I Swear It's ...

Jim James

12/3/16
Denver, CO
Paramount Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
The alchemist’s lab.  I did not expect the massive, manic energy on display here, on stage nor in the audience. I should have — I’ve seen enough My Morning Jacket shows to witness the ease with which this wizard assembles talent and stirs crowds — but I assumed a solo show would be more introspective, more folkie. It was those things but it was mostly a heavy, no-holds-barred rock show. The surprise that took me served me well. I was smitten, falling in love with this man and his music like we were meeting for the first time, like all those Jacket shows around the country had never nestled their way into my guts and heart. Like all great creators, Jim James has a knack for weaving together <em>universes</em>: he collects fellow musicians who compliment and expand the palette inherent in him (the cosmic keyboardist from Twin Limb), presents them in unexpected ways (two drummers!), and uses the brew to embrace and intoxicate his audience. We were drunk — literally, yes, but for sure figuratively — and losing our minds from almost the first note. His latest solo album has yet to work its way into my circuitry, so it’s expected that I got the most joy in hearing older songs like “A New Life” and “State Of The Art (AEIOU)” … but that sentiment must have been common because the place was whipped up in goddam froth by those late-set rippers, heads banging and sweat flying. It felt, for us in the audience, like a brotherhood, borrowed in part by the shared Jacket family, but cemented by this singular talent and the chemistry in which he made us all a part. Setlist

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Phantogram

10/12/16
Denver, CO
Fillmore Auditorium
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Sexy blood-boiler. Modern rock is lousy with guitar-plus-keyboard, woman-fronted duos — Sleigh Bells, Beach House and Purity Ring stand out for me — but that doesn’t mean they can’t get you excited. These two New York-based troublemakers have been tweaking the formula for a while now … and always give fans plenty of opportunities to see their road show. And what a show. They came out like bulls in a china shop and never let up: bass crunch shaking your bones; live and electronic drums spilling your drink; all delivered with high-kicks and lit by lasers and strobes. Even their newest power-ballad, “Destroyer,” was sung by sexpot frontwoman Sarah while in a 10-foot-tall, smoke-breathing costume out of an alien battle fantasy. The band’s third album, heavy on danceable beats and collaborator Big Boi’s hip-hop influence, was released just days before, so its songs occupied much of the setlist. The crowd was feeling all of it, shaking their asses to material old and new. This show fell on my concert buddy William’s birthday so his celebratory energy fueled an already charged night. I was exhausted by the end of it. Setlist

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Mumford & Sons

9/29/16
Englewood, CO
Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
In transition, happily. This show marked the second time Aida and I have seen the expanded, electrified Mumford & Sons touring lineup and it’s growing on me. The folk-steeped acoustic qualities that drew us to the band in the first place are still there, but now they’ve expanded their bag of tricks for getting a crowd to dance; now it includes more than just foot-stomping and fast-strumming. The new bombast a drummer and some electric gear bring makes their live show, simply, more interesting to watch, and I love it. I hear more texture in the songs. I see a renewed energy in the faces of the players. And, no matter whether the guitars are plugged in or acoustic, the most profound instrument remains Marcus’ charm: with one off-the-cuff joke he wins over everyone from the front row to the cheap seats. The band and crew — from the fiddle player and the horn section, to the amazing light rig in a constant state of transformation — was in top form. Bonus points to the boys for delivering one our favorite new songs, “Monster,” and for the acoustic micro-set where they sang old-timey harmonies around a single microphone; demerits to the douchebags sitting behind us that wouldn’t stop talking during any of it. Setlist

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Sigur Ros

9/27/16
Denver, CO
Ellie Caulkins Opera House
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
A sensory excursion. The music of Sigur Ros transports me to places strange and fertile, miles away from my beige working life; listening to it on headphones amplifies the sensation and wraps it around me like a blanket. Such was the feeling at the tiny, gorgeous Ellie Caulkins Opera House, my first taste of the band live. The venue’s high ceilings and the steep pitch of the balconies created the sense of travelling together in a ship, and the music, all rolling drum beats and guitar tones drawn out with violin bows, — matched the mood. Panes of light and video were placed to the sides, front and rear of the band, absorbing them into the presentation and distorting the audience’s sense of depth. Even the pace of the set — plodding and patient to start, bugging out in the middle, exploding completely to finish — was a journey. By the end the drummer was sweaty, shirtless mess; a tour guide through a trip we were thrilled to experience. Setlist

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Local Natives

9/23/16
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
They don’t suck. Attending this show was a bit of an experiment for me. I loved Local Natives’ debut album and, many years ago, had gotten around to seeing them live while touring their sophomore album Hummingbird. (One of my favorite albums of any year or genre, I believe Hummingbird is without flaw and, if you haven’t heard it, you should stop reading this and seek it out.) The first time I saw them was at an outdoor festival, in the afternoon, in sweltering heat, with a horrible crowd of drunks; the second time was as an opener, in the afternoon, in sweltering heat, with a horrible crowd of hipsters. Both times, they played great, but the crowds HATED them. Was I missing something? Did one of my most favorite bands actually suck and I just wasn’t seeing it? I had to find out, so I jumped at the chance to see them play my local theater, touring behind their terrific third album, as headliners this time. And this time … THE CROWD WENT APE SHIT. It was awesome. We danced like animals, we sang along to every word, we cried. (Really, I saw a girl in the front row crying.) Okay, this is better. These are my people. And the band was charged, generous, filled with energy, happy. Their harmonies were gorgeous, their playing, tight. (The bassist was stoned out of his mind but his playing, too, was tight.) I’ll see them again, confident they don’t suck. Setlist

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Ray LaMontagne

9/18/16
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
2.5 Stars
Accomplished but schizophrenic. This was an interesting tour for Ray LaMontagne: promoting a psychedelic concept album produced by Jim James, backed by the members of James’ band My Morning Jacket, playing as a member of a group larger than the sum of its parts. Will it feel like he’s wearing the material or like the material is wearing him? Pulling it off is a tall task for a guy known for earnest ruminations on vulnerability and pain, via a live show that must satisfy fans of Bearded Folkie Ray and Punk Rocker Ray. He answered the call by opening with a solo acoustic set, then bringing the band onstage for a by-the-numbers presentation of the new album’s songs in running order, and finishing with a set of electric songs pulled randomly from across his catalog. What at times felt adrift (not helped by his penchant for whispered between-song ramblings) was saved by his often-amazing lead guitar and the undeniable musicianship of his backing band. Still, I’ll take 90 minutes of Bearded Folkie Ray next time, thanks. Setlist

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Band Of Skulls

9/13/16
Englewood, CO
Gothic Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Rawk, with charm. Like fellow Brits Led Zeppelin before them, this group ably straddles the line between Sabbath-level heft and foot-tapping melodics, and does it in a way, again like Zeppelin, that balances the masculine and feminine energies fueling the best tunes on rock radio. Having an actual female in the band helps here, and bass-player Emma Richardson brings a cool and competent swagger you never realized your favorite music was missing. It was all on full display this night at the tiny Gothic Theatre: thick, bluesy guitar riffs, drumming at once nuanced and propulsive, and <em>that bass</em>, like arteries of subterranean oil keeping everything at the surface sliding to the rhythm. The aggression in their best songs’ themes (the price of ignorance, the inevitability of retribution) belies their charming modesty on stage: it’s a no-frills set-up with a straightforward light show. And frontman Russell Marsden, while eager to share stories behind the songs, apologizes for talking too much, concerning himself with the audience’s good time. He needn’t have worried; we were lapping it up. The set was worthy of our non-stop head-banging, and was heavy on the just-released material they were touring. Still, they managed early on to sneak in a slower and older one, “Cold Flame,” that’s an all-time favorite of mine. The huge grin it put on my face stayed put all night. Setlist

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Peter Bradley Adams

9/10/16
Denver, CO
The Soiled Dove Underground
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Elevator going up! I love the disco stylings and fast tempos in these guys’ music and couldn’t pass up a chance to see them reunite at my favorite Colorado venue. It was magical. After two really excellent support acts and a drenching rain shower got things started, the band — a dozen-strong Army corps of beat-makers, knob-twiddlers and multi-instrumentalists — started their set … and didn’t stop the rock until every leg, neck and arm was liquified. I mean, it was exhausting just watching these guys on stage: a flurry of activity, the music surging out of each member through drum kits and keyboards and guitars and microphones. The party gushed in rainbows out to the crowd; the fans wigged out. My concert tastes skew more folk than this so, for me, it was a trip getting swept up; that my good friends and fellow music lovers Rebecca and William and Lynn were there with me, sliding along the groove and back into the warm night, was like warm gravy. Easily my favorite show of the summer.

