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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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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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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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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