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Book Review: “Bruce” By Peter Ames Carlin

November 24, 2012 1 comment

ImageI’ve never written a book review before, except maybe in an elementary school English class, but now seems like a good time to post my first. Peter Ames Carlin’s Bruce chronicles Bruce Springsteen’s career in often painstaking detail, giving fans a rare look into the mind behind one of rock and roll’s must successful and revered acts.

  Reviewing Carlin’s Springsteen biography, is somewhat less daunting than reviewing one of his live shows. I’ve seen Bruce multiple times this year, but haven’t written a single review. The band’s live performances are jam packed with memorable moments, basically three hours of rock euphoria. It’s the type of show that words can’t do justice.

In Bruce, Carlin attempts to capture the passion and energy that Springsteen brings to the stage and help fans understand what fuels it. While there have been plenty of books published chronicling Springsteen’s life and career, this is the first book to be written with input from the Boss himself, which certainly helps Carlin achieve his goal. 

The author had no contractual agreement with Springsteen or the band’s management, and was therefore free to be brutally honest at times.  Carlin notes in the text that Springsteen had told him his only responsibility was to paint an accurate picture of the band and its leader, and it certainly seems like he was successful in doing so.

Over a musical career that has stretched over four decades, Bruce has become an iconic, almost mythical figure in the eyes of millions. His  charisma and stage precense, as well as  his devotion to his craft and his fans has earned him a spot as one of the most recognizable and respected musicians of all time. However, the most intriguing aspect of this book is not in the illustration of these characteristics, but is instead  in the examples and stories that prove Bruce is human and flawed, just like his legion of fans.

Springsteen’s often complicated and turbulent relationship with his family, band members, managers, and label executives paint him as a somewhat selfish perfectionist who sets standards very few can live up to. Bruce’s history with the E Street Band is explored at length, and the often cold relationship between the lead singer and his right hand men, including Steve Van Zandt and Clarence Clemons is especially surprising considering the on-stage chemistry the band has shared.

While Carlin explores Springsteen’s flaws and career missteps, the book does in fact confirm many of the  traits that are at the core of the Springsteen legend. These traits include his focus on  everyday Americans – both in his songwriting and in his charity work, his dedication to his fans and his home state, and of course, his undeniable drive to be the best live act in the world.

The most impressive aspect of the book is how well researched it is. From the very start, it is obvious that Carlin has talked to just about everyone who has ever had a connection to Bruce. Input from fellow Jersey shore  musicians provides great insight into Bruce development from scrawny teenager, to local hero in the 70’s and then international star 80’s.

Also central to the story is the way in which Carlin chronicles Springsteen’s extensive touring career and describes landmark performances in great detail, including Springsteen’s luke-warm reception at his first show in London and his mammoth Born In The USA stadium tour.

For any die-hard Bruce fan looking for greater insight into Springsteen’s music, this is a must read. It perfectly illustrates how Sprinsteen, unlike many of his peers over the last thirty years, has achieved such tremendous staying power and can still connect with fans and sell out stadiums 35 years after “Born To Run” hit the airwaves. For the casual fan, the book might provide more information than you’re looking for, but if you’re in the market for a Springsteen biography, I can’t imagine there are any better than this.

 

 

 

 

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Weezer Brings The Blue Album and Pinkerton to Chicago

January 9, 2011 1 comment

Weezer Memories Tour
Aragon Ballroom, Chicago
January 7th and 8th, 2011

A cynic might see Weezer’s six city “Memories Tour” as a type of peace offering to their longtime fans who have suffered through the release of six subpar albums since 1994’s iconic Weezer (the Blue album) and 1996’s beloved Pinkerton. A cynical fan might also view the tour as a shameless attempt to cross-promote their newest single, appropriately titled “Memories.”

However, both cynics and non-cynics alike can agree that the “Memories” tour was a tremendously enticing idea, with the band playing two nights in each city, performing the Blue album in its entirety on the first night and Pinkerton the next night, along with a number of the band’s other hits. The tour made its final stop at the cavernous Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, and as expected, the results were spectacular.

Night One: The Blue Album

Much like Weezer, the Aragon Ballroom is strange. It has certainly seen better days (insert Weezer joke here), but it’s size and general admission floor made it a good fit for a tour that was certainly in high demand, yet deserved a more intimate setting than an arena or seated theater. The venue features a Spanish villa theme, with Terracota balconies, private boxes, and even castle spires. All of this sits below a ceiling painted like a nighttime sky, complete with twinkling stars.