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Coldplay

8/29/16
Denver, CO
Pepsi Center
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Confetti-doused anthems. I know people love to bash Coldplay for not being cool but I am an unabashed fan and have been since their debut. I love their songs, I love the gentle risks they take on their albums and I love their work ethic. Nobody writes anthems anymore — Oasis is gone and U2 only looks backwards anymore — but Coldplay still pulls it off. They’re the one band I can put on in the house or in the car that gets my whole family singing, loud, smiling. That says something. So I was thrilled to bring the kids to this arena stop on their “A Head Full Of Dreams” tour. The staging was bonkers: a giant backdrop made up of thousands of colorful flowers framed a giant video screen; a long catwalk stretching out into the standing area; confetti bombs. And everyone in the crowd got electronic wristbands that glowed in time to select moments in the music, extending the light show into every corner of the venue. The setlist was solid and dipped into each of their albums; they even did an acoustic set curated by fans. Instrumentation was constantly mixed and remixed so you never knew what was coming next. My boys loved it: singing, loud, smiling. Setlist

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The Head And The Heart

8/28/16
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
2.5 Stars
Where’d you go? This was Aida’s and my second time seeing this terrific band at Red Rocks and this one was … just okay. They seemed uncomfortable onstage, and made the awkward vibe worse by breaking between-song silences with admissions that they’re no good at talking to the audience during shows. And those silences! The crowd was not into it. A shame since the band delivered a serviceable performance — albeit without founding member Josiah Johnson — that focused on the most celebratory moments of their album Signs Of Light and the best sing-alongs from throughout their catalog. Whatever … we’re seeing them again next summer and I’m confident that one will be a step back in the right direction, especially if they’re reunited with Josiah. Setlist

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra

8/26/16
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Lean and unpredictable. You learn quickly that UMO frontman Ruban Nielson’s not much of a talker — he comes onstage without fuss and, after a long time fiddling with his guitar, moves quickly from song to song — but that doesn’t mean you don’t get inside his head. One second he’ll be chillin’, like he’s on a quiet street corner playing for himself … and the next, he’ll bust a James Brown-style dance move out of nowhere or drop to his knees and shred like Prince. He’s not aping — he’s a terrific guitar player — you just don’t expect it. If that’s all that was presented it would be enough to keep things interesting … but holy shit the drummer, Amber Baker, is a beast in hip-hop style clothes, and the light show is on point. The songs alternated from the patient delivery of “So Good at Being in Trouble” to the shred-fest “One At A Time” to the bounce-a-thon “Ffunny Ffrends.” You don’t know which Ruban Nielson is going to play you the next note, but that was part of the fun. Setlist

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LCD Soundsystem

8/3/16
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
5 Stars
Elevator going up! I love the disco stylings and fast tempos in these guys’ music and couldn’t pass up a chance to see them reunite at my favorite Colorado venue. It was magical. After two really excellent support acts and a drenching rain shower got things started, the band — a dozen-strong Army corps of beat-makers, knob-twiddlers and multi-instrumentalists — started their set … and didn’t stop the rock until every leg, neck and arm was liquified. I mean, it was exhausting just watching these guys on stage: a flurry of activity, the music surging out of each member through drum kits and keyboards and guitars and microphones. The party gushed in rainbows out to the crowd; the fans wigged out. My concert tastes skew more folk than this so, for me, it was a trip getting swept up; that my good friends and fellow music-lovers Rebecca and William and Lynn were there with me, sliding along the groove and back into the warm night, was like warm gravy. Easily my favorite show of the summer. Setlist

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Adele

7/17/16
Denver, CO
Pepsi Center
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Big-voiced charmer. Aida and I lucked out on this last-minute invitation to witness a world tour that sold out in minutes, featuring a superstar as unlikely as they come. I hopped on the Adele bandwagon early — my decades-old interest in British artists led me to her on the eve of her first album — so I relished the opportunity. The concert didn’t disappoint. She played my favorite song, “Hometown Glory,” not one song into the set! The woman’s voice is a ballsy galaxy-shaker, a unique blend of husk and soul and bombast, and it’s p-e-r-f-e-c-t: not a bum note was sung. The crowd was wrapped around her finger, due in no small part to her earnest, self-deprecating (and frequent) between-song banter. And that woman can banter; holy shit, she’s funny, and she’ll do anything for a laugh. The performance was over-produced and too heavy on spectacle … but I expected that. The soccer moms shelling out $300 to get dressed up and see a concert at the massive Pepsi Can didn’t want an understated club show; they wanted a mind-blowing marvel. I would have been thrilled with just that great voice and a tiny piano but I, like everyone else in that arena, was over the moon with the marvel we got. Setlist

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Twenty One Pilots

7/12/16
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
Well-rehearsed spectacle. I bought tickets to this show as an excuse to introduce my kids to Red Rocks. They love Twenty One Pilots; I only marginally like them, but I like that they don’t cuss in their lyrics, so off we went. I expected lots of wide-eyed tweens and goth teens there in obnoxious groups or leaning away from their dads (like my boys). What I got instead was The Greatest Show On Earth — Magic! Robot dancers! Costume changes! — with the crowd singing along to every word. And it was presented by two cool and earnest young people for a crowd of cool and earnest young people. The show opened with the band — just two guys! — onstage in ski masks. But then a shroud falls over the singer and, a second later, a spotlight reveals the singer on a giant rock 50 feet from the stage! Then the spotlight on the drummer’s kit goes dark and, a second later, the drummer’s on a full kit on the roof of the beer stand! Then they’re playing on a satellite stage in the middle of the crowd surrounded by fans! Something crazy like this was always happening, without interruption to the music. And the guys in the band couldn’t have been more respectful of the fans. They delivered stories about the joy of playing music — from friends’ bedrooms to packed stadiums — and the importance of being true to yourself among others; stuff that sounds cheesy to cynical old concert farts like me but visibly moved the young people in the audience. I could appreciate the message, and I know my kids took the spirit of it home with them. These two guys spent a lot of time crafting an excellent rock show that was unique to the venue and appropriate to the audience. Besides employing a bit more live instrumentation, there wasn’t much more they could have done to please the crowd. I know I loved it. Setlist

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Ben Harper

6/28/16
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
The streak continues. Aida and I have seen Ben Harper at Red Rocks so many times that the shows are in danger of becoming predictable, forgettable affairs. While every Innocent Criminals-backed show hits common notes — the “Burn One Down” extended bongo solo here, the “Steal My Kisses” beatbox guest there — we’re always treated to a surprise. This night it was a stunning duet between Ben and special guest Dallas Green (whose band City And Colour opened the show) on one of my favorites, “Another Lonely Day.” It was sung with such pitch-perfect tenderness by both men it made me wish Mr. Green would join the band permanently. We were hosting friends from out of town so I couldn’t have been happier with the beautiful music they got to see at this extraordinary venue. Setlist

