Reviews (albums, concerts)

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Buckeye Randy
Posts: 348
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

I submit a very infectious song titled "Sauce Piquante" from an EP (Palladium) by Olivia Jean & April March. I'm grading this a solid 8/10 and I'm dancing.

The only thing catchier might be this one from the same EP...

Another new song with a score of 8/10 is "Give and Take" by Real Sickies. I'm a sucker for power pop.

I give a 7/10 to these new songs from July.
Whack - Polish Club
Sailor's Choice - Descendants (This song actually sounds like Television Personalities)
New Age Millennial Magic - Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard
Flat Earth - Bare Naked Ladies
El Diablo - Blinker The Star

The most fun song of the year might just be "Turnstile Love Connection" by Turnstile. It starts out as an in your face shouty hardcore punk song (who needs coffee to wake up when you can play this?). A little over a minute into the song they kick into a classic by Sly and the Family Stone. Perfect.

Buckeye Randy
Posts: 348
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Who: Flogging Molly, Violent Femmes, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Thick
Where: Nautica Stage, Cleveland
When: September 11, 2021

Concert announced last spring and tickets bought, pandemic officially over. If only it were that simple! Regardless of the required vaccination card and encouraged masks, there were five members of our family who made the journey for my first concert in about 22 months if my math is correct.

Nautica Stage is my favorite outdoor venue mainly because of the view. I’m not talking about the view of the stage, I’m talking about the environment around the concert area. Located in the Cleveland Flats, you can see barges and ships cruising behind the stage on the Cuyahoga River during the day and once darkness falls you can see a lit up downtown Cleveland across the river.

Enthusiasm was high, I have never seen Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and I’ve wanted to for about…oh, 20 years or so. It’s been a long time coming and way overdue. In case you don’t know, the Gimme Gimmes are an all-star punk band that play only cover songs. All of their albums are heavily themed; R&B, country, movie soundtracks, Divas, 60’s pop, etc. They don’t do allot of touring and generally just play festivals. I would have bought a ticket just for them.

Flogging Molly and Violent Femmes were listed as co-headliners. I wouldn’t say that Violent Femmes were a ‘bucket list’ band for me but I’m a little more than a casual fan. I own some stuff and all my personal playlists include several of their songs. I was probably least excited about seeing Flogging Molly but that has more to do with the other bands than a knock on Flogging Molly. I have most their CDs and have seen them a couple of previous times, it’s always an energetic show with excellent musicianship.

Opening the evening was…sticker shock! $39 for three beers! After that was a band from Brooklyn, Thick. Thick are a lively three piece female outfit that could be entertaining at times. They were victims of spotty sound and a late arriving crowd that didn’t know the material. Nothing magic and nothing tragic….except for the price of those beers!

The continuous flow of kick ass pre-concert music ended and Eddie Money began pumping through the speakers, “She was shakin…snappin’ her fingers’”. The Gimme Gimmes took the stage in their matching white suits and cheesy blue glitter shirts. It was apparent from the Nautica Stage reception that most in attendance were familiar with the band and their shtick. OK, I’ll be the first to say that their 13 song set list did not include most of my favorites. In fact, it included some that I generally skip past. However…they did include “Danny’s Song” which is a favorite and it was absolutely everything I hoped for. Other songs of note for me were punk covers of songs by Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, Elton John and John Denver (unfortunately it wasn’t “Country Roads”). All in all, if was both exciting and a little disappointing. I feel my expectations were probably unrealistic having waited 20 years to see this band and nearly two years to see any band at all.

The Violent Femmes strolled casually on stage and paid tribute to the day (9/11) by opening with “God Bless America”. I’m 99% sure this would have been a patriotic sing-a-long if the song would have been played with…you know…anything that resembled signature timing. Instead, it was more like half spoken poetry and half sung in a way not imagined by Irving Berlin or Kate Smith. Regardless, it was met with approval.

