Errols Weekly Music Update.

February 13, 2013

Concert Review of Little Big Town at Irving Plaza NYC on Feb. 12, 2013

Review of Little Big Town at Irving Plaza NYC on Feb. 12, 2013

Little Big Town Lasso’s New York City

Fresh off their first Grammy win for best country group performance on Sunday night (finally! I have been screaming from the roof top for some time now about this magnificent quartet) and after taping the David Letterman earlier in the day, Little Big Town lassoed the standing room only (elbow meets elbow) crowd at Irving Plaza (picture trying to get on the #4 train at Grand Central station during rush hour) with sweet harmonizing vocals, that this side of town has never heard, along with a powerful display of energy that everyone could tell was real and left the audience gasping for more and I think they will need a bigger rope (and venue) to capture the clamoring fans who absolutely love this hard working band. Somehow Little Big Town seems to fly under the radar (and I can’t figure out why) and I know they wouldn’t say this but I’ll say it for them- they are the best vocal group in country music (and have been for the past 10 years) or any other kind of music genre, I don’t want to limit it to country music. Upon leaving Irving Plaza, I now know that seeing them live is better than listening to their studio recordings and I realize that is hard to believe with their unbelievable voices, but it is true.

After a splendid opening set from newcomer Kacey Musgraves, who according to Karen Fairchild, is set to explode whether she knows it or not, the buzz in the air was similar to a rodeo where both the bull and riders’ adrenaline are riding high. It was dark for at least five minutes after the crew applied its finishing touches to the stage and then one by one the audience can see shadowy figures entering the elevated platform for the herd on the floor. The gate is opened and the rider (audience) and bull (LBT) explode at the same time and they both remain at the elevated adrenaline for the entire 100 minutes of the show.

Karen, Kimberly, Phillip and Jimi are all larger than life from my vantage point and they are accompanied by three additional musicians, who kept the engine roaring throughout. This is the “Tornado” tour and they did lift, spin and toss the audience into a frenzy but there were tender moments where one felt like they were listening to a song all by themselves in their car. I could not believe the energy in the air, it was so infectious that had there been any room to move, line dancing would have started immediately. Irving Plaza turned into one big karaoke bar as everyone was singing along- not as great as LBT-but how could anyone who attends their shows, not sing along? It’s impossible.

Highlights from the show (the whole show was a highlight…but if I had to pick) for me was “Your Side of the Bed” “Sober” “and “Can’t Go Back.” Karen and Jimi did an awesome job of singing a song that doesn’t seem to depict their marriage with “Your Side of the Bed”- it was an unbelievable moment and yet the words to the song do not represent the love that you could sense between them as well as the other members of the band. Little Big Town turns a sad song into an experience that sends shivers down your spine but you end up smiling- I know it doesn’t make sense- but you have to see and feel it for yourself. “Sober” was incredible as Kimberly took the lead and when they all blended together- again it is something that no other vocal band can match. “Can’t Go Back” was an “outer body experience”- I really felt I was all by myself watching them up on the stage singing what could arguably be their best recording ever- it was a feeling that I never wanted to end. Now of course, the two encores- “Tornado” and “Boondocks” brought the house down but for me encores are automatic highlights.

The band did almost every song from “Tornado” (absent “Night Owl”) and sprinkled in hits like “Shut Up Train” “Little White Church” “Bring It on Home” and “A Little More You.” Prior to doing their “Scattered, Smothered and Covered” set- LBT performed a masterful version of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. They caught me by surprise with a jaw dropping cover of John Mayer’s “Born & Raised.” The cover set was pure fun with the band putting their spin on songs by Maroon 5, Lady Gaga and Fun.

I want to thank the members of Little Big Town (including the backing band) for a night that I will never forget- this show ranks up in my top ten shows of all time. The 2012 calendar year was a special year for Little Big Town and I hope they ride this wave of recent success to the stardom levels that they deserve. They have put in their blood, sweat & tears for the past 13 years and deserve your attention. Like I have said for the past seven years, this band is the best vocal band in the world and they proved it last night in a little old town called New York City. Cheers!!!


November 30, 2012

Review of “Rebel Soul” by Kid Rock released on Nov. 19, 2012

Review of “Rebel” by Kid Rock released on November 19, 2012

Rebel Soul

Mention the words- “Kid Rock”- and the reaction is swift- in one corner there are those who love him and others will tell you to go sit in a corner – akin to giving a child a “time out.” There is no in-between, right? The Kid has released his ninth album (yes you read it correctly, his ninth) and if one scours the internet or I-Tunes (is there anyone else wondering why this in’t a big story- try and find it on the internet, there is nothing about it), the reviews are split right down the middle: love and hate. I often wonder if much of the criticism leveled is directed at him personally and not towards the music he makes because in my opinion, if given a chance, his musicianship and vocals are actually credible. Are there “chorus driven” songs? Yes but ask Springsteen fans to not sing along for three hours and see the reaction you’d get. “Rebel Soul” is all about the Kid and in my opinion is his “break-out” album especially after doing his “Rubin”-controlled “Born Free” which tried to change what Kid Rock is all about. You can’t contain what for him comes naturally- rockin’ & rappin’- and making music that moves him. Oh yes- he wants you to join the party but even if no one showed up, he’d have his Twisted Brown Trucker band-mates and jam to the music that embodies his rebel soul.

