Monthly Archives: August 2015

U2

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Madison Square Garden, New York City

U2 is an incredibly significant part of popular culture, perhaps even our Greek chorus–the conscience of the people. Their 40-year career making music together is nothing short of stunning. Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. are phenomenal musicians and their song catalog is incredible. They’ve written songs to educate and move people, and their philanthropic work has been extraordinary and impactful.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing U2 live seven times over the course of 15 years. I got to see their Elevation, Vertigo, and 360 tours—even waiting outside in line in Montreal for a solid eight or nine hours in the hot sun to get inside the inner circle of their last tour. Getting to see any U2 show is monumental. I’ve joked that going to see them is like going to worship in the “Church of Bono.” He’s preachy live—educating the audience, asking for their support for causes important to him, and encouraging us to be more open minded and take an active role in our global community. Getting to hear “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “One,” “Pride” and “Where the Streets Have No Name” live is spellbinding. You feel like you’re part of a significant, dare I say it, sacred, experience. It’s really something. So my expectations of a U2 live show are obviously high, based on my past experiences. And this show at Madison Square Garden, my first there, just didn’t reach the bar. It’s sort of shocking to write a less than stellar review of a U2 show, but if I’m being honest, this night fell flat for me.

2011–Kim and I are still smiling after waiting at least a solid eight hours for U2 in Montreal! Inner circle!

 My dear friend and U2 super fan Kim and I made it an adventure and spent the afternoon standing outside Madison Square Garden hoping to meet the band. She and I both know folks in Montreal and Boston who happened to be at the right place at the right time and got to meet members of the band, so we had our fingers crossed and our hearts set on it. I even know someone who Bono pulled on stage for a solid ten minutes at one of the Boston shows, so hopes were high. After seeing all of the guys drive into MSG, we hoped they’d come out to greet us, but had no luck. Kim looked back at the set lists from the tour and saw that they’d been playing some songs they hadn’t played live in decades, but that didn’t happen for us. Jimmy Fallon was the surprise guest the night before our show, and Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen were guests on nights after us, but there was no special guest at our show. I think I would have been less disappointed if I hadn’t known so much about the other nights before going into the show.U2 always sounds great, which they did, but their set was slow moving and not full of the hits I’d come to expect to hear live. I suspect that maybe Bono was tired that night, because he didn’t talk to us as much as usual, either. Their stage design was impressive with a very long catwalk stage, which was neat and gave people in GA a lot more opportunity to be close to the band at some point during the show. Their set also included an LED cage that ran the length of most of the stage, and even though the graphics they projected on it were cool and the fact they climbed up into it to play was neat, I didn’t like being even that much farther away from the band I’d paid so much and come so far to see live.

So pumped for U2 at MSG!!

Madison Square Garden

We’d hoped that spotting U2’s head of security meant they’d be coming out to greet fans. No such luck.


  

“Sunday Bloody Sunday”

  
  
 Overall, this show just didn’t cut the mustard for me and that is incredibly uncomfortable to say, but it’s true. I still love U2 and appreciate them tremendously and hope they were just having an off night, which everyone is surely entitled to.

xo,

bree

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Johnson Hall Season Reveal

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

I love my sweet little town, and I’m over the moon about the caliber of shows coming this season to Johnson Hall, our beautiful local theater. Celebrating its 150th year, Johnson Hall Director Mike Miclon has outdone himself with the talent he’s booked to come play 40 shows in teeny Gardiner. Johnson Hall hosted a “season reveal” party early in July, and Mike gave me a shout out because (per my suggestion) one of my favorite live bands is coming on Friday, September 25. Boston’s The Ballroom Thieves* is the real deal, and the fact that they’re coming to Gardiner is a big deal, folks. The Thieves just impressed at The Newport Folk Festival, and getting to see them in an intimate venue like Johnson Hall will soon be a thing of the past. Don’t miss it! You can buy tickets for any (and all!) of the upcoming shows at Johnson Hall here.

