Concert Review: Portland Finds The Cure in Ridgefield

The Cure Feature Photo

The Cure played at Sunlight Supply Amphitheater in Ridgefield, WA on Saturday night

Their last trip to the Portland, OR area came more than a decade ago and it’s been nearly as long since they released an album of new material but regardless the 15,000 strong who packed the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater in Ridgefield, WA on Saturday definitely know the Cure.

The Robert Smith fronted group played 34 songs for nearly three hours covering almost 40 years of music and if you arrived expecting a setlist of pure singles and radio fare you were in for a surprise whether it was a pleasant one or seemingly endless.

No new album in tow either, but don’t believe for a second this was a Greatest Hits tour. In fact, if you’re not well-versed on what’s clearly a deep and satisfying catalog of Cure songs you likely discovered some new offerings, even if the tracts were 30 years old.

The band nonchalantly took the stage at 8:05 p.m. opening with “Shake Dog Shake,” “A Night Like This,” then (remember?) “The Walk” and finally “Push” with that great opening jam before tackling some traditional favorites  with “In Between Days,” the quintessential 80’s hit “Just Like Heaven,” and Smith bringing those yearning vocals on “Pictures of You” before diving back into deeper album cuts.

With the exception of “Lovesong” the rest of the opening set consisted as Smith said, the “usual mix of weird stuff and not so weird stuff.” Actually if you want the proof to dispel any notion the Cure is simply a goth rock band, a description Smith also rejects, simply listen to “The Hungry Ghost, “Want,”, “The Hanging Garden,” “One Hundred Years,” and “Give Me It” – straight up rock songs that out-shined their studio versions on the live stage which closed out the opening set.

The Cure at Sunlight Supply

Robert Smith of the Cure

The first encore arrived after just 18 songs, yes first encore. The band returned and played five more deep album cuts before encoring again. One more five song encore ensued mixed with more obscure songs and B sides along with “Fascination Street” and “Burn” their smash contribution for the soundtrack to the feature film The Crow in 1994.

The Cure returned for yet a third and final encore ripping off another six songs including “Hot Hot Hot!!!” Let’s Go to Bed” and closing the show with their iconic hits “Close To Me,” “Why Can’t I Be You,” which got everybody dancing and “Boys Don’t Cry.”

The only duds on this night came with the nearly 30 year old “The Snakepit” which sounded like a brand new song Smith and his bandmates were rehearsing which stalled the show a bit – requiring a few songs to get back to pace – plus ending the up-until-now make-out session by at least one couple, and “Freakshow” the lone song played off 2008’s 4:13 Dream the Cure’s last studio album.

Smith, guitarist and lead singer, is the sole original member of the Cure which has seen a number of contributors since the band’s inception. In many respects Smith is the Cure. It doesn’t matter who makes up the ensemble backing him. His vocals, one of the most recognizable in rock music, can hardly be replaced.

Now 57, Smith still dons the emblematic white make-up and crazy hair and sounds no different than he did in the band’s 80s heyday even if he looks a bit different. He’s not 27 anymore!  He ripped through song after song never missing a note and playing electric or acoustic guitar on most.Robert Smith of the Cure

The current lineup includes long time bassist Simon Gallup, who joined the Cure after their first album in 1979 and left in 1982 thanks to a falling out but returned three years later. His bass lines bellowed through the night and helped provide a distinctive element to a number of tracts including “Lovesong,” “A Forest,” “Let’s Go To Bed,” and a cool funky beat on “Lullaby.”

Smith is also backed by keyboardist Roger O’Donnell now on his third stint with the band, 20-year drummer Jason Cooper and newest member and mad scientist Reeves Gabrels, a doppelganger to Doc Brown, who spun off some solid shredding and solos when Smith wasn’t on lead.

The Cure wasted little time between songs executing them one after another.  Smith presence was his stage presence as far as the audience was concerned. He doesn’t interact much and spoke just a few times introducing a couple of songs but with such a heavy English accent, which obviously doesn’t come through when singing, we shan’t understand him anyway, so it was just as well.