“Chickens in The Pen” starts off with a slow funky blues driven groove that makes you want to close your eyes and slowly dance around the room- the tune seeps into your bloodstream and before you know it you are belting out- “And do it again now…and do it again now.” (the only thing I could have done without is the autotune towards the end of the song-isn’t that dead yet?). “Let’s Ride” is the arena driven song dedicated to the troops and one has to admit the hook is undeniable and you will be singing along in no time with the thousands of fans at his next show. He adds the “Uh uh uh oh ooh wo” for additional emphasis- sort of like when Van Halen fans raise their fists and sing- “Hey-Hey-Hey” in the classic “Ain’t talking About Love” song.“3 CATT Boogie” is probably my favorite song on the album- it sounds like a party in the background and I can just picture the recording room when they cut this track, it had to be a blast. This song has the infamous “hand-claps” so you know it is just pure fun. “I bought a chevy in Idaho…Hey where I’m headed.. I don’t know.” Listen to the way he pronounces the word situation- “and Wall Street is stirring up the whole sit-chee-A-tion.” I love it!! If this song doesn’t move you, then you don’t have any rebel soul. “Detroit, Michigan”- I know is there any album that he records that doesn’t make a reference to his hometown? But again-“if it’s real, you’ll feel it” and one has to feel this tune. Come on, this has to get you out of your seat and clap your hands- who cares if you are dancing like an older relative that people make fun of when they are a wedding sitting in their seats waiting for the cold coffee and dessert. Did you see him perform this at the half-time at the Detroit Lions home game on Thanksgiving? When George Clinton came out and joined them in the dance fest I fell over and said to my boys- “who is cooler than Kid Rock??!”

The title track has that Bob Seger feel to it and at first it really didn’t hit me but after a few turns it has grown on me to the point where I can picture being in a muscle car with the top down headed to the beach singing- “Rebel Soul.” I like the bridge where the tune takes a turn sort of like a piece of paper being blown up in the air by a strong burst of wind- the kid can sing- listen to this track and you’ll see (hear) what I’m talking about. The beginning guitar riffs for “God Save Rock and Roll” reminds me of the Kiss song- “Let me go, rock and roll.” The Kid is giving Kiss and AC/DC a run for their money in using the words “rock and roll” in his song titles. The tune starts off a bit slow but turns into a foot stomping, hand clapping country laced rock and roll fun time song but watch out for the “out of the blue” F-bomb towards the end. (While you are dancing head over to the kids and hold their ears). The middle of the album takes a slight turn as the songs become less memorable than the first half of the disc. “Happy New Year” is a song that almost made me hit the next button but again after a few turns it will grow on you. “Celebrate” is a good song with a catchy groove but you’ll wonder if you have heard it already. “The Mirror” in my opinion, is the least desirable song on the album-I’m not sure why Kid used the “auto-tune” to mask his vocals- it’s like this should have been used on his first few albums when people didn’t think he could sing. He can and this track takes a step backwards. Track 9- “Mr. Rock and Roll” will get you out of your seat and you’ll be “air-guitaring” and “air-piano-ing” in no time.

The album ends on a strong note with the final four songs- “Cucci Galore” could be my second favorite song on the album- I know what you’re thinking- you like this song? No, I love it- the groove is so silky smooth and it has loud guitars- what’s not to like? I can’t get the chorus out of my head. The female singer on this track is “off the hook”- love it. But again- be aware of the big “F-bomb” and other curses- not for the faint of heart. The country rock comes flying right back with –“Redneck Paradise”- and I’ll just say one thing- I wish I could sing it like Mr. Rock- this is way too cool. You’ll feel like you are in a saloon ordering up a Jim Beam in no time. “Cocaine and Gin” could possibly be the best Kid Rock song he has recorded. I know what you are thinking- how could a song containing the words cocaine and gin be a good tune? If you give it a chance and let it sink in you’ll be amazed- this is a “wrap your arms around the ones you love” and sway back and forth and let the music take you away. Way to go Kid- this is a masterpiece in my opinion. The album ends on a high note with ‘Midnight Ferry’- I don’t want to get too crazy but this could be the second best song that Kid Rock has ever recorded. This is “old school” style with an addictive chorus that will have you clapping your hands with the beat and then clapping for applause when it ends- this song is awesome!!!

“Rebel Soul” gets back to what Kid Rock is all about- you can’t contain him- you can’t box him in to one genre. I find it amazing that the critics want him to be what they want him to be. He likes all kind of music and pulls in these influences and turns into his own- what’s not to like? I like rock and roll, country, soul, rap and totally get where Kid Rock is coming from and believe me I am staying on this ride wherever it takes me. Put another quarter in the juke box and turn it up!!!

April 4, 2012

Album Review: “Amaryllis” by Shinedown released on March 27, 2012


Expectations always run high for a follow up album after the previous one basically catapulted this band into another stratosphere with its devouring pulsating power filled with raw emotion and highlighted by stunning ballads which basically added a whole new legion of fans to its following. Shinedown’s highly successful “Sound of Madness” caught the attention of many rock fans across the world who still didn’t know who they were even after their first two album releases while also picking up what I would call – the “Z-100” crowd, who basically think that “Second Chance” is their only great song. I don’t mean to polarize the different factions in such an extreme measure but I think you know where I’m coming from. Many fans were clamoring for a follow up and were wondering what was taking so long but I completely understood where they were coming from. They needed to ride the wave of “Madness” to the point they did because every single song on that album was a “hit.” But with success, expectations run high. Now Shinedown did release extra singles to “Madness” so it was not like we didn’t get some new songs from them over the last couple of years- “Junkies for Fame” and “Diamond Eyes” quickly come to mind but the anticipation for the March 27, 2012 release of “Amaryllis” was even more maddening because this date was given to all the fans at the beginning of the year and we had to wait almost another four months.

