Cheap Trick – Live at Casino NB – 08/23/14

Posted: 24th August 2014 by refrainmusic in Concerts

Many rock acts while touring play the same songs in the same order night after night, of course there that is perfectly normal and there is nothing wrong with that, the audience knows what to expect.  Cheap Trick, appearing live at The Centre at Casino NB tonight rarely followed the rules over the years, having some nights I’ve heard, played entire albums as their show list for the night, one whole album and that was it.   Having spotted the set list at the sound board I knew that was not to be the case tonight, but there were some hidden gems mixed in with their bigger more well known hits.

As Nielsen’s chords blasted out to open the night with “Hello There,” followed up from their debut album by “Ello Kiddies” lead singer/guitarist Robin Zander, dressed in all black, stepped forward to the centre mic and launched us into a night of great rock music.  Playing songs that spanned the last 35 plus years of music, formed way back in 1973 in Rockford, Illinois, and with three out of the four original members (original drummer Bun E. Carlos being replaced currently by guitarist Rick Neilson’s son Daxx)…they are still a rocking good time.

Cheap Trick - Casino NB - 08/23/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Cheap Trick – Casino NB – 08/23/14 ~ Refrain Photography

The vocals of Robin Zander have not lost much over the years and for a guy just into his sixties, it’s pretty impressive that he can still hit notes that he was singing in his twenties.  While some of the vocals seemed to be a bit of a reach times, overall I was very impressed by his ability to perform the songs as we know them.

Rick Neilsen hasn’t changed in all the years of playing, with his antics on stage and his constant guitar changes with every different song.  His penchant for throwing guitar picks to the crowd hasn’t stopped either, byt the end of the night throwing them out by the handful.  Neilson, who you would never know turns 68 this year, with his hopping around the stage and fitful energy (he never seemed to stop moving, ever) was a lightning rod the whole night and is the energy of this band.

Cheap Trick - Casino NB - 08/23/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Cheap Trick – Casino NB – 08/23/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Tom Petersen kept the bass flowing through the night, while chipping in with background vocals, on a gorgeous 12-string Gretsch bass that was a snazzy white, even gracing us with a solo while the rest of the band took a break at one point.  Great songs flowed from the band all night long, including their song which was the theme song for the hit TV show, “That 70’s Show”.  Of course they played their only number one single, “The Flame” along with classic, “I Want You To Want Me” that has graced classic rock radio for decades.

Cheap Trick - Casino NB - 08/23/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Cheap Trick – Casino NB – 08/23/14 ~ Refrain Photography

After a rousing “Dream Police,” to end the regular set, the crowd had no problem in demanding an encore, which consisted of three songs, one being “Surrender” a big hit for the band and also “Goodnight” for which Rick Nielsen broke out his 5 neck guitar for the night’s closer.

It’s obvious 35 years removed from Cheap Trick’s performance at Budokan, that Rick Nielsen can still clown around, throw out guitar picks (which he did by the handful tonight), play a collection of outrageous guitars and make it look easy, even if it isn’t. Petersson can smile and deliver scorching bass lines on his beautiful white Gretsch 12-string bass and Zander can lead them through it all.  It’s damn near impossible to not get into a Cheap Trick concert.

A wonderful night of music and I want to thank the guys of Cheap Trick, Casino NB, and PPRL for making it all happen.

Tommy Emmanuel – Capitol Theatre – 05/30/14

Posted: 12th May 2014 by refrainmusic in Concerts

Having missed the show last year at the Capitol I was going to make sure that I would not miss this year a guitarist that has been named one of the greatest players of all time.  There was a buzz in the room prior to the show like we were about to see something special, the crowd ranged from young to, not so young (don’t like saying old).  As I took my seat in my private little box (thank-you Spank The Plank Productions) I was made aware that Tommy would be having an opening act.  What an opening act it was, Vinny Raniolo & Frank Vignola blew the crowd up with their manic guitar playing, humor, and if this was any indication of the show ahead we were in for a treat.  Frank even spotted me at one point, stopped the song half way through, told Vinny to pose (he wasn’t really sure where to look so just posed), I snapped the picture, and they picked up in the song right where they left off…the crowd loved it.  The vibrance with which these two New Yorkers played was incredible, they electrified the crowd from the get go…their short set was almost not enough…definitely leaving us wanting more.

Vinny Raniolo & Frank Vignola - Capitol Theatre - 05/30/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

Vinny Raniolo & Frank Vignola – Capitol Theatre – 05/30/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

Never having heard of this Emmanuel prior to last years show at the Capitol (which as I said, I unfortunately missed),  I wasn’t sure what to think beforehand, having watched a plethora of YouTube videos but certainly never expected this stratospheric level of musical manipulation.  My God what this man can do with six strings and ten fingers!!   The musical virtuosity that Tommy displays in song after song caused, I saw, many a jaw dropping moment. I was astounded with his percussiveness on the body of his guitar mixed with the playing that those magical fingers performed on the strings.