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My Morning Jacket

5/28/16
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
Weird and unforgettable. The buzz around this show was heady: it was the first of a two-night run on Memorial Day weekend, the holiday enabling many One Big Family members to fly in from all over the country; the deluxe reissue of It Still Moves (in my opinion, the best MMJ album) had just been released the day before and was rumored to be played in its entirety; and original guitarist Johnny Quaid had tweeted that he’d be onstage with his old band for at least part of the shows. After sprinting from early entry to the GA section and securing awesome spots mere feet from the stage — Carl side, of course — my man Brian and I were ready to take it in. Brian’s brothers and a few of his high school friends joined us for a swirling trip through fan favorites and deep cuts from all over the band’s catalog, including a rare spin through “Just One Thing” and a gut-punching “Steam Engine” — both off ISM — that made us euphoric. It was a bizarre and ridiculous set, only the encore showing a bit of predictability (much of it borrowed from the Red Rocks show a year earlier). But even that was amazing, delivering three of the band’s most ass-shakingest tunes — “Highly Suspicious,” “Touch Me Pt. 2” and “Cobra” — in quick succession. A top-five MMJ show, for sure. Setlist

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Explosions In The Sky

5/10/16
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Cinematic. Claustrophobic. Courageous. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a concert quite like the one performed by this band. It’s remarkable that their music, played in a rock club with no vocals (they’re 100% instrumental) and no video screens (just smoke, lots of smoke) manages to paint such clear pictures on the listener’s imagination. The songs build slowly, starting quietly, drawing you in. Sometimes they meander to unexpected places; usually they feature crescendos like tidal waves, walls of sound, thrilling and punishing. It helps that the band members can really play their instruments, I mean they can really play. There aren’t many other bands playing in the vocal- slash frontman-dominated modern rock scene borrowing more from symphonic film soundtrack music than from Led Zeppelin or Nirvana or EDM … and they’re killing it. Huge smiles in the audience everywhere you looked. Setlist

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Foals

4/26/16
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
Another Foals corker. These guys just blow me away every time I see them. They’ve got a no-bullshit approach to their live show — walk out, get playing, chat a bit, keep it moving — but their energy is off the charts. Each man on stage is writhing and jumping and headbanging and swaying and sweating … for two hours. And the songs! They’re rock — even heavy at times — but they’re so, so danceable. A Foals show sees hipsters, club kids, metalheads and mathletes all shaking their asses. This was a great, eclectic crowd, and you could tell the band was loving it. Bonus points to opener Kiev for covering an obscure Paul Simon song, “Can’t Run But,” one of my favorites. Setlist

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Wolf Alice

4/14/16
Denver, CO
Bluebird Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
1 Stars
Little Miss Poseur. What a disappointment this one was. The bassist was a punk wannabe douchebag; the lead guitarist focused on his fretboard, his effects pedals and not much else; and the drummer kept abandoning his job to try to be the singer, a role for which he was painfully unsuited. The actual singer, frontwoman Ellie Rowsell, couldn’t have looked more bored or played her guitar with less enthusiasm. This may have been the only rock show I’ve ever been to where I considered walking out before the end. The only good thing about this show was the fact that my friend Anthony, planning on joining me, couldn’t make it, so he was spared. Oh, and demerits to the band for rushing through my favorite song and playing it like shit. Setlist

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White Denim

3/24/16
Denver, CO
Bluebird Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Zippy, trippy Austinites. It was a Wilco tour many years ago that first put White Denim on my radar. I had tickets to a Denver stop that featured the band as openers and so, of course, I studied up, listening to their more popular stuff first then diving a bit deeper into their catalog. I never made it to that show but remained a fan from the listening, and vowed never to miss them again. I made good on that promise with this show. Buddies Brian and William and I got great spots at eye level with the band, spots where the sound in the tiny Bluebird Theater is at its best. The music was phenomenal; played tightly and nimbly, twisting through the backyards of Phish and the Grateful Dead while being chased by Rush. You never know when a song might turn into something unexpected. Like most great jam bands, the players zig and zag like they’re reading one another’s minds, mesmerizing to watch, even if you know the songs well. I’m glad these guys stayed on my mind, even though it took me a few years to finally see them in the flesh. Setlist

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Dr. Dog

2/12/16
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
A butt-shaker. Stylistically this band is hard to classify — they weave through freaked-out psychadelia, blue-eyed soul and roots-based Americana with ease — but it makes for a great live show. You never know where they’re gonna go next, you only know that they’re gonna be soaked in sweat by the time the get there. True to form, this show was a work-out: drums and percussion held the line while pounding keys and a 3-guitar assault sealed the deal. And when they took requests from the audience for their encore, the crowd when bug nuts. The force is strong with these ones.

The Bright Light Social Hour, a band I hadn’t seen before but heard great things about, started the night by blowing the doors off the place. I’ll definitely be seeking those dudes out again soon. Setlist


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Silversun Pickups

12/8/15
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
2 Stars
An evening rescued. This band has talent — they’ve got the atmospherics I like in my guitar bands — but they lack showmanship. The frontman has zero charisma and no chemistry with his bassist who he insists on chatting with between songs. And the sound mix this night was a brackish, incoherent mess. Much better was the opener, Foals, the reason I bought a ticket at all. They screamed, sweated and stage-dived their way through a 10-song set, wailing on their instruments like champs. They saved the night. Setlist

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Robert Delong

11/17/15
Denver, CO
Bluebird Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Robert works hard. Robert Delong doesn’t begin his show by walking out on stage, he runs out. He plays an awkwardly-mounted keyboard then runs over to a bank of controls to fiddle some knobs, then he runs over to a huge drum kit and plays that for a while. Then Robert Delong runs to the other side of the stage where a smaller stand-up percussion kit waits to get wailed on, and he wails on it. Robert Delong runs back to the keyboards and plays those for a while and dances furiously while he does it. Robert Delong is singing the whole time he’s doing these things, into microphones set up at each station, microphones he set up himself before the show. Behind Robert Delong is a huge video screen playing films directed and animated by Robert Delong, the images changing every two seconds. Robert Delong does not sleep; he lives only to create and perform. Somewhere, Robert Delong wrote six songs in the time it took you to read this review. When you have the chance, spend your money to go see Robert Delong; he’s earned it. Setlist

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Don Henley

10/13/15
Denver, CO
Wells Fargo Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Gives good show. I was never much of an Eagles fan but had always liked Don Henley’s solo stuff on the classic rock radio stations I listened to growing up, especially his harder, grumpier stuff like “Dirty Laundry” and “All She Wants To Do Is Dance.” Aida loves all of his stuff — even his schlocky Eighties hits — and was nostalgic to see his opener, Shawn Colvin, a beauty we’ve seen dozens of times over the years. So we were all in when they came to town. We set our expectations low since Henley was touring a new album rooted in Country Western, not our favorite genre. But he did not disappoint. He’s got great stage presence — he told some funny, heartfelt stories at well-paced moments — and surrounded himself with some very talented musicians, including three gorgeous background singers, each working their own vocal style and taking turns at the front of the stage dueting with Henley. And his voice is perfection: loud, gruff and without flaw. He sent us out the door pleasantly surprised … and ears ringing just right. Setlist

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Another Throwback Radiohead & Björk co-headline

For two seconds back in 1998 the Worcester Centrum, an indoor venue mere miles from Boston where I was living at the time, was set to host a concert, one of four in the U.S. and Canada, co-headlined by Radiohead and Björk, two of the most adventurous and thrilling artists in my lifetime. At the time, Björk’s <em>Homogenic</em> was a favorite of mine and, like the rest of the world, I was obsessed with Radiohead’s <em>OK Computer</em>, so the idea of seeing them doing their thing under the same big top and maybe even sharing the stage for a song or two was alluring.

