Concert Review: Social Distortion Brings a Little Religion and Politics to Portland

Social Distortion returned to Portland, OR for the second time in 18 months on Friday at the Roseland Theater this time in support of their 2017 Spring Tour which featured two new songs, a wide selection of their 90s fare, some political speak and an ounce of religion.

Last time around the Southern California punk band celebrated the 25th anniversary of their eponymous album, this time they drew heavily from 1992’s Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell  and 1996’s White Light White Heat White Trash, which offers its own religious themes.

They started things off with two from Somewhere… “Bye Bye Baby and the popular “Bad Luck” followed by the always great “Don’t Drag Me Down” off White… before tapping into their most recent album Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes – now six years old! – “California (Hustle and Flow)” which included a pretty cool extended jam and “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown.”

Founder and lead singer Mike Ness introduced “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown” by asking the crowd if they had watched the evening news prior to the show before making a plug for National Public Radio and saying Fox News and CNN won’t give you the “sweet and lowdown.” Not even five songs in before the reality of America collapsing in on itself snaps back. Gee thanks. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time.

Perhaps that explains a somewhat subdued aura that filled the first half of thew show. Or maybe it was just the extreme momentum changes throughout the evening. Even the slam pit (oh sorry kids call it the mosh pit) took a bit to get going. The classic “Ball and Chain” felt softened in part because of the slowed tempo arrangement for the final chorus which worked well but then following this version of one of your most popular songs by the country-infused “This Time Darlin’” completely let the sails down.

Thankfully, Social D got right back into it with the heavy “Dear Lover” which in terms of setlist placement works far better as an opening song but helped re-energize the audience. The crowd surfing returned!

A new studio album is in the works for Social Distortion and like usual the band is taking their time. They offered a taste of what’s to come with “When You Lay Your Burden Down” a play on the religious theme of asking for help but it’s not a religious song, Ness said, who confessed to believing in God though he doesn’t read the Bible or attend church. It won’t be a radio hit either, he admitted, of the bluesy track which sounded like a marriage between “Up Around the Bend” the band’s contribution for the movie soundtrack of the same name and an old slave spiritual.

What should be a radio song is “Scars.” It’s reflective and emotional, born from Ness working through some childhood memories he swallowed after working on a book about his life appropriately titled “The Story of My Life” which is apparently also now delayed – at one time listed on Amazon as a forthcoming release. Even after just one go around, “Scars” indeed is a fine song and a polished studio version could certainly bring Social Distortion similar attention as their break-through self-titled album from 1990, especially if the rest of the album proves as splendid.

Social Distortion closed the first set with the fantastic and not often played live “When She Begins” and opened the encore with “I Was Wrong” and then the political discourse began. In a monologue of sorts, Ness rambled on regarding today’s political climate, beating around the bush extensively without naming names and said something or other about reading books and documentaries which seemingly enlightened him. Then there was something about how all the corporations have the power and money, or something to that effect,  and then he mentioned that Canada has healthcare. Huh?

It made little sense partly because he was hard to understand but also it seemed what he really wanted to say, he feared saying. Whether that’s because he knows all political stripes enjoy Social Distortion (quite evident in the sold-out crowd) or perhaps deep down a rock concert isn’t the forum to spout what’s often called “political vomit,” whatever the case, entirely unnecessary and unwanted.

(However, considering Ness earlier in the evening sang Your history books are full of lies/media-blitz gonna dry your eyes it’s a bit ironic, don’t ya think? And, did Ness include economist Milton Friedman and Walter Williams in his readings? Especially when it comes to healthcare. Does he know that Canadians who need major surgery now often come to the United States because the wait line is so long and pay for it out of pocket? He mentioned watching documentaries along with having concerns for the environment…. )

Oh, sorry! You came here not for a political review but to read how good the Social Distortion concert was in Portland last night. Just like the audience went to watch Social Distortion play their awesome songs at the Roseland Theater but got a political review. On to the show!