Both nights began with an unimpressive set from electronic rock act, the Limousines. They sounded like a cross between Metro Station and MGMT. Needless to say, the crowd was not into it. On the second night, the band failed to even mention their name until after their last song.

Weezer kicked off their set with “Memories” from 2010’s Hurley, which received only a luke-warm response from the crowd. The band would play the first half of the show as a five-piece band, with drummer Pat Wilson stepping down from the kit to handle the guitar work normally covered by frontman Rivers Cuomo. Cuomo was therefore free to work the crowd and make his presence known throughout the venue.

The band would then work backward through their catalogue, playing their biggest hits from Raditude, The Red Album, and 2005’s Make Believe. When the band made their way back to 2002’s “Keep Finishing,” Rivers literally scaled the balcony and made his way up a private box, and then to visit a large groups of fans seated to the side of the stage. All the while, guitarist Brian Bell handled the singing duties.

Rivers would return to the stage as the band turned their attention to Pinkerton track “Falling for You.” The crowd loved the spectacle of the set, especially when Cuomo ventured down on to the floor to share the mic with those in the front row.

The band would then leave the stage for an unexpectedly long “intermission.” This period would feature its own brand of entertainment, as a group of pre-teens from “The School of Rock” made their way onstage to perform “Photograph” and “El Scorcho.” I’m not sure what this says about the complexity of Weezer’s songs, but they sounded pretty much spot on. Next up was a slide show presented by the band’s longtime roadie Karl Kotch. Kotch took the audience on a quick tour of Weezer’s history, showcasing show flyers at classy venues such as Club Dump and an early show review that bashed the band’s poor live performance.

Weezer would then make their way back to the stage, having changed clothes, and apparently their demeanor. They were now all business, functioning once again as a quartet with Pat Wilson returning to the drum kit.

With very little between song banter or stage movement, the band would power through The Blue Album in sequential order as those in the crowd basked in the moment. Each song sounded perfect pumping through the Aragon’s powerful sound system. The show built to an epic crescendo, with “Only in Dreams” acting as the grand finale. The fan favorite, which has rarely been played live in recent years, received a huge reaction from the crowd that inspired the group to lock arms and take a bow at the front of the stage.

Night Two: Pinkerton

While the first half of Weezer’s night one set had been quite enjoyable, the band hadn’t exactly displayed much creativity in choosing to play a radio hit or two from each record. Going into night two, I was expecting more of the same, but luckily, I was wrong.

After the Limousines set, Weezer took the stage and once again began with “Memories.” They then skipped over Raditude and went straight to the huge hooks of 2008’s hit “Pork and Beans.” Rivers would then make his way out into the crowd during “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.” “Perfect Situation” and the excellent Maladroit track “Dope Nose” would follow. The band then took a surprising turn into b-side territory, playing three rarely heard tracks in a row, those being “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly,”  “Susanne,” and “Jamie.” Weezer would then close the first half of the show with “Only in Dreams,” which once again had the crowd up in arms.

During this night’s intermission, The School of Rock kids returned, all be it with a different cast to perform Blue Album favorites “In the Garage” and “Say It Ain’t So.” Karl would then take the stage with an amusingly updated slide show as well.

Finally, Weezer would return for a forty-five minute set that would completely overshadow everything that had come before it, including the previous night’s Blue Album performance. Beginning with “Tired of Sex” and continuing straight up to the moment that Cuomo would strum the closing notes to “Butterfly,” the band turned in the type of performance that would have even the most jaded longtime Weezer fans tipping their hats.

Songs such as “Getchoo”  and “Pink Triangle” exploded from the speakers and enveloped the crowd, while “El Scortcho” inspired the type of pushing and shoving that is rarely seen at Weezer shows. The highlight of the night (at least for me) was “Across the Sea,” with the band conveying all of the song’s twists and turns perfectly. Much like the night before, the band moved little on stage and talked even less, letting the music speak for itself.

While the show’s closing number didn’t quite pack the same emotional punch as “Only in Dreams,” Cuomo’s solo performance of “Butterfly” still provided a poignant ending to the “Memories” tour.

As the crowd slowly (and I mean very, very slowly) made their way out of the venue, it became clear that fans had seen something they probably won’t get the chance to see again. It was the closest we’ll come to stepping into a time machine to see Weezer in their prime. The set provided forty-five minutes to forget about “At the Mall” and a Lil’ Wayne cameo, and be reminded of why we fell in love with Weezer in the first place. Was it worth the airfare, the hour long wait for the coat check, the Chicago winter, and even having to hear songs from Raditude? You bet it was.

