PHOENIX — YouTube sensation The Piano Guys shined with the power of their unique piano and cello arrangements of popular music to an audience of 3,500 at Comerica Theatre. The Piano Guys not only create orchestral versions, but they also create hybrids of classical music and pop songs; such as “Hello / Lacrimosa“, bridging Adele and Mozart, and “melting together” Disney’s Frozen and Vivialdi with their rendition of “Let it Go“. Something that is to be truly appreciated is how they manage to keep classical music relevant for new generations.
The Piano Guys consist of Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, Paul Anderson, and Al van der Beek. The majority of the concert featured Schmidt (pianist) and Nelson (cellist). Al van der Beek joined the duo for vocal performances of “Father’s Eyes”, and “OKAY”, their debut to an upcoming release. Paul Anderson joined them for a couple of epic jams featuring all 4 of them, “Ants Marching/Ode To Joy” and “What Makes You Beautiful“.
They had a couple of delightful surprises for Phoenix when they were joined with guest performers from Chandler School of Fine Arts and Phoenix Youth Symphony for “Beethoven’s 5 Secrets“, and Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band for “This is Your Fight Song“. The young performers on the strings moved me to tears, and the climactic energy of the bagpipers gave me goosebumps.
Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson have great senses of humor, taking jabs at each other and interacting with the audience. They also engaged the audience with funny, entertaining and inspirational stories about things like how they started and became what they are today, getting a piano on the great wall of China, Nelson’s sneaky goal behind “Cello Wars“, and much more. At one point Schmidt got up from his piano and did an unanticipated and highly animated dance that, combined with Nelson’s hilarious reaction, had the audience cracking up.
Seeing The Piano Guys live is definitely something you want to add to your bucket list. You might be pleasantly surprised and how much a concert featuring the piano and cello will rock your world.
PHOENIX — The Rockstar Energy Drink Taste of Chaos Tour landed in the Comerica Theatre on Thursday July 14, bringing with it a night of nostalgia for Phoenix’s 30-somethings.
The show opened with performances from The Early November and SAOSIN and concluded with headliners Taking Back Sunday and Dashboard Confessional.
SAOSIN lead vocalist Anthony Green could hardly contain his enthusiasm between songs. “We’re SAOSIN and we came here to fucking dance!” Green told fans at the beginning of the set. Later, he said that in his youth, going to a concert like this was the one place where he felt like he could truly let go, be himself, and not care about how others saw him and encouraged the audience to do the same.
SAOSIN’s set included songs from their new album, Along the Shadow, which was released on May 20. It was their first studio album since releasing In Search of Solid Ground in 2009. The new album features vocals from Green, who returned to SAOSIN in 2014, nearly a decade after his 2004 departure.
By the time Taking Back Sunday took the stage, Comerica Theatre was packed with fans excited to hear the music of their youth. The group opened with “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team),” “Liar (It Takes One to Know One),” and “Flicker, Fade.” Their set also included other favorites from their hit albums Tell All Your Friends, Louder Now, and Happiness Is, including “A Decade Under the Influence,” “You’re So Last Summer,” and “Timberwolves at New Jersey.”
Taking Back Sunday played in front of the backdrop of an American flag, with an impressively colorful light show. Between songs, lead vocalist Adam Lazzara said that Rockstar Energy Drink was paying him $30 every time he said “Rockstar Energy Drink Taste of Chaos Tour” and joked that he would be saying it as many times as he could (and he did).
“I understand a lot of you are here tonight for nostalgic purposes, and that’s okay. People say ridiculous things like, ‘my 16-year-old self’ or ‘my 18-year-old self’. Is that not still a part of yourself that you are today?” Lazzara asked concert-goers. “I was there when you got your driver’s license. I was there when you were exploring your bodies in the back of your dad’s car” he continued, “I was there when you went to college or when you didn’t go to college,” Lazzara said. And Taking Back Sunday is still here today.
Later, Lazzara introduced the audience to “Holy Water” from the band’s upcoming album, Tidal Wave, due to hit record stores later this year on September 16. They played the song “Tidal Wave” as well. “I’m just killing time because I don’t want the night to be over,” Lazzara confessed toward the end of the set. “Let’s go out with a bang,” he said before finishing the performance with “MakeDamnSure.”
