Kansas – Casino NB – 04/11/14

Posted: 17th April 2014 by refrainmusic in Concerts

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Celebrating their fourth decade as a group, still playing music that was heard from the decade I was born in, I was looking forward to crossing off another classic rock band from my concert bucket list tonight at Casino NB.  In the last 40 years, the band was a regular on rock charts throughout the ’70s and ’80s, playing to sold-out arenas and stadiums throughout the world.  I don’t know too many people that haven’t heard “Dust In The Wind” or “Carry On My Wayward Son” and with their musical presence in many movies and tv shows over the years (most recently in TV hit show Supernatural, that touts a lot of 70′s and 80′s classic rock in their soundtrack) they’ve maintained a presence throughout the decades.

Due to some technical difficulties, the show started a bit later than scheduled by about 30 minutes.  The crowd which was smaller than I expected for such stalwarts of classic rock radio, was patient and appreciative once the band hit the stage. Backdropped by their very first album cover the band launched into a two song medley and then right into the song “The Wall”. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to accumulate very many pictures from this show as the lighting on the band was absolutely horrendous, which is not typical at all of a Casino show, but it was extremely frustrating from a photography point of view.  Even as a viewer sitting in my seat I found the lighting flow very dim and the members of the band really poorly lit.

Phil Ehart - Kansas - Casino NB - 04/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Phil Ehart – Kansas – Casino NB – 04/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

The band also had an interesting feature to their show that they had no merchandise for sale at the show, they gave you a ‘text number’ to snap a pic of the band with your smart phone and send it off to this number where you would get a link to their merchandise shop sent back and be entered for a chance to win a contest (this would have been great if it worked, I never received the text back and tried twice).

Musically the band was tight and it was evident that 40 years of playing music has honed their skill as musicians to a sharp point.  Their 13 song main set danced along musically with progressive rock flair, highlighted at the midway point by hit song, “Dust In the Wind” which had the crowd singing along.    Vocally the band has lost a bit of it’s flair, obvious strain pressing to reach some of the higher notes in some of the songs and it hindered the performance for me slightly.

After about an hour and a half they brought their main set to an end, but were enthusiastically called back out by the remaining crowd, to play a two song encore of “Fight Fire With Fire” and of course “Carry On My Wayward Son” which the crowd excitedly sang along with.  Overall a good show, coupled with some great musicianship (highlight was Phil Eharts drumming for me), I got to cast another classic rock band off the bucket list and hum off into the night with ‘Wayward Son’ still ringing in my ears.

Thanks to Kansas, Casino NB, and PPR for another great night of music.

Foreigner – Casino NB – 02/14/14

Posted: 5th March 2014 by refrainmusic in Concerts

A single guy, Valentine’s Day, and a Foreigner concert…not sure I thought this one through…but I wasn’t going to miss it.  This is the third time I’ve seen Foreigner in their various incarnations live and I was soon to be very pleased with this nights result.

Foreigner is a British-American rock band, originally formed in 1976 by veteran English musician Mick Jones and fellow Briton, Ian McDonald along with American vocalist Lou Gramm, none who were with the band that was presented to us tonight.  Their biggest hit single, “I Want To Know What Love Is, topped the UK and US Charts among others. They are one of the worlds best selling acts of all time with worldwide sales of nearly 80 million albums.

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Foreigner – Casino NB – 02/14/14 ~ Refrain Photography

The fact that long time members absence (Mick only does selective shows with them now) wasn’t wasn’t bothering this heavily laden couple crowd tonight.  Foreigner’s lead singer, Kelly Hansen, has grown into being the voice of Foreigner, a spot held now for eight years.  The perfect and appropriate dollop of rock swagger, fan interaction and enthusiasm in his role. His voice, although uniquely his own, nailed the vocals of the Foreigner song book.  During one song, while the band played away, Hansen even ventured into the audience, high fiving anyone within reach.  Somehow, the masses allowed him to return to the stage.

Likewise, bass player Jeff Pilson, a Foreigner mainstay for nine years, brought his 1980’s heavy metal credentials (he was a founding member of Dokken) to the group. Other than when necessary to be at a mic delivering a solid backing vocal, Pilson rarely stayed in one place on stage.

Long time Foreigner journeyman, Tom Gimbel, continuously switched it up by playing a multitude of instruments, rhythm guitar, keyboards and a scorching saxophone. With the core of Gimbel, Pilson and Hansen, along with drummer Chris Frazier, keyboard player Michael Bluestein and guitarist Bruce Watson, listening to Foreigner’s set, it was hard to believe that Foreigner is sometimes considered a soft rock band.

Foreigner - Casino NB - 02/14/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Foreigner – Casino NB – 02/14/14 ~ Refrain Photography

The hard edge of the group was evident from the start as the enthusiastic crowd warmly greeted Hansen and company a Hansen rarely stood still, running to both ends of the stage to engage the audience. The energy continued with “Blue Morning” and “Cold As Ice.”

