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June 23, 2011

Review: U2 at M&T Bank Stadium June 22

The next time the Ravens win a game at M&T Bank Stadium, they should be so lucky to get the kind of response four 50-something Irish guys got there Wednesday night.

Thousands of fans - the stadium estimated some 80,000 - welcomed U2 for their first regional show in two years like Bono and company had just ended the N.F.L lockout.

Billed as the record-setting spectacular to beat all concert spectaculars, U2’s 360-degree tour employs the latest advancements in live entertainment, including a moving, four-legged stage that looked ripped from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

It's been joked that for a band as bombastic as this one, a stage that big was needed to contain all of their egos, mostly Bono's. But the spacious arena, as big as a small club, allowed for maximum showboating, and for the band members to pull off pyrotechnics that would have been difficult at 1st Mariner Arena, where they played the last time they were in Baltimore in 2001.

Over two hours, The Edge got to sing directly above fans, thanks to the moving stage; other band members strolled the circular stage within reaching distance of the spastic crowd; got the stadium to sing along several times - most memorably on "I Will Follow" - and Bono got to show off some favorite Bono-isms, grunting, wearing a glow-in-the-dark jacket, and plugging his favorite political causes.

An ambitious show to say the least, it also featured cameos from, incongruously, Desmond Tutu and Gabrielle Giffords' husband. Now on its second year, the 360-degree tour confirmed why U2 is still among the few headliners that can sell out stadiums.

The setlist stayed close to what the band's been playing at other recent concerts, straying only at a few key moments. Over all they played some 24 songs, with all but a couple of their albums represented, going as far back as "Boy" and up to their most recent outing, "No Line on the Horizon." "Achtung Baby," "The Joshua Tree," and "No Line" had the most numbers in the show. The British band Florence and the Machine opened the show.

Continue reading "Review: U2 at M&T Bank Stadium June 22" »

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June 17, 2011

Sade kicks off her American tour in spectacular fashion at Baltimore's 1st Mariner

Alright, stop looking. They're not gonna get any better than this. Sade at 1st Mariner, the first show of her new tour's American leg, is the best concert of the year.

Rihanna's was good, but it was amateur hour in comparison. U2's will be bigger, but it will not exceed the sheer transcendence of the Sade live experience.

The woman performs live rarely; her last major tour was a decade ago. And she's not even an occasional performer on the awards show circuit or singing competition shows. Few profiles of her fail to include the word "reclusive." It was likely that many in the crowd had probably not caught even her last tour. 

Some headliners tour every two years, others - U2, Madonna, Springsteen - loom so large in the culture that it's exciting just to see them in concert. But, Sade's concerts have the makings of natural phenomena that happen once a decade. They come so rarely, she feels like pop's Halley's comet.

At that pace, seeing her perform is itself a privilege, an experience unlikely to be repeated, literally, for another ten years. One of the remarkable moments of the concert happened in the half hour past her announced 9 p.m. entrance time, when the anticipation at 1st Mariner was palpable. It was difficult not to be caught up in the collective euphoria of the impatient crowd.

The singer, however, did not coast on the adulation of a crowd that would have swooned even if she'd sung Creed covers. Her two-hour show was a success because, after all the flashy, gimmicky shows pop stars have been staging this past year, this was a palette cleanser.

There was no DJ on stage. No prop cars made any appearances. She did not wear an LCD dress broadcasting a rainbow screensaver. It was remarkable for the stuff it didn't have. The concert's producers relied on smart, visually engaging stagecraft that otherwise enhanced the band and singer's performance, rather than overwhelm it.

Continue reading "Sade kicks off her American tour in spectacular fashion at Baltimore's 1st Mariner" »

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June 16, 2011

Katy Perry with Robyn, Rye Rye at Merriweather Post Pavilion June 16

Katy Perry, Robyn and Rye Rye performed at Merriweather Post Pavilion Wednesday night. Reporter John John Williams IV reviews the show.

Katy Perry probably could flirt her way out of a speeding ticket. She knows how to bat her eyelashes, soften her voice just so, and smile her way out of sticky situations.

She’s loveable. How else do you explain the throngs of parents and their young children prancing around at Merriweather Post Pavilion Wednesday night to songs laced with lyrics about drug use and wanting to see male genitalia.

The fans at Perry’s “California Dreams” tour were clearly able to overlook all the innuendos and obvious adult content because she knows how to put on a show.

Her Candy Land stage designs are crafted to match her fun-loving, sweet, and sultry persona. Her set list includes hit after hit. It's hard not to stand up and dance along with the pop princess—even if she’s tripping on hallucinogenic brownies.

Continue reading "Katy Perry with Robyn, Rye Rye at Merriweather Post Pavilion June 16 " »

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June 10, 2011

Scissor Sisters at Rams Head Live June 9

When Jake Shears took the stage at Rams Head Live Thursday night, he wore what looked like the bottom half of a spacesuit and an open-chested leotard.

Later, he wore a skin-tight, rubber wet suit that made him look like a skinny, black prophylactic. He aimed to shock, but his outfits were the only risque moments in an hour-and-a-half show that played mainly to their broadest fan base.

For their first Baltimore show, they kept it tame, as clean and politically correct as a "NOH8" campaign. It is safe to say Robyn pulled in more gays back in February.

One likely reason for the tameness of the show is that it's hard to be a gay flamboyant stage performer these days, when your most outrageous shock tactic can be upstaged by a Lady Gaga. Even Freddie Mercury would have blanched at putting a horny unicorn in a music video (Kesha!).

But, also, Scissor Sisters have always had ambitions to appeal to mainstream, arena-sized audiences. Though they bill themselves as a merry band of filthy transgressors, more often than what they're good is making catchy songs - "Take Your Mama Out," "I Don't Feel like Dancin," - that even Vampire Weekend's mom fans can enjoy.

Continue reading "Scissor Sisters at Rams Head Live June 9" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
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June 6, 2011

Rihanna at 1st Mariner Arena, first stop of Loud Tour

Rihanna kicked off Loud, her fourth headlining tour, in Baltimore Saturday night, performing for a mostly sold-out 1st Mariner Arena for nearly two hours.

Flitting from hit to hit, over 20 of them overall, the show was a testament to Rihanna's chart dominance over the past five years, when she's become our most reliable manufacturer of arena pop.

It was also one of the best pop concerts so far this year, a visually interesting, well-designed show that moved through sections with none of the clunkiness that bogged down Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour, where costume changes and unwieldy set-pieces took up too much time.

Except for a the ballads that almost marred the fourth act, Rihanna's Loud was a seamless stream of upbeat dance music, and she did it without sacrificing impressive stagecraft or pizzazz.

Conscious that, despite having twice as many hits as Gaga (37 to 15 gold and platinum certifications) she is thought of as the less flashy pop star, she made a few stabs at grabbing headlines. On "Darling Nikki," a Prince cover, she played Kyle MacLachlan to a bevy of showgirls. And in  "Skin," she picked a female audience member off the crowd and gave her a lap dance.

Continue reading "Rihanna at 1st Mariner Arena, first stop of Loud Tour" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 2:38 PM | | Comments (0)
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May 26, 2011

Review: Paul Simon at DAR Constitution Hall May 25

IMG_2142.JPGPaul Simon performed for a sold-out DAR Constitution Hall Wednesday night. Reporter Chris Kaltenbach reviews the show.

With a welcome mix of sincerity, playfulness and straight-ahead virtuosity, Paul Simon presented a two-hour concert that made clear both why and how he’s remained a vital force in rock 'n' roll for nearly half a century.

The why is simple: there’s nary a style of music, be it reggae, blues, gospel or roots rock, that Simon  hasn’t sampled and made his own over the course of his career.

With his underrated guitar playing and tight eight-piece backing band, Simon played a set and three two encores that include more than 20 more than 25 songs. Even though the cavernous acoustics at Constitution Hall tended to swallow his lyrics (which for many in the audience didn’t really matter, since they knew all the words by heart anyway), Simon and his band rarely flinched.

Continue reading "Review: Paul Simon at DAR Constitution Hall May 25" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 8:41 AM | | Comments (6)
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May 21, 2011

Music review: Bruno Mars, Train at Preakness Infield 2011

The music at Preakness Infield this year was hardly legendary, not as the Kegasus billboards wanted it to be anyway.

With headliners Bruno Mars and Train it could not have risen above the raucousness of a kegger organized by someone’s dad.

Their hour-long sets, which consisted of several popular covers and their own chart-toppers, were sweet, upbeat, and, like a Black-Eyed Susan, acceptable for a hot Spring day, but as instantly forgettable.

If anything, the headliners, along with Hotspur, who kicked off the main stage at around 11 a.m., and second stage headliners Puddle of Mudd, Mr. Greengenes, and Phil Vassar, were legendarily blasé.

It was in keeping with the plans of the organizers, who have said they wanted headliners this year that, while appealing to a 21 to 40 year old demographic, are tame, and family-friendly.

To that end, they could have scarcely had better bookings than today’s. Both Train and Mars have a knack for producing highly commercial, radio-ready, PG-13 pop that can be tolerated by both young and old. They strike the perfect balance that organizers have sought for the Infield since the BYOB campus was banned: “Warm but not over the edge,” as Train lead singer Pat Monahan said earlier this week.

Train played its role to perfection. They rocked the audience alright, into a stupor. Throughout its 80-minute set, the veteran adult contemporary band had a hard time engaging a crowd that was not much larger than what an early-afternoon performer would get at Virgin Mobile FreeFest and that seemed far more interested in its beer mugs.

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Posted by Erik Maza at 6:14 PM | | Comments (11)
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May 19, 2011

Review: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at Rams Head Live

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals performed at Rams Head Live Wednesday, and Dawn Moore-Guinness got a chance to see them with her daughter after winning a pair of tickets through Midnight Sun.

 The night started off with two opening bands. We arrived in time to catch the Futurebirds. It was hard to really listen to them while trying to calm our excited 4-year-old. who was only there for Grace and would not stop asking when she was would play!

Shortly after their set began we were escorted back stage for the meet & greet with Ms. Grace. This was a surprise to my little one. Needless to say, she was beyond starstruck.

Grace was sweet & chatted with Avery, asking her fun questions and sharing stories of when she was a little girl. After a few pictures and goodbyes, we headed back out to the front to watch the main event.

The band's performance was full of energy. Sassy, super short dresses, painfully-hot, shiny heels, bright red lipstick, bow-ties, funky shades, and tigers decked the stage.

Continue reading "Review: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at Rams Head Live" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:45 AM | | Comments (0)
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May 16, 2011

Review: Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band at the 9:30 Club

Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, the American blues band interviewed on Midnight Sun last December, performed at the 9:30 Club Saturday night. Contributor Ben Opipari reviews the show.

One thing you need to remember before seeing a show by The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band: take care of your basic needs (beer, bathroom) before the band hits the stage.  Once they start playing, you won't be going anywhere.

It's impossible to take your eyes off them. 

The band, which performed at the 9:30 Club Saturday, consists of the Rev (on his pre-1935 guitars), his wife Washboard Breezy (on the washboard) and Aaron “Cuz” Persinger (on drums—and five gallon bucket). 

A Big Damn Band live show is full of life.  In an age when many performers rarely venture a few paces past their microphone if they’re even able to stop shoe-gazing, the Big Damn Band is furious power.

On Saturday, when they opened for The Reverend Horton Heat on the “Two Revs” tour, the band was all pent-up energy, and for good reason: they had been in an accident only a few hours before, outside of Elkton, seriously damaging the van.  And that van had replaced the old van only four days earlier.  The Rev, a charismatic frontman, was not there, he told the crowd, to play any “hipster (expletive).”  

Continue reading "Review: Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band at the 9:30 Club" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 12:30 PM | | Comments (1)
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May 12, 2011

Review: James Taylor at Hippodrome Theatre May 11

Legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor performed at the Hippodrome Wednesday night. Reporter Nick Madigan sends in this review.

James Taylor smiles when he sings.

Thousands of performances, decades of applause and countless honors have not dimmed Taylor’s deep-seated love for what he does. When he steps up to a microphone, guitar in hand, before a crowd of upturned faces, he opens his heart and his face softens, beaming.

“Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel,” he sang Wednesday night at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre, perfectly encapsulating the emotional compass of his show.

The crowd in the sold-out auditorium sang along softly, swaying to the gentle tune, united in the notion that “things are going to be much better if you only will.”

Beyond the consistent emotional bond with his audience, the most striking thing about Taylor is how little he has changed his approach to singing and performing over the span of more than four decades since he began.

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May 11, 2011

Concert news: Talib Kweli, Kid Cudi, Soundgarden, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case, All Time Low

Talib Kweli will headline the main stage at the Roots Festival on June 25, festival organizers announced.

The festival, which runs June 22 - 26, will also feature performances by Anthony David and Chuck Brown on the 25th, as well as workshops and community meetings at churches, community centers in West Baltimore and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Roots is meant to draw attention to the area in West Baltimore affected by the unsuccessful "Highway to Nowhere" project.

Announced in January, it will take place over the 52 acres of green space that sits atop the "Highway to Nowhere," according to organizers. A performance schedule has not been announced yet. Admission is free.

Kweli last performed in Baltimore last week, when Sonar's announced shutdown almost forced him to cancel the show before it was moved to Bourbon Street. 

In other news, Kid Cudi will perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion on July 2. It appears to be his first concert near Baltimore, at least according to Sun archives.

Tickets, starting at $35, go on sale Friday. 

My Morning Jacket* also announced today new summer dates. The band will perform with opener Neko Case at Merriweather on August 12. Ticket information is not available yet.

After the break: Soundgarden, Mars Volta, and All Time Low

Continue reading "Concert news: Talib Kweli, Kid Cudi, Soundgarden, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case, All Time Low" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 1:46 PM | | Comments (4)
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May 2, 2011

Review: At Sweetlife Festival, echoes of the Strokes and Osama bin Laden

sweetlife.JPGAt around 10:30 p.m. last night, my twitter feed could not have been more dissonant. News of Osama Bin Laden's death had begun to leak, and there was a near constant stream of #OBL and #potus1030 hashtags.

There were also tweets from people coming out of the Sweetlife Festival, which had just ended, bragging about Girl Talk and The Strokes, oblivious to the bombshell dripping out of the wires.

Then they were the tweets that managed to mention both, as in " and the death of Osama. Great day."

That Sweetlife ended overshadowed like this, after 10 hours of music by the Strokes, an indefatigable Lupe Fiasco, Girl Talk, U.S. Royalty and others, was inevitable. Since that morning, the odds seemed to be against it. Rain didn't stop all day, even through Lupe Fiasco's 6 p.m. set.

Even before that, it looked nonthreatening, wholesome, a Sam Weir to other festivals' Alan Whites.

Performers were not as multi-generational as at Virgin FreeFest - none of them released albums before the 2000s; the Strokes were the oldest band on the line-up. The crowd wasn't as chaotic as at Ultra; someone charmingly tweeted at one point, "I just raved with Girl Talk." The hardest vice here was $8.50 Bud on draft.