It was not meant to be: each act’s tour utilized elaborate stage sets, and the two camps felt it was unacceptable to make fans wait the full hour it would take to strike one set and set-up the next.

But how cool would that show have been?


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My Morning Jacket

10/9/15
Las Vegas, NV
Brooklyn Bowl
Map of Nevada, USA
4 Stars
An awesome blur. This two-show run was … surreal. First, Las Vegas was a weird place to see a hippie band like My Morning Jacket play and, indeed, it was their first time. Second, over the course of two nights and nearly 5 hours of playing Jim and the band spoke to the audience exactly zero times. And third, attendance numbers were low: the upper tier of this (very cool) venue was mostly empty. What all that meant for those in attendance was this: let’s close the doors and commence face melting. And that’s what went down. The Man Brian was with me in the pit up front — we were so close Carl was head-banging his sweat onto us — so we were enveloped in sound once the music started. These were my first shows from The Waterfall tour so I was crawling out of my skin to hear the new stuff and the new stuff was terrific. Plus I got my first “AEIOU” on the second night; what a fuckin’ song. A whole bunch of One Big Holiday-ers were there too so it was great to rock out with familiar faces. Bonus: Tim Showalter’s Strand Of Oaks put in two solid nights of support and made a new fan. Setlist

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Counting Crows

9/16/15
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
1.5 Stars
A weird one. You ever get the feeling you’re in the presence of a joke being played but you’re not in on it? Shit is bug nuts and you’re looking out for someone to stop the scene, announce that it’s all a put on and now we’ll get on with the real thing? Shit was indeed bug nuts during this bizarre show — Adam Duritz napped under a piano, crew members hung out onstage, low-budget computer graphics flickered on backdrop screens — but no one stopped anything; what we were watching was the real thing. They didn’t waste time getting to the hits and played lots of their best songs (August And Everything After is a classic) but I never shook the feeling I was being fucked with. Setlist

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Ben Harper

9/15/15
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
heartfelt and raw. Ben Harper has a knack for turning even large venues into intimate spaces. He played most of this show seated, his head down and his lap steel guitar bouncing on his thigh. He may have been deep in concentration but it was successful in drawing the audience into his little circle on the stage. He could make it loud (“Ground On Down”), he could make it quiet (“Another Lonely Day”), he could make it tense (“Touch From Your Lust”), but no matter what he made each person in the crowd feel like they were sitting right next to him. This was never more evident than when he ended the set by stepping to the front of the stage, asking his tech to turn off all the microphones, and delivering a bone-chilling rendition of “Where Could I Go” a cappella. It was an invitation to feel what he felt, hear what he heard, and you could hear a pin drop. Fantastic. Setlist

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Another Top 5 List TOP ARTISTS ON MY BUCKET LIST

  1. Atoms For Peace in a small theater.
  2. Fiona Apple with a no-drama guarantee.
  3. Zero 7 full band featuring Sia Furler on vocals.
  4. Prince playing anything before 1989.
  5. Jack White playing anything he wants.

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Carnival time Gentlemen Of The Road

Mumford & Sons

The Flaming Lips

Tune-Yards

Jenny Lewis

James Vincent McMorrow

The Vaccines

8/21/15
Salida, CO
Vandaveer Ranch
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Celebration and community. Mumford & Sons are a favorite of my family — Aida’s a super-fan and my kids know all the words to the songs — so the announcement of this weekend-long festival brought a great opportunity for the lot of us to experience a concert together in a unique setting. Salida, Colorado, the host for this “stopover” (as the promoters called it), is a small but vibrant mountain town, and there couldn’t have been a better place to stage it. Local organizers and business owners gave us fans a warm welcome, presenting side venues, local food and beer, and family-friendly activities wherever you turned. The good vibes fueling the on-site camping grounds bled into the festival area, and embraced attendees like an old friend. The headlining band curated the lineup themselves: young up-starts like The Vaccines played alongside festival stalwarts The Flaming Lips and brothers-in-arms Dawes. Highlights for me were quirky sets by James Vincent McMorrow (that voice!) and Tune-Yards; Colorado’s governor introducing costume-clad Lips in front of a 3-story tall inflatable banner reading FUCK YEAH SALIDA; and Mumford & Sons delivering the electricity from <em>Wilder Mind</em> and with it laying waste to the hot and dusty main stage area. But the best part was the sincerity with which every musician interrupted their sets to acknowledge their hosts — Salida and Mumford & Sons — with huge smiles and full hearts. If the goal of a music festival is to spread art and fellowship to fans of both, then this one was a success, and one I was happy to expose to my kids. Setlist

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My Morning Jacket

8/14/15
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
5 Stars
World’s a stage. This show was a monster for me. It was the first gathering of the band’s One Big Holiday (OBH) fan group since the last Mexico festival. Dozens descended on Colorado from all over the country; those who couldn’t make it watched via webcast filmed by the great Danny Clinch. It was a doozey. After an opening set from OBH-alumns Sylvan Esso (they played new stuff!), the boys got to work. An extraordinary setlist. Despite it being the tour closer, Jim was in a chatty mood and the boys were in top form. Highlights included a wicked “Dondante,” a cameo from Brandi Carlile during “Wonderful” and an encore that fuzed both “Touch Me”s with “Highly Suspicious” and “Run Thru.” Absolutely bonkers; a night I’ll never forget. Setlist

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Another Throwback Phish ’92-’93

In my humble opinion, Phish were at the peak of their mind-blowing powers around the time of this show. I’m sure they were reading one another’s minds when they played; how else could four players be so synchronized while playing such complex material? And the songs were getting better every album cycle. I would go on to see many more Phish shows over many more tours but this early-nineties period was … just … so good.


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Tame Impala

5/30/15
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
Swirly whirly rock. These guys were blowing up around the time they made it to Denver so the little Ogden Theatre was packed. In a few weeks their awesome “Currents” would earn them a Grammy nomination, but for now, they were happy to smoke what must have been tubs full of Colorado green and smile along with fans for a spacey good time. I mean, these guys were so baked they could barely open their eyes or look up from their instruments, but what they lacked in delivery they made up for in creation, building a set of danceable psych rock heavy on synthesized keyboards, effects-laden guitars and trippy visuals (at one point Kevin turned to the backdrop and “played” a projector connected to his guitar). And you really can’t go wrong when you’ve got a song like “Let It Happen” to open with. I loved that and every second that followed, cherishing what would probably be the last time I’d see them in such a small venue. Setlist

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Carnival time One Big Holiday 2

My Morning Jacket

Band Of Horses

The War On Drugs

Dr. Dog

Dawes w/ Conor Oberst

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

1/31/15
Riviera Maya, MX
Hard Rock Hotel
Map of Riviera Maya, Mexico
4.5 Stars
One big family. This was my second time attending this festival curated by and starring My Morning Jacket; a destination event where it’s easy to connect with like-minded friends old and new. I entered a card-carrying member of the coolest tribe of fans I’ve ever had the good fortune of meeting. Although there again with my brother from another mother Brian, the warm familiarity of the host country, the resort, and especially the people, made it a whole new experience. Showtimes would bring the two of us to the rail and we’d know everyone there; hugs and high fives all around. And the music, holy balls. The supporting lineup featured acts broader in range and higher in profile compared to OBH1, and that lead to some awesome collaborations with Jacket. Highlights included The War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel guesting on Christopher Cross(!) and Bruce Springsteen covers, Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith reprising his New Basement Tapes role with Jim on “Down On The Bottom” and Conor Oberst duetting on “I Will Be There When You Die.” And you don’t realize what some feminine energy does for a band like Jacket until you hear Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso sing and dance during a suite of Bob Marley covers. As for headliners, My Morning Jacket treated fans to three as-yet unheard songs from The Waterfall sprinkled among stellar and punishing sets spanning their entire career, and Band Of Horses played an afternoon acoustic set in addition to their second-night headlining spot. I speak for every smiling face I saw when I say that I can’t wait for OBH3; as one fan put it, “I’m never not coming here.” Setlist

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The Samples

12/12/14
Denver, CO
Fillmore Auditorium
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
25th anniversary reunion. This was a special one: the original members of my favorite college band reuniting for one night after living scattered around the country for many years. They performed their debut album from start to finish, a disc that got a whole lotta play at bars and house parties during my college days in Fort Collins. They put on a hell of a show back then and haven’t lost any of their adventurous wit, mixing up arrangements and stretching out jams to the delight of the washed-up crowd so happy to relive their old days. Great, great fun.