Ok Go Keeps It Simple to Rock the House Of Blues

Ok Go
House of Blues Boston
May 7th 2010

Ok Go has always been a band with an identity crisis. Are they pop stars who should be playing in front of thousands of screaming fans every night? Are they a mature alternative rock band that should be mentioned on every critic’s “best of” list? Are they music industry pioneers? Are they a group of guys with way too much time on their hands?

To some extent, all of these characterizations are true, and maybe that’s why they constantly appear to be on the brink of stardom, but haven’t quite achieved it yet. They seemed awfully close based on the size of the crowd at the House of Blues in Boston on May 7th. With fans packing the floor and wrapping around the upper balconies, Ok Go showcased their best material while fitting in a few laughs for good measure.

With the Red Sox at home and playing the Yankees across the street at Fenway Park, the night got off to a late start with opening sets from Robert Francis and Earl Greyhound. Neither band was very impressive, and in fact, Earl Greyhound’s improvisational jam sessions sent at least a few members of the audience streaming to the merch tables, balconies, or anywhere else they could find shelter.

Ok Go finally took the stage at 10 and easily made up for the sub-par openers with an hour and half set that was at times exuberant, at others introspective, and always entertaining. While they may be best known for their crazy videos, their musical chops are what help them stand out in a live setting like this, for every song sounded sharp and nearly CD quality while being pumped through the House of Blues sound system, which seemed to be dialed up to 11 on this night.

While the band did sample a host of songs from their first two records, the focus was certainly on their latest effort, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky. The CD is without question one of the best alternative releases this year,and it’s a shame it hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Most in the crowd seemed only somewhat familiar with the new tracks, either politely bobbing their heads or staring blankly while the band ripped through gems like “All Is Not Lost” and “White Knuckles.”

This was my third Ok Go show, and each time the crowd has been disappointingly unenthusiastic. On this night, only a handful of fans bothered to sing or bounce along, despite the fact the music seems to lend itself perfectly to  such behavior. There were exceptions, of course. Older favorites “Get Over It” and “Don’t Ask Me”  both elicited welcome sing alongs.

During the middle of the set, lead singer Damian Kulash stepped down from the stage to perform “Last Leaf” while standing on a small box in the

Kulash in the crowd

middle of the venue. Surrounded by photo-snapping fans, Kulash expertly worked his way through the acoustic number that is one of Blue Colour’s standout tracks. The charismatic frontman also provided comedy-club quality quips throughout the set, chiding the Boston crowd for their accents, their nerd-like tenancies, and their general uncleanliness.

As they had on past tours, the band would attempt to cleanse the “filthy masses” by performing “What to Do” using only hand bells, or “the instrument that God himself invented,” according to Kulash. While it may not have achieved its stated goal, the performance still sounded great and was beyond amusing to watch.

Kulash would return to the floor to stir up the crowd during “This To Shall Pass.” The set closer, which has  gained notoriety on the strength of its zany video, had the crowd bouncing up and down while belting out the final chorus. The quartet would leave the stage and then return for a three song encore which began with “WTF?” The band brought back to the stage a  trio of tricked out guitars that shot laser beams into the crowd as they were being played. Coupled with their LED adorned jackets, Ok Go gave further proof to the fact that they have the always-useful combination of ambition and plenty of free time.

The show would come to an end with “Do What You Want.” It was a solid ending to tremendously impressive set from one of today’s most underrated rock bands. While they may not be able to inspire many huge sing-alongs or circle pits, their technical ability is second to none. In addition, Kulash has a knack for making everyone in the venue seem like an old friend, not to mention a very impressive vocal range. While their videos may be complex affairs, their rather straight forward live shows are where the real excitement is.

