Tag Archives: velvet sessions

Ed Roland’s Sweet Show in Orlando


Ed Roland and the Sweet Tea Project Show Review

Ed Roland and the Sweet Tea Project at Hard Rock Velvet Session
Ed Roland and the Sweet Tea Project at Hard Rock Velvet Session

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.

Rock On!
Cretin

Check out our photo gallery on our Facebook page, and like us while you’re there 🙂

We strongly suggest you check out Elise Rossi’s interview with Ed Roland on the WMMO website.

Ed Roland and the Sweet Tea Project
Ed Roland and the Sweet Tea Project

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

Flock of Seagulls – Space Aged Flashback

New wave pioneers A Flock of Seagulls played an entertaining set at Hard Rock Cafe’s Velvet Sessions Thursday night. Founding member and lead singer, Mike Score brought the current rendition of the band back to Orlando, 30 years after the band experienced their greatest success as stalwarts of the early 80’s MTV Video generation.

They are often unfairly associated as a one-hit wonder (“I Ran”) when in fact they were talented musicians with a string of hits and a nice collection of solid rock tunes.  On this night, we had a chance to experience all of those hits, as well as a few newly recorded tunes. Score, who now sports a cleanly shaven head instead of his infamous ‘Flock of Seagulls’ hair, still sounded much as he did back in the band’s prime.

Score spent most of the night playing his trademark keyboards, but also picked up the guitar for a few songs including “She Won’t Let You Down” and “Naked.” The first half of the set was relatively bland, but the band began to show off their musical prowess during a nice extended version of “Man Made.”

They closed the 70 minute set in grand fashion with five excellent tracks from their early catalog.  The first four were predictable and just what the crowd was waiting for: “Telecommunication,” “Space Age Love Song,” “Wishing” and the encore “I Ran.”  Then Score introduced a surprise finale as a “song I wrote back in 1979 when I didn’t know what I was doing,” and they kicked into their fun, punk cut “Messages.” A nice end to a fun flashback.

Mike G.

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

 

 

Lemonheads Leave a Sour Taste

Funny thing about concert reviews is that the more positive it is the more likely it will be widely read.  Bands and fans tend to pass on links for the good reviews; not so much for the negative ones. That tendency coupled with the amazing lack of interest and passion I witnessed from Evan Dando and The Lemonheads has convinced me that the right approach would be a half-assed review that reflects the band’s effort at Hard Rock’s Velvet Sessions in Orlando on Thursday night.

For all intents and purposes, The Lemonheads are Evan Dando plus two revolving players.  The other two members of his trio has literally included at least two dozen members over the last twenty years. That’s a lot of turnover. Chuck Treece, a journeyman drummer who has played with some notable acts over the years was on drums.  We expected to see Fred Mascherino (Taking Back Sunday) on bass, but he was not in the line-up this night.

The tour is featuring a 20th Anniversary tribute to The Lemonheads’ fantastic breakthrough album It’s a Shame About Ray played through in its entirety. He raced through it in under 30  minutes, spent the entire set staring at the setlist and never acknowledging the small crowd. The only sign of life from Dando was a whimsical smile as he wrapped up “Frank Mills.” He did not play “Mrs. Robinson,” still peeved that most casual fans like the song as much as any of his self-penned hits.

After wrapping up the album set, Dando played a few acoustic songs. I have the set list, but just don’t feel like typing out the songs.   The highlight of the show for me? During this acoustic set, I walked over to the bar and tried Abita’s IPA. An excellent, smooth beer with just the right level of bitterness.

Dando’s voice is still unique and poignant, but on this evening his guitar playing was uninspired. He really didn’t look his old beautiful self.  I have pictures to prove that, but why spend the effort to upload them? Through the years, I’ve read enough Lemonheads concert reviews to know it’s a crapshoot on what Evan Dando version is going to take the stage. Looks like we got the poor version. Perhaps he was under the weather again?

The other two members of the band returned to the stage to rip through a few more songs, including a few crowd favorites. I’m sure you know the ones…

51 minutes later: Exit Stage Left. The pain for Dando and the fans was thankfully over.

Cretin

Here a link to the featured album, which despite the lame show remains a 90’s masterpiece. Just don’t listen to Track 13…