The Violent Femmes featured original members Gordon Gano (vocals, guitar) and Brian Ritchie (bass); John Sparrow has been on percussion since 2016. The band flushed out their sound with added horns on several tracks where appropriate. They played at least half of their 1983 debut and added tasty choices from the rest of their career. Favorites? Ha, it was all good! “Add It Up”, “Blister In The Sun”, “Gone Daddy Gone”, “Kiss Off”, “American Music”, “Prove My Love”, “Gimme The Keys” and “Confessions” all come to mind and there was also top shelf musicianship on display. Sign me up to see these guys anytime. Well done!

I’ve seen several shows with ‘co-headliners’ and that title indicates some sort of equity or equality or something like that. Let me tell you, it might apply to shared money or stroking two egos at once but on this night it did not apply to volume coming from the stage. Good Lord, Jim. Flogging Molly were without a doubt one of the louder shows I’ve ever attended. Maybe I’m getting old!

Dave King (formerly of Fastway!) and his Celtic punkers tapped nine of their fourteen songs from the albums “Swagger” and “Drunken Lullabies”. So many times I’ve seen bands that are not in touch with what the fans want to hear, not Flogging Molly. They delivered a very high energy set of fan favorites and kept the moshers going for over an hour. As I said earlier, heading to this show I was least excited about seeing Flogging Molly for a third time. After seeing the show there was little doubt that the evening was theirs and I think they are better now than when I first saw them…about 17 years ago!

There are not very many shows where I own albums by the top three bands. This line-up was near perfect for me to get back into the concert groove. Good times with family in a concert setting. I can’t wait until the next show. Well done!

Buckeye Randy
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Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Who: Grand Funk Railroad
Where: MGM Northfield, Center Stage
When: Rocktober 8, 2021

When I came of age and started becoming the cool dude I am today, Grand Funk Railroad were already a staple on FM AOR (That’s Album Oriented Rock for those under 40). Grand Funk were being played at all the ‘older’ parties I went too and my musician friends loved the instrumental work outs and soloing. They weren’t my favorite band by any stretch but they were a solid foundation to all the great music that followed in the mid ‘70’s. They were hippie, they were prog, they were heavy, they were pop. They were mostly dissed by critics yet they sold tons of albums and set attendance records. That was a long, long time ago.

Grand Funk Railroad is certainly a slice of old time, rust belt, Americana rock. The 2600 capacity Center Stage which is inside the MGM Northfield complex is not! MGM Northfield opened in 2013 and besides Center Stage it includes several restaurants, a casino and racetrack. Center Stage has the charm of waiting room. A flat floor with folding chairs in a big square conference room. A sure sign I’m old (according to Mrs. Buckeye) is that I rave about the parking lot. There is tons and tons of free parking in a well lit parking lot with lots of location signage. I guess priorities shift as we age.

The current GFR line-up has been together since 2000. It includes original members Don Brewer banging the drums and Mel Schacher slapping the bass, it does not include Mark Farner. Rounding out the line-up are Max Carl (38 Special) on vocals, Bruce Kulick (Kiss) on guitar and professional touring musician Tim Cashion on keys. It can be awkward when a band tours without the original front man but in this case it is mostly seamless. Don Brewer sang some of the band’s biggest hits and Max Carl does a great job of making you forget he isn’t Mark Farner. Don Brewer actually comes across as the undisputed band leader with his performance and between song banter.

I’ve seen this line-up three times over the last 20 years and it seems either I’m getting more critical in my old age or these guys are becoming complacent and the show is a bit routine. There are a couple circumstances that might factor into my critique. The first is that these guys have played a lot of shows the last couple months and it might be catching up with them after taking over a year off due to Covid. The other thing that might have changed my perception is the last two times I saw GFR, I was the one partying like a rock star. Honestly, a good buzz can make a six minute drum solo seem totally reasonable. Last night, not so much. Yeah, maybe I’m getting old…did I mention the parking was great?

