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Posts Tagged ‘live’

Civil Twilight with Anberlin @ Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA

Civil Twilight came into Boston last Thursday opening for Anberlin (whose album we reviewed earlier this month). Also on the bill were States and Keep Me Conscious.

Civil Twilight hails from South Africa, but now live in the US. Their sound is a unique mix of influences from bands like U2, Muse, and Radiohead. Their set at the Paradise showed promise for this up-and-coming band. Their music has even been featured on shows like “One Tree Hill”.

Check out Civil Twilight’s cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” as well as songs off their self-titled debut album on MySpace.

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Who’s That Pack – Volume II (New Directions)
Spring 2010

Who’s That Pack is back with a new EP. The first volume was very much a success so I’m curious for this 2nd release. It starts of with Syd’s version of Chad Perrone’s Madison. This is one of my favorite Perrone songs, so I won’t lie. I must admit it took me some time to really get used to Syd’s version. But just because it’s quite different I’ve grown to enjoy it a lot. Pretty much everything is different. It’s much more raw and not as smooth and lush as the original, but it gives the song a more alternative, groovy edge that actually brings out emotion in the song very well.

Todd Martin’s version of Patrick Thomas’ Getaway is probably the masterpiece on “New Directions”. Excellent song, insanely good performance. The effective drumbeat, the lyrical content and Martin’s rendition of the song do justice to Thomas’ songwriting. Next up is Safe From The Water, penned by Todd Martin, performed by Tim Blane. It starts out very sentimental with a beautiful piano arrangement and then goes into this modern, distorted part, which is interesting, but also distracts from the strong vocals a little. But on the other hand it is done tastefully and it may make the song more current.

Tim Blane’s New Dance is covered by Patrick Thomas. The funky, infectious track is performed well and interestingly. I don’t think it can measure up with Blane’s original verison, but Thomas does make it his own and impresses with this funky rock & roll song. Chad Perrone, on his turn, takes on Syd’s The Pattern. It’s a surprise to me how well this works. In a way I can say the same for this song as I said for Madison, just the other way around. Syd and Perrone have completely different vocal sounds and primarily because of that they make their songs sound quite different. But the beauty of it all is that it actually works and gives the song a different perspective that shows the diversity of not only the performers, but also of the songs themselves.

As a bonus there’s a Who’s That Pack original on this album. It’s called This Is The Alarm. The short, quirky song is nothing more than just that, a funny bonus at the end of the EP. I’ll just leave it at that. It’ll make you laugh, I promise.

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Who’s That Pack – Volume 1 (Performorgy)
January 2008

Who’s That Pack (Tim Blane, Syd, Chad Perrone, Todd Martin, & Patrick Thomas) is a group of interesting, original, creative singer/songwriters from New England. On this particular venture they are playing eachother’s songs and decided to record this.

The EP starts off with Tim Blane’s version of The Bottom (original by Syd). The excellently written song is bombastic and extravert and Blane delves into his own soul to bring out every ounce of effectiveness of the song. A strong start to this record. Then Todd Martin takes on Chad Perrone’s sensitive song Like Riding A Bike. It was on Perrone’s excellent full-length “Used To Dream”, where it served as a closer. It’s different hearing it with a different vocal color, but Martin really captures the essence of the song and is able to bring the same sense of urgent emotion to the surface.

Syd is up next, presenting us with his rendition of one of Patrick Thomas’ best songs, Trip. The groovy, edgy song fits with the slightly mysterious and loose performance. It leaves the listener to get into it more and more as the song progresses. Tim Blane’s Once And Future King is covered by Chad Perrone. The song pretty much evolves throughout the performance, it grows, so to speak. Perrone’s excellent vocals and Blane’s beautiful arrangement of the song go together very well.

That leaves us with the final song on “Performorgy”, where Patrick Thomas takes on Runaway by Todd Martin. And it’s exactly what you’d expect when two gifted musicians meet in the middle. A good song is a good song and a good performance is a good performance. What else need I say?

It’s obvious Who’s That Pack is a talented bunch with a good feel for the music they make themselves as well as for the music their colleagues make. Covering each other’s work gives the songs a new perspective and shows the variety and adaptability of these singer/songwriters. “Performorgy” is a more than successful experiment and I’d love to hear more.

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The Rocket Summer – Of Men And Angels
February 23, 2010

Bryce Avary, aka The Rocket Summer is one of those acts that has a certain characteristic feel or vibe. The upbeat, powerpop-influenced pop/rock this young man gives us is infectious and generally makes you smile, makes you feel good. But you can’t really say it’s just feel good music. The Rocket Summer is a an act based on strong songwriting with clever pop hooks and most of the time thoughtful lyrical content.

