The day I went to see Sufjan Stevens happened to also be the day I closed on my house. Nope, I didn't plan that, it just happened to work out like that. My primary residence at the time was downtown Seattle, and I was taking the bus everywhere. So right after I closed on the house, I headed straight for the bus stop and went back downtown. Fortunately I ended up making it in time for this show to start, though just barely. I sat almost at the very back of the Paramount, which is by far the furthest back I've ever sat there, but it turned out to be still a pretty good seat. The opening act was certainly strange, Helado Negro. This was a man who performed hypnotic electronic music while being sandwiched by two people dressed as golden pom-poms, swaying around slowly. He wasn't bad, actually. But then the main act came on stage, Mr. Sufjan Stevens. He was one very depressed individual, seeming to be surprised somewhat that so many people had come out see him. He was apologetic for not playing too many of his old songs—preferring to stick mainly to selections from his latest album, Carrie & Lowell. Some of those songs are quite beautiful in their ways, but... maybe... that album is a bit overbearing for me. Nevertheless, going to see Stevens in concert, I indeed confirmed that he is basically a modern-day Paul Simon, except he forgot to take his meds. He acknowledged that a good portion of the crowd probably wouldn't have been there had it not been for his decade-old Illinoise, and he played a handful of those songs during the encore. I was particularly happy he played “Chicago,” even though his rendition of it was way more low-key than the original was—I suppose to make it blend in a little better with Carrie & Lowell.
This was the second time I'd seen this act, the first time being in October 2012 when I—instead of going to them play in Seattle—decided to make a vacation out of it and see them in Portland. As with most things, the second time seeing them wasn't as exciting as the first. That was partly because they didn't change their act at all, and it wasn't as exciting this second time. It was also because this was an outdoors venue in the height of summer. When I saw them in that dark theater in Portland, I had noticed that so much of the appeal of their stage show hinged on their shadows being casted onto the wall behind them. At this outdoors venue in the height of summer, the sun was still out for most of the concert. They were still doing the same choreography that would project cool shadows on the wall behind them, but I just couldn't make them out. ...On the other hand, I did get to sit closer to the stage than I was in Portland, and that was pretty great, so just for that it was definitely worthwhile going to see them the second time. Annie Clarke inexplicably had dyed her hair blonde. (This, I guess, was right at the moment Clarke started going away from that brown mop we were all familiar with and started to routinely change her do.) The brass band was still there, and I enjoyed the conga line they did, as they performed “Wild Wild Life.” ...One of these days, I would love to see either of these two performers individually, as I generally think they're both better off in their own elements. (Clarke doesn't need an old man holding her back, and Byrne doesn't need a young woman preventing him from performing more fan-favorite Talking Heads songs. Also, Love This Giant, while a fine album, is hardly a shining beacon on either of their discographies.) Nonetheless, there was a reason I went to see this act again, and that was because I had so much fun at the first one. I also knew this partnership wouldn't last much longer, and it was worth soaking as much of that up as I could.
Los Lobos are a great rock band who, at the time I saw them, were up for induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. They didn't end up getting inducted, however, and to be honest I was pretty surprised they were even nominated in the first place. (I mean, considering major acts like The Moody Blues and Yes weren't even inducted yet, why should a band as relatively minor like Los Lobos get a spot?) Nonetheless, they did deserve the nomination, as they are a respectable outfit of talented musicians. This was the second time I saw them—the first being an opening act for Neil Young at Key Arena. This concert was at that small neighborhood venue, so I had a seat close to the stage, and the sound was divine. Also unlike the Neil Young concert, they played their hit this time during the encore, “La Bamba,” which was utterly thrilling. ...Now a confession: Despite having seen these guys twice in concert now, I was still unfamiliar with their work, and I didn't recognize any of the other songs they played. That was not the way things should have been, and I need to correct that.
I really enjoyed this concert, even though I couldn't shake the impression that these guys seemed really out of place on this stage. This was a good stage for a classy folk musician or a small classical music group. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were a country-rock band who seemed far more suited to perform on top of a haystack at a county fair. (Now, they were more classic country and bluegrass and didn't sound anything at all like Toby Keith, for instance.) I was also a little bit amazed that this band didn't have anyone playing a bass guitar. Instead, the keyboardist was playing the bass lines. So I really got a Branson vibe out of this. Nevertheless, this was a fun concert that I enjoyed thoroughly, particularly as they had a number of recognizable hits. Their version of “Mr. Bojangles” is the most famous one. They also had “Fishin' in the Dark,” which isn't my favorite song in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but it was still fun to hear. My favorite moments of this concert, though, was whenever John McEuen would break out the banjo. He should have just done that for the whole show! They also did a version of “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” a song I seem to run into an awful lot, and I never get tired of it. They also talked quite extensively about the history of this band, which was kind of interesting... I had no idea for instance that Jackson Browne had been a founding member, albeit he was only with the group briefly.
This was the first concert I had been to at a casino—and I believe it was even the first time I'd stepped foot inside of a casino. My impressions of casinos was that they had might as well be giant toilets to throw $20 bills into. Except that you don't get the amusement of watching them swirl down. (If there is anything fun about gambling, I wasn't about to open Pandora's Box, anyway.) I was also somewhat disoriented during this show—still somewhat bashful to go around to new venues. I was also very uncomfortable; the seats at this place were very close together and I happened to be sitting next to a body builder. Also, I was seated behind a woman who had way too much to drink, and she argued with people around her who were hushing. However, I was a huge Supertramp fan—in particular of Roger Hodgson's contributions to the group—and he absolutely loaded the set-list of everything I could have possibly wanted to hear. (The only thing missing, “Lord is it Mine.”) We got everything else, though: “The Logical Song,” “Give a Little Bit,” “Breakfast in America,” “School." There were also some songs that I liked hearing but wasn't as excited to hear but still appreciated, for instance "Fool's Overture." In other words, this was a pretty great pop concert. Hodgson's stage presence was as pleasant as could be, and his voice hadn't aged a bit.
Ian Anderson was pretty dorky, and I liked that about him. He came off much more like a theater professor than he did a rock 'n' roll star. Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I remember that he was wearing jeans and leather loafers. Come to think of it, I shouldn't have been surprised by that. He spent the first half of the concert playing material from his latest album, Homo Erraticus, which I wasn't familiar with at all, but it did sound like Jethro Tull. I enjoyed hearing them, even though they didn't really hook me in. (I wasn't inspired enough to buy the record after the show, I guess.) I remember being mesmerized by the video art playing in the background, as well as Anderson's entertaining, somewhat cartoony choreography throughout. I remember most of those songs had very British themes to them, which was piquing my interest at the time, because not even a week before this I'd returned from my first trip to England (where I went to see Kate Bush)! After intermission, Anderson came back and started playing the songs we really wanted to hear. And the song we wanted to hear more than anything else was “Aqualung.” As my dad pointed out after the show, that's the only Jethro Tull song with a decent guitar solo, and the guitarist Anderson was touring around with was completely spot-on. He also played “Locomotive Breath” during the encore, which of course was great. My wish was for Anderson to have played at least a small portion of Thick as a Brick, but I guess my psychic transmissions of song requests weren't working so well that evening. Instead he played through a portion of A Passion Play. He introduced the song quoting some reviews of it—that it was overblown and pretentious—but he was going to play it anyway! Erm... I like that album, actually, so I didn't mind. ...As a whole, I wouldn't say this concert thrilled me to pieces or anything, but it was great that I got the chance to see this prog legend.
To a large extent, this was the concert that started it all, the first I attended after graduating engineering school and had only recently started my career. At the time, I still hadn't even gotten my first paycheck, and I was still living at my parents' house. This was also the first concert I attended at that little community theater in Edmonds (which was about a 10-15 minute drive from my parents' house). I was surprised someone as renowned as Al Stewart would play at a place like that! I remember discovering that he was doing this show kind of by accident, while I was sitting in front of my computer clicking around on the Internet, in my little apartment in Pullman (I went to Washington State University). I e-mailed my dad about it, and we got the tickets. We ended up sitting in the balcony, but the theater was so small, the balcony provided an excellent view. Stewart didn't bring a band with him—just another acoustic guitarist named Dave Nachmanoff, who had stars in his eyes every time he spoke about Stewart. Stewart's roots were mainly acoustic folk music, so an extra guitarist was really more than he needed. This was quite an intimate concert, and he talked to the audience quite a bit, with his lighthearted humor. Of course he played his most well-known song, “Year of the Cat,” though he changed some of the lyrics to “I can't believe I'm still playing this song.” He also played “Time Passages,” since that's his other song that everyone knows. What I remember sticking with me particularly well was a rendition of his moody masterpiece “Roads to Moscow,” which I believe he said he didn't perform all that much in concert.