Dashboard Confessional, the final headliner, opened their set with “Vindicated,” “The Sharp Hint of New Tears,” and “The Good Fight.” They had an equally impressive light show and stage display, which included footage projected onto a large screen above the stage. By request, front man Chris Carrabba also played “The Moon Is Down,” a song by Further Is Forever, another band he performs vocals for.
Carrabba was impressed with the “soft and sweet” singing of concert-goers. “Phoenix, can we sing this one together?” he asked as the group began to play “Remember to Breathe.” “You guys sing beautifully,” he told the audience. Later in the show, he asked fans to sing the chorus of his new song “Heart Beat Here,” because he wanted to see how it would sound recorded with the crowd singing along.
“I’m really proud of the records we’ve made, but I genuinely like the old shit better,” Carrabba said at one point. Dashboard Confessional’s set also included “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most,” from the album of the same name, “Am I Missing,” “Don’t Wait,” “The Best Deceptions,” and “Screaming Infidelities.” Carrabba also covered “Fix You” by Coldplay before wrapping up with “Stolen” from Dusk and Summer.
When Carrabba returned to the stage for Dashboard Confessional’s encore performance, he had one last message he wanted to impart to concert-goers. “I just want to point out one thing. All lives matter. Things have gotten crazy out of hand,” he continued “There isn’t a color of life that doesn’t matter. It’s all fantastic. It’s all beautiful. So can we all just try to take care of each other?” With that, Carrabba closed out the show on a high note, with “Hands Down,” a song about “the best day of his life.”
PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Vega (Click images above for separate band albums with additional photos.)
PHOENIX — Haley Reinhart played at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Thursday as part of her latest tour to promote her new album, Better, which hit record stores on April 29 of this year. The show opened with melodic vocals and soft acoustic guitar tunes from Miller James followed by a hybrid mix of soul and R&B songs by Jacob Luttrell who’s also Reinhart’s keyboardist. By the time Reinhart took the stage, the intimate venue was packed.
Reinhart started the night with “Talkin’ About” from her new album. “It’s a party in here tonight. I can feel it,” she said before continuing with “Behave.” With little persuasion, Reinhart had the room swaying and clapping to the beat. Reinhart followed it up with “Keep Coming Back” from her 2012 debut album, Listen Up!
Reinhart and the band had a great energy together. When the song didn’t end, Reinhart turned to Luttrell, “You just don’t want to quit this one, do you?” she smiled, then got the audience to dance with her while the band just kept jamming. “We’re having so much fun with you guys that we’re just making stuff up,” Reinhart laughed when the song finally ended. Afterward, she sang “Wasted Tears,” dedicating it to all the ladies in the house.
“It was so nice to meet a lot of you earlier,” Reinhart said during the concert. The former American Idol star seemed to genuinely enjoy engaging with her audience. She even held a meet and greet session with fans before the show. “She was really down-to-earth,” one delighted fan commented about the experience. When she finally sang the title track of her new album, “Better,” she changed opening lyrics to “Now I’m right where I want to be, out on the road to Arizona.” At one point, she brought a hula-hoop up onto the stage that had been given to her by a fan and hula-hooped while the band played.
Before singing “Love Is Worth Fighting For,” Reinhart spoke to the audience about having the courage to chase their dreams, something that you could say Reinhart has spent her whole life doing. “Channel whatever you’re feeling in life and follow that,” she told concert-goers. Despite being dropped by major record label Interscope Records in 2012 after the disappointing reception of her debut album, Reinhart has continued to pursue her musical career. Since then, she has expanded her agreement with her music publisher, Ole, and in March of 2016, Reinhart also signed with ICM Partners.
The playful and fun mood of the show lasted the whole night. When the room started to get uncomfortably warm, Reinhart and the band spontaneously broke into an interpretation of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” for a couple minutes at one concert-goer’s suggestion. Reinhart also covered “Black Hole Sun” in her unique jazzy style, performing it as a duet with Luttrell. After singing “Bad Light,” a delighted Reinhart accepted a flower from a fan at the front of the stage and placed it in her hair. “If it falls out, just know that it falls out with love,” she said while she secured the purple daisy in her hair.
Other songs Reinhart performed included “Good or Bad,” “Check Please,” and “I Belong to You.” “It was like I was entranced,” Reinhart said of writing “I Belong to You.” “I felt all the kinds of emotions you feel when you’re falling in love,” she said before delivering a passionate performance of the new track. She finished with “My Cake,” ending the song by introducing the band, each with their own solo.