On “Calendar Days” the songs were quite raw and unpolished, which in itself was part of the charm of that record. It had a nostalgic yet happy-go-lucky vibe to it. It was fresh and accessible. Avaray continued that trend on “Hello, Good Friend”, though you might say that “Calendar Days” was more surprising than the sophomore release.

With a slightly more mainstream approach on “Do You Feel”, Avary got right back on track. With perhaps his strongest songwriting at that point he released not just a solid album, but a remarkable effort that garnered a lot of critical acclaim among critics and peers. With this album he set the bar high for himself regarding future releases.

This year The Rocket Summer released his 4th studio album “Of Men And Angels”. On this record he continues the more mainstream approach, though the songs have a more polished sound. Where, with other bands, this might lead to a ‘sell out album’, this is not the case with The Rocket Summer. The basic recording process leaves an organic, natural sounding album with songs that are radio friendly, catchy and have a high sing along factor. Lyrically I would say “Do You Feel” had a little more substance, but “Of Men And Angels” might be more cohesive in the theme of going through life’s struggle, coming out stronger because of it. Songs like Roses, Hills & Valleys, Walls, I Need A Break… and Let You Go are potential hit singles. The best song on the album, however, is Hey! which makes a terrific live song with a lot of energy and musically it’s more complicated than it sounds, but Avary makes it sound so easy.

The Rocket Summer’s talent for solid songwriting combined with his attitude and iconic vocals make him a unique act that brings something fresh and creative to the table. Even if the music isn’t exactly your thing it will still get to you, take you along for the ride. It’s infectious, and effective too. And “Of Men And Angels” is an album filled with that quality. And with the excellent live potential of the songs, The Rocket Summer’s fame is probably only going to grow. So his plea (“I need a break… but I’d rather have a breakthrough”) might be in the process of becoming reality.

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Seven Mary Three – Backbooth
February 9, 2010

Seven Mary Three is one of those bands a lot of people actually heard of but yet isn’t really a big name. And that fits the band. The combination of rock & roll, rootsrock, pop and grunge leads to a very solid, recognizable sound that’s been the band’s signature for quite some years now. At times they reach out towards a little harder rock, at times they soften it up a little, but overall they have a wide range of honest, well written rock songs.

And after a string of strong, and a couple very strong, albums, it was time for an album with live & acoustic rendition of some of their best songs. The songs are good, very good. Seven Mary Three is not a band that keeps delving into cliché’s and actually writes clever, solid, and most of all, honest lyrics that really speak to the listener. The songs have a southern rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd) meets grunge (Pearl Jam) feel to them live, even lead singer Ross’ vocals have a Eddie Vedder hint in them at times. The beauty of it all though, is that it doesn’t sound like one or the other, it sounds very much like Seven Mary Three. You would just place this band in the middle of these genres, musically.

You can hear Seven Mary Three is an experienced and accomplished band that knows how to write, record and perform songs with sincerity and emotion. The music is real and on top of that it’s musically very, very sound. Strong songs like Oceans of Envy, Wait, Dreaming Against Me, Upside Down, Each Little Mystery & Walk With The Devil sound even better live than they did on record. And that’s quite an accomplishment as these songs all come from strong releases.

“Backbooth” is a great treat for the fans, but not just for the fans, it’s a great album for everyone who loves solid rock music. And even though the band didn’t put their biggest hit (Cumbersome) on the album, there really isn’t anything wrong with this album. Seven Mary Three is one of the better rock bands out there, both in the recording studio and on the stage. And “Backbooth” is a testimony of that.

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Nada Surf – If I Had A Hi-Fi
June 8, 2010

Giving their covers album a palindrome as a title is great of course, but we need to ask ourselves a question here. Were we really waiting on the indiepop pioneers of Nada Surf to present us with a record full of cover songs? Breaking through with their 90s hit single Popular, Nada Surf never really reached the same commercial success again, but they are received extremely well as a live act and their fan base is still steadily growing.

To answer the question, no, we weren’t waiting for that. They are much more than just a cover band, so it’s too bad there is no original material to enjoy. But having said that, the album doesn’t feel like a covers album. Nada Surf makes the songs their own and at the same time they stay true to the original songs. Matthew Caws is an excellent vocalist and the band is a very cohesive unit. Songs like Enjoy The Silence (Depeche Mode) and Question (Moody Blues) may not be the most surprising choices for cover songs, but they are done tastefully and musically entertaining.

The best covers however are Love Goes On (The Go-Betweens) and I Remembered What I Was Going To Say (The Silly Pillows) where the renditions Nada Surf serves us with are actually quite deep and it’s on those songs where the band is able to really connect the songs and their artists with themselves and with both the audience of the original artist and their own fanbase. It’s on those songs where it really comes together.

