Morrissey – Wang Theater, Boston – October 5th, 2012
Morrissey has long been one of music’s most polarizing figures. To some,
he is a living legend and pop-culture icon. To others,
he is a self-absorbed ego maniac. Love him or loathe him,
you have to admit that part of Morrissey’s appeal lies in the fact that he is a
walking contradiction: a wildly successful rock star who sings
about misery and loneliness. That
contradiction is what brought thousands of adoring fans to Boston’s
striking Wang Theater to see the first date of Morrissey’s massive
North American tour. The trek will see him visit just about every major
and minor market across the country, culminating with a stop at the
Staples Center in Los Angeles.
While I’m not very well versed in the specifics of Morrissey’s set list
choices over the years, I do know that the former
Smiths frontman often sprinkles in a few choice cuts from his former
band. I also knew that he tends to stray away from the more
radio-friendly fare that helped make him a household name as a solo
artist in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Beyond these unwritten rules, the possibilities seemed endless on the
first night of the tour. As Morrissey stepped out on to the stage
with his band following close behind, the crowd erupted. The cheers
got louder and louder as Morrissey calmly stepped to the front of the
stage to take a pre-show bow, and then kicked off the set with “You
Have Killed Me”.
From the very start, it was obvious that Morrissey had come to put on
a show, looking and sounding well rested and ready to tackle North
America for the first time in three years. He added a certain amount
of grit to his normally polished songs, often growling certain words
or lines for extra emphasis. His band was happy to play along, sounding
louder and heavier than on any recordings.
While the set was expertly performed, it would best be described as
“uneven” in terms of song selection and pacing. More upbeat fare
(maybe upbeat isn’t the word) such as “Every Day Is Like A Sunday” and
“I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” garnered huge reactions from the
crowd and were some of the best moments of the set. However, most of
these songs came at the start of the night.
The show lost a good deal of momentum in the middle of the 90 minute set, as the
band strung together the quartet of “Last Night I Dreamt That Someone
Loved Me”, “Fantastic Bird”, “People Are The Same Everywhere”, ” And
“Meat Is Murder”. The latter featured a graphic animal cruelty video projected on the backdrop.
At that point, the crowd was getting anxious.
Morrissey and crew then segued into “Scandanavia,” which was one of four
songs that the band played that hadn’t been include on any other 2012 set list.
Following this, Morrissey broke out the Smith’s classic “I Know It’s
Over”, which sounded absolutely perfect and helped to revitalize the
crowd. The set would then close with “I’m OK By Myself”, the last
track from his most recent album, 2009’s excellent “Years of Refusal”.
By this point, many of those who had front row seats were rushing the
stage, and while the crew did their best to repel them, a few
did slip by to score an awkward embrace with the man himself.
After a short break, Morrissey and the band returned to the stage for
a one song encore, the Smiths track “How Soon Is Now”. Stretching nearly seven minutes long, the song gave the overly eager fans at the front another chance to bum-rush the stage, and they certainly took advantage of it.
At the conclusion of the song, Morrissey and the band joined arms and
took a post-show bow.
While the set certainly was not the feel good event of the year, most
fans got exactly what they were looking for out of this performance.
Both Morrissey’s vocals and his band were spot-on, and his stage
presence is unmatched. While this was far from a greatest hits set, it did represent a good
cross section of Morrissey’s career. While this appealed to the many
die-hard fans in attendance, the show probably wouldn’t win
over anyone who had been on the fence, but most of those people probably
made up their minds on Morrissey years ago.
April 29th 2011
House of Blues Boston
Rise Against sure does know how to pick openers. Recent tour mates have included the likes of Thursday, Circa Survive, Billy Talent, Alkaline Trio, Thrice, The Gaslight Anthem, Rancid… and the list goes on . That’s why it was no surprise when they announced their most recent mega-tour, this one with support from punk legends Bad Religion and Worcester natives Four Year Strong. Their appearance at the House of Blues in Boston on April 29th was their first of two sold-out shows, and after witnessing the three live sets, it was obvious why this tour had no trouble selling tickets.