The show was 90 minutes and included most the songs you would expect. It opened with a trifecta from the early days, “Rock & Roll Soul”, “Footstompin’ Music” and “Shinin’ On”. The hits like “Loco-Motion” and “Some Kind Of Wonderful” were there as were album cuts “I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home)” and “Inside Looking Out”. The show included lots of soloing, flag waving and did I mention soloing? We were also treated to “The Star Spangled Banner” and the show as expected closed with “Were An American Band”.

In my perfect world, the band could cut a few of what I consider non-essential things like new songs and a song by 38 Special. They could include a few more of MY favorites like “Mean Mistreater” and “Heartbreaker”. That’s just me though.

OK, one of the best parts of these retro shows is the crowd. If you figure a person was 15 when Grand Funk had their first double platinum album in 1970…they would be 66 now. I would say 90% of the crowd fell into the 60-70 range. All in all, it was a healthy looking bunch for as old as it was. I saw more jean jackets with GFR patches and people dancing than patrons with oxygen tanks and walkers. That’s always a good thing. Just for the record, the healthiest retro crowd I ever saw was for Steely Dan and the worst from a health perspective was for J. Geils Band.

Overall, GFR does a good job helping people celebrate a time from long ago. I doubt I’ll go see them again but I’m glad I did this one last time.

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Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Innuendoes »

Buckeye Randy wrote: Sat Oct 09, 2021 12:15 pm Who: Grand Funk Railroad
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Buckeye Randy
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Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Who: Todd Rundgren
What: The Individualist A True Star Tour
Where: Canton Palace Theater (Canton, Ohio)
When: Rocktober 29, 2021

Todd Rundgren will be inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame this weekend but he’s been in my Hall of Fame since I was 15 years old. It hasn’t always been easy being a Todd fan which is a bit of an understatement but I’m still here after 45 years. This is my 18th time seeing Todd either as a solo artist, a member of Utopia or in an All-Star setting.

Rundgren’s eclectic releases can alienate casual fans and seriously challenge loyalists with his constant musical changes that can best be summarized as either groundbreaking or headscratchers. As a live artist, it is best to do a little research before buying tix because the tours can be heavily themed toward his latest release. This means you might get Todd doing EDM and singing over prerecorded music….or you might get Todd playing a show filled with Robert Johnson songs and guitar solos galore. You just don’t know until the curtain rises but that’s part of the Rundgren mystique.

The current tour ‘Individualist/A True Star’ is morphing two of Todd’s most popular tours from the last 15 years into one incredible package with a shiny bow on top. The ‘Individualist’ portion of the show (first set) is essentially a ‘best of’ from the ‘70’s that is not heavy on deep cuts. The ‘True Star’ portion (second set) is either side one or side two of 1973’s epic, “A Wizard, A True Star”. Most tour stops are two nighters and you get a different side each night. It’s pot luck at the single night tour stops but it isn’t like you can lose either way.

One of the best parts of the concert experience involves the people you share the time with. This show included Mrs. Buckeye and myself enjoying a pre gig meal with some fellow Rundgren fans. Always good catching up with old friends and sharing stories of our latest shows and travels. It was also fun walking the busy downtown area that was buzzing with Rundgren fans on a beautiful 50 degree evening. Included in the fun was waiting in a line that stretched a couple city blocks for the ‘Covid Check Tent’. The tent was in a parking lot directly across the street from the entrance to the Palace. It was a great feeling to leave the tent with a cool green wristband and walk toward the neon lights and the marquee above the theater entrance. It was not a great feeling looking back and seeing the line was now twice as long and knowing that the show would not be starting on time.

The Canton Palace Theater is in the renovated arts district of Canton. The Palace was built in 1926 and is an atmospheric theater with a Spanish Courtyard theme. It’s a really beautiful theater that has been included on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. One of the charming parts of these old theaters is the volunteer ushers that were possibly alive when the theater opened. I really do feel fortunate to live in an area where many of these old theaters have been restored to their original splendor and are being used for things other than Sunday matinees.