After things slowed a bit with “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” Hansen made sure that the audience was once again pumped up when he asked “how many naughty girls in the house?” The answer was that there were certainly plenty who enjoyed “Dirty White Boy,” (along with some generously donated ladies under garments, it’s a rock show now baby!) an already rocking Foreigner, rocked even more.  Also, drawing from their acoustic album,  the band did a nice unplugged version of “Say You Will.”

As many of the band members took a break, Bluestein got a moment to shine with a keyboard solo and Frazier pounded out a well-received drum solo. Then Hansen returned to the stage and quietly began singing about man who was standing in the rain, head hung low…the crowd roared back to life and “Jukebox Hero” was blasting into the night.

Foreigner - Casino NB - 02/14/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Foreigner – Casino NB – 02/14/14 ~ Refrain Photography

With and already rocking night of music in the books, the crowd wanted more and Foreigner delivered with a three song encore that started with “Inside Looking Outside”.  In a previously anticipated moment, members of Moncton High Glee Club were led onto the stage and accompanied the band during “I Want to Know What Love Is.”  Foreigner completed the night with “Hot Blooded.”

On this Friday night, Foreigner again proved with Hansen, they are a still a solid band that plays hit after hit.  I seriously encourage you, if you like a great rock show…to take in a Foreigner show near you today!  Thanks to Casino NB, PPRL, and Foreigner for a fantastic night of music!

Buckcherry – Casino NB – 02/11/14

Posted: 21st February 2014 by refrainmusic in Concerts

Casino NB was the scene of some loud and rocking music this evening with bands 3 Pill Morning, Monster Truck, and Buckcherry.   Ear plugs in, camera in hand ready for the ‘stand up’ show and with a little earlier start than normal at The Centre we were off and running.  3 Pill Morning hit the stage led by Jeff Stebbins and backed by Ryan Walch, Ryan Lee, and Trent Laugerman.  If you have ever seen 3 Pill Morning before, they reminded me of a ‘three days grace’ kind of sound and you are already aware that Stebbins can easily command a stage with his high-energy performances, and that is exactly what he did. With the increasing crowd rocking along to 3 Pill Morning it was a great start off to a rocking night.

3 Pill Morning - Casino NB - 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

3 Pill Morning – Casino NB – 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Having never seen “Monster Truck” before, but hearing a lot of good things, I was most excited I think to see these four Canadian guys from Hamilton, Ontario that play it loud, and have fun doing it!  Starting out as just a fun side project and they took breaks from the other bands they were in, Monster Truck blossomed into a loud, fun, and rocking band!

Monster Truck - Casino NB - 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Monster Truck – Casino NB – 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Bass player Jon does most of the vocals backed up by the rest of the band including wildly active ‘jumping bean’ guitarist Jeremy Widerman.  This guy never sits still unless he has to be at the microphone, hard guy to photograph but a heck of a fun guitar player.  The crowd grew larger as Monster Truck took the stage and they ate up every second of it, and I was definitely pleased and enjoyed my first Monster Truck show, I’d recommend them if you like loud, hard hitting rick music.

Monster Truck - Casino NB - 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Monster Truck – Casino NB – 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

As the headliner took the stage, Buckcherry wasted little time during their set as they launched into “Lit Up” & “Dead Again” from their 1999 debut album Buckcherry and the title track from their 2010 album  “All Night Long”.  Lead singer Josh Todd was in classic form, bouncing around the stage in gyrating rock star form with suggestive microphone mimes.

Although they’ve downsized venues over the years, Buckcherry can still draw a decent crowd.  Todd’s stature and heavily tattooed appearance along with his stage energy and dance moves are undeniably mesmerizing.  He moves with ease onstage and much to the ladies appeal his heavily tattooed body made an appearance about half way through the set.

Buckcherry - Casino NB - 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Buckcherry – Casino NB – 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Even though they’re getting older, Buckcherry are still heavy into the sexual innuendo. Todd spoke about how you can tell someone has soul by how they take off their panties, totally what would you expect from a band whose greatest hit is titled “Crazy Bitch,” which has become their anthem and was the closing song for their main set.

The encore was kind of anti-climactic, as they had already crossed off their best songs during the main set. They returned with “Say #$%! It” and closed their set with “Wrath.”

While their rock star mentality may have benefitted them at their peak, it’s questionable as to whether it will be enough to keep fans interested through their next album cycle, time will tell.  That said, it was still a fun show with some great rock music that the small and mighty crowd enjoyed to the utmost.

Buckcherry - Casino NB - 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Buckcherry – Casino NB – 02/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Thanks to all three bands, to Casino NB, and to PPRL  for a great night of rock and roll…until next time!

Blue Rodeo – Casino NB – 02/06/2014

Posted: 11th February 2014 by refrainmusic in Concerts
Blue Rodeo - Casino NB - 02/06/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

Blue Rodeo – Casino NB – 02/06/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

Blue Rodeo usually never disappoints, the half a dozen times that I’ve had the chance to catch them live I’ve always been happy with what I got out of the band.  This night was no exception, you got full value for your ticket as you left the building almost three and a half hours after the show started.  Starting the night was the Devon Cuddy Band, if the name sounds familiar it’s because Devon is the son of Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, and there is no mistaking the connection.  From their tall lanky frames, affection for classic western wear styled shirts, and strong vocals Devon and his Dad are much alike.  The brief thirty-ish minute set of bluesy styled music with some rockabilly styled guitar flare thrown in for flavour by guitar player Nichol Robertson warmed the crowd up for what was to come and by the sounds of it many were disappointed to see them leave.

