Thursday, November 6, 2014

The War on Drugs / Peter Matthew Bauer at the Haw River Ballroom - 10/17/2014

The War on Drugs
with Peter Matthew Bauer
Haw River Ballroom

I've got to be pretty motivated to drive out to Saxapahaw to see a show, but considering that before this gig was announced I was planning on going to Asheville to see War on Drugs play, this one was an easy decision.  I'm not sure if it's the Haw River Ballroom or the crowd these guys draw, but there were signs everywhere that stated "absolutely no chairs allowed" which was cracking me up.  It was the last night of their massive tour that started at some point before the Hopscotch appearance in early September, and I'm sure everyone was counting down the minutes until they could get home and sleep in their own beds.  But before that, they put on a hell of a performance.  It was similar to the Hopscotch outing, but...looser maybe?  Which would make sense given how many times they've played these songs in the last couple of months.  There was one addition to their set list, a cover of Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue," done on the obvious WoD fashion.  And top it all off, like all Haw shows, it ended at a reasonable middle-aged hour. 

The opener was Peter Matthew Bauer, best known as the frontman of the Walkmen.  Unfortunately he didn't play any of those songs, but his solo songs were still pretty damn rad.  With his very unique voice, everything sorta sounded like Walkmen songs I'd never heard before anyways.  There was a little Replacements and Springsteen vibe in there too, but that probably could have also been said about the Walkmen.  Anyways, I need to buy his solo record.  Maybe if I write it down it will remind me. 

Belle & Sebastian / Luke Temple at the Fillmore Miami Beach - 9/28/2014

Belle & Sebastian
with Luke Temple
The Fillmore Miami Beach

For the second year in a row we traveled to a foreign country to see our beloved Belle & Sebastian - Montreal last year, and Miami Beach this year.  Sure, Miami Beach isn't technically a foreign country but it might as well be - there were certainly more women walking around in thongs than you typically see anywhere else in this country. 

Our tickets were general admission so we got there early and got a good spot up front - I've seen B&S many times but always from far away; this time, only one row of people separated us from Stuart Murdoch and company.  They were performing as a thirteen piece with the regulars joined by a quartet of violin mercenaries from New York (as both the band and the crowd found out when Stuart talked to them during the set).  The band kicked off with the instrumental "Judy Is a Dick Slap," complete with Stuart playing a keytar, and it only got more awesome from there.  Lots of classics throughout the set including "I'm a Cuckoo," "Like Dylan in the Movies," "Dog on Wheels," "The Boy With the Arab Strap," "Legal Man," "Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying," "Judy & the Dream of Horses," and the always perfect " "If You're Feeling Sinister."  According to the band this was their first show ever in Florida, something Stewart joked about on a couple of occasions.  Also, unbeknownst to me and probably a lot of the crowd, he is married to a gal from Florida, and told a funny story about his first trip to the state on vacation when some people pulled up next to him on the highway and offered him some Ritz crackers.  It was more or less a perfect show, and well worth the cost of airfare and hotel and tickets and whatever else we spent.  I mean, the beach was nice too, so that was also a plus. 

A brief note about opener Luke Temple - I dug it, but not sure much of the crowd did.  He has a really heavy Jonathan Richman vibe - classical guitar, sparse drummer, hell he was even wearing a very Jonathan Richman-like shirt.  The vocals sounded more like James Mercer of the Shins though, and the songs had a jazzy-folk-pop thing going on.  the crowd was very loud during his set, and as his music was pretty quiet it was pretty awful.  He tried saying something to the crowd a couple of times, which has never, ever worked in the history of live performances, they just get indignant at being told what to do.  I would check him out again though, hopefully in better environs.    

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers / Steve Winwood at PNC Arena - 9/18/2014

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
with Steve Winwood
PNC Arena

I don't often go to large "arena rock" shows - I think the last one I saw actually held in a basketball stadium like this one was REM (with Lucious Jackson opening!) at the Dean Dome back in 1995 or 1996.  For some reason I felt it incumbent to see Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers while it was still possible though, high priced tickets and nosebleed seats be's not often you get a chance to see someone who has written as many hit songs as he has. 

After paying twenty dollars for parking, more than I almost ever pay to actually see a show, we got inside and found that our section had been closed off and they upgraded our seats to better ones downstairs - score!  You can more or less guess the set list, basically a lot of his hits (both from his solo and Heartbreakers records) along a number of with tracks from his new album "Hypnotic Eye."  The crowd sing-along for "Freefallin'" was pretty impressive, almost as impressive as the drunken dancing by the fratboys a couple rows in front of us...they were FEELING IT.  I knew it would be a sound good and be a professional performance, you don't stay on top like Petty has for this long if you're putting out a sub-par product - but I was impressed with just how good it actually was.  Even from the other end of the stadium where we were seated, it was engaging and exciting to watch the band perform; I was also surprised at how funny Petty was, his between song banter was pretty strong.  They played for about two hours, closing with probably their best song "American Girl."  It was money well spent. 

It's definitely worth mentioning the opener, since it was the rock legend Steve Winwood.  Yeah he played his eighties hit "Higher Love" and it sounded fine, but the highlight was the retrospective of songs from some of the different groups he has been a part of over his career  - Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home," an number of Traffic jams, and a couple of Spencer Davis Group songs including the ender of "Gimme Some Lovin'," one of the best parts of the entire night.