The festival aimed only at being well-intentioned, and succeeded at that. It brought together acts that had no plans to perform in the region in the near future, and it was organized by Sweetgreen.

The yogurt and salad restaurant group promoted sustainability and green living, put up compost trash bins and scattered the festival grounds with vendors of organic pit beef and turkey, so that by end of the night Merriweather was full of "good vibes," as Julian Casablancas wryly put it halfway through the Strokes' headlining set.

Continue reading "Review: At Sweetlife Festival, echoes of the Strokes and Osama bin Laden" »

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April 29, 2011

R. Kelly to perform at 1st Mariner Arena

R. Kelly will perform in Baltimore this summer, it was announced today. The show will take place July 1 at 1st Mariner Arena

It'll be the first time the R&B singer performs in the city since 2009, when he played the Lyric Opera House. Then, 92Q regular Paula Campbell opened for him.

The concert is in support of "Love Letter," a soul-inspired album Kelly released in December. This time, Keyshia Cole will open for him.

Tickets, which start at $49.50, are on sale now on Ticketmaster. Kelly will also perform at Verizon Center the day after the Baltimore show. Tickets for that show start at $78, and go on sale May 6.

Posted by Erik Maza at 11:35 AM | | Comments (4)
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Review: AgesandAges at Golden West Cafe April 27

Portland seven-piece AgesandAges performed at Golden West Cafe Tuesday in support of debut album "Alright You Restless." Contributor Mike Duffy sends in this review.

One could have lit a campfire at Golden West Tuesday night and it would have seemed appropriate.  Just take a listen to Agesandages' jamboree folk-pop and you'd see why that's understandable.

On tour with Lake to support its recently-released debut album, “Alright You Restless,” AgesandAges put on a feel-good performance to a room of about 40 to 50 spectators – including those located in the back bar. 

Founder Tim Perry heads a seven-piece unit with steady, simple drums, jangly guitar and two percussionists utilizing everything from woodblocks to tambourines to their hands.

But what really made the 45-minute show upbeat was the vocal arrangement, which was both honest and uplifting, and made them sound like a choir. 

Bandmembers contribute on pretty much every track.  According to a label press release, the full group even sang together into one microphone when recording the "Restless," and although AgesandAges brought enough mics to share this time, there was still a rich revival feel to the multitude of voices.

Continue reading "Review: AgesandAges at Golden West Cafe April 27" »

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April 28, 2011

Take Two: Neil Young at the Hippodrome Theater April 27

Earlier today Sam Sessa reviewed Neil Young's show at the Hippodrome. Now, we have a review from reporter Nick Madigan, who first saw Young in concert in the 70s. Neil Young performs again Thursday night at the Hippodrome

Neil Young is determined to prove he can do it alone.

Calmly strolling the stage of Baltimore's Hippodrome as though it were his living room, taking his time to decide what to play next from his vast repertoire and an array of guitars and pianos -- even a pump organ -- Young seemed on Wednesday night to be living his performer's ideal, a musician unencumbered by other musicians, true only to his muse and the vagaries of spontaneous choice.

At 65 years old, and with a five-decade career still going strong, Young long ago earned the right to do whatever he likes. Sometimes, the results are uneven, even startlingly so.

Audiences occasionally find themselves grasping for a thread of his early inspirations, the prodigious talent that produced such seminal anthems as "Heart of Gold," "Needle and the Damage Done" and "Southern Man," songs that he'll deliver if and when he wishes. 

At the Hippo, for the first gig of a two-night stand, some members of the audience were visibly unmoved by Young's persistent toying with a pair of stunningly loud guitars, a Gretsch White Falcon and a black Gibson Les Paul, thudding his way through songs from his latest album, appropriately titled "Le Noise."

For all his renown as a composer of gentle sensibilities, Young's rock-and-roll has the force of a Sherman tank, all guns firing.

Continue reading "Take Two: Neil Young at the Hippodrome Theater April 27" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 5:29 PM | | Comments (2)
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Neil Young at the Hippodrome Theater April 27

PX00254_9.JPGNeil Young kicked-off a two-night residency at the Hippodrome Theater Wednesday night. At this point in his career, he has several generations of fans. For Midnight Sun alum Sam Sessa, who has been listening to him since he can remember, Tuesday's show was a first. Later today, reporter Nick Madigan, who's been listening to Young since the 70s, will review the show from a seasoned fan's perspective.

In his long and storied career, Neil Young has been many things: Folk rock pioneer, artful singer/songwriter, godfather of grunge.

Few musicians have stayed as relevant as long as Young. Even now, when many of his peers have settled into their umpteenth Greatest Hits tour, Young refuses to give people exactly what they want to hear. He'd rather give them what he wants them to hear. That was the case at the Hippodrome Wednesday night, where Young performed solo on acoustic and electric guitar.

Photo Gallery: Neil Young performing in Baltimore

Many audience members were expecting a hit parade or an all-request hour, shouting suggestions at Young, who brushed them off. While he did play a handful of his signature pieces, such as "Ohio," "Helpless" and an excellent "Cortez the Killer," much of Young's set was music from his latest album, "Le Noise" and other newer songs.

Young's dimly lit set, with its wooden Indian and hodgepodge of instruments, recalled a rustic saloon. Spotlights cast four rectangular panels on the dark curtain behind him, giving the impression of a church's stained glass windows at twilight.

When Young emerged, wearing jeans, a black T-shirt, white jacket and light tan fedora, the crowd greeted him with a standing ovation. Wasting no time, he fired right into a trio of hits: "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)," the poignant "Tell Me Why" and a subtle, elegant version of "Helpless."

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:43 AM | | Comments (14)
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April 27, 2011

Stone Temple Pilots and Scott Weiland kick-off summer concert season at Pier Six Pavilion

202124_10150176343863442_47360668441_6688577_5522965_o.jpgStone Temple Pilots performed Tuesday night at Pier Six Pavilion. Frequent Midnight Sun contributor Jeremy Trucker reviews the show, which officially kicked off the regional summer concert season. An earlier version of this review is here.

One of the biggest draws for concert-goers at a Stone Temple Pilots show is seeing in what type of condition front-man Scott Weiland in in when he takes the stage.

From the start of STP's set opener “Crackerman,” it was clear Weiland was ready to play to the crowd of nearly 3,000 who came to see the grunge holdouts open the concert season at Pier Six Pavilion.

The band's 90-minute, 17-song set covered all of the bases, including five songs from their 1992 debut album, "Core." Despite a few longer-than-necessary song breaks, the band, led by Weiland's charisma and trademark deep vocals as well as the Deleo brothers' guitar work, had the crowd at its feet for the duration of the evening.

The hit-laden show was heavy on the band's early catalog, with only a couple of songs from their eponymous 2010 post-reunion album.

Continue reading "Stone Temple Pilots and Scott Weiland kick-off summer concert season at Pier Six Pavilion " »

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Early review: Stone Temple Pilots at Pier Six Pavilion April 26

Stone Temple Pilots kicked off Pier Six's concert season Tuesday night. Frequent Midnight Sun contributor Jeremy Trucker has this review.

One of the biggest draws for concert-goers at a Stone Temple Pilots show is seeing in what type of condition front-man Scott Weiland in in when he takes the stage.

From the start of STP's set opener “Crackerman,” it was clear Weiland was ready to play to the crowd of nearly 3,000 who came to see the grunge holdouts open the concert season at Pier Six Pavilion.

The band's 90-minute, 17-song set covered all of the bases, including five songs from their 1992 debut album, "Core." Despite a few longer-than-necessary song breaks, the band, led by Weiland's charisma and trademark deep vocals as well as the Deleo brothers' guitar work, had the crowd at its feet for the duration of the evening.

The hit-laden show was heavy on the band's early catalog, with only a couple of songs from their eponymous 2010 post-reunion album.

The band seemed game to play the classics, and the foursome appeared in unison following a two song encore to thank the chanting crowd of supporters, most of whom were there to relive their 90s-era youth.

If Tuesday night's set is any indication, a healthy Stone Temple Pilots have the chops and the fan base to play the amphitheater circuit for years to come, with or without new material.

A longer review will be posted later today. 

Continue reading "Early review: Stone Temple Pilots at Pier Six Pavilion April 26" »

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April 25, 2011

Rush at 1st Mariner Arena April 22

Rush performed Friday at 1st Mariner Arena. Reporter Kevin Eck, of Ring Posts, was at the show and sent in this review. 

The Rush concert at 1st Mariner Arena Friday night had a lot of the trappings typically associated with an arena rock act that was birthed in the ’70s: There were strobe lights, pyrotechnics and a huge video screen.

But those things were all just window dressing. First and foremost, Rush has always been about the music.

Unlike many of their peers, Rush does not have a flamboyant front-man who encourages fans to scream on cue, and rather than extolling the virtues of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll in its lyrics, the majority of songs performed by the band intelligently explore the human condition.

Rush – bassist/lead singer Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer extraordinaire/lyricist Neil Peart – proved again  Friday night that three cool-deprived guys from the Toronto suburb of Willowdale just may comprise the coolest band around when it comes to delivering the goods on stage.

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April 21, 2011

Review: Charlie Sheen did not self-destruct for your pleasure at DAR Constitution Hall

A review of Charlie Sheen's show at DAR Constitution Hall appears in today's paper. Here's the longer version, which was shortened for space:

DAR Constitution Hall was nearly sold out Tuesday night for Charlie Sheen’s “Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour. The traveling circus has raised many questions, but the most glaring of all has to be why hundreds of people would pay top-shelf prices – over $100 in some cases - to see the actor in person.

Towards the end of the show, Michael Moore, of all people, volunteered an answer. In a letter that was read out loud to the crowd, the filmmaker said that the public’s fascination with Sheen has to do with the actor’s candor, with his refusal to play a phony and walk the plank of self-punishment on the talk show circuit.

But in typical form, Moore misses the forest for the trees. We’ve had frank, self-destructive celebrities before. VH1’s entire programming depends on them. And yet, we haven’t had the Jeff Conoway Tour of Redemption.

The novelty with Sheen is that he’s the first to take the self-immolating act we’ve already seen on TV on the road, raising the possibility that we’ll see a multi-millionaire unravel before our very eyes.

If that’s what hundreds were expecting at DAR, they were sorely disappointed.

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April 20, 2011

Early review: Charlie Sheen in DC at DAR Constitution Hall with "My Violent Torpedo of Truth"

DAR Constitution Hall was almost sold out Tuesday night for Charlie Sheen's "My Violent Torpedo of Truth" tour.

That the over-3,000 seat venue was practically filled to capacity was the least inexplicable part of last night's event, which might have been more accurately called, "A dull evening with Charlie Sheen," as it was neither violent, explosive nor truthful. 

If the audience paid to watch Sheen impassively answer questions on stage and riff for a few minutes on his goddesses, Donald Trump, President Obama, and recycled Internet memes, then they got their money's worth.

But if they were expecting self-immolation, a public meltdown, or Howard Beale in sweatpants and a baseball jersey, then they were sorely disappointed.

In the hour and a half show, Sheen doesn't do much but react and listen. He was neither self-destructive nor embarrassing. He opened with the type of cursory monologue your crazy uncle delivers every Thanksgiving dinner. He said the system is broken and floated around the idea of running for president, boasting that, at least, he was born here, unlike Obama, whose birth certificate was "photoshopped."

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March 27, 2011

Review: Elton John at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore

elton john at 1st mariner arenaNick Madigan reviews Elton John's show at 1st Mariner Arena Saturday, John's first in Baltimore in more than a decade. Leon Russell also made an appearance.

A photo gallery of the show is here

When Elton John launched into "Funeral for a Friend" at the start of his concert in Baltimore on Saturday night, it was easy to assume that he was honoring the departed screen star Elizabeth Taylor, with whom John had long shared a friendship and the mission of promulgating the fight against AIDS.

But three songs later, John made his intentions clear, dedicating the concert to the late Guy Babylon, a Baltimore native who had been John's keyboard player for a decade -- they had played more than 1,300 gigs together -- when he died of a heart attack in 2009.

"He was a huge Orioles and Ravens fan," John told the sold-out hall at the 1st Mariner Arena, drawing a thunderous response, and said that although Babylon lived in California, his heart had always remained in Baltimore.

"Guy, wherever you are -- this show is for you," John said, touching the first notes of "Levon," one of his most evocative peans of biography.

For years one of the more flamboyant performers in rock, John, who turned 64 on Friday, has mellowed only his outfits.

Attired in his now trademark coattails, neatly buttoned around his plump frame, he remains as energetic as ever, plowing boisterously through a musical canon spanning four decades, songs like "Madman Across the Water," "Tiny Dancer," "Candle in the Wind,” “Your Song” and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" -- all a trigger to rattling memories in a crowd populated largely by the gray-haired.

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March 21, 2011

Review: Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Travis Barker at 1st Mariner Arena March 20

PX00213_9.JPGContributor Jay Trucker reviews Lil Wayne and friends, who performed on the third stop of the rapper's "I Am Still Music" tour at 1st Mariner Arena Sunday.

There were hip hop heads, multicolor-haired teen girls, a smattering of middle-aged folks, awkwardly bobbing along, and at least one young girl with “I <3 Lil Wayne” painted on her face.

Yes, the crowd at Lil Wayne's concert at 1st Mariner Arena Sunday was as diverse as the show's line-up.

During the four-hour, sold-out concert, Wayne delivered to all demographics with his trademark spitfire rapping and a rotating series of guests that included not just the announced headliners - Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Travis Barker - but also new protege Porcelain Black, Mix Master Mike, Lil Twist, and Wale.

Unannounced opener Porcelain Black took the stage at roughly 7 p.m., playing a short set to a mostly empty arena. Known also as Alaina Beaton, Porcelain is Wayne's newest discovery. She is equal parts Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga, and finished her set with a single that proudly declares, “This is What Rock n Roll Looks Like." I respectfully disagree. 

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March 8, 2011

Review: The Pogues, Titus Andronicus at Rams Head Live March 7

The legendary Irish band the Pogues performed with New Jersey upstarts Titus Andronicus Monday night at Rams Head Live. Contributor Evan Haga has this review.

Since 2006, the resurrected Pogues have become a fixture of the St. Paddy’s Day season in the States.

Their shows, which almost always hit the same great-sounding club venues, feature the same hit-parade set list (no new material) and the same spirited band fronted by punk-poet Shane MacGowan, whose drunken romantic persona has been endlessly mythologized.

Their current East Coast jaunt, which hit Baltimore Monday night, is reportedly the Pogues’ final U.S. tour. That's a shame. The seven piece band's propellant blend of Celtic roots and pub-rock fire is still worth paying around $60 for.

But for 53-year-old MacGowan, who looks and sounds like a man destroyed—even by the low standards he set himself—that might be for the best. 