Emmanuel was a child prodigy and by the age of six he was already working as a professional musician. His music and life are legendary in his native Australia, where he is a household name. He has recorded and performed with countless well known artists including : Air Supply, Men at Work, Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Keith Urban, Eric Clapton (who has said that “he is the best guitarist I have ever seen”), and many, many more.

He rolled through many songs including playing one of his new songs “Blood Brother”  off his latest album which was beautifully mysterious. He also played old favourites “Angelina” which he told us was written for his youngest daughter.  He also shared with us notes about his family and growing up one of six kids.   Every once in a while you detected a familiar melody and I myself found myself closing my eyes as a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”  elaborately excaped tommy’s guitar, after which he received yet another  of many standing ovations.

Tommy Emmanuel - Capitol Theatre - 05/30/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

Tommy Emmanuel – Capitol Theatre – 05/30/2014 ~ Refrain Photography

Charismatic in his delivery, rocking us with rousing versions of songs like “Guitar Boogie”, and magical with his playing, the very appreciative crowd ate up every note that was thrown at them. Tommy was joined at the end of the show once again by openers Frank and Vinny to have a three man jam on stage that was just mind blowing.  I highly encourage you to get out to see these guys play if they are in your area as you will not be disappointed.

Thanks to Frank & Vinnie, Tommie Emmanuel, and Spank The Plank for a wonderful show!

 

Backstreet Boys – Moncton Coliseum – 05/03/14

Posted: 6th May 2014 by refrainmusic in Concerts

It was obvious to me why the Backstreet Boys have been around for 21 years, not only their brand of music that has graced dance floors world wide for two decades, and a performance show that is high energy and interactive, but a dedicated and rabid fan base.  The Backstreet Boys have sold over 130 million records worldwide, thus making them the best selling boy band in history, and one of the world’s best selling musical artists. They are one of a small group to have their first nine albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200 and the only boy band to accomplish this.  This night, they launch their 2014 North American “In A World Like This” Tour, at the Moncton Coliseum.

The line-up outside the Coliseum was staggering upon arrival, dominated not surprisingly by the female gender, as thousands of fans awaited entry as a technical glitch delayed the start time (hey it is the first show of the NA tour after all).  As I referred to earlier, their staying power has a lot to do with their fan base, which as I noted watching the crowd enter the building ranged from individuals from ages of about 10-50, again, predominately female.  One fan I spoke with who was in the ‘gold circle’ on the floor, this was her 17th time seeing BSB, the following night in Halifax would be her 18th.

Backstreet Boys - In A World Like This Tour - Moncton Coliseum - 05/03/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Backstreet Boys – In A World Like This Tour – Moncton Coliseum – 05/03/14 ~ Refrain Photography

The ‘steamy’ arena was buzzing in anticipation of the guys arriving on the stage, the full house on the edge of their seats, ready to scream for the next two hours (which they certainly did).  As the lights dimmed and the group took to the stage I was very thankful to have found my misplaced ear plugs just before the show…it was loud!  Not only was the music loud but so was the 5000 plus ladies screaming at the top of their lungs surrounding me (when I took my camera to the office after our allowed three song shooting I ran into one couple that were actually leaving because of the volume).  A very simple and effective stage surrounded the group, emblazoned with LED’s that burst colour on their baby blue suits (one of many outfits on the night) and the group danced up a storm to the delight of the crowd.  Although these ‘boys’ are in their early 30’s to early 40’s they still move as much and as well as they ever did.  The only part of the stage that I disliked were the position of the speaker stacks hanging from the ceiling, they seriously impeded half of the top of the top two risers of the stage where the group spent a lot of time throughout the show if you were in the seats of the bowl.

Backstreet Boys - In A World Like This Tour - Moncton Coliseum - 05/03/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Backstreet Boys – In A World Like This Tour – Moncton Coliseum – 05/03/14 ~ Refrain Photography

A few songs in, group member AJ Maclean took to the stage alone to ask the crowd for a brief moment of silence for their long time head of security Johnny “Q” Elgani who had recently passed, which the crowd respected as Maclean held a raised fist to the sky.  Another reason this group has had the staying power of no other boy band is their love of their crowds, their interactivity with their crowds.  They noted that Canada had a special place in their hearts because, even though they were formed in Orlando, they ‘made it’ in Europe and Canada long before they were heavily on the radar in the US.