The band wrapped up their 17 song, hour and 45 minute set with an acoustic version of “Gotta Know the Rules,” “Story of My Life” and “Ring of Fire.” Despite the above intrusions, the last half of the show kicked and it’s a delight to see Ness really extending his vocal range. “Scars” tested him and you’d be surprised just how high his growl can reach. The band, which includes Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham on guitar and Brent Harding on bass (together with Ness comprise the longest running line-up in the band’s history) played tight and included a few more musicians at various times during the night including an acoustic guitarist and keyboardist/pianist as well as David Hidalgo, Jr. on drums.

But it’s time for a new album. Hopefully, Ness (who is synonymous with Social Distortion) brings a fresh stage show and a whole bunch of new songs back to Portland in the forthcoming year.

Social Distortion Setlist at Roseland Theater in Portland, OR

  1. Bye Bye Baby
  2. Bad Luck
  3. Don’t Drag Me Down
  4. California (Hustle and Flow)
  5. Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown
  6. Ball and Chain
  7. This Time Darlin’
  8. Dear Lover
  9. “Buying Time” – Instrumental jam
  10. Cold Feelings
  11. When You Lay Your Burden Down
  12. Scars
  13. When She Begins
  14. I Was Wrong
  15. Gotta Know the Rules
  16. Story of My Life
  17. Ring of Fire

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Duran Duran Throws Two Day Bash in Palm Springs

Duran Duran at Agua Caliente Casino

What a party.

Duran Duran commenced their short 2017 Spring Tour on Friday at the most enjoyable The Show at Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, CA (just outside Palm Springs) with sold-out back-to-back performances at the 2,000 seat venue. The Tour of the Americas, which heads south in a few weeks to central America before wrapping up the States in April, continues support for the band’s successful album Paper Gods, out a year and a half ago.

Both nights offered the same setlist (and no opening act) with an order change for a couple of songs on Night 2. Radio staples and popular singles featured prominently through the evening as both nights brought 16 songs – a few less than last year’s full tour – but it was a ball nonetheless.

You know something special is unfolding when it feels like nearly every song builds into what’s usually reserved for the climatic finale. And that’s how it was. Both nights. Two confetti showers for each set, an immaculate light show, a raucous crowd and a contagious energy that began the moment members of the band stepped on stage and didn’t let up until they left.

Is that bassist John Taylor on keyboards?

Like the 2015 and 2016 legs of the tour, Duran Duran started the evening with the title

track of the new album followed by most of their hits from the 1980s with a couple of more new songs in between. “Wild Boys” followed sending the audience into a frenzy and the Core 4 never looked back. They killed it on “A View to a Kill” which sounded so good you’d swear they lipped synced the whole thing. Afterwards on Night 1, singer Simon Le Bon, soaking in the boisterous crowd, said some of the best places they play include casinos like Agua Caliente and commented that the evening marked the beginning of a new phase of Paper Gods.

Duran Duran played “Only In Dreams” for the first time in the United States on Friday and again on Saturday. It’s a bit forgettable and a somewhat annoying song on the new album, but live it works well. Really well, actually.  It’s catchy with a great guitar groove. Also new this leg was “Is There Something I Should Know” a single track included on the Decade greatest hits album from 1989.

Missing? Oh boy. The fantastic “What Are The Chances” off Paper Gods, “(Reach Up For The) Sunrise” and “The Reflex.” No “Planet Earth,” either. Wait. Say what? Yes “The Reflex” failed to make the cut and should have at least been offered as an alternative to their cover “White Lines.” Duran Duran doesn’t need much help getting their fans standing but “Sunrise” off 2004’s Astronaut gets even the curmudgeon(ist) on their feet. Ok, check that – alternate “White Lines with “Sunrise.”

Alas, beggars can’t be choosers. Or perhaps you’re just left wanting more, more, more. Indeed, it combined a rock concert (“White Lines”), a techno show (“Last Night in the City”), 80s nostalgia (pick ‘em) and 100 percent Duran Duran rolled into a flashy club setting.

Nick Rhodes who missed a number of tour dates last summer because of an undisclosed “urgent family matter” was back behind the keyboards and Le Bon was flanked by John Taylor on bass and now long-time guitarist Dom Brown with Roger Taylor on drums. The stunning Anna Ross brought the counter vocals to Le Bon’s on “Come Undone” (wow!) while both she and fellow back-up singer Erin Stevenson helped fill the stage, kept the audience dancing and the two swapped on a handful of duet duties with Le Bon.