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Johnson Hall Executive Director, Mike Miclon

Johnson Hall Executive Director, Mike Miclon

Mike also sent all of us home with a sampler CD of all of the musical groups coming this season, which was a brilliant idea and a generous gift. After a few listens, I had a strong sense of each musical group and confidently built my concert calendar—being sure to save the dates for acts like Don Campbell (November 7), David Wilcox (December 4), and Rose Cousins (March 18).

  
Johnson Hall is a major part of Gardiner’s downtown revival, and I hope you’ll come visit us for dinner and a show soon. Gardiner is a mere 45 minutes from Portland, and absolutely worth the drive.

Great job Mike—I’m thrilled about this season!

xo,

bree

*In case you need some convincing, check out one of my most effusive posts about The Ballroom Thieves.

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The Weepies with Greg Tannen

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Wilbur Theatre, Boston

I’ve had The Weepies come up on Pandora stations for years and their sweet, sentimental songs are up my alley. I haven’t listened to them more purposefully than that, so when my steadfast concert friend, Colin, mentioned he had an extra ticket to go see them in Boston, I decided to embrace the freedom of summer vacation and join him. It turned out that this was a magical day, because the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that same sex marriage would be legal throughout the country, and my Facebook feed blew up with joy and rainbow flag profile pictures. I wrote “LOVE WINS!” on my car’s rear windshield to celebrate and soared to Portland to fetch Colin. We had the most unusually easy drive into Boston, which, as if jinxed, ended abruptly less than a block from the garage where Colin had pre-paid for our parking spot when the road was closed moments before we tried to turn in. An hour later, we had circled the block, gotten into our spot, grabbed some burritos at Boloco, and made our way to the Wilbur Theatre with plenty of time to get a good spot up front. Colin bought general admission tickets, but the folks at the Wilbur informed us that we had GA section 1 tickets (not specified at purchase), and were corralled into literally a pen far enough away from the stage that I was not impressed. So, if you are ever buying tickets to a concert at the Wilbur and want to be up front, you want GA section 2 tickets. I hope that tidbit helps you someday.

LOVE WINS!!

LOVE WINS!!

Here was our pen--GA section 1

Here was our pen–GA section 1

Greg Tannen and Amanda Brown took the stage to open the show. Greg’s brother Steve is half of The Weepies, and he talked about how great it was to be touring with family. Amanda stole the set and her voice really impressed. Deb and Steve joined them on stage for “Vegas Baby,” which the two brothers wrote together at least a decade earlier.

Greg Tannen and his band, including Amanda Brown, joined by The Weepies for "Vegas Baby"

Greg Tannen and his band, including Amanda Brown, joined by The Weepies for “Vegas Baby”

The Weepies are married singer-songwriters Deb Talan and Steve Tannen. People in the crowd were mostly really engaged and friendly. Deb and Steve were so sweet together. Almost two months later (oops!) and that’s what sticks out to me most clearly about the night. Deb is the more focused in the couple. There was an instrument mix up at some point and Deb was clearly right and Steve was confused and he stopped to joke with us that he’d messed up and she was right, so he complimented her boots and said “Baby, you rock!” That they love each other a lot was what shone most brightly that night. They gave a shout out to Matt Smith in audience who booked Steve a show in Boston in 2001 that Deb attended. They started making music together almost immediately after that night and now are married with three kids and a handful of albums together.

The Weepies

The Weepies

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The Weepies joined by Greg Tannen and Amanda Brown on “Vegas Baby”

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I felt a bit like I was in Deb and Steve’s living room all night. It was the kind of show I love—filled with warmth and friendly banter meant to engage the audience. I chuckled when Deb looked down and told us they’d actually brought their carpet from their living room so they’d feel more at home on tour. Steve bragged about his wonderful wife and announced that after a fight with stage 3 breast cancer, Deb is now cancer free. The crowd erupted. Soon after, Deb talked about the recording process and putting together a touring band. She said that being sick helped push her to pursue her dreams, and she asked the drummer to join them and introduced him as Peter Thomas from Elvis Costello’s band. She said she never would have thought to ask a living legend like him to play with them, but cancer made her brave and he said yes to joining the band. They played “Never Let You Down” from their 2015 Sirens album after that warm introduction.

