pure money grab, often touring without any original members. I was afraid I’d be in for more of the same when The Wailers played Velvet Sessions this week. I was totally wrong. The Wailers today are closely connected to the Wailers of 5 decades ago. They are reggae’s first family and on this sumptuous night, they delivered a legendary show for a sweaty, pulsating crowd at the cozy Hard Rock Hotel venue.
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’…”
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.
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)
Blue Morning, Blue Day (Foreigner song)
Juke Box Hero (Foreigner song)
Sixteen years after their last studio album, Coil, Toad The Wet Sprocket is on the verge of releasing a long-awaited new album. From what we heard at Hard Rock’s Velvet Sessions, the fans of the band are going to be quite pleased with the sound of the new stuff. Like that comfortable old sweatshirt from your college days, the band is back with their distinctive familiar feel.
The setlist included a few of the new tracks, highlighted by the title track “New Constellation” which had folks in the packed house dancing unabashedly. The songs have that same clean, slick feel we’ve grown accustomed to, and the band sound still possesses that smooth 90’s Alt-rock vibe.
Lead singer Glen Phillips still takes the stage bare-footed and looks much the same as he did all those years ago. His voice is as pure as we remember. His band mates miraculously remain the same guys who started the band out of high school in 1986 – amazing seeing a band that has stood that test of time without any personnel changes.
On this night, drummer Randy Guss was absent for a family emergency and as Phillips noted regarding his replacement “this guy has had two days to learn twenty songs,” and he did a damn good job (unfortunately, I did not catch his name). Phillips chatted with the crowd throughout the set in an affable way, at one time sharing humorous thoughts on his first album ever, Saturday Night Fever.
Dean Dinning on bass and Todd Nichols on guitar (and occasional lead vocals) haven’t missed a beat and were joined on stage by guest keyboardist Jonathan Kingham. The band did not have an electric triangle player on stage (there’s a reference for you Monty Python fans familiar with the derivation of the band’s name).
Highlights of the sets included the aforementioned “New Constellation,” a stripped down version of “Whatever I Fear” and the killer harmonies of “California Wasted.” The band’s hits were also very well received by the diversely aged crowd, highlighted by “All I Want,” “Something’s Always Wrong,” the dance-inducing “Fall Down” and the final song of the night, the singalong vibe of “Walk On the Ocean.”
As the band exited the stage, Monty Python’s clever “Always Walk on the Bright Side of Life” piped through the speakers, an apt way to end a bright and hopeful return to the rock music landscape.
The band’s new album is an independent release fueled by an uber-successful Kickstarter campaign. The targeted release date is mid-Septemeber. Check it out, and in the meantime, take advantage of the increased opportunities to see these guys live.
All I Want
Whatever I Fear
Come Back Down
Something’s Always Wrong
I’ll Bet on You
Walk on the Ocean
Let’s start with a confession: I saw this band at a free show five years ago and felt like I was ripped off. They were boring, seemed passionless and the sound mix was a mess. I was expecting the same this night, but oh my, how wrong I was! Simply put, these guys put on a great show in every sense of the word.
Longtime member, Wayne Nelson is the heart and soul of the band. He’s played bass and shared lead vocals for the band for decades, and is a comfortable, gregarious front man. The remainder of the players have been together for awhile and play extremely well off of each other. Guitarist Greg Hind shares lead vocals on a handful of songs and fills in admirably for original lead singer Glenn Shorrock. The musical highlight of the night was lead guitarist Richard Herring, who nailed numerous pristine solos and entertained the entire show.
Nelson seemed energized by the Hard Rock audience and interacted with the welcoming crowd throughout the entire ninety minute show. He was friendly and witty and made the already comfortable environment feel like a neighborhood get-together from the minute he hit the stage with “I love this Velvet Sessions venue.” He highlighted his humorous side when he introduced “Happy Anniversary” with, “If you’ve been in a grocery store or the dentist’s office anytime in the last twenty years, you know this next song.”