Duran Duran Throws a Party

This isn’t the first time Duran Duran booked this venue on their tour.  The last time they did it followed a sold-out performance at the gigantic Hollywood Bowl. The Show at Agua Caliente offers an arena stage setting inside an intimate theater giving big name acts like Duran Duran an opportunity to connect to their fans in an unprecedented and special experience. They took advantage of the moment and so did their fans.

It was 90 minutes of bliss both nights. Duran Duran looked fresh, sounded perfect and looked hungry for more.  Whether or not Le Bon meant something cryptic when commenting about a new phase for Paper Gods the band shows little signs of slowing down. Neither do their fans. Their dedicated fan base took Le Bon’s comments to heart on Night 2 when he said they better bring it if they’re to surpass the crowd from the night before. They did.

By the way, thanks Mr. Le Bon for saying nothing about the current state of political affairs in America. We attend concerts to forget about life for a while.

Certainly, Duran Duran did their job on these two nights.

Duran Duran Setlist at Agua Caliente Casino (Palm Springs)

  1. Paper Gods
  2. Wild Boys
  3. A View to a Kill
  4. Come Undone
  5. Only in Dreams
  6. Is There Something I Should Know
  7. Notorious
  8. Pressure Off
  9. Ordinary World
  10. I Don’t Want Your Love/Last Night In The City*
  11. While Lines/I Don’t Want Your Love*
  12. Last Night in the City/Hungry Like the Wolf*
  13. Hungry Like the Wolf/White Lines*
  14. Girls on Film
  15. Save a Prayer
  16. Rio

*Denotes Night 2 Setlist Change

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Switchfoot Looks for America and Finds Hope in Portland

It’s certainly atypical to begin a concert review with a request but so be it. Switchfoot, you guys have outgrown the Crystal Ballroom. Please consider the Keller Auditorium or Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on the next tour through Portland, OR. You’ll have a professional stage, we’ll have chairs and unobstructed views, and you’ll still blow the lid off the place.

Now, on to the show.

Indeed, Switchfoot played to an immense sold-out crowd on Thursday at the ballroom with the bouncing floor finally bringing their Looking for America tour to the Pacific Northwest. They’ve been on the road for months with Reliant K in support of their fabulous 10th album Where the Light Shines Through.

It wasn’t a long show, at least just for Switchfoot, which managed 14 songs in less than 90 minutes. But it was a very lengthy evening when including Reliant K’s opening set which was as long as Switchfoot’s and the break in between. After a brief video introduction to promote Cure International, the San Diego surfers got on stage about 20 minutes after 9 p.m. opening their set with “Holy Water” the first tract off their latest album.

Audience favorite “Meant to Live” got a sub-in drummer when singer Jon Foreman invited a fan to play the final bars off the song before the guys resumed business with the opening cut from 2005’s Nothing is Sound, “Lonely Nation” which – fun fact – was written many years ago inside the Crystal. Switchfoot then proceeded with three straight off Where The Light Shines Through playing the rather original and playful “Bull in a China Shop,” the album’s title song and the fantastic “Won’t Let You Go” the intensely emotional  – lyrically and musically – highlight of the album.

Foreman’s vocals reached new levels on “Won’t Let You Go” but overall, even from the set opening, something proved different. When “Holy Water” started it sounded like the band piped in a recording to mark their entrance but undoubtedly it was Foreman and his mates. The five of them played tight all evening, something a long tour usually benefits from especially if everyone gets along. And no doubt these guys like one another but they truly love each other, their profession and the fans.

Lately, it seems almost impossible for those in the music industry or entertainment business as a whole to refrain from commenting on the current political atmosphere in this country. And Switchfoot was no different. Thankfully, Foreman who regularly addressed the crowd refrained from taking sides and instead introduced “Love Alone is Worth the Fight” (with a brief “Shadow Proves the Sunshine” teaser) by saying his hope is not in Washington, DC but rather in the Maker. Nice touch.

