The Get Up Kids have been out of the spotlight since 2005, so the announcement that they would be playing a full reunion tour came as a surprise. Everything seemed so final, the farewell show played in their hometown of Kansas City, the release of the “Live at the Granada” CD showcasing their last show, and the beginning side projects by 3 different members of the band(Matt in the New Amsterdams, Jim in Blackpool Lights, and Rob in Spoon). Seemingly everyone had move on, and yet there we were watching the Get Up Kids rock a live show at the Norva in Norfolk Virginia on November 4th.
I’ve seen the Get Up Kids several times live and they have an uncanny way of getting the crowd pumped from the first to the last song and this reunion show as no exception. They always sound great live, bring a ridiculous amount of energy to the stage and play the songs they know the audience wants to hear. They opened most of their reunion shows with the fan favorite “I’m a Loner Dottie a Rebel,” and before they finished the first line “Come tomorrow I’ll be….” the crowd in Norfolk was shaking their fists and reciting “….on my way back home.” For all we knew it could have been 4 years ago except for the fact that there were only about half the amount of people shaking their fists.
So, with that seamless segway, here comes the bad news, they didn’t come close to selling out the Norva, which only holds about 1500 people and the fans that were there seemed much less enthused about this recent tour. Maybe they have been gone too long, maybe they were just never popular enough to begin with, but with 2 brand new songs on the set list, it looks like The Get Up Kids are interested in a resurgence. The first song they debuted, “Your Petty Pretty Things” is a nice return to the sound that almost made them famous, reminding me of the uptempo catchy tunes found on their near perfect album “Something to Write Home About.” Yet the second song, “Keith Case,” which seemed to me a failed experiment with funky bass lines just simply fell flat and never really went anywhere.
All this being said, I still think The Get Up Kids have a great live sound and some good music to write. So, if you’re a fan of music in the indie/emo/pop punk variety keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground, because The Get Up Kids might not be done yet.
Like a 20-Something Kid in a Liquor Store
Seeing these guys at the old timey National Theatre in Richmond was definitely a trip back in time. Not only is the venue a beautifully renovated theater, decked out in red brick and vintage wood, but the energy from the Pickups brought back youthful antics, reminiscent of great rock shows in the past.
As a tall guy over 200 lbs. it’s pretty easy to get a good spot at a GA concert, however two songs in, when frontman Brian Auger started shredding his Epiphone Sheraton, I couldn’t resit the urge to bowl through the fairly young crowd and fight my way closer to the front lines. Somehow bailing on my friends in the process. But that’s the good thing about the close-quarters of an animated rock show. You make new friends. I managed to team up with two brothers, no more than 13 or 14, who didn’t mind rocking with some crazy bearded loner twice their age. Together we elevated crowd intensity levels ten-fold. While I couldn’t convince these kids to crowd surf, “That’s too dangerous!” they told me. And there was no way they were getting me up, we did lead the crowd in one of the most fist-pumping, foot-stomping, animated scream-alongs I’ve ever been a part of. A truly fun show from one of the most exciting and lively bands out.
Much has been made of Paul Mccartney’s three sold out concerts at the Mets’ new Citi Field, and their historical significance coming almost 35 years after the Beatles played the Mets’ old home at Shea Stadium. The shows were recorded for future release on DVD, received a great deal of media attention, and piled up the glowing reviews.
Much less however has been made of the next night’s show just outside D.C. at the Washington Redskins Fedex Field(the 4th of 9 sold out shows on this US tour). This show however, is not without a history of its own as Washington, D.C., not New York City was actually the first show The Beatles played on US soil. History or no history, I was at an all time high of anticipation and decided to spring the extra coin for seats in the front section of the field; after all how many chances do you get a chance to see a Beatle up close and personal.
It ended up being just about what I thought it would be, incredible. The original Beatles show in D.C. was 12 songs, lasting about a half hour. The 67 year old Macca bested that by about 25 songs, playing through his ample songbook for better than 3 hours. Throughout the night Macca rotated between his famous Hofner Bass, electric and acoustic guitars, and the piano with great moments at each. The sound was exceptional as the band was flawless, and that world famous voice sounded as good as it did on the original recordings. While the energy during the Beatles songs was understandably unmatched, Paul clearly has a wealth of quality solo material from each of the last 4 decades, including a few great jams from last years Fireman project. He even broke it open on a few songs, going into improv jams that really added to the show.
Paul, while not a conversationalist contributed just enough timely back stories and nostalgic tales about his former bandmates to keep things lively. These sentimental tales, turned into song and provided some of the more memorable numbers from the evening including an acoustic version of “Here Today”(a song he wrote for John shortly after his death), a performance of “Something” on a ukulele given to him by George, and a campfire style singalong of John’s “Give Peace a Chance”.
While the night took a reflective turn at times, this was no nostalgia act. This was a legend, putting on a show to the likes of which I have never seen. Watching this show got me to think, when exactly was the peak of Paul’s live show? If you were to say the early days in the Cavern club, you are missing out on a whole lot of great material. The early Beatles Stadium tours were characterized by screaming women and poor sound systems, and they pretty much stopped playing live after Rubber Soul. Wings had its moments, but then again it was Wings. The solo tours of the 80′s and 90′s were great but there was a hesitance to play certain Beatles material and had a slight flair for the dramatic.
So where exactly is the peak of Sir Paul’s live show? While I can’t say for sure, I can say that the 2009 version of the Mccartney live show is full of energy, boasts a wide open songbook, and a flawless performance. Seeing Paul Mccartney live is an amazing experience, one that I won’t soon forget.