Devon Cuddy Band - Casino NB - 02/06/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Devon Cuddy Band – Casino NB – 02/06/14 ~ Refrain Photography

It was now Blue Rodeo’s turn to take the stage at Casino NB, it’s been about a year since they’ve been on stage here and they’ve come back with a new album (In Our Nature)  on their 25th Anniversary Tour.

The group focused the first half of the show entirely to their new music, introducing the diverse crowd of young and old to their new offerings.  When listening to the band I remarked to others around me how every time I forget just how good musically this band is, strong vocals and lyrics aside, these guys are really, really good musicians.  It’s evident in some of the new music, I forget as well that Jim Cuddy is a pretty damn good guitar player reminded of this when he swaps out his classic acoustic for a full bodied electric and goes to town on it.

Jim Cuddy - Blue Rodeo - Casino NB - 02/06/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

Jim Cuddy – Blue Rodeo – Casino NB – 02/06/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

After a brief intermission the band returned and began to focus on the music that we all know and love from the past 25 years.  Blasting through an extended version of “Diamon Mine” drummer Glenn Milchem and keyboardist Mike Boguski played an extensive (and impressive) mid-section solo that had me mesmerized, again musically, this band is smokin’.  One thing I’ve always liked about Blue Rodeo live is their interaction with the crowd, their willingness to chat, tell stories and remark on the writing of a song to give us some insight behind it.  Greg Keelor was in witty form this evening as he told us about trips to his “shack” in Haliburton to write, then forgetting the name of the song to be reminded jokingly by Cuddy.  Speaking of Cuddy again, this man had not missed a beat, his vocals are as strong as they ever were and I am always pleasantly surprised as he sits behind the piano and sings first in a throaty growl and dances up into a spiralling falsetto on a song like “After The Rain”, one of my favourite BR songs.

Rolling through hit after hit, Keelor got the crowd into it like an accomplished performer, having the crowd sing most of one song and breaking for the crowd to sing other.  Out came “Rose Coloured Glasses”, “Five Days In May”, and many many more.   After two hours of solid, rousing music the band left the stage and to my surprise some of the crowd started to leave, one fan even saying “they’re all done”, like heck they are dude and I said as much to him.  Sure enough a couple of minutes later the band returned to of course sing one of their most famous songs in “Try” and Cuddy once again impressed me with his vocal.  Joined then by the entire Devon Cuddy Band for an intense and crowd pleasing performance of “Lost Together” to end the show.   As the crowd once again started their exodus to the parking lot the band got called out for a second encore, but this time it was just Cuddy and Keelor with two acoustics and a microphone singing us off into the night with “What The Hell Am I Doing Here”.

Greg Keelor - Blue Rodeo - Casino NB - 02/06/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

Greg Keelor – Blue Rodeo – Casino NB – 02/06/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

This was arguably one of the best and most complete Blue Rodeo shows that I have seen from beginning to end, from the musicality, to the vocals, to the showmanship it was perfect.  I highly encourage you to get out and see Blue Rodeo on this tour as it is well worth the trip!

Once again I want to thank the bands, Casino NB, and PPRL for an amazing night of music and entertainment!

 

 

Helix & Honeymoon Suite – Casino NB – 01/11/14

Posted: 14th January 2014 by refrainmusic in Concerts

Tonight was like stepping back in time to my teenage years, to music that got blasted on 45′s and cassette tapes on Ghettoblasters, tonight was a throw back to good ol’ guitar laden rock music.  Live at Casino NB on this balmy January night was Helix as the precursor for Honeymoon Suite…holy 80′s flashbacks for me.

Starting right on time, and I have to emphasize that fact, at the Casino I’ve yet to see a show that starts more than five minutes late.  I say this due to all the ticket holders that were still coming in during the second and third song of the opening band.  If this venue says the show starts at a certain time, you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to, if you don’t want to miss it, be there early.

Up first was Helix, with little fan fare and no intro other than the dimming of the house lights the band walked on stage and launched into their first song.  Helix formed in 1974, and are best known for their 1984 single “Rock You”.  The original lineup was formed by drummer Bruce Arnold, and consisted of lead vocalist Brian Vollmer, The history of the band has been marked by many lineup changes, with Vollmer being the sole constant member and only remaining member of the original lineup.  Helix have toured with bands such as Kiss, Aerosmith, Rush, Alice Cooper, among others…their most recent album Vagabond Bones, was released in 2009.