So now it’s here and you ask what I think? “Amaryllis” is a very good album- I would say 3.5 stars out of the ceiling of 5 stars. I think Shinedown (and most likely their label) realized that they picked up many more fans and set out to make this album to make sure that they maintained the interest of “both factions” by continuing with the same ingredients that went into the recipe for “Sound of Maddness.” In my opinion, it is missing that raw energy that was served up so well in “Madness” and this production is much more “polished” with many songs headed straight to “Z-100.” But there are songs that will grab you by the throat and not let go (see “Enemies” or “Nowhere Kids”) to make sure that the rock fan gets his/her fix while tunes like “Miracle” and the title track will ultimately draw in more of the general public. (This should make the record company happy because more of the general public means more profits for everyone). Ultimately for their next album, they will have to veer off down a new path so as to not become too predictable because settling into a crowded space with “today’s rock bands” that have that similar genre nailed down instead of staying ahead of the pack, would be a shame because I think this band has the talent to blaze its own trail. I feel now that are at a cross-road- I understand riding the “Madness” formula but just like when Soundgarden made their blockbuster- “Superunknown”- the follow up-“Down on The Upside” was too much like the former and ultimately led to their demise. I am not saying this is happening or will happen but you all know that I sit in the camp of having less of their songs headed to “Z-100.”

The album starts off in a blaze with the highly aggressive- “Adrenaline”- and right off the bat it is off to the races as this song is an instant wake up call as all the juices in your body are in motion trying to keep up with the pace of the guitars and drums. Brent Smith is the best rock singer out there today-period end of story- and he takes the bull by the horns in the very first song to let everyone out there know that he is taking no prisoners. Who has more passion than Brent? Again- he makes you feel part of every song. This track hits you over the head and my only request would be that they give the lead guitarist more time for a solo. “Bully” is going to be one of their classic’s-yes it has grown on me to the point that when I hear the opening notes, it already seems like it has been out for years. Not only does it serve an area that needs so much attention, the music behind it is stellar. The best part of the song comes at the 2:50 mark when Brent takes his vocals to another level and professes that –“it’s 8:00 a.m…the hell I’m in…your voice is strong…now right the wrrroooonnngggg!!!!.” I have never understood the mindset of a bully and hopefully this song will help be part of the awareness (and ultimately a stop to this cruel treatment of human beings) that is sorely needed. I love the children’s choir in the background- perfect touch. The title track is a mesmerizing song that puts me in a park lying in the grass as I watch the birds fly freely in the beautiful blue sky backdrop. This band has a way of making some of the most “chaotic” songs and then transition into a tranquil setting where you look around and say “what just happened?” Now for the die-hard rock fan it’s probably frowned upon but I love it. I know it’s the formula but I am drinking the cool aid right now and for the first three tracks I am thinking they have another “Madness” on their hands.

Track # 4- “Unity”- is destined for stardom and I can picture this becoming a staple of their upcoming live shows as there will be many hands up in the air swaying back and forth as there is a clear message from Brent and the boys about loving each other as they want all of us to live in harmony. And who doesn’t want that? I have to say that I do like the song but it just may be too much for my sweet tooth to take-sort of like when I was a kid and there was this candy where there was a stick like that was used to sweep up this grinded sweetness that was so sour when I put it in my mouth it made my eyes tear but for some reason I kept eating it. Do you know what I mean? I think the band realized that it was getting too sweet and track #5 goes back to the anger just to keep the original fan of this band from running out the door with the powerful –“Enemies.” The beginning of the song sounds a lot like something that Nickelback would do and the pace is heavy as the head-banging is back in full force. I love the chorus-“who do you think you are?…tearing us all apart…where did you think you could go…cause every one already knows it’s 20 to 1.” The drumming is excellent is this song and at one part it sounds like he is playing on top of garbage cans (now you can stop criticizing Lars for “St. Anger.”). “I’m Not Alright” takes it back down again and could be the best track on the entire album. It starts off with a feel like a marching band that takes the lead at a parade, it flows nicely mixing in what sounds like electric bagpipes- if there was such a thing- with a sing out loud chorus- “I like to stare at the sun and think about what I’ve done…I lie awake in my great escape…I like crossing the lines…maybe it’s me, I’m just crazy.” I think we have all said that at some point(s) in our life. The lyrics on this entire album run deep and again that points to the passion that Mr. Smith embodies- he makes you feel every word.

