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Blink-182 Soliders Through Tough Night in Hartford

September 7, 2009 Leave a comment

HPIM1350Blink-182

Weezer, Taking Back Sunday

Comcast Theater, Hartford CT

August 29th, 2009

The show started off just like any other. Thousands of eager fans streamed into the sold-out Comcast Theater, eager to finally witness the return of Blink-182. Most of them, including myself, missed Chester French, and then witnessed a bland set from Taking Back Sunday, followed by a fantastic one from Weezer. When Blink first took the stage, the crowd roared and Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge raced around the stage belting out the band’s biggest hits.

However, this was not a normal show, for during the band’s set, a teary-eyed Hoppus called this one of the most difficult shows the band had ever played due to the death of Adam Goldstein , aka “DJ AM.” Goldstein, who had died suddenly a day earlier, and had collaborated with Barker on a number of occasions (and). His death came as a shock to the music industry. Hoppus credited Goldstein with being an extremely talented musician, innovator, and friend. The band did their best to put on a great show, but it was often difficult to sing along to their bouncy pop-punk tracks after seeing the band so visibly shaken up.

The night started (at least for me) with a short set from Taking Back Sunday, marking the third time I had seen the group this summer. Unlike their memorable performance at the House of Blues in Boston in June, they seemed out of their element playing on such a large stage before the sun had set. The band went through the motions, trying to look interested without much success. The crowd in the pit stood still and silent for the first half of the set, finally getting involved during “Liar (It Takes One to Know One).” They may have been doing so more out of boredom than actual excitement.

After the unfurling of a golden “Weezer” banner and a hilarious “Welcome to Harford” video introduction, the veteran act took the stage, minus HPIM1314front man Rivers Cuomo. After playing the opening cords of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” Rivers finally made his entrance, moving like a clunky robot and holding a football. As if this wasn’t strange enough, Weezer proceeded to rock the Sabbath cover as if it were their biggest hit.

The crowd seemed very confused. This changed with the intro to “Hash Pipe.” While this was a Blink-182 headlining show, you would have no idea based on the crowd’s reaction to nearly every song the band played. Weezer’s set was as enjoyable to watch as any I’ve seen recently, as Rivers egged on the crowd with his odd stage antics that included playing an accoustic guitar while jumping on a trampoline. It was obvious the Connecticut native wasn’t taking this opening slot lightly.

The set was so good because the band didn’t shy away from older material. Tracks from 1994’s landmark blue album were dominant and included “Undone – The Sweater Song,” “Surf Wax America,” “Say It Ain’t So,” “My Name is Jonas,” and “Buddy Holly.” In addition to this, the band would include more of their best work, such as “The Good Life, “Pork and Beans,” and “Perfect Situation.”

HPIM1324While the entire set could be considered somewhat outlandish, two of the wackiest moments involved Cuomo playing “Island in the Sun” by himself, looping drum, bass, and backing vocals and then taking care of lead vocals while playing an acoustic guitar, which he then tossed into the crowd. While the guitar would have made for an amazing conversation piece for one lucky fan, it was quickly ripped to shreds, providing small souvenirs for a few dozen involved in the scrum.

Weezer would then finish the set the way they had started it: with another over. This time, it was The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” After a half hour wait, Blink-182 took the stage to the delight of the completely sold out pavilion. The band would race through seven songs, beginning with “Dumpweed” and finishing with “Stay Together For the Kids,” before an emotional Mark Hoppus would address the crowd about the tragedy that had struck the day before. The emotional address and moment of silence that followed cast a notable pall over the next few songs.

Tom Delonge attempted to lighten the mood with jokes, but was largely unsuccessful. Finally, he took a moment to address the crowd, saying music had always served as an escape for him, and tonight would be no different. This rare serious moment from HPIM1334Delogne was surprisingly heartfelt, and seemed to rally the crowd for the rest of the show.

The band would finished their set with “Josie” and “Anthem Pt. 2,” before returning for an encore that did not feature Travis Barker’s traditional “flying” drum solo. Seeing as Barker considered Goldstein a close friend, it was understandable why the drummer had no intentions of taking center stage on this night. Following “Carousel” and “Dammit,” the band would take their bows and leave the stage.

Hoppus’s mid-show address was unlike anything I’ve seen at a live show. The night was obviously very difficult for the band, and it was somewhat surprising they hadn’t postponed or canceled the show altogether. Overall, the trio deserves a great deal of credit for their performance. They sounded great and looked to be having a blast, even if this was not at all the case. While a tragic plane crash that had involved both Barker and Goldstein only a year earlier was the main reason Blink was back on stage together, it was difficult to take any positives from this most recent tragedy.

Coldplay Thrills Fans with an Encore Performance in Hartford

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Coldplay
May 23rd 2009
Comcast Theater, Hartford CT

After releasing a hugely successful, Grammy winning album and touring the world non-stop for the past year, you would think Coldplay would be ready for a nice long vacation. However, the band did not become one of the world’s biggest by sitting on a beach in the Caribbean, and they won’t be doing that any time soon. Instead, they are spending their summer playing amphitheaters in cities that most do their best to avoid. One of those cities is Hartford, Connecticut, where Coldplay would continue their Viva La Vida tour at the Comcast Theater. While their live show hasn’t change much since I saw them on the first leg of the tour last summer, they amazed me once again, belting out their biggest hits along with a few new surprises in another memorable performance.

