All posts by Mark Greenawalt

Published works span the categories of concert, glamour, & architectural photography. Plays in the band Spark Jack Daddy & enjoys songwriting, but is perhaps best known for his bodypainting art.

REVIEW: Fierce Femme Fatales on Tour with Halestorm & The Pretty Reckless (8-5-22)

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PHOENIX — All in attendance at this rock & roll revival – Halestorm’s mega Summer 2022 tour – were there to bear witness to a concert fronted by some of the top women in rock music today! It was definitely ladies’ night on stage, co-commandeered by Lzzy Hale (with her flagship rock & roll machine known as Halestorm) and Taylor Momsen (with her nuclear destroyer blitzkrieg known as The Pretty Reckless).

Halestorm - Arizona Financial Theatre

Photography: Mark Greenawalt

But wait, there’s more! These two co-headliners brought an additional bevy of ladies to the shed with supporting acts Lilith Czar and The Warning. This entourage began this Summer Tour 2022 in Detroit in July and will wrap up the twenty-one stops in Portsmouth in August. This night’s “sermon” was held at Arizona Financial Theatre for the Phoenicians. And it was good… Correction – It was great!

Lilith Czar

Lilith Czar (Vocalist, Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Lilith Czar had a short set and half empty arena to deliver it to. Despite that, she and her band played their asses off and established their reason for being on this stellar bill. Fans know her to be the artist formerly known as Juliet Simms, who CeeLo Green coached to the finals in the 2011 season of The Voice. In 2021 she re-tooled her look and her sound and changed her moniker to Lilith Czar, and this was the night her new persona touched down in Phoenix (note that in March ‘22 she played Mesa Amphitheater with Black Veil Brides).

Lilith Czar (Vocalist, Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Her hair was raven black with bangs like Bettie Page. She was dressed in red leather short-shorts and a red lace shirt to match. Accessories included hoop earrings, a black leather choker, and a black leather vest that came off early in the show – a very evocative look. Her set began with “Feed My Chaos” and “100 Little Deaths,” a song carried over from her Juliet Simms days. Her voice is the same as when it won us over singing “Oh! Darling” by the Beatles on The Voice blind auditions, but the music has gotten much heavier. Between songs she armed herself with an Epiphone Les Paul Gold Top guitar and later an acoustic guitar.

Despite the low energy of the early crowd, her band put on a stellar performance and special shout out to drummer Lindsey Martin, who truly seemed thrilled to be behind the drum set. Crowd participation peaked when the band did a cover of “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks and then rolled out the songs from her current music video suite for “Lola,” “King,” and “Anarchy.” Lilith Czar has developed a unique sound and a unique look and her loyal fanbase is coming around. We’re looking forward to seeing and hearing her future offerings. 

The Warning

The Warning - Alejandra Ale Villarreal Vélez
Alejandra Ale Villarreal Vélez (Bassist, Vocalist), The Warning
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The convergence of these four particular acts may never happen again and it was a thrill to experience the “dark horse” performance of The Warning. I expected to be blown away by Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless, but The Warning was such a pleasant surprise of an up-and-coming act…that has arrived! Their story is documented in countless YouTube videos about these three sisters from the city of Monterrey, Mexico. They were just children when they did a video of themselves covering Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It went viral. The youngest, bassist Alejandra, is still just 17 and the oldest sister, guitarist Daniela, is just 22. The middle sister of the Villarreal family is drummer Paulina (age 20).

Paulina “Pau” Villarreal Vélez (Drummer), The Warning
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Most of their original songs were from their third studio album, Error, however they did take a moment to show how much their musicianship has blossomed by doing a new cover of “Enter Sandman,” and it was very impressive. All three sisters sing and their stage presence is invigorating to watch. Although they may have been new to many attendees, there were quite a few die-hard fans singing along to every song.

Daniela “Dany” Villarreal Vélez (Guitarist, Vocalist), The Warning
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Their YouTube reach has continued to grow with more seasoned music videos for songs “Choke” and “Disciple.” These videos show that those cute little children have grown into beautiful women, not to mention they have evolved as songwriters too. Their heavy sound has traces of the bands that have influenced them, but their musical style is uniquely their own. Crowd favorites tended to be their current single “Money” (which reverberated echoes of “Seven Nation Army”-meets-“Balls To The Wall”) and the closing song “Evolve,” which has prog rock elements. Keep your eyes peeled. We haven’t seen the last of this power trio from Mexico!

The Pretty Reckless

Taylor Momsen (Vocalist), The Pretty Reckless
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

In 2020, Taylor Momsen was ready to hit the road in support of Death By Rock & Roll. The title track had been pre-released and shot up to number 1, then the pandemic hit. The album release date kept getting pushed back until it finally was released in February of 2021, but touring was still not in the cards. Finally, 2022 is proving to be the year for The Pretty Reckless (TPR) to reconnect with that tangible live experience. The press for this show implied a dual headline of Halestorm and TPR, but it was soon clear that TPR were relegated to being an opening act with a fraction of the full stage, less lights, and about half as many songs. They handled it with grace and thanked Halestorm for bringing them on the tour, but it seems they may have been somewhat short changed for a band that sports 7 number one songs (one more than the headliner).

Taylor Momsen (Vocalist), The Pretty Reckless
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The set opened with a cover of Soundgarden’s “Loud Love,” a song The Pretty Reckless recently recorded for Sirius XM with Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil on guitar and Matt Cameron on drums. Momsen has cited Soundgarden as a huge influence and she again recruited Thayil and Cameron to play a track on the new album, “Only Love Can Save Me Now.” This song, another number 1, also made it into the short set. The Pretty Reckless were on a career high when they had the pleasure of being the opening act for Soundgarden until the tour tragically ended with the passing of Chris Cornell.

Taylor Momsen (Vocalist, Guitarist), The Pretty Reckless
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

There was a mix of new songs like “Witches Burn,” a rocker with a nostalgic AC/DC feel, and back to their first single “Make Me Wanna Die.” You know it’s real live music when there is a bass malfunction and guitarist Ben Phillips stops the show and says, “Hold up. Stop. I don’t wanna play the song without bass.” The problem was fixed right away and Phillips continued, “Let me decide where we’re going to pick up. This is how live rock and roll could work. I can count this out where ever the fuck I want it to start.” He chose to start back at the first verse, the crowd cheered in agreement and just like that, they were back in the swing of things. No tracks to sync up to, just live music. Much appreciated.

Taylor Momsen (Vocalist, Guitarist), The Pretty Reckless
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Momsen looked beautiful with the smoky eyes and glittering eye shadow and wore her platform biker boots and black silk camisole like a superhero costume. There was no doubt that she had reinvented herself when she started this band and left Cindy Lou Who and Gossip Girl behind in search of her own identity. It’s working. She exuded sexiness with a devil-may-care attitude and you could tell that her primary goal wasn’t to turn you on with her womanly wiles, but to draw you in with her voice, to deeply experience her music. Her voice was in top form as she emoted smoky smooth low notes in “Going To Hell” and then launched into raunchy, gravelly high notes in “Heaven Knows.”

Taylor Momsen (Vocalist), The Pretty Reckless
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

So many good songs had to be left on the cutting room floor like “Follow Me Down,” “25”, and “And So It Went”, but they did save a really good one for their final number. Momsen thanked the opening acts and Halestorm for bringing them on this tour. “I don’t know about everyone here, but all I wanna do with my life is fucking rock, and fucking roll, and play fucking music,” she said, “And thanks to all of you, I get to do that and that’s absolutely incredible. So thank you from the bottom of my heart, from all of us. We love you so much.

The song “Take Me Down” is an amalgamation of all the greatest hits of classic rock mixed with that signature sound of The Pretty Reckless. It’s a song about selling your soul for rock & roll. Momsen donned an electric six-string as the band played from their souls and she sang from her heart. Great show!

Halestorm

Lzzy Hale (Vocalist, Guitarist), Halestorm
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Halestorm is no stranger to Phoenix. In fact, they were here in November 2021 with Evanescence in this same venue. Hale and company are back this time with a fresh set of monster tracks from Back From The Dead, just released in May. Last year’s show introduced the title track “Back From The Dead,” which was riding high at number 1 on the charts at the time. Tonight’s show took a deeper dive with half of their 16-song set being new material. Two of the new songs were more familiar due to radio airplay including “Wicked Ways” and the number 1 song that capped off the night, “The Steeple.”

The opening acts had the audience primed and ready for the Halestorm experience, which began as a black veil that dropped, revealing the band 8’ above the stage on platform risers leading to the drum cage. Two colors popped out of the scene under the blistering white lights: the cardinal red of Lizzy’s signature Gibson Explorerbird (with matching lips and sexy boots) and the neon green glow of drummer Arejay Hale’s hair, drumset, and modern-day zoot suit! Poised for attack, they left no doubt that their intention was to thoroughly entertain!

Halestorm
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Praise be to Lzzy Hale, first for her songwriting prowess on every Halestorm song (including six number 1’s, by the way), second for her mastery of the guitar which earned her a coveted sponsorship last year from Gibson Guitars as the first female brand ambassador, and third…good Lord almighty, that voice! How she reaches those notes with such a growl and perfect intonation, night after night for months on end is truly one of the natural wonders of the world. Steve Whiteman (Kix) may have given her some tips to the secret sauce of belting, but there is something about her vocal anatomy that makes her a celebrated freak of nature.

Lzzy Hale (Vocalist, Guitarist), Halestorm
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The rasp was on full display on songs like “I Am The Fire,” “Psycho Crazy,” and “I Miss The Misery,” but she proved that her voice is much more than controlled screaming when the show entered the proverbial eye of the hurricane for the ballad “Break In.” All the lights went down except for the spotlight on the piano at center stage. Oh yeah, did I mention that she’s also accomplished on piano? She played solo and had the audience in the palm of her hand during the new acoustic anthem “Raise Your Horns.” Janis Jopplin had to be looking down and smiling for this song. Touching.