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February 25, 2011

Review: Lady Gaga at Verizon Center February 24

The idea that Lady Gaga cribs from the Madonna songbook is a crock.

At Thursday night's show at Verizon Center, she also cribbed from Elton John, Queen, Guns n' Roses, Klaus Nomi, even Tim Burton, all for a show that was upbeat, hysterical at times, and as shamelessly frivolous as the best pop spectacles should be.

The show opened at 9:25 p.m. with a lopsided silhouette performing "Dance in the Dark" from behind a white scrim, much like Madonna opened "Express Yourself" at the 1989 MTV awards.

Was it Gaga back there, or some kind of animatronic?  With Gaga, it's always a combination of both. The figure tried different poses in place, earning ecstatic cheers from the mostly filled-out arena for each new one. 

When the scrim finally went up, Gaga was revealed in a big purple onesie and exaggerated Klaus Nomi-esque (or, if you want, Margiela-esque) power shoulder pads. Also on stage: a small flotilla of dancers in ripped leggings and leather vests, and a beat-up green car, the second automobile to make a stage guest appearance in the last year after Carrie Underwood's flying pickup truck.

Some kind of memo must have circulated at Live Nation last year. Only Underwood's car didn't also double as a piano, like Gaga's did, one she put to use during a mainly subdued "Glitter and Grease."

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February 11, 2011

Review: Lauryn Hill at Rams Head Live Feb. 10

Lauryn Hill, the iconoclastic rapper who's considered among the most talented of her generation, performed Thursday night at Rams Head Live, a hastily organized concert that was announced just two weeks ago. Reporter John-John Williams IV was there.

A photo gallery of the show is here

You never know what you are going to get with Lauryn Hill. Will the uber-talented Grammy darling show up? Or will it be her alter-ego: an excuse-making diva who was more than two hours late last August to her set at The Rock The Bells Tour at Merriweather Post Pavilion?

The audience got a little of both last night during. Hill took the stage at midnight -an hour after her show was scheduled to begin. She had no opening act -just a DJ who spun a mix of reggae and old school hip hop.

The slew of hits that the DJ spit out was enjoyable the first 10 minutes. But after a good half hour of songs - around midnight on a weeknight - the crowd lost some of its energy and appeared to be growing restless.

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December 23, 2010

Review: Spank Rock, Death Set, Devlin & Darko -- the 2010 Baltimore Bass Connection Xmas Party

spank rock mc naeem juwanFrom Midnight Sun alum Sam Sessa:

There's a reason they call it the Baltimore Bass Connection.

Wednesday night at U Street Music Hall, the low end was loud enough to flatten the hairs on the back of your neck. (My ears are still ringing.) Indie rappers Spank Rock, deviant punks the Death Set and Baltimore Club DJs Devlin and Darko had the underground club banging for several hours straight.

The Baltimore Bass Connection's Xmas Celebration, which comes to Sonar tonight, has become a yuletide tradition in these parts. Spank Rock's Naeem Juwan (pictured), a Baltimore native and the event's enigmatic ringleader, has turned the Sonar show into one of the year's most anticipated throwdowns. Hundreds of 20-somethings squeezed into the U Street Music Hall for the DC show --  a sneak preview of what's in store for tonight -- organized by Brightest Young Things the BBC.

While the Death Set and Spank Rock both brought the house down, some questionable lineup choices sapped the night's momentum.

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December 9, 2010

Review: Usher, Trey Songz at 1st Mariner Arena December 8

Sun reporter John-John Williams IV reviews Usher and Trey Songz, who performed Wednesday at 1st Mariner Arena.

* See pictures from the concert

One is on the short list of entertainers who could replace Michael Jackson as the king of pop.

The other has dominated airwaves with sexually charged lyrics boasting of his sexual prowess.

Both, Usher and Trey Songz, used their sexual appeal Wednesday night to wow a largely female audience at 1st Mariner Arena as each performed a slew of chart topping hits.

First up was Songz, who has made a living with sexed-up hits such as “Neighbors Know My Name” and “Invented Sex.” His lyrics were the biggest attraction here, but Songz also teased the audience with various stages of undress. (The adoring fans loved that..) He didn't embellish the performance much, he basically stood on the stage and sang, which was plenty. His voice was phenomenal, especially when he used his falsetto range.

Still, there was no real dancing per say, and Songz seemed incapable of doing anything other than putting on a striptease. The minute Usher took the stage after Songz's near-hour set, it became obvious that he was the more complete entertainer.

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November 30, 2010

Review: Ozzy Osbourne at 1st Mariner Arena, November 29

Contributor Evan Haga reviews Ozzy Osbourne's show Monday night at 1st Mariner Arena.

Playing a video segment before a concert is nothing new. Often nonsensical, these clips set the mood, heighten the anticipation and allow audience members to find their seats without missing anything.

But the short program that opened heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne’s 100-minute show last night at 1st Mariner Arena was something else - savvy, explicit and hilarious.

It featured Osbourne verbally sparring with Snooki from "Jersey Shore"; dancing, in drag, alongside Lady Gaga; and working himself into various blockbuster films, "Avatar" and "The Hangover" among them. 

Funny stuff, and it made a point. Osbourne is now pop-culture property beyond rock ’n’ roll. He’s an advertising personality known to millions, not as the Englishman who invented heavy metal, but as the mumbling, bumbling grandfatherly star of reality TV.

So a challenge was set: Can the Prince of Darkness still bring it? The short answer is yes. The best hard-rock frontmen have been Pied Pipers to their head-banging fans, lion tamers at the circus that is the arena metal show.

Those literal and figurative pyrotechnics were present: a shower of sparks at the head of “Mr. Crowley”; a marathon solo from drummer Tommy Clufetos atop an elevated riser; and many startling blasts of fireworks, from the opening “Bark at the Moon” to the final encore, Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.”

Osbourne tended to pitter-patter around the stage—the same geriatric gait America came to love on MTV's "The Osbournes"—and carried a gut that even his head-to-toe black attire couldn’t downsize. Still, he was absolutely the centerpiece of the madness, and seemed to enjoy it.

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Early Review: Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford at 1st Mariner Arena, November 29

Contributor Evan Haga reviews Ozzy Osbourne's show Monday night at 1st Mariner Arena.

Wham City be damned: For three terrifically loud hours last night at a half-full 1st Mariner Arena, Baltimore was a metal town again.

Ozzy Osbourne—Prince of Darkness, reality TV icon, advertising personality—played a 100-minute show that stretched back to his Black Sabbath days, covered ’80s and ’90s solo hits, and tossed in an obligatory new song for good measure.

You guessed it: Osbourne’s voice ain’t what it used to be, but a crack band featuring consistently jaw-dropping guitarist Gus G. pulled up the slack and the results were worth the tinnitus.

This was unapologetic metal, and, consequently, lots of fun: pyrotechnics, marathon drum solos on elevated platforms; “Iron Man;” “Crazy Train;” “Paranoid;” a well-used foam gun, and an opening set from another hard-rock icon, Rob Halford.

A full review to come later today. Set list after the jump. 

Our Ozzy photo gallery is here

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November 17, 2010

Review: Carrie Underwood at 1st Mariner Arena, November 16

PX00223_9.JPGSix songs into her show at 1st Mariner Arena Tuesday night, Carrie Underwood pulled out all the stops and brought out the vegetation.

After she’d steamrolled through “Wasted” and “Quitter” – two songs that nicely showed off a brassy attitude – the stage was bathed in green lights.

Rain sound effects started playing over the speakers, and an enormous fake tree branch descended from the ceiling with a swing set hanging from it, making the arena look like the forest in “Fern Gully.”

She didn’t just deliver her next number, “Just a Dream,”already a schmaltzy love song, wearing a ruffled, Pepto-bismol-pink, floor-length skirt, she did it while swinging from that tree branch.

Usually, such images don’t exist outside straight-to-video Disney movies, but Underwood returned to them again and again Tuesday night, marring what would have otherwise been a solid showcase of her voice. A remarkable singer with five Grammys to her credit and a string of hits after winning “American Idol” in 2005, she has two performance registers: cheesy and defiant, pivoting between rowdy numbers - usually written by the great songwriter Hillary Lindsey - and fluff like “Just a Dream.”

While she hit all her notes, emoted on cue, and sparkled nearly as much as Ryan Seacrest’s highlights during all 21 of her numbers, it was only during those moments of pent-up abandon (“Last Name,” “Quitter”) that she was at her best.

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Early Review: Carrie Underwood, Sons of Sylvia at 1st Mariner Arena, November 16

PX00221_9.JPGCarrie Underwood played a two-hour show Tuesday night at 1st Mariner Arena that flitted between frivolous love songs and defiant pop anthems.

On singles like "Temporary Home," where she laid the schmaltz thick, she faltered, drowned out by the over production and the melodrama.

But on others, like "Last Name" she got to show off her strengths: her pipes, and a touch of attitude that fits her big voice.

The Grammy winner played 21 songs in a total, including her duet with Randy Travis, "I Told You So." On "What Can I Say" she was joined on stage by openers Sons of Sylvia.

A full review will come later today, along with photos from the show. Update: Full review is here.

Underwood's set list is below:

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November 10, 2010

Review: The Black Angels at the 9:30 Club, November 7

First-time contributor Ben Opipari reviews the Black Angels show at the 9:30 club November 7.

Sunday night shows are often a tough sell. Are they part of the new work week, or a continuation of the weekend? Do I get ready for Monday morning, or chill out?

Bands like the Black Angels make such questions irrelevant.

At the 9:30 Club Sunday night, the Austin five-piece put on a psychedelic haze of a show that made me scoff at anyone who'd think twice about going to see a band they like just because work is a night away.

The band, which is currently on tour with Black Mountain, formed in 2004, but their sound and look is straight from the 60s.

Their name comes from a Velvet Underground song; one of their songs was featured in a History Channel documentary on Charles Manson; and they once toured with the unheralded kings of the genre, Blue Cheer.

You don't have to look much further than the bendy lines on the cover of their new album, "Phosphene Dream," to see the influence of the decade. Even the name of the album sounds retro.

That those references have resonated with fans was evident at the 9:30 club, where there were a good amount of people who probably listened to Jefferson Airplane before the Black Angels co-opted their sonic psychedelic flair.

But the Mamas and the Papas they are not.

At a time when there’s so much lo-fi, breezy indie pop, where hushed notes often reign supreme, the Black Angels were refreshingly loud. As someone who grew up on 80s metal—the good stuff, not the hairy kind— I’ve longed for a band who would once again make conversation at a show impossible.

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November 8, 2010

Review: La Roux, Far East Movement at Rams Head Live, November 7

PX00003_9.JPGContributor Christeen Roden reviews the La Roux and Far East Movement shows at Rams Head Live Sunday night. 

La Roux's songs have been so effectively plastered all over the Internet and TV, that Elly Jackson is her own worst enemy when performing live.

We're all so familiar with the tunes -- which have been excellently remixed by Major Lazer, among others -- that we expect her to deliver something new in person.

Unfortunately for the duo, and the duo's fans at Rams Head Live Sunday night, theirs was a short, uninspired and bland performance. Fortunately, Far East Movement was there for some levity.

La Roux's set was perfectly competent and in keeping with the album's sound, but that was precisely the problem. There was no spontaneity or newness to the performance, which is sort of the whole point of paying money to go hear someone play the same songs you can hear for free on your iPod.

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November 4, 2010

Review: The Cult at Rams Head Live, Nov. 2; Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy as strong as they were in 1985

Midnight Sun contributor Evan Haga reviews the Baltimore show of 26-year-old British metal band The Cult.

The Cult, the long-running English outfit headed by vocalist Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, embodies an ongoing fight between brains and brawn, between pretension and the hard-boiled ethos of heavy metal. In short, between Astbury and Duffy.

Though that dichotomy is responsible for the band’s enduring appeal, it also makes for awkward moments.

When the band played a respectably filled Rams Head Live Tuesday night, they played to both strengths.

They played "Sweet Soul Sister," an excellent, late-’80s rock anthem whose lyrics are essentially a come-on, but did it in front of projections depicting social unrest (Black Panthers, an upside-down American flag). At one point, Astbury even faced the projections and raised his right gloved fist.

He also encouraged fans to steal the band's new music if they have to, but only because it would help him "keep [his] kids out of college." And even more laughably, he dedicated the song "White" to "pagans, wiccans and Buddhists," but also to "drunkards."(Guess which demographic applauded most?) 

Irreverence and self-seriousness can be an uncomfortable mix, but the mash-up, along with strong guitars, has served the Cult well for 26 years.

It was also certainly true of last night’s 17-song set, which allowed a band that has dramatically set and followed trends throughout its career to make a remarkably consistent statement for its continued relevance. 

Continue reading "Review: The Cult at Rams Head Live, Nov. 2; Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy as strong as they were in 1985" »

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November 1, 2010

Review: Celebration, Dustin Wong, Microkingdom and Sri Aurobindo at the G Spot, October 29

Nikc Miller, Midnight Sun contributor and former Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad guitarist, reviews the Halloween show at the G Spot.

Friends Records threw its second Halloween bash Friday night at the G Spot, with a show that included a spooky ambiance and bands signed or at least distributed by the ever-growing record label.

This time the headliner was local-band-gone-somewhat-big Celebration.

The G-Spot, a weird little enclave in the mill area of Hampden, is a nostalgic venue for me, especially at this time of year. Many a-folk know the obscure “audio-visual playground” as being home-base for MicroCineFest.

In my mind it seems like blasphemy to have any event here that doesn’t have a distinct visual aesthetic. So it was a delight to see such effort put toward the ambience of Friday’s show, with slide projectors blasting the light of beautiful abstract slides onto every free inch of wall space.

Friends Records ally, Dustin Wong, started the evening early and on a high note. As patrons trickled into the concert space, Wong played what seemed like 15-20 songs using just his guitar, a loop pedal, and at times a simple drum machine.

Continue reading "Review: Celebration, Dustin Wong, Microkingdom and Sri Aurobindo at the G Spot, October 29 " »

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October 25, 2010

Review: Matt & Kim at Rams Head Live Saturday, October 23

Contributor Christeen Roden reviews Matt & Kim at Rams Head Live Saturday, October 23.

Exuberant doesn’t begin to describe the visceral experience of being twenty feet away from a two of the most energetic musicians around, Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino.

Even in the cavernous atrium that is Ram's Head Live, Matt & Kim’s energy Saturday night was as infectious as it was goofily charming. Barely a body remained still on the surprisingly packed floor or the balconies, which were overflowing with ardent, if less-expressive fans.

True to Matt Johnson’s earlier promise, they dazzled longtime fans by sticking mostly to their previously released material. And, just like they did at Virgin Mobile FreeFest, they also mixed it up with a few Old Dirty Bastard and Sir-Mix-A-Lot covers.