Steve kept the laughs coming all night and told us that their kids were on tour, too, but were wiped out from excitement after they learned that the park across the street from The Wilbur (Boston Public Gardens) was the very same one Robert McCloskey wrote about in Make Way for Ducklings. He joked that his kids freaked out like they were at Madonna’s house or something.

Even though I was pretty unfamiliar with their music, I’m glad I decided to go to the show. I was happy to hear “World Spins Madly On” live. The Weepies were solidly entertaining and made me feel really welcome.

xo,

bree

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Milo Greene with Hey Marseilles

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine

Have you ever loved a band, listened to their album a hundred times, but then invited friends to come see them live with you and the band totally fell flat and you felt responsible? This was that.

I fell in love with LA’s Milo Greene when they opened for The Civil Wars at Berklee Performance Arts Center in November of 2011. I bought their three-song sampler for $5 and listened to it easily a hundred times waiting for their first full-length album. I saw them in Boston at Brighton Music Hall in October of 2012 (playing with Lucius), and again touring for their folky, harmonic self-titled album in March of 2013 at Empire in Portland. I re-read my post from 2012 at Brighton Music Hall where I wrote “their strength is in their live show.” Milo Greene didn’t bring it to Port City Music Hall that night.

Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall. October 2012.

Milo Greene at Brighton Music Hall in Boston. October 2012.

Milo Greene at Empire in Portland, Maine. March 2013.

Milo Greene at Empire in Portland, Maine. March 2013.

I have always described Milo Greene to first-timers as an upbeat indie group without a lead singer. They pass instruments back and forth. Their harmonies are stunning and their songs catchy and relatable. Their new album, Control, is a different thing altogether. Released in early 2015, it is much more pop and percussive. It’s a pretty big departure, and not in a direction I was excited about, but I still thought their live show would impress. It didn’t.

The only wholly bright spot of the night was show opener Hey Marseilles from Seattle. They have a folky pop sound with great harmonies and a string section. Matt Bishop, their lead singer, was engaging and friendly. He joked that their band name is hard to say but easy to Google search. I wasn’t familiar with their music before the show, but I enjoyed the bulk of it (especially “Heart Beats”) and have listened more since the show. I’d definitely see them again.

Seattle's Hey Marseilles

Seattle’s Hey Marseilles

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Milo Greene took the stage and thanked us for waiting three years for them to come back to town. That might have been just about the only thing anyone in the band said for the majority of the show. They played in the near dark, song after song. No song introductions, no checking in with the audience. It felt like we might as well not have been there. Much later in their set, Robbie said that their new album is the real them (that was the gist, anyhow). Marlana piped up that she thought it might take a little convincing, but he clearly disagreed. I wondered how united the group is about their new musical direction.

LA's Milo Greene

LA’s Milo Greene

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This beautiful shot of Milo Greene is courtesy of Caroline Carrigan

This beautiful shot of Milo Greene is courtesy of Caroline Carrigan

Milo Greene sped through their Control-heavy set. On their website they’re quoted as saying that their “first album was a massive wall of harmonies.” It is a glorious sound, if you ask me, and the crowd’s reaction led me to think I’m not the only one who misses the old stuff. I was happy to hear a handful of their earlier songs like “1957,” “What’s The Matter,” and “Autumn Tree.” They covered Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home,” which I thought was fantastic. The band rushed through their songs and hurried off stage and I was surprised by how early I got home after a show on a school night. If they came back to town, I’d sadly pass, which is kind of heartbreaking.

xo,

bree

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