Arejay Hale (Drummer), Halestorm
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Although she is undoubtedly the focal point for most, the band is rock solid at every position. Brother Arejay Hale is a phenomenon to watch on the drums. He is technically precise, but exudes fun and antics while delivering a clinic on professional drum techniques. He did a drum solo which included some interesting oversized drumsticks (still smaller than the broom sticks he used when Halestorm played the Arizona State Fair in 2017). Although cool, the drum solo was unnecessary in the sense that his playing was so incredible throughout the show that there was nothing left to prove! Guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith seemed to keep their nose to the grindstone and play to the masses while the brother/sister act basked in the spotlight. But make no mistake…they didn’t (make any mistakes, that is). The band was tight and obviously rehearsed after years on the road.

Joe Hottinger (Guitarist) & Lzzy Hale (Vocalist, Guitarist), Halestorm
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

It’s a shame when really good songs have to be cut from the setlist to make way for the new, but ones that remain are the ones that bring the crowd to their feet. In the bottom of the ninth, it was time to bring out the closers: “I Miss The Misery,” “Freak Like Me,” and a personal favorite from the debut album, “I Get Off.” What a climax! And then an encore of thank yous, “Here’s To Us” and finally, America’s (dare I say the world’s) new rock anthem, “The Steeple.”

Lzzy Hale (Vocalist, Guitarist), Halestorm
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Lzzy Hale closed the night with a song reminding everyone that this was her church and these were her people: A healthy mix of genders, races, and ages with a common passion for great music.

Phone flashlights raised for Halestorm at Arizona Financial Theatre
Phone flashlights raised for Halestorm at Arizona Financial Theatre
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

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Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless, The Warning, & Lillith Czar – Arizona Financial Theatre 8-5-22

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Nothing More Bring the Scorpion Back to the Desert at The Van Buren (6-16-22)

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PHOENIX — Jonny Hawkins’ vocal acrobatics were absolutely mesmerizing. It’s hard to believe the Nothing More frontman wasn’t even singing at age 21 as he sat just beyond the limelight as the band’s drummer. His voice evolved from gravel enriched screams as they opened with “Turn It Up”, to technically precise softness in the opening verse of “Go To War”. And, oh yes, he made his presence known early in the show as he rose up to ride The Scorpion Tail that not only looks dangerous but also contributes to the sound as Hawkins jammed the throttles that processed the guitar like a whammy bar.

Jonny Hawkins (Vocalist), Nothing More – on The Scorpion Tail
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The audience were the loyal followers in response to the shouts in “Christ Copyright” and the musicians were Hawkins’ disciples like in the last supper painting. Mark Vollelunga (guitar, vocals), Daniel Oliver (bass, vocals), and Ben Anderson (drums) were all superstars in their own right, but the focus seemed to always come back to center stage where the charismatic singer, with the muscle tone of an MMA fighter, held court.

Jonny Hawkins of Nothing More performing in Phoenix
Jonny Hawkins (Vocalist), Nothing More
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

For this show, Hawkins’ ever-morphing body paint design for the evening resembled a  red sash on a field of black that faded out asymmetrically across his torso. What it symbolized remained a mystery along with the question of how the paint stayed on all night through the sweat and stage antics.

Jonny Hawkins of Nothing More performing in Phoenix
Jonny Hawkins (Vocalist), Nothing More
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The 13-song setlist included a balanced mix of selections from 2017’s Grammy nominated The Stories We Tell Ourselves and the previous release from 2013, simply entitled Nothing More. Fans were treated to two new songs from 2022, the opener “Turn It Up Like (Stand In Fire)” and the brilliant lyrical voyage of “Tired of Winning” with an embedded speech from Alan Watts on the eternal now.

Daniel Oliver of Nothing More performing in Phoenix
Daniel Oliver (Bassist), Nothing More
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Phoenix was one of the last stops on this 27-gig tour before they head back to San Antonio where their origin story began and there was no sign of fatigue or phoned-in performances. The energy was at full tilt all night long. Even when the heavy sounds took a respite, heavy emotional lyrics filled in on “Fade In / Fade Out”, the perfect soundtrack for Father’s Day weekend.

Ben Anderson (Drummer), Nothing More
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The sound was a little ‘boomy’ in the venue, but you could still tell that the orchestration was stellar.  There were tracks that they played along to, but they seemed incidental to provide storyboarding for intros and to provide expansive soundscapes.  Vollelunga’s contribution to the sound of Nothing More is a key to their originality. His showmanship was on full display, but not as a showy shredder, more as a song smith with attitude sporting a drop-tuned Aristide guitar through Marshall cabinets.

Mark Vollelunga (Guitarist, Vocalist), Nothing More
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As the lights went down for the final song, a techno ambiance resonated as if from the rafters above. A haunting melody was being voiced with vocoder harmonies and the fans came alive knowing the lyrics to “This Is The Time”. The momentum was building as recollections of Hawkins carrying the stone in the music video came to mind and then the room exploded with excitement as the band kicked into high gear. Hands raised, the minions were jumping in time and responding with shouts when the mic was aimed their way. Eventually Hawkins mounted The Scorpion Tail as a bookend to the show and left the crowd wanting more when the house lights capped the performance.

Jonny Hawkins (Vocalist), Nothing More – on The Scorpion Tail
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Eva Under Fire

Labelmates at Better Noise Records, Eva Under Fire, opened up the night with a little sliver of the front of the stage. They brought the classic sound and lineup that brought arena rock to the forefront: dueling guitars (Rob Ryberg and Chris Slapnik) mixed with a thumping bass (Edward Joseph) and pounding drums (Corey Newsom) in support of a charismatic singer.

Eve Under Fire performing in Phoenix
Eva Under Fire
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Eva (aka Amanda Lyberg) delivered the vocal goods with perfect intonation and high energy from start to finish. Their set included original grooves that felt instantly familiar. 

Amanda Lyberg of Eva Under Fire  performing in Phoenix
Amanda “Eva” Lyberg (Vocalist), Eva Under Fire
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

It will be interesting to see where their trajectory leads them with their formulaic songwriting that sounds like mainstream rock hits. This tour is giving them a platform to show the world that they are more than a bar band. Standout songs were “Heroin(e)” that Eva wrote about her father’s drug overdose and their latest release, “Unstoppable”, that has all the swagger of a Carrie Underwood hit in a metal multiverse. 

Edward Joseph of Eva Under Fire performing in Phoenix
Edward Joseph (Bassist), Eva Under Fire
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Eva, with her blue mane, led the audience in synchronous bouncing to the infectious beat of “Blow” that they recorded with Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills. They wrapped their 8-song stint on stage with a cover of Journey’s “Separate Ways”…BTW, their recording and video of this song is good, but it was fantastic live, sans keyboards and vocal harmonies. The band treated fans to a meet-and-greet after the show at the merch table.

Atreyu

Next up, Atreyu visited the valley again after the “day gig” in April at UFest. It was cool to see the lights in the speaker stacks this time that couldn’t be seen in daylight at Ak-Chin Pavilion. Story has it that their bus had caught fire earlier in the day and although nobody was injured, they did lose some material possessions up in smoke. That sure didn’t appear to dampen their spirits during the show. From the first note, the audience was in the palms of their hands.

Atreyu
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Atreyu balances a heavy in-your-face metal aesthetic with a fun party atmosphere. Brandon Saller, another former drummer turned lead vocalist, is a class act entertainer and when he asked us to raise our fists, we obeyed. At one point he came off stage to mingle with fans and sing on top of the bar.

Brandon Saller
Brandon Saller (Vocalist), Atreyu
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

When asked, many of the attendees indicated that they were first timers, but when the catchy chorus rang out it seemed like everybody was a longtime fan as they screamed along with the lyrics. Speaking of screaming, Atreyu has another vocal secret weapon on the band with bassist Marc “Porter” McKnight who has mastered the art of unclean vocals! Long hair is typical in heavy metal, but McKnight’s long hair sprouts from his chin instead of his bald head and it suits him well.

Marc "Porter" McKnight
Marc “Porter” McKnight (Bassist), Atreyu
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

There was a scattering of harmony vocals throughout the set, but during a break in the song “Save Us”, Atreyu again raised the bar with some impressive three-part vocal harmonies, and then guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel carried forth the torch ignited by Hall of Fame inductees Judas Priest with harmony guitar solos too.

Dan Jacobs of Atreyu performing in Phoenix
Dan Jacobs (Guitarist), Atreyu
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

It is difficult to define the musical style of Atreyu as they weave through fast heavy hitters like opener “Baptize” (the title track of their latest album release), to the anthemic “Warrior” that trudges forward, and then to the fun shuffle of the song “Falling Down” from 2008’s Lead Sails Paper Anchor.

Before ending the night, Saller had a Freddie Mercury “Ay-oh” moment with the crowd that started with simple melodies and ended up bringing smiles to faces as he sang Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and Salt-N-Peppa’s “Push It”.

There’s nothing better than a little cowbell to end a great set and Atreyu pulled another fun one from the archive with “Blow” that originally featured Josh Todd (Buckcherry). Saller had some sentimental last words: “We are more than just a band, we’re a family.” And with that we were welcomed into the family as they took their last bows.

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

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Nothing More | Atreyu | Eva Under Fire

Nothing More, Atreyu, & Eva Under Fire – The Van Buren 6-16-22

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

Setlists

Nothing More Setlist – Phoenix

  1. Turn It Up Like (Stand In Fire)
  2. Let ‘Em Burn
  3. Christ Copyright
  4. Mr. MTV
  5. Do You Really Want It
  6. Tunnels
  7. Jenny
  8. Don’t Stop
  9. Go To War
  10. I’ll Be OK
  11. Tired Of Winning
  12. Fadein/Fadeout
  13. This Is The Time (Ballast)
Nothing More setlist – Phoenix 6-16-22

Atreyu Setlist – Phoenix

  1. Strange Powers of Prophecy
  2. Baptize
  3. Becoming the Bull
  4. Right Side of the Bed
  5. The Time Is Now
  6. Ex’s and Oh’s
  7. Save Us
  8. Falling Down
  9. Battle Drums
  10. Warrior
  11. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Snippet)
  12. Blow

Eva Under Fire Setlist – Phoenix

  1. Comatose
  2. Blow
  3. Unstoppable
  4. Heroin(e)
  5. Another Shot
  6. The Strong
  7. Coming 4 Blood
  8. Separate Ways
Eva Under Fire setlist – Phoenix 6-16-22

July STAFF PICK: VELVET by Adam Lambert

Artist, Album

Adam Lambert, VELVET [Explicit]

VELVET is the fourth studio album by singer Adam Lambert. He had intended to promote the September 2019 release in 2020, starting with a five date residency in Las Vegas, followed by a European tour. The postponement of these performances resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Burning Hot Events earns from qualifying purchases.)