Perhaps the only waste of time was the encore, make that the encores. Sure, it’s their thing to leave and return a number of times but three (and sometimes four!) encores throws a wrench into the fluidity of the show. Besides the encore has lost its grace over the years as it’s evolved from the audience truly wanting the show to go on to simply a tradition and now a number of bands choosing to forego it altogether.

So, when people begin to trickle out during Encore 2 even if some of the Cure’s biggest songs had yet to play you’ve either got tired audience members and/or people who don’t know the show isn’t over, anytime soon. Regardless, you certainly get your money’s worth with the Cure.

But too bad this show wasn’t on Friday. Apparently, Saturday the Cure is not in love thus leaving off the setlist one of their most beloved songs.

The Cure – Portland (Sunlight Supply Amphitheater) Setlist:

  1. Shake Dog Shake
  2. A Night Like This
  3. The Walk
  4. Push
  5. In Between Days
  6. Just Like Heaven
  7. Pictures Of You
  8. High
  9. This Twilight Garden
  10. Lovesong
  11. Lullaby
  12. The Snakepit
  13. From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea
  14. The Hungry Ghost
  15. Want
  16. The Hanging Garden
  17. One Hundred Years
  18. Give Me It
  19. Other Voices
  20. M
  21. Charlotte Sometimes
  22. Play For Today
  23. A Forest
  24. Step Into the Light
  25. Never Enough
  26. Fascination Street ( Extended Mix )
  27. Burn
  28. Wrong Number
  29. Hot Hot Hot !!!
  30. Let’s Go To Bed (Live Album Version)
  31. Freakshow
  32. Close To Me
  33. Why Can’t I Be You?
  34. Boys Don’t Cry

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: The Who Live in Portland

P1050787

If you missed the Who on Tuesday in Portland, OR at the Moda Center you missed out.

Just passing along a message from Pete Townshend.

Seriously, though, you missed out.

The Who powered through 20 songs for nearly two hours playing a set consisting of lots of hits, well of course! the tour is called The Who Hits 50, (get it?) but also peppered with some deeper album cuts that gave justice to two of their iconic albums and made lots of people happy.

If you’d never been to a Who show before, haven’t been in a long while or only listen to their albums from, if you can believe it, 50 years ago, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that singer Roger Daltrey doesn’t sing like he’s 25 anymore. Worry not, those higher register vocals might be a thing of the past but the Who certainly is not.

The band started off with “Who Are You” which came off a bit rough probably because the nearly 40 year old album version is so widely heard whether it’s on the radio or television thanks to CSI, but “The Seeker” complimented Daltrey’s vocal range nicely and the band pulled off their first gem of the evening with “The Kids Are Alright” featuring video on the backing screen from their movie Quadrophenia.

“I Can See For Miles,” the band’s first hit in the United States all the way back from 1967, came next and by the time they got to the fun and shall we say clever, “Squeeze Box,” they hit their stride and suddenly looked and sounded like a band 20 years younger. Daltrey only got stronger from there.

The emotionally charged “Behind Blue Eyes” wasn’t the first or last time the guitarist Townshend displayed his patented windmill and “Bargain” his favorite song off of 1971’s Who’s Next brought out solid Daltrey vocals.

The two original band members traded stories throughout the evening mostly to help introduce songs though Townsend did most of the sharing. How about this classic – prior to the band playing “My Generation” Townshend said it was the last song played at the Monterey Pop Festival back in 1967 and they didn’t exactly leave the stage as intact as when they started. They’re a bit older now, so no stage or guitar destruction on this night.

Townshend grabbed mic duties on “I’m One,” “Eminence Front” and “Acid Queen” a new edition added to the tract list last week. Daltrey also took a breather while Townshend and the rest of the band performed a soaring “The Rock” just a great instrumental which featured a very effective video backdrop showing turbulent times in the world for the last 40 years or so.