This was another concert that was spoiled somewhat by people around me talking. This time, it was somebody's wife who looked up from her book every once in awhile to ask her husband whether the song they were playing at the time was famous. Clearly she didn't want to be there. (So rude!) Also I was seated so far back at this outdoors venue that the sound came off rather garbled. Nevertheless, this was still the Moody Blues, so there couldn't be much else to complain about. Justin Hayward was there, the speck with long hair. He said he had lost the upper range of his voice a few days ago and couldn't quite make it through those soaring bits of “Nights in White Satin,” but it was still great to hear that song performed in person. The song that especially got my heart rousing, though, was “Steppin' in a Slide Zone.” I also remember Graeme Edge getting off his drum tower, declaring to the audience that he had just turned 70, and then getting rather raucous with a tambourine! Not even my distance from the stage could keep my wits repressed at that moment! Anyway, this might not have been the best way to have seen The Moody Blues, but this was one of those bucket-list acts I was happy to have been able to cross off. (I suppose I should still try to see them again, if I can get another chance, since there's a fair chance it will be even better.)
Apparently, The Manhattan Transfer were well-known, but I hadn't heard of them until I had a ticket to one of their shows. (They started in the late '60s and won a grand total of 10 Grammies during their tenure.) They are a vocal group, who sing mainly jazz and do-wop. They'd gotten some airtime in the late '70s for covering “Birdland” and “The Boy from New York City.” (The latter song brought back some deep childhood memories for me, since it is played during Home Alone.) Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the founding member of the group, Tim Hauser, who had passed away recently. It was so recent they hadn't even gotten around to updating the promotional photo in the pamphlet. Of course, they replaced him with someone of worthy vocal talent. ...I may not be a great fan of vocal jazz or do-wop, but these guys certainly had an affable stage presence, and I liked watching them. They had some well-polished, showy stage moves, and I left the place with my spirits raised high. They lead me to leave my cynicism behind for a little while, and I liked that. (Oh, my grandmother had died a few days before going this concert, so I appreciated that a little more than usual...)
This was one of the more unusual concerts at Edmonds Center for the Arts, because this was a young band. Moreover, I'd actually heard of them—while I was a college student, sitting in my apartment listening to all sorts of music, I put one of their songs from their debut album, “Cannonballs,” on one of my playlists. I hadn't known until going to this show that they were local to Seattle, though, and they were doing a mini-tour of the area at the time. (They said they played in Kirkland the night before, which was about a 20-minute drive.) The lead singer had a soft, charming, caramel voice, and it sounded beautiful on that little stage. Their latest album was Lines We Trace, which begins with a mesmerizing song called “Tides.” It's mellow and rather morose, but beautiful and wholesome. Really, everything else on that album is like that, and they somehow reproduced it to sound even better on stage. I suppose the flip side of that was they weren't the most exciting band on earth, but they did what they do well.
This concert happened when I somewhat randomly decided to take a vacation to San Diego. (My rationale for going to San Diego: I'd never seen a real live panda before.) While I was there, I figured I should see if there were any decent concerts I might be able to go to. Lo and behold, Willie Nelson was giving a concert nearby, and there were seats available! Now, I've never claimed to me much of a country-western fan, but I've at least grown to appreciate some of it. This was a funny concert venue. It was outdoors with the ocean and boats to my left and condos to my right and behind me, overlooking the stage. (I fantasized quite a lot about owning one of those condos!) Willie Nelson of course was quite old and frail at this point, and his voice wasn't nearly what it used to be, but he could still put on a reasonably good show. He toured with his family members, who were accomplished musicians in their own right. He played through his most well-known songs, “On the Road Again,” “Crazy,” and I did relish getting to hear him sing those in person. This had actually been the second time I saw Nelson in concert. The first time he was touring with Bob Dylan—and back then I refused to enjoy anything country-western, so I hadn't payed attention to what he was playing. Getting to see him this second time, it seemed like I finally got to redeem myself. ...My only complaint about this show is—once again—the obnoxious audience members. Many of them were drinking way too much, and they'd gotten to the point that they were belligerently mocking the venue employees who were trying to get them to stop dancing so stupidly in the aisles. (OK, actually, I also found that entertaining.)
This was the most wholesome concert I've ever been to. This was a group of African-American women who perform a cappella spirituals, like “Motherless Child.” ...When I was in middle school choir, I sang that song! That somehow brought back the best memories of middle school, and God knows there aren't too many of those. These ladies had fantastic voices—which of course is an expected requirement of people in a cappella groups, but that doesn't mean it still won't blow you away to hear them in person. ...But I guess with these guys, you don't necessarily even need the ability to hear to enjoy the show; one of their full-time members was a sign language interpreter. Their music was occasionally quiet, other times powerful, always passionate. Unlike the vast majority of concerts I go to, this one actually added to my brain cell count.
This was one of those concerts I went to in Edmonds that I felt way too young for. (I may be getting to a point in my life I need to start embracing those feelings, whenever they arrive.) These guys' mission was to bring back the low-key, exotic feel of 1930s jazz nightclubs, with airy melodies, twinkly pianos, and bubbly rhythms. At this particular tour, they had brought with them The von Trapps, who were four young people claiming to be descendants of that real-life woman who was played by Julie Andrews. Pink Martini and The von Trapps both wrote original music, as well as performed covers. They did a cheeky version of ABBA's “Fernando” with a rhythm section that was a little bit over the top, but still... any band that performs “Fernando” will usually get on my good side. The von Trapps also performed a few songs from Sound of Music, because I guess they had to. But I can listen to one of their sweet, original folk songs like “Thunder” or “Storm” and enjoy them about as much as breathing fresh air. In the Alps. Pink Martini's twinkly piano staples—which were sometimes sung in languages like French or Spanish—were of course pristine things. The lead singer, China Forbes, was nearly impossible to stop looking at. All in all, this turned out to be a surprisingly nice evening, even though it felt like I was way too young for it. (OK, what I am remembering now is there was an 80-ish woman sitting in the chair next to me who was dancing her shoulders.)
This was a Beatles tribute act. They weren't Beatles impersonators, since looking and acting like The Fab Four were not part of their game. As a matter of fact, they had more than four members, and one of them was a girl. They were just a group of people, mainly siblings, who were so ridiculously into Beatles music that it was a little bit embarrassing. In other words, they were my kind of people. They had a legitimately impressive gimmick that they could perform any Beatles song that you might request—it didn't matter what it was or how obscure it was. Before the show began, audience members were asked to provide a song request and write a statement why it was being requested. I attempted to troll them and requested “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number).” Regrettably, they didn't play it. I guess I didn't have a good enough paragraph. (But I think all I wrote was “It's great.”) Anyway, this was a night of listening to Beatles music; how could this be bad? Anything they played, it was guaranteed to be one of my favorite songs. I remember they played “Something,” “Back in the USSR,” “Paperback Writer,” “A Hard Days' Night,” “Eight Days a Week,” “A Day in the Life” (which was described on the song request as being reminiscent of sitting in a dim room slowly getting wasted), “Yesterday,” “Octopus's Garden,” “Twist and Shout.” Somebody in the audience requested “Matchbox,” of all things, and they nailed it. ...The one moment of the show that was at the same time hilarious and proved their dedication to their craft was a performance of “I'm So Tired” from The White Album. They were so precise that one of them mumbled the backwards nonsense at the end of the track.