Praising Lambert’s work on VELVET, Variety’s A.D. Amorosi wrote, Perhaps tired of being Queen’s plus one, or smoothing over his rougher vocal edges, the 38-year-old out singer goes for something less glamorously amorously entertaining and more grimily soulful and sleekly funky than we’re used to hearing from him…” “…Adam Lambert has made “Velvet” a testament to finding his way, personally and professionally, in what is his most accomplished solo work to date.

Chosen by:

Mark Greenawalt

Senior Concert Photographer, Music Journalist

Mark Greenawalt - Concert Photographer, Music Journalist
Mark Greenawalt

Adam Lambert Online

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REVIEW: Dennis DeYoung Returns With New Music – 26 EAST: Volume 1

It’s been 45 years since the golden voice of a “kid from Chicago” hit the Top 10 with the song “Lady” and propelled the band Styx into the worldwide spotlight. Now, at age 73, crooner Dennis DeYoung shows no signs of slowing down with the release of his new solo CD entitled 26 East: Volume 1. The songs are refreshingly original and yet instantly familiar while the lyrics are peppered with some very poignant statements about the world today and the roles we each play.

Dennis DeYoung at Mesa Arts Center
| 2019 “The Grand Illusion Tour”
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved
Click to Enlarge

There is some expectation for great songwriting from the man who penned such top 10 hits as “Mr. Roboto”, “Show Me The Way”, “Come Sail Away”, and reached Number 1 with the definitive rock ballad “Babe.” The odds doubled when DeYoung decided to collaborate with another Number 1 songwriter:  Jim Peterik, who’s known for chart-topping successes from “Vehicle” (#2 for Ides of March), “Caught Up In You” (#10 for 38 Special), and the rock anthem “Eye of the Tiger,” a number 1 hit for his former band Survivor. Although past success is no guarantee of future results, the DeYoung/Peterik team delivered five solid tracks that are textbook for well crafted songs. “We collaborated from the get go,” said DeYoung, “happily and seamlessly and at this time we have written nine songs together of which five will be on Volume 1. Just two Chicago guys doing what they do best, making music and having a laugh.

Out of the gate, 26 East begins with “East of Midnight,” a big production of melodic rock with the signature stacked harmonies, soaring synthesizers balanced with crunchy guitars, and that strong voice that keeps classic rock radio stations in business. There’s a hint of “Grand Illusion” here and a nod to “I’m OK”, but it’s definitely not a regurgitation of the past. The song is a reminiscent journey back in time to the humble beginnings of DeYoung’s music career when the nucleus of Styx began with him and the Panozzo twins, Chuck and John. The album’s title “26 East” was the address where DeYoung grew up in Roseland on the far south side of Chicago, and the cover artwork features three locomotives traveling through space, representing the original members leaving Chicago on their journey to the stars. 

There are two other guests on this album that add to allure. First is Julian Lennon, whose harmonies seamlessly blend with DeYoung’s on their collaboration “To The Good Old Days.” DeYoung indicated that he hadn’t met Julian before recording this song, but their words seem so sincere as they sing about raising a glass to toast all of the memories of their past together and all the good and bad times that they’ve survived.

August Zadra (Guitarist, Vocalist),
“The Grand Illusion Tour”
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt
© All Rights Reserved
Click to Enlarge

The second guest is guitarist/vocalist August Zadra, who may only be mentioned briefly in the liner notes, but presumably contributed significantly to the “band” sound of the record. Zadra is a dynamic force in the Dennis DeYoung live show where he takes on the lead and harmony vocals originally voiced by Tommy Shaw. His work shines on the rocker “Damn That Dream” that talks about the reality of a dream-come-true turning into a charade that leaves you “lost and torn apart.”

DeYoung’s music is diverse and culled from the “boom child” musical inspirations from his youth through to the songs of his modern contemporaries. The track “You My Love” feels like an homage to the love ballads of the 1950’s — so much so that you might believe that it is a cover of a song that might have been earmarked for the Grease soundtrack. Even the vocal styling is on point for this period of music.

From the Styx classic “Suite Madame Blue” to “Turn Off The CNN” from his last solo record, One Hundred Years From Now, DeYoung has never shied from making political points with his lyrics. 26 East boasts a trilogy of politically themed songs that starts with the campy “With All Due Respect.” It’s definitely a fun song about the incompetence of our bi-partisan government, but the chorus sports the childish jabs, “With all due respect, you are an asshole” and “With all due respect, plug up your pie holes” that are hard to take seriously. The following song, “A Kingdom Ablaze,” is a haunting melody with lyrics that foretell an end to our nation if we don’t correct our ways. The music is reminiscent of “Castle Walls” from the Grand Illusion album laced with a subtle shuffle, ominous Gregorian chants, and the foreboding message, “When our greed becomes our need, all will bleed.” “The Promise of This Land” is the third song in the trilogy that comes later in the track list. It is a song of hope, and DeYoung’s theatrical spirit shines as brightly on this song as it did on the wonderful collection of show tunes from his 1994 release, 10 On Broadway.  This song is full of references to our founding fathers and the dreams they had for this newly launched nation.

There are certain formulas for writing timeless “hit” songs and DeYoung and Peterik have their own recipes. The standout songs that have potential for chart topping success are “Run For The Roses” and “Unbroken.” Both start softly with the mood of a minor key and then soar to dramatic heights in major keys and layered harmonies spreading a positive message. Each song would be comfortable in any of the past five decades. Though the odds are stacked against DeYoung for chart success in the current climate of much younger artists, you never know when he might catch lightning in the bottle again (like the time “Show Me The Way” was spurred on as an anthem during Desert Storm). Who would have expected his recent rendition of “The Best of Times,” sung at his home during the COVID-19 pandemic, would go viral (no pun intended) and reach over a million views.

Speaking of “The Best of Times,” 26 East wraps up with yet another reprise of the “A.D. 1928”/”A.D. 1958” from the end of the Paradise Theater album. This time it is called “A.D. 2020” and features DeYoung playing an accordion, the instrument that got it all started for him. If you have been a fan of the music of Dennis DeYoung throughout the years, this short bookend to the album will tug at the heart strings as he seems to accept the notion that his music will last long beyond his years. He has shared his soul here in sonic form for you to listen to, relate to, and most importantly, to let it move you.

Dennis DeYoung & live band – Mesa Arts Center
| 2019 “The Grand Illusion Tour”
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved
Click to Enlarge

And so my friends I’ll say goodbye
For time has claimed its prize
But the music never dies
Just listen and close your eyes
And welcome to paradise

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26 East: Volume 1 Track List

  1. East of Midnight (Dennis DeYoung, Jim Peterik, John R. Melnick)
  2. With All Due Respect (Dennis DeYoung, Jim Peterik)
  3. A Kingdom Ablaze (Dennis DeYoung)
  4. You My Love (Dennis DeYoung)
  5. Run For The Roses (Dennis DeYoung, Jim Peterik)
  6. Damn That Dream (Dennis DeYoung, Jim Peterik)
  7. Unbroken (Dennis DeYoung, Jim Peterik)
  8. The Promise of This Land (Dennis DeYoung)
  9. To The Good Old Days (Dennis DeYoung, Julian Lennon)
  10. A.D. 2020 (Dennis DeYoung)

26 East: Volume 1 Line-Up

  • Jim Peterik: Guitar, Bass, Keyboard, Vocals and Vuvuzela
  • August Zadra: Electric Guitars, vocals 
  • Jimmy Leahey: Acoustic and electric guitars 
  • Craig Carter: Bass, vocals and invocations 
  • Mighty Mike Morales: Drums and all day sound checker 
  • John Blasucci: Keyboard’s
  • Mike Aquino: Electric Guitars 
  • Kevin Chalfant: backing vocals 
  • Matthew DeYoung: Drums on “To The Good Old Days”
  • Ed Breckenfeld: Drums on “Unbroken”
  • Zoe and Austin Orchard for Ring Around The Rosie 
  • The Chicago Children’s Choir and conductor Josephine Lee
  • Dennis DeYoung: Keyboards, fake drums, fake bass, fake news and some vocals. Oh and Vuvuzela 

Mastered by Dave Collins, DaveCollins Mastering. L.A.

(Source)

Songwriter Mark Greenawalt Self-Makes “Don’t Cry Angel” Video While in Quarantine

PHOENIX — Singer-songwriter Mark Greenwalt took the opportunity to make a music video during the government mandated stay-at-home policy. With a crew of one, he propped his prosumer camera on a tripod to film himself at the piano and behind a guitar playing his original song, “Don’t Cry Angel.” The video was released on his YouTube channel on April 4th, Greenawalt’s 53rd birthday.

The Making of the Video

He co-wrote the song with songwriter Angel Pizzaro in 2011. Pizarro presented the heart-felt lyrics about a personal friend of his who had tragically passed away. The songwriting team crafted the story to discuss the relationship between a new angel and the grieving friends and family they have left behind. “It seemed to have a message,” he said, “for people to relate to who are suffering from losses during our current pandemic.

The chords and melody of the song were developed while Pizarro sat with Greenawalt at his piano nearly ten years ago. The opportunity to record the song came from a mutually beneficial relationship with the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences (CRAS) in Phoenix, who needs bands and musicians to help their students learn the ropes of professional recording techniques. The core players in the session were Pizarro on drums, Webb Pickersgill on bass, and Greenawalt on keyboards, guitars, and vocals. Student engineer, Daniel Armijo, later stated that he ended up getting a grade of 97 on the project and a song was born.