Brian Vollmer - Helix - Casino NB - 01/11/14

Brian Vollmer – Helix – Casino NB – 01/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

It was obvious in the crowd that there were long time fans of the band in attendance as a few notes of a classic song would play, even some of the less well known Helix songs, and it would bring cheers from fans.  Of course lead singer Brian Vollmer and crew rolled through popular songs like “Good To The Last Drop” and being joined by local singer Melanie Morgan on “Heavy Metal Love” which was a treat for the crowd.  Morgan was on the CBC tv show ‘Cover Me Canada’ (finishing second) and was mentored by Brian Vollmer when singing that song, joining her onstage on the show.  The crowd loved seeing Morgan and Vollmer reprise that performance tonight.

John Claus - Helix - Casino NB - 01/11/14

John Claus – Helix – Casino NB – 01/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Helix seemed to be excited to be playing their first show of 2014, with great guitar solos provided by John Claus, and especially Vollmer who even lost his shoes during some of his many onstage antics, at one point asking the crowd if they locate the one he was missing to send it back on up (someone said that shoe ended up behind the drum riser).  Vollmer had shoes again by the time band rocked into their last song, the aforementioned 1984 hit, “Rock You”.  After about an hour long set, the band said farewell and the crowd cheered them off the stage.

Next up was Honeymoon Suite, formed in 1981 in Niagra Falls, they had a slew of hit singles in Canada, some making it into high profile tv shows (Miami Vice) and feature films (Lethal Weapon), with their first single ‘New Girl Now’ making it to the top 50 in the US.  The band’s name was a nod to the fact that Niagra Falls is the unofficial Honeymoon capital.  The last time I saw Honeymoon Suite they had Lee Aaron opening up for them, another great show and I didn’t know what to expect almost 20 years later.

Johnnie Dee - Honeymoon Suite - Casino NB - 01/11/14

Johnnie Dee – Honeymoon Suite – Casino NB – 01/11/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Johnny Dee was in great form interacting with the audience with a smile on his face that was genuine.  He had the crowd doing sing-a-long’s with popular songs, treating us to a solid 80′s rock show complete with guitar, drum and keyboard solo’s.  A little surprisingly the band have lost nothing musically and Dee very little at all vocally, they are very accomplished at what they do and they do it well.  An oddity I did find was Dee tended to wander the stage a bit aimlessly, which led to some extended intro’s and bridges to songs, I’m not sure if this was intentional but it seemed a bit strange to me.

When they belted out the fan favourites  like ‘New Girl Now’,  ‘Wave Babies’, and ‘Burning in Love’ the crowd was dancing, singing and completely loving it, some of these people seemingly reliving the big hair days (minus the hair) and this band brings it all back to them in droves. 

Derry Grehan - Honeymoon Suite - Casino NB - 01/11/14

Derry Grehan – Honeymoon Suite – Casino NB – 01/11/14 – Refrain Photography

After a single song encore (the keyboard player started a song and Dee said ‘nah, not that one I want to rock out’) they left the stage with smiles and waves and an appreciative crowd cheering them away.  I was a little disappointed not to hear ‘Lethal Weapon’ but what I did hear was a band from the 80′s that has not lost a step like many do and can still put on a heck of a show,  I can say if you get the chance to see Honeymoon Suite, don’t miss out…hey still have it.

Thanks to Helix, Honeymoon Suite, PPRL, and Casino NB for another great show!  Until next time!

 

Daughtry – “Baptized” – CD Review

Posted: 16th December 2013 by refrainmusic in Albums

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Back with their fourth studio album Daughtry graces us with their new compilation, “Baptized”. When I first started listening to this album it threw me a bit, gone were most of the fuzz-pedal laden heavy guitars replaced by synthesizers and pop-influences.  I wasn’t sure what to make of it, as this was not the band I was used to hearing when popping in a Daughtry album.

Leadoff single “Waiting For Superman” rattles into that more pop sound (some would argue that Daughtry was already pop enough) with co-writer Martin Johnson, who co-wrote just under half the album.  It’s a cool single that I did enjoy, with some cool lyrics like ” “Yeah, he’s still coming, just a little bit late, he got stuck at the laundromat washing his cape”; it also has a pretty good video.

“Broken Arrows” is actually one of my favourite songs on the album, this is a radio single I can see happening.  It’s relatable for anyone that has had multiple relationships fall apart on them and asks the question, ‘why do I keep trying’ that lead into lyrics like “I’m tired of taking my aim when I keep on missing” & “I’m tryin’ to hit the mark but I’m shooting with broken arrows”.

“I’ll Fight”, one of the few songs that Daughtry fully wrote by himself on the album. It’s a more guitar-driven composition that could also work as a single, with an inspiring message about being there for someone when they are at their worst.  One of the oddest songs for me was “Battleships”, I just don’t get this song at all and really didn’t feel it warranted an ‘acoustic’ treatment on the Deluxe Edition of the album that has three additional tracks.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the song has a great story, and some really great lyrics, Chris’ vocals even get to let loose a bit more…I think it’s the “boom booms”.