The lights dim and the show starts with the prerecorded snippet of “How About A Little Fanfare” and seamlessly transitions into the band playing, “I Think You Know”. Todd informed all of us that this show was all about him, he advised everybody to bend over and relax because they were about to get a butt load of Todd. There was a storyteller atmosphere between songs as Todd shared back stories and as always kept it humorous and light.

The set was nearly flawless as Todd rifled through his biggest hits including “Hello It’s Me”, “We Gotta Get You A Woman” and “I Saw The Light”. Some of the more humorous banter between songs had Todd chatting with his guitar, Foamy. First, you have to love a guy that has a guitar named ‘Foamy’ due to the color being seafoam. Second, you have to love a guy that has conversations with his guitar while on stage. The two would discuss the number of piano ballads being performed while ignoring the guitar oriented songs. Todd would then appease Foamy and blast some rockers which included “Couldn’t I Just Tell You”, “Death Of Rock n Roll” and possibly the best version I’ve ever heard of “Black Maria”. Todd can still throw his head back and waz with the best. (Waz (v) – the act of jamming at an exceptional level)

The video screen behind was active throughout the show both during and between songs. Todd would turn and comment on some of the more outrageous pics between songs. The best use of the screen while performing was during “Can We Still Be Friends” when the screen featured a montage of Todd with his ‘friends’. Tons of pics I’ve never seen and the crowd would cheer for photos of Todd with the more legendary ‘friends’ (biggest cheers for Bowie and Freddie).

The seventeen song first set tapped songs from nearly all of Todd’s solo albums from the ‘70’s plus a couple from Todd’s first band, Nazz. Plenty of collective highlights between the stories and performances. One of the highlights that did not involve Todd was the soulful (and screaming) sax solo by multi-instrumentalist Bobby Strickland during the first set closer, “Fair Warning”. The band also featured long time cohorts Kasim Sultan (bass), Jesse Gress (guitar), Prairie Prince (drums) and relative newbie Gil Assaya on keys. The musicianship was top shelf at every point of the evening. The rhythm was tight and soloing seemed fresh.

Most attending spent the 20 minute intermission guessing if Todd would play side one or side two from “A Wizard A True Star”. Actually, there wasn’t much guessing after watching the apparatus for a fog machine being put in place.

The band stood in white tuxes and waited as the prerecorded intro to side one played. Todd appeared through a curtain at the rear wearing a space suit and seemingly floated forward through a thick fog as the band kicked into “International Feel”. Side one was performed fairly faithfully song by song and Todd augmented with more stories before and during the songs.

The highlights besides hearing rarely performed songs was Todd changing costumes before nearly every number. Most of the costumes were of a comedic nature and themed to the songs being performed. Todd even broke out a ‘70’s ‘rock star’ jumpsuit to capture the fun.

The band left and returned for the obligatory encore as fans gathered toward the stage. He picked one of the more recent songs (“Evrybody”) for the finale and had us all dancing for this clap along. As the band was leaving the stage Mrs. Buckeye got a bonus. It seemed Kasim Sultan practically singled her out for a post-performance handshake which absolutely validates her crush that dates back to the ‘70’s.

It’s tough to compare shows over a 45 year span. This was made especially tough by the fact we had front row seats gifted to us for this show. However, I can say without hesitation that Todd’s voice sounded better than it has at any time during the last 15 years. I would even say the vocal performance was borderline amazing.

Moving forward, I rarely see an artist twice on the same tour and have never seen anybody twice in a nine day period. That’s going to be changing, I’ll be seeing Todd again in Cleveland in just over a week. I can only hope for a performance equal to the one I saw last night. Well Done!

Buckeye Randy
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Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Who: Cheap Trick
When: November 10, 2021
Where: Packard Music Hall, Warren (Ohio)

When I buy tickets to a concert it can be (but not usually) a spontaneous moment on the day of the show. The more likely script is me standing in front of a computer with itchy trigger fingers and a memorized presale code while watching a countdown until tickets go on sale (I get a rush just thinking about it). I only share these scenarios because buying tickets for this Cheap Trick show is a stand alone event different than the two ways I mentioned.