When Reinhart returned to the stage for an encore, she gave concert-goers just what they had been waiting for. “I have a question for you. Have you ever seen an Extra gum commercial that made you cry?” she asked before singing her cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Reinhart initially recorded the cover for a Wrigley’s Extra gum commercial, which exploded on YouTube, garnering over seven million YouTube views and more than 78 million Facebook views within a week of its digital release. By the time the song ended, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.
Fortunately, Reinhart didn’t end the night with sniffles. “We’ve got one more song for you, and it’s kind of important too. We live on a beautiful planet, don’t we?” Reinhart asked. “It’s up to all of us to protect it. We’re all in this together,” she said before singing, “Listen.” The upbeat rhythm had the room dancing and swaying one last time before the night was over. Afterward, Reinhart stood arm in arm with the rest of the band on the stage and bowed to thunderous applause.
TEMPE Ariz. — Jane N’ The Jungle announced the official worldwide release of their new music video, “Shake Me Out,” on Tuesday, May 31. The announcement came just days after the band’s successful premier of the video at Shady Park in Tempe on May 28.
Created by Rachael Smith of Ray Squared Photography, the video features vocalist Jordan White, guitarist Brian Dellis, bass guitarist Leah Brooks, and drummer Tommy Acedo rocking out in a graffitied underground garage. The video also features performances from ballet artist Samantha Kelly of Terpsicore Dance Company (TDC) Studios.
The group initially wanted to film at their rehearsal site, Bombshelter Studios, until building manager Adam Marr showed them something different. “We thought that the underground graffiti area was the perfect location,” White said in an email. When inquiring about dancers, Marr also proposed using a ballerina in the video. “We loved the idea,” White said.
The video’s technical crew, Max Gruber and Bryce White, were responsible for the vivid lighting and fog effects seen in the video. While filming, the crew had to be mindful of preventing the fog from setting off fire sprinklers. And while the dusty location combined with the blowing fans to create other challenges, everyone involved had fun during the shoot.
Jane N’ The Jungle is now working on finishing up their debut album. “We really wanted to take our time with this record and want to push out a finished product that feels right and represents the music the best we could,” White said. The group expects to announce the much-anticipated release date of the album within the next couple months.
While the record won’t be out in time for the Jane N’ The Jungle’s summer tour, they’re excited to be hitting the road with Painted Bones, another Arizona local band. The group will also be playing shows in
Las Vegas, Nevada, and Hollywood, California, with KM, a Long Beach indie pop band and friend of the group. “We are looking forward most to hitting the pavement and meeting new friends and fans,” White said.
Jane N’ The Jungle also announced that Smith would be accompanying them this summer and promises plenty of surprises are in store. The group will be documenting the tour so that fans can keep up with the ins and outs. “We’ve got some exciting shows happening in August and look forward to spending more time at high schools, middle schools, colleges and inspiring teens/preteens with music,” White said.
The members of Jane N’ The Jungle are excited to be on the verge of debuting their first record and hope that it won’t be the last. “The Phoenix music scene and all the fans have really inspired JNTJ and are the backbone to why we play so many shows, and we appreciate everyone’s love and support,” White said.
With a full summer calendar ahead, fans will still have plenty of opportunities to catch Jane N’ The Jungle playing in Phoenix. Fans can also find out more information about upcoming shows and announcements through the band’s website and Facebook page.
PHOENIX — The Rocket Summer has an intense fan base. They love frontman Bryce Avary, and nowhere was that more evident than at The Rebel Lounge on Tuesday, May 10, when the indie rock headliner played there as part of their Zoetic tour.
Opening for The Rocket Summer, local band The Foxies got the crowd warmed up for the show with some indie-pop beats and melodies. Their undeniably charismatic lead vocalist, Julia Lauren, invited the audience to dance with her, and by the third song in their set, she had everyone at the front of the house moving. Like any good opening act, The Foxies left concert-goers excited and ready for more.
Arriving on the stage to the sound of screams and applause, The Rocket Summer opened the show with “So in This Hour” from the 2007 album Do You Feel, with Avary showing off his skills on the guitar while simultaneously singing the vocals. It was followed up with “Cold War” from Avary’s latest album Zoetic. Then he switched to playing the piano and singing “Of Men and Angels” from the 2010 album of the same title.
Known for his skill as an instrumentalist, Avary’s talent was evident all throughout the show. He frequently swapped instruments between songs, effortlessly transitioning from piano to drums back to guitar again. And the passion he poured into the performance made it easy to see why fans were so eager to swoon for him.