“Long Live Rock & Roll” at first I didn’t like, it’s growing on me, but a song that talks about Rock & Roll and big guitars, I’d expect to be more rocky and have more big guitars!  I like the lyrics that name-checks favourite artists and bands over the years, I really like premise of this song, it’s fun…I just wish it had more of that normal Daughtry edge to it…less ‘Train’, more ‘Three Days Grace’.

“Cinderella” was a song that was odd for a Daughtry album, speaking of a ‘Train’ styled song, but odd as it was I really liked it.  I found myself rolling down the street bopping in my seat, bopping my fingers on the steering wheel, whistling with the whistle parts, and once I learned the lyrics singing along…it’s catchy.  A total radio hit will be “Crawling Back To You”, it has just enough of the Daughtry edge and heart tugging lyrics that this could/should get regular airplay on most radio stations.

I think that will be the legacy of this album, good, commercially successful, have several radio hits…but regular Daughtry fans with find this a tough pill to swallow.  They will want to like it as much as past albums but will struggle too, songs like ‘Traitor’, ‘Renegade’ (probably the most Daughtry-esque song on the album), and ‘Witness’ with an slight nod to ‘Outta My Head’ will be the saving grace for them and keep them coming back for more on the next album.  These days, rock acts that manage to move even 1 million units have become a rare exception, not the regular rule. Chris Daughtry has been one of only a handful of rockers in the last decade to pull that off, with the first three albums selling more than 20 million units worldwide and another 53 million individual tracks since his debut in 2006.  This pedigree is one of the reasons I own all of his albums, good rock music has been missing mostly from radio and store shelves.

As much as I gave full marks to past Daughtry albums this one dips, a bit, and I’d give it a 7/10 if I had to scale it.  Still a great album, from a great band that was trying a few different things (which I’ll always give marks for for keeping it fresh) and one I’d recommend adding to your Daughtry collection…xmas is around the corner, would be a good stocking stuffer! 

ZZ Top – Casino NB – 11/13/13

Posted: 14th November 2013 by refrainmusic in Concerts
ZZ Top - Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, and Billy Gibbons - Casino NB - 11/13/13

ZZ Top – Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, and Billy Gibbons – Casino NB – 11/13/13 ~ Refrain Photography

The anticipation of this show was obvious, when the day the tickets went on sale, they sold out.  No surprise to me.  As the concert goers shuffled in to Casino NB’s “The Centre” I remarked to someone I didn’t think I’d ever seen the venue as full as it was tonight.   The crowd ranged in age from their 20′s to much older, all here to see that “little ol’ band from Texas”, ZZ Top.

Although their show was much shorter than their large library would warrant, a little too brief for some people’s liking, they mixed up the set with songs from across the decades.  Four decades to be exact, as guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons said while addressing the crowd, “Four decades, three guys…and the same three chords”!   I also got to, in the same year as crossing KISS off my concert bucket list, I got to do it with another in ZZ Top.

Billy Gibbons asked the crowd “What can we do for you?” which brought out screams of various song requests being shouted from throughout the room.  They played songs from way back on their very first album, they even covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”, and through in a few songs from their latest album.  They also went through classics like “La Grange”, they played “Tush”, they played “Legs”.  But they didn’t play “Cheap Sunglasses”, and incredibly surprising didn’t play “Sleeping Bag (and I was hoping for one of my favourites “Rough Boy” from their album ‘Afterburner’).

Dusty Hill & Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top - Casino NB - 11/13/13

Dusty Hill & Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top – Casino NB – 11/13/13 ~ Refrain Photography

Dressed in hats, sequin covered jackets and with bright purple guitars the ‘bearded ones’ moved on the stage with an experience that decades of playing together honed, two shiny mic stands, not a lot of flash and flare, other than perhaps those jackets and when they brought out the classic white ‘fuzzy’ guitars for their performance of their 80′s classic, the aforementioned “Legs”.  They don’t run around the stage like many bands of more ‘youthful’ persuasion but that’s ok, I loved it when a lady from the crowd ran to the front of the crowd, her back to the stage to get her picture taken with the band behind her.  She didn’t realize that both Gibbons and Hill had moved up behind her to pose for the picture, all the while still playing, until Hill tapped her on the shoulder with the tip of his bass guitar.

Although many in the crowd grumbled at the compact nature of the set, their was much to cheer about as a crew member stepped onto the stage to light a cigar for Billy Gibbons and they played themselves off stage.  75 minutes of rocking bluesy Texas styled rock & roll, left the crowd wanting more, but isn’t that the old performing adage?  “Always leave them wanting more”.

I want to thank ZZ Top, Casino NB, and PPRL for another great show, and another great band brought to Moncton!

Styx! – Casino NB – 11/12/13

Posted: 13th November 2013 by refrainmusic in Concerts

A classic rock band in every sense of the word, Styx rocked Casino NB last night for a packed house of adoring music fans, using platforms, ramps, LEDs and blasts of story telling rock & roll.  Having not seen Styx before, it was great that they chose to go deep into the library for some of the night’s best songs.  A band that is constantly on the road touring, I was surprised they hadn’t made it around here in a long, long time. There was a full house of Gen-X’s and older in the crowd, and they wouldn’t be disappointed.

