Blog Archives

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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