Our story begins…Mrs. Buckeye and myself are driving down the road playing radio roulette with Sirius and we come across a guy talking about how bands struggle with their setlists. The guy talking is Eddie Trunk and for me that was a blast from the past, I didn’t know he was still alive. Anyways, I’m glad to know that the host of VH1’s ‘Metal Mania’ and MTV’s ‘That Metal Show’ is alive and well and living on satellite radio.

Eddie recalled being at a recent convention and Cheap Trick was the entertainment on one of the nights. The band was killing it, they were pulling out some of their early deep tracks like “Downed” and “C’mon, C’mon” but to Eddie’s dismay not everybody in the crowd was feeling it. A bit later, the band played “The Flame” and a girl walked up to Eddie and said, “Finally, they play a good song”. Eddie’s point to the story was the difference between ‘hard core fans’ that know the whole catalog and ‘casual fans’ that know the hits and how bands try to make set lists to appease both.

A few days later I find myself listening to Cheap Trick’s “In Color” album where the deep tracks that Eddie mentioned reside. Man, I like this album and you know, I really like Cheap Trick. I remember seeing them tour for this album back in ’77 and…and that’s another story. On this day, I started googling about and find that in seven days they are playing an hour away from me. I did a little set list research and find they are not playing the same show every night and the band is including a bunch of early material. A quick check for available tickets and the next thing I know…tickets bought for 7th row.

This is our first trip to Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio. The venue opened in 1955 and holds a little over 2000. It is not a grand old theater but an auditorium with a balcony that wraps around three of the four walls with a sunken stage on one end. It’s a multi-functional type facility that is as likely to have professional wrestling or a corporate trade show as it is a rock concert. The thing I like most from the jump is I’m not in a downtown setting; 100% of the parking is next to the venue. Life is good!

There was a line outside the venue so we figured it was a line for Covid check which has been the norm lately. Nope, no check of any kind…the doors are just a few minutes late opening. While we enjoyed some warm November weather waiting in line we overheard some of the usual conversations with people boasting of concerts from yesteryear. One guy said it was his 117th time seeing Cheap Trick. What??? I get bored seeing an artist twice on the same tour so I can’t easily process this information without thoughts of deep sociological disorders combined with an endless stream of stupid money.

Once inside and finding our seats we had a conversation with a guy who was seeing Cheap Trick a reasonable 18th time. It turns out we were at the same show in 1979 (his first concert) and we shared a laugh at the expense of opening band The Romantics who thought it was a good idea to wear matching red leather jumpsuits. Anyways, it’s been a while since I’ve seen Cheap Trick, 2007 to be exact. Before that, I saw them four times in the ‘70’s but I took a break because I wasn’t on board with the material in the ‘80’s.

The PA was playing some Cheap Trick songs before the show though it wasn’t super audible. If I remember correctly, Cheap Trick’s pre gig music are songs you WON’T hear during the show which is a cool twist. Lights down, band strolls on stage and explode into “Hello There”, everybody on their feet and there we remained for the next 90 minutes. Vocals not over powering, guitar up too loud and thundering drums. This is a perfect mix for people (hard core fans) familiar with the material.

The line-up was not the classic Cheap Trick line-up but more of a family affair. Robin Zander and Rick Neilson remain but Tom Peterson is recovering from health issues and Bun E. Carlos quit touring with Cheap Trick around 2010. Replacing them are sons Daxx Neilson on drums and RTZ (Robin Taylor Zander Jr.) on bass. Rick Neilson still parades out countless guitars which range from classics like a Les Paul and Firebird to completely over the top designs. The ‘over the top’ included a guitar that was a double neck guitar that was a parody of Rick with the two guitar necks being Rick’s legs. He also broke out the famous five neck guitar for the encore.