While in the studio, Greenawalt had shot some video of Pizarro playing drums. “It wasn’t the greatest of quality,” he said, “but it seemed to be a good way to get started on the music video.” There wasn’t any usable footage of Greenawalt and Pickersgill from the studio, and at this point Pickersgill had moved to Colorado to be a game director with Deck Nine (Life Is Strange). Pickersgill, however, was very interested when asked if he would be willing to film himself playing the song. “I’ll bring my bass to work”, he said, “and just ‘Milli-Vanilli’ a few takes on video for you.

When it was time for Greenawalt to perform his sequences, he envisioned singing in front of a stained glass window. At a loss for where to find one that he could record in front of, he went to YouTube to find a DIY way to make his own. After a trip to the hobby shop to get glass paint and faux leading, he created a mosaic image of angel wings with sun rays reminiscent of the Arizona state flag.

Watch Mark Greenawalt’s Time-Lapse Video

Another project behind the scenes was getting the overhead shots of the piano. For this, Greenawalt build an iPhone carrier and hung it from fishing string over a raised backdrop stand. The raising and lowering was accomplished by reeling the string around a rotating electric drill bit. “It seemed to be a good idea,” said Greenawalt, “but most of the footage was shaky and unusable. It was worth a try and a few clips actually made it into the video.

Overhead shot of Mark Greenawalt playing the piano

I wanted to include an aerialist in the video who would be spinning up high in hoop,” he said, “And I envisioned filming them over water and wearing angel wings. With the quarantine if full swing, it didn’t seem like I was going to have the opportunity to get that footage.” The eureka moment came when he found a video on a friend’s page on Facebook that was as beautiful as he had envisioned. I wasn’t over water and aerialist Dakoa O’Kane wasn’t wearing angel wings, but the imagery was stunning. He reached out to videographer Glen Goldblatt for permission to use the footage was thrilled when it was granted. This footage ended up being the bookends of the fade in and fade out of the video.

Aerialist Dakoa O’Kane footage by Videographer Glen Goldblatt

Greenawalt had a guest vocalist come to his home studio to record some harmony vocals on the song after the initial recordings at CRAS. She also “sang” some angelic whispers saying, “Goodbye, I’ll be waiting for you.” This was such a feature in the song that it seemed important to have it performed in the video. Keeping social distancing to a minimum, Greenawalt reached out to his daughter-in-law Savannah Greenawalt to play the part of the angel in the video. There were just a few short takes of her behind the stained glass and some extreme closeups of her singing the harmonies and it was a wrap for Savannah on the home “set.”

Savannah Greenawalt behind Mark Greenawalt’s handmade stained glass window

The rest of the shots were self performed and filmed by Greenawalt in his living room including a “martini shot” of him playing a “keytar” in the recently renovated tile bathroom. He culled on his knowledge from his day job as a lighting designer to successfully illuminate the sets and his brief education from film classes at The Film School at Scottsdale Community College for the editing process.

The video was completed in time for a premiere on the evening of his 53rd birthday where friends and family joined in on the chat to speak with songwriters Greenawalt and Pizarro.

“Don’t Cry Angel”

  • Written by Mark Greenawalt and Angel L. Pizarro Jr.
  • Future-Class X Publishing, ASCAP
  • Faded Periwinkle Publishing, ASCAP

Mark Greenawalt is both a Senior Concert Photographer and part-time Music Journalist for Burning Hot Events! See his concert photography here, and writing here.

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REVIEW: Styx Continues Their Mission To Rock The World at Celebrity Theatre (1-10-20)

PHOENIX— This day had a solemn beginning as the news announced that the legendary drummer for Rush, Neil Peart, had passed away. Styx keyboardist Lawrence Gowan took the opportunity to pay tribute to his fellow Canadian musician by singing and playing a beautiful acoustic piano cover of “Limelight”. The lyrics pulled at the heartstrings and the chords and melody were hauntingly mesmerizing. As the song faded and commiserating fans’ cheers resounded, Gowan declared, “Thank you for one of the greatest drummers and certainly one of the all-time greatest lyricists, Neil Peart.” This was a highlight of the evening and made this particular show very special. 

Drummer Todd Sucherman provided a link to a fan’s video on Facebook and wrote:

The show kicked off on a high note as the song “Gone, Gone, Gone” electrified the theater-in-the-round. This song also opens the latest Styx studio album, The Mission, which was released two and a half years ago and put Styx back on the radio as it rose to 45 on the Billboard 200. There was no opening act, so Styx had time to unleash all of the “classics” and still sprinkle in a few more songs from The Mission: “Radio Silence”, “Red Storm”, “The Outpost”, and the classically influenced “Khedive” piano piece. Veteran guitarist James “JY” Young hinted at the fact that there may be new Styx music coming our way in 2020. The die-hard Styx fans were thrilled to hear this, but everyone went wild when they launched into the evening of hits, beginning with that classic Hammond organ intro to “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).”

Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Most bands have a “lead” singer, but at a Styx show, the lead vocals (and bantering duties) are shared between the three frontmen in the band: guitarist Young (original member since the inception of the band in 1972), guitarist Tommy Shaw (who replaced John “J.C.” Curulewski in 1975), and keyboardist Gowan (who replaced Dennis DeYoung in 1999). Replacing DeYoung meant filling some big shoes, since his iconic voice and hit songwriting abilities were equally as important as his talent on the keys. But for the past twenty years, Gowan has held his own with studio albums and touring worldwide. Gowan’s keyboard and vocal skills were put to the test with the next pair of songs penned by DeYoung: “The Grand Illusion” and “Lady.” The keyboards were spot-on. The vocals were noticeably different from DeYoung’s, but very strong, confident, and blended wonderfully with signature Styx harmonies.

Lawrence Gowan (Vocals, Keyboard), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The original rhythm section of Styx was comprised of twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo on bass and drums respectively. Tonight, Chuck would make several guest appearances, but it was Ricky Phillips on the Imola 5-string bass for most of the evening. Phillips was was best known as the bassist for The Babys and later a founding member of Bad English, but then joined the band in 2003. Chuck is still a current member of Styx, but he has limited his playing time due health issues related to HIV. Sucherman has held the drum throne since 1995, taking over for John Panozzo, who was battling cirrhosis of the liver and subsequently passed away in 1996. Gowan introduced Sucherman and mentioned that his mother was in the audience that night, and also dropped a bit of trivia that last year, Modern Drummer Magazine listed him as the number one Classic Rock Drummer in the World.

Todd Sucherman (Drums), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Danny Zelisko had Styx here at the Celebrity Theatre exactly one year ago for a two-night stand and welcomed them back tonight and tomorrow night to do it again. Last year, both nights appeared to be sold out; tonight, there were only a handful of seats that seemed to be open. It is such an intimate venue for seeing a band, and the sound is always crisp and clear. The rotating stage allows more people to feel closer to the front of the stage. The novelty wears off at times when the stage is facing away during a favorite song, but Styx did a pretty good job of running around the stage when they weren’t stationed to a microphone. One notable exception was on the song “Red Storm”, when the stage stopped rotating for the whole song, presumably because Phillips was perched up high on a riser behind the drum set (author’s note – of course, they were facing the other direction from me for this whole song).

As the stage got its groove back, JY stepped up to the mic to introduce the next song. He reminisced about the old days of lighting lighters for certain songs, but conceded that there were dangers. “We can approximate that with the cell phone camera light…” he said, “…Let’s approximate the way those stars might look and LIGHT IT UP EVERYBODY!” It was exhilarating to be immersed in a sea of LED lights throughout the entire theater as the band broke into “Light Up,” one of only two songs played from the Equinox album from 1975 (the other one was “Suite Madame Blue” to top off the first set).

James “JY” Young (Guitar, Vocals, Keys), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Chuck Panozzo made his first appearance on stage during “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man).” He had played the powerful yet simple quarter notes on this Tommy Shaw anthem from The Grand Illusion Album released on 7-7-77. The crowd gave a very warm welcome as Shaw introduced him as “Our original bass player, Mr. Charles Panozzo,” and he stepped into the stage lights looking dapper in a navy blue sports jacket and wielding a black Rickenbacker bass. Instead of leaving the stage, Phillips picked up a double-necked guitar with a 12-string and a 6-string neck and joined in on the massive sound.

Ricky Phillips (Bass, Guitar, Vocals), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

There was a brief 20-minute break before the second set. There was a fundraiser with a giveaway guitar benefiting Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation that was introduced by Tim and NeanderPaul from KSLX radio station.

The second set contained some of the usual suspects from the vault of hit songs, including “Come Sail Away,” “Too Much Time On My Hands,” “Miss America,” and the definitive power ballad “Crystal Ball.” There were also brief reminders to pick up the newest album, which featured “The Outpost” and “Khedive,” but the song that was a pleasant surprise for the evening was the title track from Pieces of Eight. This song is a fan favorite, but was overshadowed by “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” from that album and was not released as a single. Noticeably absent from the setlist was anything from the Cornerstone album, including their only number one single, “Babe” nor anything from Edge of the Century (“Love is the Ritual” nor “Show Me The Way”, which charted at number three).

Tommy Shaw (Guitar, Vocals), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The song “Mr. Roboto” had been absent from the setlist for many years although it also charted at number 3. This wasn’t surprising since it may be the defining song that put a rift in the band dynamic. More importantly, it polarized fans into either the rocker camp that thought of Styx in terms of “Renegade” and “Miss America,” or the pop music camp that thought of Styx in terms of “Babe” and “Best of Times.” Fortunately, there is a lot of crossover (or at least no hostilities that lead to disowning the band). What caused more controversy was when the song returned to the setlist a little over a year ago, even though DeYoung wasn’t there to petition for it. The live version is a little amped up, and the good news is that it was well received by fans, finding its way into the coveted encore position.

