Foo Fighters Rock RVA

For the last ten years at least, perhaps longer, I have heard many very smart people who work in the music business proclaim with certainty that ‘Rock Music Is Dead!’ It had been replaced by ultra-slick, auto-tuned productions that strived for perfection, but in that pursuit had lost its soul.

‘Rock is dead. The passion is gone. It will never be the same.’

Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters obviously never got the message because, on Saturday night they offered a three-hour set of blistering hard rock as testament that Rock and Roll is Alive and Well!

It was something quite wonderful to behold.

Photo by author

Supporting their latest effort, ‘Concrete and Gold’, which was represented well in the evening’s set list, the band took the nearly sold out Richmond Coliseum crowd on a trip through the band’s 20+ year career, playing some songs that had not been played live in a very long time, along with the ones you expect to hear, and even a few that even surprised Dave and the band.

 

‘I say tonight we play songs from every album…so there ain’t much time for talkin’,’ Dave announced to the crowd three songs in. In fact, the songs didn’t stop and Dave didn’t say ‘Hi’ to the audience until they were done playing ten straight songs, almost nonstop. This was my first Foo Fighters show, so while I had seen Dave interviewed and seen some performances on television, I did not know that he basically turns into Animal from the Muppets on stage; a frantic head banging, hair flying maniac.

The featured songs from the new record translate to the stage well, especially ‘Run’ and ‘The Sky Is a Neighborhood’, the latter of which heavily features a trio of female lead singers, brought along on tour to add harmony vocals. I am happy to see on subsequent shows that most of the new material is still being played, although the title track, which was part of an epic 45 minute encore, as of this writing, has not been played since making its live debut Saturday.

Photo courtesy of Brian Hall

Another moment that appears to be a ‘Richmond Exclusive’, since we were the first arena stop on the tour, is drummer Taylor Hawkins’ lead vocal spotlight on a cover of Queen’s ‘I’m In Love With My Car.’ Dave asked the crowd if they liked the song being part of the show, saying they added it since the song inspired Hawkins to be a drummer and a singer. It was a neat moment, but with such a large catalog, I am sure most fans would have rather heard another deep cut from the Foos as opposed to a cover.

After the band left the stage the first time, we all knew they were coming back for an encore. There was a camera backstage that showed Dave urging the crowd to get louder and putting up one finger as if to ask ‘You wanna hear one more?’ Then he put up two, then three and eventually five fingers before finally taking the stage again to play what would indeed be an unforgettable encore.

When the Foo Fighters first hit the scene in the mid-nineties, I liked them, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I liked their songs when I heard them on the radio or when I saw a video on MTV (Although I did get sick of ‘Big Me’ when it seemed to be coming out of every radio speaker), but I didn’t own any records by them. Then I saw the documentary ‘Sound City’ in which Dave chronicles the history of the infamous LA recording studio, and soon after I saw that, I watched the HBO series ‘Sonic Highways’, which featured the band visiting eight US cities and writing and recording a song in each city. It was after that series concluded that I immediately bought the ‘Sonic Highways’ record and made it a point that, the next time Foo Fighters were anywhere close, I would check them out.

I mention all of this because, even though I have delved into the back catalog of the band, ‘Sonic Highways’ remains my favorite and, while I did not expect to hear a majority of that record on Saturday, I was ecstatic to hear two songs specifically. ‘Something From Nothing’, which kicks off the ‘Sonic Highways’ record was featured early in the set (and that song was when I took my glasses off, stowed them away in my pocket and decided to headbang like I was eighteen again, at least for a few songs).

 

As headbanging almost always is for me, it was a very cathartic moment.

 

Later, in the midst of that long encore, after already playing four songs and blowing past the 11:30pm noise ordinance curfew, there was a pause on stage and then Dave said, ‘Watch this! I’m gonna surprise the band!’ He then tore into the opening riff to ‘Congregation’ which is, without question my favorite song from the ‘Sonic Highways’ project, and it may be my favorite song by the band, period. The band quickly joined in, and we were off on one of my favorite concert moments in a very long time. 