During a particularly boisterous Major Lazer riff, Kim obliged the more rabid audience members by dusting off that old rock 'n’ roll stand by: the stage dive, and pulled it off without any visible body arm except hand prints.

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October 19, 2010

Review: Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper at Merriweather Post Pavilion, October 17

Kevin Eck reviews the Halloween Hootenanny at MPP featuring the Gruesome Twosome. When he's not listening to heavy metal, he covers professional wrestling for The Sun and writes Ring Posts.

It’s that time of year when the leaves are brown, there’s a chill in the air and jack-o-lanterns abound. In other words, the perfect time for a concert featuring two of rock’s preeminent boogeymen, Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper.

The self-professed “Gruesome Twosome” were the main attractions at Merriweather Post Pavilion Sunday night, when they performed their Halloween Hootenanny tour. The Murder Dolls, Black Label Society, Children of Bodom and Clutch also performed.

In separate performances that each went a little over an hour, the macabre metal gods' over-the-top theatrics captured the spirit of the season, making for a spectacle that had the charm of a midnight monster movie double feature.

Despite their obvious similarities, Zombie and Cooper differ as performers. Zombie offers a true rock concert experience: he addressed the crowd between songs and encouraged audience members to stand up and sing along.

With Cooper, on the other hand, it was like watching a musical where he was both ring master and narrator. He gives you a story line that tied the songs together, complete with characters, costume changes and props.

As far as stage antics go, nobody can outdo Cooper, but from a musical standpoint, Zombie’s set had more teeth (or, in this case, fangs) than the old man's. 

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October 18, 2010

Review: We Are Scientists with Rewards at Metro Gallery, October 15

Midnight Sun contributor Mike Duffy on We Are Scientists, Rewards and U.S. Royalty at Metro Gallery, October 15.

We Are Scientists know how to play to their fans. The 200 or so that crammed into Metro Gallery Friday night got their $10 bucks worth as the Californians delivered a snappy set from their latest album, "Barbara."

Those who weren't as familiar got a show where the songs were sometimes indistinguishable from one another, but where they also got introductions to two other bands they should start paying more attention to.

Washington's U.S. Royalty kicked off the night with their brand of stomping swamp boogie. They played six new songs from their upcoming album, "Mirrors", including the wispy but melodically-charging “Equestrian.”

Rewards, Aaron Pfenning’s two-person outfit out of Brooklyn, followed with their the ethereal synth-rock, making for a diverse double bill before the scientists came on stage.

The decade-old, four-piece W.A.S. played a 16-song set going back as far as 2005’s "With Love And Squalor." Their sound is a little Franz Ferdinand, a little Klaxons, and a lot of Brit punk pop.

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October 11, 2010

Review: The Roots and Questlove at Rams Head Live, October 8

The Roots have long been a rebuttal to most of the criticism leveled at rap over the years: that it’s not actually music; that it doesn’t require hard work; that it ignores or rejects the great legacy of African-American art that preceded it; that it’s underwhelming in a live setting; that it helped destroy certain ideals in popular music, like the masterful electric guitar solo.

Within hip-hop, the Roots’ role is one of torch-carrying, perhaps even martyrdom; a critics’ act and a symbol of the heyday in the age of “My Dougie.”

The band’s sold-out set at Rams Head Live had a kind of energy and totality that could have won over pretty much anyone, even -- or especially -- baby boomers whose musical values were shaped by classic rock and funk.

The seven-piece outfit took the stage just after midnight on Saturday and kept its momentum roiling until around quarter till two. The set list, which anyone who’s seen the group this year would’ve recognized, was similarly comprehensive: While it avoided material off “Wake Up!” -- the band’s recent collaboration with John Legend -- it covered highlights and hits stretching back to the mid-’90s.

(Midnight Sun's preview story and interview with Questlove is here.)

Front and center in this powerhouse exhibition was Black Thought, aka Tariq Trotter, whose name should be mentioned more often when we discuss hip-hop’s best MCs. Trotter came out charging, with robust flow on “Web” and “Thought@Work;” even at his lyrical heaviest—he sometimes seemed to be contemplating a sort of existential angst at warp speed—he hardly let up.

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October 10, 2010

Review: Roger Waters' The Wall Live at Verizon Center in Washington DC

roger watersI've never seen a show before that I knew would give me nightmares.

But after Roger Waters' The Wall Live tour at Washington's Verizon Center, with its fears and insecurities, claustrophobia and twisted animation ... I'm supposed to go to sleep on this?

The show was everything I'd expected: A two-and-a-half hour spectacle (intermission included) with gripping special effects and sturdy musicianship. Waters put together a crack band of players -- including former "Saturday Night Live" band leader G.E. Smith -- for this tour.

The show had to follow the album's narrative: A rock star builds a metaphorical wall to protect himself from the world but winds up in close quarters with his worst demons. Live, Waters erected a real wall brick by brick (the wall doubled as the projection screen), and tore it down at the end. The animation, which had clips from the movie as well as pieces by graffiti artist Banksy, was chilling. 

Unlike other classic rock icons such as the Eagles, Waters didn't reproduce the album note for note. He let the tracks breathe, gave Smith some extra solos and stretched out a few songs here and there. 

It's hard to believe Waters is pushing 70. He still hits all the high, maniacal notes like he's half his age. See more Roger Waters photos from the show.

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October 5, 2010

Review: Born Ruffians at Ottobar, Oct 4

Percussion was the star Monday evening at the Born Ruffians show at the Ottobar.

Noisy two-man Baltimore band Weekends set the tone for the night with their relentless drumming. Opening for Montreal's Winter Gloves, Brendan Sullivan and Adam Lempel never let up; they even traded drums and guitar mid-set.

By the time Born Ruffians took the stage, the audience was properly stoked. The Canadians can be misleadingly low-key, but on Monday, they overpowered the venue.

Kicking things off with “Foxes Mate For Life,” from their 2008 debut “Red, Yellow & Blue,” and quickly following up with “Barnacle Goose," their set was louder than anything that's ever come out of Ontario.

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September 29, 2010

Review: The Gaslight Anthem at Rams Head Live

On Tuesday night at Ram’s Head, The Gaslight Anthem proved that there is still music out there that doesn’t just consist of a dance beat, a repeating 3-chord progression and serious Auto-Tune.

This alternative band (vocalist Fallon, guitarist Alex Rosamilia, bassist Alex Levine and drummer Benny Horowitz) performed for a very packed Ram’s Head  - a crowd that consisted of mostly 20-something rock fans (and a guy in a banana suit) - held the audience captive through the end.

From their initial entrance to the stage -- accompanied by Alien Ant Farm’s Michael Jackson cover “Smooth Criminal” -- to their encore performance, the energy level in the room never wavered.

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September 12, 2010

Review: Vampire Weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Sept. 11

vampire weekend at merriweather post pavilionPreppy New Yorkers Vampire Weekend played their first concert in Maryland Saturday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. In a brisk two-hour set where they played crowd favorites like “A-Punk” and covered Bruce Springsteen, the boys were as well-behaved as Lawrence Welk.

After local dream pop duo Beach House finished their opening set, the boys sheepishly took the stage promptly at 9:30 p.m. There was no rock star entrance here. No late arrivals, no chants from the audience screaming the band’s name in anticipation. The lights were just briefly dimmed, and the boys materialized. Where the crowd had politely received Beach House, shrieks exploded then as if Justin Bieber had been beamed in.

High school girls and suburban moms alike swooned as the band kicked off the show with “Holiday.” That's the thing about Vampire Weekend: it's-a-good-on-paper band. The kind of band you'd take home to meet your mother. They're clean dressers - big on Dockers and Adidas Sambas; went to a good school - no review of the band forgets to mention their Ivy League beginnings; and play the kind of friendly jams mom will approve of. On the Merriweather text-message JumboTron, at least one fan proposed to lead singer Ezra Koenig.

It’s easy to see their rise to the top of the charts. Parents hear their contemporaries in the band’s Peter Gabriel-Paul-Simonesque vernacular; there were a lot of moms doing the white-person-overbite shuffle last night. And young listeners hear a Dave Matthews for the aughts. With this kind of whitebread appeal, Vampire Weekend is dangerously close to becoming “that band lots of white people like.”™

[Set list after the jump.]

Continue reading "Review: Vampire Weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Sept. 11" »

Posted by Erik Maza at 7:05 AM | | Comments (62)
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September 8, 2010

Concert Review: Lady Gaga at Verizon Center

lady gaga performs at the verizon centerMidnight Sun alumnus Sam Sessa saw Lady Gaga at the Verizon Center last night. Here are his thoughts:

If Brit Brit is still the reigning Pop Princess, Lady Gaga is her rebellious little sister.

At 24, Lady Gaga has sold more than 15 million albums and 51 million singles worldwide and tapped into the mainstream and gay and lesbian communities while scoring several top 10 singles.

All this with only two albums, both released in the past two years.

Last night, Lady Gaga's sold-out Monster Ball tour, a tantalizingly trashy two-hour spectacle of outrageous costumes, sexually charged dances and irresistible dance pop, rolled into Washington's Verizon Center.

The live band was tight, but the costumes were tighter ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:25 AM | | Comments (18)
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August 30, 2010

Concert review: Lauryn Hill, Tribe & Wu Tang @ Rock the Bells

tribe called quest

Sun writer John-John Williams IV was at Rock the Bells last night. Here's his review:

Rock The Bells had the potential to be epic.

The tour, which came to Merriweather Post Pavilion last night, boasted some of hip-hop's most legendary acts: Lauryn Hill, Wu Tang Clan, Rakim, KRS-One, Snoop Dogg and A Tribe Called Quest.

Instead, the sweltering heat combined with over-the top waits between acts had a fair share of ticket holders ready to rock some of the artists' bells.

Hill, undoubtedly the night's biggest draw, was a lesson in dysfunction. It's been nearly more than a decade since Hill's uber-successful album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," and Hill's recording hiatus fueled an undeniable buzz at last night's show.

So when it was announced -- just before she was about take the stage -- that Hill was in danger of not performing due to illness, it appeared the crowd was about to flip its collective lid. Audience members hurled boos, hisses and curses ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:17 AM | | Comments (35)
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August 25, 2010

Concert review: Jackson Browne at Pier Six Pavilion

jackson browne performs at pier six pavilion

Sun writer Nick Madigan saw Jackson Browne at Pier Six Pavilion. Here is his review:

Jackson Browne was never the kind of performer to call attention to himself.

For four decades, and without fanfare, he has been delivering his heartfelt tributes to enlightenment and lost love to packed houses of the faithful, all the while doing his utmost to avoid the harshest of the public spotlight's glare.

That reticence, born of profound and often sorrowful introspection, was never more clear than on Tuesday night, at Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion. Pairing up once again with his longtime collaborator David Lindley — the virtuoso stringman who was at his side for much of his early career — Browne not only started off with songs by other composers, Warren Zevon and Bruce Springsteen, but ceded the stage entirely to Lindley after just four numbers.

However, upon returning with his full band after an intermission, Browne — still improbably youthful at 61 — proved that the vagaries of age and the passage of time have dimmed neither his energy nor the pleasure he takes in his adherents' adulation, even if much of his audience — this reviewer included — long ago sprouted gray hair and crow's feet ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:49 PM | | Comments (6)
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Concert review: Tears for Fears at Rams Head Live

Sun writer Evan Haga saw Tears for Fears last night at Rams Head Live. Here are his thoughts:

There was a lot of grace and balance about Tears for Fears' roughly hour-and-a-half performance last night at Rams Head Live: A healthy sense of nostalgia was present, sure, but the show didn't use the past as a crutch, or as a reason not to apply a little elbow grease.

As a touring sextet, Tears for Fears sounded well-rehearsed, precise, über-professional; somewhat surprising considering the band hasn't, like many of its contemporaries, made a post-career of touring the hits ...

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August 24, 2010

Concert review: KISS at Jiffy Lube Live

kiss

Sun writer (and wrestling blogger) Kevin Eck saw Kiss at Jiffy Lube Live. Here is his review:

To many people, Kiss has long been Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and two other guys.

Even when fellow original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss returned to the iconic glam rock group in the late '90s, it was clear that Simmons and Stanley were steering the ship and the other two were simply along for the ride.

That's not the case with the band's current lineup, though. While "The Demon" and "The Starchild" are still Kiss' main men both on and off stage, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer – who have assumed the "Spaceman" and "Catman" stage personas made famous by Frehley and Criss, respectively – are more than just bit players.

In fact, they provided some of the more memorable moments from Saturday night's Kiss concert at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va. ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:01 AM | | Comments (3)
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August 16, 2010

Concert review: MGMT @ Merriweather Post Pavilion

vocalist/guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden and keyboardist Ben Goldwasser

Midnight Sun correspondent Evan Haga saw MGMT at Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday. Here is his review:

MGMT, a psychedelic quintet whose founders and leaders — vocalist/guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden and keyboardist Ben Goldwasser — are precocious, sometimes brilliant pop craftsmen, offered one of their biggest hits on Saturday night in a way that might be termed an "anti-performance."

To its pre-recorded synthesizer track, the two men sang "Kids" and danced modestly while the rest of the band loitered, nodded along or tooled around on their instruments. (At one point a bra was thrown onstage from the audience and tossed around until VanWyngarden put it on.)

The decision to go karaoke could have been interpreted a couple different ways, depending on what music blogs you read and how much of them you choose to believe. On one level it was an exercise in group catharsis; a way to get the players out from behind their instruments, get loose and enjoy a big falsetto hum-along with the large amphitheater crowd. In a different way it seemed to mock the song and deliver it as an afterthought; a kiss-off to a pop single from a band with much bigger ambitions, perhaps? ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:37 AM | | Comments (7)
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August 11, 2010

Concert review: Black Eyed Peas at 1st Mariner Arena

fergie of the black eyed peasMuch fuss has been made about The Black Eyed Peas selling out. Target, Apple, Best Buy, Nokia, Pepsi -- no corporate sponsor is turned away by the pop stars, it seems.

So what?

Any criticism of the band's success was drowned last night in the sea of fans who mobbed 1st Mariner Arena last night to bounce in place along Fergie, Will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo.

Here's a link to a photo gallery from the show.

Aside from a few slow spots, the show was a ball of electricity, with the Peas tearing through hit after hit...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 6:30 AM | | Comments (10)
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August 9, 2010

Concert review: Erykah Badu, the Roots & Chuck Brown at Spirit Fest

chuck brown

Sun correspondent Evan Haga was at Merriweather Post Pavilion for Spirit Fest Saturday. Here are his ruminations from the show:

Chuck Brown

Like the leader of any world-class funk band, Chuck Brown knows not to neglect the groove, even for a second. The go-go beats began and they didn't quit until set's end, and in between was an interpolated regional hit parade — "Go-Go Swing" and "Bustin' Loose" cropped up, obviously — from a jazzman who is also the ambassador for one of the most singular rhythms on the planet.