If there was any doubt about Switchfoot’s musical prowess their interaction with another fan produced a song request for “On Fire” the ninth tract on 2003’s The Beautiful Letdown. Obscure, for sure, and Foreman said it had been some years since the band played the song but they ripped it without so much as one perceptual mistake. One would think the requesting “fan” was a plant!

Switchfoot has come a long way from being that band with that song from the sad Mandy Moore movie. They did close the show with “Dare You to Move” but that tune no longer defines them. At least it shouldn’t. And to fans, it surely doesn’t. Take “The Sound” a hard-charging rock effort from Hello Hurricane that got everybody jumping or one of their latest, “Float,” which the band played to open the encore.  An absolutely fun song that departs from anything they’ve ever recorded.

Overall, Switchfoot featured seven songs off the new album, a solid selection leaving them with just seven to choose from any of their past albums. And there’s many. At this point in their career, the shorter setlist leaves off plenty of songs many no doubt wished to hear.

As such, Switchfoot’s stage show now equates to those A-list type of acts complete with background projection screens with accompanying video, great lighting, smoke, confetti shower and even bubbles. Of course their playing by itself rules the night. Yet, the small available platform at the Crystal Ballroom comes across cramped so learning to breathe a bit for the five-some  with some space between themselves and their instruments and all that a wide open stage offers could only bring net positive results and heighten the overall concert experience.

And our line of sight wouldn’t be the back of some guy’s head.

Switchfoot Portland Setlist at Crystal Ballroom:

1.Holy Water
2.Meant to Live
3.Lonely Nation
4.Bull in a China Shop
5.Where the Light Shines Through
6.I Won’t Let You Go
7.Love Alone is Worth the Fight
8.On Fire
9.If the House Burns Down Tonight
10.The Sound
11.Where I Belong
12.Float
13.Live It Well
14.Dare You to Move

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: The Head and the Heart Bring Both to the Crystal Ballroom

Folk rock heroes The Head and the Heart took a break from a string of Christmas themed shows, held inside large arenas and featuring a lineup of bands, to something more their tempo selling out the intimate Crystal Ballroom on Tuesday in Portland, OR as headliners and gave the thankful crowd a full 18 song set lasting about 90 minutes.

The Seattle-based ensemble continued the popular “December to Remember” concert series held all month at the third-floor venue and sponsored by local radio station 94.7 KNRK. The band drew from their three albums and is currently enjoying heavy radio play for their latest single “All We Ever Do” off Signs Of Light released in September.

The Head and the Heart got right to it opening the evening with their smash hit “All We Ever Knew” followed by “City of Angels” and the catchy “Ghost,” which and big props to the band, definitely sounds ghostly but in a charming sort of way. With two of the band’s more upbeat rocking songs out of the way the remainder of the evening fell into a groove more amenable to The Head and the Heart’s roots.

Much of the setlist tapped their latest and debut albums like the pleasant “Take a Walk” and the crowd simply ate up the great “Lost in My Mind” and “Down in the Valley” both off 2010’s The Head and the Heart. The title track to their second album Let’s Be Still was an emotional punch ending with an equally strong jam and the clever “Cats and Dogs,” saved until the four-song encore, worked really well.

Just after the midway point through the show, singer Jonathan Russell began “Oh My Dear” with the rest of his bandmates off stage but it clumsily came across more like amateur mic night, then a few minutes later the band emerged and sailed the song home. Contrarily, he returned to the stage alone on piano during the encore for “Your Mother’s Eyes” and absolutely killed it.

Overall, The Head and the Heart played tight – a well-done accomplishment considering six musicians, three singers at times producing winsome harmonies, and guitarist Matt Gervais (who married violinist and co-singer Charity Rose Thielen a few years ago)  occasionally taking up the keyboards – but not always clean. A bit of dawdling at times and Russell on several occasions spent time tuning his guitar.

The setlist also needs a makeover in the placement of songs. The band ended the concert with “Rivers and Roads” a slow lullaby which would have worked just about anywhere else in the show except the final song. And, why play your most popular song first? It’s quite likely why so many turned out in droves but that favorite track played everyday on the radio was done and gone in the first five minutes of the evening. Delaying the hit single keeps the anticipation flowing of what’s coming next and helps prevent energy drain by songs like “Library Magic” – way too lethargic – and “Winter Song” which needed just a dozen or so listening around a campfire in front of a 1966 VW Vanagon.