The Congregation (Courtesy of Brian Hall)

To me, the song crystalizes how music can be at times as moving and as important as one’s religion or faith. I’ve always had a problem with ‘organized religion’, and some may find it offensive to compare such a secular activity to a religion, or use the word ‘faith’ when talking of music, but in my life, in some of my darkest hours, music has been the one thing that has kept me afloat and helped me see that, even when I was in seemingly insurmountable pain, I could get through it. 
Some lyrics:

Send in the congregation

Open your eyes, step in the light

A jukebox generation

Just as you were

And you need blind faith

No false hope

Do you have blind faith?

No false hope

Where is your blind faith?

No false hope

Open your eyes, open your eyes

Step into the light

Open your eyes, step into the light

I’m grateful they played ‘Congregation’, and I’m now aware that Richmond really did get a very special show. The following night, the encore was much shorter, and ‘Congregation’ has not been played. If this show ends up being the only show where it’s performed (along with probably Nashville, the city that inspired it), then I count myself lucky to have been there. 

Seeing the hordes of sweaty fans on the floor, sharing the experience of this show, it reminded me again that Rock is not dead, and, if you catch the right moment, you can even see Rock thrive in 2017.

The Foo Fighters rocked, and they rocked hard for three hours, and in doing so, they singlehandedly restored my faith in the power of Rock, and the power of music.

So, if they play anywhere close to where you live…GO! You won’t be sorry!

 

Setlist from setlist.fm

 

Run

I’ll Stick Around

Learn to Fly

The Pretender

The Sky Is a Neighborhood

Something From Nothing

Walk

Rope

(Extended outro; with drum solo at the end)

Sunday Rain

My Hero

These Days

Let It Die

(First time live since 4/ 3/12)

All My Life

Enough Space

White Limo

Arlandria

Times Like These

(Solo into full band)

Breakout

Make It Right

I’m in Love With My Car

(Queen cover) (Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals)

Skin and Bones

Jump / Fat Bottomed Girls

(Played during band intros)

Monkey Wrench

Best of You

[Encore]:

Dirty Water

This Is a Call

La Dee Da

Wheels

(First time in the US since 5/ 7/14)

Congregation

Concrete and Gold

(Live debut)

Everlong

 Thank you for reading

-Barry

‘The Last Five Years’ at TheatreLab is Mesmerizing; Not To Be Missed

This weekend I had the pleasure of witnessing a bit of magic right here in town at Richmond’s TheatreLab Basement.

Production Photography by Tom Topinka

Christie Jackson and Alexander Sapp as Cathy and Jamie [Production Photography by Tom Topinka courtesy of TheatreLab’s Facebook page]

Jason Robert Brown’s musical ‘The Last Five Years’ is one of the most unique pieces of theatre to be produced in the last twenty years. Instead of lavish sets and a ‘cast of thousands,’ the play is simply a series of monologues-in-song, alternately performed by the play’s only two characters, Jamie and Cathy. In this production, which is a partnership between TheatreLab and Yes, And! Entertainment, ambitious young writer Jamie is portrayed by Alexander Sapp, while Christie Jackson is struggling actress Cathy.

 

What sets this work apart from your usual ‘boy meets girl’ musical is that the characters tell the story of their relationship from meeting to marriage to divorce, but they tell it from opposite ends. The very first number, ‘Still Hurting’ shows Cathy at the end of the relationship, in pain and in pieces. That Jackson is able to immediately grab the audience and hold them in her hand as she crumbles in front of them is awe inspiring. Lest you think it’s a complete downer, the very next song ‘Shiksa Goddess’ brings us Jamie just as he’s met Cathy. Sapp bounces along the minimal stage, smiling ear to ear, possessed with the youthful exuberance that the potential of a new relationship brings. Throughout the show, each person tells their story from their point of view with almost no interaction with the other performer.

The Basement performance space is very intimate: about 40 seats, a barren wood plank stage with two benches. Even though the space is sparse, the audience is captivated by a fantastic piano and string ensemble (directed by John-Stuart Faquet), a masterful score, nuanced stage direction from Chelsea Burke, expert lighting, and most importantly, two stupendous actors who move from joy and humor to heartbreak and sadness with a smooth effortlessness that is a wonder to witness.

I urge you to go see this show. You’ll be supporting great local theatre, you’ll see a truly mesmerizing performance, and, as you watch Jamie and Cathy on the carousel that is their relationship, you’ll undoubtedly see a bit of yourself in those two characters.