When I went to this concert I remember thinking I was going to start this review with an observation that everyone on stage looked like Crypt People, and the only thing keeping them sentient and mobile was some kind of black pirate magic. Then I was going to predict that they would still be giving Yes concerts 50 years from then, as skeletons. ...But I waited too long to write this review. Since then, one of these musicians—the bassist Chris Squire—very sadly passed away. So whatever that joke was going to be, it wouldn't have worked anymore. (And yet, I started this review describing it anyway.) This had been the second time I saw Yes. They performed the entirety of their two most popular albums, Fragile and Close to the Edge. I am in agreement with everyone in the world that those are the best Yes albums. However, when musicians just perform albums that we know by heart in their entirety, doesn't it kind of spoil the surprises? I mean, I always know exactly what's coming next. ...It was still a fun concert, though. I continue to be baffled whenever I keep reading some people's opinions that these late-era Yes concerts were in any way substandard. How could they be, when they were clearly still able to perform their songs exactly the way I remembered them from the albums? The freakishly skinny Steve Howe—who was the closest thing the human race had ever gotten to an actual guitar-playing pirate skeleton—was able to recreate every single one of those complicated notes. And he looked like a mad genius as he was doing it. Chris Squire—rest in peace—looked absolutely bad-ass when he'd come on stage, wielding that double-necked electric guitar. ...OK, I wasn't sure why they were still keeping around that Jon Davison guy. My guess is he was pretty cheap, with his only demands being that they stop the tour bus once in awhile so that he could prance around in a flowery meadow. Anyway, they performed “I've Seen All Good People” in the encore, which was great. ...The venue employees were unfortunately annoying me throughout this show, as they kept on screaming at people who were taking pictures with their camera phones. ...Seriously, just let people take pictures.
I like ethereal Celtic music quite a lot, and here was a real, honest-to-goodness Celtic-folk band who gave me an entire evening full of that. And since Enya wasn't there, the main concentration was their instrument playing. That is, most of their songs were instrumental. There was an acoustic guitar strumming most of the time, and the melodies were taken on by complicated fiddle lines and Irish flutes. Someone even had a uilleann pipe, which was a kind of bagpipe. Nope, my eardrums had nothing to fear, for the uilleann pipes played softly. This was an incredibly pleasant, pastoral concert, and I witnessed some talented musicians on stage.
This was one concert that I think I should have enjoyed more, but I wasn't in the best of moods at the time. It was only a few days before this I managed to crash my car into another car, and I was at fault. Nobody was hurt, fortunately, but the experience shook me up quite a bit. I was feeling pretty sour about it. It also didn't help, at this concert, that I was sitting next to someone who was talking quite loudly throughout much of the show. She had the voice of a trumpet. But unlike that time I saw Bob Dylan also at the Paramount, when I was sitting next to someone who was incessantly talking, she at least had the decency to shut up (for 10 minutes) when people around her asked her to. ...Anyway the concert itself was quite good, and I'll have to go see her again whenever I get another chance. I was a fan of quite a few of the songs, particularly “This Tornado Loves You,” “Margaret vs. Pauline,” as well as one of her latest songs “Man.” However, she didn't play my all-time favorite song of hers, which was “The Needle Has Landed.” If she had sung that, it might have lifted me out of the dumps a little bit. But nooooo... all the other songs on her precious set-list were more important. ...Actually, Neko Case had some very funny stage banter, and she managed to crack me up once or twice. Which I definitely appreciated.
When I was living in downtown Seattle, I had a lot of fun going to concerts I probably would have skipped if I was still living in the 'burbs. Some of these shows managed to catch me off guard, and they moved me quite a lot. Others weren't quite so spectacular. Kina Grannis wasn't that spectacular. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the concert. She was a singer-songwriter with a pleasant voice, she seemed like a pleasant person, and she had an arsenal of pleasant songs. Was this worth standing in the middle of a crowded room to see, though? Perhaps not, but I can't say I'm worse off for going to this. ...Man, the place was packed. It was sold out. I arrived pretty late, so I only secured a spot in the back. However, the stage was perched quite high, so I didn't have much trouble seeing.
I told people at work I was going to see The Wailin' Jennys, and they all thought I was talking about Waylon Jennings. Which would have been pretty amazing, since Waylon Jennings was dead. ...However, The Wailin' Jennys were very much alive and kicking. They were a Canadian folk trio who had the ability to create beautiful and precise harmonies. Their songs could either be depressing or morosely pretty, depending on how you want to listen to them. I thought they were compelling performers, and I enjoyed the experience quite a bit, sitting back and hearing them play their warm folk songs. It was dark outside, but it felt like I was bathing in the sun.
Natalie MacMaster could play a mean fiddle and dance a jig. Often, she did so at the same time. Her music was classified as Celtic, but it sounded an awful lot like good old fashioned hoe-down music to me. She was a lot of fun to watch, anyway, and it was even fun listening to her talk in between tracks. She was very energetic and unapologetically likable. She toured with her entire family, including her husband who occupied the stage most of the time and was just as good of a fiddle player as she was. She also brought out her four kids, and they provided some memorable moments. There was one sequence where there was a video projected on the big screen depicting MacMaster as a child playing something on the violin—and her daughter—live on stage—played along with it. Their bows were completely in-sync. Then one by one other kids came on stage, also wielding violins. The kids just kept getting smaller and smaller. ...This was a cute concert, for sure. And I guess I wasn't feeling cynical about this, either, because I genuinely enjoyed it.
You know, it's a huge and powerful experience to ever see Nick Cave live. However, this was the second time I saw him, and I was quite a lot farther away from the stage—this time in the balcony. Simply put, the shock value of seeing the anti-world preacher had been warn off. Additionally, this was roughly the same show that I had seen a year earlier. ...As it was the year earlier, this was loud and incredibly intense. I can still remember hearing those thunderbolts during “Tupledo,” and jumping in my seat. The middle of the concert, he sang his somber piano pieces. Even though I probably would have gotten more into this if I were standing on the floor, it was interesting watching from a birds-eye perspective. I could see Cave start to hurl himself on the people who were crowding the front rows and holding their hands up. That was quite a thing to watch.
Here is one of the few pre-2011 concerts I've been to, and it was revolutionary the sense that it was the first concert I went to just for the heck of it. In other words, I was not required to go to this concert. (Am I a doomed person, or what, for thinking I have some kind of obligation to go to some concerts?) Of course things have changed since then. As you might have noticed, this page is filled to the brim of reviews for concerts that I went to just for the heck of it. Bucket-list acts on this page are merely exceptions to the rule. Anyway, I was still living in Wichita at the time, and I had to drive to Kansas City for this. Not too many big-time musicians chose to waste their time with Wichita, since that was the city precisely in the middle of no place. I sat somewhere in the back and on the upper levels in the stadium. It wasn't an especially huge stadium or anything. McLachlan had a cold at the time, and her voice was noticeably rough in spots. Nevertheless, she performed “Possession,” which was the only song of hers I loved at the time. All her other songs, I merely liked. Later on, I would start to love a few more of her songs. ...I did end up going to see Sarah McLachlan again almost a decade later, and I thought her later concert was quite a lot more fun. Or else I had simply morphed into more of a fan.
If only things could have been a little bit different, this concert would have appeared much higher on this list. This was a quiet, intimate concert, showing a gentler side of Bob Dylan than we normally get to see. (Normally, that is, he's rockin' unintelligibly.) Such a concept piqued my interest terribly, and I was eager to see this. I had a pretty great seat—about 20 or so rows back. My view wasn't obstructed by anything. ...What completely spoiled it was a man and woman sitting next to me who talked through the whole thing. I didn't get a great look at either one of these individuals. However, in my mind the man looked and acted exactly like Rob Lowe in Wayne's World, and the woman was drunk and mean, played by Juliette Lewis. There were no photographs allowed at the place—there were scores of venue employees to shine a flashlight in your face if you tried anything. Not only did these guys keep taking photographs, but they had their flash on! Oh man... and every time one of them took a picture, a venue employee leaned over me and started yelling at them. And they yelled back, belligerent as anything. They were also arguing with audience members nearby, who kept asking them to be quiet. ...Why do people like this even want to go to concerts? These tickets were $150 a piece. ...I heard the guy talk about how this had been the tenth time he'd seen Bob Dylan and how much of a fan of his he was. ...Man, I wanted to smack him in the face!!! ...So anyway, that completely ruined the show. Dylan didn't play too many old favorites, but the ones he did were good to hear, of course, whenever I could... “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” “She Belongs to Me.” The encore had “All Along the Watch Tower” and “Blowin' in the Wind.” He stuck mainly to material from his newer albums, particularly The Tempest. No, I didn't have a problem with him playing new material at all. I wish I could have paid more attention to them. (I was glad to see Charlie Sexton up there playing guitar, even though I randomly reviewed and lambasted two of the albums he released in the '80s, when he was a teenager and trying to get a pop career started. Sorry, Charlie. But he did get to go on tour with Bob Dylan, so he won in the end. Unlike me.)
