Blog Archives

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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