Ok Go Set List (I believe it’s accurate)
Invisible
Needing/Getting
A Million Ways
All Is Not Lost
I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe
White Knuckles
Oh Lately It’s So Quiet
A Good Idea at the Time
Here It Goes Again
What To Do (Handbells)
Last Leaf
Get Over It
Don’t Ask Me
Back From Kathmandu
Debaser (Pixies cover)
This To Shall Pass

Encore:
WTF?
Skyscrapers
Do What You Want

Kings for More than a Decade

August 4, 2009 Leave a comment

HPIM1109

Green Day
The Bravery
Times Union Center, Albany New York
July 25th, 2009

In 2004, Green Day released American Idiot, a record that not only revived their career, but will most likely define it. After selling more than 5 million copies of the album and playing sold-out arenas and stadiums around the world, it seemed like Green Day had little to prove with their next record, 21st Century Breakdown. In a way, this is true, for the band was more or less guaranteed to sell a ton of records and a lot of tickets no matter what they put out. Despite this fact, the band certainly didn’t mail it in, for 21st Century Breakdown is possibly more ambitious than its predecessor, and as proven by their performance at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York, the fans love the record, and the band continues to put on a jaw-dropping live show.

Stealing the show before taking the stage

The show was opened by New York’s own The Bravery. The band has seen some success with their first two records, but few in the crowd seemed at all interested when they took the stage. That changed when an ear splitting crash was suddenly heard midway through the band’s first song. Lead singer Sam Endicott literally ducked for cover and threw his hands over his head as those in the crowd snapped to attention. It happened again toward the end of the song, and then again at the start of the next one. Was it a problem with the sound system? Not exactly.

The noise, which was actually fireworks being set off behind the band’s enormous backdrop, was just the start of the prank, which Green Day had HPIM1086devised to celebrate the Bravery’s last of twenty nights on the tour. Next up was a parade of animals and mythical creatures (or at least, men dressed like them), including the Easter Bunny and a dragon. The costumed men danced along on stage for most of the set, and they were soon joined by a pair of male strippers, who danced uncomfortably close to Endicott throughout the rest of the band’s time on stage.

The most impressive part of the prank was not how elaborate or well planned it was, but the fact that the band played through it completely unfazed. This not only included the dancers and the fireworks, but also the fact that the individual members of the group were shot with a toilet paper gun on multiple occasions, and then a huge storm of popcorn and ping pong balls was shot onto the stage later in the set. The entire spectacle ended with the Bravery performing one of their biggest hits, “An Honest Mistake” in this projectile storm as Endicott held an enormous umbrella over his head. While their set was completely overshadowed by the onstage antics, they did sound good, and I would certainly like to see them in a less unusual situation.

Green Day starts with more fireworks

While the Bravery had been a nice distraction, it was clear that each and every person in the cavernous (and not quite full) arena were there for the headliners, and they cheered widely as a recorded version of “Song of the Century” began to play. While other bands often avoid new material early in the set to ensure starting off on a high note, Green Day decided to do the opposite, opening with “21st Century Breakdown” and “Know Your Enemy,” both of which had those on the floor bouncing up and down while those in the stands sang along. While their new record may not achieve the same success as American Idiot did five years ago, it certainly didn’t make the slightest difference to these fans.

A Small Surprise

HPIM1117The band continued the new tracks with “East Jesus Nowhere,” which marked the first appearance on stage by a fan. This fan wasn’t your average Green Day die-hard however, for he couldn’t have been more than ten years old. If you ignored the fact that he looked absolutely terrified as he was being “saved” by Armstrong, he did bear a striking resemblance to the energetic front man. After the fireworks exploded and the pint-sized guest had hit the deck as if being shot, the band sprinted into three songs that would quickly work the crowd into a tizzy. “Holiday” (which included the obligatory microphone shouts from Billy Joe) was followed by “The Static Age” and “Before the Lobotomy,” two of the better tracks from 21st Century Breakdown. All the while, bassist Mike Dirnt strutted across the stage, looking calm and confident as Armstrong raged like a madman.

Back To Basics

With fireworks continuing to explode and the band members (especially Billy Joe) getting as close to the crowd as the barriers would permit, the band continued to pack the set list with new material, with “St. Jimmy” making for one of the shows best moments. Then just when it seemed as if everyone in attendance had forgotten about the band’s older material, the group launched into an extended trip down memory lane, beginning with “Hitchin’ A Ride.” While American Idiot may have been the record that attracted many in the arena to the band, they had certainly brushed up on the Green Day back catalogue, singing along as if each song was currently #1 on the rock charts.

It was during “Longview” that Armstrong called three different fans up on stage, with each getting to sing a chorus and verse, and then dive back into the crowd. This bit of audience participation is a novel idea, but only if the fans know every single word, which wasn’t necessarily the case here. During “King for a Day,” the band was joined on stage by an entire brass section, as well as other additional musicians. While these annonomous artists play with the band for most of the show, they probably don’t get the credit they deserve when it comes to making the entire spectacle possible.