The night started off with a half hour set from Four Year Strong. As the local favorites, at least half the fans in attendance seemed to be into it, not bad for an opener. I was pleasantly surprised to see they had dropped the cheesy synth parts from their live show, which allowed the set to take on a much heavier, punk-rock feel than they displayed on their first record. All in all, probably a band I should get more familiar with.
Next was Bad Religion. After having played their own headlining show at the same venue last fall, they were easily able to get the crowd involved as they performed a set of material that spanned their 30 year career. Just like they had in October, they sounded great, and Greg Graffin was sure to include quite a bit of “We’re so old” between song banter. They finished the set in particularly strong fashion with the trio of “We’re Only Going to Die,” “Los Angeles is Burning,” and “Sorrow.” Their 15 song set was, of course, too short for satisfaction, but seeing them twice in less than a year was already more than most fans could ask for.
A half hour later, Rise Against took the stage and proved why they are one of today’s best live acts. The intensity they bring to each and every show is practically unmatched among their peers. Every song seems like it is a call to arms, urging the crowd to d fight for what they believe in, or at least put their fists in the air and sing along.
Surprisingly, the band strayed away from their new album Endgame, playing only four of the new tracks. Much of the setlist (7 songs) came from their excellent 2008 release Appeal to Reason. No matter the song, frontman Tim Mcllrath looked like a man possessed, with his eyes as wide as saucers and veins ready to explode. This is, of course, par for the course at a Rise Against show.
In addition to the seven songs from Appeal to Reason, the band also worked in five songs from their fan-favorite 2006 effort Sufferer and the Witness, and included an acoustic interlude that features “Swing Life Away” and “Hero of War.”The band would then close the set with the pounding Sufferer track “Ready to Fall.”
While the whole encore thing has grown old for pretty much everyone who goes to more than two shows a year, there is something to be said for a band that really puts effort into their encores. Rise Against is one of those bands, returning for a four song stint that did not include any of their big singles, but instead focused on choice cuts from three different albums. “Blood Red White and Blue” was the lone representative from 2004’s Revolutions Per Minute, while “Entertainment” and “Savior” were also included from Appeal to Reason. The closing number was the song that originally drew me to Rise Against, that being “Give It All” from 2004’s Siren Song of the Counter Culture. I still believe this is the song that embodies everything that makes Rise Against one of today’s most successful rock bands, from it’s sincere lyrics and epic bridge to it’s fist-pumping chorus.
Needless to say, I left the show a very happy customer. While it was slightly disappointing to not be attending the second Boston show, I knew that Rise Against is the type of band that never stops touring, and would probably have another big announcement coming shortly. It turns out I was right, as they were announced as the support band on the Foo Fighters Fall arena trek. Talk about a mega-tour.
The Out With The In Crowd Tour
October 23rd, 2010
I was in high school when Senses Fail hit it big. Following the underground success of their debut EP, they released Let in Enfold You in 2004, and immediately rose to the top of the much maligned emo/screemo scene. In six years since, a lot has changed. Few bands remain from the scene that Senses Fail once ruled, and even fewer will ever be able to sell the 300,000+ units that Let It Enfold You did.
Much like the industry itself, Senses Fail has evolved, and this has allowed them to retain a strong fan base. The band’s biggest evolution cannot be heard on their newest record or in their numerous line-up changes, but in the immense improvement they have made to their live show. I hadn’t seen the band in four years, and while they’re still a mess at times, the difference is remarkable.
The night began…. early. While Royale has quickly become one of Boston’s trendiest music venues, it also doubles as one of it’s trendiest night clubs. This means that Friday and Saturday night shows start and end early to make way for well-dressed club-goers and their disposable incomes. For this reason, I missed opening acts Title Fight and Balance and Composure.