However, there was still one song left that even “Mr. Roboto” couldn’t upstage and that was the aforementioned “Renegade.” This is the song that starts with soft and haunting vocal by Shaw: “Oh mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law.” At this point, everyone’s hand raised to their chest as they mimicked the heart beats that still echo to this day from John Panozzo’s kick drum. There was even a wash of red light over the massive drum set that kept time with these beats. Another line. More heartbeats. Silky three-part harmony for the next line. More heart beats as more of the crowd joined in. More harmonies. One beastial scream and the crowd was in the proverbial palm of their hands as the hardest rocking song of the Styx catalog closed the show.

Styx was flawless. The talent in the band is simply overwhelming. It is so hard for a band that is branded a “classic” rock band to be relevant in a world where “classic rock” stations won’t play anything new from their “classic rock” artist roster. Meanwhile, new rock stations tend to ignore new music from bands that are considered classics. Yet Styx has maintained a growing fan base by continuing to be road warriors and taking the music to every corner of the planet, continuing to write and record music that is true to their roots and diverse style. 

Check out The Mission to form your own opinion if you haven’t heard it yet. Here’s to great new music from them in 2020, and hopefully yet another return trip to the Valley of the Sun to see them again.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Styx – Celebrity Theatre 1-10-20

    Setlist

    Set 1

  • Gone, Gone, Gone
  • Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
  • The Grand Illusion
  • Lady
  • Radio Silence
  • Snowblind
  • Red Storm
  • Light Up
  • Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
  • Rockin’ the Paradise
  • Suite Madame Blue
  • Set 2

  • Miss America
  • Crystal Ball
  • Pieces of Eight
  • The Outpost
  • Too Much Time On My Hands
  • Khedive
  • Limelight (Piano/Vocal Tribute To Neil Peart)
  • Come Sail Away
  • Encore:

  • Mr. Roboto
  • Renegade

Photography © Mark Greenawalt
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Game of Thrones Is Reanimated In An Immersive Live Concert Experience at Comerica Theatre (10-1-19)

PHOENIX —  Whether you are on team Stark, Lannister, Targaryen, or that one guy that is on team Bolton, this show transported you to world of Westeros through the songs and scenes of the characters we’ve grown to love and hate. This was the third tour that graced the stages of Arizona for the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience. This time the immersive journey through the show’s music, eloquently crafted by composer Ramin Djawadi, would include the songs from the eighth and final season. The majesty of the show was slightly scaled down for this round and Djawadi was noticeably absent for the Comerica show in downtown Phoenix. Conductor Michael Sobie took the reigns for this stop of the tour and did a fantastic job coraling the myriad of instruments, but anyone expecting to see Ramin Djawadi at the helm were sadly disappointed. (See tour dates)

Michael Sobie (Conductor) with orchestra,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

As the crowd shuffled in, the anticipation was high. The room felt a little cold; maybe winter was coming. A rotation of slides featured Dragonstone, Old Town, Winterfell, The Sept (before the wildfire), and other locales developed by producers David Benioff and DB Weiss. The amplified speakers droned an ominously disturbing symphonic ambiance that was void of melody or cadence. 

The house lights dimmed. It was time. The stage was bathed in blood red light except for the iron throne in the midst of the empty orchestra seats, which was the target of a beam of light as blue as the glint off Valyrian steel in “stark” contrast to the red. Unlike the shows that hide the orchestra in the “pit”, this show revered the musicians as the protagonists as they staked claim to center stage. Yes, they were supposed to be the stars of the show, but the inanimate giant screen still upstaged them and it’s almost sad to admit that our collective eyes would be spending more time focused on the GOT scenes than on the live “band” that was breathing life into the video. That screen was now engulfed with the face of Drogon, the alpha male of Danery’s three dragons (or could it have been Viserion, they’re hard to tell apart sometimes). Fireflies of brimstone danced around his menacing stare as the musicians took their seats and tested their instruments.

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Finally the undeniable voice of Queen Cersei (actress Lena Heady) filled the room with the ground rules for the show:

“Lords and ladies, eh, peasants, thank you for joining us tonight. I know some of you have come a long way to see your queen and your obedience touches me deeply. (pause) Silence your phones. Those who violate these rules will be boiled alive in the blood of their children. I do hope you enjoy the show and if you should see me afterwards do not approach. I find contact with my subjects extremely distasteful.”

And so it began. This show kicked off with the theme song that kicks off every episode HBO series. It’s less than two minutes long and affectionately known as “Main Title,” but it is the melody that everyone could hum along to. We were warned that there would obviously be spoilers ahead and I’ll relay that sentiment that there may be spoilers coming up in this article.  Though I doubt you would have read this far if you didn’t already know that Ned Stark didn’t make it past season one. Sobie polled the audience to ask who has never seen an episode of the show and there were dozens in the audience that responded. They would be treated to a first class “Cliff Notes” introduction to the entire show.

It was obvious that the majority of the audience were on the other extreme, hadn’t missed an episode of the show, and had probably read all of the books and watched all of the behind-the-scenes footage they could find on YouTube. As the orchestra played through a medley of the house themes, there were varying intensities of cheers as the sigils on each banner crossed the screen. The montage of each house was edited to seemingly reveal all of the characters from the entire series.

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The musicians on stage were comprised of a team of seven soloists who were part of the touring cast and the rest of the orchestra and choir seats were filled by local talent in each city of the tour. There were about three dozen Phoenicians in the orchestra and fifteen in the choir. The cello that is dominantly featured throughout Djawadi’s scores was played by Cameron Stone who dressed for the part in a sleeveless robe revealing pauldron armor and a necklace reminiscent of a maester’s chain.

Cameron Stone (Cellist) with orchestra & choir,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Rock shows often feature dueling virtuoso guitarists and this experience mirrored that element with Stone on cello and his counterpart, Molly Rogers, on violin. Rogers has played with many of the top names in the music business and rose to prominence in this show suspended on wires several stories high above the stage while playing the gentle melody of “Goodbye Brother”. The video screen played season one scenes of Winterfell while Roger’s dress extended from stage to proscenium in the guise of a weirwood tree with red leaves snowing from the gridiron.

Molly Rogers (Violinist) with orchestra & choir,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The next soloists to be featured were the percussion team of Alan Mark Lightner and Davey Chegwidden. While the cello cried out a phrygian melody, a scale that the ancient Egyptians may have borrowed from the Dothraki, Lightner and Chegwidden provided the cadence on taiko and djembe for “Love In The Eyes.” Lightner was spotlighted later too as he played the hammer dulcimer for the theme dedicated to Arya Stark, “Needle.”

Nayanna Holley (Vocalist) with orchestra,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Vocalist Nayanna Holley earned her spot on center stage from a diverse resume of performances on tours and television (see her link below). Dressed in a flowing red gown, Holley delivered the second famous song of the series entitled “The Rains of Castamere,” accompanied by Hsin Huang on keys.  The lyrics for this song were actually written by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin in the book A Storm of Swords and then Djawadi later set it to a haunting melody in the key of D minor.

And who, are you, the proud Lord said,
That I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
That’s all the truth I know.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
A lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
As long and sharp as yours.
And so he spoke and so he spoke.
That lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o’er his hall,
With no one there to hear. 
Yes now the rains weep o’er his hall,
And not a soul to hear.

The song packs an emotional impact to fans of the show who remember hearing the song sprinkled throughout the series, most notable at the Red Wedding. This was arguably one of the most shocking scenes of the series and we went back in time to relive it again while the orchestra intensified the already intense scenes with “The Lanisters Send Their Regards.”

Michael Sobie (Conductor), Nayanna Holley (Vocalist) with orchestra & choir,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Shifting from Westeros to Essos, we left the Lanister-Stark rift and rejoined the Daenerys Targaryens story arc for the songs “Dracarys” and “Mhysa.” The audience revealed their love of the character and Emilia Clarke, the actress who played her, as she gave the command “Dracarys” that gave Drogo the permission to burn slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz to a crisp. This song was the heavy metal segment of the setlist and the distortion on the cello sounded like a mix between a Les Paul through a Marshall stack and the spine-chilling roar of a dragon.  Pyrotechnic flame cannons erupted on stage. Exciting!

Act one continued with John Snow dying and being resurrected, the Battle of the Bastards, and then wrapped up with the first song of the series to feature piano, “The Light of the Seven.” Conductor Michael Sobie proved his skills as a pianist which is his main task when Djawadi is conducting. The video played out the entire scene of Cersei’s trial that never comes to pass. The quiet piano passages evolved into organ chord progressions inspired by the horror of The Phantom of the Opera while the Phoenix choir was voicing chilling Gregorian chants…I guess they’re actually Valyrian chants. The act ends with the green wildfire imploding the Sept and the stage filled with smoke cannons immersed in lime green illumination.

Choir, Michael Sobie (Conductor), orchestra,
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Even for those who had seen the previous tours, Act Two was new. It was all carved from the episodes of season eight. There was a lot of controversy about how the series wrapped up in the final season, but there was no controversy regarding the music that was unanimously praised. The songs culled up the scenes of the reunions at Winterfell, battles on the Narrow Sea, live dragons above the clouds and undead dragons below the ice, Arya’s dagger plunge to end the war, and of course the unbridled rage of another mad Targaryan.

Djawadi captured the spirit and the tempo of this myriad of emotions in the confines of the same twelve notes used by his childhood hero Elmer Bernstein. In an HBO behind the scenes featurette, Djawadi shows the humble beginnings of this larger than life music forming in his relatively small studio. He shares his process of finding the right tones and instruments, recording them in the computer until the filming is locked, and then, he says, “I go in and record it with real musicians and I feel that’s the most rewarding thing. I still get goosebumps when I hear them play the music.”  So did we.