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Jane’s Addiction

11/19/14
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
A tainted return. I was completely stoked for this one: Perry, Stephen and Dave back together for a tour celebrating the anniversary of the release of Nothing’s Shocking — and Denver’s on the (very) short list of dates. The early Jane’s output is among my favorite stuff, and I know Dave and Stephen can still bring it. What I didn’t know was, onstage, Perry demands the spotlight solely on him; literally, there was a spotlight on him, no matter what he was doing or who was soloing, the entire show, leaving everyone else in darkness and barely visible. The vanity really pissed me off, but I tried not to let it ruin an amazing performance of the album-of-honor in full, including the highlight, “Ted, Just Admit It,” which I had never seen live, plus some random favorites from Ritual De Lo Habitual. Perry’s voice faltered at times, but Dave still solos like a champ, and Stephen cemented his status as one of alternative rock’s great drummers. Setlist

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Another Throwback Beastie Boys Pageant Tour

Back in 2004 Beastie Boys, an act with nothing left to prove, three guys who could do whatever they wanted, decided to have some fun. So they built a tour that spent two nights in each city, one a classic hip-hop show and the other … something else. “This Is A No Sneaker Jam. Dress To Impress. No B.S.” read the announcement. Tiny venues. More instrumental. Plenty of surprises. 

I regret that I never made it to any dates on the tour but I think it’s a remarkable example of risk-taking and playfulness that’s too rare among superstar live acts.


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The War On Drugs

10/10/14
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Classic rock throwback. My buddy Brian and I knew we were going to see these guys at an upcoming festival and wanted to see what the fuss was about ahead of time. They’re great; maybe not as great as their hype would suggest, but there’s passion in their playing, and sometimes that’s good enough. Many of the songs have a classic rock patina on them that makes it all feel a bit old fashioned — I hear Petty, Springsteen and even Jackson Browne — but all the energy onstage is just so … earnest … they’re hard not to like. Setlist

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Warpaint

10/2/14
Englewood, CO
Gothic Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
5 Stars
Trip to space. Holy shit, this was a game-changer for me. By the time I got to see this band play live I had listened to every note they recorded a bazillion times and still couldn’t get enough. The show was in serious danger of getting crushed under the weight of the expectations in my mind. Did they deliver? Yes, and then some. The four ladies of Warpaint have such a groovy chemistry — they’re constantly cracking each other up, stealing smiles during songs, reading one another’s minds — that they make the room nice ‘n small, and you feel like you’re hanging out with them in their apartment while they goof off together. While that laid back attitude is all over the performance, the playing is all business, rhythms tight and harmonies tone perfect. Stella is one of my favorite drummers. The group gets the music swirling all around the place like a dream; its some crazy good stuff. The next time I get to see them play won’t get here soon enough, and I’ll be recruiting every music fan I know to join me in experiencing it. Setlist

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Interpol

9/27/14
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Sound and energy. This was my second Interpol show but this time I recruited my partner-in-crime Brian. “A moody rock band using disco beats” was the persona I offered him and it’s pretty much the one they inhabited this night. Their touring keyboardist/vocalist Brandon Curtis (late of The Secret Machines) has become a crucial element of their live shows … and the touring bassist is a monster. These guys are near and dear to my heart; the fact that Brian loved the show and is now a fan validates the feeling. Here’s hoping we can tack on some new recruits the next time Interpol comes to town. Setlist

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Beck

8/15/14
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
Love this man. Seeing Beck perform live has been a Bucket List event for me for a very long time. But to check it off in such majestic fashion — a summer show outdoors at Red Rocks starring the band that recorded one of my all-time favorite discs (Sea Change) — just exceeded all expectations. As I had hoped, the set spanned Beck’s entire ridiculous and spectacular career, nestling some of his weirdest deep cuts (“Wave”) alongside his biggest hits (“Loser”) and balls-out rockers (“Debra”). The light show was bonkers and his dance moves were bananas. I have to knock a half-star off for the poor sound mix that plagued most of the show … but otherwise this one did not disappoint. I wanted it to never end. Setlist

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The Head And The Heart

8/14/14
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
Music a plenty. A good friend celebrated her birthday by inviting her squad to this show, a monster bill that featured Houndmouth, Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) and this band, who at the time were quickly becoming a favorite of Aida’s and mine. The music was perfect for the merry band that assembled: upbeat and bluesy songs about family, friendship and love, with feminine energy to spare. By the time The Head And The Heart came out the place was glowing. Their three vocalists wove in and out of some expert musicianship, making for a long set filled with surprises. The number of killer songs these guys play belies their small catalog, and they didn’t hold any back. I can’t wait to see them again. Setlist

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Another Top 5 List TOP LIVE DISAPPOINTMENTS

  1. The Strokes | Distant and disrespectful.
  2. Page & Plant | Not all in.
  3. Widespread Panic | Just visiting, thanks.
  4. Oasis | My love, betrayed.
  5. The Cure | Out to lunch.

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Avett Brothers

7/12/14
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
2 Stars
I am nonplussed. Can these guys write great songs? Yes. Can they play and sing their asses off? Yes. Do I need to buy a ticket to see it every summer? No. Great company at this show though: a colleague of Aida’s flew in with his wife and we all had a fun time. Setlist

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James Blunt

5/12/14
Englewood, CO
Gothic Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Boy rocks gently. It’s hard to take a rock star seriously when he arrives onstage wearing an astronaut uniform. But James Blunt does have some good songs — and some monster hits — and he played them all at this undersold show attended predominantly by screaming girls calling for “You’re Beautiful.” His voice held up admirably, he brought some funny banter and he was genuinely happy to be playing for us. I wouldn’t need to see him again, but he was entertaining … for an astronaut. Setlist

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The Queers w/ Reno Divorce

Reno Divorce

The Queers

4/25/14
Denver, CO
Bluebird Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
2.5 Stars
One-two punch. The Queers, a goofy punk band from the Northeast, headlined this show, but I went for Reno Divorce. I had been hearing about them for quite some time; little did I know that their bass player is an old friend of an old friend. So off we went to my beloved Bluebird Theater. By no means is punk my cup of tea, but Reno Divorce has swagger — and chops — I can really appreciate. They weren’t just a great opener, they are a great band. And that friend of a friend is cool as a cucumber. The Queers did an admirable job but, being out of my comfort zone, I mostly just people watched during their set. It turns out punk rock shows are great for people watching.