The sound on the lawn was a shame, though: The District was well represented, as cries of "Wind me up, Chuck!" proved, but the mix beyond the seats was spotty and soft. I could hardly hear Brown's warm-toned, Grant Green-styled guitar lines ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:14 PM | | Comments (4)
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August 6, 2010

Concert review: Keane at Merriweather Post Pavilion

keaneIt had all the makings of a mediocre show: The lawn was largely empty, the weather soggy and overcast.

But those who did come to see Keane at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night wanted to see a great show -- not a middling one. Through sheer force of will, the crowd members made it happen. They screamed before, during and after nearly every song. They clapped, and belted out the lyrics and danced at their seats. The energy was unbelievable. Singer Tom Chaplin seemed genuinely surprised at their enthusiasm.

"You should give yourselves a hand," he said after a few numbers. They did ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (5)
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August 4, 2010

Concert review: Goo Goo Dolls at Pier Six Pavilion

are you goo goo for the goo goo dolls?Sun sports editor Ron Fritz was at last night's Goo Goo Dolls show at Pier Six Pavilion. Here's Ron's review:

To be honest, it was my first time seeing a concert at Pier Six, but it won’t be the last. Not only is the venue impressive, but last night the weather matched it, with a cool breeze coming off the water.

Then the bands took the stage and raised the temperature a few notches. The Spill Canvas from Sioux Falls, S.D., was the opener and they played a tight, 30-minute set that included two new songs, "Dust Storm" and "Our Song," and ended with fan favorite "All Over You."

I'll admit that I'm a huge fan of the group and have seen them four or five times in the Baltimore area and each time they seem to get a little better. Touring with Switchfoot and a veteran band like the Goo Goo Dolls definitely agrees with them ...

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August 3, 2010

Concert review: The Dead Weather at Rams Head Live

singer alison mosshart of the dead weatherMidnight Sun contributor Evan Haga saw the Dead Weather at Rams Head Live last night. Here is his review:

Strangely — very strangely — the Dead Weather can evoke a reaction similar to what one feels in the presence of a symphony with a sharp conductor, or a particularly inventive jazz repertory band.

It's all about heritage with this quartet, about sifting through the ages and plucking the really good stuff. The ominous, psychedelic-eye backdrop; the Captain Beefheart entrance music; the roadies dressed like Southern Gothic assassins; the goat-head stage props: Making aesthetic decisions is something this band does well.

The blues-crazed music, with its keen ear for late '60s and '70s sonics and deft way with rhythm, followed suit, and the attitude and posturing were veracious. Most of last night's one-hour-and-fifteen-minute set at Rams Head Live sneered and bristled as in the pushing-match moments before a fistfight. These people have the right idea. ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:18 PM | | Comments (4)
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August 2, 2010

Concert review: Heart at Pier Six Pavilion

heart performs 'a night with heart' in los angeles

Midnight Sun commenter Jay Trucker saw Heart play at Pier Six Pavilion last night. Here is his review of the show:

'70s hard rockers-turned-'80s balladeers-turned classic rock mainstays Ann and Nancy Wilson brought their 2010 tour to Pier Six Pavilion Sunday night, with a well-rounded set list and pleasing performance.

Heart's multi-generational fan base was on hand, including a sizable number of sidewalk freeloaders and boat-dwellers.

Just as sunset hit the Inner Harbor, Heart made their way to the stage for a 100-minute set that featured every song the casual fan wanted to hear as well as a number of lesser-known tracks ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:15 AM | | Comments (9)
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July 18, 2010

Concert review: Gov't Mule & Cold War Kids at Artscape

warren haynes is the front man of gov't mule. here, he kinda looks  like a zombie. or maybe he's about to consume the microphone.Two songs into Gov't Mule's set at last night's Artscape, bassist Jorgen Carlsson's amp started crackling.

The four-piece paused for a minute while the roadies swapped it out, and then resumed the song, "Steppin' Lightly."

"We're not going to let a little technical difficulty stand in the way of a good time this evening," front man Warren Haynes said.

They didn't.

What followed was just what you'd expect from the acclaimed jammers -- more than an hour and a half of thick riffs, searing solos and Southern rock songs. In short, it was good time music from a bunch of good ol' boys ...

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July 16, 2010

Concert review: B.B. King at Pier Six Pavilion

bb king makes a funny, frowny facey

Sun reporter Chris Kaltenbach saw B.B. King perform at Pier Six Pavilion last night. Here are his thoughts:

It's not every day you get to watch the Statue of Liberty walk onstage, but that's what it felt like watching blues legend B.B. King enter Pier 6 Pavilion last night.

At age 84, the man's best performing days are clearly behind him. But watching and hearing a legend is an opportunity not to be missed, and on that level alone, King did not disappoint ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:58 AM | | Comments (3)
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July 13, 2010

Concert review: Counting Crows at Pier Six Pavilion

counting crows front man adam duritzMidnight Sun correspondent Patrick Gavin saw the Counting Crows and Augustana perform last night at Pier Six Pavilion. Here is his review:

Last night's Counting Crows and Augustana concert had a lot in common with Sunday's World Cup final: Two "teams" giving it their all, an endless sense of anticipation throughout, little in the way of highlights -- though most who stayed 'til the end left satisfied -- and a last-minute heart -breaker of a goal by Andres Iniesta.

Wait ... forget that last thing. I botched my Venn diagram.

Put it this way: The smart fans for both spectacles were the ones who took their pre-gaming seriously and showed up at halftime.

For the second year in a row these two acts brought their "Traveling Circus and Medicine Show" to the area – this time Pier 6 Pavilion – in an unconventional but utterly welcome format. ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:55 AM | | Comments (30)
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Concert review: Smashing Pumpkins at Rams Head Live

billy corgan and the smashing pumpkinsHalfway through the Smashing Pumpkins' show at Rams Head Live last night, singer Billy Corgan asked the crowd what year it was.

"1979," the audience shouted, begging for the band's 1996 hit. It was not to be.

"Yeah, it sure ain't 1993," Corgan replied.

Corgan refuses to be labeled a relic, and last night's intimate club date was no hit parade. The '90s alt-rock pioneers never actually played "1979," though they did do "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "Tonight."

The show, which lasted more than two hours, was advertised as a tour through the Pumpkins' catalog, and that's what the band delivered. It was not a concert for the casual Pumpkins listener -- it was a performance for true fans ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:08 AM | | Comments (23)
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July 7, 2010

Corkboard: Baltimore bars with table shuffleboard

the laughing pintDeck shuffleboard is for old people on boats. Table shuffleboard is for young people in bars. 

Table shuffleboard is a game of precision, where, like darts or beer pong, it's all in the wrist.

Dozens of Baltimore bars have shuffleboard. Here's a link to FindLocal's list of six spots with the game.

But where are the best places to play it? ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:55 AM | | Comments (29)
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June 28, 2010

Concert review: Phish at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Last year, when I reviewed Phish's show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, a commenter named Matthew Pugh said he could write a better review than me. Instead of telling him to buzz off, I told him to prove it, and recruited him to review Phish this time around. Here is his review of Saturday's show:

Make no mistake about it. When Phish arrived last night at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia for the first show of a two-night stand, they brought not peace, but a sword to remove any lingering doubt about them being one of the most dangerous bands alive ...

The Vermont quartet played for nearly four hours, ripping through 23 songs in two sets. They launched the first with "Crowd Control" and "Kill Devil Falls," the same two songs they opened with last August at Merriweather — a show that met with much criticism from fans new and old. Phish, therefore, meant one of two things with this identical start: We're going to try this again OR maybe you didn't hear us the first time. ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:37 AM | | Comments (47)
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June 25, 2010

Concert review: Peter Frampton & Yes at Pier Six Pavilion

Midnight Sun reviewer and JazzTimes editor Evan Haga was at Pier Six Pavilion last night to see Yes and Peter Frampton. Here are this thoughts on the show: 

Rock shows are many, many things, but they typically aren't punctual.

Yet Peter Frampton and his four-member touring band took the stage at Pier 6 a few minutes before their scheduled 7 p.m. start time last night, and the promptness proved necessary: There was a lot of music to plow through.

Frampton was part of a double-bill with Yes, and each group performed a hearty, roughly hour-and-40-minute set, including encores. It was an effective pairing, with enough contrast but also some shared philosophies. Nostalgia was a factor, sure — these bands toured together as commercial juggernauts in 1976 — but so was professionalism and musicianship: The comfort of proper sound engineering, the splendor of the extended guitar or keyboard solo, the willingness to play single songs that lasted half as long as a typical opening act's entire set. (As rock and roll history goes, punk exists because of concerts like this one.) Peter Frampton, then as now, offered the looser, sunnier side of '70s rock excess; Yes' progressive rock was the bookish, labyrinthine sort. ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:05 PM | | Comments (1)
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June 3, 2010

Concert review: Passion Pit, Tokyo Police Club at Rams Head Live

singer Michael Angelakos of Passion PitAll too often, electro-rock bands disappoint live. The thick, processed vocals sound thin in person, the lockstep synthesizers out of sync.

Not so for Passion Pit. When the five-piece from Massachusetts kicked off a summer tour with a sold-out gig at Rams Head Live last night (tonight they'll be at the 9:30 Club in Washington), the grooves were tight and funky and singer Michael Angelakos' (pictured, top) sailing falsetto was strong enough to tickle the club's rafters.

Here is a link to a photo gallery of the show.

The set wasn't long -- it clocked in at a about an hour, give or take -- but that's understandable. Passion Pit only has one album out so far, last year's "Manners," which made a splash on the indie scene. And most of the synth-heavy songs from "Manners" held up live ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:54 AM | | Comments (10)
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May 16, 2010

Zac Brown, O.A.R. and a beer bath at Preakness

o.a.r.'s marc roberge gets his preak onSo I survived yesterday's Preakness infield debauchery, which was much wilder than last year but not nearly as nuts as the BYOB days.

I think that's exactly how organizers wanted it. If you wanted to get wasted, you had to spend half your day waiting in beer lines.

I spotted a dude named Keith Carrier, who was carrying around a metal bucket filled with beer, and stopped him to see where he got it.

Turns out, he stole it from a beer stand and convinced a female bartender to fill it up for $10.

Here's a link to the little piece I wrote about him, and here is a link to a photo of him and his friends with the bucket.

Most of the day, I was in the middle of the masses who came to see the Zac Brown Band and O.A.R. (pictured). Both bands suited the sunny, breezy weather and college-aged crowd perfectly ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:37 AM | | Comments (12)
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May 14, 2010

Concert review: Pearl Jam at Jiffy Lube Live

eddie!Midnight Sun correspondent and JazzTimes editor Evan Haga saw Pearl Jam at Jiffy Lube Live last night. Here is his review:

When Pearl Jam emerged as part of the early '90s grunge hype, the band seemed like classic rockers among punk bands.

Part of the act had to do with diffidence or plain spite: The brooding lyrics and deadly serious demeanor; the love-hate relationship with commerciality and the limelight; that whole flannel-laden, one-with-the-people aesthetic.

But there was also plenty there for fans of '60s and '70s hard rock: Frontman Eddie Vedder's voice, a highly textured baritone that comes from the belly and can fill every nook of a large space, quickly became iconic; Stone Gossard and Hendrix-worshipping lead guitarist Mike McCready staked a claim as one of rock's great guitar tandems, making nightly arguments for the big riff and the extended solo when musical incompetence was cool.

Simply put, it was thoroughly son's music, but there was enough Aerosmith and Led Zep there to please Dad as well ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:04 PM | | Comments (9)
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May 7, 2010

Concert review: Yeasayer at The Ottobar

Midnight Sun correspondent Andy Rosen saw Yeasayer's sold-out show at The Ottobar last night. Here is his review:

The first sound out of Yeasayser was a strange, slow synthesizer loop, as the five-piece, eerie indie outfit took the stage at Ottobar Thursday. A faster, spooky guitar line piled on top quickly, at first falling in and out of sync with the keyboard.

The tracks converged for good when the drums dropped in. The sold-out crowd was excited, at least judging from the intensity of the cheers. Still, everybody was just staring, transfixed as the Brooklyn band with Baltimore roots got into "The Children," the first track off this year's release, "Odd Blood." ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:13 AM | | Comments (5)
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May 6, 2010

Concert review: Drake at Pier Six Pavilion

drakeMidnight Sun concert reviewer John-John Williams IV saw Drake perform at Pier Six last night. Here are his thoughts:

A couple years ago, I would have thought you were crazy if you told me a former kid actor from Canada would roll into Baltimore and rock the crowd with the same swagger and lyrical prowess of veteran rappers from the gritty streets of America's inner cities.

But that is exactly what Drake did last night at Pier Six Pavilion to a crowd of screaming, head nodding, and in a number of cases, scantily dressed, 20-somethings.

It's amazing that this young import has yet to drop his debut album. (It's coming June 15.) Until now he’s been the collaboration king, working with his mentor Lil' Wayne, fellow newcomer Nicki Minaj and industry heavyweights like Alicia Keys.

But he proved last night that he is more than capable of headlining a show. Who knows? He might even live up to the hype of being the next big thing in rap ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:34 AM | | Comments (9)
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April 1, 2010

Concert review: David Gray at Lyric Opera House

david grayMidnight Sun writer Patrick Gavin saw David Gray last night at the Lyric Opera House. Here is his review: 

According to the latest census data, one-third of all white 30-somethings within city limits were at the Lyric Opera House for David Gray last night. If you think that's a bit high, it's probably because you haven't mailed your Census 2010 form back yet, you stiff.

I bring up the audience demographic not to mock (that much) but for a practical reason. In Sam's interview with Mr. Gray, the English singer/songwriter renowned for infusing his folk rock with electronic sampling described the perfect show as one in which audiences energetically join in for the anthemic songs and reverently ponder the delicate, introspective ones.

Of course, when you have a show at the Lyric, with its plush red seats that just beg to be parked in all night, you find yourself reverently pondering those melodic, anthemic numbers as well.

What choice do you have? Few can resist the appeal of a comfy seat at a concert or sporting event ...

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March 31, 2010

Concert review: Norah Jones at Lyric Opera House

norah jones performs at the lyric opera house in baltimoreThe past few years have seen great changes for Norah Jones.

She broke up with her longtime boyfriend and bassist. She dropped her old band and hired a new one, recording and releasing an album, "The Fall," that is more indie rock and alt-country than jazz. She even cut her hair.

For many, including the millions of jazz lovers who helped fuel Jones' phenomenal rise, change can be hard to accept, but it has had a striking effect on Jones.

When she strode onto the stage last night at the Lyric Opera House, cute and sassy in a black dress with white polka dots and a red sash, she seemed confident in her abilities and eager to stretch out her new sound.

Many of the tracks on "The Fall" are wistful and solitary, with Jones longing for a love that is just out of reach, and last night, her seasoned five-piece band let the songs breathe. Silence was as much of an instrument as guitarist Smokey Hormel's melodic solos ...