“Let’s celebrate the community that is The Rocket Summer,” Avary told fans, “You, us, all of us together.” For the entirety of the night, concert-goers were packed tightly around the stage of the intimate venue. They knew the words to the songs so well, that in some parts of the show, it was almost as if Avary was being backed by a choir.
When The Rocket Summer finished “Circa ‘46” and started playing “Same Air,” there was hardly a pause between songs. Avary played and sang with such ease and familiarity that one song simply transitioned into the next. Then for “Roses,” he waded into the crowd with a mic and guitar and performed from the center of the audience. Avary interacted with concert-goers all throughout the night and surprised and delighted fans when, during “Brat Pack,” confetti exploded out above the crowd.
“This is pretty freakin’ rad for a Tuesday night,” Avary said in response to the high level of energy and engagement in the room. “I’ve played a lot of places around Phoenix,” he continued, giving a nod to all of the local venues of his past performances—including some that have long since closed. He also joked about playing when it was “impossibly hot” outside. “God bless you people,” he said before playing “FL, CA” and changing the lyrics to, “Arizona, you’re an earthquake.”
A lot of Avary’s music is about a message of hope and positivity, but the soulfulness with which he performed and his affection for his fans made it all the more genuine. “Even when you’re alone, you’re not alone,” he told concert-goers before playing “Walls.” Holding one long note, he elicited more applause and cheers from the audience. “Let’s make this epic!” he said, as he was rejoined by the choir of his fans.
[Setlist] #1 So in This Hour #2 Cold War #3 Of Men and Angels #4 Do You Feel #5 Save #6 Circa ’46 #7 Same Air #8 UNI #9 Roses #10 Break It Out #11 Help Me Out #12 Brat Pack #13 FL, CA #14 Walls –Encore– #14 Hills and Valleys #15 Around the Clock #16 200,000 #17 Never Knew #18 Cross My Heart #19 Hanginaround (Cover) #20 Revival #21 So Much Love #22 You Are, You Are
After leaving the stage and then coming back out for an encore performance, Avary left it up to the audience. “What do you guys want to hear?” he asked the crowd. With so much enthusiasm from concert-goers fueling his already energetic performance, Avary proceeded to play nearly an entire second set, including “Hills and Valleys,” “Around the Clock,” “200,000,” “Never Knew,” “Cross My Heart,” and “Revival.” He even covered “Hanginaround” by the Counting Crows just to change things up a bit. “I like to play my own songs, but sometimes it’s fun to jam to other things,” he smiled.
“There’s something about Phoenix that brings out all the good stuff,” Avary told fans. He then played “So Much Love,” while, at one point, he hung from the rafters of the building’s low ceiling. “Thank you for being a part of this. You’re just as much a part of this as we are,” he said afterward.
When The Rocket Summer finally closed with “You Are, You Are,” Avary didn’t just sing it for the audience, he sang it to them.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Lacuna Coil played at the Marquee Theatre Monday, May 9, as the third stop on their Delirium tour. The Italian metal band from Milan was preceded by Painted Wives, 9Electric, and label-mate Butcher Babies, who gave an over-the-top performance that left concert-goers in a frenzy before Lacuna Coil took the stage.
Finally, the introduction to “Nothing Stands in Our Way,” a track from Broken Crown Halo (2014), foreshadowed the headliner’s imminent appearance. And like true (Gothic) rock stars, the members of Lacuna Coil stepped out of the wings in their best psych ward escapee couture to screams and cheers.
Without a word and without missing a beat they launched into the song and followed it up with “Die & Rise” from the same album and “Kill the Light” from Dark Adrenaline (2012). After indulging fans for the first three songs, vocalist Cristina Scabbia addressed the audience for the first time. “This one is for everyone who tries to make this world a better place,” she said before playing “Victims.”
The show included a good mix of the group’s older and newer songs, like “Spellbound” from their 2009 album Shallow Life. After “Spellbound,” they announced their new album, Delirium, which drops on May 27, and played the newly released track, “The House of Shame.” That’s when Scabbia demonstrated why she has been called one of the most influential women in metal. Her voice dominated the room into silent awe at the song’s climax. After that they returned to another classic, “Heaven’s a Lie,” from their 2002 breakout album, Comalies.