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Another Top 5 List Top classic tours I wish I saw

  1. Led Zeppelin | North American Tour | May–July 1973
  2. The Police | North American Zenyatta Mondatta Tour | October–December 1980
  3. Pink FLoyd | United Kingdom Dark Side Of The Moon Tour | January–February 1972
  4. Jimi Hendrix | Fillmore East Band Of Gypsys shows | December 1969
  5. Duran Duran | Sing Blue Silver World Tour | 1983–1984

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Carnival time One Big Holiday

My Morning Jacket

The Flaming Lips

Mariachi El Bronx

Guest: Bob Weir

1/27/14
Riviera Maya, MX
Hard Rock Hotel
Map of Riviera Maya, Mexico
5 Stars
A concert experience. This event changed my life. It’s a festival hosted and curated by My Morning Jacket, launched near my 40th birthday when I was shopping for a festival to attend with my best friend Brian. It fills an all-inclusive resort for four nights: 3 for Jacket, 1 for the Lips, each ending with a dance party. I had never been on vacation with a buddy, without kids, among music-minded and adventurous adults, and it was fucking awesome. The fact that everyone in attendance was as friendly and as stoked to see MMJ as Brian and me was gravy. The whole thing pushed my capacity to follow one band to a level I didn’t realize was important to me, and introduced me to a fan community that is so filled with love and camaraderie that I can no longer imagine my life without it. Bonus: Bob Weir showed up as an unannounced guest and jammed a bunch with the boys. Setlist

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The National

9/17/13
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
2.5 Stars
Weirdo in front. Does Matt Berninger spend every show walking around the stage like an Autistic guy deserted in a movie theater? Is he always so uncomfortable in his skin when he performs? The frontman never stopped walking quickly back and forth across the stage and rarely looked at the audience. Is he always like this? Because it’s annoying. That was the unshakable thought nagging me the entire time The National was onstage. I really wanted to like this band’s concert — there’s a cinematic quality to their songs that I figured would be perfect for Red Rocks — but goddammit that guy made it a chore. My beloved Local Natives opened so there was that … but even their support couldn’t win over this ticket buyer. This was a strange one. Setlist

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Carnival time Lollapalooza 2013

Vampire Weekend

The Killers

Mumford & Sons

Jake Bugg

Family Of The Year

Local Natives

The Lumineers

Two Door Cinema Club

New Order

Knife Party

8/2/13
Chicago, IL
Grant Park
Map of Illinois, USA
4.0 Stars
festival-crazy chicagoans. My experience with festivals before attending Lollapalooza in Chicago’s beautiful Grant Park was limited to smaller regional stuff. This was my first big fest. The number of stages was a bit overwhelming but it offered an extraordinary range of experiences: from a little set in a cozy grove of trees to a massive, straw-covered meadow with no shade in sight; from a tiny stage set for a few scruffy rockers to a 100 foot-high DJ booth and light show. The lineup was plenty diverse, too, even if the constituency wasn’t (too many over-privileged college kids with painfully hip wardrobes). Aida and I caught huge sets from The Killers, Vampire Weekend and Mumford &Sons, and smaller ones from Ellie Goulding, Jake Bugg and Family Of The Year. We even caught an incredibly intimate set from the latter in a corner of the festival shop; we were 5 feet from the band and had a great chat afterward. And I managed to get a taste of some EDM from Knife Party, reminding me that I’m too old for this shit but still down for anything when it comes to live music. I’m not sure I need to do another big fest any time soon — too much strategizing and angling for space to be able to see your favorite artists — but the enthusiastic and welcoming local contingent (and their impressive skyline) made it worth the effort. Setlist

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John Mayer

7/17/13
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
Far out, man. Despite the silly outfit he was wearing — jean jacket, ratty boots, silk scarf tied around his head — Mr. Mayer was all business this beautiful summer night. He was touring the mellow, pretty songs from Born And Raised and stretching them hard, extending solos and raising tempos so everything sounded more muscular. So groovy. I loved every minute of it. Setlist

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The xx

6/3/13
Denver, CO
Fillmore Auditorium
Map of Colorado, USA
5 Stars
Slow, sexy tease. The music this trio creates is a hypnotic blend of guitar and electronics that unfolds at a glacial pace, perfect for headphones but not necessarily for concerts. It can get your ass shaking — the producer is an expert beat maker who cut his teeth in London clubs — but their tendency is to tease rather than push. How would it be received by a live audience wanting to dance or, God forbid, rock? It was maddening in the best possible way. This band could easily craft a three-hour set of the type of sweaty, heart-pounding techno that could make rave kids shit themselves; instead they played some of the best-executed rock I’ve ever seen performed — with a ridiculous level of cool — and only injected moments of the dance-y stuff, creating an intriguing mix of fast and slow that I couldn’t love more. It was only guitar, bass, vocals and beats … but it felt like a dream. Setlist

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Another Throwback Engaged at Red Rocks

The hiking trails in Morrison, Colorado surrounding Red Rocks Amphitheater are stunning. The air is clean and clear, the dirt is a trippy shade of crimson and the rock formations make you feel like you’re roaming another planet. For these reasons I felt it made a memorable place to pop the question to Aida, who by the time this story is set had been my partner in crime and best friend for many years. I got us tickets to see our beloved Dave Matthews Band and constructed a plan that would put us onto those trails before the show.

That was August 15, 1995. She said “yes.” We held hands throughout the concert (a good one, recorded and released officially as the double album Live at Red Rocks) and a few weeks later moved across the country to start the next phase of what’s been a blessed life together.


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The Neighbourhood

5/30/13
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Tunes and ‘tude. On record and onstage, the clear voice fronting this California 5-piece belongs to Jesse Rutherford, a charismatic, androgynous young man with attitude to spare. This was a solid show: atmospheric guitars, killer drumming and a ton of crowd energy. It’s unclear whether anyone will give a shit about these guys ten years from now but, on this night, they proved they deserved the stage they earned. Setlist

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Phish

8/31/12
Commerce City, CO
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
The adventure continues. For the second time I joined my buddies Brian and Brent in the grown-up version of catching Phish shows and it was awesome. They opened with one of my favorites (“First Tube”) and got around to my all-time favorite (YEM!) and it couldn’t have been more fun. Setlist

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Mumford & Sons

8/29/12
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
Stone cold classic. This was one of two shows recorded for the band’s *Road To Red Rocks* film so there was no standing around. These guys absolutely punished their instruments, their voices, their audience. They brought it as though they had everything to prove. It was a magical night: warm, clear, everyone present and happy, the boys chatty and silly. Babel was getting a ton of radio play at the time of this show so even casual fans in attendance knew every word to every song and were singing along like lunatics. Openers Dawes beefed up a couple of tunes, not that extra muscle was really needed. This gig, this tour, this album was a game changer for this band, and it was a great treat to be there to witness it all go down. Setlist

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Avett Brothers

6/30/12
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
2.5 Stars
Earnest and energetic. These four guys can fill an awful lot of space with just their voices and a few acoustic instruments. That’s all it took to get this Red Rocks crowd moving and singing along to every word. Their enthusiasm for their craft is infectious; it’s hard to resist getting caught up in it. Setlist

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Bon Iver w/ Feist

Feist

Bon Iver

5/31/12
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
a pleasant surprise. Although I’ve adored Bon Iver’s music since I first heard “For Emma” in 2008, I went to this show for Leslie Feist. The Reminder is one of those rare perfect albums that strike the balance of writing, personnel and production most artists never achieve. To see her perform those songs and so many others from her amazing career was something I wasn’t gonna miss. Her band was terrific, filling out her guitar and voice (that voice!) with some great depth and character. That it was an awesome opening show was no surprise … but the headlining Bon Iver was. Justin Vernon’s songs, so delicate on disc, were jacked up for the stage to my great delight. And the touring band was huge, stacked with multi-instrumentalists hopping from setup to setup enthusiastically. You never knew what to expect next. And that, friends, is why we go to see concerts. Setlist (Feist) | Setlist (Bon Iver)

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Another Top 5 List TOP VENUES I NEED TO EXPERIENCE

  1. Gorge Amphitheatre | George, Washington
  2. Santa Barbara Bowl | Santa Barbara, California
  3. Jones Beach Amphitheater | Wantagh, New York
  4. Ryman Auditorium | Nashville, Tennessee
  5. Hammerstein Ballroom | New York, New York