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March 29, 2010

Concert review: Julian Casablancas at Rams Head Live

Julian Casablancas looks pretty cool in this photo. Midnight Sun writer Patrick Gavin saw Julian Casablancas last night at Rams Head Live. Here is his review:

"Nice little crowd we got here, Baltimore, f--- yeah!"

Nothing masks disappointment like a casual expletive. The operative word in that quote from Julian Casablancas, the Strokes front man turned solo artist, was "little."

"Little" as in Rams Head Live last night opted to cordon off its second and third floors because the modest crowd could comfortably fit in the downstairs stage/bar area.

"Little" as in this crowd would be considered a tad scant for the cover act Mr. Greengenes, who played the same venue two nights prior, let alone the guy who did as much for the garage rock revival on both sides of the Atlantic in the 2000s as Jack White.

"Little" as in ... all right, all right. Suffice it to say that Mr. Casablancas could have helped that humble pie go down a bit smoother ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:13 PM | | Comments (10)
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March 25, 2010

Concert review: Ben Folds at Rams Head Live

ben folds

Midnight Sun guest poster Andy Rosen saw Ben Folds last night, Here is his review:

Last night's show at Rams Head Live was advertised as Ben Folds "and a Piano." Though Folds had the stage to himself, he spent part of the evening broadcasting randomly selected chat video dispatches from the freakish world of Chatroulette.

The foray into the Internet fad, which connects people and their web cams without prejudice, produced several rejected connections, a naked woman and a quick chat with a bejeweled man named "Blas."

But it was perhaps the people who Folds didn't bring to the stage who most defined his performance ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:42 AM | | Comments (17)
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Concert review: Alicia Keys at 1st Mariner Arena

alicia keysAlicia Keys came uncaged last night at 1st Mariner Arena.

With images of barbed wire fences flashing on the big digital screens around her, Keys was wheeled out in a rectangular cage for the opening number, "Love is Blind."

Keys sang most of the song inside her personal prison, before dramatically bending back the bars and stepping out to freedom.

In case concertgoers didn't get the point, Keys would spend the next hour dropping inspirational lines between songs while the screens displayed words like "Rise Up" and "Fight." The tour, which takes her to the Verizon Center in Washington tonight, is even called the Freedom Tour.

"I don't want anybody to hold you back," said Keys, her legs shimmering in tight silver sequined pants. "Everything you need is right here inside of you." ...

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March 20, 2010

Daughtry and "Batman"

This morning, I realized I'd forgotten to mention something random that happened at Daughtry's show at 1st Mariner Arena Thursday (read the review here).

Before Daughtry's set started, a white sheet was hung around the stage, and squiggles and other shapes were projected onto it (Windows screen saver style). Meanwhile, the speakers played the theme to the original "Batman" movie -- for a few minutes.

It was totally random, and in hindsight, I kinda got a kick out of it. I wonder if other people in the crowd picked up on it.

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March 19, 2010

Concert review: Daughtry at 1st Mariner Arena

daughtryDaughtry's tour opener at 1st Mariner Arena last night had all the right pieces of a gnarly rock show: The angst-filled anthems, the charismatic front man, the laser lights, the shirtless drummer.

But when all the parts came together, the result was a standard, 90-minute color-by-numbers rock concert, somewhat marred by technical difficulties.

To be a remarkable show, it needed a spark, which never came.

Lead singer Chris Daughtry, with his dexterous voice and new crop of black hair(!) carried the night.

It's easy to see why the former American Idol's debut album, "Daughtry," has sold five million copies: Daughtry makes the simmering low notes count just as much as the wails. He's one heck of a singer ...

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March 4, 2010

Concert review: Muse at 1st Mariner Arena

matthew bellamy of museFrom the first notes of the fist-pumping protest anthem "Uprising," Muse set the dial at 10, where it stayed for the rest of the 100-minute show.

The British power trio has a sound tailor made for arenas such as 1st Mariner, where they played last night. It was a night of colossal riffage and manic special effects, from frantic laser lights to disturbing videos.

"Rise up and take the power back it's time the / fat cats had a heart attack we have to / unify and watch our flag ascend, so come on," lead singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy (pictured) sang.

Did he mean it? With his turquoise pants, sparkly silver shoes and Kanye West glasses, it was hard to tell.

After the show, more people probably watched the Maryland-Duke game or grabbed a snack from McDonald's than rose up to overthrow the fat cats. I'll bet most folks came to rawk, and rawk they did ...

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February 26, 2010

Concert review: Cage the Elephant at 9:30 Club

cage the elephantIn today's Live section, I profiled the no-frills rock group Cage the Elephant (read the piece here).

The five-piece from Kentucky is known more for their raucous live shows than their smoldering self-titled debut album.

To get a taste of what Cage the Elephant's sold-out show at the Recher Theatre will be like, I saw their sold-out show at the 9:30 Club last night. It was good -- but not great.

Honestly, after watching so many YouTube clips of lead singer Matt Shultz crowd diving and jumping off second-story balconies, I think I set my expectations too high ...

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February 24, 2010

Concert review: Black Eyed Peas at Verizon Center

black eyed peasMoments before showtime, the lights dimmed at Washington's Verizon Center and a giant green CGI head appeared on a video screen and sternly announced, "This is the beginning of sound."

Then, the Black Eyed Peas rose from the floor, shrouded in fog and illuminated with green laser spotlights, and launched into "Let's Get it Started."

What followed was more spectacle than show -- a dizzying digital love fest, where singer Fergie and rappers Will.i.a.m, apl.de.ap and Taboo strutted around the stage in sparkle-tastic outfits and toured through their hits ...

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February 21, 2010

Concert review: John Mayer at Verizon Center last night

john mayerMidnight Sun correspondent Patrick Gavin was at John Mayer's show in Washington last night. Here is his concert review:

Given the grief the candid-to-a-fault John Mayer's recent Playboy interview earned him, you might say the tune "My Stupid Mouth" is the most unironic song in hindsight this side of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab."

Googling the lyrics, one might call Mayer prescient, if not for the fact the now famous 32-year-old rocker seems to making the same mistakes – only now in public – that he made when he wrote the song 10 years ago.

But his warranted or unwarranted public perception as a cad/douchebag (his words) aside, musically, mistakes aren't something Mayer makes very often. ...

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February 2, 2010

Concert review: Wye Oak and Arbouretum at G-Spot

wye oak at the g-spot

This review comes courtesy of Midnight Sunner Duffster:

On Friday night, Baltimore Musically Informed, one of the best local music-oriented blogs, presented a showcase of Charm City talent at the G-Spot, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it.

The lineup was headlined by Baltimore loves Arbouretum and Wye Oak. Both of those bands certainly came through.

But first, a word about the supporting bands, The Violet Hour, Weekends and Sri Aurobindo.

Ok, so I missed Violet, but I’m sure they’re awesome. Still, I was really happy with Weekends and Sri ...

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January 28, 2010

Concert review: Mariah Carey at DAR Constitution Hall

mariah carey

Concert reviewer John-John Williams IV saw MiMi's show last night at DAR Constitution Hall. Here are his thoughts on her performance:

The legendary songstress Mariah Carey gave a somewhat spirited performance last night during her 90-minute show at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington.

At times, Carey was magical. She showed off the  incredible vocal range that has made her arguably one of the top female vocalists of her time.

She also displayed a noticeably heftier figure that she squeezed for dear life into unflattering outfits. (At one point, when she descended from the rafters on a swing wearing a sparkly champagne-colored gown, she looked sort of like a sausage wrapped in ruffles and rhinestones.)

Although Carey emerged at about 8:30 p.m. and ended the show about 10 p.m., her actual performance time was much shorter.

If you count the outfit changes, the stage breaks she took to sip champagne and the ultra tacky onstage makeup touch-up, Carey only performed for about an hour ...

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January 25, 2010

Concert review: George Strait, Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack at 1st Mariner

reba mcentire

John-John Williams IV was at 1st Mariner Friday night to see Reba McEntire, George Strait and Lee Ann Womack. Here is his review:

Reba McEntire (pictured, top) showed Friday night at 1st Mariner Arena why she is arguably the queen of country music, while veteran crooner George Strait (pictured, bottom) left me wondering why he hasn't been kicked from his throne.

Strait's dry performance lacked the flare and persona of McEntire. Strait's songs sounded pretty much the same in both lyrics and tempo. After the 10th reference to honky tonk, Strait's act started to wear thin.

It was a different story with McEntire and Lee Ann Womack, who went on before Strait. They both showed more style and flair. The two were dressed to impress, and flexed their vocal muscles with a good mix of songs. Their performances definitely delighted the crowd. (McEntire brought the audience to its feet on several occasions.)

Strait, on the other hand, sang one sad, whiny, slow song after another. It's a shame because the concert had so much promise. ...

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December 14, 2009

Concert review: Dashboard Confessional at The Ottobar last night

chris carrabbaLast night, when Dashboard Confessional front man Chris Carrabba played an all-acoustic show at The Ottobar, it was like he'd come full circle.

Dashboard started out as a solo project for Carrabba, and gradually grew into a full band. But last night, it was just Carrabba and Dashboard guitarist John Lefler on stage, offering up loose, acoustic versions of their emo hits.

"It's fun to do this once in a while," Carrabba said.

The show was sold out, to no one's surprise. Dashboard usually plays in much larger venues; in fact, they had booked a full-band tour this fall (their latest album, "Alter the Ending," came out Nov. 10). But when one of the band members suffered an undisclosed emergency, Carrabba postponed the full-band tour and booked a series of acoustic dates in small clubs such as The Ottobar.

How small is small for these guys? Well, their tour bus was longer than the club was wide ...

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December 12, 2009

Concert review: Chris Brown at Sonar last night

chris brown at sonar in baltimoreBaltimore Sun writer John-John Williams IV was at Chris Brown's show last night at Sonar. Here are his thoughts:

Of the dozen or so concerts I’ve been to this year, not one artist can hold a candle to Chris Brown when it comes to dancing—not even Beyonce. But when it comes to new music, Chris Brown is dead last.

I suspect the now infamous crooner knows it too. Why else would his Fan Appreciation Tour performance last night at Sonar feature close to a half dozen reminders to purchase his new album, "Graffiti?" His DJ at one point urged the room of mostly screaming teenage girls to buy five copies each.

Um, no. The new cuts on "Graffiti" simply lack the wow factor of his first two albums, 2005's "Chris Brown" and 2007's "Exclusive."  

Last night, Brown was on stage for a little over an hour. And even though many of his songs were lip synced, you didn’t feel cheated.

His choreography, stage presence and live singing more than made up for the pre-recorded vocals. (I suspect he relied so heavily on lip syncing so he could catch his breath.) ...

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November 21, 2009

Concert review: Bruce Springsteen at 1st Mariner Arena

bruce springsteenThat was the concert of a lifetime. I think that was the best show I've ever seen.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band made a triumphant return to 1st Mariner Arena last night, playing to a sold-out crowd of more than 14,000.

Here is a link to my full review, which will run in tomorrow's paper.

Wow. Consider me a convert to the Church of Springsteen. Bruce and the boys played 30 songs, and the show lasted almost three and a half hours.

If you were there last night and you want to share your thoughts, leave a comment.

Here is the set list from the show ...

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November 16, 2009

Concert review: Devo at the 9:30 Club

devoReal encores are hard to come by these days.

Encores used to be spontaneous. Bands would come back out if the crowd refused to leave. But over the years, encores became just another part of the show. I've seen a lot of live music in the past seven years, but I had never seen a real encore -- until last night.

Irreverent new wave (at what point do they become old wave?) mainstays Devo plowed through their landmark debut "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!" in its entirety last night at the 9:30 Club.

It was the first of two shows where the band plays an entire album from start to finish at the club (the second night, featuring "Freedom of Choice" is tonight). Last night's show was sold out, at $45 per ticket.

Devo's entire performance lasted less than an hour. That's being generous. There was only 45 minutes of live music. Before the band took the stage, they played the music videos for "Secret Agent Man" and "Jocko Homo." If that wasn't an effort to soak up time, it sure felt like it.

After a couple of encore songs, the band left the stage, the house lights and music came up and roadies started unplugging the gear. But the audience wasn't about to leave ...

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November 13, 2009

Concert review: The Cranberries at Rams Head Live

It's been almost seven years since the Cranberries last hit the road.

Last night, the Irish rockers officially ended their hiatus with a 90-minute sold-out show at Rams Head Live. The concert kicked off an international tour which stretches through late March. What have they been up to in the meantime?

"I can't believe it's been six and a half years," said singer Dolores O'Riordan. "Babies were born. We had fun in the bedroom."

Aha ...

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November 10, 2009

Concert review: Jackson Browne at the Lyric Opera House

jackson browneIt's safe to say that nearly every rock song starts out the same way: An artist gets an idea and sits down with a guitar or keyboard to flesh it out.

The drums, bass and background singers all come later on, when the songs grow into sweeping ballads, bar anthems and the like. Every once in a while, you wonder what they sounded like when they were first written.

Last night, Jackson Browne pared back his songs for an all-acoustic solo show at the Lyric Opera House. The nearly two-and-a-half hour performance was a revealing showcase of the heralded singer/songwriter's sizable catalog.

Alone on stage for all but the encore, Browne effortlessly carried the crowd through a mix of his old and new material ...

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November 9, 2009

Concert review: A Cool Stick at Rams Head Live

a cool stickSince I've become the de factor music writer here, I haven't had the chance to see as much local music as I'd like to. Midnight Sun guest poster Katherine McNaboe was at Rams Head Live last week to catch the local group A Cool Stick. Here are her thoughts:

If I had to choose one word to describe local hip-hop group A Cool Stick, it would be energetic. As the fourth of five bands at a Rams Head show Thursday night, the band performed an incredibly lively hour-long set of hip-hop, rap, reggae and rock, a balanced mix of covers and their own stuff.

Singer Luke O'Brien and singer/keyboardist John Fitch looked like they've been doing this for years the way they engaged the audience with their goofy smiles, fresh lyrics and smooth moves -- particularly O'Brien’s moon-walking ...

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October 28, 2009

Concert review: Jewel at the Lyric Opera House

jewelSun writer Chris Kaltenbach was at last night's Jewel show. Here is a link to a photo gallery from last night. And here is the review:

When Jewel asked the crowd at the Lyric last night what songs they wanted to hear, there was no shortage of replies.

"Satellite," from 2006’s "Goodbye Alice In Wonderland," seemed the crowd favorite, but plenty of other suggestions came pouring out of the audience, songs running the gamut of her career, some not even yet on any of her studio albums.

"It's very cool," she said, complimenting her Baltimore audience on their extensive knowledge. "I like my fans."

Well, her fans like her, too. And for good reason.

For about two hours, the Alaskan-born singer-songwriter regaled them with beautifully sung acoustic versions of both her hits ("Hands," "Who Will Save Your Soul?") and songs only her true fans knew beforehand ...