This engagement will sell out, so I advise you to purchase your seats before they’re all gone. The run resumes Thursday September 28 and plays every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night through October 14, Now EXTENDED thru Saturday October 28! All shows start at 8pm, seats are general admission and are $30.

 

Don’t miss it, because I assure you, this production will be talked about long after the final bows have been taken. It is that good, and it is that memorable, so go…be ‘a part of that.’

Adam Ant Reminds Us ‘Ridicule Is Nothing To Be Scared Of’

Wednesday night (09.20), Adam Ant brought his ‘ANTHEMS’ Tour to The National, and as promised, the evening was a wonderful flashback to the 80’s and the early days of MTV. More than that, though, the night was a testament to a performer who has survived the height of 80’s success (and excess), battled mental illness, and come out the other side. Perhaps he was surprised to find his fans were waiting for him when he returned to the recording studio after a 17 year hiatus in 2013? Whatever the reason, this tour is a celebratory nod to the past, and it’s also undeniable proof that Ant (real name Stuart Goddard) still has ‘It’; that star quality charisma that demands you watch him (and only him) as he commands the stage. 


Wearing a cowboy hat in lieu of his trademark pirate garb, and clad head to toe in black leather, Ant opened the show with a song originally only available on the cassette version of 1980’s ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’, the punk-tinged ‘Beat My Guest’, played at such a fast tempo that it was almost a thrash number, daring a mosh pit to materialize. For the first twenty minutes, each song came without a break for a breath; ‘Vive Le Rock’, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, ‘Friend of Foe.’ It wasn’t until about the sixth or seventh song in the set when Ant stopped to say ‘Hello Richmond’ and acknowledge the crowd, mainly so everyone onstage and in attendance could catch their breath.

 

The biggest cheers of the night came when the two biggest US singles were featured toward the end of the set, ‘Strip’ and ‘Goody Two Shoes’, which were both MTV staples throughout the early 80’s, and a blistering version of ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’; but as the opening number proved, Ant isn’t adverse to throwing in a deep cut (‘Greta X; ‘B-Side Baby’) to keep things interesting for the longtime diehard fans.

 

As Goddard approaches his sixty-third birthday, he appears the happiest and healthiest of his entire career, which is a wonderful triumph. I admit that I bought a ticket to this show only because the tour was called ‘Anthems’ and I knew I would hear ‘the old songs,’ but after seeing Adam Ant in concert one time, I will see him next time and every time he’s nearby, even if the setlist is full of songs I don’t know. In this age of carbon copy bands, it was a pleasure to witness a pop pioneer proving he’s still at the top of his game, a bit older and a lot wiser.

 

Set list (courtesy of Setlist.fm)

Beat My Guest

Vive Le Rock

Dog Eat Dog

Apollo 9

Friend or Foe

Antmusic

Room at the Top

Desperate But Not Serious

Cartrouble

Zerox

Young Parisians

Prince Charming

Gotta Be a Sin

Puss ‘n Boots

Can’t Set Rules About Love

Christian D’or

Strip

Kings of the Wild Frontier

Greta X

B-Side Baby

Stand and Deliver

(Encore)

Goody Two Shoes

Lady/Fall In

Red Scab

Physical (You’re So)

 

–Barry

‘Food, Clothing, & Shelter’ a Wonderful Surprise 

‘We know…it’s a show.’ 

Richmond writer Bo Wilson’s latest creation, ‘Food, Clothing, & Shelter’ is anything but the ‘typical theatre going experience.’ For starters, it’s staged at The Firehouse Theatre, a local space that I have always had a soft spot for because it is able to be funky, inviting and intimate all at once, which suits this production perfectly. As you enter the building and grab a program, you are greeted by ‘circus freaks’— A man with a boa constrictor around his neck, a woman doing hula hoop tricks and a man offering a game of three card monte. Within seconds, you know that this will not be a ‘typical’ evening. It’s an exercise in ‘Immersion Theatre’ where the audience and cast have the chance to interact. For some theatergoers, this may seem awkward or uncomfortable. Even if you fall into that category, don’t let that stop you from seeing this show while you can.   