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

One highlight for the second act was yet another song for which George R.R. Martin started the lyrics in the book A Storm of Swords, called “Jenny of Oldstones.” The song was featured on the series as Podrick Payne sang it before the massive “dark” battle and Florence and the Machine version sounded in the closing credits. The thirteen song set ended with a reprise of the main theme and the soloists lining up at the front of the stage for a final bow. As all of the musicians ghosted off the stage, the screen once again grabbed everyone’s attention and played a slide show of all of the major and minor characters from the Game of Thrones series. Finally the epic night of music and visual stimulation moved on to become additional audio-visions that will ever enhance our memories of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience – Comerica Theatre 10-1-19

Cast for the Evening

  • Michael Sobie – Conductor, Piano
  • Nayanna Holley – Vocals
  • Cameron Stone – Cello
  • Molly Rogers – Violin
  • Alan Mark Lightner – Percussion
  • Davey Chegwidden – Percussion
  • Hsin Huang – Keyboards
  • Plus the touring cast was supported by the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra

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2019 North American Tour Dates

  • 9/6 – Toronto, ON – Budweiser Stage
  • 9/8 – Chicago, IL – Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
  • 9/10 – Boston, MA – Xfinity Center
  • 9/12 – Philadelphia, PA – The Mann
  • 9/14 – New York, NY* – Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater*
  • 9/15 – Washington, DC – Jiffy Lube Live
  • 9/20 – Jacksonville, FL – Daily’s Place
  • 9/21 – West Palm Beach, FL – Coral Sky Amphitheater
  • 9/22 – Tampa, FL – MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
  • 9/24 – Alpharetta, GA – Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
  • 9/26 – Dallas, TX – The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
  • 9/27 – Houston, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
  • 9/30 – Santa Fe, NM* – Santa Fe Opera
  • 10/1 – Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre
  • 10/3 – San Francisco, CA – Shoreline Amphitheater
  • 10/4 – Irvine, CA* – FivePoint Amphitheater
  • 10/5 – Los Angeles, CA* – Hollywood Bowl
  • * indicates shows where Ramin Djawadi will join the traveling cast

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved


REVIEW: Ringo — An All Starr Band Lead by a True Starr at Celebrity Theatre (8-26-19)

Phoenix, AZ — On June 26 of this year, Sir Paul McCartney brought an evening of legendary music to Talking Stick Resort Arena. Exactly two months later, Ringo Starr became the second Beatle to grace the stages of Arizona. This is the 30-year anniversary of this touring rock supergroup, Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, with a shifting lineup that has included legends such as Joe Walsh, Todd Rungren, Clarence Clemons, Peter Frampton, John Entwhistle, and so many more (see list below). Starr is really the only constant member.

This year’s line up is no exception to Starr’s history of building a stellar lineup:

  • The dueling guitarists were the unlikely pairing of Steve Lukather (Toto) and Colin Hay (Men At Work). These two master songwriters brought along their biggest hits to add to the already incredible setlist. Fans were treated to Toto’s “Rosanna”, “Africa”, and “Hold The Line” and Men At Work’s “Down Under”, “Overkill”, and of course “Who Can It Be Now.”
  • On the Hammond organ was none other than Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey) who chipped in the classic Santana songs “Evil Ways”, “Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen”, and “Oye Como Va”, but unfortunately nothing from his days with Journey.
  • Bassist Hamish Stuart (Average White Band) was back after his stint in the lineup from 2006 to 2008. He switched over to guitar when the band dove into the Average White Band standards “Pick Up The Pieces” and “Cut The Cake.”
  • Gregg Bissonette on drums and Warren Ham on… well, everything else (saxophone, flute, keyboards, percussion, etc.) rounded out the lineup. Both have toured extensively with major recording acts, such as Bissonette’s time with “Diamond” David Lee Roth during the “Eat ‘Em And Smile” era, and Ham’s contributions to Kansas and Toto (now that’s an ironic combo of band names).
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

All that talent on the revolving stage of the Celebrity Theater culminated in the focal point of the evening; a man who’s former band is arguably the most famous band in the history of rock & roll. And yes, Starr brought a few songs to the setlist from his days with the Fab Four, starting with the only song credited to Lennon–McCartney–Starkey, “What Goes On.” Ringo Starr is the stage name of Sir Richard Starkey, knighted by Prince William on March 20, 2018. The two most popular Beatles songs that featured Starr’s voice where the whimsical “Yellow Submarine” and the song he sang in the guise of the one-and-only Billy Shears, “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

Ringo Starr
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Starr’s credentials make him a legendary musician, but he seemed very unassuming. There was no fabricated swagger or false bravado in his delivery. He was reverent of the talent of his bandmates while clearly letting loose to have fun on stage.  Even his attire hinted at high fashion with a jacket and black leather pants, but they were offset by a pair of comfortable sneakers and a rhinestone shirt that said “Peace Rocks”. The peace sign proved to be a prevalent theme throughout the show, from holding up the hand sign for peace to wearing peace necklaces. Starr looked spry and healthy wearing his signature sunglasses and sporting the kempt beard and mustache.  Though he is 79 years old, there was nothing lethargic or geriatric about this performance. It was quite the opposite: an energetic and youthful performance from start to finish.

Ringo Starr (Vocalist), Hamish Stuart (Bassist), Steve Lukather (Guitarist) –
Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band
Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Although there are some Ringo Starr hits embroidered in the fabric of our collective memory, it takes a show like this to remind us of just how many there have been. Eight songs from his solo career broke the top 10 in the US charts and two hit number one (“You’re Sixteen” and “Photograph”). Between 1970 and 2017, Ringo has released 19 solo studio records. The second song of the set started the audience down memory lane with “It Don’t Come Easy” from the 1975 album Blast From Your Past.

Gregg Rolie (Keyboardist, Vocalist), Steve Lukather (Guitarist, Vocalist), Ringo Starr (Vocalist, Drummer) –
Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band
Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Starr shared the spotlight and lead vocal duties with the singers that made their respective songs famous. It was like a karaoke dream where everyone sounded exactly like the record. One highlight was hearing Rolie breathing life into “Black Magic Woman,” and then hearing Lukather shredding on the soulful solos of Carlos Santana, was magical. As the song transitioned to “Gypsy Queen”, it was Gregg Bissonette’s turn to shine as he vamped on the drumset.

A majority of the crowd were old enough to remember the quirky videos of Men At Work on MTV’s heavy rotation in the early 80’s. There were possibly a handful of people that didn’t recognize Colin Hay playing guitar on stage, but everyone recognized that distinctive voice singing “I come from the land down under,” Ham obviously broke out the flute to play the infectious solo on “Down Under” and then later in the show played the famous sax line on “Who Can It Be Now.”

Steve Lukather (Guitarist), Warren Ham (Saxophone), Ringo Starr (Vocalist) –
Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band
Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

While out of the spotlight, Starr was still an archetypal presence as he rose to his drum throne and commandeered the instrument that he is best known for. The bass drum of his Ludwig drum kit that once sported The Beatles logo, now has a symbolic star and lotus flower logo, presumably in support of the Ringo Starr Art Lotus Foundation.

Ringo Starr’s Ludwig drumkit
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Being the drummer in the back typically garners less notoriety, especially when you’re standing on the shoulders of giants like Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. But throughout his career, he has received 9 Grammys, and has twice been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, first as a Beatle and then as a solo artist. Starr played in perfect synchronicity with Bissonette and reminded all of the musicians in the room why he is considered by many to be included in the category of best rock drummer of all time.

Ringo Starr
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The wonderful evening of hit music was capped off with a resounding message of peace when Ringo and the boys joined in on the anthem “Give Peace A Chance,” the anti-war chant that John Lennon and Yoko Ono voiced 50 years ago from room 1742 that still needs to be heard today.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band – Celebrity Theatre 8-26-19

Setlist for the Evening

  • Matchbox (Carl Perkins)
  • It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo Starr)
  • What Goes On (The Beatles)
  • Evil Ways (Willie Bobo with Gregg Rolie)
  • Rosanna (Toto with Steve Lukather)
  • Pick Up the Pieces (Average White Band with Hamish Stuart)
  • Down Under (Men at Work with Colin Hay)
  • Boys (The Shirelles)
  • Don’t Pass Me By (The Beatles)
  • Yellow Submarine (The Beatles with ‘Day Tripper’ tease intro by Steve Lukather)
  • Cut the Cake (Average White Band with Hamish Stuart)
  • Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen (with Gregg Rolie)
  • You’re Sixteen (Johnny Burnette)
  • Anthem (Ringo Starr)
  • Overkill (Men at Work with Colin Hay)
  • Africa (Toto with Steve Lukather)
  • Work to Do (The Isley Brothers with Hamish Stuart)
  • Oye como va (Tito Puente with Gregg Rolie)
  • I Wanna Be Your Man (The Beatles)
  • Who Can It Be Now? (Men at Work with Colin Hay)
  • Hold the Line (Toto with Steve Lukather)
  • Photograph (Ringo Starr)
  • Act Naturally (Buck Owens)
  • With a Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles with ‘Give Peace a Chance’ by Plastic Ono Band chorus at the end)

Back to Top

All Starr Band Alumni

  • Joe Walsh (1989-1992, various guest appearances from 1992 onwards)
  • Nils Lofgren (1989-1992, opening act for various 1995 shows and made a guest appearance in 2013)
  • Dr. John (1989, guest appearance in 2008)
  • Billy Preston (1989, 1995)
  • Rick Danko (1989)
  • Levon Helm (1989, guest appearance in 2008)
  • Clarence Clemons (1989)
  • Jim Keltner (1989, guest appearance in 2010)
  • Todd Rundgren (1992, 1999, 2012-2016)
  • Dave Edmunds (1992, 2000)
  • Burton Cummings (1992)
  • Timothy B. Schmit (1992, guest appearance in 1997)
  • Zak Starkey (1992-1995, guest appearance in 1989 and 2010)
  • Timmy Cappello (1992, 1999)
  • Randy Bachman (1995)
  • Mark Farner (1995, guest appearance in 1997)
  • Felix Cavaliere (1995)
  • John Entwistle (1995)
  • Mark Rivera (1995-2003, 2012-2013, guest appearance in 2011)
  • Peter Frampton (1997-1998)
  • Gary Brooker (1997-1999)
  • Jack Bruce (1997-2000)
  • Simon Kirke (1997-2000, guest appearance in 2003)
  • Scott Gordon (1998)
  • Eric Carmen (2000)
  • Roger Hodgson (2001)
  • Ian Hunter (2001)
  • Howard Jones (2001)
  • Greg Lake (2001)
  • Sheila Escovedo (2001-2006)
  • Colin Hay (2003, 2008)
  • Paul Carrack (2003)
  • John Waite (2003)
  • Billy Squier (2006-2008, guest appearance in 2014)
  • Richard Marx (2006)
  • Edgar Winter (2006-2011)
  • Rod Argent (2006)
  • Hamish Stuart (2006-2008)
  • Gary Wright (2008-2011)
  • Gregg Bissonette (2008-present)
  • Wally Palmar (2010)
  • Rick Derringer (2010)
  • Richard Page (2010-present)
  • Steve Lukather (2012-present)
  • Gregg Rolie (2012-present)
  • Warren Ham (2012-present)

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: CMA Songwriters Series — An Intimate Evening of Songs & Stories From Top Songwriters at Mesa Arts Center (8-21-19)

Mesa, AZ — Songwriters doing “rounds” is a staple in the Nashville music scene, but it is a rare treat to the Metro Phoenix area. The CMA Songwriters Series launched in 2005 and has brought a little of that Music City culture to cities all over the world. The CMA website claims that the series has featured nearly 200 gifted storytellers who collectively have 100 CMA Song of the Year nominations. The 2019 season show that graced the intimate Piper Theater stage at the Mesa Arts Center was a stellar all-female cast.

