I’ve been on a little bit of a bluegrass kick for the last few years and it appears Steve Martin was too. We’re like kindred spirits. He’s become an authority on the banjo and his touring band, The Steep Canyon Rangers, are the real deal. A viciously adept group, this band can stand toe-to-toe with the best. They possess the ability to move between lighthearted, Appalachian-infused comedy tracks and true soulful bluegrass to Alison Krauss style bluegrass/pop hybrids and all with authentic musicianship and spot-on style. Mr. Martin ties all of this together with a steady stream of jokes and amusing anecdotes. There is something to be said for having a legendary, world-renowned actor/comedian as your frontman. Throw in post-hippy soul nymph, Edie Brickell, and you have an incredibly interesting entertainment experience.
“Jubilation Day” is an example of serious bluegrass chops and a touch of signature Steve Martin humor coming together in a song no one else could pull off:
Every member of The Steep Canyon Rangers is a bluegrass heavy hitter. Here, they honor Flatt & Scruggs (sort of) with a fiddle and banjo tune that builds one instrument at a time:
All the musicians in this troupe are stand-outs; the banjos shred with Steve and Graham Sharp dueling, Charles Humphrey on bass, Mike Guggino on mandolin, and Woody Platt (what an awesome bluegrass name) on guitar and vocals. They all seemed excellent, on par with one another until they let fiddler, Nicky Sanders out of his cage at the end of the first set and he went absolutely apeshit:
The second set was devoted to the band’s work with Edie Brickell on their latest album, Love Has Come for You:
When I first heard Sir Paul McCartney was kicking off his Out There tour at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL my response was, “meh.” Then I was was like, “wait, this isn’t Sting. This isn’t going to be the adult contemporary mom party I think it’s going to be. It’s a fucking Beatle!” I have to see a Beatle before they call it quits, right? Paul McCartney’s post-Beatle catalog is staggering and songs like, “Baby, I’m Amazed” and “Band on the Run” are near perfect songs in themselves, but the chance to see rock ‘n roll history is one that shouldn’t be missed. I will never stop kicking myself for missing James Brown at the House of Blues in Orlando. Actually, that is one of the biggest motivating factors to see Sir Paul. This is a lead figure in the best – if not, most influential – rock band in human history.
They opened with “Eight Days a Week” and I teared up a little. The fucking guy that wrote “Eight Days a Week” is playing it in front of me. When will I get that chance again? I wasn’t sure what to expect with McCartney’s performance. I thought it would be a big production, but it was basically four guys with a fifth guy filling in as a multi-instrumentalist. This gave the show even more punch as it was basically a straightforward, amped up rock show.
Paul was charming and funny, regaling the audience with bits of rock history and insight from the Beatles and his years on the road. It gave me chills similar to Bob Wooten’s banter during the Tennessee 3 show in Orlando. It’s just awe-inspiring for me to hear the stories of rock legend told by the people that lived through them. Bob told tales of walking into Sam Phillips studio with Johnny Cash and McCartney would tell stories like the time Hendrix performed “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” only two days after the album was released and how he needed Eric Clapton to tune his guitar after. This is pure gold for a rock fan or any student of the humanities really.
He paid homage to the other Beatles through story and song like he did with this sweet ukelele version of George’s “Something.”
The Pumpkins broke from their world tour dates in Florida to join the roster at a few festivals including the Funshine Music Fest at Ax Gary Amphitheater in Tampa. Here, they do a paired down festival set aimed at a broader audience. In this instance an audience that includes fans of Train and Phillip Phillips. Who the fuck is Phillip Phillips btw? Not for nothin’ pal, but your parents are dickheads. Phillip Phillips. While those monsters of rock played in the giant amphitheater, SP played a side hall that was better suited for a rodeo or a livestock competition. With the tropical shit storm that sat on Florida for nearly a week it was actually way better that they played inside. The hall was rather big too with about 3,000 in attendance that caught the opening “Cherub Rock” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” then bee-lined to Train leaving about 1,500 SP fans to enjoy the rest of the show that was a modified version of the full shows in Melbourne and St. Augustine.
They were mercilessly loud. Mike Byrne is playing his heart out, Nicole Fiorentino looks and sounds wonderful, Jeff Schroeder is absolutely killing it and even picking up more lead duties, and Billy appears to be having a great time. The Smashing Pumpkins are a force in concert. Seeing Anthrax, Rush, the Smashing Pumpkins 3 times, and The Black Crowes twice in less than a month along with the release of new Queens of the Stone Age material has got my dick hard for rock. It’s making me realize just how tired I am of two-man laptop bands and “indie” dog shit.
“Zero” with a cool melodic intro
As is customary with SP stops in SW Central Florida, William Corgan Sr. makes an appearance.
“United States” a song that should be a rallying cry for a people that is having their way of life hijacked by a corporatized, criminal government
First, a Class 3 Killstorm swallowed much of Central Florida. Driving to the St. Augustine Amphitheater from Orlando was a delicate situation as tropical storm-like rains drove down in sheets. And the rain never let up. It was actually worse when the show ended.