The new genre of folk rock, or perhaps more germane Coffee House Rock, might take a bit of patience and perseverance to meld with, especially for those coming from more uptempo rock music…or really anything that feels pedal to the metal when set alongside the likes of The Head and the Heart. It’s mellow and often serene sometimes hearkening back to the 60s while incorporating a bit of bluegrass and a sense of Midwest festivities in the town square.

Still, don’t let the laid back approach to song writing fool you. Yes, it might serve The Head and the Heart well to continue making songs with a bit more dominance like “All We Ever Knew” and “City of Angels” and perhaps that is a direction they’re taking since both highlight their latest album.

Nevertheless, on stage the band certainly plays like they’ve got a pulse. Drummer Tyler Williams wasn’t shy behind the set and appeared ready to break out a blistering fill at any given moment while Gervais, filling in for band co-founder and co-lead singer Josiah Johnson who took a break from touring to address some addiction issues, fingered through some solid solos and a few ripping chords during the most placid of songs.

The Head and the Heart Setlist at Crystal Ballroom

  1. All We Ever Knew

  2. City of Angels

  3. Ghosts

  4. Rhythm & Blues

  5. Another Story

  6. Take a Walk

  7. Library Magic

  8. Let’s Be Still

  9. Lost In My Mind

  10. Winter Song

  11. 10,000 Weight in Gold

  12. Oh My Dear

  13. Sounds Like Hallelujah

  14. Down In The Valley

  15. Your Mother’s Eyes

  16. Cats And Dogs

  17. Shake

  18. Rivers And Roads

 

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Jimmy Eat World – Sure and Certain in Portland

Jimmy Eat World gave a sold out crowd packed inside the Crystal Ballroom at least one day in December to remember with an impressive 23 song set on Monday touching seven of nine studio albums including six off their latest Integrity Blues.

The band, currently on tour supporting Integrity Blues, continued a string of sold out performances as part of local radio station 94.7 KNRK’s annual “December to Remember” concert series held at the stuffy, mostly standing room only, third-floor venue in downtown Portland. Jimmy Eat World could be considered elder statesmen compared to most of the acts booked this month but the foursome (along with a fifth touring member) from Mesa, AZ certainly raised the bar and showed how it’s done.

The band started the evening with “Get Right” from Integrity Blues, followed by the rocking title track off their hit album Bleed American, and “I Will Steal You back,” the only cut off 2013’s Damage. Then some big riffs with “Big Casino,” one of two, from Chase This Light before diving back into their latest fare with the mellow “You With Me.”

It was an efficient and productive evening as Jimmy Eat World wasted little time getting straight to business ripping through song after song finishing the robust and diverse setlist in just under an hour and 45 minutes. The show integrated a career spanning catalogue of songs proficiently bouncing from album to album save for a few back-to-back blocks off Futures and Clarity as the evening featured a mix of tunes stretching back to 1999’s Clarity and every album since then.  Big praise to whoever decided on the order, too, as boisterous, uptempo cuts embracing classic 90s alternative riffs, some punk rock and even metal always seemed to follow or precede something more akin to a ballad, but certainly slower paced nonetheless, preventing any momentum loss in an overall outrageously energetic show.

Yet, even when the band slowed the tempo, melody rich songs like “You Are Free,” “23” and “Polaris,” which shined the spotlight on bassist Rick Burch, thoroughly consumed the room. And, don’t forget “Pass the Baby.” A totally different arrangement than just about anything else written and recorded by Jimmy Eat World and truthfully it’s the one “skip this” recording from Integrity Blues but it is absolutely special live.

Jimmy Eat World might be best known for their smash hit “The Middle” and crowd favorite “Sweetness,” the evening finale which the band could have handed over vocal duties to the very thankful audience, but gems certainly shower every one of their albums. And oh how they’ve mastered writing catchy choruses that stick with you well after the show.

