by MIKE CHAIKEN EDITIONS EDITOR When Dr. Seuss’s tales are translated to mediums outside of his books and the classic TV animated specials, it seems to be required by law that the central character is played in oversized, over-the-top manner.…
By MIKE CHAIKEN
Although the song itself is about a rough and tumble bruiser, there is a line in the Foreigner song, “Head Knocker,” that clearly sums up vintage rockers’ show at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Thursday, Oct. 3.
“Boy does he love to play,” the song goes.
And it’s clear that Foreigner certainly loves to play.
This was a special evening for the rockers, who emerged in 1977 from the ashes of several other venerable bands to release its eponymous debut.
Not only were the current members of the band that gave us “Urgent,” “Juke Box Hero,” “Double Vision,” “Cold As Ice,” “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and so on and so on take the stage, but several former members also joined in as well.
Original members, multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald and keyboardist Al Greenwood, as well as long-time bassist Rick Wills joined their old bandmate Mick Jones and the current members to bang out some of the group’s extensive catalog. Among the tidbits the early members played were the aforementioned “I Want to Know What Love Is.” They also played deep tracks such as “Long, Long Way from Home” and Blue Morning, Blue Day.”
(For the record, Foreigner is now Jones, Kelly Hansen, Jeff Pilson, Tom Gimbel, Mike Bluestein, Bruce Watson, and Chris Frazier.)
Unfortunately, longtime lead singer and Jones’ writing partner Lou Gramm was unable to attend the show as originally anticipated. He was struck ill the day before the Connecticut show.
The key for the evening was that everyone on stage looked as if they were having fun playing so many of the classic tracks that dotted the charts through the 1970s and1980s. The audience couldn’t help but be infected by the energy exuded by the band.
Seeing the older members take the stage was the biggest treat for longtime fans. And my ears told me the veterans seemed to be fitting right in with current members even if some years have intervened since they last regularly performed with Jones and Co.
Current lead singer Hansen was a true showman throughout the evening. He knows what is expected of him as the lead singer. He swung the microphone stand. He mugged for the audience. He monkeyed around with the other band members. And his voice fit nicely for songs like “Urgent” and “Hot Blooded,” and “Juke Box Hero.”
Jones also is a wonder, still offering up some stinging guitar licks and commanding the stage.
I also found it cool to hear the group, new members and older members, dust off some of Foreigner’s deep tracks such as “Long Long Way from Home” and “Head Knocker.” Those tracks were useful reminders that the group had talent beyond just hitting the top 10.
Foreigner’s Oct. 3 show was a great opportunity for fans to stir up some old memories and create new ones watching a band who clearly loves to play four decades into their career.
I give Foreigner 4 out of 5 stars.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN
by MIKE CHAIKEN
The ’90s were the worst of times and best of times for women.
It was the worst of times if the #MeToo movement is any indication. As we are made aware of the hardships women face in 2018, we can only imagine what went on behind closed doors and enforced silence in the final decade of the old millennium.
But for women musicians, the 1990s were the best of times. Individuality and artistry flourished. Music that seemed a bit oddball for traditional Top 40 radio in years past (and now years present) zipped into the ears and hearts of music fans.
Singer-songwriters like Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Fiona Apple, and Jewel soared to the top of the sales rankings. Although they shared a gender, they all approached music sans the corporate cookie cutter.
Simply put, Alanis Morissette is damn fortunate she released “Jagged Little Pill” in 1995 rather than today. It’s an album whose songs are about women standing up for themselves against the patronizing attitudes of men in relationships and career. And although we talk about #MeToo in 2018, women musicians are forced to abdicate songwriting to teams and record company market over-the-top sexuality as individuality.
I remember when “Jagged Little Pill” came out and there were tons of comments—particularly from men—asking why Morissette was so angry. But the question was akin to men telling women they would be “prettier if you would only smile” and patting them on the head like a child if they tried to protest.
In hindsight, Morissette wasn’t angry; she was frustrated at being dismissed because of her gender.
But in the #MeToo zeitgeist of the moment, if the Oct. 20 show at the Mohegan Sun Arena is any indication, Morissette and her point of view still resonate with listeners especially women from their 20s to her peers in their late 40s.
The house was jam-packed with fans catching this one-off concert in New England.
Although #MeToo was in the air, Morissette never addressed the state of the world and tried to hijack the concert into a rally. She let the music and words—and her own person— do the talking.
And Morissette and her band were clearly on top of their game. There was no indication that Morissette’s inevitable fade from the spotlight in the 2000s had dulled her skills as a performer.
Morissette’s voice was as strong as ever—maybe even stronger. The energy level also was crackling.
Her set list, which included the inevitable “Ironic” (in which the audience hijacked the song as they recited the words by heart), “You Oughta Know,” “Hand in My Pocket,” “Mary Jane,” and the encore “Thank U,” also demonstrated the many textures in Morissette’s music possessed over the years. Although “You Oughta Know” initially roared through the speakers with the typical force of grunge, Morissette’s songwriting was all about exploration. Electronics, Eastern instrumentation, and folk all found their way into her music. The diversity, however, is all held together by the strand of Morissette’s own particular point of view.
Interestingly, Morissette never took on the role of “rock star” in the Mohegan Sun. There was no posturing at the microphone. Oftentimes, although she was the reason for the crowd, Morissette was more at home at being a part of an ensemble with her band. This was one of those shows that was less “performance” and less “show” and more about music.
