Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Hell on Earth Tour Review – Exodus, Rob Zombie and Slayer

August 6, 2011 1 comment
Rob Zombie in Portland Hell on Earth Tour

Rob Zombie in Portland Hell on Earth Tour

Metal has really languished as a category over the past few years, as the heyday of metal has seemingly come and gone.   After the death of Dimebag Darryl from Pantera and Metallica’s overly touchy feely “metal bands have relationship issues, too” docu-drama, the golden era of metal ended with both a bang and a wimper.

While metal may not enjoy the popularity it once had, loyal fans still head bang and spin around the mosh pit to their favorite band. As with a lot of other music genres, major acts come together and tour in shows that bring together some of the best bands in the genre for an evening of entertainment. Thus is the Hell on Earth Tour with Exodus, Rob Zombie, and Slayer, which made one of its final stops at the Memorial Coliseum. While the coliseum wasn’t packed, the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd (especially for Slayer) made up for the less-than-full auditorium.

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Britney Spears Femme Fatale Tour Portland Concert Review

June 28, 2011 16 comments
I'm Britney Bitch!

I'm Britney, Bitch!

“I’m Britney, bitch.” Yeah, but is that enough?

After a very full evening of entertainment, including a fantastic set by Nicki Minaj, I find myself wondering if a grand spectacle is reason enough to go see someone live in concert.

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Jack Johnson To The Sea Concert Review

October 4, 2010 2 comments
Jack Johnson at The Sleep Country Amphitheater

Jack Johnson at The Sleep Country Amphitheater

There’s something magical about seeing a performer at the top of their game. It’s an indescribable quality that permeates everything they do. For Jack Johnson, the To The Sea tour is a clear apex in his career. With several albums under his belt and some significant changes in his life along the way, Jack Johnson has made the transition from funky surfer guy to a full blown rock star. What makes Jack Johnson so special is that through all that transition, he has managed to maintain the core of who he is as an artist. Even while playing to a packed house at the Sleep Country Amphitheater, Johnson manages to make you feel like you’re seeing him strumming his guitar on the beach after a long day of surfing. Being able to scale that kind of intimate performance is a difficult task and Johnson does it with ease.

When it comes to performing, you really can’t fake heart and it was clear as Jack Johnson moved through his cannon of music that he loves what he does. Most artists build anticipation by saving their latest hit for the end of the concert, but Jack Johnson opened with it. As he sang You and Your Heart the crowd leapt to its feet and remained there singing and dancing throughout the concert. In many ways it was like Jack Johnson cared too much to make his audience wait to hear something they really wanted to hear, so he gave it to them right from the start. Read more…

Arcade Fire in Portland Concert Review

October 1, 2010 2 comments
Arcade Fire in Portland

Arcade Fire in Portland

I saw Arcade Fire back in May 2007, the last time they came to Portland, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The venue was perfect, the sound was perfect and the band kept the audience engaged with almost every note. It was one of those magical nights that you always hope for but never can expect.

I saw the band again in September of that year, on the same tour, at the Hollywood Bowl. While I liked the show at the Hollywood Bowl, something got lost as it scaled to the big venue. Somehow the intimacy and magic present at the Schnitz was completely absent at the Hollywood Bowl.

Flash forward three years and Arcade Fire is simply on fire. They went from one of the biggest buzz bands around to one of the top bands performing. For The Suburbs tour, this necessitated a move to bigger venues and larger arenas for their shows.

Acutely aware of the issues with scaling their shows, Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara admitted to fears to NME that the band wouldn’t “connect” with fans when they play big arenas. This combined with the fact that the Portland stop on their tour was booked at the Memorial Coliseum made me a little hesitant about seeing their show. The Coliseum isn’t Portland’s best venue (the best happens to be the Schnitzer) and it can really have significant acoustical problems.