Tommy Shaw - Styx - Casino NB - 11/12/13

Tommy Shaw – Styx – Casino NB – 11/12/13 ~ Refrain Photography

The anticipation was palpable within the Casino’s entertainment venue ‘The Centre’, many like me seeing the band for the first time. After a colourful entrance to the strains of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the members of Styx came together for “Blue Collar Man.” Tommy Shaw, resplendent in a dark, rose-and-cactus-embroidered suit coat, while the rest of the band was equally well-dressed and ready to do rock the house.

I had seen Gowan many years ago as a solo artist in Canada being a fan of his music and talented piano playing since the 80′s, and it became apparent to me quickly that Gowan has totally grown into his role as a primary singer of the band, admirably singing the songs Dennis DeYoung originally sang on songs like “Lady”, yet passionately adding his own style and flair to the band, with his signature spinning keyboard and behind-the-back playing.

For “Foolin’ Yourself,” original Styx bassist Chuck Panozzo, who regularly plays and tours with the band on a part-time basis, joined in. The band’s current regular bassist, Ricky Phillips, switched over to his custom-made Italia White Pearloid double-neck 6/12, packed in and loving it, the audience cheered and sang along.

 

James Young, Tommy Shaw, Chuck Panozzo, and - Styx - Casino NB - 11/12/13

James Young, Tommy Shaw, Chuck Panozzo, and Ricky Phillips – Styx – Casino NB – 11/12/13 ~ Refrain Photography

One thing I enjoy immensely is when a band takes the time to interact with the crowd, talking to them instead of just playing, telling stories and giving a feel for their songs.  Guitarist James “JY” Young introduced “Light Up” as a song that came out back in the days of the crowd laced sea of Bic lighters and encouraged everyone to hold up their cell phones in lieu of the traditional Bic lighter. The place lit up with a sea of tiny LCD screens as the man who co-founded Styx way back in 1970, sang the rarely played classic from 1975’s Equinox album.

Fortunately, one of those wonderful gems and a personal favourite, “Man In the Wilderness,” is still on the setlist.  They did, however, get the crowd in a semi-frenzy with another one from The Grand Illusion, “Miss America”.  “I’m Okay” put Gowan at the centre stage, assuming the vocals with stunning clarity and dazzling the audience on his spinning keyboard.  Shaw told his back-story, being a struggling musician from Mobile, Alabama and writing his first song for Styx, “Crystal Ball,” which he and the rest of the band proceeded to play to great enjoyment of the crowd and myself. Once again, Gowan showed off his talents with a remarkable piano solo.  Mr. Gowan at one point took centre stage by himself and talked about his joining with Styx and mentioned that his next song was a Gowan song for a long time, but has now had a second life and has become a Styx song.  He then played his hit song “Criminal Mind”, the band joined in part way through and the crowd sang along loudly.

Lawrence Gowan - Styx - Casino NB - 11/12/13

Lawrence Gowan – Styx – Casino NB – 11/12/13 ~ Refrain Photography

Later in the show Gowan called the crowd to the front of the stage and with sing-alongs to “Tiny Dancer,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Light My Fire,” Fat-Bottomed Girls”, a taste of “Moonlight Desires” from his own solo career, and then referencing the East Coast, and being able to smell the salt air invited the crowd to “Come Sail Away” with Styx and launched into their classic hit song! (I must confess I only heard Cartman from South Park in my head once or twice) this brought the main part of the night to an end.

Called back to the stage by emphatic cheers and clapping Styx encored with three songs “Rockin’,  The Paradise” and “Renegade,” much to the delight of the faithful. Drummer Todd Sucherman, raised the bar, rocked these classics on a massive drum kit that was pounding us throughout the night. This was Styx as I had hoped to see them, rockin’ like it was the 1970′s.

If you ever want to see a truly classic, classic rock show, Styx should be on your concert to-do list as they do not disappoint! Thanks to Styx, Casino NB, and PPRL for another amazing night of music!

Indigo Girls – Casino NB – 10/22/13

Posted: 21st October 2013 by refrainmusic in Concerts, Interviews

indigo_girls

Tuesday night marked another great show coming to Moncton at Casino New Brunswick, 25 years of musical energy rolled into the Casino in the form of the “Indigo Girls”.  The last show of their first ever Canadian tour, on which they had so much fun, they already plan to do it again.  First up was opener Jeremy Fisher, Hamilton born and now Ottawa based, Fisher is best known for his single “Shine A Little Light”.  Touring across the country with the Indigo Girls was a great treat for him, but it’s not the first time he’s toured Canada, the last time Fisher spent six months touring from Seattle, across Canada to Halifax, Nova Scotia by bicycle!  The tour, dubbed “One Less Tourbus”, travelled 7500 kilometres, included 30 performances, to raise funds for the “Tour des”, promoting access to bicycle transport and to education for girls in Africa.  His witty banter with the crowd was as enjoyable as his music, subtle straight man humour, with Paul Simon styled music (and Garfunkel hair).

