Blog Archives

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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