After playing “To the Edge” from Karmacode (2006), vocalist Andrea Ferro admitted that the group was a bit jet-lagged after their recent return from Asia, though you wouldn’t have known it from their performance. “This is such a great welcome back to the United States,” Ferrero told fans. That’s when Scabbia introduced the band’s new guitarist, Diego Cavallotti.
“We’d like to introduce you to Diego, who joined us and is family now,” Scabbia announced warmly. Cavallotti replaced the group’s former guitarist, Marco “Maus” Biazzi, after it was revealed in January that he would be leaving the group. Biazzi played with Lacuna Coil for more than 17 years before retiring to pursue other projects.
Although the core members–Scabbia, Ferrero, and bassist Marco Coti Zelati–are still together, Lacuna Coil also saw the loss of guitarist Cristiano “Pizza” Migliore and drummer Cristiano “CriZ” Mozzati when, tired of touring, the two decided to retire from the group in 2014. Since then, Ryan Folden has joined as the group’s drummer.
Nevertheless, Lacuna Coil delivered a seamless performance, with nothing to evidence Cavallotti and Folden hadn’t been part of the band all along. Other songs in the night’s setlist included “Upsidedown”, “Swamped,” “Fire,” “Cybersleep” and “Delirium” from the group’s forthcoming release.
Toward the end of the show, Scabbia and Ferrero wanted concert-goers to sing along with them to one more song. “Have you heard of Depeche Mode?” Scabbia asked. “I’m totally sure you will know this one,” she promised before they played their popular cover of “Enjoy the Silence” with concert-goers singing along. Then, midway through the song, Scabbia enticed the audience to do better. “That was very good, but I’m sure we can sing louder!” she taunted to enthusiastic response.
[Setlist] #1 Nothing Stands in Our Way #2 Die & Rise #3 Kill the Light #4 Victims #5 Spellbound #6 The House of Shame #7 Heaven’s a Lie #8 Upsidedown #9 Swamped #10 To the Edge #11 Fire #12 Cybersleep #13 Delirium #14 Enjoy the Silence–Encore– #15 Trip the Darkness #16 Zombies #17 Our Truth
Before their encore performance, Scabbia made a quick costume change into a short white dress with “DELIRIUM,” “LEAVE ME ALONE” and “TAKE ME HOME NOW” scrawled across the front in large, black print, in keeping with their psych ward theme. For the encore, they played “Trip the Darkness,” followed by “Zombies,” and “Our Truth.”
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to perform for you here tonight,” Scabbia told concert-goers at the conclusion of the show and let fans know the band would be signing autographs at the merchandise booth. With no word on when the European metal group might return to Arizona, a line formed in front of the booth almost immediately, full of fans anxious for one last encounter with Lacuna Coil.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Butcher Babies wouldn’t have been an easy act for anyone to follow Monday night. The heavy metal band from Los Angeles was the final opener for Lacuna Coil, taking the stage right after 9Electric at the Marquee Theatre. And if synchronized hair tossing and head banging were an Olympic sport, frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey would have taken the gold.
Butcher Babies’ set was short but memorable, especially when, at one point, Shepherd decided that security would help them play a game with concert-goers. “You ready to catch some bodies?” she asked before announcing that during the next song she wanted to see how many high-fives they could collect from fans crowd-surfing to the front of the stage. And they received a lot more high-fives than one might expect from the modest number of concert-goers that attended the show.
Watching Butcher Babies play to a crowd is akin to watching parents dropping their kids off with two favorite aunts who then spend the weekend spoiling their nieces and nephews—deliberately getting them wound up and hyped full of sugar before letting them return home to terrorize their parents. By the time they demanded concert-goers start a circle pit in front of the stage, the audience was already wild with adrenaline and excitement.
The band itself was a sight to behold on the stage. They brought an immense amount of energy and enthusiasm to the show, every member dancing and head banging in time with the music. Harvey was even seen cartwheeling mid-song. And crowd participation wasn’t just an option, it was a requirement.
“We absolutely will not start this song without you… I want them to hear us in Utah!” Shepherd shouted. “Let me hear you scream!” she roared as they launched into “Magnolia Blvd.” from their self-titled album.
Toward the end of their set, while singing, Shepherd made her way down from the stage into the center of the circle pit with a member of the security staff shining a flashlight on her as a makeshift spotlight. She then finished the song from the center of the pit while the moshers flung themselves about recklessly around her. Lacuna Coil couldn’t have asked for a better opening act.