The first band I did catch was Bayside. This was my sixth time seeing them as a full band, and I wasn’t all that excited for their set. While they are a very solid live band, it seems like they’ve been playing the same songs for at least the past three years. This includes largely ignoring their most recent record Shudder, which very well may be their best work.
It could have been my low expectations, but I came away with a renewed appreciation for the band. While they did cover all of the familiar tracks in their hour long set, they also threw in a few pleasant surprises and displayed a sense of energy I hadn’t seen from them in quite awhile.
Among the surprises were “Just Enough To Love You” from their 2001 Split EP with Name Taken, and “Alcohol and Alter Boys” from 2004’s “Sirens and Condolences.” The band continued to avoid tracks from Shudder, but the one they did include on the setlist was a great one, that being “I Think I’ll Be Ok.”
While the New York city quintet moved quickly in order to pack in as many songs as possible, they did fit in a few well-placed jabs at the Red Sox that had the Boston faithful at least slightly riled up. The joke, however, would be on the band, for their beloved Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs by the Texas Rangers later that night.
In addition to the national pastime, Bayside focused on sounding as good as I’ve ever heard them. The highlights of the set for me were “Landing Feet First,” a mid-tempo track off The Walking Wounded, as well as fan favorite “Montauk.” Throughout the set the crowd sang along with fists in the air, showing that they may not have been the headliner, but Bayside certainly helped sell a fair amount of tickets to the sold-out event.
The band also debuted two new songs from their forthcoming album, both of which were punchy and upbeat, but not terribly memorable upon first listen. Their cover of Weezer’s “My Name is Jonas,” on the other hand, was quite memorable. If I hadn’t been staring at the stage, I would have believed anyone who told me Weezer had just made a special appearance. While some fans would rather see a band put their own special twist on a cover song, I subscribe to the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” school of though. And “My Name is Jonas” certainly doesn’t need fixing.
The band would close the set like they always do, with a spirited version of “Devotion and Desire” that got the crowd moving more so than any of the previous tracks. They had played for a full hour, not bad considering they weren’t headlining the show.
After a short wait (I’m guessing there was an early curfew), Senses Fail took the stage and opened with “Shark Attack.” My first impression was “I think my ears are going to explode.” The entire set was an aural assault, with the band seemingly out to ruin the hearing of everyone in attendance. Mission accomplished.
That isn’t to say that the band sounded bad. They did stray into some sloppy territory at times, but overall they handled even their most technical tracks with ease. Guitarist Zach Roach, who recently replaced Heath Saraceno, not only shreds, but also lends solid backing vocals, often allowing lead singer Buddy Neilsen to catch his breath after a round of guttural screaming.
Neilsen’s vocals were the most surprising, and impressive aspect of the entire show. When I saw Senses Fail four years ago, they did not sound good. Neilsen’s started the show strong, but quickly faded to the point where he sounded nothing like he did on any of their recordings. What a difference a few years makes. On this night, the charismatic frontman deftly switched from his much-improved singing voice to the type of screaming that threatened to blow out every single speaker hanging above the stage.
While Neilsen provided an admirable vocal performance, it is the crowd that really deserves a pat on the back. From the second the band stepped on stage until the final notes of “187”, the fans went absolutely nuts. They pushed, shoved, flailed, and crowd surfed throughout the set, and Senses Fail seemed to feed off their energy. Neilsen paced around the stage like a caged animal and did his best in fighting the urge to dive headfirst into the crowd.
The band’s set lasted just under an hour and featured a mix of songs from their four full-length albums, including three tracks from The Fire. “Bite to Break Skin” from Let it Enfold You” received the biggest reaction from the crowd, although pretty much every song inspired at least some degree of chaos at the front of the venue.
The band would close the show abruptly, saying “we have one more left, and we don’t do encores, so this is it.” Once again, I think this may have been to accommodate a curfew the club had instituted. Either way, Senses Fail closed their set in the same way they’ve closed every other show throughout their career, with “187.” While it is a crowd favorite, it seems dated at this point, and I wish they would try something different. Based on their reaction, however, I don’t think many in the crowd would agree with me.