“Nowhere Kids” kick it back into fifth gear as that familiar sound like “Devour” rumbles into your headset with sheer power but parents beware- the “F” bomb is loud and clear on this track. (Not sure why the parental warning was not stickered on to this CD). This will get the “mosh-pit” spinning in circles looking for bodies to hit- for some reason I can picturea 21st century “Peanuts gang” (who dance with their necks and nose pointed to the ground) bouncing their chests into each other while Snoopy shoots down the Red Baron with renewed vigor. This will be a fun song to hear at their live shows, the crowd is going to go wild. Then at the drop of a dime, the album turns back to the “feel-good-arm-waving-swaying from side to side” as “Miracle” is destined for stardom, a la “Second Chance” and will be on Z-100 in no time. I kind of think the song sounds a lot like “I Own You” from “Madness” albeit with a different chorus but the verses are a slowed down version of this tune, at least in my opinion. It is a little too “commercial” for me but again if the formula works. “I Will Follow You” is the most unique song on the album and actually has an “R&B” feel to it- I almost feel like Brent should have just sung along with just the piano. This song tells me that they have the ability to change up the formula in the future although this production is “majestic” and maybe just a bit too big. But there is no denying that the song is good and Brent shines brightly with his unbelievable vocal prowess. In my opinion, the next two songs near the end of the album doesn’t really end on a high note as they sort of feel like- dare I say- “fillers?” “For My Sake” is a good song but being honest it doesn’t stand out, sort of blends in with the album and could be one that I might skip over. “My Name [Wearing Me Out]” is another good song but again it doesn’t make me stand up and pay attention. You know I love this band but I have to be honest, it doesn’t take away from their talent. The album ends on a high note with the stunning “Through The Ghost” which pulled me back in and it felt like a breath of fresh air. When Shinedown takes it down, there aren’t too many other bands out there that can compete with them and with no offense to the members of the band but it has to do with Brent Smith’s vocals. He will put you in a trance and make you put your hands over your heart as you lip sync to his every words as your face will squint with the passion that is injected by Mr. Smith. This is the perfect way to end the album.

“Amaryllis” is a very good album which many will say is their best effort to date and others will wonder what road Shinedown will take after this work because in my opinion, they are at a cross-road in their career where “commercialism” may take over and alienate their original fan base. For every rock band it is a double edge sword- you want more fans and sometimes that means grabbing more of the “general” public and ultimately more publicity but on the other hand sometimes a band loses sight of what brought in their original fans and this could lead to many leaving the flock. This album has some great songs that makes it a “buy” in my book but I will put a buyer beware to it- there are also some highly polished commercialized songs that pulls them back to the middle of the pack, instead of leading the charge. I do feel they are in this for the long haul and right now they are coasting nicely from the success of “Madness” but we all know that going to the well one too many times could temper things, no?

March 2, 2012

Concert Review – Van Halen at Madison Square Garden Thurs. Mar. 1, 2012

Concert Review – Van Halen at Madison Square Garden on Thurs. Mar. 1, 2012

“The Way Rock and Roll Is Supposed to Be”

Van Halen conquered Madison Square Garden for the second time this week as they brought down the house last night with a combination of tight explosive musicianship from the Van Halen trio and if there is a better showman than David Lee Roth, someone needs to let me in on that ultimately kept secret. Mixing in some of their new songs from their solid album-“A Different Kind of Truth”- along with what Diamond Dave stated-“we’re pulling out the classics tonight” the Garden faithful were treated to a journey down memory lane with some deep cuts but were also reminded that this version of Van Halen still has a lot left in the tank as some of the new songs seem to take the audience by surprise and even though many did not know the words to the new offerings, there was no denying that classic Van Halen sound that we all have become accustomed to and love. As my son’s and I (yes another one of my dreams was fulfilled last night) were leaving the Mecca last night there were many “wow’s” from the audience members as we trickled down the staircase that never seemed to end while someone else was overheard stating that “they were even better than I expected.” That brought a huge smile to my face as I looked over to my boys and they were just as blown away as the rest of the fans despite my “pre-game” hype which started in early January after purchasing the tickets. I could have done damage by building up the excitement on a daily basis by basically counting down the days, hours and minutes (like I do in our household for Christmas) until the gates of our destiny opened but despite my zaniness, my younger son asked as soon as the show was over- “Can we go see them again?” Van Halen showed everyone how rock and roll is supposed to be and from the looks on many of the young faces around (no doubt offspring from the original Van Halen fans) who experienced both a drum solo and guitar solo probably for the first time in their concert going experience picked up a whole new fan base who can now say they have seen the best live band in the history of hard rock.

For anyone who knows me and my love of Van Halen, my vote would have been to make this week a National holiday season to celebrate their coming to their “second” home at the Mecca known as Madison Square Garden (found out earlier this year that Dave grew up near Indianapolis and of course the Van Halen’s are from California). Like I mentioned my two son’s were going-they had no choice- and I informed my wife that even though it was a school night-they were going, so basically after waiting patiently (yeah right) for them to complete their homework right after school we embarked on our journey to New York. Of course I had two self made CD’s that contained 42 Van Halen songs from each of their seven albums blasting for most of the car ride into the city. We did our pre-game ritual of attending the best pizza place in New York-“Freddie’s and Peppers”- and then jumped on the #2 train to enter the land of Oz. Of course you know we were there at 6:30 p.m. despite the fact that Kool & Gang were set to be the openers at 7:30 p.m. Yes that’s right- Kool & The Gang and you know what? They were fantastic and even though the genre’s are different I think the one thing that struck me which they share with Van Halen is their love of music and they performed like they were playing in their garage and it didn’t matter to them if it were 10 people watching or 10,000 in the audience, the music is in them and it shined brightly. Their mixture of R&B, funk, pop and pure dance music made for a most entertaining set and despite initial reservations from my kids, they were pleasantly surprised on how good these guys were. And everyone in the world knows at least one Kool & The Gang song, right? C’mon- “Ladies Night” or “Celebration?” The band worked it, there was a surprising guitar solo, they had the horn sections, two drummers, keyboardist and a bass guitarist, along with singing and dancing that just put a smile on your face.