Jeremy Fisher - Casino NB -  10/22/13 - Refrain Photography

Jeremy Fisher – Casino NB – 10/22/13 – Refrain Photography

Recently I had the opportunity to have a great chat with one of the ‘girls’, Emily Saliers, about life, music, and the future.  A very down to earth lady Emily gushed when mentioning her new Canadian wife Tristin Chapman and their new ten month old baby Cleo.  She reflected on how lucky we were in Canada to respect the love of two people and allow them to get married and how her country, in some states were just starting to follow suit.

As expected there was no great fan fare, blast of lights and sound, the girls simply walked on stage taking their guitars from their stage tech, said hello to the crowd and started to play.  The small but very enthusiastic crowd cheered loudly as the girls broke into the first song of the night in the “Power of Two”.   Speaking of the crowd, you could tell that they were fans of the girls, singing along word for word, calling out requests, and later in the show dancing in the aisles. Emily even remarking at one point how they were like ‘wood elves’ emerging from the wood to dance to a song and then skittering back into the darkness of the forest.  One called out request sparked a groan from Amy as Emily said “we didn’t practice that one” and Amy backed it up with “not sure if I remember it, but maybe we’ll try it later” (which they did, and they remembered it).

Indigo Girls - Casino NB -  10/22/13 - Refrain Photography

Indigo Girls – Casino NB – 10/22/13 – Refrain Photography

The girls ran through multiple songs, and many instrument changes, everything from guitars, to mandolins, and banjo’s.  During one such instrument change Emily remarked on how much fun they were having touring Canada, how friendly us Canucks are, and she chuckled as someone in the crowd politely said “thank-you”.

When I asked Emily earlier this month how they had lasted as a group for the last 25 years together, she said quite simply because they have their own lives, they do their own thing, and that they’ve known each other since childhood; that they know each other so well.  I asked Emily what she did in her downtime away from the world of music and she revealed that she is a ‘huge’ NFL Football fan, reads a ton, and now spends as much time as she can with baby Cleo.   Amy remarked on the separation during the show, how there is a ‘wall’ between them when they are writing, they go off and write separately each writing their own songs, then coming together and making harmonies.  Amy even tried to encourage Emily, with help from the crowd, to play one of her new songs for the upcoming album saying one of the best lines of the night, “it’s just music, like a river, flowing through the world”.  But, Amy wouldn’t break and said that we’d have to wait, she liked the experience of new songs coming out for the first time on a new album.

Amy Ray - Casino NB -  10/22/13 - Refrain Photography

Amy Ray – Casino NB – 10/22/13 – Refrain Photography

The girls played one if my favourite Indigo Girls songs in “Share The Moon”, which just has resonating lyrics for me personally and I was glad that I got to hear them sing it live.  Their musicianship and skill was evident with Emily playing some solid solos on an acoustic guitar and plucking away her banjo.  Amy a talented guitar player also played a mean mandolin throughout the night as well.  When I asked Emily about this musicianship and about her advice to new bands/artists she replied that someone starting out should play, play, play, as much as they can wherever they can, push themselves, try new things.  She also said that they should write good songs, not just a song to have a song, and record good music.  If you have to save a little longer to get with that good studio, or good sound engineer it’s worth it and keep playing.  She also said that a band/artist should give of themselves, of their time, their music to help people around them, charities, causes.  This is something that is close to both Amy & Emily’s heart with their activism being deep rooted in their souls and their music and their fellowship with Honor The Earth a non-profit organization founded to raise awareness and financial support for Indigenous environmental justice.  They even mentioned the anti-fracking protests being attempted by local native communities in New Brunswick and hoped we all would get out and support their efforts.

Emily Saliers - Casino NB -  10/22/13 - Refrain Photography

Emily Saliers – Casino NB – 10/22/13 – Refrain Photography

Of course the final song of the night, during their encore was the hit song that started it all for them “Closer To Fine”, joined by Jeremy Fisher once again on stage to finish off their Canadian tour with resounding sing-along of their hit song.

If you ever get to see the Indigo Girls I’d definitely recommend it, their music is thought provoking, their instrumentation skillful, and their vocal ability well honed.  Once again thanks to the Indigo Girls (and Emily for the great chat), Jeremy Fisher, Casino NB, and Paul Mercs Concerts for a great evening of entertainment!

 

Your Town Throw Down – Casino NB – 10/19/13

Posted: 21st October 2013 by refrainmusic in Concerts

A musical triple play, Your Town Throwdown began rocking stages across Canada this month showcasing the talents of award winning country music artists Chad BrownleeDeric Ruttan and Jason Blaine. The 26 date tour kicked off in PEI a little more than a week ago and will travel from coast to coast, wrapping up the party in British Columbia in November.  Tonight was the last Maritimes dates for the tour, here at Casino New Brunswick, after playing in PEI and Nova Scotia.