Overall, the show highlighted two bands that have survived seismic shifts in the music industry without reinventing their sound, but by cultivating a dedicated fan base. While Bayside is always a decent live band, their performance was certainly the best I had seen from them. With a new record arriving in February, they seem primed to continue to grow that fan base. Senses Fail, on the other hand, has never had a reputation as a good live band, but shows like this will go a long way towards changing that. Their performance was an hour of pure intensity that would impress even the most cynical music fans.
(Same as previous show in Hartford)
At any given Bad Religion show, there is a good chance that the band has been around longer than the majority of those who bought tickets. Celebrating their 3oth year in operation, the punk legends continue to produce quality albums and grow their fan base. Their continued success can be attributed to the fact that the band’s recent work is some of their best. The Dissent of Man, which hit shelves in September, is no exception. Touring in support of their new album, the band stopped at the House of Blues in Boston to prove that they might be old, but they can still tear it up.
The night started off with a half hour performance from Minneapolis’s Off With Their Heads. Unfortunately, an early start time meant that I wasn’t able to catch their set. However, I can say that if you like Bad Religion and haven’t checked out this band, you should. Their recent album “In Desolation” is a great punk record.
Next up were The Bouncing Souls. Having just celebrated a milestone 20th anniversary themselves, this is another band that knows something about longevity. To most in the crowd, pairing the Bouncing Souls and Bad Religion made for a dream combination, and the Jersey veterans didn’t disappoint with their set.
Racing through 15 songs, the band’s 45 minutes on stage seemed to fly by. The diehard fans at the front loved every moment of their career spanning set, as the band reached deep into their back catalog and pulled out favorites such as 1994’s “Some Kind of Wonderful” and 1997’s “Kate is Great” and “East Coast Fuck You.”
While lead singer Greg Attonito and Co. will never be accused of having great stage presence, the frontman did jump down to the barrier on a number occasions to pass the mic and get the crowd involved. The Bouncing Souls weren’t built to play a cavernous venue like the House of Blues, but they did their best to make the show feel like the sweaty punk shows their fans are accustomed to.
While the first part of their set featured older crowd favorites, the band closed with “Never Say Die/When You’re Young,” a song off their most recent album. The Bouncing Souls are lucky to have a fan base that has grown with them as their sound has changed over the years, and the audience’s reaction to this song was a testament to that.
Quickly after the Bouncing Souls had left the stage their fans began to shuffle to the back of the venue while hundreds of others rushed to the front in anticipation of what would be another great set from Bad Religion.
The band made their appearance on stage and didn’t waste any time before jumping into the fast and aggressive “Do What You Want.” The 1-minute blast from 1988’s Suffer instantly opened a giant circle pit in the middle of the floor that would rage on all night.
Like the Bouncing Souls before them, Bad Religion did their best to please everyone, playing a diverse mix of hit singles and crowd favorites, along with earlier material and the best tracks from The Dissent of Man. Needless to say, nearly every song was well received by the crowd, many of whom shouted along to every word.
While lead singer Greg Graffin may be a published author and UCLA professor by day, he steals the show on stage each night. In between sarcastic “I’m too old for this” jabs, he belted out song after song, never missing a step. Having last played Boston four years earlier, Gaffin did quite a bit of in-between song reminiscing, and even dedicated “Avalon” to the venue of the same name that was recently replaced by the House of Blues.
Popular tracks such as “21st Century Digital Boy,” “Atomic Garden” and set closer “American Jesus” inspired the biggest circle pits of the night. The fact that some of these songs were older than the fans moshing along was almost as impressive as how the songs sounded live.
At the conclusion of “American Jesus,” the band left the stage, but the usual calls for “one more song'” didn’t follow. It seemed as if those at the front were too exhausted to play that game. Gaffin and Co. did return however, all be it in less than dramatic fashion. What followed was easily one of the best encores I’ve ever seen.