Butcher Babies will play with Painted Wives, 9Electric, and label-mate Lacuna Coil during the first leg of their North American tour to promote Lacuna Coil’s upcoming album, “Delirium”, which hits record stores on May 27.
When 9Electric took the stage at the Marquee Theatre Monday night, the crowd gathered before them was a small one. Most of the concert-goers were at the back of the house buying drinks at the bar or socializing on the patio. But it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
9Electric along with Painted Wives and Butcher Babies opened for Lacuna Coil as part of the first leg of their North American tour to promote Lacuna Coil’s upcoming album, “Delirium”, which hits record stores on May 27.
Opening with lyrics like “Let’s start a fire. Let’s burn it down,” from “New God”—a track off 9Electric’s forthcoming album—and filling the room with smoke and laser light, it wasn’t hard to tell what kind of show it would be. Between the songs “New God” and “Time Bomb,” the audience began to grow as the electronic metal beats lured concert-goers back to the stage.
Lead vocalist Ron “Thunderwood” didn’t waste any time. From the first song to the last, he continually engaged with fans from stage right to stage left to right behind the barricades. He brought a staggering amount of energy to the show, but what was truly impressive was that he had the stamina to keep it up for the entire performance.
During “The Damaged Ones,” another song from their upcoming album of the same title, Thunderwood got up on top of the barricades in front of the stage. “I want to see you move!” he shouted to the growing audience. And by the time they started playing “Beautiful,” people were moving to bass beats so hard, it felt like it could make someone’s heart explode.
“You ready to go ape shit?” Thunderwood asked the crowd. “This one’s about people who are full of shit,” Thunderwood told concert-goers before playing “Lies”. Afterward, he announced that their first full-length album would be released in July. “So fuckin’ buy it or get fucked!” Thunderwood said with an unapologetic smile.
Although 9Electric hails from Los Angeles, Thunderwood himself is a Phoenix native. Before singing “Beautiful” for his hometown audience, Thunderwood, who had periodically been standing on a platform at the center front of the stage for better visibility, joked that the height difference between him and their towering bass player, CaseyDC, was an “optical illusion.”
The group’s setlist included “Goodbye,” “More More,” and “Naked.” By the time they finished “Naked,” drummer Micah Electric was shirtless, and they were playing to a much bigger audience. “It’s like they know we’re here now,” Thunderwood said to CaseyDC, both of them laughing. “Yeah, we’re doing something right… Let’s end this one on a high note!”
For their finale, 9Electric covered AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds,” lending their unique electronic rock sound to an old classic. Nearly everyone in the room sang along as Thunderwood made his way from one end of the stage barricades to the other, exchanging fist-bumps and high-fives with concert-goers along the way.
After the show, Thunderwood, CaseyDC, Micah Electric, and guitarist Mikey Lopez all took time to talk to fans, sign merchandise and pose for selfies. If 9Electric returns to Phoenix to promote “The Damaged Ones,” they may find a whole new clutch of fans waiting for them.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Violent Femmes packed the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Tuesday, May 3, as part of their tour to promote their latest album, “We Can Do Anything”. The punk-rock headliner of over 35 years drew a more mature crowd that evening, with fans eschewing sleep on a weeknight for the chance to see Violent Femmes live. They wasted no time in giving concert-goers exactly what they wanted and opened with their biggest hit, “Blister in the Sun,” from their self-titled 1983 album, then went right into “Kiss Off.” It was clear from the start that fans were in for a great show when bassist Brian Ritchie was already rocking out to a bass guitar solo by the second song.
After sating the audience with two of their most well-known hits, Violent Femmes played “Memory” from their new album. At the song’s conclusion, lead vocalist and guitarist Gordon Gano finally addressed concert-goers, “Here’s another one that sounds just the same, but with different words and chords and melodies,” he said jokingly before launching into “Big Car,” another song from their new album, after which, Ritchie announced to excited fans that it was the first time they had played the song live.
The release of “We Can Do Anything” in March of this year was a special treat for Violent Femmes fans. It was the band’s first new album in 16 years. Amid a variety of conflicts between Gano and Ritchie, the group disbanded in 2009 due to a lawsuit Ritchie filed against Gano in 2007. It wasn’t until 2013 that Violent Femmes reunited to play at Coachella. According to an interview with Gano, it was that event that laid the foundation for the two musicians to put aside their differences in order to successfully record a new album.