Second, the old person-friendly venue was irritating. Now I love the St. Augustine Amphitheater and have proclaimed that before, but it has some serious flaws. The show was set to start at 7:45. It did despite the awful traffic snarl out front that was mostly caused by the venues poor management of the parking situation to begin with. So as people parked miles from the park (for some reason there isn’t enough parking to support the capacity of the amphitheater), waited in lines getting drenched to the bone, and rode school buses over, the band started. When the show ended, venue employees were inches away from using cattle prods to get people off the property. The rain was of biblical proportions but there was no quarter to be found on the property. Yes it is a state park and it closes, but you invited thousands of people and the weather was foreboding to say the least.
Finally, the show itself was wrought with technical issues brought on by the rain. The covered amphitheater was drenched as rain came in through the sides and seams of the tarp. The stage appeared to have at least an inch of standing water in places. Reports from the floor said there was absolutely no sound as the venue monitors above projected past the floor and the ones flanking the stage were pushed out far, possibly because of the rain. The volume was deafening in the stands though. During the apocalyptic “And through the eyes of a jackal!” climax of “XYU” Billy was experiencing an outage with his amp or effects board. Hunched and poised for the scream, he began tapping then punching and kneeing his guitar. Techs scrambled as Corgan giggled and goaded the audience. The crowd was forgiving and roared along with him. At one point during “The Chimera” a transformer blew. The sky went red and purple then everything but the stage amps went out. The colossal lighted pyramid, the mics, the drum mics, the stage lighting, and the venue monitors all went out, but the band charged on garage style for a minute or two until one-by-one parts of the stage and rigging whirred back to life.
“The Chimera”proves to be excellent live, but since I heard that in Melbourne I was hoping for another song from the 1-2-3 face punch that rounds out Oceania. That includes “The Chimera,” “Glissandra,” and “Inkless.” I really wanted to hear “Inkless” that night. To my dismay, Billy has departed from the deep-cuts setlist that had the tendency to break out into 30 minute prog-metals space jams from ’07-’08 in favor of a leaner, meaner, more paced setlist a la 2010. The concerts have gone from the Billy and Jimmy garage jam to more of a cohesive, straight-forward band effort. This seems to delight audiences as shows since 2010 are mostly sold out and have an enormously positive response from the crowd. I think the jammy SP would have played an unplanned “Transformer” when the power went out or even “Raindrops and Sunshowers” because of the weather (even though the crowd that waited for them outside at the Hard Rock Live free show in 2008 during an actual tropical storm didn’t get a special nod either), but this show ran like clockwork and ended on time with a rocking version of “Today” that was dedicated to Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman who died earlier that day. And no, no impromptu “Angel of Death” for Jeff.
Always adding value and unique expereinces for fans, he Pumpkins are doing VIP pre-shows for those with more disposable cash than myself. Here they played “Ugly” a Mellon Collie b-side or Aeroplane Flies High track. They also open the floor up for Q&A with Pumpkin heads.
The answer here gets pretty interesting when he brings it around to his working relationship with Jimmy Chamberlin.
The Black Crowes bring two kinds of shows these days; the long-form 3 hour smack down and the tighter, 2 hour rock show. Their 2010 tour featured an acoustic set, a set break, and an electric set that created all sorts of room for the band to stretch out around old and new songs. The Lay Down with Number 13 tour is the two hour variety. This would be plenty for most bands, but with the Crowes it seems like light duty. The setlist continues to morph from night to night and highlights at the HOB included opening with a one-two punch of “Twice as Hard” and “Sting Me” (not quite as strong as the 1-2-3 in St. Pete of “Jealous Again,” “Thick n Thin,” and “Hotel Illness”) and the true to Amorica “Ballad in Urgency / Wiser Times” power jam. In St. Pete, Jackie brought out the banjo for “Garden Gate” and last night he busted out the mandolin for “Whoa Mule.” They closed much stronger than they did at The Mahffey Theater in St. Pete with the “Hard to Handle / Hush” medley. It really feels like this is a test run to get Jackie Greene’s sea legs, but it’s great to hear.
The band came across laid back, not slow, but relaxed as Steve kept the tempos from speeding up in concert, creating a comfy little pocket to nestle up in all night.
The Black Crowes are back for the Lay Down with Number 13 Tour, a tour that came seemingly out of nowhere. The last thing I heard was Crowes’ drummer, Steve Gorman, on Mohr Stories saying that the band was on an indefinite hiatus. So sometime between the release of Jay’s podcast at the end of 2012 and March of 2013 the band recruited lead guitarist Jackie Greene (taking over the role of Luther Dickinson) and trained him up to play a Crowes tour which usually involves an extensive list of songs.
I was eager to see this new fella play considering the long line of greats he was replacing. He did not disappoint. Jackie may not be at 100% integration just yet but he took the Black Crowes catalog on head first. His playing seems more melodic and falls somewhere in between the ethereal Marc Ford and the heavier Luther Dickinson.
A good gauge of the Crowes is where they take “Wiser Times.” The guitar interplay, the harmonized vocals, and the song’s epic highs and lows turned into a monster in concert.
This was also my first time at The Mahaffey Theater and besides the early start time and the obnoxious “fans” in the upper section that spent more time screaming at people to sit down than actually watching the show it was a really great venue.