Morissette also was clearly having fun. Her smile as she reached into her songwriting bag of tricks, which always was greeted with applause, indicated she was energized by the amount of love in the room for her.
For a moment, Morissette was the biggest star of the world. But the show at the Mohegan Sun demonstrated Morissette is fine with letting others fill the pages of paparazzi photographs. She is more at home as a songwriter who has the opportunity to share her artistry and thoughts with the world.
I give Alanis Morissette at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Oct. 20 four out of four stars.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN
by MIKE CHAIKEN
The power and fury of Lamb of God was evident two songs into their set at The Dome at Oakdale in Wallingford Sunday, June 3.
Prior to Lamb of God’s headlining set, Jasta and Behemoth set the heavy metal table.
As both bands whipped through their sets, the audience was enraptured and hypnotized by the action on stage.
Jasta, a local favorite because it’s a spin off of Connecticut’s own Hatebreed, played its own brand of heavy metal filled with tight grooves and a grass roots vibe. Lead singer Jamey Jasta clearly enjoyed the opportunity to play to tightly packed crowd under The Dome at Xfinity Theater. He relished his role to establish the communal atmosphere of a metal show.
Behemoth, who has been touring with Slayer as has Lamb of God been, carried the torch of mysterious, magical, mythical and epic metal. With their monkish hoods and makeup, they looked and played like demonic gods from medieval mythologies. They were larger than life and their set was hypnotizing.
But Lamb of God, playing in a rare smaller venue, upped the energy level to 11 in the building.
Lamb of God, touring behind “Legion: XX,” an album of punk rock covers under the original name Burn the Priest, took no time at all to set a fire underneath the crowd’s collective feet.
During Behemoth and Jasta, there were a few isolated incidents of crowd surfing that put security on alert. But they clearly were part of the metal ritual.
And as Lamb of God ripped into “Omerta” upon their stage entrance, the crowd was still grounded– albeit more enthusiastic and stoked than they were during the openers.
But as soon as the first notes of “Ruin” sounded, the energy level in the crowd exploded and had nowhere to go but up.
And soon, security took formation as fan after fan bombarded the stage as they soared across the hands and arms of their fan-mates.
All the commotion was understandable as Lamb of God lead singer Randy Blythe was primal and powerful as they launched into his vocals. And the band as a whole marched forward as a tightly primed metal machine—musically taut and tight and intent on a metallic groove.
Lamb of God clearly must feel blessed to be part of Slayer’s farewell tour, which set down at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville two nights before.
But Lamb of God proved their true element is under the spotlight where they not only provide the fuel for the fire in the ardor of metal fans, they are also the match that ignites the bomb of the fans’ adulation.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN
by MIKE CHAIKEN
The great thing about a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert is that you don’t necessarily need to know every song of theirs prior to your arrival at the arena.
The stage and special effects, and the power of their singular combination of metallic prog rock holiday tunes will keep you enraptured throughout the whole night.
TSO (which performed at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 26) is at the end of the day, a show. Its orchestral rock and roll power play has a rock musical feel to it (especially when they revisited their “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve”). Think “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Evita.” The light shows and pyrotechnics have as much in common with classic heavy metal and arena rock. Think Motley Crue or early era Styx. The projections and videos (along with the stylistic nods to classical music) gave the show a definite progressive rock feel to it, a la Yes or Pink Floyd.
Essentially, TSO is a full-blown sensory experience.
The musicianship is key to pulling off a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show. The members of TSO clearly are all superb players who can pull off the complexity of the music in their sleep—albeit a very energetic and hyper sleep. And they all know the trappings of rock and roll showmanship… from the guitar hero poses to the way the backup singers/ dancers strutted their way onto the stage.
But there are no “stars” on stage. Everyone, from string players to the vocalists– all bow down to the greater good of the TSO experience. They work together as one rather than in service to one.
Some of my favorite musical moments were “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24),” TSO’s heavy metal approach to “The Nutcracker,” “A Mad Russian’s Christmas.” and “Siberian Sleigh Ride.”
For this tour, TSO has put so much special effects power on stage, it’s like one big giant amusement ride. There are plenty of bands who use pyro—such as Slipknot or Slayer. But often the pyro is used in a spot here or a spot there. At this show, pyro had a permanent place at the table throughout the night. Thermostats in the arena probably had a night to rest with all the heat generated by the explosions and flame throwers on stage.
The lighting of the show also went above and beyond anything you’ll see at most rock shows. There were lasers, moving lighting trusses, trusses that lowered from the ceiling with video screens and spinning spots that also served as catwalks for band members to play above the floor crowd.
Then the gigantic video screens behind the band offered up three dimension effects that often transformed the stage into an entirely different world.
From the back of the auditorium, the set for “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” looked like an old theater. But up close, it was all just a projection on a flat screen.
The TSO show is like a special effects wizard’s Christmas list. If the technology exists, TSO was using it.
Clearly, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has hit a chord with audiences. The matinee show I attended was sold out. The evening one, I was told by Mohegan Sun officials, was as well.
And given the Wow Factor I experienced, there unlikely was any member of the audience at Mohegan Sun Arena who went home disappointed.
I give Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 26 four out of four stars.