Check out “Lucky Denver Mint” coming near the halfway point of the show to cap off three straight from Clarity by following “Blister,” which handed off vocal duties to original singer and now fulltime guitarist Tom Linton, and “For Me This Is Heaven.” Then the punk-infused “Praise Chorus” was one of five from Bleed American coming in the middle of a dynamic three song stretch including “Always Be,” song two off Chase This Light , and the guitar driven “My Best Theory” the only cut from 2010’s Invented.

Then, of course, like all evening long, Jimmy Eat World dialed it back a bit with “Through” and the impassioned “23” before closing out the opening set with “Work” and “Pain” to wrap up three in-a-row from 2004’s Futures before the band headed off stage to stand by for the encore.

So, perhaps that’s what helps separate Jimmy Eat World from much of the alternative rock world and everything else garnering heavy radio play today. Smart arrangements, memorable phrasing, fun melodies and driving rhythms. Though Jimmy Eat World got its start in 1993 it wasn’t until after the 90s alternative rock craze that the band hit the charts with Bleed American in 2001 not only capturing the magic of that era but infusing their own blend of rock, pop and, heck, there was even a little bit of 80s in the set all while continuing to drive forward now nearly 20 years later releasing solid new material about every three years.

Adkins, guitarist and lead singer, didn’t formerly address the crowd until after “Polaris” when he said it was an honor to play and thanked the crowd for their support. Later, he joked about the band not going to the Grammy’s which probably wasn’t a fluke considering the release of the 2017 nominations today. But perhaps a fitting coincidence in the lyrics to the Crash Test Dummies sounding “Through” off Integrity Blues – “You don’t know what I do” – no, no they don’t.

Note to Adkins: If the Grammy’s don’t want you, then consider that a job well done.

Jimmy Eat World Portland Setlist at Crystal Ballroom

1.      Get Right
2.     Bleed American
3.     I Will Steal You Back
4.     Big Casino
5.     You With Me
6.     If You Don’t, Don’t
7.     Pass the Baby
8.     Just Tonight
9.     Polaris
10.   Blister
11.   For Me This Is Heaven
12.   Lucky Denver Mint
13.   You Are Free
14.   Always Be
15.   Praise Chorus
16.   My Best Theory
17.   Through
18.   23
19.   Work
20.   Pain
21.   The Middle
22.   Sure and Certain
23.   Sweetness

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Pet Shop Boys Bring Some Super Songs to Portland

pet-shop-boys

The Pet Shop Boys returned to Portland on Tuesday just three years after their first ever visit but this time the 80s icons took the stage at the Keller Auditorium in support of their 13th album Super which was released in April.

Sticking to their new foray into heavy bass beats and dance riffs as the last two albums attest, the evening felt very much like attending a nightclub though all eyes were directed towards the stage and the stars of the evening. Singer Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe moved briskly through a 23 song set stretched over an hour and 45 minutes that sent thumping vibrations into a decent sized audience turnout from the start of the show through the final act.

But if the pop kids of the 80s who loved the pop hits of the same era were expecting the British duo to whisk them through a nostalgia act of radio hits and all those celebrated cuts, they quickly learned these two have been busy writing and recording new music.

The Boys started the show with “Inner Sanctum” off the new album, hit a familiar-favorite mixed with a cool dance beat in “West End Girls” then a return to the new album with the single “The Pop Kids” before another trip 30 years back to their first remix album Disco for the catchy and underrated “In the Night” then again to current fare with “Burn.”

By now, Tennant and Lowe changed outfits losing the odd looking pumpkin shaped headwear and were joined by three additional musicians on keyboards, organic drums and electronic percussion. The evening  continued as PSB dove into 2013’s Electric performing “Love Is a Bourgeois Construct” one of two songs from that album this evening, “New York City Boy” off 1999’s Nightlife and a touch of Caribbean on “Se A Vida É (That’s The Way Life Is)” from Bilingual  now 20 years old that felt a bit flat.

“Twenty-Something” brought the new album back to the stage and then the very popular “Love Comes Quickly” continuing the 30 year cycle trend but it was the last song played off the group’s smash album Please. The catchy “Love etc.” came next off 2009’s Yes album and then an extended run of new songs that unfortunately failed to capture the charm of so many of their hits.

