Steve Hackett, Orpheum Theatre

October 18, 2019 We all have albums that transported us. Back in the day, find the sweet spot between speakers or put on some headphones, maybe have a puff, close your eyes and just listen. Dark Side was at the top for many, but mine was Selling England By The Pound by Genesis. I went places. Fantastical places. 46 years later, the album still holds true and Steve Hackett brought it to life again from start to finish (plus an unreleased track that didn’t make the cut) during the second set of his current tour. Hackett tours most years and the 1920’s Orpheum Theatre in DTLA has become his Los Angeles living room (capacity about 2K). The first of his two sets covered much of Hackett’s post-Genesis career, which I am less familiar with. The six-piece band (including Hackett) was muscular and dynamic throughout with shout outs to all, Rob Townsend on sax, flute and keys; Roger King on keys; Jonas Reingold on bass and 12-string; Craig Blundell on drums, and, Nad Sylvan on vocals. Blundell, seated behind a monster double-kick Paiste kit owned the stage at the end of the first set with an extended solo, and the flurry from […]

Mark Knopfler, Greek Theatre

September 22, 2019 I was 17 the first time I heard “Sultans of Swing”, and I was not amused. Who was this nasally sounding, semi-spoken Brit with circular breathing like hammer-ons? But, it didn’t take me long to figure out that those tunes and that Strat playing were off the charts extraordinary. “Down to the Waterline”, “Water of Love” and, of course, “Sultans”, off Dire Straits eponymous 1978 debut, had a hypnotic ear lock on my head. To this day “Making Movies” is a high watermark that never receded, and “Telegraph Road” (in both it’s studio and live versions) from their follow-up “Love Over Gold” is definitely in the band’s pantheon. Then “Money for Nothing” broke, Knopfler switched his Strat for a Les Paul and the whole world was dialed in, and while I went along, it didn’t have the same nuance and elegance of previous records. The band held on for another few albums and I was fortunate to catch the “On Every Street” tour, their last, in 1991. Knopfler has released 10 solo discs since then and mixes his earlier catalog with this material when he tours. His latest, “Down the Road From Wherever”, is a quieter, thoughtful affair […]

David Crosby, Saban Theatre

September 10, 2019 Croz always comes straight at you and from the heart, burned bridges and all. No surprise his Sky Trails tour two-setter at the Saban Theatre was so warmly greeted, from the “In My Dreams” CSN opener to the “Wooden Ships” and “Ohio” closers. “Eight Miles High”, “Guinnevere” and “Long Time Gone” were first set touchstones, and the set closing “Deja Vu” stretched for all the band to showcase their musical voices. Drummer Steve DiStanislo working skin on skins to subtle and expressive effect, James Raymond, producer, arranger and son of Croz on keys spotlighted. Michelle Willis lending her Rhodes inspired runs and vocals. Crosby had an origin story for all, but especially bassist Mae Liesz, whose busking turn led to love and touring. And then guitarist James Pevar, who has been playing with Crosby for 30 years, brought the tune back from the edges to that rolling 6/8 we all know. The exquisite “The Lee Shore” opened the second set. Crosby later sharing some of his darker moments as a junkie and how Jackson Browne pushed him to finish “Delta”as a turning point in his recovery. An a capella take of “What Are Their Names” sent shivers […]

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Greek Theatre

August 16, 2019 If you have ever been into the Dead, and written off JRAD as just a Dead cover band, you are so missing the point. For me, this band goes places I haven’t been, fueled by the Dead’s musical canon. If you made it to the Greek (or any show on this tour), you know what I’m on about. No emulating here. No Jerry or Bobby role. Just flat out all in. They take it down, when they could go up and explode when they could go low. One thing is clear, the music will never stop. And isn’t that really the point? Some deep dish visuals from this one.

NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL 2019, FORT ADAMS, RHODE ISLAND

July 26-28, 2019 As the sun dipped to meet Naragansett Bay a few Sundays back, the 60 years since the first Newport Folk Festival seemingly came full circle. The Fort Stage crowd serenading Rambling Jack Elliott, and the dozens of singers and musicians paying tribute to the spirit and songs of Pete Seeger (who appeared at the first Newport in 1959) with one last chorus of “Goodnight, Irene”. On what would have been the troubadour’s 100th birthday, it was producer Jay Sweet who encouraged the audience to have the last word and shower the stage with the love shared by all who performed and attended over the course of the three days. That the Lead Belly lyrics so simply convey love lost and always eternal, was a fitting coda to a closing set that left me more than a little teary. In a good way. Let’s just say that there are moments as a photographer when you have to put the camera down, and take it all in, and this was one of them. Welcome to Newport Folk. Newport 2019 was true to form. Full of collaboration, a few surprises and plenty of discoveries. But what was most different about […]