Given how good the band was the last time around and how good their new album “The Suburbs” is, I decided I absolutely had to give it a try. Read more…

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American Idol 2010 Tour Review

August 22, 2010 45 comments
American Idol 2010 Tour

American Idol 2010 Tour

The 2010 American Idol tour made one of its final stops in its national tour with a very clear message: what happens on the series isn’t always reflected when the show is translated onto the big stage.  For some like Andrew Garcia or Big Mike Lynche, this leads to significant disappointments, but for Casey James, Tim Urban and Aaron Kelly it was a tremendous opportunity to show what kind of artists they really are.

The 2010 American Idol series has often been criticized as a weaker season than many of its predecessors.  The truth is the Adam Lambert v. Kris Allen battle is a tremendously tough act to follow. But as a whole, this year’s American Idol Tour was actually stronger than last year’s, with better production values and some great surprises from some of the underdog performers.

The evening started out pretty well with Didi Benami, who did a solid job with ”Lay It On Me” by The Rescues. It was much stronger than other performers who’ve made it into the top 10 right on the cusp. Her rendition of “Terrified” by Katharine McPhee was simply fantastic. For a moment Didi really showed the talent that got her into the top 10 and made a strong argument that she probably should have finished higher.  “Terrified” was one of the real great moments of the show. Read more…

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Sting Symphonicity Orchestra Concert Review

Sting Symphonicity Orchestra Concert

Sting Symphonicity Orchestra Concert

I wasn’t really planning on seeing Sting on his current tour. After a ho-hum show a few years back at the Rose Garden, I decided that perhaps the best shows for Sting were behind him. I find it extremely difficult to watch some of my favorite performers from my childhood struggle to try to recapture a spark they have lost. Musically, there’s almost nothing worse than listening to a song you love, sung by someone you used to love hear singing it, and having it sound like someone doing a karaoke version of their own song.

I’m extremely grateful that I ended up seeing Sting in his latest tour “Symphonicity” on its first US stop in Portland, Oregon. Not only was Sting’s Symphonicity show a fantastic musical experience, it was a rare opportunity to see an extremely accomplished performer celebrate his work in a way that enhanced the memory of it rather than denigrate it.

Backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sting seemed to be right at home on stage with 48 other musicians. Sting has always been attracted to great music and musicians, from the mad genius of Stewart Copeland in The Police, Branford Marsalis in Bring on The Night, and more recently Chris Botti. Playing with talented people always seems to elevate Sting’s performance. Read more…

Michael Bublé Concert Review

April 3, 2010 8 comments
Michael Bublé Concert Portland

Michael Bublé Concert Portland

A lot of performers have put on a suit, stepped up to the mic and made an attempt at the gold standards. It’s an alluring cannon of music which instantly resonates with a huge number of music fans. The problem, though, when you sing classic songs is that it’s nearly impossible for people not to compare you and your performance to the great performers who originated them.

Michael Bublé seems acutely aware of this fact and the range of his voice, and he uses the music and style of Sinatra, Nat King Cole and even more contemporary artists as a jumping off point for his own unique sound and style. While Bublé has a very strong voice he doesn’t have the same lower register / golden throat that gave Sinatra’s music those well-rounded, sweet lower tones. Bublé seems to acknowledge this and intelligently navigates his way thought the best-fitting Sinatra songs for his register, including “I’ve Got The World On A String” and “All of Me” which feature big high notes that Bublé can hit with ease. Read more…

Esmee Denters and Honor Society in Portland Review

October 21, 2009 3 comments
Honor Society in Portland

Honor Society in Portland

What thin line divides a band like Honor Society from the The Jonas Brothers? Why is Miley Cirus selling out stadiums while Esmee Denters plays to a crowd of just a few hundred? Musically you could stand Esmee Denters single “Outta Here” and Honor Society “Over You” against the songs from either the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cirus’s, but in the business of big pop bands, music is only part of the equation.