Other cover songs (originals by Spoon, Kate Bush, Soft Pack & Bill Fox, among others) are done tastefully as well and are worth listening to, but can’t impress as much as the previously mentioned songs. Nada Surf does show a wide range of influences and interesting artists and they show they are more than capable to cover their songs very well, but in the end there is still a feeling of, well, disappointment. While the covers are good it is not really what you want to hear from Nada Surf. It’s their quirky, intelligent mix of indie pop and alternative rock that makes them so attractive to listen to. And honestly, it comes across much better when they can be creative with originals instead of reworking a cover song.

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Jack Johnson – To The Sea
June 1, 2010

Jack Johnson, surfer, documentary maker, liver of the good life, musician, generally nice person. Starting with that, who needs a review, right? But lets see what Johnson comes up with on his newest release “To The Sea”.

Essentially, he’s doing the same thing he’s been doing since he broke through, though over the years the classic pop influences have become a little more apparent. On “Brushfire Fairytales” & “On And On” it was the acoustic strumming and lush vocals that just kept things basic and on top of that very pleasant, and over the years with the releases of “In Between Dreams” & “Sleep Through The Static” Johnson started combining that with a smoother, more mainstream approach that is cut better for radio play. And radio play he got.

Apart from a handful of songs, Johnson’s albums have never been extremely memorable, yet he’s one of those artists you keep coming back to. It just sounds so very pleasant and relaxing. It’s too much to just dismiss his music as ‘feel good music’, but you can’t deny that’s a big part of it. His songs are actually pretty well-written singer/songwriter songs and often have nice little riffs and hooks hidden in them. Same goes for the songs on “To The Sea”, where Johnson finds a balance between being a solo musician and more of a band sound. Lead single You And Your Heart is strong and quite catchy and leads off the album very well.

The album in itself isn’t very surprising, it’s just Jack Johnson doing what he does best (and it works!), but there are a few songs that are actually quite impressive and surprising. At Or With Me is one of those songs. The arrangement is not as breezy as we’re used to and flows incredibly smoothly. And on When I Look Up, Johnson mixes in a little rock & roll, gives the record some needed energy.

Other songs that stand out are The Upsetter, which sounds like vintage Jack Johnson, just a little more mature, Pictures of People Taking Pictures, which has a very simple but extremely effective melody and a chorus that seems to have radio single written all over it. And the lush album closer Only The Ocean is also quite an interesting song.

Over all Jack Johnson is convincing and his music still comes off sincere, because he IS sincere. And there are a couple of songs that will confirm his status as mainstream musician and keep him playing pretty big stages. “To The Sea”, however, is probably not an album that will make many year-end-lists. It’s a good addition to your CD collection, it’s a very solid album with well written songs and the sincerity and ‘feel good factor’ of the album do make it a better record.

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Ike Reilly – Hard Luck Stories
February 16, 2010

Ike Reilly’s been around releasing records since the early 90s, but surprisingly he’s still a relatively unknown artist. His contemporary rock & roll is creative, relevant and performed with honesty and passion.

With lyrics that touch current, relevant subjects like international relations, war and peace, economy, and much, much more, and essentially a pretty classic approach in delivering that message, Reilly is heading a new generation of rock & roll artists that could eventually be the Dylans, Fogertys, MacGowens, Cash’s of today.

On “Hard Luck Stories” he connects with the man on the street, the man in the pub, the normal, working man. And what Reilly does extremely well is to match the agression and intensity on the one side, and the comfort and compassion on the other side in words and music alike.

“Hard Luck Stories” starts off with a jangly, 60s-influenced rock & roll song called Morning Glory. The somewhat bluesy undertone in the song is classic, just classic.  The more uptempo Girls In The Backroom is like a modern version of The Pogues and brilliant songs like The War On Terror & The Drugs and Sheet Metal Moon are filled with subtleties, both musically and lyrically.

The album is well balanced between more uptempo rockers and mid-tempo bluesrockers, as well as the occasional slowed down anthem or ballad. Best example of the slower songs is Flowers On Down on which this maestro is channeling a little Dylan. And you know what, Ike Reilly does it at least just as well.

Musically and lyrically “Hard Luck Stories” ranks very high in the list of albums released in 2010. While it has obvious influences from the 60s and 70s it still sounds current and even refreshing and creative. Reilly knows how to bring out the best of himself musically and therefore “Hard Luck Stories” has become a very strong and complete album that shows an experienced songwriter and musician playing with guts, sincerity and passion.

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Warped Tour 2010 – Boston, MA

The Rocket Summer

The Rocket Summer gets the crowd going.

The Warped Tour rolled into Boston on a hot summer day last week, and with it came over 80 bands ranging from hard rock to punk to southern. The bigger names this year included The All American Rejects, Motion City Soundtrack, Sum 41, and Andrew WK.