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Concert review: Van Morrison at the Meyerhoff

van morrison

JazzTimes managing editor Evan Haga saw Van Morrison last night at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Here are his thoughts:

The Irish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Van Morrison is one of popular music's great contradictions, as he proved last night during a 90-minute set at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The performance was, on several levels, bewildering.

Over the last four-plus decades, Morrison has written indelible melodies and delivered them in his singular blue-eyed-soul shout, a sort of half-croak, half-belt that feels at once homey and otherworldly. He has recorded songs, like "Brown Eyed Girl," that even children know to sing along to. People genuinely feel like they own his music, even when it's dressed in jazz and Celtic flourishes.

But what he offers, even as it's anchored in American roots and R&B, is so totally esoteric. A notoriously diffident and difficult personality, Morrison, like Bob Dylan, is now less interested in celebrating those terrific melodies than being a roots bandleader ...

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Concert review: Snoop Dogg, Method Man and Redman at Rams Head Live

snoop doggMidnight Sun correspondent John John Williams IV was at Snoop Dogg last night. Here are his thoughts:

When I found out I was going to see the Snoop Dogg Wonderland High School Tour, I was fully expecting to leave Rams Head Live in Baltimore with a second-hand contact high.

I knew that plenty of people in the crowd were going to be smoking marijuana and that my clothes were going to need a good dry cleaning afterward.

To my surprise (and relief) the marijuana smoke was held to a minimum due to vigilant security staff last night. I'm sure that many of the fans found this to be annoying, but I honestly didn't mind.

The performances by headliner Snoop Dogg and rapping duo Method Man and Redman were more than enough to keep the audience in an altered state.

These veteran performers could satisfy the wants of the most finicky hip-hop fans ...

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Concert review: Jay-Z at 1st Mariner Arena last night

jay-zFew rappers can make an entrance like Jay-Z.

He didn't just take the stage -- he set a timer first.

Before his sold-out show began last night at 1st Mariner Arena, the THX sound effect boomed through the speakers and digital clocks displayed on the big screens started counting down from 10 minutes. When time ran out, the curtain was pulled back, revealing Jay-Z's tight 10-piece band and a screen shaped like the New York City skyline.

He didn't just walk onto the stage, either. He rose from the floorboards, wearing black shades, black pants, a black shirt and a black leather jacket.

Now that's an entrance.

The rest of the show was everything you'd expect from one of hip-hop's superstars: Swaggering, bragging and furious verses. Jay-Z dominated the mike, and the audience loved nearly every minute of it ...

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October 26, 2009

Tomorrow is Super Music Tuesday

jay-zDo you know what tomorrow is?

Tomorrow is big. Real big.

So big, in fact, that I'm calling it Super Music Tuesday.

Tomorrow is perhaps the biggest day for live music in Baltimore this fall. Jay-Z is playing 1st Mariner. Snoop Dogg is playing Rams Head Live. Jewel is playing the Lyric. And Van Morrison is playing the Meyerhoff.

Whew! Now comes the cool part ...

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October 24, 2009

Concert review: Maxwell at 1st Mariner Arena

Midnight Sun contributor John-John Williams IV was at Maxwell's show last night at 1st Mariner Arena. Here are his thoughts:

Maxwell ended the American leg of "The BLACKsummer’snight Tour" last night at First Mariner Arena in Baltimore, and he left it all on the stage. The neo-soul crooner sure knows how to leave a crowd satisfied.

Maxwell's "BLACKsummer’snight" was one of the most anticipated albums of this year -- and for good reason.

After all, the Brooklyn native was one of the main artists along with Lauryn Hill who became the face of the neo-soul movement of the mid-to-late '90s. Sure, there have been tons of suitors since then -- Anthony Hamilton, Raheem DeVaughn, and even the uber-successful John Legend. But none have been able to knock Maxwell off of his often vacant throne ...

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October 16, 2009

Concert review: Kiss at Wachovia Center and Verizon Center

kissSun Ring Posts blogger Kevin Eck is quite the Kiss fan. Frankly, I'm a little shocked at how many times he's seen the rock stalwarts. He went to two (2) Kiss shows this week alone. Here is his report:

They say you never forget your first Kiss. I vividly remember mine. 

The date was Dec. 20, 1977, and I was 10. That was the night I saw the self-professed hottest band in the land for the very first time, at the old Capital Centre in Landover.

What I experienced that night was much deeper than a school-boy infatuation. It was the start of a lifelong relationship, and even though there have been peaks and valleys over the past 32 years, the passion is still there ...

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Concert review: Ray LaMontagne with the BSO at Strathmore

ray lamontagne

There's so much space and sweep in singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne's music, it's a wonder he doesn't perform with orchestras more often.

Last night, when LaMontagne played with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Music Center at Strathmore, it was only the second time he's had an orchestra behind him (the first was earlier this year at the Hollywood Bowl). Tonight, LaMontagne and the BSO will perform at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Aside from a few miscues, it was a fluid showcase of LaMontagne's compelling body of work.

If you've heard LaMontagne's breathy, sandpapery voice, chances are, you either love it or hate it. Whether whispered or howled, LaMontagne's voice seemed to hang in the air last night in the gorgeous Strathmore hall.

Arranger and conductor David Campbell (whom you may recognize as the father of Beck) led the BSO through a few classical pieces, including John Adams' "Shaker Loops" and "The Unanswered Question" by Charles Ives, before LaMontagne took the stage. The works were adventurous and accessible without being patronizing; it was clear Campbell knew his audience.

After a brief break, LaMontagne, looking ever the mountain man with his beard, dark hair white button-down and vest, emerged with a three-piece band (drums, bass and guitar).

The 80-minute performance was a tour through LaMontagne's three albums, touching on hits and album cuts alike ...

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October 15, 2009

Concert review: Bruce Springsteen at the Spectrum last night

bruce springsteenThere are Springsteen fans, and there are Springsteen fanatics. Baltimore Sun sports guru Ron Fritz has seen Bruce Springsteen 12 or 15 times. I don't know if I'd call him a fanatic, but he's definitely more than a casual fan of the Boss.

Fritz saw Springsteen last night in Philly. Here are his thoughts:

Get ready Baltimore, the Boss is coming and he’s bringing a smokin’ hot E Street Band with him.

Bruce Springsteen, scheduled to play 1st Mariner Arena on Nov. 20, played the second of four shows in Philadelphia last night at The Spectrum.

He played for about 2 hours and 45 minutes, 15 minutes shorter than the first night in Philly, but got the old building rocking right from the start with "Thundercrack," followed by "The Ties That Bind" and "What Love Can Do."

The band was so good, right off the bat, that it was like seeing the Ravens run their 2-minute offense to start the game and have everything perfectly in sync ...

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September 30, 2009

Concert review: U2 at FedEx Field

u2, bono Subtlety has never been one of U2's strong points.

Dublin's finest have almost always been about big -- from their catalog of arena anthems to their unabashed pleas for world peace. Does U2's 360 Degrees tour, which made a stop at FedEx Field last night, have one of the biggest stage setups in the history of live music? Of course it does.

In fact, if you ask lead singer Bono, the foursome has transcended band status altogether.

"The nation state that is U2 is a global force -- yet, a democracy," he told the crowd last night.

Sure, sure, Bono. Now you put those light purple shades back on and sing us another song. Because when U2 wants to rock, U2 rocks. "Beautiful Day" was about as epic as epic gets -- except, of course, until they played the even bigger, bolder "Where The Streets Have No Name."

For better or worse, the show itself was, at times, so excessive it was surreal ...

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Concert review: Lady Gaga at DAR Constitution Hall

lady gaga

John-John Williams IV was at last night's Lady Gaga show at DAR Constitution Hall. Here are his thoughts:

Lady Gaga knows how to put on a show -- when she's on stage. Too bad she makes her fans wait an hour and a half for an hour performance with no encore.

That's right: At her DAR Constitution Hall show last night, there was no opening act, an hour-long performance by Lady Gaga and no encore. But like I said, when she's on stage, she's one heck of a performer.

The minute the curtain dropped, revealing Lady Gaga dressed in a geometric, glittery metallic dress with an Anna Wintour blonde and pink bob, she had the crowd's attention.

Gaga launched into her hit single "Paparazzi," working the screaming fans by screaming "D.C." and flashing the middle finger at the end of the song.

It quickly became apparent that Lady Gaga is more than just a shiny pop package. She’s a phenomenal performer with a myriad of tricks up her haute coutured sleeves. She's a great singer, pianist, and showman too: She was tickling the ivories while squatting on the piano bench in heels ...

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September 6, 2009

Concert review: Counting Crows, Michael Franti and Augustana at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Half the seats were empty when Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz snuck out from behind the curtain and sat on the edge of the stage.

It was only 7 p.m. -- no one was expecting any music for another few minutes, at least. But there was Duritz, who greeted the audience, and with the help of a guitarist, eased into an acoustic cover of the Psychedelic Furs song "The Ghost in You."

"We thought we'd sing a song for you before the show starts," he said.

That was just one of many spontaneous moments at last night's show at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The tour, called the Traveling Circus and Medicine Show, was a novel way to present the rock group Augustana, the hip-hop/reggae/funk act Michael Franti and Spearhead and the Counting Crows: Instead of having two openers and a headliner, the three bands traded songs for nearly four hours.

At times, all three bands -- almost 20 musicians all told -- would play at once. That's how they opened the show, with a rendition of Van Morrison's "Caravan." The stage may have looked crowded but didn't sound it; early on, all three bands settled into an easy groove and rarely left it. ...

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September 1, 2009

Concert review: The Killers at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night

the killersFrom the moment the roadies started setting up the stage, you could tell it was going to be an over-the-top concert.

Five palm trees? Check. One large urn loaded with fresh flowers? Check. A piano dotted with small square mirrors? Check. Oh, and let's not forget the neon trimmings, pyrotechnics, confetti and video screens.

The Killers brought plenty of Las Vegas flair to Merriweather Post Pavilion last night. They cranked through their high-energy, 80-minute show with business-like efficiency. The music was flashy and bombastic, and the set was filled with fist-pumping dance rock anthems.

Singer (and sometimes keyboardist) Brandon Flowers emerged sporting a black suit coat with feather epaulets. Thankfully, he discarded the thing after a couple songs and proceeded to stalk across the stage. ...

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August 16, 2009

Concert review: Phish at Merriweather Post Pavilion

trey anastasioFrom the start, expectations were high.

When tickets for last night's Phish show at Merriweather Post Pavilion first went on sale, fans snapped them up in minutes -- a record for the Columbia amphitheater. And all along this tour, the band has been sounding reinvigorated and delivering impressive shows.

While last night's performance had its high points, it won't go down as one of the best gigs on the tour. It was a surprisingly mellow show overall -- almost underwhelming at times.

Hours before the concert began, thousands of diehard Phish fans swarmed Merriweather Post Pavilion to set up tents and party in the parking lots.

The sweaty weather had folks swilling extra drinks to keep cool, and come 7:30 p.m., the crowd was pretty riled up and ready for the world's biggest jam band ...

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Categories: Concert reviews
        

August 10, 2009

Concert review: Van Morrison at DAR Constitution Hall

van morrison

Midnight Sun commenter AmyWoo saw Van Morrison perform at DAR Constitution Hall this past weekend. Here are her thoughts:

Having read several less than stellar reviews of Van Morrison’s recent performances, I have to admit I went in to Friday night's concert at DAR Constitution Hall expecting the worst. And for the first hour and 45 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised.
 
In spite of the fact that none of his "big hits" appeared on his set list that night, I thoroughly enjoyed the music Morrison played.

One of the greatest things about seeing an established artist like Morrison is the incredible musicians that make up the band. Morrison didn't disappoint in that respect – I don't think I've ever heard someone wail on the viola quite like Tony Fitzgibbon.

Of course, the caliber of musicians playing with Morrison didn't stop him from the occasional barking demand to play "long notes" or switch to the "tom-tom or whatever." ...

Continue reading "Concert review: Van Morrison at DAR Constitution Hall" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:00 PM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

August 8, 2009

Concert review: Beach House and Celebration at the Metro Gallery

It's a good thing they started late.

At 10 p.m. -- the time the music was supposed to start -- the line stretched south on Charles Street and spilled around the corner onto West Lanvale Street. The show was held in the parking lot a couple doors down from the Metro Gallery (1700 N. Charles St.), the same space where they threw Rufustival not too long ago. And last night, that parking lot was packed full of people ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:39 PM | | Comments (9)
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August 6, 2009

Concert review: American Idols Live tour 2009

idolgroup.jpg  Before we get rolling, I have a couple guilty confessions to make. First, even though I have interviewed Adam Lambert, I have never seen a complete episode of "American Idol" since it started in 2002. I've caught snippets here and there, but I've never seen a whole episode. I know, I know, shame on me.

Even worse: Due to a Baltimore Unsigned taping with Caleb Stine, I missed pretty much the entire first set of the show.

Why send me in the first place? Reality TV expert Sarah Kelber was indisposed, and editor Tim Swift was desperate, I guess. So they sent the wide-eyed pop music writer (me) instead.

All that said, the American Idols Live tour, which came to 1st Mariner Arena last night, was quite the treat, if you dig that sort of thing. The show features performances by the top 10 contestants on the 2009 season of "American Idol." It was, in a sense, a souped-up, flashy, extravagant karaoke show. And what a show it was ...

Continue reading "Concert review: American Idols Live tour 2009" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (98)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

August 2, 2009

Concert review: Paul McCartney at FedEx Field last night

paul mccartneySimply put, this was one of the best shows I've ever seen.

I didn't want Paul McCartney's show at FedEx Field last night to end.

But when it did -- after a two-hour set and a 30-minute encore -- I think I speak for the rest of the audience when I said I left the stadium satisfied.

Backed by a lean, four-piece band, McCartney led a tour through his unparalleled body of work, from his days as a Beatle to some of the more recent material he released under his alter ego, The Fireman.

The crowd happily clapped and sang along to the former, and amicably tolerated the latter ...

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:34 PM | | Comments (61)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

July 31, 2009

Concert review: Green Day at the Verizon Center in Washington

green dayRing Posts blogger Kevin Eck was at Green Day's show at the Verizon Center. Take it away, Kevin:

Green Day violated one of the basic rules of the entertainment business with their show at Verizon Center Wednesday night: They didn’t leave the audience wanting more.

Then again, Green Day are rebels at heart, so conventional rules be damned.

The Grammy Award-winning trio held nothing back. They put on an amazing performance, not only with their musicianship, but also with their nonstop energy and ability to keep the audience on its feet, pumping its fists and singing along for over two and a half hours. Green Day played 28 songs.

With tickets priced at just $49.50, a Green Day concert has to be one of the best bargains on the live music scene as far as big-name bands.