When I saw Michael Nesmith, it happened to be the same day I finally got around to moving out of my parents' house and into an apartment. My apartment was on the third floor and there was no elevator. I moved almost everything myself, and my gams were aching. The great thing about The Neptune was that it was completely open seating. You could stand on the floor if you choose, or you could sit in the permanent chairs in the balcony. I headed straight for the balcony. (And then I noticed they put chairs on the main floor, which they only do occasionally. So, I could have moved a little closer, but—nah. I was cozy.) I noticed the audience there was quite different than most I see. Particularly as I noticed one woman sitting across the aisle from me was knitting. Of all the concerts I've been to, that was the one and only time I've ever seen anyone knit. ...Nesmith performed only one Monkees song, “Papa Gene's Blues.” He also performed “Different Drum,” which had been a hit single for The Stone Poneys. Other than that, he sang exclusively his solo stuff—which at the time I was completely unfamiliar with. However, a few of his songs resonated with me, particularly “Joanne.” My only complaint about this concert was his band seemed like they belonged on some kind of cruise ship. That isn't to say they were bad—I just thought, maybe, they could have picked it up a notch. And that piano player kept on grinning goofily and dancing his shoulders. Ugh! ...Anyway, I guess they were bound to get a little cheesy, considering they performed songs like “Rio.” (I did end up buying up Nesmith's solo discography after going to this concert, though, and I did manage to work up an appreciation for “Rio.”)
This is by far the most bizarre concert on this page. Because I saw it while I was at work. The venue also happened to be the world's largest building by volume in the entire world. So the acoustics in that place were crazy. If I could relive only a handful of concerts on this page, this would have to be one of them, just so I could pay better attention to the acoustics. ...This came as a surprise, by the way. My manager told me to report to the factory for a mandatory group meeting, and there was going to be a surprise musical guest. The last thing I expected was a musical guest I'd actually heard of! Granted, I wasn't a huge Steve Miller fan or anything, but I was getting paid to see something I normally pay to see, so I wasn't about to complain. Miller was pretty appropriate pick for Boeing, too, since his most famous songs were “Jet Airliner” and “Fly Like an Eagle.” The occasion for this, by the way, was the successful completion of the 747-8. We had to listen to a bunch of executives talk about that stuff. It's a pretty airplane, for sure, but they didn't end up selling too many of them. Oh well. Anyway, Steve Miller probably only played a half hour or so. They also played “Take the Money and Run” and “Abracadabra.” I can think of a few jokes to say about that, but I am going to keep my mouth shut.
I went to this mostly because I wanted to see Berlin. For whatever reason—while I was an engineering student doing some intense homework assignments—one of my favorite albums to put on the background was Berlin's Love Life. Unfortunately, I wasn't so greatly impressed with their live presence. The band was OK, but their sound wasn't nearly as smooth as the albums were. It was still fun to see Teri Nunn, though, who seemed like she wanted to be friends with everyone. ...INXS were the main attraction, and they indeed acted like it. They were a top-notch party band—everyone in the crowd was wild and on their feet. My eardrums were screaming by the time I got home. INXS might not have been on my shortlist of favorite bands (not quirky enough!), they did usher forth some euphoric moments, playing such memorable songs as “Suicide Blonde” and “New Sensation.” Of course the band's iconic lead singer, Michael Hutchence, wasn't there on account of death. However, his replacement J.D. Fortune, could work the crowd like a pro. ...Huh, I guess INXS called it quits soon after this, so it was a good thing I went.
This was only the third concert I ever went to, and it was one I had to attend. I mean, this was Bob Dylan, for pete's sake, and he was coming to Wichita! Nobody ever came to Wichita! ...And—bonus—Willie Nelson was there, too. Granted, country-western music was like poison to me in 2004, but I wasn't going to complain. Willie Nelson, after all, was world famous. I sat father away from the stage than I should have—sitting in a bleacher seat instead of the open floor area. I guess I was too bashful to get a ticket for the open floor. The venue was a little league stadium, and I was sitting next to people donning cowboy hats who were not afraid to express their disdain for Bob Dylan. However, they just loved ole Willie. ...Looking back at this, though, I can't really blame those hicks for thinking that. At the concert, Willie Nelson was smiling all the time and waving at everyone, and all of his songs were pleasant. Dylan, on the other hand, growled in the microphone like a buzzsaw and didn't acknowledge the audience much at all. ...I don't care, though: Bob Dylan will always be way cooler.
I might not have been the biggest Journey fan on the planet and—more than that—not excited whatsoever about seeing any incarnation of the band sans Steve Perry. However, this was a pretty fun concert, and the 20k-capacity venue was great! The venue's fatal flaw was that it sat on an Indian reservation, and the roads leading to it were clearly not built for such an influx of cars. When I thought we were going to arrive to the venue one hour early, we ended up missing the opening act entirely (Tower of Power). At least we arrived in time to see The Steve Miller Band, which was the main reason for going to the event. Of course he dished out a meaty serving of classic-rock goodness to everyone in the crowd. While Miller might not be among the major figures of rock, it proved to be impossible for the ears to say “no” to such familiar songs as “Fly Like an Eagle,” “The Joker,” “Take the Money and Run” and “Abracadabra.” He came off just as cool and classy as he should be, and his band was great. ...But the main event was Journey. Steve Perry might not have been with the group, but his replacement could sing almost exactly like him. Which was surprising, considering he was a tiny Filipino dude. These guys were exactly as loud as they should have been (which was ear-blistering) and their production was polished and flawless. “Any Way You Want It” blasting out at me was pretty incredible. “Wheels in the Sky?” Blew me away. “Lights?” Why couldn't I have had a cigarette lighter on my person? Even stuff I wasn't wild about, for instance things from Raised on the Radio, sounded pretty awesome there. ...We did leave before the set was complete just to avoid the traffic jams leaving that place, so I only heard “Don't Stop Believin'” from the parking lot, but... heck, that song even sounded great from the parking lot! It was great to see Neil Schon in person, as he was surely one of rock 'n' roll's preeminent flashy guitarist, and he delivered those kind of licks at the show with an umph. I would say all of this thing was a pure rush to the head, so braving the traffic jams to see Journey was worth it.
This was the third time I'd seen Natalie Merchant in concert, and in my mind, it was somewhat better than the rest. (I may be ranking her concerts on the lower spectrum of my list, but don't interpret that to mean I don't appreciate going to these shows!) Though my more favorable impression of this show might have been more related to other concerts I had been going to this particular week. This had been my third concert in a three-day period, and the two leading up to this happened to be two of the best concerts I'd ever been to in my life—King Crimson and The New Pornographers. This third day, therefore, was the perfect day to sit back and mellow out with Natalie Merchant & the Seattle Symphony. I think also, perhaps, her set-list marked a slight improvement from the previous concerts—though I don't know why particularly why I'm saying that, unless it simply had something to do with me being more familiar with the songs this time around. Perhaps I was even beginning to like them. “Beloved Wife,” “This House is On Fire,” “Life is Sweet” all were there. At the very end, the orchestra left Merchant, her guitarist, and pianist alone on stage. Without the orchestra to supervise, she started acting very silly. That was when she played “Kind and Generous,” which was probably her most famous song. Although she paused in the middle of the song to deliver some kind of rambling monologue that was about, among other things, Planet of the Apes.
This was one of those well-known bands that I had tried listening to on a few occasions but stopped after I couldn't figure out what the appeal was supposed to be. That is, I listened to one of their albums once, and I walked away from it kind of bored. Going to see them in concert might not have converted me into a bona fide fan, but I've at least come to appreciate them now. No, their melodies weren't strong enough to give my brain instant satisfaction like any Beatles song; however, I've found out that some of their songs could creep up on me if I listen to them often enough. Though I still haven't devoted a whole lot of time to doing that since going to this show, some day I might. ...As far as live concerts go, though, it was brilliant to be able to see them at that small, neighborhood venue that I go to all the time! Their vocal chops and harmonization abilities were top-notch, and when it came to playing their guitars, they were clearly no slouches. Their heavier songs could get some momentum going, and the quieter ones were poignant. They also had an affable stage presence, which added another layer of entertainment to the experience. No, I'm not an American Football fan, but they knew they would rile up the audience when they had adorned their stage with Seahawks banners. (The Seahawks were a few weeks away from appearing at Super Bowl 48 at this point in time.) What sticks in my mind more than anything about this concert was when somebody in the audience screamed “Free Bird” at them, and Emily Saliers replied “You'd better be careful; I might just play it.”