P1050783

Roger Daltrey of The Who

The band paid homage to their classics Tommy and Quadrophenia playing three straight off each album during the middle of the set separating the two clusters by injecting the very 80s sounding “Eminence Front” the only tract played off It’s Hard from 1982.  Who’s Next got the most love with four cuts including the show finales “Baba O’Riley and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Daltrey wasn’t relegated to just vocal duties. He helped out on guitar but really shined on harmonica especially his killer solo to close out “Baba O’Reilly” which brought an eruption from the audience which carried over to the crowd singing nearly every word on “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Yeah, you missed it.

Townshend and Daltrey were flanked by six other musicians including longtime drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son), Pino Palladino who took over on bass after original bassist John Entwistle died in 2002 and Townshend’s brother Simon adding an additional guitar.

The two original members, now in their 70s, showed little indication they’ve been around since the 1960s nor did they display any signs of slowing down. Of course, neither of the two exhibited the raucous stage antics or over the top theatrics of yesteryear and they were a bit stiffer in movement then their 20-something year old selves, but Townshend, who turns 71 tomorrow, still spun that right arm around with jaw dropping chord hits and Daltrey, 72, moved about the stage freely and appeared well.

The Who didn’t exactly Sell Out the venue, with a large section of the third level curtained off. But the fans? Fanatics. Dancing in the aisles and just an all-around appreciation of what the true original Rock Music is all about.

The concert was postponed from a date in September after Daltrey came down with a case of viral meningitis but he showed no ill effects and hardly looked his age. His vocals now much lower and at times throaty, the adjustment is not as subtle like other long running bands that produce albums or tour continuously without long extended breaks. The Who went 24 years between studio albums their last, Endless Wire in 2006, which didn’t make the setlist. It takes a bit to get used to but similar to Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon once it settles in you forget all about it.

Oh by the way, that iconic scream at the end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again?”

Daltrey NAILED it.

The Who – Portland (Moda Center) Setlist:

  1. Who Are You
  2. The Seeker
  3. The Kids Are Alright
  4. I can See For Miles
  5. My Generation
  6. Squeeze Box
  7. Behind Blue Eyes
  8. Bargain
  9. Join Together
  10. You Better You Bet
  11. I’m One
  12. The Rock
  13. Love, Reign O’er Me
  14. Eminence Front
  15. Amazing JHourney
  16. Acid Queen
  17. Pinball Wizard
  18. See Me, Feel Me
  19. Baba O’Riley
  20. Won’t Get Fooled Again

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Dream Theater – The Astonishing Live in Portland

Well, that was different.

If you’re going to write and record a concept album you might as well play the whole thing, front to back and center the accompanying tour around it. That’s exactly what Dream Theater did with their latest release The Astonishing and they brought it live to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR on Tuesday to the faithful.

The casual fan, the mildly interested fan, even the old school fan still cranking out Images and Words and Awake on their way to work might have come away a bit less than inspired but the true fan – The Astonishing Live was for them.

Dream Theater played no other songs from any other album. They opened with the first track “Descent of the NOMACS” which was pre-recorded then the band plugged in with “Dystopian Overture” and they cranked off the entire album, in order, all the way through to the final song, “Astonishing.” They took one break, a 20 minute intermission, after playing 90 minutes then returned for the second set, another 45 minutes, and then the final song for the encore which really was unnecessary as wrapping up the show to conclude the second set would have proved just as effective.

It was a rock concert yet it wasn’t. Lots of lights, some strobes and a video played on a carefully crafted screen behind the stage just as you’d expect at most concerts. But it was also very much a musical, or a play. It even included rolling credits to end the show. In fact, the supporting video streamed during most of the concert felt more like a graphic novel on screen as it illustrated the plot of The Astonishing which Dream Theater carried forward in song.

The band? Merely the actors in this stage performance. Singer James LaBrie singing his parts and often, if not always, leaving the stage as the supporting cast played their lines. And on cue, LaBrie returned when it was his time. Meanwhile, the mostly male audience watched intently some head bobbing but no air drums, air guitar or even help with chorus singing. Maybe that’s because it’s a new album and the only album played this evening but it just didn’t seem right to rock out. It was indeed a theatrical production.