The rather dark piece off Super “The Dictator Decides” featured a strange video backdrop with ants and its slow pace meandered a bit. Electric’s “Inside a Dream” didn’t help much to pick up the tempo. Nor did “Winner” which represented 2012’s Elysium and by the time the opening tract off 2002’s Release “Home and Dry” was done people started taking their seats.

After an instrumental with Lowe taking the spotlight which apparently is called “The Enigma” Tennant returned to the stage for the great “Vocal” another cut off Electric and the energy missing for the last 15 minutes or so slowly returned. “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show” tapped into 2006’s Fundamental and PSB of course continued with the religious theme bringing “It’s a Sin” infused with a delectable dance mix and a boost in bass that started a string of five fetching fan favorites to close the show.

By now everyone who sat was back on their feet and stayed upright as the Pet Shops Boys brought to life their third album Introspective with “Left to My Own Devices,” touched 1993’s Very with the cover song “Go West” and closed out the show with “Domino Dancing” and their other popular cover “Always on My Mind” both off Introspective.

The evening was signature Pet Shop Boys though much less choreography and those inspired Broadway style themes from past tours. Lasers throughout the night, along with a large video screen behind the stage and some interesting costumes changes. And the bass. Boy, was it heavy. Sometimes overpowering but often joyous nonetheless. Tennant’s vocals flowed smooth like melted butter. Flawless and sounding no different than when he and Lowe burst into the music scene in 1986.  You’d never know he turned 62 this summer.

Of course, not every new album can hold the same magnetism the Pet Shop Boys captured for their past efforts as their latest releases have more or less evolved from their keyboard centric beginnings but each possess a couple of solid gems worthy of rolling out that keeps the Pet Shop Boys Charm intact rather than the 20 or so minutes of mid-show dawdling when even the performers looked a bit bored.

“Happiness” the opening tract off Super though it may be lyrically challenged is certainly the most fun song off the album and no need to forget about Electric as “Axis” or “Fluorescent” would have helped keep up spirits.

At any rate, nearly half the setlist accounted for songs just 10 years old or less. If you haven’t been paying attention, the Pet Shops Boys have released five studio albums since 2009 and seven since the start of the new millennium. And, it’s certainly a welcome field to experience live such a wide variety of the band’s efforts as they could easily unveil two solid hours of hits and radio fare.

Instead they celebrate their present and honor their past.

Pet Shop Boys Portland Setlist (Keller Auditorium)

1.  Inner Sanctum
2.  West End Girls
3. The Pop Kids
4. In the Night
5.  Burn
6. Love Is a Bourgeois Construct
7. New York City Boy
8. Se A Vida É (That’s The Way Life Is)
9. Twenty-something
10. Love Comes Quickly
11. Love Etc.
12. The Dictator Decides
13.   Inside a Dream
14. Winner
15. Home and Dry
16. Instrumental – The Enigma
17. Vocal
18. The Sodom and Gomorrah Show
19. It’s a Sin
20. Left to My Own Devices
21. Go West
22. Domino Dancing
23. Always on My Mind

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Def Leppard Never Gets Old

Def Leppard at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR

Def Leppard performs at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR

Def Leppard returned to the Pacific Northwest on Friday for the fifth time in seven years this time filling the smaller and more intimate Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR in support of their latest album Def Leppard out nearly a year ago.

The setlist didn’t change much from past tours – of course you’re there for all those yummy arena rock anthems and the radio staples – but the classy Brits sneaked in three off the new album and added (for some reason) a cover song in a solid 17 song set that lasted just more than 90 minutes.

Def Leppard got started with the first tract off the new album “Let’s Go” which completely falls in line with the band’s stockpile of songs. It sounds like Def Leppard and feels like Def Leppard. It’s got a familiar hook (Sugar anybody?) and was that both Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell playing the guitar solo, together? It rocked and so did the next one – “Animal.” (Never gets old.)

Singer Joe Elliott really shined on this one, the song now almost 30 years old, off their smash record Hysteria. The band continued with “Let It Go,” don’t get it confused with the first one, because it sounds nothing like it and is 34 years older. It’s an oft overlooked gem from 1981’s High ‘n’ Dry and the boys shredded through it adding a menacing jam to close it out that reduced the album version to rubble.