It Wouldn’t Be An Arena Show If It Wasn’t Over The Top

The award for most absurd song of the night certainly goes to the band’s performance of retirement home aerobics class favorite “Shout.” Surprisingly, the crowd seemed to enjoy it, although it certainly didn’t leave anyone begging for more obnoxious covers. The show then suddenly took on a more serious tone as the band moved on to current single “21 Guns,” which came complete with an enormous audience sing along and a shower of sparks that rained from the ceiling and nearly engulfed the band. “American Eulogy” followed, and the band walked off the stage as the crowd cheered for “one more song.” They would get much more than that.

A Half-Hearted Attempt At Revenge

Green Day returned to the stage with “American Idiot,” and they were soon joined on stage by a heard of men wearing fake beards and plastic armor. They quickly unfurled an enormous “Woodstock ’94” banner, to the chagrin of Armstrong, who jokingly chided the group for messing up a serious song. As if  these men (who were soon throwing dirt around the stage) weren’t enough, the Bravely soon made their own appearance, this time dressed in drag. If there’s one thing that could be gleamed from their time on stage, it was that lead singer Sam Endicott is most likely anorexic.

While the band had done their best throughout the night to wow the crowd, the most impressive performance of the night was turned in by a HPIM1116young female fan who was called up on stage to play guitar on “Jesus of Suburbia.” She basically didn’t miss a step throughout the nine minute epic, strumming Armstrong’s guitar while sitting on one of the monitors at the front of the stage. Armstrong meanwhile bounced around the stage and onto the catwalk that extended out into the middle of the floor, working the crowd back into a frenzy. While the band had been on stage for nearly two and half hours, the music just kept coming. “Minority” represented the only Warning track the band would play on the night, and the crowd loved every second of it as blue and white confetti floated down from the ceiling.

The band, save for Armstrong, would then leave the stage, saying goodbye to the Albany crowd for the last time. Billy Joe, meanwhile, would grab an acoustic guitar and finish off the show with “Last Night On Earth” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” The crowd seemed more excited to hear the former, as “Time of Your Life” has worn out its welcome for most. This is not to say, however, that the show ended on a down note. The fans streamed out into the empty city center raving about what they had just witnessed: a full two hours and forty minutes of bliss from one of the world’s  best rock bands. While Green Day is a band that doesn’t need any gimmicks to put on a memorable live show, they showed that a few fireworks are a never a bad thing when you back up all of the pomp.

Ten Good Things About 2008

January 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Here, in no particular order, is a list of the two events/people/teams that made 2008 fun.

  • Alkaline Trio: Released a great new record and played some great shows. Their tours with Bayside, American Steel, Rise Against, and others were classic.
  • The Dark Knight: A movie that was almost impossible not to enjoy and completely lived up to the enormous hype surrounding it.
  • The Kansas Jayhawks and All of College Basketball: It was a great year to be a fan of college basketball, capped off by Kansas’ memorable victory in the NCAA Championship.
  • How to Lose Friend and Alienate People, the Book: While the film version may have bombed in studios, this was easily the best book I read all year.
  • Jack’s Mannequin: The only thing better than the release of their highly anticipated sophomore record was their tour of minuscule venues which followed.
  • Barack Obama: Finally.
  • Border Cafe: Best place to eat, ever.
  • Bentley University: I go to a great school, and it keeps getting better.
  • The New York Giants: Their run through the playoffs and victory over undefeated New England was the most exciting and satisfying month of sports I will ever see.
  • Skydiving: Completely awesome, you should try it.
Categories: Uncategorized

Rise Against and Alkaline Trio in Worcester

October 14, 2008 1 comment

This is the tour of the year. If you think differently, I think you’re wrong. Any time you pair two of today’s biggest and most prolific punk bands on the same bill, you’re certain to get great shows that will attract thousands of fans at venues all across the country. Throw in one of the scene’s most innovative post-hardcore bands, along with an act generally acknowledged to be “the next big thing,” and you have a touring match made in Heaven. Monday’s date in Worcester at the Palladium somehow lived up to the hype, providing one of the most intense live show experiences I’ve ever been apart of, while confirming the headliner’s standing as one of today’s most popular, influential, and vital rock bands.