This was a classical group consisting of three sisters: a violinist, a pianist and a cellist. Their setlist comprised of what I would deem a perfect mixture of long-haired music and classical interpretations of popular songs. Go on YouTube and listen to their rearrangement of The Doors' “Riders on the Storm.” There is no way on earth The Doors were ever supposed to sound that beautiful! But really all they had to do to win me over was their performance of David Bowie's “Space Oddity.” The cellist had in fact released an entire EP containing minimalist reinterpretation of Ziggy Stardust era Bowie songs. Songs from the EP were being played over the loud speakers before the show started, and fascinatingly, it took me a little bit before I realized I was listening to songs taken from my favorite rock 'n' roll album! They also did a version of one of Bowie's later songs, “This is Not America,” turning it into quite an amazing, somber masterpiece. Actually, I liked their version better than the original by a fair margin. ...In the end, there was really something for all parts of my brain at this show, as I also enjoyed their renditions of serious classical pieces, from composers like Dvorak and Shostakovitch.
I remember coming out of this thinking this was one of the better shows I'd been to. The fact that it isn't ultimately penetrating my Top 100 is only indicative of how much I seem to enjoy everything I see. Though she may have been at a disadvantage, as I came to this knowing nothing at all about her. However, I did walk away with a memorable experience. She hailed from the hills of Kentucky—a literal hillbilly—and is part Cherokee, Choctaw, European and African-American. I guess that made her the melting pot of all these cultures, a melting pot which was evident in the music. She had recently released an album of original folk & gospel songs with lyrics taken from William Blake poetry. The result was songs that sounded more like they belonged to 19th Century Kentucky than, I'm sure, songs actually came from there! Her melodies were amazing and her voice fantastic. Definitely check her out at a theater near you.
Showbox SoDo was not such a great venue, since it was obviously a repurposed warehouse and therefore kind of a stupid place to hold concerts. This was also during the height of summer, and we were all packed like sardines with little to no air circulation. Holy cow. Nevertheless, My Bloody Valentine were purveyors of suffocating dissonance anyway, so why not have it at the place? Of all the concerts I've ever been to, this was the only time I've ever had this happen: Venue workers were handing out earplugs to everybody who entered the building. Figuring, then, the concert was going to be loud, I was wise to put in the earplugs before the concert began. Yes indeed, it was loud. I knew that because I removed them for a few seconds a couple of times. That was sort of like when my mom told me not to look at the sun, and then I immediately look at the sun. ...The best thing about going to this concert was this band knew what the audience wanted to hear. That is, they performed an awful lot of material from Loveless, which was far and away their best album. It was probably even one of the best albums of the '90s. Oh the dissonance in that place was nuts, but I did get into quite a hazy daze when they played “I Only Said.” ...Going to this concert was like a whacked-out dream. I even remember one particular point when these guys seemed to be stuck in some kind of dreary time-loop—like I was witnessing the same two two seconds of my life being repeating over and over again. That kind of thing caused me to question my sanity.
The Residents were a band that started in the '60s. Their sole purpose was to be completely unlistenable. Doing so, they quickly attracted a small but dedicated fanbase comprising of people with twisted brains. They also became legends, which is why I had heard of them and why I didn't hesitate to get a ticket to go to the show. ...While I didn't so much find this concert enjoyable per se, it did end up proving to be an experience that stuck with me. This whole thing was like a nightmare out of a David Lynch movie. The lead singer, a notoriously anonymous person who went by the name Randy, came on stage wearing an old-man mask and a badly fitting Santa suit. To his sides were two people in gas masks. One was playing guitar and the other keyboards. There were no drummers there. Whenever a drum beat was required, the keyboardist pushed a button on a laptop. The theme of this concert was a history of The Residents. In between their putrid songs, Randy delivered some lengthy but entertainingly profane monologues describing how those songs fit in with the Residents' legacy. (I'm not sure to what extent anything he said was factual—for example he claimed at one point that he had been slated to be the original voice of the donkey from Shrek until Eddie Murphy swooped in and stole it from him.) My favorite song that evening was something they had written for Snakefinger in the '80s, “Man in the Black Sedan.” It's weird like a Residents song is supposed to be, but it's catchy too. Catchiness doesn't seem to be what The Residents typically shoot for, so that's my guess why they gave that to Snakefinger. Anyway, I have to give these guys kudos for giving me a concert experience that was completely unlike anything else on this list. In other words, they did exactly what they were supposed to do and what I was expecting. If I get the opportunity to see them again, maybe I'll go. Maybe I won't. But probably I will.
This would have been a better experience if I wasn't sitting so far to the side of the auditorium, giving me the impression I wasn't so much a member of the audience as much as I was just someone observing from the sidelines. I also might not have been a rabid Joan Jett fan in particular, although I do think some of her albums provide excellent entertainment. I've also never minded listening to her anthemic “I Love Rock 'N' Roll” being played virtually every day on the classic-rock radio, during those years that I used to listen to such a station. Also, as I traverse through life, I am getting more under the impression I have a far greater appreciation for The Runaways than the average person does. People can call The Runaways a great many things, but some people actually say they were terrible? My response with such statements is to say: “Have you even listened to their albums? They are filled with delicious glam tunes! What more could you ever want?” ...Alright, so maybe I am a Joan Jett fan who hasn't quite gained rabid status. I can say I did get a little riled up when she sang a couple Runaways classics “Cherry Bomb” and “I Love Playing With Fire.” However, my favorite song that she does will always be “Bad Reputation.” That is partly because it was re-appropriated as the theme for Freaks and Geeks, but it's mostly because the song kicks major butt.
I roll my eyes a lot whenever I hear Christmas music, especially when I hear them at a concert. (See: Society has deemed a certain category of music to be only appropriate to play one month out of the year. All the other months, there's universal agreement we don't want to hear them. So I say let's cut them out of that one month too, and listen to James Brown instead.) I make an exception, however, for anything Vince Guaraldi played for A Charlie Brown Christmas. Maybe because the Christmas cheer on that album is reduced to a light drizzle, as opposed to that full-blast spew of Christmas cheer from snowblower that I usually get. “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” by the way, was the theme of this concert. David Benoit was a well-respected jazz pianist who could play those tunes with the best of them. He was so into it that he had a tiny Christmas tree at the edge of the stage that had one heavy ornament hanging off of it. There was even a kids' choir there for a few songs, giving me an experience that was quite close to my memories of that television special. He also played some of his usual stuff. You know, jazz piano. That isn't always my thing, but I can sit through it from time to time knowing that it probably added something to my brain cell count.
Counting Crows were one of those bands I was supposed to like in high school, but I turn out to be pretty ambivalent about them. I still am. They wrote many good songs, but so far I haven't been able to get much of a foothold on them. Even their big hit “Mr. Jones” doesn't thrill me to any extreme—but I would at least admit it's a pretty good song. ...For whatever reason, by the way, they didn't perform that song at this concert. That was odd. Were they tired of it? ...Does Don Henley ever get tired of singing “Desperado?” Nope! But maybe he should? As I walked in the parking lot after the concert let out, I heard someone nearby blast the song out of their car stereo. Then someone else nearby yelled out “Thanks for playing the hit!” Anyway, this was a solid concert. The dreadlocked Adam Duritz was certainly an entertainingly wacky person to watch on stage, and the band played flawlessly. Because they were professionals! The opening act was another band that I have vague memories of from high school, called Toad the Wet Sprocket. I also don't get too wild about that band; however, their songs and on-stage performances were also quite solid. Even enjoyable. ...In the end, while I didn't get caught up in this concert experience, what I did happen was I was entertained. And I also got to watch a lot of people try to sneak past the security staff so that they could crowd around the front of the stage... Yes, I always find it fun watching people who aren't usually scofflaws try to behave like scofflaws.