As Kool & Gang exited and asked the crowd if they were ready for Van Halen and David Lee Roth, I could feel my skin crawling. It was getting closer and I couldn’t take it any more, I wanted Van Halen. The 35-45 minute break to set up the stage seemed like an eternity to me. I watched as the roadies set up the stage, they applied and seemingly nailed in an approximate 17 foot piece of hardwood floor about 7 feet wide like someone forcing in a piece of a puzzle to make it fit. The focus of the crew was this piece of wood as the middle of the stage up a few feet held Alex Van Halen’s massive drum set with black and white speaker stacked two and half high were lined up about 5 sets on both sides of his drums. Set behind these speakers were more powerful and there was this huge black screen behind the stage that (as Dave mentioned) was like those old “drive-in” places that used to show movies outdoors. As it started to get closer to 9:00 p.m. I noticed one of the roadies applying what looked like baby powder sprinkling it very carefully over this plywood floor. Then the lights went out except towards the front of the stage and I thought it’s going to happen now but maybe done purposely we waited with bated breath as the annoying song (it could have been good but I wanted it done) continued to play the instrumental composition. I grabbed my younger son’s head with my hand like I was palming a basketball (which I can not do) and squeezed and said I want it!! Then it happened I saw a figure dart across the stage headed up to the drum set and I saw the sun glasses and knew it was Alex. He was getting in the driver’s seat and turned on the switch to start the engine known as Van Halen as the ever popular-“Unchained”- begins. I see Wolf dart across the stage and stands to the right of his uncle up a few steps to get closer as the oil that churns this machine awaits the gas to ignite the engine into overdrive. There they are- Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth take a leisurely stroll up the steps and on to the stage as the huge riffs to “Unchained” are blaring from every orifice of The Garden. Right off the bat all you see are smiles, Eddie is smiling Dave is well just Dave. Is there anyone cooler than Mr. Roth? I look over at my boy’s and they are air-guitaring just like me- “You say… I can not get there from here baby…then I don’t care where I’m going”- the crowd in unison helps out Dave right off the bat (and yes there were times that he needed a little assistance from the audience and yes he also received superb assistance from Wolf and Eddie on background vocals- they sounded great). As the first song came to an end I felt like I was having an outer body experience as I could not believe that I was there with my own son’s watching the same band that I did when I was my oldest son’s age-17. I watched in amazement as Dave walked around on stage looking around the entire Garden while taking in the huge hug from the entire building.

As “Running with the Devil” begins I am waiting to hear Wolf’s bass part which is so deep and pulsating that one could feel their own chest thumping with every strum of his guitar. He has arrived and like I said he must be practicing on his singing because the background vocals were spot on and at one point during the show Dave walked over to him and said “I told you it would be better the second time around.” As “She’s the Woman” begins the audience is rocking out but don’t really recognize the tune-of course my boys and I know it because their new album has been playing since its release in our house, car or wherever a noise can come out and we are rocking out in unison like ZZ Top with a third leg. Eddie is lights out and Alex and Wolf are there every step of the way and as the song comes to a crashing halt I knew right there that this was going to be another night of pure ecstasy- the party was on and there was no letting up. Then they pull out the next to last song on “Diver Down” with the deep cut-“The Full Bug”- I couldn’t believe my ears, I nearly jumped to the top of the Garden roof (we weren’t that far the top so believe me I might have had a shot-no matter we were in the building). Eddie’s guitar was ablazing as Dave blared out-“Ah precious sweetheart…woman all you want is good as it can get” and I felt like I was back in my bedroom as a teenager with this song blasting so all the neighbors could hear it and now I had 16,000 neighbors jamming with me.

Then the song I was waiting for-“Tattoo”- yes that song again. By the end of the song even my youngest son who scoffed at the recording said that seeing it live made it better. Folks, it was so good to see them up there having fun while singing-“Swap meet Sally…Tramp stamp tat…mousewife to momshell in the time it took to get that new tattoo…tattoo…tattoo.” Eddie’s solo was off the charts as he was the entire night, I was so glad that my boys were able to witness one of the greatest guitarists of all time and he was so on. Then it was my oldest son’s opinion to be changed as he was not a big fan of “Everybody Wants Some” but after seeing it live, he said his was impressed with the song- now coming from him, that’s big so again I was happy. Now I remember the days when Dave would go on and on while the rest of the band would basically take an at least 20 minute break and this time around, unlike in 2007, the Diamond man did talk more to the audience but it was a more mature and condensed version of his story telling ability. As the evening progressed I was taken back more than a few times to the early 1980’s as such classics as “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” and the not too often heard “Hear About It Later.”