The night began with a short set from New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem. The much talked about and self

The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon

The Gaslight Anthem

described “soul band” put on a very enjoyable show that mainly featured material from their latest release The ’59 Sound. Lead singer Brian Fallon’s signature “soulful” vocal work took center stage while guitarist Alex Rosamila admirably led harder driving songs such “Old White Lincoln” and “The Backseat.” While only a few in the crowd (which was already quite large at this point) seemed to be familiar with the act, the band seemed to do well in winning them over during the set.

Next was Orange County’s Thrice. While the band has strayed quite far from their post-hardcore roots with their most recent releases, they showed that they can still bring the heat in a live setting. Dustin Kensrue spent most of the set screaming his lungs out, while drummer Riley Breckenridge pounded his kit into oblivion. For the first few songs, I couldn’t help but think “wow, these guys are heavy.” However, that thought soon turned to “wow, these songs all sound the same,” and then transformed into “wow, I’m kind of bored here.” Despite their technical prowess, I simply wasn’t that interested in their set. They did end on a high note however with “The Earth Will Shake,” a standout track from their 2005 record Vheissu. I have plenty of respect for the band and their ability to write great songs, but I was a little to excited to see the two bands that would soon take the stage.

Next, a black banner embossed with a familiar logo was unfurled, candles were lit, and all hell broke loose.

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio took the stage to a roar from the crowd and broke into “Private Eye.” The band just happens to have two perfect songs with which to open a set (and a record), and they segwayed  into “Calling All Skeletons,” the biting first track from their latest effort Agony and Irony. The band then continued the onslaught with old favorite “I Lied My Face Off.” While they might not have been the headliner, it was obvious that the majority of the crowd knew Alkaline Trio and knew them well, judging by the reaction to this song.

The band would go on to play the staples from the new record, including “Help Me,” “In Vein,” and “I Found Away.” They also played “Over and Out” for the first time ever. “Cringe,” the opening track from Goddamnit was a very pleasant surprised and received a huge reaction from the crowd. The only iffy point  was the Crimson track “I Was A Prayer,” which is a nice song, but didn’t quite pack the energy of any of the set’s other songs. The band would close with another huge sing along moment in “This Could Be Love,” during which guitarist/front man Matt Skiba pointed out an enthusiastic fan and had the rest of the crowd sing the chorus to him. What has surprised me each time I have seen Alkaline Trio this year, and especially on this night, is how much fun they seem to be having on stage. Many veteran bands who have seen the same type of success would scoff at an opening role, especially after having released a major label debut earlier this year. However, both Skiba and bassist Dan Adriano had huge smiles on their faces for the majority of the time and were undoubtedly excited to playing the show. While a headlining tour may suit them better simply due to their enormous catalog, they were the perfect warm up for another venerable Chicago favorite.

Rise Against

Rise Against

Rise Against entered the room to some type of distorted spoken-word introduction which was mainly drowned out by static and the cheering crowd. From here, they would burst into a furious rendition of “Drones.” In the few glances I caught of front man Tim McIllrath during the song, it looked like he was perilously close to suffering a burst vain and/or crushing the microphone. Such intensity would continue into the next song, “Give It All,” the band’s first breakthrough hit. From here on out, it’s a little difficult to remember exactly what was played because I was more concerned with surviving than taking mental set-list notes. I’ve been to a lot of shows, and a lot of rough ones, but this one might take the cake in that area, and I have the scratches and bruises to prove it.Throughout the set, bodies were being thrown around like rag dolls in the pit, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been in car crashes that were more pleasant than what I experienced when I ventured into the center of it. Luckily, everyone was watching out everyone else, and the second someone hit the ground there were often four hands there to immediatly pick them up.

The fact that I didn’t exactly see most of what happened on stage shouldn’t take away from another excellent Rise Against performance. They sounded great, and while the set list was heavy with tracks from 2006’s The Sufferer and the Witness, there was enough of a mix of old and new to keep most fans happy. The band played three new tracks from Appeal to Reason, set to be released the next day but already for sale at the band’s merch table. They were lead song “Reeducation (Through Labor),” album openner “Collapse” and the haunting acoustic number “Hero of War,” which was played near the end of the show along with “Swing Life Away.” Two songs from 2003’s Revolutions Per Minute were also played, those being “Like The Angel” and “Halfway There.”

The band finished their set with a bone-crushing combination of “Survive,” “Under the Knife,” and finally “Prayer of the Refuge,” which insipred a wild pit that consumed most of the floor. By the time the lights came back on and the band had left the stage, many in the crowd were covered in sweat and bruises, but most would agree that they would trade the opportunity to see a tour this good for a few aches and pains any day.