Def Leppard Guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen

Def Leppard Guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen

The big single off their latest record came next -”Dangerous” – and yes it gets airtime. Well, on Sirius radio, at least. Campbell got the go ahead on this one and proved why Def Leppard chose him nearly 25 years ago to replace the late Steve Clark. The 80’s smash “Foolin’” followed and then the female centric “Love Bites.”

“Armageddon It” (never gets old) continued the eventual six scoop dip into 1987’s Hysteria with Campbell in the driver’s seat. Not sure if the band dropped an octave or two, but something proved peculiar about the live treatment on this one as it sounded really fresh and a bit different. Don’t worry, it kept the album version intact. Just goes to show how well the 12 times platinum album stands up over time.

Def Leppard covered the David Essex song “Rock On” from their 2006 covers album Yeah! OK, so technically, sort of, they played a Def Leppard song but with all the gems on their new album it sure would have been nice to hear another one. It’s not a bad song, in fact they gave it justice, it’s just not their song and with such a deep catalog available, even without offering another new tune, let’s consider the covers album recess but don’t include it on the touring setlist.

They followed with the new “Man Enough,” see they could have done back-to-back off Def Leppard, like, oh perhaps the fantastic balled “We Belong”? Really just about any song off the new album. Anyway. It was great at least to get three songs and you’d think the band would showcase more off their first studio album in seven years and 11th overall. But enough of that.

Guitarist Vivian Campbell

Guitarist Vivian Campbell

Because “Rocket” (never gets old) came next which started an eight song run of their most popular fare with “Pour Some Sugar On Me” (really never gets old) closing out the first set and the band returning with “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” (never… you get the picture) for the encore.

Def Leppard has seemingly been touring non-stop for the last few years. This show felt like a second leg of sorts from last year’s show with Tesla opening and REO Speedwagon taking over for Styx. The band recycled some of the imagery and big screen backdrop used on songs like the cursive writing to “Love Bites,” the old style TV screens on “Hysteria” and the trip down memory lane for “Photograph.” They indeed do a great job with the video production element which often upstages their playing! On “Rock of Ages” a camera mounted on Collen’s fretboard showcased a mesmerizing view of the guitarist playing.

It’s been 36 years since Def Leppard stepped foot on American soil and while all the members are well into their 50s they seem no worse for the wear and show little signs of slowing down. The new album confirms the band still has the creative juices flowing and they don’t appear content to rest on their laurels and just repackage a Greatest Hits show every year. Of course, their collection of greatest hits alone outpaces some bands entire collection of songs (at least listenable ones anyway) and they probably could get away with doing so. In many respects though, it’s felt that way, especially as openers for KISS a few years back but a mush deserved rest to come and Def Leppard should be back.

REO Speedwagon at Matthew Knight Arena

Like Styx, REO Speedwagon does seem content on touring, till the end, their greatest hits. They put on a solid performance but if you’ve seen them once in the last five years or so that’s pretty much what you’re going to get, every time.

It’s more of a nostalgic trip as the band hasn’t released a new album in nearly 10 years and the newest song featured – their smash hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” from 1984. REO Speedwagon is just about a full time touring act nowadays and they could probably play the songs in their sleep by now. Singer Kevin Cronin has done a great job adapting his vocals to a range he can reach and all those 80s hits still hit you as hard as they did more than 30 years ago.

REO Speedwagon played a 10 song set for about an hour which opened with “Don’t Let Him Go” and included the underrated “Time for Me to Fly” and “Roll With the Changes” and of course “Keep On Living You” a song born from a simple three-chord piano riff Cronin said got stuck in his head one early morning so he got up at 4 a.m. to write it down. And their lives haven’t been the same since.

Def Leppard Setlist – Eugene, OR (Matthew Knight Arena)

  1. Let’s Go
  2. Animal
  3. Let It Go
  4. Dangerous
  5. Foolin’
  6. Love Bites
  7. Armageddon It
  8. Rock On
  9. Man Enough
  10. Rocket
  11. Bringing on the Heartbreak
  12. Switch 625
  13. Hysteria
  14. Let’s Get Rocked
  15. Pour Some Sugar On Me
  16. Rock of Ages
  17. Photograph

Written By: AndrewT