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Radiohead

3/13/12
Broomfield, CO
1STBANK Center
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
jaw-dropping gorgeousness. I’ve loved The King Of Limbs on disc but was always curious about how the songs would work live. I got my answer at this mind-blowing show that featured an extra percussionist and trippy stage set. The songs had a swagger you could actually dance to, which was good because my buddy Brian and I were well-positioned in the pit mere feet from Ed. The set was solid, the crowd was hopping and the boys were in a rockin’ mood. Setlist

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Phish

9/2/11
Commerce City, CO
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
Welcome to Dick’s. After a long time away from this crew I was able to help christen Phish’s annual residency at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park just outside Denver, in which the opening 5 seconds of Trey’s guitar, Mike’s bass, Page’s keys and Fish’s drums reminded me how much I love these guys. Seriously, I lost myself in absolute bliss the second they started, as though it hadn’t been a dozen years since I’d seen them last. It didn’t hurt that these guys still play like motherfuckers — and the set list was incredible (all songs starting with “S” including “Split Open And Melt”) — but if I’m being honest it wouldn’t have mattered. I was just happy to be back in the crowd. Setlist

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My Morning Jacket

8/4/11
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
Um, what now? I was completely shitfaced during this show and don’t remember a single note. Embarrassing but true. Nonetheless, the fact that it was the Circuital tour gives it an automatic 4 stars. Setlist

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Mumford & Sons

6/15/11
Denver, CO
Fillmore Auditorium
Map of Colorado, USA
4 Stars
Made a fan. By the time these guys played the tiny Fillmore Auditorium they were quickly becoming Aida’s favorite new band. “Sigh No More” was in constant rotation in the house and in the car so we were looking forward to this one. The night began with an amazing opening set from local act Nathaniel Rateliff (pre-“Night Sweats”). From there things got crazy good: the headliners artfully blended gently-strummed poems, foot-stomping rockers and psychedelic freak-outs, often in the same song and always with nothing more than acoustic instruments. The group’s recorded output had already sold us on their folky approach to Americana music (this show was before “The Mumford Sound” took over popular music based in radio hits); this live show just cemented their status as a band for us to watch. It was the beginning of Mumford & Sons becoming an obsession in our family. Setlist

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Ben Harper

6/7/2011
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3 Stars
Rock & roll revival. A bunch of Relentless 7 songs, a cover of Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” and two encores for the rabid fans screaming their lungs raw for more. Does this guy and his Innocent Criminals ever disappoint? No. No they don’t. Setlist

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Roger Waters

5/18/11
London, UK
The O2 Arena
Map of London, England, UK
5 Stars
All the feels. By a stroke of good luck Aida’s and my trip to London coincided with Waters’ anniversary tour of The Wall with his solo band. Our shared love of Floyd and that album in particular made this hefty ticket purchase a once-in-a-lifetime must. The O2 is a gargantuan tent-like monster of a venue that needs to be experienced by every concert lover, and the drunken hooligans filling it for this show were treated to a spirited replica of the original performances in the Seventies, from the brick-by-brick building of the wall during the course of the show, to massive projections of Gerald Scarfe’s original animations, to the ridiculous inflatable stand-ins for Mother, Teacher and all the rest. The only thing missing was David Gilmore and his acoustic guitar atop the 40-foot wall for “Comfortably Numb.” But Waters more than made up for it with a classic Aida and I will never forget. Setlist

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Cold War Kids

5/8/11
Denver, CO
Ogden Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
2.5 Stars
Serviceable but forgetable. I bought my ticket to this one on the love of “Hang Me Up To Dry” alone. I love that song. Every other song they played: not so much. I know these guys can rock but I just wasn’t feeling it. Setlist

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Another Throwback The Lawn at Great Woods

For me and others growing up in Eastern Massachusetts, Great Woods Amphitheater in Mansfield — specifically its general-admission Lawn — was synonymous with summer. Many acts made Great Woods an annual summer tour stop, visits that became teen rites of passage. I’m talking Jimmy Buffett, Steve Miller Band and others for whom you had to buy tickets. After the long drive you’d kill a beer, make your way to The Lawn, and know half the kids there. The big one in my book was Reggae Sunsplash. In the late Eighties that package had some stellar line-ups and my friends and I would never miss ’em. The photo here was taken during one of those tours on a warm, near-perfect night the summer before my senior year of high school. That skinny dark-haired kid is me (right); those two handsome fellas in hats are my homies Scott (left) and Todd (center).


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Interpol

9/27/14
Denver, CO
Ogden Theatre
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Tight. Solid. Accomplished. Interpol on disc, to me, is near-perfect: the tunes swing, the playing is air-tight, and the atmosphere presented in the songwriting transports you to another place and time. Their live show is a bit trickier: I wouldn’t call them showmen, but they make you happy to be there; the live interpretations of their songs don’t stray far from the recorded versions, but it’s intriguing to watch them unspool. I will never miss an Interpol show, and I think it’s because of the tension they create with the music. Many songs start slow and build, getting louder and fuller until you realize your heart is beating out of your chest and you’re bouncing around like an animal. Super fun show. Setlist

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Carnival time New Orleans Jazz Fest

The Black Crowes

My Morning Jacket

4/25/10
New Orleans, LA
Fair Grounds Race Course
Map of Louisiana, USA
3.5 Stars
What a place. The only thing not stunningly beautiful about this trip to The Big Easy was the rainy weather. No matter. The cobblestone sidewalks; the moss-covered trees; and the people, the friendly, proud, hospitable people. Such an amazing city. Oh, and there was a music festival. I witnessed some awesome shows by Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, a bunch of amazing gospel acts, The Black Crowes (my first time) and the Mighty Jacket. I was pumped to see Simon & Garfunkel but poor Art’s voice gave out after only a couple of songs. So what does Paul do? Treat the main stage crowd to an incredible set of his own classics. Sublime.

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Phoenix

4/20/10
Denver, CO
Ogden Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
Bouncy, crazy energy. I got obsessed with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix on the strength of its radio hits and immediately dove into its back catalog. What a band! I adore these guys. Such great mixtures of guitar, synths and vocals (even though I have no idea what these frogs are saying half the time). The drummer is an absolute animal, rarely sitting down during the entire 2-hour set. The crowd was mental for it. And they did a great job mixing up the arrangements, especially during a molasses-slow “Everything Is Everything” with only Thomas’ voice and Christian’s acoustic guitar. Setlist

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Passion Pit

4/7/10
Denver, CO
Ogden Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Time to dance! Despite the guitars and other live instrumentation, this was way more of a dance show than I thought it would be. That’s not a knock — it was sweaty and happy and tons of fun — I just never thought of these guys as anything like EDM. The younguns around me were partying like they were, though, and brought a celebratory energy not usually seen at the hipster rock shows I frequent. It was a refreshing and pleasant surprise I hope to experience again. Setlist

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Spoon

4/5/10
Denver, CO
Ogden Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Tight as shit. By now these guys are a well-oiled machine. Frontman Britt Daniel struts the stage with more and more command every time I see him. The rhythm section — so crucial to their sound — swings like a metronome. I love that this band sounds like so few of their peers, on record and in concert. If you’ve never seen them live, treat yourself as soon as possible. Setlist

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John Mayer

3/23/10
Denver, CO
Pepsi Center
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Big but small. The thing I love about John Mayer live is his ability to bring a crowd in close. Even in a shit venue like the huge, corporate-suck Pepsi Center, his song choices, his no-fuss playing and his stage banter make you feel like it’s you and him at a mutual friend’s back yard. He’s able to strike that delicate balance between satisfying the screaming girls in the front and the snobby dudes like me farther back: sing-along covers of Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac for them, deep-cut originals heavy on guitar for me. Barely any hits but every song’s a keeper. Such a talent. Setlist