Leading off the rounds was Liz Rose, who also acted as the MC for the evening. She has one of those 100 CMA Song of the Year nominations mentioned above for co-writing Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” (which just so happened to also win the category). 

Liz Rose
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Rose introduced the other songwriters; Mickey Guyton, Ingrid Andress, Jillian Jacqueline, and Marti Lynn Dodson, and then kicked off the music with a song that she wrote with “a little girl named Taylor”. The song was the Grammy Award winning “White Horse”, and of course the little girl was Taylor Swift.

Mickey Guyton | Photographer: Mark Greenawalt
© All Rights Reserved

Batting second, Texas native Mickey Guyton launched into her latest release, “Sister” (Capitol Records Nashville). Guyton has a powerful and alluring voice and an incredible knack for writing relatable songs. Her energy and emotions were on full display as her face lit up hearing great hooks, and as her tears fell after hearing Rose singing the emotional “When You’re My Age”.

An audience favorite was her new song, “Rosé” that was a fun drinking song for a more sophisticated palate. The ladies shared the fact that their drinks on stage were not exactly just water, which added to the vivacious atmosphere.

Ingrid Andress | Photographer: Mark Greenawalt
© All Rights Reserved

Rose and Guyton were accompanied by a guest acoustic guitarist, the sole male sitting upstage of the main line up. Ingrid Andress, however, was playing her Nord Stage 3 keyboard for her own piano accompaniment. Andress has writing credits with Sam Hunt and Alicia Keys, but it was obvious that she has that special style and presence to be a star in her own right. Her lyrics are fresh and honest and cater to her generation more than most modern country songs. Andress shared the stories behind “We’re Not Friends” and “Both”, each song being unique and candidates for crossover audiences. On the other hand, she proved that she has a firm foundation in country songwriting too as she played “More Hearts Than Mine”, her first single released after being signed to Atlantic Records / Warner Music Nashville.

Next up was Jillian Jacqueline who poured her heart and her angelic voice into each of her songs. It is so interesting to hear the stories behind the songs. Jacqueline shared the entertaining story of sitting on the floor at Keith Urban’s house working on “If I Were You”, a song on which he sang harmonies and played guitar.

Jillian Jacqueline
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Her well crafted lyrics on songs like “Sad Girls” and “Hate Me” brought the “feels” to room.  Jacqueline commanded everyone’s undivided attention with the stripped down sound of her voice and her Gibson acoustic guitar, the ideal definition of a singer/songwriter.

Marti Lynn Dodson | Photographer: Mark Greenawalt
© All Rights Reserved

Rounding out the lineup, wearing a beautiful flowing dress and stunning red shoes, was Marti Lynn Dodson who founded and fronted the band Saving Jane. Among her song selections was the Saving Jane hit “Girl Next Door” which had fans of the song tapping their feet and singing along. Dodson played an Epiphone acoustic guitar that sounded amazing.

Tucson Musicians Hall of Fame inductee, LeeAnne Savage was in the audience and is a long-time fan of Dodson. Savage noted, “The song “Cheerleader” was one of my favorite bops of 2000, however her song “Quarterback” takes the listener on a journey involving date rape, social media bullying, and the imbalance of power between victim and perpetrator. Great songwriters hold up a mirror to society in an effort to create dialogue around difficult topics. This song does just that.

There were plenty of songwriters in the audience that were basking in the glow of this group of women who have honed their craft and found success in a very tough field. Songwriter Angel Pizarro said, “I loved the experience of being so close to songwriting greatness along with the feel of being at a friend’s living room; and as a songwriter I appreciated the value of being there, learning while being entertained.  I’ll never forget this evening!

Setlist for the Evening

  • Liz Rose – “White Horse” (recorded by Taylor Swift)
  • Mickey Guyton – “Sister”
  • Ingrid Andress – “We’re Not Friends”
  • Jillian Jacqueline – “Hate Me”
  • Marti Lynn Dodson – “Breakers” (recorded by Thompson Square)
  • Liz Rose – “When You’re My Age”
  • Mickey Guyton – “Brand New”
  • Ingrid Andress – “Both”
  • Jillian Jacqueline – “If I Were You” (recorded by Jillian Jacqueline feat. Keith Urban)
  • Marti Lynn Dodson – “Quarterback” (recorded by Kira Isabella)
  • Bailey Claywell (student songwriter) – “I Will Rise”
  • Liz Rose – “You Belong With Me” (recorded by Taylor Swift)
  • Lourde Childs (student songwriter) – “Faithful”
  • Mickey Guyton – “Rosé”
  • Ingrid Andress – “Lady Like”
  • Jillian Jacqueline – “Sad Girls”
  • Marti Lynn Dodson – “Girl Next Door” (recorded by Saving Jane)
  • Liz Rose – “Girl Crush” (recorded by Little Big Town)
  • Mickey Guyton – “Better Than You Left Me”
  • Ingrid Andress – “More Hearts Than Mine”
  • Jillian Jacqueline – “God Bless This Mess”
  • Marti Lynn Dodson – “Things I’ll Miss”

The touring group of ladies and the sponsor US Bank made a stop earlier in the day to visit with the teachers and students at The Phoenix Conservatory of Music (PCM) and give a master class in songwriting. The visit was part of U.S. Bank’s Community Possible giving and engagement platform and its Places to Play partnership with the CMA Foundation. Many of the students and teachers came out to attend the show and two exceptional students were even granted the opportunity to share the stage and play their original songs. Bailey Claywell was accompanied by keyboard player Michael Rodriguez as she sang their original song, and later Lourde Childs brought the house down, singing and playing guitar on his original.  The students received a well-earned standing ovation.

Bailey Claywell (right), Michael Rodriguez (left)
Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt
© All Rights Reserved

Each of the featured writers were able to play four of their songs as they took turns showcasing their personal favorites. The highest energy and audience engagement occurred as Liz Rose sang her second Taylor Swift song of the evening, “You Belong To Me”. Everyone in the room, on-stage and off-stage, was singing along to the infectious chorus.  One especially enthusiastic fan of the song was even pulled out of the audience to come up and sing on stage with the group.

It was a great evening with a diverse array of songs from some truly gifted songwriters. As the end of the evening approached each writer saved their best song for their last round as they each said their good-byes. 

Jon Iger, the President of the Arizona Songwriters Association, was in attendance and had this message for CMA Songwriting Series participants:

“Thank you ladies of CMA for a very inspiring day! A day of amazing writing and performing talent! The same goes for the PCM students!  We (Arizona Songwriters Association) have worked on several events with PCM, and they are doing outstanding work with their students and the music community!  And being a long time member of CMA, I know the great work they continue to do with schools! Hope to see you again real soon!”

Dan & Glenda Paradee, Thanks for the Music News;
Rhonda Hitchcock-Mast, Chicks with Picks;
Jon Iger, Arizona Songwriters Assn.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

CMA Songwriters Series – Mesa Arts Center 8-21-19

Setlist for the Evening

  • Liz Rose – “White Horse” (recorded by Taylor Swift)
  • Mickey Guyton – “Sister”
  • Ingrid Andress – “We’re Not Friends”
  • Jillian Jacqueline – “Hate Me”
  • Marti Lynn Dodson – “Breakers” (recorded by Thompson Square)
  • Liz Rose – “When You’re My Age”
  • Mickey Guyton – “Brand New”
  • Ingrid Andress – “Both”
  • Jillian Jacqueline – “If I Were You” (recorded by Jillian Jacqueline feat. Keith Urban)
  • Marti Lynn Dodson – “Quarterback” (recorded by Kira Isabella)
  • Bailey Claywell (student songwriter) – “I Will Rise”
  • Liz Rose – “You Belong With Me” (recorded by Taylor Swift)
  • Lourde Childs (student songwriter) – “Faithful”
  • Mickey Guyton – “Rosé”
  • Ingrid Andress – “Lady Like”
  • Jillian Jacqueline – “Sad Girls”
  • Marti Lynn Dodson – “Girl Next Door” (recorded by Saving Jane)
  • Liz Rose – “Girl Crush” (recorded by Little Big Town)
  • Mickey Guyton – “Better Than You Left Me”
  • Ingrid Andress – “More Hearts Than Mine”
  • Jillian Jacqueline – “God Bless This Mess”
  • Marti Lynn Dodson – “Things I’ll Miss”

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Paul McCartney — An Evening of Legendary Music at Talking Stick Resort Arena (6-26-19)

PHOENIX — Paul McCartney delivered the soundtrack of our lives in a three-hour marathon performance at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The sound was perfect and the light show was amazing, but the magical and elusive ingredient was the way McCartney could make everyone feel the songs. This stop on his “Freshen Up Tour” was an emotional rollercoaster that took a nostalgic journey down memory lane and then ventured back to the more recent entries into the most incredible catalog on earth. The tour kicked off last September in Canada and has literally traveled the world including stops in Asia, Europe, South America, and finally back to North America. Phoenix is so fortunate to be included in such a short list of international dates.