The stories and descriptions of the songs were captivating and made the show even more memorable, but the true focus of the night was the crisp performance of the band’s robust catalog. At one point, Nelson offered “This is your party, we’re just the band,” and the party was on. Highlights from the set included popular hits “Take It Easy on Me,” “The Other Guy” and “Help Is on Its Way” (see the full setlist below). I was also impressed by the two new cuts offered from their forthcoming album “The Lost and Lonely” and “My Own Man.” (Before you jump down my throat about using the wrong titles, I did not have the official setlist and guessed at the song names.)
For me the highlight of the set was a killer version of “Cool Change,” which kicked off with a fantastic keyboard/piano solo from Chris Marion and evolved into a full crowd participation event. Fun stuff…
As he sipped from his Perrier bottle, Nelson toasted the Florida rock music fans, who back in 1976 were the first Americans to welcome the Australians in Little River Band (today, Hind is the only Aussie in the line-up). The band then kicked into a nice extended instrumental introduction to “Lady.” After taking their bow, the quintet returned for a fun singalong encore of “Lonesone Loser,” but only after Nelson took a slew of crowd photos from the stage (which you can see here on their Facebook page).
It was a fun end to an excellent night of classic rock and roll, and one of those times I was happy to eat a little crow. Definitely a band that I would highly recommend in the future. (Check out their Greatest Hits and the show setlist at the end of the review).
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It’s a Long Way There
Man on Your Mind
Take It Easy on Me The Other Guy The Lost and Lonely (new) My Own Man (new)
Reminiscing Help Is on It’s Way The Night Owls Cool Change Playing to Win Lady
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)
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.
Just Before Dawn
Take A Risk
One Thing Leads to Another
Less Cities, More Moving People
Stand or Fall
Follow That Cab
Built For The Future
Saved by Zero
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.
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.
Ed Roland has been the heart and soul of the legendary rock band Collective Soul for the past eighteen years. He’s now embarked on an intriguing side effort, The Sweet Tea Project, and sounding better than ever. Roland and his band-mates hail from Atlanta, Georgia and had been playing Peach City extensively over the past few months, before kicking off their tour at Hard Rock’s Velvet Sessions.
Many in the crowd came expecting a Collective Soul show but were pleasantly surprised with the entertaining and fun set offered up by Roland and friends. Their music is a totally different take than Collective Soul, featuring a smooth, laid back folksy rock sound with a slight country vibe. It’s a refreshing new path for Roland, and an excellent show.
The line-up featured three guitarists, a bass player and drummer; pleasantly devoid of the synthesizers that dominate today’s new rock landscape. In short it was a nice old school approach with a fresh new sound. Although this is the first stop on their tour, the band was sharp and seemed totally cohesive throughout the show.
They kicked the set off with a rocking version of “Stomp” featuring lyrics that captured the band’s vibe: “Soak up summer… that sweet southern shine.” Throughout the set, Roland was clearly the focal point, yet all of the other band members took turns in the spotlight, and shared vocal responsibilities. He was extremely in the spotlight and interacted with the packed crowd all night.
The first hour plus was focused on the new music of The Sweet Tea Project, and a few of the fans got a bit antsy for the Collective Soul hits. But Roland and the band were quickly winning over the house and having an absolute blast playing their tunes and interacting with the fans. At one time offering “If it wasn’t different it would be fuckin’ Collective Soul up here.”
There were a few nice twists thrown in, as well. After sharing how influential Johnny Cash was to him, Roland kicked off a rollicking version of “Devils and Darlins” that morphed perfectly into Cash”s classic “Folsom Prison Blues.” They dedicated a song to folks in the military that was powered by heavy audience participation and later in the show offered up a few Lynyrd Skynyrd tidbits. When a fan shouted out “Freebird,” Roland and the band threw out a spontaneous three minute snippet of the rock anthem. Cool stuff!
They then closed with a nice collection of Collective Soul tracks, but creatively, each was performed with a Sweet Tea Project spin, and again it worked extremely well, highlighted by “December,” “Gel” and killer versions of “Shine and The World I Know.” A great end to a fantastic show.
If this band is in your area, it’s a can’t miss show, with or without the Collective Soul tracks.