So far the summer concert season has been one of expectations both high and low. If Coldplay was the band that greatly exceeded my low expectations, Doves are the exact opposite. I had set the bar at almost unachievable levels for the English rock trio and it finally came crashing down. I knew it was gonna be a rough night when the band didn’t take the stage until 11:45. I had to wonder if these guys were still on Greenwich Mean Time.
So at a quarter till midnight when I’m half asleep and fading, I’m supposed to be jumping up and down for one of my favorite bands? Something just isn’t right. Jet-stream? More like Jet-lag.
Once they took the stage none of this mattered as I was stoked as all get out. Doves are a band with a sound that needs time to build up and evolve. An atmospheric style full of swooping harmonies and laid back melodies. So when they cranked up the amp to 11 it wasn’t quite the ‘needle-drop” sound system I was hoping for. Calling it loud is like calling the ocean wet. A little bit of an understatement. They did rock but the show seemed a bit of a mess. Their style just doesn’t quite work louder and faster because they’re a band whose success comes from being a lot more subtile and taking time to build up their songs. It’s kind of hard to rush a 5 minutes song, but they did. The set list was mixed with most of the songs off Kingdom of Rust and a slew of their older hits. Two of my favorite Doves tunes “Kingdom of Rust” and “Pounding” both came across as sloppy and real disappointments. Standout performances were “The Last Broadcast” and “The Outsiders”. The latter which was one of the few songs that really delivered in this louder, harder environment.
Now even though the encore took place at almost 1 AM it was actually the best part of the show. Save the best for last I suppose. “Here it Comes” let drummer, Andy Williams, take the lead on vocals and the song came across as the bad-ass anthem or the “call to arms” that woke everyone up again. “There Goes the Fear” was the last and best song of the night both in energy and musicianship. These guys were on point and truly ended it on a high note. Which is what I needed for the long walk back to the DC subway station. So while the band might have dropped a little from the stratosphere I’ve been holding them in, it was only fair. Regardless of how high I want these guys to fly The Doves are only human.
Coldplay – VB, VA – 5/20/09
Seeing an international band in my hometown of Virginia Beach is a rare experience. It makes you feel noticed and appreciated, even when opening act Pete Yorn yells out “Thank you West Virginia!”
Now I am not the biggest Coldplay fan in the world. In fact, I might even have referred to them once or twice as a “the U2 rip-off known as “Coldgay”. But my wife is a big fan and I am a good husband. AND most importantly, the tickets were only $10. (Seriously)
So my skepticism was in full effect as we made our way through the packed lawn. It was a fairly obvious crowd consisting of many, many young white people. All wide-eyed and grinning for AN EVENING IN THE PARK, WITH COLDPLAY. The amphitheater erupted in high-pitched jubilation as the quartet took the stage. They opened with a familiar sounding tune right as I snuck my third mini-bottle of Jack into a coke. Unimpressed, I nodded my head as the others screamed in pure ecstasy.
It wasn’t until the third of fourth song in, when I finally decided to give these guys a shot. The breakdown halfway thru the song “42″ was a turning point in a night otherwise headed for crude drunkenness and British jokes. That song singlehandedly captured my interest and was the crack in my rigid shell of cynicism. So when they followed it with my secret favorite Coldplay song “Fix You’, I was hooked. Truth be told, if you don’t like that song live, you’re an asshole. No matter how indie/emo/lo-fi/anti/too-cool-for-school you think you are. It’s a definite winner for anyone interested in A) rock, B) roll or C) all of the above.
What followed was an energetic and colorful mixture of acoustic ballads, piano solos and entertaining live rock. What else can you ask for? So while I’m still too proud to agree with the 40 year old loner hanging out in the parking lot who shouted, “That was f@#*ing awesome!” I will say this, it was MUCH better than I expected. You won’t catch me rocking out to a Coldplay album in traffic anytime soon but I definitely recommend catching them on this summer’s tour.
Especially if you can do so for 10 bucks!
You know how rock fans from the “good ole days” always make you jealous when they talk about seeing great concert after great concert in the 70′s, leaving you to wonder where the memorable concerts are this day and age. Well, Wilco is one of those bands. Do yourself a favor and check them out live, and then you can tell some punk years from now about how they should have seen this great band called Wilco in their heyday.
Wilco has the total package for a live show. They have a huge back catalog full of great songs, a super talented front man, and an incredibly tight band complete with a lead guitar player who gives himself whiplash every show from rocking too hard. The band is the perfect size act to see live. They are small enough to play intimate shows where the good seats are affordable ($2 for $25 in the 10th row!), but big enough to play cool venues with top notch sound quality.
Since they aren’t promoting a new album, the band set up their website to let the ticket holders pick the songs they wanted to hear. Either the crowd all agrees with me on Wilco’s best tunes or I was the only one who voted, as my two favorite Wilco albums; Being There and Summerteeth were heavily represented. Lead guitarist Nels Cline brings a new dynamic to these older tracks originally recorded before his tenure in the band, and almost as if to prove something, takes the shred to another level on his songs from Sky Blue Sky.
Acoustic diddies, ballads, sonic experimentation, dueling guitars, all in a days work. Wilco is a band of great musicians that seems to be in a great place together with a crazy good catalog of songs at their disposal. An excellent show in a cool venue in a very fun town.
Pot Kettle Black
Hoodoo Voodoo (encore)
Final Note: Wilco has an open recording policy on their concerts, and the guy two rows in front of me took full advantage of this with some rather high tech recording equipment. The show is posted for free download here.