Smaller bands such as Fake Problems played on the AP/Advent stage, which was side by side with the Glamour Kills stage. While one band was playing, the other was right there setting up to start their set as soon as the others’ ended.

Up and comers like A Rocket to the Moon could be found playing acoustic sets in one of the many tents set up. Other well-known bands played on the other five stages including The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Bouncing Souls.

Far From Finished

Far From Finished

Local band Far From Finished put on an engaging set. Frontman Steve Neary came down into the crowd for a song, starting a fun dance pit.

AM Taxi, whose latest album we recently reviewed, drew a good sized crowd for their set.

The most unique band of the day would probably be Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Once they walk on the stage, it’s apparent why they have this name – the three-piece are not skinny, shall we say. They played some unique southern rock that got a lot of the young teenage crowd doing the ho-down. Washboard Breezy Peyton was in true rock ‘n’ roll form when she smashed her washboard at the end of their set. Definitely an entertaining band to watch.

The Rocket Summer

The Rocket Summer

The Rocket Summer, aka Bryce Avery, played a full-band set filled with catchy emo-rock songs. There was even some confetti at the climax of one song.

If you wanted a break from the music that was continuously playing, there were plenty of other things to do. Tents were set up everywhere selling sunglasses, hats, and all sorts of other accessories. Each band had their own tent selling merchandise, and if you were lucky, you could catch your favorite band doing a signing. There was also skateboarding, karaoke, games, and more.

Check out more photos from the day.

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Hanson – Shout It Out
June 8, 2010

I used to be one of those people who just laughed when you were talking about Hanson, thinking you were a little naive. By now I know that I was the one who was naive, because even though the band can sound way overpolished and like a playful, middle-of-the-road pop band on CD, your opinion of this band completely changes when you hear them live, where their mix of rootsy songs, rock & roll and alternative pop gets a raw edge and combined with their endless enthusiasm and heart for the music makes it an experience worth having.

Over the years, Hanson released a number of albums, that, if you look past the production and mixing, have some excellent songs. “Underneath” may not feel much like an album, but it has some excellent pop songs. “This Time Around” is still the crown on their work if you ask me and “The Walk” (their previous full-length) and “Middle of Nowhere” are also pretty strong albums. On those albums they have a good balance between upbeat, enthusiastic pop songs and sweet (sometimes a little bit too, though) ballads. So overall it’s a band that has plenty of musical talent and may not always be recognized for it. But the criticism isn’t completely unfounded. The band does tend to get a little repetitive at times and you could say that they weren’t really growing up musically. But to me, it felt that the band had more of a mature sound on “The Walk”, which was refreshing and it helped the album to feel like an album instead of a collection of songs. So this made me very curious to check out their 2010 release, “Shout It Out”.

First of all, the title of the album was chosen perfectly. Because this album is ambitious and more extravert than the band’s previous albums. Or at least, it seems that was the intention. It’s a commendable approach and the songs are all very solid and many of them have a kind of danceable groove or swing to it. In a way the band hasn’t really done before. But while the songwriting is pretty good musically, the lyrics don’t always stand out (though I recognize the band has always been stronger in writing songs with a sound that’s catchy and has a strong sense of pop sensibility than the actual lyrics that seem to be more focused on a younger audience). But what I’m missing most is the passion and enthusiasm that was often very obvious in the band’s previous work. I have a feeling it’s still there, but on most of the songs it doesn’t really show. Whether it’s the use of synths, the production/mixing, or something else, I’m not quite sure, but I think it’s a bit of a missed chance. On a few of the songs it comes out better (Carry You There, Give A Little, Musical Ride) and those are instantly some of the better songs. Also the (almost) funky radio hopeful Make It Out Alive is a very good song, probably tied with Musical Ride for the best song on the album.

I realize I’ve been kind of critical in reviewing “Shout It Out” but by no means do I think this is a bad album. It’s actually a remarkably solid album. And with songs like Waiting For This, Make It Out Alive, These Walls and Musical Ride there are a couple of really good songs on there even. But there are also a good number of songs on this album that aren’t bad at all, but not memorable either. Lead single Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’ is fun for the first two times, but it doesn’t really stick with you too long. Carry You There is a little cliché, but it comes off honest, so I’d rank that a little higher, but songs like Use Me Up and Me Myself And I (the excellent vocal harmonies lift this one up though!) are a little bland even.

So overall I’d probably give this album 3 out of 5 stars. It’s a good, solid album, but it’s not as memorable as it could have been. I bet the songs come across much, much better live and I would encourage you to catch a show if Hanson ends up playing near you, but if you want to listen to Hanson in top form, I’d recommend “This Time Around” or “The Walk” instead of “Shout It Out”. Hanson tried to subtly change directions a little, and I can respect, even admire, that. Next time, maybe they can capture more of their live vibe on the album as it would have made this album much stronger as a whole.

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