Paul McCartney - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Paul McCartney
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Pulling from a catalog of hits by the Beatles, Wings, and solo material that everyone knew and loved, McCartney modestly proved why he is the world class entertainer all others aspire to. There were happy moments where the audience was giddy and singing along to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” like drunks in an Irish pub. But there were also more solemn moments when McCartney became the storyteller and reminisced about some people that we have lost – people we know as celebrities, but he knew as friends. 

There was excitement in the air when the gentle verse of “Live And Let Die” exploded into a shocking display of pyrotechnics that brought out the inner child, wide-eyed and watching a finale of fireworks. At the opposite end of that spectrum was a simple rustic shack stage set for the performance of a stripped-down acoustic set of songs that included Beatles classics “From Me To You”, “Love Me Do”, and all the way back to The Quarrymen song “In Spite of All The Danger.”

Paul McCartney - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Paul McCartney
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

There is no denying that McCartney is a class act, and it was evident from the moment he walked on stage wearing a stylish black jacket, white shirt, black pants and wielding the iconic Hoffner bass guitar for a splash of color. The jacket lasted eight songs before he announced, “This will be the one-and-only wardrobe change,” and revealed the white shirt, in stark contrast to the rest of the band dressed in all black. 

Rusty Anderson (Guitarist), Paul McCartney (Vocalist, Bassist), Brian Ray (Guitarist, Bassist)
Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Cast for the Evening

  • Paul McCartney – Lead vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, piano, electric guitar, ukulele, mandolin
  • Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens – Backing vocals, keyboards, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bongos, percussion, harmonica, accordion
  • Abe Laboriel Jr. – Backing vocals, drums, percussion
  • Rusty Anderson – Backing vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar
  • Brian Ray – Backing vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass

    Plus guest appearance by 3-piece horn section

The band included the dueling guitar team of Rusty Anderson (on McCartney’s right) and Brian Ray, who takes on the role of playing bass when McCartney transitions to tickling the ivories. Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens was the multi-instrumentalist who was predominantly on keyboards, but also shined on harmonica. Drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. was the highly animated and always entertaining drummer who has been with McCartney since the 2001 Concert for New York City. Laboriel brought some levity and comic relief to the stage as he performed goofy dance moves behind the stoic McCartney singing “Dance Tonight.” And to add icing to the already delicious cake, McCartney introduced a 3-piece horn section that elevated the authenticity of songs like “Hey Jude” while we sang the “Na-NaNa-NaNaNaNa” part and the uplifting “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

McCartney’s narration paid tribute to the late Jimi Hendrix (telling the story about Hendrix playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”  live at a show in England the day after the song was released) and to the late Sir George Martin who is often cited as the fifth Beatle. But the two most touching tributes were to the two fallen Beatles. 

Paul McCartney - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Paul McCartney
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

He recalls a story of sitting with George Harrison and showing him that he had learned the Harrison hit “Something” on ukulele. He mentioned how Harrison was a great “uke” player and said “Let’s hear it for George.” The crowd responded with a swell of cheers as McCartney raised his hand in the air for a moment of reverence and then started into the song playing a ukulele that Harrison had given him. Any song on ukulele seems light hearted and “cute”, but when the band orchestration kicked in for the guitar solo and the images of Harrison filled the screen the emotions cut deep. Many tears were shed in the audience at that moment. “Thank you George,” said McCartney as the music faded, “for writing such a beautiful song.

The other tribute was, of course, to John Lennon. One can only imagine the loss that McCartney felt when he lost his co-writing partner and friend to a senseless act of violence that brought the world to a standstill in 1980. Reflecting back on their time together he shares a message with the audience that sometimes we don’t tell friends what they really mean to us. If you have something nice to say about someone, say it. He advised, “Sometimes it’s too late and you wish you had said it.” As he introduced a song he had written for John shortly after he died, he called it a “conversation that they never got to have.” Then with just an acoustic guitar and his emoting voice he delivered the beautiful tribute “Here Today,” and everyone old enough to remember Lennon alive recalled all of those precious memories.

Paul McCartney
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

At 77 years old, you might expect him to have the feeble voice of an old man. Although there may have been a few moments where time revealed itself on the vocal cords that have been singing songs like “Helter Skelter” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” for decades, his voice was still powerful, eloquent, and mesmerizing throughout the three-hour marathon. The focus of the show was on the songs, so the physical stage antics were kept to a minimum, but this doesn’t mean that there was any loss of showmanship. McCartney commanded the stage as he glided from bass on songs like the opener “A Hard Day’s Night” to the Yamaha grand piano for an epic rendition of “Let It Be” that could be described as a spiritual experience.

Paul McCartney
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Even the casual McCartney fan knows most of the songs on the setlist from “back in the day,” but McCartney has continued to produce music that hasn’t necessarily made it into heavy rotation on radio stations. McCartney said they know which songs the audience wants to hear by looking into the audience and seeing a sea of cellphone lights when a classic Wings or Beatles song begins to play.  “When we play the new songs,” he said, “It’s a black hole.” Then with a cheeky grin he said they are going to play them anyway as they dove into “Fuh You” from the album Egypt Station released last year. Not sure if it was guilt or just some brilliant power of suggestion, but before the first verse was complete, there was a sea of cellphone lights illuminating Talking Stick Resort Arena. Brilliant.

Setlist

  • A Hard Day’s Night 
  • Junior’s Farm 
  • Can’t Buy Me Love 
  • Letting Go 
  • Who Cares
  • Got to Get You Into My Life 
  • Come On to Me 
  • Let Me Roll It 
  • I’ve Got a Feeling 
  • Let ‘Em In 
  • My Valentine
  • Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five 
  • Maybe I’m Amazed
  • I’ve Just Seen a Face 
  • In Spite of All the Danger 
  • From Me to You 
  • Dance Tonight 
  • Love Me Do 
  • Blackbird 
  • Here Today 
  • Queenie Eye 
  • Lady Madonna 
  • Eleanor Rigby 
  • Fuh You
  • Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
  • Something
  • Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  • Band on the Run
  • Back in the U.S.S.R.
  • Let It Be
  • Live and Let Die
  • Hey Jude

Encore:

  • Birthday
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
  • Helter Skelter
  • Golden Slumbers
  • Carry That Weight
  • The End

The setlist contained 38 songs, and each one was worthy of a paragraph in this review, but for the sake of relative brevity, here are just a few highlights. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” with it’s spooky carnival melody has some of the most visual and strange lyrics. McCartney said he’s often asked where the ideas for songs come from and he said for this one they quite literally saw a poster for an upcoming circus with the tagline, “Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite there will be show tonight on trampoline…” Earlier in the show, McCartney dedicated the song “My Valentine” to his wife and mentioned that she was there in the audience with us in Phoenix. This song also has a hauntingly beautiful melody and the jumbo screen played a black and white film of Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp doing sign language while the song played. Another highlight was for the song “Black Bird.” The stage rose several stories high and revealed a video wall of a starfield of lights in the form of an animated bird on a black background. At the top of the stage, high over the audience, McCartney delivered the song that has inspired singer/songwriters all over the planet to pick up a guitar and learn to play these challenging chords. To be present this night and hear it straight from the source was truly moving.

If you were there, you understand there is no way to put into words how wonderful this show felt. You may be able to find clips or maybe even the entire concert on YouTube, and that might give you a glimpse of how the songs sounded and what was generally happening on stage, but there was an immersive blanket of sound and laser lights that just can’t be captured on any media. Sir Paul McCartney was talking to us like we were his friends and passing down stories like an elder might share with the youth to keep the stories alive for future generations. The end of the night was drawing near as McCartney addressed the audience saying, “We’ve had a great time, but there comes a time when we’ve got to go home…and it ends up the same time you’ve got to go home too.” He took a moment to thank the traveling stage crew, many of them he even thanked by name, and then closed the night with the apropos medley of “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, and “The End”.

(Author’s Note – I used to sing “Golden Slumbers” as a lullaby to my kids when they were babies, so this song was very special to me.)  

The last lyric of the night seemed to sum up the overarching positive message from Paul McCartney to the world:

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Amid a rain of red, white, and blue confetti and streamers the show came to a physical end, but the memories of this chance encounter with a legendary icon will live on in our hearts and minds.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Paul McCartney – Talking Stick Resort Arena 6-26-19

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

Cast for the Evening

  • Paul McCartney – Lead vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, piano, electric guitar, ukulele, mandolin
  • Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens – Backing vocals, keyboards, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bongos, percussion, harmonica, accordion
  • Abe Laboriel Jr. – Backing vocals, drums, percussion
  • Rusty Anderson – Backing vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar
  • Brian Ray – Backing vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass

    Plus guest appearance by 3-piece horn section

Setlist

  • A Hard Day’s Night 
  • Junior’s Farm 
  • Can’t Buy Me Love 
  • Letting Go 
  • Who Cares
  • Got to Get You Into My Life 
  • Come On to Me 
  • Let Me Roll It 
  • I’ve Got a Feeling 
  • Let ‘Em In 
  • My Valentine
  • Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
  • Maybe I’m Amazed
  • I’ve Just Seen a Face 
  • In Spite of All the Danger 
  • From Me to You
  • Dance Tonight 
  • Love Me Do
  • Blackbird 
  • Here Today
  • Queenie Eye 
  • Lady Madonna 
  • Eleanor Rigby 
  • Fuh You
  • Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
  • Something
  • Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  • Band on the Run
  • Back in the U.S.S.R.
  • Let It Be
  • Live and Let Die
  • Hey Jude

Encore:

  • Birthday
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
  • Helter Skelter
  • Golden Slumbers
  • Carry That Weight
  • The End