Without question as with every one of their shows one of the highlights are the solos by both Alex and Eddie. Alex did this amazing skit with a twist of “latin-tinged” almost jazz like solo that displayed another side to his massive talent as being one of the best drummers to have ever walked this planet. What else can be said about Eddie? Some call him a magician and you would not hear any arguments from me, I know nothing about playing guitar but I know it’s something special when ever he is on. So what were the other highlights of the show you ask? Basically from “Hot For Teacher” until the end of the show every song was a “show stopper” with audience participation coming from every section of the Garden whether it was head-banging, air-guitaring or singing along to some of the best songs ever recorded. And I definitely agree with Dave’s statement that the ending of “Hot For Teacher” has to be the best endings to a song in the history of rock music, it’s hard to argue against it. They performed “Women In Love” so unbelievably good that I thought the original recording was on, so please no more about the back-ground vocals, OK? Then I think I came out of my skin as the beginning riffs to “Outta Love Again” took off- can you believe that? “Outta Love?” – Are you kidding me? I was so high above the clouds while Wolf was playing that classic bass line that I never wanted the moment to end and even my oldest son took notice as he keenly pointed out that even Eddie’s solo was played with such precision, it was jaw-dropping. There was a break in the action as the Van Halen’s left the stage and Dave came out with a acoustic guitar as the backdrop screen depicted a dog first rounding up some sheep and then some cattle as he informed the audience that the dog was his and he loved the outdoors. As I looked to my right I could not see my oldest son so I looked down and there he was –almost sitting down- my heart almost stopped as I picked him up from his shirt and stood him up- there will be no sitting down on the job. After the short story on dogs, Dave strummed the familiar chords to “Ice Cream Man” while singing about summertime. We all knew what was coming- the audience could see the Van Halen’s entering the stage-almost like when a basketball coach sends in replacements to the court-as they stood and sat and waited and then there it was the electrifying engine of Van Halen as they ripped through one of their best covers ever. My youngest was mesmerized and couldn’t believe how good they were performing it. By this time, one of my long dreams had been fulfilled as I could see the same expressions on their face that I had some 30 years ago.

“Panama” -always a crowd pleaser did not disappoint as usual as the pitch of the crowd was at an all-time high and you could feel it-I don’t know how to describe it-but you have to feel it. During the song the overhead lights flashed at unbelievable speed which had the effect of feeling like a spaceship was making its landing on the stage as we could barely make out the four figures on stage which for me took the show to another level. There would be no leaving the stage and coming back for encores as the band just stayed on to play their staple-“Ain’t Talking About Love”- which pushed the excitement to a level that can’t be topped by many bands out there today. This is “old school” at its best and I couldn’t wait for my boys to see the entire Garden raise their fists up to the sky and in unison push three times into the air while everyone screaming- “Hey, Hey, Hey!!!” There it was- the bright lights shined upon the audience and I was close to tears, this moment couldn’t be topped. The night ended with the now loved “Jump” as confetti was skyrocketed into the air and the band was completely covered. Dave came up from the back of the stage with this huge flag that is used for car races and as he struggled to wave the checkered flag I could sense a source of accomplishment on his part. There were no words to be spoken, that moment signified to me just how far this band has come. Again just the moment needed to be treasured especially from a Van Halen fan like myself who waited nearly a quarter of a century to see them the first time in 2007 and now in 2012 to see it with my own two son’s has to make it the best night that I have ever seen Van Halen. This is a night I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you Eddie, Alex, Dave and Wolf, you all made a dream come true and I am looking forward to the next chapter. Hey I have a young nephew that needs to see the dream. Keep rockin’ fellas!!!!

Set List

1. Unchained – (Fair Warning)

2. Running With The Devil – (VH I)

3. She’s The Woman – (A Different Kind of Truth)

4. The Full Bug – (Diver Down)

5. Tattoo – (A Different Kind of Truth)

6. Everybody Wants Some – (Women and Children First)

7. Somebody Get Me a Doctor – (VH II)

8. China Town – (A Different Kind of Truth)

9. Hear About It Later – (Fair Warning)

10. Oh Pretty Woman – (Diver Down)

11. Alex Drum Solo

12. You Really Got Me – (VH I)

13. The Trouble With Never – (A Different Kind of Truth)

14. Dance The Night Away – (VH II)

15. I’ll Wait – (1984)

16. Hot For Teacher – (1984)

17. Women In Love – (VH II)

18. Outta Love Again – (VH II)

19. Beautiful Girls – (VH II)

20. Ice Cream Man – (VH I)

21. Panama – (1984)

22. Eddie’s Guitar Solo

23. Ain’t Talking About Love – (VH I)

24. Jump – (1984)

February 10, 2012

Album Review: A Different Kind of Truth By Van Halen

Album Review: “A Different Kind of Truth” by Van Halen released on Feb. 7, 2012.

A Different Kind of Truth

“Yes We Did Miss You and You’ll Never Realize How Much…Thank You For Coming Back! (And Yes, We Really Mean It)”

Update: I want to take the opportunity to say that in no way did I mean to disparage Michael Anthony’s contributions to Van Halen- just the opposite- his vocals and bass playing were second to none. I guess I let my frustration about people not getting on board with this version of Van Halen because the backing vocals were not as good now, I totally get it. But again, this is as close to the version that the die-hard Van Halen fan knows is the only one that they want. I love the Hagar years as well but there is something about the Diamond Dave years (and hopefully years to come) that  is the most special. So admittedly the backing vocals do take a hit but again I think more from a live perspective than anything else.