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Another Throwback Shawn Colvin Solo Shows

Have you ever seen Shawn Colvin perform? Books should be written about this singer-songwriter, about the attention that may be commanded of an audience with tools as simple as a pleasant voice, an acoustic guitar and a microphone. Whether you like her songs or not (and she’s got bucket-loads of great ones)


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Wilco

7/3/09
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
4.5 Stars
I’M A WHEEL!. This was the second time I saw these fine gentlemen play “Impossible Germany” live and it was a moment I won’t soon forget. So many great songs were performed this night — including “Spiders,” “Ashes Of American Flags,” and a few others I had been dying to see — but that’s the one that kills me, whether I hear it in the car or while cleaning the house or, like this time, sitting in a tree on the fringes of Red Rocks’ stands. A gem in a catalog full of gems. The entire show was damn-near perfect with a nimble mix of mellow jams (“Jesus, Etc.”) and screamy freak-outs (“I’m A Wheel”). And the boys’ stage costumes were ridiculously awesome. Setlist

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Doves

5/26/09
Englewood, CO
Gothic Theatre
Map of Denver, Colorado
2 Stars
Earth-bound disappointment. The thing I admire about Doves’ music, like the best psychedelic indie rock being made today, is its ability to envelope you and take you to extraordinary worlds outside your imagination. It surprises you. There was nothing surprising or otherworldly about this show: not the stage set, not the weak projected visuals, and certainly not the performances. The bassist, the primary vocalist on the best songs of their catalog, could barely be bothered to acknowledge the crowd or the fact he had a stage to work with beyond his mike stand. And the live vocals by the other two in the band, brothers, were god-awful. I’ve pored over every note these guys have committed to tape … but their live show just didn’t measure up. Setlist

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The Rakes

4/24/09
Dublin, Ireland
Button Factory
Map of Ireland, UK
3 Stars
Londoners in Dublin. I caught this show while accompanying Aida on a business trip to Dublin. She was busy with clients one entire day so, starting very early, I got lost in the city and bought a ticket to a tiny but modern venue hosting The Rakes for some quick-paced, jittery guitar rock. By the time they went on I was pretty tired … and the crowd must’ve been too because the response was tepid at best. Despite the low energy, the boys in the band delivered a solid performance, covering their hits (bigger in their native U.K. than in America) and a bunch of good stuff I hadn’t heard before. A great time for me, and I got to see a rock show in Ireland! (Photo credit: AlessioMichelini) Setlist

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Airborne Toxic Event

4/15/09
Denver, CO
Ogden Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
5 Stars
A true exchange. Was the music great? It was. But that’s not why this show has such sentimental value for me. The gig was originally planned for the tiny Bluebird Theater up the street from the cavernous Ogden where it ended up happening, a change I was bummed about (I love the Bluebird). The change of venue was driven by overwhelming public demand for this band and, boy, could you feel it once the show started. The band members had great chemistry and performed their asses off. Lots of great rock posturing and showmanship. And when they left the stage after their proper set, the crowd went ape-shit. You couldn’t hear yourself think. We were in love with them and we wanted them to know it. When they finally came back onstage — the drummer so moved by the outpouring of support he was in tears — the frontman shared his story about writing the debut album: it was a cathartic thing he did during a time of deep personal depression, done without expectations of who, if anyone, would hear it. We heard it. And we loved every minute of it. Setlist

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Oasis

12/8/08
Broomfield, CO
Broomfield Event Center
Map of Colorado, USA
2.5 Stars
Thrill is gone? I saw Oasis once prior to this show so I knew to expect an aloof band of “brothers” performing as though they had somewhere better to be. That show had an energy to it that this one was lacking. Some variables weighed on me this night — I’m not a fan of the venue, there was a blizzard outside — but I think it just comes down to the fact that Oasis, live anyway, fail to live up to their own hype. They’ve got the songs; I just wanna see them lay it all out there for their fans. Setlist

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Another Top 5 List Top shows predating this blog

  1. Radiohead | 8/26/03 | Morrison, CO | Red Rocks Amphitheater | One to beat.
  2. Shawn Colvin | 10/7/96 | Boston, MA | Mama Kin Music Hall | Full band appearance.
  3. Dave Matthews Band | 8/1/94 | Nantucket, MA | The Muse | Before blowing up.
  4. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals | 4/1/06 | Boulder, CO | Fox Theater | 3-hour epic.
  5. INXS | 8/9/88 | Mansfield, MA | Great Woods Amphitheater | My first concert.

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Smashing Pumpkins

12/5/08
Denver, CO
Ogden Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
2 Stars
Skronky and indulgent. Look, Billy Corgan can do whatever the fuck he wants—it’s his band—but I do expect some level of audience catering if I buy a ticket. Not a hits show, just the stuff he knows we like. No one in this audience was asking for the aimless, 20-minute Pink Floyd cover we got toward the end of this show, or any of the other sub-par, post-Machina originals. It was saved by the terrific guitar crunch and the thrill of finally seeing one of my most beloved rock drummers, Jimmy Chamberlain, live for the first time, but I’ll never again buy a ticket to see these Pumpkins. Setlist

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Monolith Festival

Vampire Weekend

Silversun Pickups

Blitzen Trapper

The Photo Atlas

9/13/08
Morrison, CO
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Map of Colorado, USA
2.5 Stars
Lots to see. The love the folks that curate this festival have for indie rock is obvious; just look at the lineups they get for this thing. During the day I attended I elected to wander the Visitor Center’s conference rooms occupied by smaller indie bands like Blitzen Trapper and Denver’s The Photo Atlas, a hyperactive, sweaty punk band that are just fucking great. Nighttime brought out larger dance acts like Cut Copy and Justice but I was there to see Vampire Weekend who, at the time, were just starting to blow up and really get my attention.

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Mile High Music Festival

Spoon

7/19/08
Commerce City, CO
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
My first fest. By the time this music festival had been launched I had always wanted to attend one. Something about the freedom to drift in and out of different performances from a range of artists has always appealed to me. That it was happening within biking distance from my house was gravy. Though I experienced plenty of great moments this July day—seeing John Mayer covering “Panama” for a frenzied main-stage crowd, floating through clouds of weed smoke in Lupe Fiasco’s tent—I have only this one photo of Spoon playing on the afternoon of the fest’s inaugural day. They were touring Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and were absolutely on fire. This performance is a big reason that album remains one of my favorites by any band to this day.

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Elbow

5/2/08
Denver, CO
Bluebird Theater
Map of Colorado, USA
3.5 Stars
Whiskey-soaked fun. I discovered these guys while devouring British music magazines looking for the next Radiohead and fell in love immediately. Their live show is as celebratory and theatrical as their studio albums are moody. Frontman/mastermind Guy Garvey is brilliant and he didn’t disappoint this night. So warm. Awesome show, in my favorite club, in front of a great, grateful crowd that couldn’t stop buying the band whiskey shots. A dream come true. Setlist

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Another Top 5 List Top Opening Acts

  1. Nathaniel Rateliff (pictured) supporting Mumford & Sons | 6/15/11 | Denver, CO | Fillmore Auditorium | Blew me away.
  2. Kasabian supporting Oasis | 9/20/05 | Morrison, CO | Red Rocks Amphitheater | Brit rabble-rousers.
  3. In The Whale supporting Jane’s Addiction | 11/19/14 | Denver, CO | Ogden Theater | Holy shit, what?
  4. LCD Soundsystem supporting Arcade Fire | 9/17/07 | Morrison, CO | Red Rocks Amphitheater | Upbeat and LOUD.
  5. Papa Grows Funk supporting Galactic | 8/26/06 | Boulder, CO | Fox Theater | NOLA-style funk.

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