The set list for Tuesday’s show artfully wove together new songs with old favorites. “Now we’ll do one we’ve played maybe 3,000 times,” Ritchie smiled before playing “Country Death Song,” another one of what he referred to as “murder story songs”. From there he announced that they would play another, more wholesome murder story song and kicked off “I Could Be Anything,” which tells the story of Bongo the dragon slayer. The set list also included, “Please Do Not Go,” “Good for/at Nothing,” “Issues,” “Good Feeling,” “Never Tell” and “Hallowed Ground.”
On the saxophone, Blaise Garza stole the show during “Love Love Love Love Love.” At the end of the song, Ritchie told concert-goers that Garza had been playing with them for 14 years. “Now he’s 27, so he’s been playing with us for half his life,” Ritchie added. Later, the group played “I Held Her in My Arms,” in which Garza delivered an incredible saxophone solo in tribute to the late Steve Mackay who played with the group early in their career.
Throughout the night, Garza played at least four different kinds of saxophones, including the impressively large contrabass for “Gone Daddy Gone”. But he wasn’t the only one in the spotlight. Gano and Ritchie were surrounded by a host of talent. While Gano rocked out with a fiddle during “Jesus Walking on the Water,” he was complemented by guitarist Jeff Hamilton on the mandolin. Drummer John Sparrow hammered out beats on a charcoal grill at one point. And during “Black Girls,” Sparrow delivered an impossibly long drum solo while Gano credited all of the players.
Violent Femmes closed the show with “American Music,” after which they came back out and played “Mirror Mirror (I See a Damsel)” and “Add It Up” for their encore set. The combination of nostalgic hits from past and new soon-to-be favorites made it a fun night for young and old alike. It was also impressive to see the plethora of instruments that made their way onto the stage. If future performances hold as much fun and nostalgia as Tuesday night, Violent Femmes can look forward to a successful comeback tour.
Phoenix, Ariz. – Jim Adkins, lead singer of Jimmy Eat World, returned home to Arizona last night, bringing his solo project super chill “dude-with-a-guitar” gig to Valley Bar. The show sold out at least a month in advance, which is no surprise considering the success of the band he fronts, the success of his recent European tour, and the special place he holds in the hearts of those in his hometown.
A refreshing deviation from the norm, the show unexpectedly opened with stand up from Anwar Newton instead of an opening band. Recruited by Adkins, he loosened up the crowd before it was going to “get emo”. Newton succeeded in garnering laughter from the audience with off-color humor about topics like self-righteous coworkers, a carjacker who couldn’t drive manual, separation of food and politics, and paying taxes versus giving blowjobs (in his opinion… there’s no question, BJs FTW). For those that came to see Adkins, this was an engaging act, and time passed quickly before Adkins took the stage. It was unique that, as the headliner, he was the second act of the night with more bands following.
As emotional as Adkins’ music is, he brought a very lighthearted, slightly goofy stage presence to Valley Bar. He was excited to be playing at Valley Bar for the first time! Despite 23 years in Jimmy Eat World, he is arguably the least pretentious major musician you could ever meet. Adkins effortlessly tapped into the vulnerable emotions of his music, while still interjecting his quirky sense of humor between songs. One moment he was singing heart-wrenching lyrics like, “Are we too damaged now to possibly connect?”, and the next, he was joking about learning Slayer songs to play upon request.
For the set, Adkins played songs from his “I Will Go” EP, as well as select J.E.W. songs and covers. Without falter, his vocals delivered exactly what you would expect from listening to his records, with the only noticeable difference being intentional changes to the melody for the performance. Adkins’ guitar is like an extension of himself, which lends itself to his ability to fully invest in the nuances of his vocal performance. He is a seasoned musician with the ability to genuinely connect with his adoring audience on the same level.
For some solo projects, such as Nate Ruess and The Band Romantic or Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra, the artist performs with a full live band. For Adkins’ solo endeavors, he may be only one man with an acoustic guitar on a big empty stage, but these humble, low-key vibes are exactly what he goes for.
In a 2015 interview, Adkins told Substream Magazine that, “…planning out an encore makes me feel like an asshole.” So it was unsurprising that when Adkins exited the stage, that was the end of his set. He loaded up his equipment himself afterward, which he joked is what rock ‘n roll really is. Some in the crowd were overheard asking, “Why is he carrying out his stuff himself?”
Jim Adkins is a totally normal guy who happens to be a world-famous musician, and Arizona is proud to call him our own.