Van Halen is back and yes there has been some shuffling of the members but if you were a fan of this Hall of Fame band back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s like I was, then you know that this is what Van Halen is supposed to be. Ok, yes it does seem unfair that Michael Anthony is not here with his “brothers,”- I get it. However, they “kept it in the family” and brought in their son/nephew –“Wolfie”-and now the already powerful steam engine of Eddie and Alex has received a new sparkplug. Can you find me a family trio who posses more musical talent than the Van Halen’s? Let me ask you this- have you ever heard of a family asking a non-relative tenant to move from its apartment because the landlord’s “kin folk” needs a place to live? (I thought so) Now with respect to Diamond Dave- again if you are a core Van Halen fan- there is no one better suited to be the vocalist than him and we all know it. I’ll ask another question- has anyone out there ever been in a squabble with a family member? (I thought so). So now this revised unit has put forth its best effort to release “A Different Kind of Truth” and maybe it’s me but a lot of what I have seen so far is negative comments coming in every direction from the professional “critic” down to the surly I-Tune reviewers who probably have only listened to the one minute and thirty second sample of the songs and easily dismiss the effort. Hence, I am hear to address the complaints on behalf of “generation X’ers” who probably don’t even know these criticism’s exist (nor do they probably care) and probably wouldn’t take to the web like I am to defend (can’t believe I just said that) this legendary band.

First, I will refer you to this notion that a band can’t use riffs or licks that may have been done a while back but never made it out of the vault. Hmmm… is it me or has there been multiple releases of Tupac material since his unfortunate death or “new” Beatle songs despite both John and George not being around? Name one band or artist that sounds totally different from one album to the next? It’s hard to do, isn’t it?

Second, I need to address the perception that the background vocals have taken a huge hit since Michael is no longer in the band. Seriously? With all the technological advances that the music industry has made for making most anyone’s voice sound professional, (see Milli Vanilli) don’t you think they can make the same type of vocal sound which appeared on every Roth led album prior to this effort? I defy you to point out Michael Anthony’s vocals in any of their first six records that he was on and tell me you hear a difference on “Different Kind of Truth.” It’s probably more apparent at the live shows than on recordings. Anyways, if that’s your beef then you are just picking at straws.

Third, David Lee Roth’s vocals are not as good as it was before. Well yeah what do you expect 28 years later? However, we are not talking a huge drop-off-admittedly he can’t hit the same high notes/screeches as he did when he was in his 20’s but can Brian Johnson from AC/DC reach the same tone now as he did on “Back in Black?” What the Diamond man brings to the table as a showman more than makes up for the moderate range decline and he just flat-out exudes “coolness!” Is there anyone more comfortable in his shoes than Mr. Roth? He interjects his naturally timed “talking moments” inside so many songs (see “As Is”) like no other rock singer has ever done. And for someone who is now closing in on his 60th birthday, I guarantee you he is in better shape than most who are at least 25 years younger. His moves are effortless and to this day there has never been a more acrobatic front man.

Lastly, I need to address all the negativity surrounding the release of their first single- “Tattoo.” I’ve seen conspiracy theories written – one that said that the Van Halen clan purposely released this song first to make David Lee Roth look bad- what? Really? Aren’t all their names and input on every song on the album? I’ve read that this song is so terrible and it shouldn’t have been included on the album. Am I the only one on the planet that loves this song? Call it cheesy and all I have to say is that cheese is made from milk and is a necessary part of nearly everyone’s diet. Of all the “cheesy” songs on the radio these days this is the one that you are going to attack? Let me ask one question- do any of them have a blistering guitar solo from the genius named Eddie Van Halen? (I thought so). Is it any more pop than “Jump?” Hey -there is not one note from a piano, organ or synthesizer on the entire album and yet there are still cat calls from the balcony? What do you want? The song is pure fun and when you see the video you can’t tell me they aren’t having fun. I want to have fun! Metallica can have “Until it Bleeds” (which I like) and you’re complaining about “Tattoo?”

Now with all that out of the way (there is more but I need to move on) I will say that “A Different Kind of Truth” is a good album- I would give it a three-star rating out of the typical ceiling of five stars. The more you turn it over, the more it will grow on you. The first thing that will instantly hit you is the incredible guitar playing by Eddie- he hasn’t lost a thing- there are so many blistering moments here that I believe there will be some who will think (and they wouldn’t be wrong) that this is his heaviest moment ever in Van Halen, any rendition of Van Halen. At every step of the way is his brother matching his brother’s scorching riffs with his thunderous pounding of the skins (always seems like there are at least two other drummers on the recordings helping him make that sound) which solidifies his position as one of the all-time great drummers in modern rock history. Then on to Wolfie- if you learn from the best don’t you think he is going to be great? I guarantee you that even though he is young, he pushes his father and uncle to another level and not just because of the excitement of having your own offspring in the same band but because of his talent he possesses already (and you know will only get better as he gets older). Finally what else can I say about David Lee Roth? Like I said, his screams are not as high as they were on “VH II” but again he more than makes up for it with his experience. I would equate it to like being Randy Johnson, the former major league pitcher, who in his younger days could sling it faster than most anyone on the planet and when he “seasoned” he learned how to pitch. That’s what Dave does here- he may not be able to blow you away with his fastball but he can definitely put it under your chin and make you stand up and take notice. It’s impossible to not know when David Lee Roth is in a room and he is all over the room on this album- it is the “truth.” There are some “instant classics” on this album (see “Outta Space” and “Big River”) which is worth the price of admission. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s as good as their debut or VH II but for those out there who scoff at Diver Down, then maybe this is your album.