Rise Against Set List (Probably not in order or quite right)
Drones
Give It All
Injection
State of the Union
Ready to Fall
Re-Education
Chamber the Cartridge
Stained Glass and Marble
Behind Closed Doors
Like the Angel
Collapse
Bricks
Halfway There
The Good Left Undone
Hero of War
Swing Life Away

(Encore)
Survive
Under the Knife
Prayer of the Refugee

Nine Inch Nails “Lights Over America” Tour

August 12, 2008 Leave a comment

Mohegan Sun Arena
August 7th 2008

In 2005, Nine Inch Nails released “With Teeth.” This is how I discovered the band, and at the time, I figured I was pretty late to the party considering that nearly every critic who reviewed the record panned it for being “unimaginative” and “lacking in urgency.” Apparently, Trent Reznor’s best days were far behind him.

Fast forward three years and three records later, and Reznor is once again being heralded as a musical mastermind and industry rebel, having released the latest Nine Inch Nails album, “The Slip” as an unexpected free download on the band’s web site earlier this year. Along with “The Slip,” The band’s 2006 full-length “Year Zero” and this year’s instrumental double disk “Ghosts” have both been well received and provided the band with a wealth of new material for their first North American tour in some time. Unlike many bands of their stature, Nine Inch Nails proved they have no intentions of resting on their laurels, playing a breathtaking two hours set comprised mainly of new songs and aided by the presence of an absolutely eye-popping light display.

After Georgia’s Deerhunter played an enjoyable but less than memorable set to a barely half-full arena, Nine Inch Nails took the stage to begin the show with the first four songs from “The Slip.” Dressed completely in black and displaying enough energy to power the light show behind them, the band had an unmistakable
“larger-than-life” aura, especially Reznor, who could have easily passed for a WWE star had a wrestling event taken place inside the arena that night. Vocally, I was shocked by Reznor’s performance throughout the show, for he sounded exactly like he does on record. I was even more surprised when I learned the next day that he was suffering from a vocal ailment at the time and was forced to cancel the next night’s show. This is probably why Reznor did almost no talking in between songs.

As the band moved onto older tracks such as “Closer,” “The Frail,” and “The Great Destroyer,” the now-packed arena roared it’s approval and a seizure-inducing light show began to take center stage. Backed by a moving wall of spotlights and strobe lights, Renznor pounced around the stage as if ready to attack as guitarist Robin Finck and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen not only hit every note, but also added spot-on backing vocals.

By the middle of the set, the band decided to slow it down and play three instrumental tracks from the “Ghosts” album. Throwing a road block in the middle of what had been a high-energy show would normally seem like a bad idea, but the stunning visual display which enveloped the band easily held the crowd’s attention. Using three different digital screens, the band appeared to be playing at first in a desert (similar to the one seen on the cover of “Ghosts”), then in swamp, and then in a driving rain storm. After playing an unplugged version of “Piggy” and “The Greater Good,” Reznor seemingly “erased” a blue screen that had blocked the stage using the beam of a flashlight, and then the band burst into “Pinion and Wish,” once again ratcheting up the energy level.

Reznor peaking through a wall of static during Only

Reznor peaking through a wall of static during "Only"

From this point, the band would play seven more songs before leaving the stage. They closed the set with the trio of “Only,” “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like A Hole.” This was, in my opinion, the highlight of the show, especially the closer, which emerged as the band’s first hit nearly 20 years ago and is still a vital live track today.

After leaving the stage for a short while, the band returned to play a five song encore featuring three “Year Zero” songs and highlighted by the somber “Hurt.” The band closed the show with “In This Twighlight” to an expected ovation from the crowd. Not being a die-hard fan of the band, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by this show, but I certainly was. While more bands today may be more popular and sell more records, Nine Inch Nials have shown that, even after 20 years, they are still not only relevant, but one of the world’s top rock bands.

Set list:
999,999
1,000,000
Letting You
Discipline
March of the Pigs
The Frail
The Wretched
Closer
Gave Up

The Warning
The Great Destroyer

Ghosts 1
Ghosts 5
Ghosts 19
Ghosts Piggy

The Greater Good

Pinion
Wish
Terrible Lie
Survivalism
Ghosts 31
Only
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole

ENCORE
Echoplex
God Given
The Good Soldier
Hurt
In This Twilight