New Jersey native and Syracuse graduate Pete Y0rn opened the show with a sleep-educing forty minute set of dull ballads and soft rock numbers that were better suited for an elevator than a packed amphitheater. Yorn sauntered around the stage for most of the set, barely acknowledging the crowd and saying little between songs. The rest of his band looked even less interested, often blankly staring off into space while playing their instruments with as little enthusiasm as humanly possible. While Yorn’s songs have been featured in TV dramas such as House and in romantic comedies such as Me, Myself, and Irene, they simply didn’t come across well in this setting.

HPIM0839Thirty minutes after Yorn and company left the stage to a small smattering of applause, A semi-transparent black screen was lowered over the stage and the lights were dimmed. Lead singer Chris Martin led the rest of the band,¬† guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman, and drummer Will Champion out on stage. With sparkling torches held aloft, the band jogged to the drum set, extinguished the flames, and began the show with the customary opener, “Life In Technicolor.” After the screen dropped and the band was finally revealed, they segued into “Violet Hill,” which inspired the first giant sing along of the night. The setlist focused mainly on the band’s older hits, as well as a good deal of material from their latest full-length, Viva La Vida, and it’s follow up EP, Prospect’s March.

An early highlight of the set was the band’s first big hit “Yellow,” which featured an impressive laser show that stretched all the way to the lawnHPIM0835, as well as confetti-filled yellow balloons bouncing all over the venue. Another early highlight¬† was the performance of “Fix You” from 2005’s X & Y. After jumping around the stage and working the crowd into a tizzy for most of the song, Martin simply sat at his piano and listened as the 13,000 in attendance sang the last chorus back to him in (not quite) perfect harmony.

After an upbeat performance of “Strawberry Swing,” the band ventured off stage and into the crowd, stopping at a small platform located in the center of the pavilion. The quartet has been doing this throughout their Viva La Vida tour, to the delight of those in the cheap(er) seats, who got an unexpectedly close view for these three songs. Without a drum set, the band presented “techno” versions of “God Put A Smile On Your Face” and “Talk.” Both sounded slightly awkward and didn’t live up to their full band versions, but they seemed to please the crowd nonetheless.¬† Champion, Buckland, and Berryman then returned to the stage, leaving Martin alone on the platform with his piano. The lead singer announced that this would be the boring part of the set, and he instructed those in the audience who might be craving a hot dog to head to the concession stands. While few took him up on the offer, Martin’s rendition of “The Hardest Part” certainly wasn’t the highlight of the set. That would follow shortly.

HPIM0802As Martin made his way back through the crowd and a recorded version of the instrumental track “Postcards From Far Away” was played, an enormous bongo drum was rolled to the front of the stage, where Champion stood ready. Just as Martin made it back, the opening notes from “Viva La Vida” could be heard, and the crowd instantly roared its approval. As he would do all show, Martin bounced around the stage , getting up close and personal with as many fans as possible. He ended “Viva La Vida” singing the melody on his back, and the crowd ate it up. After performing “Lost!,” the band would once again leave the stage.

This time, Martin and Co. would venture even further from the elaborately designed set, making their way to a platform on the lawn, nearly causing a stampede of fans who had been lounging on blankets and folding chairs only minutes before. Martin would then string together a series of cheesy but humorous rhymes about Hartford and playing for the fans in the back, one of which went “When you’re depressed and sitting on your butt, come play a show in Connecticut.” The band would then perform “Green Eyes” from A Rush of Blood To the Head, as well as “Death Will Never Conquer,” a short folk-ish track the band released free on their website featuring Champion on lead vocals. Martin had introduced the drummer with a rhyme that sounded something like “Now you’re all in for a thrill, for here’s our drummer Will.” Is Martin preparing for a future career as a children’s novelist? I hope not.

After finishing their set on the lawn with a sing-along cover of Neil Diamond’s “I’m A Believer,” the band would take a short break before finally HPIM0880returning to the main stage. Here they would preform one of their most rocking tracks, Politik,” and then “Lovers In Japan.” The latter brought a blizzard-like storm of brightly colored confetti that nearly obscured the entire stage. After grabbing not only a Japanese umbrella but also an enormous dragon head costume (seriously), Martin would bring the song to and end and then end the set with “Death And All His Friends.”

After the band left the stage, the crowd began to sing the melody to “Viva La Vida,” and before long, the quartet returned to the stage to preform a two song encore. It began with “The Scientist” and then concluded with “Life in Technicolor II” from the Prospect’s March EP. Surprisingly, the crowd was as into this song as any the band had played, singing along as if the tune was their biggest single. Coldplay then took their bows and made their exit. As thousands of very satisfied fans did the same, they continued to sing the melody to “Viva La Vida,” and it could be heard on the concourse and even as the throngs made their way outside the venue and back to the parking lots. With this most likely being Coldplay’s last visit to Hartford for some time, it was obvious the band had left their mark with this performance. At the beginning of the show, Martin brought up the fact they were trying to make up for a sub-par showing during their last visit to the city. While they may not have given the “eight billion percent” effort the lead singer had promised, they certainly made their previous missteps seem like a very distant memory.

Setlist

Life In Technicolor
Violet Hill
Clocks
In My Place
Yellow
Glass Of Water
Cemeteries Of London
42
Fix You
Strawberry Swing
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face (techno version, Pavilion)
Talk (techno version, Pavilion)
The Hardest Part (Pavilion)
Postcards From Far Away
Viva La Vida
Lost!
Green Eyes (Lawn)
Death Will Never Conquer (Lawm)
I’m A Believer (Neil Diamond Cover, Lawn)
Viva La Vida (remix interlude)
——
Politik
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends
——-
The Scientist
Life in Technicolor ii