An hour into the show, the band broke it down bringing out the acoustic guitars, box drums, and keyboards to ‘play’ some songs for the fanatical crowd.  They noted that the crowd was likely thinking “what are the backstreet boys doing with instruments”? They called it insurance for 30-40 years from now when they can’t dance anymore, unless it was a latin flavoured song for which group member Howie did a dance for the crowd.  Much to the delight of the ladies.  They play a few older songs acoustically, and very well, it was obvious that playing instruments is something they have done for a long time and well.  They also played a new song called “Madelaine” off their latest, and 8th studio album.  They told stories, and there was a brief video about them shown on the three large video screens and when they returned to the stage they sang another new song from the latest album and the title of the tour, “In A World Like This” which I personally enjoyed quite a bit.  During the song AJ, walked around in the crowd while he sang joining the other members on stage near the end of the song.  One interesting highlight was when they asked the crowd to turn the flashlights of their cell phones on during a song, like thousands of firefly’s they danced  around they entire arena.  Their interactivity stretched even further and members would pose for cell phone pics as they sang, member Brian Litrell even getting right down on his stomach on stage to be part of a ‘selfie’ with a group of girls, all while continuing to sing.  (It should be noted that I as a viewer of many, many shows appreciate performers who do things like this and realize why they are here, the fans, don’t just come out and play and leave)

Backstreet Boys - In A World Like This Tour - Moncton Coliseum - 05/03/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Backstreet Boys – In A World Like This Tour – Moncton Coliseum – 05/03/14 ~ Refrain Photography

After almost two solid hours of music, the band bid farewell to the excited and screaming fans, to be pulled back for a two song encore of “Backstreet’s Back”, and “Larger Than Life”.  In a show I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, the BSB’s entertained, made me laugh, played fun songs that took me back, interacted and performed…sounds like a perfect show to me.  Backstreet’s Back…in North America for the summer of 2014, and I highly encourage you to take in this show, definitely a good one.

Thanks to the Backstreet Boys, Evenko, and PPRL for a fun night of music and entertainment in the city yet again!

 

 

Bryan Adams - Bare Bones Tour- Moncton Coliseum - 04/30/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Bryan Adams – Bare Bones Tour- Moncton Coliseum – 04/30/14 ~ Refrain Photography

The first time I saw Bryan Adams I was still buying music on 45’s with my allowance, his Cuts Like A Knife album was barely out, and hardly anyone knew who he was.  The next couple of times I saw him he was singing about “The Summer of 69″, being in “Heaven”, and asking someone to “Please Forgive Me”.  Almost thirty years after the first time I saw him perform was a chance to watch him sing the songs stripped down to their ‘bare bones’, acoustically performed, like Adams says “sung like they were written”.

Adams is a singer-songwriter, musician, producer, actor, and photographer (and a damn good one).  He’s one of the world’s best selling artists of all time and the best-selling Canadian rock artist of all time, he is a staple on rock radio and has written/performed some of the most popular and recognizable songs of all time.

The show itself started with Adams stepping on stage (about 20 minutes past the scheduled start) with no introduction, not that one is really needed, with a top hat (to mimic the logo above) and a guitar.  With a salute to the crowd and a bow, setting his hat at his feet, he launched into “Run To You”.   The crowd was into the show from the get go, with Adams being very interactive, taking ‘request’s  from the crowd and playing them on the spot.  He was accompanied by only one other musician “Gary” on the piano, the appreciative crowd at one point breaking into a chant of “Gary, Gary” after one vigorous session of piano playing.

Bryan Adams - Bare Bones Tour - Moncton Coliseum - 04/30/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Bryan Adams – Bare Bones Tour – Moncton Coliseum – 04/30/14 ~ Refrain Photography

While some bands/singers over a 30+ year music career start to lose their joy for performing, Adams has obviously not, chatting with the crowd, cracking spontaneous jokes, and really getting into the show.  Another thing that can wither over time is vocal ability, and Adams who’s now in his mid-50’s has not lost a step at all.  His vocals were bang on and strong, which was evident in this exposed show not being hidden behind electric guitars and heavy rock drums.  When given the chance, the crowd joined in, word for word on many songs becoming part of the show.  Including one member of the crowd chosen to ‘dance’ in the aisles during a bluesy number and the crowd loved it.  People would call out from the seats, and Adams would answer, he was definitely there to perform, interact, and entertain.

Adams played for a solid 90 minutes, never breaking, interacting with the crowd…even speaking to the crowd in exceptionally fluent French.  He played a request from one lady in the second row saying to her “didn’t you ask for that on my Twitter today?”, which she had, launching into the beautiful song “Flying”.  It was interesting to hear some songs broken down, skilfully played on an acoustic guitar and piano, with strong vocals, and the crowd as a back up singer.

Bryan Adams - Bare Bones Tour - Moncton Coliseum - 04/30/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Bryan Adams – Bare Bones Tour – Moncton Coliseum – 04/30/14 ~ Refrain Photography

Arguably one of the best shows I’ve seen in quite a while, with multiple standing ovations and after his 90 minute main set Adams (and Gary), raised their top hats and left the stage.  But there was no way the crowd was letting them get away that easy, Adams returning after being beckoned by the the crowd for more to play an unheard of five song encore.  It culminated with a final song that Adams wrote when he was 18 years old and his first US top ten, “Straight From The Heart”

An immensely enjoyable night of music that I encourage anyone to get out and see if they have a chance, go see this show, you won’t be disappointed!  Thanks to Adams, Evenko, and PPRL (oh, and Gary) for another fantastic night of music in the city!

 

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

daughtry-baptized

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!