It was great to see these highly celebrated singer-songwriters perform in such a small venue near where I lived. I mean, Carpenter and Colvin might have composed songs that can make great road trip music, but there was no road trip for me! I anticipated this event so hotly that I made a Mary Chapin Carpenter page on my blog just to prepare me. (This year was 2012. My concert schedule hadn't yet been quite grown to be so robust at this time, so I had the capacity to do such things.) And you know what? The concert experience I got was exactly what I expected. These two ladies came on stage armed with acoustic guitars, and they performed a whole lot of their songs as well as a few covers. They didn't have any drummers or back-up guitarists or anything—it was just them. However, Colvin didn't play “Sunny Came Home?” And Carpenter didn't play “Down at the Twist and Shout?” Alright, maybe Carpenter should get a pass for that, since she couldn't really do the song justice without a Cajun band behind her. However, Colvin had no excuses! We demand to hear the hit, dang it! ...Alright, she sang “Polaroids,” which I couldn't complain too much about. And then Carpenter performed “The Hard Way,” which is the rare country song that's actually good. Each musician sang vocals (but not guitar) for each other's songs, which was nice. They spent a lot of time in between songs tuning their guitars but still keeping the crowd entertained with some light banter.
Hey, some smiley 50-year-old guy threw beads at me, and I didn't have to do anything for them! Those commercials I used to see in the midnight hours in the early '00s lied to me, man! ...Well, I guess this means Terrance Simien was the kind of guy who makes dreams come true. He was also probably one of the world's top Zydeco musicians, and he came to give us pasty Edmonds people a little taste of Cajun. Yes, this concert was festive, energetic, and infectious. People were encouraged to stand up and dance, and much of the time, they did just that. The closing songs were a medley of the only Cajun songs anyone knows about: “Iko Iko,” “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Jambalaya.” But even the stuff I didn't recognize came off with that same kind of flair. No doubt, I enjoyed myself at this show. And I got beads! Woooo!
Martin Sexton was a singer-songwriter who yodeled sometimes. Even he seemed somewhat confused why he did that. However, he was also a very good singer, so he could get away with it. This was one of those super-minimalist Edmonds concerts in which there was nothing on stage but the guy and his guitar. His speciality, as it would have it, was folk songs. He might not have been as good of a songwriter as Bob Dylan, but he nonetheless had a fitfully strong collection of poppy folk tunes. He was out there promoting his latest album, Mixtape of the Open Road. That's the kind of album I listen to and think it'll grow on me, but only time will tell if I ever give it a chance. I happen to be listening to it for the first time as I am writing this sentence. ...Quite obviously, I'd never heard of this guy before going to this show, so it's great to now have this guy on my radar. (Hmm... perhaps this is why musicians leave their comfy homes and go on extended tours?) Most, if not all his songs were solid, but one he did called “My Faith is Gone” came off especially striking.
This was pretty much the musical equivalent of going to see a modern art exhibit that I am pretty sure I don't really understand, but I think I like it anyway. This was a collaborative entity between Ethel, which was a string quartet, and Kaki King, who was a classical guitarist. What we got could be labeled as classical music, I'm pretty sure. Sometimes this was intense. Other times, it was ethereal. Usually, it was just a little bit weird. I'm not really a classical music guy, so I wouldn't have much of an idea how to comment on this from that frame of reference. However, since I am a prog-rock guy, I would tell you these guys were pretty great. People who like listening to Steve Hackett's guitar instrumental albums should maybe check out some of Kaki King's records.
This was the second time I'd seen Natalie Merchant, and I had suicide seats. I could see everybody's bald spots and nobody could see mine. It was great! This was also the concert where I witnessed Merchant completely go off on somebody for recording her with a camera phone. That dude totally wet himself! ...Anyway, she performed most of these songs with the Seattle Symphony. They were very simple arrangements that those musicians who could play some of the wildest, most complicated things on the planet could probably have done in their sleep. However, it did make her music sound nice in that hall that was built for such sounds. (Rock 'n' roll concerts in that venue, on the other hand, don't sound so great there.) Again, she stuck mainly to songs from her latest album Leave Your Sleep and not a whole lot from her 10,000 Maniacs days. But I guess she was at a much classier phase of her career than that.
This guy was a classical flamenco player, but I would have only known that watching him at work, playing some of the suavest, classiest Latin pieces I've ever heard. Because whenever his songs were finished and he would talk to the audience, I would be taken aback slightly, as he would speak in a Canadian accent as thick as can be. But who are people to say Canadians can't play flamenco music? ...Racists? You see, Jesse Cook showcased some of the nimblest finger-work I have ever seen in person, giving me an evening full of ear-dazzling chill-out music. He stuck mainly to instrumentals, but occasionally someone would come on stage to sing along. This was indeed music for smart people. I may or may not have been one of them.
Until this show, I had figured everything that ECA ever hosted was quiet and laid back. However, here was a real rock concert! I noticed some people in attendance weren't expecting that, as I saw them sitting down with their arms crossed, while people around them were standing up, dancing, and singing along. Then the grumps didn't even return after intermission. ...This band sung a lot of sea shanties, sort of like what U2 might sound like if they wrote pirate music and weren't afraid of a little accordion. Naturally, this band was about as uncool as it gets, but they could still put on a fun show. I remember them showing us an old commercial they were in from the '90s, hocking collect calls. Remember collect calls? I guess they were local celebrities in Canada, but I hadn't heard of them before. They did manage to attract a small but dedicated crowd in the Pacific Northwest too.
Hordes of hormonal 50-year-old women turned up to see these four guys, singers who have legit operatic chops. As you might guess, all their voices were within a particular vocal range. I usually liked them best when they sang classical music or a classic-rock song that I recognized; however, their modern originals came off flat and plastic, being virtually indistinguishable from bad Christian Contemporary Music. For that reason, I didn't have much reason to listen to their music after the concert. Nevertheless, they did pull off a solid set. At least in fits and bursts the concert was incredibly entertaining. One of these guys could play a mean acoustic guitar, particularly during his performance of a Portuguese folk song. Another guy sang The Beatles' “Something,” which was easily the set-list's best composition. (That is apart from their handful of performances of well-known classical pieces with funny foreign names, which I have a hard time assessing alongside The Beatles.) I also liked that they sang Queen's “Who Wants to Live Forever” … my only criticism of that being they should have sung “The Show Must Goes On” instead! This was a larger budget stage-show than we usually get at ECA—there was a full band and a video screen. Another thing I didn't like was they gave me a stomach ache with their sappy tribute to mothers and then did it all over again later with a sappy tribute to fathers. However, all those hormonal 50-year-old women I referenced in the first sentence of this review, I'm sure, were eating all of that up.
This was a jazz guy, and he was one cool cat, if I do recollect. Lots of scat singing, thumping double bass, twinkly piano. He was almost the same person as Frank Sinatra, except his name was Kurt Elling. All that was missing was a martini in my hand. I definitely wasn't dressed for the occasion, though—I was probably wearing the same jeans and wrinkly dress shirt I wore to work that day. (I'm an engineer; I don't dress nice.) I can't say I've ever been much of a vocal jazz aficionado, but Elling made a strong case for it.
Lyle Lovett was a well-known musician who toured around the Pacific Northwest every year. I had passed him up a few times before finally going. No doubt this was worth going to, though; Lovett was a likable guy who composed an awful lot of enjoyable songs. It did take me awhile to come around to him, almost completely because he gets labeled as a country-western singer. My love of country-western music doesn't go too far after all, but Lovett wasn't so much “country” as he was Americana. His music drew from almost every facet of rootsy American music—folk, country, blues, gospel, jazz. I still wasn't so incredibly enthralled about this particular concert experience, however, as I didn't know as many of the songs as I would have liked to. Except of course he sang his most well-known ditty, “If I Had a Boat.” I listened to a few of his CDs after the show, though, and they were pleasant. My favorite songs of his were the ones that tend to veer into gospel. There, he comes off like a television preacher, except not evil.
This was when we had a hankering for some bluegrass. This was also before I started getting season subscriptions to ECA, so—unlike the majority of ECA concerts that are on this list—I went to this show on purpose. At the time I got tickets for this, I didn't know who Del McCoury was, but I certainly found out later. He was something of an iconic figure in bluegrass! Being a bluegrass novice, however, I didn't recognize everything they played. I'll also be honest—I can't say I particularly loved everything they played. A lot of it seemed too country. Still, this was about the most professional bluegrass band you could hope for. They even came on stage wearing full suits and ties. ...Weirdly, the opening act—a duo of young ladies who went by the name Dala—were far more up my alley. They had an original composition about Lennon and McCartney, and they also performed a Beach Boys cover.