The setlist was heavy on early material with 15 of the 20 songs being from the five albums released in the ‘70’s. I really wish that the first album would have had more representation but the fact they chose “Oh Candy” makes it perfectly OK. Totally awesome was when the band started playing the riff from “Brontosaurus” by The Move. This segued perfectly into “California Man” which is a song by The Move that appeared on Cheap Trick’s third album, “Heaven Tonight”.

There was a super aggressive version of “Downed” that omitted the ballad like intro and featured RTZ on lead vocals. As a matter of fact, all songs were plowed through aggressively with none of the keyboard or studio slickness. I like this approach in a live setting, I’m generally skeptical of bands that sound too much like the record.

One thing that I found interesting regarding Eddie Trunk’s comments that started this odyssey. The girl (casual fan) in his story got excited when the band played “The Flame” (Cheap Trick’s only Billboard #1). Last night, “The Flame” served as a breather for hard core fans preparing for a thunderous string of songs to close the show. A version of “I Want You To Want Me” that had little in common with the sugar coated version you hear on the album. “Dream Police”, “Surrender” and the classic send-off of “Auf Wiedersehen” and “Goodnight Now”.

I realize that the show last night is not the show that Cheap Trick plays when they are playing festivals or opening for a mega headliner like they do nearly every summer (next summer is Rod Stewert). However, I loved the acoustically thick venue, the steamrolling sound and the aggressive presentation of songs….perfect. What I saw was real rock n roll, Well Done!

Buckeye Randy
Posts: 348
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:09 am

Re: Reviews (albums, concerts)

Post by Buckeye Randy »

Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Turning To Crime
Released: November 26, 2021

‘Turning To Crime’ is Deep Purple’s 22nd studio effort since 1968 and has a link to their earliest of albums, the link is doing cover versions. Early Deep Purple (Mk I) success was based on covers of popular songs like “Hush” by Billy Joe Royal (written by Joe South) and Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”. The band also covered hits by The Beatles, Ike & Tina Turner and Donovan. Once the band established their classic Mk II line-up and the release of ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ in 1970, the band never again relied on covers for garnering attention.

Who’s in the band? Founding Mk I members Ian Paice (drums) and Roger Glover (bass) plus Mk II vocalist Ian Gillian. The band is rounded out by Steve Morse on guitar since 1994 and Don Airy on keys since 2002. By today’s standards of classic bands with original or longstanding members, that’s pretty good. I always found it interesting that Deep Purple defines their different line-ups with Mk I, Mk II, etc.. The current line-up is listed as Mk VIII and this is the line-up with the longest tenure for those of you with a scorecard.

What makes a good cover? Ha, I love this debate. Some think it is being faithful to the original and some prefer a band doing their own interpretation. No matter your preference you won’t be disappointed because this album contains both.

There have been a blue billion cover albums released since I’ve been listening to music. ‘Pin-Ups’ by Bowie and ‘Faithful’ by Todd Rundgren are two I remember buying back in the day and they both have moments. There have been some good ones the last 20 years or so as well. Maybe somewhat surprising are the efforts by Def Leppard (Yeah! 2006) and Styx (Big Band Theory, 2005) which I would recommend for at least a listen.

One of the most fun things about cover albums is trying to name who did the original version. It can be a challenging test for even the most seasoned music buffs. This album requires a working knowledge of obscure pop, garage, psychedelic and some classics from the ‘70’s. I scored a 7/12 which I feel pretty good about.

Here is a track listing so you can give yourself a quick music trivia test. Lighter held high to anybody who nails the first 11. The final track ‘Caught In The Act’ is a medley of mostly instrumentals and the band really shows what they are capable off, these guys know how to rock.

7 And 7 Is
Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu
Oh Well
Jenny Take A Ride
Watching The River Flow
Let The Good Times Roll
Dixie Chicken
Shapes Of Things
The Battle Of New Orleans
Lucifer
White Room
Caught In The Act (medley)

I think ‘Turning To Crime’ is a fun release on just about every level. Fun for fans of Deep Purple and fun for anybody that’s a fan of music in general. Well Done!

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