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Wiltern Theatre

November 8, 2018 A quick interweb search shows more than 500(!) Dead influenced or tribute bands. Yup, the reach of the Dead is just staggering, whether the generation is golden or newly spawned. To whit, “songs are like fairy tales,” Phil Lesh said in a recent Relix Radio Hour podcast, “all versions are true…I can predict that they’ll still be playing these songs in 100 years”. I give you Exhibit A. JRAD. Hear me out. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (“JRAD”) plays Dead songs fearlessly and all in. Excursions that land rooted to the tune and journeys that are a head shaking helluva ride. These guys embrace the spirit behind the songs and make them completely their own. With JRAD, I don’t relive the Dead, inasmuch as feel what they did to me then in real time now. I hit my first JRAD show last week (one of two dates at the historic Wiltern Theatre), a generous two setter that was in high gear from the opener (Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion) to the last note of the encore (Samson & Delilah). And, I have to say, they brought more life to Dead tunes than just about any Dead related show […]

Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles

September 15, 2018 My handy wiktionary tells me “throw down” is “to accomplish or produce something in a grand, respectable, or successful manner; to “represent””. Well, when it comes to the travelling New Orleans road show billed as Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown, to say that the four acts crossing the country this summer just represented, is like saying we live in uneventful times. Uh, yeah, they represented, alright. This had to be one of the best shows of the season.   This threauxdown was as close as Jazz Fest gets on the road. New Breed Brass, Pres Hall, Galactic and Shorty would be a great day on any Fest stage. That they’ve been at mid-size venues from coast-to-coast and back again is like musical room service for those with a taste for New Orleans.   When New Breed kicked off at 7, for a brief (20ish minutes), but very punchy set, the Greek was looking a little sparse. That wouldn’t last long. No breaks for this brass, they had their foot on it for the full 20.           By the time Pres Hall picked it up at 7:30, the sun was down and seats were filling […]

Arroyo Seco Weekend, Brookside Golf Course, Pasadena

June 23-24, 2018 Arroyo Seco Weekend is not fussy. The beer is thick with local crafts, the something for everyone eats abundant with vegetarian options, and, yes, it felt like a day in the park with a rich soundtrack. The inclusive, relaxed setting and vibe made for one of most satisfying fest experiences I’ve had outside New Orleans. Goldenvoice worked out many of the freshmen kinks to bring us a uniquely L.A. area festival that was musically textured and easy to navigate, with zero attitude, when it so could have gone the other way. No need to pony up for VIP treatment here. Getting around was no issue, food and (pricey) drinks were never too far, Rose Bowl bathrooms were always an option, and while the Oaks stage was packed for headliners, it was manageable and easy to get close throughout most of the day. Oh, did I mention parking was included with entry? Even with only three stages, I still racked up 7-8 miles a day covering 30 of 36 acts over the weekend, but the 8th and 9th holes and driving range of Brookside felt like carpet compared to most fests. Near perfect June weather helped. Saturday highlights […]

Newport Folk Festival, Ft. Adams, Rhode Island

July 29-30, 2017 “These songs are a living language”, Billy Bragg told the crowd early in his Harbor Stage set with Joe Henry at the Newport Folk Festival on Saturday. Six words that pretty much sum up the heart and soul of this legacy event that sits atop so much musical history. So, true to form, one of the more anticipated Sunday performances was Speak Out! A set that started with the rollicking Preservation Hall Band horns slowing “When the Saints Come Marching In” down to a somber crawl, bleeding into the National Anthem before singer Kyle Craft launched into Bowie’s “Heroes”. A band that grew to include Austin’s Shakey Graves and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel and others, with Graves leading the first person Trumpian rant “I’m Better Than You”. Newport Folk is about the words and the music. Songs that stir and shake, songs you shake your ass to, songs that provoke, songs that matter. But it’s also about discovery of new voices and sounds, and the fingerprints of founder George Wein still carting around Ft. Adams, and the guiding hand of producer Jay Sweet. Newport is about surprises, highlighted this year by the “unannounced” return of Nathaniel […]

Arroyo Seco Weekend, Brookside Golf Course, Pasadena

June 24-25, 2017 Festival behemoth AEG and Goldenvoice are at it again, launching the inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend after years of negotiations with the City and citizens of Pasadena, securing a 10-year deal at Brookside Golf Course, adjacent to the Rose Bowl. It’s a family forward music festival with free entry for kids under 10, a relaxed park setting, good grub and libations and a first year lineup that was more than just respectable, it had personality. Mixing big name headliners (Tom Petty and Mumford & Sons), Fest friendly mid-tiers (Dawes, Alabama Shakes), some 90s love (The Shins, Live), a hefty does of New Orleans (The Meters, Galactic, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Revivalists), quite respectable jazz, soul and and blues (John Mayall, Charles Bradley, Bennie Maupin, Roy Ayers), and a number of indie comers, there was also a refreshing lack of EDM or rap/hip hop to the lineup. The price point was fair, and keeping the inaugural event to three stages and two days (three days are planned in the future), was probably a pretty smart move, even more so with record breaking heat on Sunday that felt more Coachella than DTLA proximate. Freshman fests inevitably have a few […]