My brother went to this concert with me, which shocked the hell out of me. He never wanted to go to these things! Anyway, his summary of this concert also happened to be very accurate: It was fun, but all their songs sound alike. The Mavericks, were kind of the quintessential Tex Mex band, so that explains why all their songs sound alike. Really, it's impossible to dislike anything about this band, since everything was upbeat, infectious, and lead singer Raul Malo had a friendly grin on his face the whole time. I'd also never seen the Edmonds crowd more raucous than they were that night. There was a dense crowd dancing right at the front of the stage, and—one by one—they would hoist themselves up on the stage and start dancing along. At first, one of the band's technicians had to keep coming and escorting them out. Eventually they recruited a quasi-permanent bouncer. I might have been paying more attention to this than I was the actual show. ...They came with an opening act called Brent Amaker and The Rodeo. I didn't even know they were going to be there, but I'd actually heard of them before! They were a weird cowboy band with a lead singer who had a comically deep voice. He donned a Grim Reaper robe when he entered the stage. Their best song was probably “Man in Charge,” but they also did a cover of Kraftwerk's “Pocket Calculator.” That cover was awesome beyond belief, and it completely made up for that time I saw Kraftwerk and they didn't perform “Pocket Calculator.”
I had a season subscription to everything in 2014 at Edmonds Center for the Arts, but I didn't get my usual seat for this one. I hesitated getting the tickets. But never mind. I found Keb' Mo' to be an entertaining delta blues musician who would occasionally enter into the realm of pop. Certainly I can listen to “The Whole Enchilada” more than once, which is what I did the days before attending the show. I don't remember him playing the song at the concert, though. He had a full band with him, which doesn't seem to be all that common for shows at ECA. He also had a closet full of guitars behind him. Occasionally a singer with curly hair who had a great, raspy blues voice would join in. He would stomp his feet a lot whenever he was in the middle of a particularly blistering note. A couple of other times Mo' invited on stage a homeless street performer who would play the fiddle and have a crazy dance. ...Hey, why not?
Two guitar trios at the same time?! Were they insane? They didn't always play at the same time. But sometimes they did. ... The California Guitar Trio were by far the coolest of the trios, since they said they spent some time playing with Robert Fripp. They also recorded a song with Tony Levin. Therefore, they were the most awesome by association. I liked the other guys, too. They performed an Astor Piazzolla composition. Yes, they were no slouches. The moment I remember the most from this concert was a rendition of Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody.” ...If you thought that song could never work as an acoustic-only instrumental, then you thought wrong.
This was unexpectedly good. I'm saying that because Jim Brickman was a pianist who mainly released housewife friendly albums with soft, twinkly piano and the occasional sweeping synthesized soundscapes. His albums had titles like Pure Piano, Christmas Romance, and Love Songs and Lullabies. ...However, I guess there's quite a bit of a difference between listening to this stuff live vs. out of a stereo with a room full of wine-drunk 50-year-olds. That is, I was still in the middle of a room with wine-drunk 50-year-olds, but I was watching this live. Brickman came off very likable in person—and he was even funny as he talked to the crowd, letting out a few good jokes here and there. And his piano playing was dazzling. The most memorable thing was his rendition of “Rainbow Connection,” coming complete with a Kermit the Frog impression. ...I might not have listened to his albums at all since going to this show, but I will not deny that I came out of that place charmed.
This was the second time I saw ZZ Top. It was better this time, because the concert actually lasted awhile. They also had the good sense to do this tour with Jeff Beck, who of course was a complete legend. Not only that, but there was also another act who came on before Beck. I don't remember much about him, except he came out unaccompanied. So I got my money's worth this time. ...This was a good concert, for sure, but I did have an awfully difficult time getting into it. That might have been because it was only three days before this I stood front and center of a dense mosh-pit, utterly mesmerized by the sight and sounds of Echo and the Bunnymen. That didn't compare so well to a winery concert, sitting on a tiny folding chair rather far away and to the side. Also, I'd already seen ZZ Top in concert, and they didn't change up their set-list in the slightest. It was great to see Jeff Beck, though, which was the actual reason of going to this show. I don't know if he even got 10 songs out, but he totally shredded them.
They said they came from a PBS special, which sort of made sense. There was random culture oozing all over this thing. The main star of this show was Keola Beamer, who was probably Hawaii's premiere folk musician. (And yes: I am suggesting Jack Johnson was not Hawaii's premiere folk musician.) He was there to play soft, soothing Hawaiian folk music, with a friendly singing voice, and I was there in the audience to soak it all in. His wife was there to perform some traditional Hawaiian dances and occasionally play tiny bongo drums. There was also R. Carlos Nakai, who was a Native American musician and played traditional music. (In spite of the great culture he exposed us to, what I remember most from him was that he played a flute with his nose.) And then there was also a classical pianist, Geoffrey Keezer, who played an intricate and barely recognizable Peter Gabriel composition. (I can't seem to remember what song it was, except I know it was one of the first three tracks from Us.) This was a very, very nice show. The worst part came at the end when Beamer's wife made us all stand up and join hands. What did these people think I was, friendly? No, I was from Seattle.
This was an interesting concert, in my storied legacy of concerts, as it was the only one I attended during those three and a half years I was an active engineering student. The most recent concert I had been to before this moment was The Rolling Stones in 2006. So why did I break the lull with this, you might ask? ...I have a hard time understanding how this happened, but my dad decided that Natalie Merchant is the best musician ever. She happened to be coming to the Seattle area while I was on summer break, and who would I be to turn down a free concert ticket? I saw her twice after this for the same reason. However, this was a different sort of concert than the two I would attend later: Here, she played with folk musicians instead of a full orchestra. This was also at an outdoors venue. We were seated pretty far back, and the sound wasn't so great. The experience was also spoiled somewhat by a group of people sitting nearby me who were continuously screaming “No more slides.” Though, to be fair, they were probably right: Natalie Merchant was a little too pre-dispositioned to mostly play material from her latest album Leave Your Sleep. Not only that, but she gave five-minute lectures, with accompanying slide show, about each of them in between. Merchant is a good example of a musician who seems to resist the idea of becoming a nostalgia act. Which I suppose is somewhat respectable, but there were restless masses behind me who kept screaming out things! Come on, throw them a bone every once in awhile! At the end, though, she did play my favorite 10,000 Maniacs song, which is "Hey Jack Kerouac." Though she was playing it off-the-cuff, like it was improvised.
It was the evening of Valentine's Day 2015, I was single, and I was sitting next to my parents in Edmonds at a concert, watching some guy sing old standards. He also sang newer songs that were retooled to sound like old standards. And then there were a few originals that sounded like old standards. Not that I didn't enjoy this. ...I like to think inside of every one of us is a little old lady. And that little old lady inside of me thought he was fantastic. He had a smooth, cool voice. It might have been a few notches down from Frank Sinatra's voice... however, merely offering a comparison to Sinatra is a high compliment. He also had that Rat Pack swagger down pat: he wore a burgundy dinner jacket and snapped his fingers all the time. I can't seem to remember a great deal of the set-list anymore, but I remember enjoying his renditions of "Take Me to the Moon" and The Cardigan's "Love Fool."
Take 6 were an a cappella group that was apparently quite a thing in the late '80s/early '90s when the style enjoyed an upswing in popularity. You know, Bobby McFerrin, and stuff. Even though Take 6 never became household names, their precise singing abilities have been used by an impressive number of household name musicians. (Ray Charles, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, etc.) Of course, they put on an entertaining show, even without instruments at their disposal, because they had all sorts of vocal tricks up their collective sleeves to keep things fresh and exciting. Thanks to it being almost Christmastime when they came to ECA, they sang a lot of Christmas stuff. Which are never my favorite songs, but ... eh ... at least it was better listening than Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I distinctly remember the highlight of the show for me was a spirited medley of Michael Jackson songs, lead by one of their singers who could do an uncanny impersonation. Although I might only be saying it was a highlight, because that constituted the concert's (non-Christmas) material that I was most familiar with.