This encore included a trio of Bad Religion’s very best, beginning with the rousing “Infected,” moving to the anthemic “Los Angeles is Burning” and finishing with the band’s most notable hit, “Sorrow.” I personally couldn’t have asked for anything more. It was the perfect way to end a 27 song set that had moved at a frantic pace.
With 30 years and 15 albums under their belt, you would expect a band like Bad Religion be slowing down, maybe even resting on their laurels. This obviously is not the case. Their current tour proves that they remain one of punk’s most vital acts. Not only have they inspired many of today’s top acts, they continued to show them how it’s done.
Taking Back Sunday
House of Blues Boston
June 25th, 2010
Just a year ago, I wrote a glowing review of a Taking Back Sunday show at the House of Blues in Boston. While I wasn’t a fan of their recently released album New Again, I praised them for their ability to put on a terrific live show despite numerous line-up changes and enough inter-band drama to support an MTV reality show. Like former heavy weight champs well past their prime, the band kept picking themselves up off the canvas and throwing haymakers. And most of them were right on target.
But like that aging boxing, it was apparent that Taking Back Sunday didn’t have much time left before they couldn’t overcome the fact they just weren’t as good as they good as they used to be. And that is when the nearly unthinkable happened. On April Fools Day, guitarist Matt Fazzi and bassist Matt Rubano were unceremoniously dumped to make way for a reunion of the band’s original line-up.
With the re-addition of John Nolan and Sean Cooper (both of whom had famously quit the band in 2003), the energy and excitement surrounding the band was suddenly revived. Dates for a short club tour were soon announced, and when the band returned to Boston, it was obvious that this would be a much different show than anything fans had seen in the recent past.
The only band opening the tour was Person L, lead by former Starting Line frontman Kenny Vasoli. While Vasoli’s previous band could always be counted on to get a crowd moving, the same can not be said of Person L. Most did not seem at all familiar with the band’s work, which was slower than any of the Starting Line’s best material.
After Person L left the stage, fans impatiently endured a half hour wait before a giant American Flag was unfurled as the stage backdrop. Another ten minute wait followed, before Taking Back Sunday finally appeared and made the wait seem worth it. As the opening cords to “Cute Without the E” rang out, most of those on the floor charged forward and burst into an overwhelmingly loud sing-along.
With a huge smile on his face, John Nolan belted out the song’s signature backing vocals, but was easily drowned out by the those singing along. Opening a show with your biggest song seems a bit risky, but if there was ever a time to do it, this was the tour. The band then barreled through “Set Phasers to Stun” and “Liar (It Takes One to Know One).” This opening trio, which featured a standout track from each of the band’s first three records set a frenzied tone for the rest of the night.
The band would continue to cycle through material from their first three records for the rest of the night, largely ignoring 2009’s New Again, save for the power ballad-esque “Everything Must Go.”
Nearly as memorable as the songs themselves was the between song banter. Unlike last year’s at times awkward Blink-182 reunion tour, the jokes and good natured ribbing never seemed forced or rehearsed. Lazzara repeatedly thanked the crowd for sticking with them, and admitted the day Nolan and Cooper left the band was one of the worst he could remember. It was obvious that chemistry between Lazzara and Nolan that had been destroyed seven years earlier had returned in a big way.
One of the more memorable moments of the night came via a cover of Straylight Run’s “Existentialism on Prom Night.” The song had provided Nolan and Cooper with their biggest post-Taking Back Sunday hit, and it was oddly fitting in a “never thought I would see this happen” kind of way.
The reunited quintet would also debut two strangely titled new songs, both of which sounded promising, especially compared to their most recent material. Following “I’m Not Gay, I Just Wish I Were (Baby Your Beard Hurts),” the band would end the set just like they had started,with a trio of powerhouse tracks that brought the crowd back to life. Following “Great Romances of the 20th Century ” and “Timberwolves at New Jersey,” Lazzara was at his best for “MakeDamnSure,” during which he would heave his microphone up into the rafters, only to have it not come down.When the band returned for the encore minutes later, Lazzara took a look at cord hanging from the ceiling and stated simply “I win.”