Both Esmee Denters and Honor Society got their breaks through various social networks. Esmee was discovered doing covers of her favorite songs on YouTube while Honor Society found their following via MySpace. As they played to a small but devoted following, many of the teens in the crowd sang along to almost every word of every song. As Esmee finished her set, she stopped and took a picture of the crowd to post on her twitter account (@esmeeworld). Honor Society spent more time after their show meeting their fans than they did playing to them. This kind of personal connection between artist and fan is something that’s being taken to an entirely new level. But it is enough? Read more…

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Star Wars In Concert Review

October 15, 2009 8 comments

There are many different ways the Star Wars franchise could have presented on the road. I shudder to think of the rejected ideas: Star Wars The Musical, Star Wars on Ice, or maybe even Star Wars The 3D Experience. Of all the possible shows I am extremely pleased that they landed on Star Wars in Concert. Capturing the heart and soul of Star Wars, this two hour celebration is the equivalent of a legendary rock group reunion tour where all the best songs and moments are recaptured and relived.

A contemplative Yoda onscreen over the orchestra during Star Wars™: In Concert.

A contemplative Yoda onscreen over the orchestra during Star Wars™: In Concert.

Everything about Star Wars in Concert is done on an epic scale. An 86 piece orchestra is combined with a huge choir and backed by a 100-foot LED high-def screen, which is one of the largest, clearest high-def screens I’ve ever seen. The massive screen is surrounded by three other textured screens which envelope the entire back of the stage. This all is combined with a dizzying array of lighting and special effects which include full stadium lasers, smoke, huge fire and steam jets, providing some explosive exclamation points to the music.

The show opened appropriately enough with “Star Wars (Main Theme)”, the iconic piece which filled the Rose Garden with a palpable excitement. The crowd roared and cheered throughout the song. It was an amazing experience to hear a stadium full of people respond so enthusiastically to a piece of orchestral music. This is part of the magic of Star Wars in Concert, behind all the flash of all the staging, the real star of the evening was John Williams’s legendary score.

Yoda brandishes a light sabre onscreen over the orchestra during one of the musical segments of Star Wars™: In Concert.

Yoda brandishes a light sabre onscreen over the orchestra during one of the musical segments of Star Wars™: In Concert.

As the orchestra played, montages of clips from the Star Wars Saga were projected on the huge screens behind them. I’ve never seen these films look better; the crisp clarity, the deep color, even footage from the original series is literally jaw dropping. Seeing the films presented this way really accentuated the fact that the Star Wars Saga still isn’t available in Blu-Ray. I really hope that Lucasfilm will piggy back the excitement of this tour with a high-def release. The film montages combined clips from all six Star Wars movies (including original character concept drawings), often interspersing segments from the original series with the three prequels. The occasional clip had the sound from the film, usually featuring one of the many legendary quotes.

For the hardcore Star Wars fan I’m sad to report that the footage from the original Star Wars trilogy is the revised footage from the special edition releases (including things like the new approach to Mos Eisley Cantina). Also you’ll probably cringe when you see Han Solo and Greedo in their cantina duel and realize that Lucas is standing strong with Greedo now shooting first (for more on this see Han Shot First). But these minute details are easily forgiven, contexted in the absolute Star Wars love fest that is Star Wars in Concert.

Actor Anthony Daniels narrates a portion of the story from the films onstage during Star Wars™: In Concert.

Actor Anthony Daniels narrates a portion of the story from the films onstage during Star Wars™: In Concert.

After the theme song came to an end and the crowd finished their uproarious applause, Anthony Daniels (who played C3PO) was introduced. Daniels immediately began narrating the over-arching story of Star Wars, not as if it were some fairytale or fiction, but as if it were a real story with real people. Daniels was the perfect choice for this role, as his humor and enthusiasm provided the connecting point between the audience, the orchestra and the clips from the movie. While Daniels’s narration is infused with the occasional quip, it never droned on too long and was never cheesy.

STAR WARS: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back key art onscreen during Star Wars™: In Concert.

STAR WARS: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back key art onscreen during Star Wars™: In Concert.

STAR WARS: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back key art onscreen during Star Wars™: In Concert.