Continue reading "Concert review: Green Day at the Verizon Center in Washington" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:49 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

July 29, 2009

Concert review: Neko Case at Rams Head Live last night

neko caseMidnight Sun correspondent Tim Swift (of Swift Picks fame) was at Neko Case's concert last night at Rams Head Live. Here is his report:

Full disclosure: I wouldn't call this a review, per se -- I was mostly busy fumbling and failing with a camera (see above). But here are a few musings from the concert.
 
Alt-country songtress Neko Case may have been complaining of a toothache last night, but for all the initial banter and mock bellyaching on stage, it sure didn't affect her chilled-out performance at Rams Head Live ...

Continue reading "Concert review: Neko Case at Rams Head Live last night" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:49 AM | | Comments (14)
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July 27, 2009

Photos of the John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan show

willie nelsonI wasn't able to get to Aberdeen for the John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan show, but Sun photographer Chris Alliey was.

Here's a link to some of his photos from the show.

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:45 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

July 18, 2009

Concert review: John Legend and India.Arie at Merriweather last night

john legendSun writer John-John Williams IV was at Merriweather last night to see John Legend and India.Arie. Here are his thoughts:

Let’s be honest for a second: Modern day R&B singers are basically garbage. They lack the soul and vocal skills that popularized the genre.

These days, we have 'artists" who have abandoned their roots in favor of synthesized, auto-tuned studio sounds that have been poorly plated with trite lyrics and spaghetti thin vocals.

Thank God for John Legend (pictured) and India.Arie who brought down the house last night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The two have a crisp, classic, yet modern sound. And they know how to entertain a crowd.

Legend, a multi-Grammy award winner in his own right, can loosen inhibitions better than a bottle of booze. Couples most definitely sealed the deal after hearing Legend perform last night. ...

Continue reading "Concert review: John Legend and India.Arie at Merriweather last night" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:47 AM | | Comments (6)
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July 13, 2009

Photos from yesterday's Rock the Bells at Merriweather Post Pavilion

the roots at rock the bellsRock the Bells, the annual star-studded hip-hop festival tour, came to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia yesterday.

Baltimore Sun photographer Shantel Mitchell was there to capture the action, from Nas to Big Boi (who I interviewed last week) to the Roots (pictured).

Here's a link to more photos from the show.

I wasn't able to make it to Merriweather to review the concert, but if you were there and you want to tell us how it went, go for it.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Shantel Mitchell)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:15 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

July 12, 2009

Concert review: Billy Joel and Elton John Face to Face at Nationals Park

elton john and billy joelSun staffer Lori Sears was at last night's Elton John and Billy Joel show in Washington. Here is her play-by-play:

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I'm a big fan of both Elton John and Billy Joel.

So, naturally, there was no question that I'd be anywhere but Nationals Park in Washington last night to see the two piano rock 'n' rollers play "Face to Face." The guys have perfected this "F2F" gig, having played these "in tandem" concerts off and on since 1994.
 
Oh, what a night it was: a rocking, drama-filled evening with two music legends. The concert began much like the piano guys' past shows.

As the opening theme music boomed throughout the open-air baseball stadium, the two grand pianos emerged from underground, raising up to stage level and laying out 18 feet of pure piano. Soon after, Billy emerged, then Elton. A warm hug, kindly greetings to the capacity crowd, and they were on their way ...

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July 9, 2009

Concert review: Wilco at Wolf Trap last night

jeff tweedyBaltimore Sun social networking guru Mary Hartney was at last night's Wilco show at Wolf Trap in Virginia. Here are her thoughts:

My favorite band (Wilco) at my favorite venue (Wolf Trap) on a gorgeous summer night: What could possibly go wrong?

Traffic and lawn seats, that's what.

We arrived at Wolf Trap about an hour before the show, which Conor Oberst opened, and the lawn was blanket-to-blanket packed. We wound up sitting on the farthest, highest hill, with no view of the stage.

But that's my problem, not yours, right? I can at least tell you how Wilco sounded. In a word: Incredible. ...

Continue reading "Concert review: Wilco at Wolf Trap last night" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:20 PM | | Comments (10)
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Video: Monkee Micky Dolenz performs at the Dundalk Heritage Fair

Micky Dolenz of the Monkees was in the area recently for a show at the Dundalk Hertiage Fair. Ring Posts blogger Kevin Eck was right -- Mick's voice is still really strong. Check out this medly of tunes from the show, courtesy of Kevin's friend Chris ...

Continue reading "Video: Monkee Micky Dolenz performs at the Dundalk Heritage Fair" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:00 PM | | Comments (2)
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July 7, 2009

Thoughts on ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz's Dundalk show

Micky Dolenz

Kevin Eck (of Ring Posts fame) was at the Dundalk Heritage Fair Sunday for Monkee Micky Dolenz's show. Here's what Kevin thought of it:

I'm sure there are a lot of people who consider The Monkees to be a guilty pleasure, but I’m not one of them.

Despite plenty of ribbing from friends and co-workers over the years, I have never felt guilty about being a fan of the 1960s made-for-TV band.

So what if The Monkees did not write the lyrics or play the instruments on their early hits? The undeniable fact is that The Monkees have an extensive catalog of great pop songs that have stood the test of time.

That's why I was so excited to see my favorite Monkee, Micky Dolenz (pictured), play Sunday night at the Dundalk Heritage Fair.

Dolenz is now 64, so I didn’t know what to expect, but he and his band performed with verve and put on a fun show.

Remarkably, Dolenz’s voice didn’t sound much different than it did during The Monkees' heyday more than 40 years ago. ...

Continue reading "Thoughts on ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz's Dundalk show" »

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Categories: Concert reviews
        

June 24, 2009

Concert review: Beyonce gives energized performance at 1st Mariner Arena

beyonce.jpgBaltimore Sun reporter John-John Williams IV was at Beyonce's concert at 1st Mariner Arena last night. Here's a link to a photo gallery from the show. And here are John-John's thoughts:

Throngs of buppies dressed in designer dresses and spiked stilettos crowded First Mariner Arena last night in support of the woman they call Diva, Sasha Fierce, B or more commonly, Beyonce.

Whatever moniker you chose, the former Destiny’s Child front-woman delivered an energy-filled two and a half hour performance on this leg of her 'I Am ... Tour' that left her fans thoroughly content.

The minute she appeared on stage in a sparkling mini dress, all eyes were on her. When the stunning singer belted out an a Capella version of her 2006 hit "Deja Vu," the audience hung on every word.

Beyonce is a seasoned pro, and she knows it. Her costume changes -- there were about eight of them -- were perfectly timed and almost seemed seamless. She also plays to her strengths: vocals, dancing and showmanship ...

Continue reading "Concert review: Beyonce gives energized performance at 1st Mariner Arena" »

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June 11, 2009

Concert review: Fleetwood Mac at 1st Mariner Arena

lindsay buckinghamMy esteemed colleague Chris Kaltenbach was also at last night's Fleetwood Mac show at 1st Mariner Arena. Here are his thoughts:

Fleetwood Mac played an energetic two-hour-plus set of their greatest hits at the 1st Mariner Arena Wednesday night, clearly revelling in their status as elder rock statesmen with a boatload of crowd-pleasing standards to play for their fans.
 
With Lindsay Buckingham playing the role of guitar god to the hilt and Stevie Nicks basking in her role as spiritual muse, the band relied almost exclusively on songs from their monster-selling Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours (1977) albums.

The result was an evening that seemed strangely stuck in time, but in the best of ways. The fans ate it up, and didn't even seem to mind it when the band dragged out two of the hoariest '70s concert cliches, the extended (and defiantly excessive) guitar and drum solos.
 
Opening with "Monday Morning," from Fleetwood Mac, the band quickly set the evening's tone. Buckingham played shamelessly to the crowd, pointing, cajoling, jumping up and down, making like a whirling dervish able to lay down some fairly vicious guitar licks, yet never removing the leather jacket, no matter how much the sweat came pouring down ...

Continue reading "Concert review: Fleetwood Mac at 1st Mariner Arena" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:21 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Concert reviews, Local music
        

June 10, 2009

Biz Markie: Awesomely bad

biz markieAs promised, I wanted to tell you about Biz Markie's opening set at last night's Beastie Boys concert at Rams Head Live.

In short, it was so bad it was good. 

Biz Markie rolled out onto the stage (when you're as large as he is, you don't walk, you know*) around 8:15 p.m. His mouth hung open the entire time he was on stage.

Maybe he was dumbstruck by the crowd's energy. Or maybe he just needed the oxygen.

Fans of reality TV will remember Markie from his stint on the weight-loss show Celebrity Fit Club. I never saw that season, but I've been told Markie lost a fair amount of weight during his time on the show. I don't know how fat he was before the show, but he's not exactly Mr. Slim these days.

Markie started playing 30-second snippets of songs from the past couple decades. We heard from Bob Marley, Kriss Kross and Suzanne Vega, among others. Between snippets, he would ask, "Ya'll remember that?" He kept saying this over and over.

After a few minutes, Markie had a question for the crowd ...

Continue reading "Biz Markie: Awesomely bad" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:02 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Concert reviews, Local music
        

Last night's Beastie Boys show at Rams Head Live

 

The Beastie Boys may be best known for their brand of sharp, stinging hip-hop, but the Brooklyn trio has a surprisingly diverse discography.

Last night's choppy, spontaneous performance at Rams Head Live was a tour through the group's 30-odd years together, from the early hardcore punk to the more recent instrumental funk jams to the inevitable rap hits.

The surprise show, a warm-up for the group's Bonnaroo performance next week, had plenty of rough spots. There were false starts, missed cues and whiffed lines. But all of that came secondary to the fact that one of the biggest rap acts of all time was playing to a club that holds a mere 2,000 people, give or take. Here's a link to some more pictures from the show.

At one point, a guy standing on the first level turned to a gal next to him and said, "Can you believe it? We're, like, 10 rows from the Beastie Boys!" My thoughts exactly.

Continue reading "Last night's Beastie Boys show at Rams Head Live" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:47 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Concert reviews, Local music
        

March 12, 2009

Concert review: Beach House at Sonar

beachhouse.jpgSun pop music critic Rashod Ollison checked out Baltimore-based ambient pop duo Beach House's show at Sonar last night.

Here's what he thought.

I was surprised -- Rashod didn't comment on the smell. The show was held in Sonar's club space, which was packed. And any time you crowd a bunch of hipsters into a small space like that, the smell is overpowering.

I understand the too-cool-for-you attitude. But no one's too cool for deodorant.

(Sun photo by Chiaki Kawajiri)

Posted by Sam Sessa at 5:28 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

March 11, 2009

Concert review: Jukebox the Ghost at The Ottobar 3/10

jukebox the ghostAs a music writer, I hear a lot of good stuff that I know will not get the attention it deserves.

That's why I'm incredibly happy to tell you that Jukebox the Ghost filled The Ottobar last night (a Tuesday night, mind you). Even better: A ton of people in the crowd knew the words to their songs, and sang along with the trio.

Next week, Jukebox will set off on a tour opening for Ben Folds. Good things are in store for these guys. Lord knows, they deserve it.

Last night, they played most of their debut album, Live and Let Ghosts, as well as a bunch of new tunes.

Jukebox performs playful piano rock with morbid underpinnings ...

Continue reading "Concert review: Jukebox the Ghost at The Ottobar 3/10" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 4:45 PM | | Comments (0)
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February 25, 2009

Concert review: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at Rams Head Live

george clinton, parliament funkadelic, rams head live, baltimoreMeant to post this earlier, but this week's been so  wild and crazy, I haven't had the time to write about it.

This past Saturday, my pal Evan and I went to see George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at Rams Head Live.

As always, it was half concert and half circus. And as always, they brought the funk. A three-hour set of funk, no less.

Clinton and his posse played all their hits ("Flashlight," "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)," "Maggot Brain" and more). The crowd was incredibly diverse, too ...

Continue reading "Concert review: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at Rams Head Live" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:42 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Concert reviews
        

February 20, 2009

Concert review: Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller at the Meyerhoff

emmylou harrisIf you take a folk or country music song all the way back to its beginnings, most times you end up with a couple of singer/songwriters sitting on a back porch somewhere strumming acoustic guitars.

Emmylou Harris (pictured), Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller brought that same intimate, informal setting to the Meyerhoff last night.

The show, in support of the Mammojam Music Festival, nearly filled the symphony hall.

They sat on stage and performed in a songwriter's circle, offering just as many original songs as covers ...

Continue reading "Concert review: Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller at the Meyerhoff" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:30 PM | | Comments (2)
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October 18, 2008

Steve Hefter & Jason Dove live at the Talking Head

jason doveThursday night, two indie rock groups with the word "and" in their name took the stage at the Talking Head Club (inside Sonar, 407 E. Saratoga St.): Steve Hefter and Friends and Friends of Friends and Jason Dove and Vacation Face.

It was Hefter's last gig in Baltimore before he splits for several months in Canada. I caught (and enjoyed) the last handful of songs. Hefter's music can be sparse and ambling at times, but it can really grab your attention.

Hefter closed his set with what is perhaps his most poignant song, "Diamond Ring." Complete with whistling synthesizer riffs and a sharp snare drum, it was a wistful way to say goodbye (for now) to Charm City. Bye bye, Steve. We'll miss ya.

Next up was Jason Dove (pictured) and his new group, Vacation Face.  

Vacation Face includes a hodge-podge of local indie rock musicians: Mike Ward (from Egg Babies Orchestra) on keys, Steve Colmus on drums (from J-Roddy Walston and the Business) and Hefter on guitar and vocals.

Dove is a semi-goofy, totally unpretentious guy who likes poking fun at himself (check out his hilarious Jason Dove Diaries series). But on stage, Dove got down to business pretty quick. He played a fair share of new material from an album he's finishing right now.

Dove didn't introduce most of the songs, but I especially liked the one he dedicated to Neil. It ended with Dove and Hefter layering their guitars (a la "Blue Sky" by the Allman Brothers) and playing a tight melody in two-part harmony. It was a tight set of indie rock. Now I'm itching to hear the new album.

(Sun archive photo) 

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

July 21, 2008

Concert review: Play!

My 14-year-old sister Emily came to the city Friday night to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's rendition of Play! A Video Game Symphony.

In the show, the orchestra performs music from popular video games. Here is her review ... 

Continue reading "Concert review: Play!" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:17 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Concert reviews
        

November 12, 2007

Sia concert review

Baltamour blogger Maryann James was at Sia's show at the 9:30 Club.

She reports:

From the stuffed animals on stage to her non-choreographed, impromptu dances on stage, it is apparent that Sia is the antithesis of the sterile, manufactured super-pop machine.

Bathed in darkness and dressed in outfits that made Sia and her bandmates look like a child's fluorescent drawings come to life, they kicked off the show with "Buttons," a single off her new album, "Some People Have Real Problems."

Continue reading "Sia concert review" »

Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:36 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Concert reviews, Local music
        
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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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