Keeping it Canadian, the night started right on time with opening act “Wyatt” from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  A guitar laden group of rocking country, this band would not be out of place picking up and playing a more classic rock type show and this is infused into their country show.  Named after the famous Ok Corral participant Wyatt Earp, the band has already had their songs charting on Canadian Billboard Country charts and just released their new album “You Should Have Been Here Last Night”.   A great warm up for what was to come, Wyatt got the crowd involved, and set the stage for the three performers to follow.

It was then time for the main attraction, as Jason Blaine, Chad Brownlee, and Deric Ruttan hit the stage together for an opening number that got the crowd heavily populated by young screaming girls (not surprisingly) up and into the show.  After the opening number, Brownlee and Ruttan left the stage leaving it for Jason Blaine to have his set of six songs that included songs like “Cool”, and “A Night Like This”.  It was obvious that Blaine was having fun, and was excited about the tour, interacting with the crowd and getting them singing right along with him.  All the artists tonight were promoting new albums and Blaine mentioned his new album “Everything I Love”  and launched into a couple of newer songs off that album.

Jason Blaine - Your Town Throw Down - Casino NB - 10/19/13

Jason Blaine – Your Town Throw Down – Casino NB – 10/19/13 ~ Refrain Photography

Next up was Chad Browlee for his turn at center stage asking the crowd if this is ‘where the party at’? and launching into his song by that name.  Brownlee has a bit different sound than Blaine but all three artists, Ruttan included, compliment each other well.  With a rock edge to their country sound, and a ridiculous stack of Marshall amps behind them they got the crowd rocking.   Many may not know that Brownlee, a fairly accomplished hockey player, was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 6th round of the 2003 NHL draft and played pro and semi-pro hockey from 2003-2009 at which time he began to focus totally on his music.  Rocking through songs like “Sitting on the hood of my Car” and two personal favourites in “Listen” and “Smoke in the Rain” the crowd ate it up.

Chad Brownlee - Your Town Throw Down - Casino NB - 10/19/13

Chad Brownlee – Your Town Throw Down – Casino NB – 10/19/13 ~ Refrain Photography

Rounding out the trio was award winning singer and song writer Deric Ruttan with his turn at the microphone.  Ruttan, known almost as much for his incredible song writing ability as his music has a song currently sitting at the top of country music charts everywhere and getting massive radio airplay in “Mine Would Be You” performed by Blake Shelton.  He’s also written his songs for many other chart topping country artists like Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, and Jason Blaine to name a few.  Tonight Deric looked ready to have a fun, and starting his set off with his 2007 hit “Good Time”.  Rocking the stage with a beautiful Les Paul and jamming with the backing bands guitar player that looks incredibly like Russel Brand, Ruttan bounces from one end of the stage to the other.  Also promoting a new album, “Take The Week Off’, that was released a couple of weeks ago he got the girls screaming once again playing the title track off his new album, and finished the rousing and rocking set with “Up All Night” (at which point he also invited the crowd to the front of the stage).

Deric Ruttan - Your Town Throw Down - Casino NB - 10/19/13 ~ Refrain Photography

Deric Ruttan – Your Town Throw Down – Casino NB – 10/19/13 ~ Refrain Photography

Finishing the night brought Blaine and Browlee back to the stage and the three launched into another set of songs with the three artists kicking into Blaine’s song “Friends of Mine”.  They rocked, the girls screamed, and rocking country music was served up well on this night.  I encourage you to get out and catch one of the remaining 20+ dates across the country as it comes near you, you won’t be disappointed.

October 21, 2013                        Parry Sound, ON                      Stockey Centre 

October 22, 2013                        Kitchener, ON                           Dallas Night Club

October 23, 2013                        London, ON                              Cowboys Dance Hall

October 24, 2013                        Brampton, ON                          Rose Theatre

October 25, 2013                        Kingston, ON                            The Grand

October 26, 2013                        Belleville, ON                           Empire Theatre

October 27, 2013                        Hamilton, ON                           Molson Canadian Studio

October 29, 2013                        Brandon, MB                            The 40/Trails West Inn

October 30, 2013                        Melfort, SK                                CJVR Performing Arts Theatre

October 31, 2013                        Saskatoon, SK                         Odeon

November 1, 2013                      Regina, SK                               Casino Regina

November 2, 2013                      Winnipeg, MB                          McPhillips Station Casino

November 3, 2013                      Winnipeg, MB                          McPhillips Station Casino

November 5, 2013                      Calgary, AB                              Cowboys Dance Hall

November 7, 2013                      Edmonton, AB                          The Ranch Roadhouse

November 8, 2013                      Grande Prairie, AB                  Spurs Night Club

November 9, 2013                      Red Deer, AB                           Cowboys Bar & Nightclub

November 10, 2013                    Swift Current, SK                     Living Sky Casino

November 12, 2013                    Kelowna, BC                            Kelowna Community Theatre

November 13, 2013                    Kamloops, BC                          Sagebrush Theatre

November 14, 2013                    Mission, BC                              Clarke Theatre

November 15, 2013                    Vancouver, BC                        Commodore Ballroom

Thanks to Blaine, Brownlee, and Ruttan, Casino New Brunswick, and PPRL for a great night of entertainment!