The musical portion of the encore consisted of two songs, the first of which was “Your Own Disaster.” The show would then conclude with another old favorite, “There’s no ‘I’ in Team.” While the band doesn’t seem content with reliving their past, nostalgia was certainly the theme of the night. Lazzara even tried his hand at stage diving, showing he may be done with the slick and polished frontman act he had been practicing for quite some time.
While Taking Back Sunday has a steep climb ahead of them if they hope to win back many of the fans they lost over the past few years, this short tour was certainly a big step in the right direction. The fact that the band will soon enter the studio is another positive sign. Reliving the past may have been the focus on this night in Boston, but the reality is the band’s future depends on whether they can rediscover the spark that got them huge in the first place. From an outsider’s point of view, it doesn’t seem like they’ll have to look too hard.
While Alkaline Trio’s most recent releases haven’t contained many surprises, the same can’t be said of their lives shows. Each of the five times I’ve seen the band, they’ve busted out a track or two that no one in the crowd saw coming, whether it be a b-side like “Queen of Pain” or an older gem like “Cooking Wine.” Needless to say, I was excited to see what type of curve balls they would throw into the set on their “This Addiction” tour. While the band chose a set list that was more predictable than in the past, the night wasn’t without its surprises.
The show began with a set from the Dear and Departed, a set which we missed the majority of. The wait between the openers was very short, as Omaha cult-favorites Cursive took the stage after only fifteen minutes. The band put in an effort that was at times sloppy, but also energetic and entertaining. There was virtually no banter between tracks, as Kim Kasher and Co. ripped through song after song. The set list focused mainly of the band’s last three albums, with Ugly Organ fare receiving the strongest reaction from the rather small contingent of Cursive fans in the crowd.
While the band had been joined on past headlining tours by a full brass section, that wasn’t the case on this tour. The difference was at least somewhat noticeable, especially on older tracks. Songs from the band’s most recent album Momma, I’m Swollen such as “I Couldn’t Love You” and “From the Hips” were the highlights of the set, at least from where I was standing.
After agonizingly long wait in between bands (40 minutes to be exact), Alkaline Trio took the stage. They kicked off the show with This Addiction, the title track from their latest album. While the record has only been out a few weeks, it still received quite a reaction from the Providence crowd.
More familiar tracks such as “Armageddon” and “We’ve Had Enough” drove the crowd insane… literally. Rarely, if ever, have I been part of such a spastic group of fans. If they weren’t violently flailing in the pit attempting to hit as many people as possible, they were shoving everyone in sight in a lame attempt to get back at whoever had bumped into them. It was obnoxious, to say the least.
Dealing with the crowd certainly did take away from the show, but the band sounded better than ever. The usually suspect vocals of Dan Adriano were surprisingly clear on tracks such as “Crawl,” and This Addiction standout “Dine, Dine My Darling.” Guitarist Matt Skiba was solid as always, especially on the new track “Dead on the Floor”
While Alkaline Trio has specialized in set list surprises of late, the band played it conservative on this night, highlighting This Addiction material and focusing on past hits. The encore featured a little bit of both, with Adriano shining on “Fine” and the crowd exploding for closing number “Radio.” Squeezed in between was Misfits cover “Attitude.”
All in all, the band put in a great effort, but a so-so set list and equally mediocre crowd stopped this from being as a truly great show. Hopefully, the band decides to switch it up a little more on their next tour, and the crowd remembers they’re at a show and not a street fight. If both of these things happen, it will make for a very memorable night. If not, it will still be worth the price of admission.
Alkaline Trio set list
Dine, Dine My Darling
We’ve Had Enough
Dead on the Floor
Nose Over Tail
Attitude (Misfits cover)