Ok well you already know how I feel about Tattoo, it’s really not as bad as everyone is making it seem- I love the chorus- “swap meet Sally…tramp stamp tat.” Moving on. Track # 2-“She’s The Woman”- picks up the edge and pace while conjuring up images of the early 1980’s when this band was at the top of the world. There really can’t be any complaints here, right? I love the line-“Got a door bell sign says bring it or don’t ring it!” Listen carefully to Eddie throughout his rollercoaster ride with the way the guitar works the entire thrill while Alex is letting the world know that he means business. The song is short but packs a powerful punch. “You and Your Blues” actually starts off like a Hagar led song but quickly turns back to Roth leading the party. I will point you in the direction of the background vocals on this track and tell me you hear something really missing. This is a bluesy type of track with glimpses of muscle guitar while the groove accelerates at certain points but then comes back down to the calm of a spring morning. “China Town” starts off with a guitar sound similar to Skrillex and then quickly turns into a head-banging affair with Alex, Wolf and Eddie leading the charge as the engine starts to roar. As I listen I am kind of shocked at the heaviness of the song and when Eddie bursts into his solo it is the equivalent to someone knocking down a closed door with a massive kick. Wow the first four songs have blown by and the door is already off the hinges.

“Blood and Fire” takes it down a bit and admittedly it may not be one of their best efforts but at the 2:27 mark is what I love best-“I told you I was coming back…Say you missed me”- and Eddie’s guitar solo makes up for the song’s shortcomings. “Bullethead” brings everyone back to the mosh-pit and the head-banging comes back with breakneck results as the family engine drives this truck through the barricades (like when Rambo does in First Blood). Eddie blazes his way yet through another impressive solo and one wonders what this band would have been if it always had Roth, it seems Diamond pushes Eddie to another level, for whatever reason(s). “As Is” is definitely one of the highlights of the album and if you are a tried and true Van Halen fan this song has to put a smile on your face. It has everything you were used to- Roth antics with his talking points, great background vocals and of course the Van Halen clan thrashing away like no other family band can. As Diamond says- “little more volume”- turn it up and bang your head, it’s the only way. “Honeybabysweetiedoll”- OK it’s a silly name as Eddie brings back that Skrillex sound (or did Skrillex get it from Eddie?) and I am still not sure if I totally love this track, it definitely keeps my interest throughout but I’m still trying to decide which road I’m leaning towards. I do know that if no one is around and I put the volume up as loud as it can get, I like it a whole lot more. Eddie is all over this tune and it’s almost like a psychedelic out of space song where I waiting for the “danger” word to be spoken. I totally love the dog bark towards the end of the song, very cool touch. “The Trouble With Never” is a total kick in the pants track where Eddie’s work has to make you stand up and pay attention even if you don’t like Diamond Dave’s “talking points.” When I hear songs like this it further solidifies his legacy as an accomplished guitarist but at the same time you wonder what they have been doing for the past ten years or so. This song was just a warm up as the blazing “Outta Space” takes you away like those old Warner Brother cartoons where the coyote would somehow get himself tied up to a rocket that would blast off to space while the roadrunner disappeared into the desert. All I have to say is “Wow”-if you don’t think this song is worthy to be on their set list for their upcoming tour, then I give up. Eddie is on another level while Alex makes me want to dance around in circles for hours- are you looking for a workout song? Look no further, I can picture the recently departed Joe Frazier with a set of headphones on pounding away on the punching bag quickly becoming a Van Halen fan-who knows maybe he was? Phew, you will be sweating after you rewind this track a few times but it’s worth it!!! \m/ \m/

Now with “Stay Frosty” most will probably head to hit the “skip” or “next” button on whatever system they listen to this album, but give it a chance. I know the beginning is tough and if you can get by all the “uhh ahh uhh’s” by Diamond Dave and focus on the groove after it picks up you will be blown away again by Eddie’s expertise on the guitar-just incredible. My wife said she didn’t know what “stay frosty” means and I had no answer for her, anyway the musicianship is so friggin’ tight and you will be air-guitaring in no time. “Big River” is an instant classic in my opinion as this incorporates every aspect of that “vintage Van Halen” that we all have grown to love. The bridge where Dave says –“look both ways now”- kicks it into overdrive as Eddie takes the wheel and the smoke coming from underneath the screeching tires will leave a mark as the blazing guitar riffs are spellbinding. This could have appeared on VH1 or VH2, ‘nuff said!! The album ends on a decent track called –“Beats Workin’”- it sort of reminds me of “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” (but not as good as that track). Dave seems to be trying too hard on this one as he seems to be screaming throughout much of the song and tries to stay at a high tone pitch that he could have easily hit years ago. The rest of the Van Halen’s musicianship keeps you holding on and again not a bad song but not one of their best efforts.

“A Different Kind of Truth” is like a classic 1970’s Ford Mustang car that sits with a perfectly fitted cover in the garage for the most part but any time you take it out for a ride the shiny chrome grabs the attention of car lover’s and even those who are not. The car can still kick it into gear every once in a while and “spin-out” at the end of a vacant street and you think “wow what a car” but maybe stalls at the next Stop sign but no one is there to witness that occurrence; so you jump out and clear out the cob webs from underneath the hood and slam the it down for extra coolness and pray that it starts up again. Not surprisingly you make it home and before you put it back in the garage you wax it down for all the neighbors to see before you put that cover back on it. And just like that old neighbor would say to you-“Get away from that car”- because it’s a classic. Same with Van Halen- you know it’s a classic and there’s no reason to nit pick when the majority of the body of work is extraordinary. My advice is to take “A Different Kind of Truth” out for a spin every now and then. You and your neighbors will have a grin from ear to ear.

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