Each number of the evening was accompanied by a themed segment looking at each aspect of the Star Wars Saga including the story of Anakin and his transformation into Darth Vader, Pod Racing, Droids, Luke and Leia, Yoda, The Death Star, The Rebel Alliance triumph over the Empire, and Vader’s redemption. I really enjoyed how each segment focused on a specific aspect of the saga. Pulling some of these themes out of the context of the individual films enables them to be viewed from a new perspective. I especially enjoyed the segment on Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. It’s a really nice portrait of their relationship across the original trilogy films and seeing their relationship chronicled in this way really gave me a new appreciation for it. The biggest benefactors of this style of presentation are the three prequels. Divorced from some of their baggage they really shine. I found a real sense of fondness for the core story from the prequels, which was both a surprise and a delight.

C-3PO onscreen with lights and lasers during Star Wars™: In Concert.

C-3PO onscreen with lights and lasers during Star Wars™: In Concert.

With so much to experience on the gigantic high-def screen, it’s easy to overlook the phenomenal performance of the orchestra and conductor Dirk Brosse, who tackles the monstrous task of performing music so ingrained in the audience’s mind that even the slightest deviance would be noted. Brosse does an exceptional job conducting a pitch perfect orchestra with an extraordinary level of comfort and ease. Brosse was never showy and seemed dedicated to presenting the orchestration that really honored John Williams’s score. His work was a real partnership with the video segments and Daniels’s narration and the three elements worked in perfect harmony, a real credit to Brosse’s talent.

I really can’t imagine a better tribute to the Star Wars Saga than Star Wars in Concert. It’s an event which can be equally enjoyed by fans of the series both old and young. The fact that it can draw so many people to come together to celebrate and enjoy classical orchestral music is simply amazing. The Star Wars series and John Williams’s score both deserve to be celebrated and Star Wars in Concert is the most profound celebration possible. I highly recommend the Star Wars in Concert tour and hope that it will return to Portland again in the future, because I would absolutely go see it again.

Here is the formal Star Wars in Concert Set list:

Star Wars (Main Title)
Duel of the Fates
Anakin’s Theme
Moisture Farm
The Flag Parade
Across the Stars
Battle of the Heroes
The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)


The Asteroid Field
Princess Leia’s Theme
Tales of a Jedi Knight
Cantina Band
Yoda’s Theme
TIE Fighter Attack
Luke and Leia
The Forest Battle
Light of the Force
Throne Room/End titles

Encore: The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)

In addition to the main show, Star Wars in Concert features a number of costumes and models from the Star Wars Series.  If you go to the show be sure to allow extra time prior to enjoy these displays. They were swarmed by people at the Rose Garden and so picture taking was very difficult.

For more information about Star Wars in Concert:

Photos: Courtesy Lucasfilm LTD. © 2009 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM where indicated. All rights reserved. Used under authorization.

DJ Icky Animal’s Debut Set – Friday at The Fez

October 1, 2009 Comments off
DJ Icky Animal's Debut Set

DJ Icky Animal's Debut Set

There are a lot of DJ’s who spin a lot of music in Portland but the debut of  DJ Icky Animal’s (aka Jamie S. Rich) at the Fez Ballroom (lower level) this Friday  is an event which you should absolutely not miss.

Jamie S. Rich, a former editor over at Oni Press, is an extremely prolific author who has penned the critically acclaimed novels Cut My Hair, The Everlasting and Have You Seen The Horizon Lately (which is a true masterpiece) . He’s also well known for his graphic novel collaborations with comic wonder-kid Joelle Jones including You Have Killed Me and 12 Reasons Why I Love Her.  One theme which runs through almost all of Jamie’s work is music, REALLY good music.

Jamie, more than anyone I’ve met in Portland, knows his music.

Since Jamie’s main job is writing, this is an extremely rare and special opportunity to catch someone with an extraordinary encyclopedic  knowledge of music spin a wide selection of tracks from his extensive collection.

Jamie (DJ Icky Animal’s) starts spinning on the lower level of the Fez Ballroom (316 SW 11th) at  11pm on Friday October 2nd.  I guarantee if you go you’ll hear some amazing stuff.

For more info on Jamie S. Rich:

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