LeBrie doesn’t envelope the stage like other larger than life front men.  He’s pretty straightforward actually, bringing his vocals to the spotlight and letting the band fill in the rest. He only engaged with the audience at the end of the show when he urged them to stand for the final two songs but what he lacks in charisma he certainly makes up for in song. His soaring and ultra-smooth vocals stole the show at times and he didn’t miss one note and sang strong throughout the evening.

Guitarist John Petrucci, the mastermind behind The Astonishing, is also a master on the fret board. Quite graceful, Petrucci ripped solid chords all night and peppered the evening with a number of solos that helped the audience to remember they were indeed at a rock show. He was accompanied by fellow founder and bassist John Myung, keyboardist Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Mangini who aptly replaced longtime drummer and co-founder Mike Portnoy six years ago.

The Astonishing, the band’s 13th, is a hard album to digest. If any of the overheard pre-show chatter is believed, most of the fans appreciated the effort but it’s not a favorite. The record released in January features 34 tracts with a few a minute or so long but fully comes in at around two hours of music. The album as a whole moves the story along though a few songs work singularly like the classic sounding “The Gift of Music” and the hard rocking “Moment of Betrayal.” The album is ambitious to say the least and LaBrie described The Astonishing as a pinnacle moment for the band and something they had to do.

Most of the songs melt in to one another so unless you’ve dialed the album into your subconscious you’ll likely get lost as far as song placement which isn’t so much of an issue – it’s not like walking in on a movie halfway through. But show up late to The Astonshing Live you might wonder what’s going on if you didn’t catch this performance from the beginning.

Of course, both halves of the show (Act 1 – 17 songs; Act 2 – 12 songs), included many songs, but each felt like one long song saga. It’s not as if they all sound the same, though you can hear similar approaches and argue like-themes, which perhaps in many respects that’s how a concept album works, but they often sound complementary while incorporating different harmonies, structures and bridges throughout. Occasionally melodious and majestic but sometimes tedious and a bit lengthy you don’t necessary need to know the plot to enjoy The Astonishing though it certainly helps.

Like all concept albums it seems, the record revolves around a dystopian society and this one somehow incorporates an ancient past, shades of Games of Thrones here, with a distant and frightful future. The concept album is a favorite of late for the progressive rock type, well at least those bands whose members actually play their instruments. The Astonishing arrived on the heels of Muse’s Drones and a few years back Clockwork Angels from Rush.

But leave it to Dream Theater to take it to a whole new and untapped level. All that really felt missing was an accompanying playbill to further immerse fans in the band’s adventure and help the audience follow along as each act of this play unfolded.

By the way, if you’re planning on catching a show don’t bother bringing a camera or trying to use your cellphone. Venue staff makes it clear taking photos is unacceptable and if you’re caught – you’re out.

Dream Theater Portland (Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall) Setlist

  1. Descent of the NOMACS
  2. Dystopian Overture
  3. The Gift of Music
  4. The Answer
  5. A Better Life
  6. Lord Nafaryus
  7. A Savior in the Square
  8. When Your Time Has Come
  9. Act of Faythe
  10. Three Days
  11. The Hovering Sojourn
  12. Brother, Can You Hear Me?
  13. A Life Left Behind
  14. Ravenskill
  15. Chosen
  16. A Tempting Offer
  17. Digital Discord
  18. The X Aspect
  19. A New Beginning
  20. The Road to Revolution
  21. 2285 Entr’acte
  22. Moment of Betrayal
  23. Heaven’s Cove
  24. Begin Again
  25. The Path That Divides
  26. Machine Chatter
  27. The Walking Shadow
  28. My Last Farewell
  29. Losing Faythe
  30. Whispers on the Wind
  31. Hymn of a Thousand Voices
  32. Our New World
  33. Power Down
  34. Astonishing

Written By: AndrewT