This was a Queen tribute act and only the second tribute act I've ever been to. There will probably be more. Though unlike "Yesterday and Today," which was a group of people who weren't necessarily trying to impersonate The Beatles as much as they were just people who wanted to get together and play Beatles songs, Gary Mullen & The Works aimed to reproduce the exact experience of going to a Queen concert. And on that front, I was a little bit disappointed with this. It wasn't because the lead singer's voice--while close--was hardly a match for Freddie Mercury's. (However, how could one hope for otherwise?) It was the rest of the band. They didn't really get in on the act! The bass player was singing the high-pitched stuff (and not all that well). Everyone knows the drummer was supposed to do that! And the lead guitarist wasn't singing anything. ...I was enthralled that they got around to singing one of my favorite Queen songs that they didn't necessarily have to play (“'39”), but wouldn't it have been nice if the guitarist took lead on that instead? And give Gary Mullen a much needed break? Because that guy looked awfully tired, constantly moving about the stage, with his flamboyant moves, sticking his tongue out at everyone. On the other hand, it was probably a tall order to find a guy capable of playing Brian May's distinctive riffs while having that reedy singing voice to match. ...I did enjoy this concert, by the way. I could think of far worse things to do than to spend an evening listening to Queen covers. Queen is one of my most time-treasured bands, after all. I was also amused by the fact that the average age of the people in the audience was about 65, and people there wouldn't stand up for anything. It wasn't until Gary Mullen threatened to not sing anymore and demanded that everyone stand up on the count of three until anyone finally moved. Hahaha!
He was a solo pianist who I remember playing the Zelda and Super Mario theme songs, which was pretty cool. He also played a lot of fancy classical stuff, like “Rhapsody in Blue,” which was pretty cool, too. I must not be someone who appreciates classical music like a real cultured person would. After all, I am ranking this below a Queen tribute band that I said I didn't like all that much. Anyway, it doesn't take a cultured person to know that he was a great pianist. ...This was also an unusual concert in the sense that it turned into a school recital mid-way through. Literally. There were scores of grade school orchestra students who joined him on stage. They were apparently handpicked from a number of nearby schools, and they spent that week or so rehearsing with him. I guess that's a cool thing for the kids and the parents. For me? Well, it brought back some memories. I remember they played a Jimi Hendrix song, as a little blonde kid shredded an electric guitar.
They were a pretty decent Latin five-piece band. It was way better than listening Ricky Martin, anyway. Though, admittedly, what I remember most about this concert was a very drunk woman who had a ton of wobbly flesh underneath her arms that she was waving in the air most of the time. And she kept on screaming song requests—among other things, some of which were a little pervy—at them. A lot of other old people were also dancing badly at this concert, too. Where did these people come from? I guess Los Pinguos were at least able to rile up a crowd.
This was a trio of solo musicians who joined forces to become a supergroup. They consisted of Joe Ely, Ruthie Foster, and Paul Thorn. Kind of like Crosby, Stills and Nash, except not famous. Nor were they particularly cohesive. However, I think they had only recently formed this partnership, so they might still grow into it a little better if they stick with it. Paul Thorn seemed to be the group's purveyor of “silly songs,” and I remember the other two cracking up to them, as though they'd never heard them before. In the end, this was a concert that was three solo acts for the price of one. Ely and Thorn were country-western musicians—a genre of music I've always had a difficult time with—but I remember Ruthie Foster delivering a few compelling folk songs.
Quite obviously, the concerts I'm putting toward the bottom of my list are either ones I've had serious beefs with, or ones that I just don't remember too much about. This one belongs in the latter category. It was a concert I went to just because my dad's work colleague happened to be in town, and they wanted to go see something downtown. I tagged along, because I usually do. Cedric Watson was a blues musician who had a woman playing washboards with him. Then Sidi Toure came out who played African folk songs, along with a multi-instrumentalist playing an assortment of traditional African instruments. This proved to be a pretty good night out, proving that The Triple Door is a great stage to visit no matter who is playing. Also, they give you Thai food before the show, if you pay for it.
This was a singer-songwriter with a piano. Sort of like Billy Joel, except he writes songs like Mike + The Mechanics. You'd think one of the benefits of not being Billy Joel is that you wouldn't be annoying. But I found Cohn to be pretty annoying. He is proud of everything he's ever done! Or so it seemed. He talked at great lengths about the history of his songs, his divorces, and what he went through in the '80s before he had a hit single with “Walking in Memphis.” I thought all of that was boring. Maybe because I thought most of his songs were boring. Even the hit single. The early '90s were a terrible time!
Now this really proves how uncultured I am. I am ranking a top-notched classical a cappella group below a singer-songwriter that I didn't like. I suppose I could try to redeem myself and change the order. However, I came up with my rankings based on gut instinct, and I guess I'm staying true to that. ...Really there was nothing wrong with these guys. As a matter of fact, they were pretty amazing. They were probably even perfect. They were twelve guys lined up on stage, according to the pitch of their voice. They stuck only to classical pieces—some dating all the way back to the Medieval and Renaissance times. They sang those precisely. They sang everything perfectly. One guy who was in the center of the stage most of the time looked a little like Don Draper, which was cool. A couple of those guys had impressive facial hair, which was also cool. They sang a “funny song.” Whatever was supposed to be funny about that particular song went over my head, but I'm sure all the cultured people in the crowd were getting the jokes. I heard them chuckle. This was a good show! Better than being at church.
The main beef I had with these guys, I think, is they had to have their concert on Oscars Night. I never miss Oscars Night. It is my Super Bowl. I had to turn my smart phone off and keep it off all night, so I wouldn't get any spoilers. I took the next day off of work, so I could replay the program in the morning. (I suppose I could have just skipped the concert... but I had season tickets to ECA! How could I skip one just to watch a TV show?) There was really nothing wrong with these guys. The guy who took center of the stage did tend to annoy me a bit, since he talked using the same kind of phony urban accent that Jason Mraz uses. And then he admitted he is local to Seattle, which gave away beyond any doubt the accent was fake. On the other hand, he played the flute, and he was a Jethro Tull fan, so he wasn't all bad. He even did that thing with his legs. There was a bald guy there who played a cello, and another guy played a double bass. ...No, there was nothing wrong with these guys. What I remember most was they had a pretty interesting rendition of “Peter and the Wolf.”
This was only concert I've been to that I would call a rip-off. While the concert was on, it was great, of course. The band went through their well-known string of hits, and they were nothing but polished and professional. “La Grange,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Gimme All Your Lovin',” were there, all in full blast. However, the concert didn't even last one hour. There wasn't an opening act or anything. When they were in the encore, I didn't even know they were in the encore. I thought they were just starting the second half. There were a whole lot of bewildered faces I saw, as that stadium was emptying. ...What made the experience worse for me was I got those tickets at the last minute and was relegated to the last row of the venue. It was sort of a smallish venue, so they weren't exactly nosebleed seats. But surely I would have gotten more into it if I was sitting closer. I also happened to be sitting next to someone who was singing along very loudly and very off-key. Before the concert, he also gave quite a lot of commentary about the stagehands setting up things. Some of what he said was interesting, but usually not. ...I think he was there alone, since I couldn't tell who he was talking to. Maybe it was me.
I feel bad for putting this concert dead last on my list, for B.B. King is dead. He died only 14 months after this show. And, to be honest, it looked as though he was pretty close to it here. ...Of course, nobody would go to a B.B. King show in 2014 and expect to see him in his prime. You go to this to see a legend while you still can. And I did that. The concert started out pretty fantastically. That was before B.B. King came on stage. His backing band was tight and crisp, full of horns and upbeat electric guitar. That ended when B.B. King the Hut wobbled on stage and plopped himself down on a chair in the center. The back-up band only played whenever King felt like playing something, and that wasn't often. He usually preferred to talk to everyone. More than a few times, when it looked like King getting ready to start playing something, someone from the crowd would scream at him. It would usually be a song request or an “I love you!” That would prompt him to put down his guitar and say something that was usually some variant of “I can't hear what you said!” ...At least he was pretty funny at times, though I wonder how much of that was intentional. Someone in his backing band was a nephew, and King embarrassed him a lot—the way older relatives usually do. Whenever King did get around to playing something, his voice was still quite good... very guttural, which why it was always good. He played “The Thrill is Gone,” but not all the way through. Anyway, RIP, B.B. King. He did what he loved doing the most till the end, and I'm glad I got the chance to see him once.