It’s 1927 and as the play opens, The Yankee Doodle Circus Train has derailed and left its passengers stranded in the very small town of Vinton, Indiana. Over three scenes, the circus folk interact with the townspeople in hopes of obtaining food, clothing and shelter for the penniless troop.

The results are at times hilarious, sweet, and deeply moving.

The cast, which includes Kirk Morton, Frank Creasy, Foster Solomon, Keisha Wallace, Rebecca Turner and Donna Marie Miller along with many other ‘roustabouts’, is able to convey in three scenes how we are all more alike than we are different and, no matter if you’re from Small Town, America or a passenger on The Circus Train, all of us are, in our unique way, freaks, trying to find our way and gain acceptance.
I could write a lot more about this play, but I don’t want to give anything away and, more importantly, I want you to go see it! I will simply say that I did not have any idea what to expect as I walked in, and by the time of the final bows, I was deeply moved, knowing I had seen something that I will carry with me for a very long time.

 

You can see eveing shows at 7:30 on Wednesday, September 13 thru Friday, September 15 and then your last chance to catch it is a Sunday matinee at 3:00pm on the 17th. You might be hesitant, because it’s different, but trust me. Go see this show.

You can thank me later.

 

Happily, forever a freak….

–Barry

Charlottesville 


Today feels like Day One, A.C. Or, After Charlottesville.

I sat down at this same computer on Saturday evening with every intention of writing something about what happened. I stared at my blank digital page for a good five minutes, not even typing one letter, let alone a complete sentence, then I gave up. 

Well, now today I am at least past that.

I already know that anything I say here will mean almost nothing and any words I muster won’t change the fact that a woman died on Saturday, in my home state, while protesting Nazis.

Protesting fucking NAZIS!

I avoided the news after the true horror of the events came to light, and I escaped reality by watching movies from my couch. I am usually a very ‘plugged in’ person, always following political news and current events, but Saturday I was in shock. By chance I did turn the news on around 6pm so a friend who was visiting could hear the latest, and I did hear our governor speak and rebuke hate explicitly. But Saturday I just could not fathom how a protest rally under the guise of the removal of a statue – a fucking statue!! – ended with the deaths of three citizens and dozens injured.

Saturday I was shocked and saddened. Today that has given way to anger. But, I really don’t know what to do with that anger or how to channel it into something positive. That’s why I am attempting to write something. Just to get it out.

Quote bluntly, how the fuck did we get here?!

 

I don’t have the answer to that question, and the only comparisons I can draw between history and what happened Saturday [the Civil Rights Movement; The Summer of ‘68] seem to not quite fit.

Here is the internal dialogue that I kept having over and over late Friday night (when I first saw the ‘Tiki Torches’ photo online) into Saturday as events began to spiral toward an unfathomable Hell on Earth: If the Nazis/Alt Right held a protest in [your city here] and no one showed up to counter protest, to engage them in a fight, no one bothered to pay them any attention, wouldn’t our silence toward them and the fact that we paid them no heed speak volumes?

I am truly conflicted about this because, on the one hand, I understand the want, the necessity to make your voice heard in the face of hate, so I understand the urge to meet the enemy where they stand, and stand your ground.

There’s a part of me though that believes this ‘Alt-Right/Nazi’ minority isn’t worth my time or the energy to mount a protest. No one is going to have their mind changed by someone shouting in the street, no matter how many signs we carry or how many slogans we chant. If anyone is committed enough to wear Nazi swastikas in public, nothing I say or write is going to make them see the light of day, or the error in their ways.

That’s the internal dialogue merry-go-round I have been on since very early Saturday morning, and, as I write this on Monday night, I don’t know which stance is the correct one, or if they’re both right, or both wrong. That’s why I haven’t posted much about this on social media, apart from links to news stories.

I have read today that this same group is planning to have a rally in Richmond. That doesn’t surprise me, even though Richmond City Council has made no decision on what to do with the statues of Lee, Davis and Jackson. If they do decide to come to Richmond, I sincerely hope the horrors of Charlottesville are not repeated, but I know it would be wishful thinking on my part to hope the rally is completely ignored by the public and the press, so that the shouting of hate gets drowned out not by protests, but by its own echo chamber.

With a very heavy heart, tonight I am thinking of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, their families and friends.

 

If tomorrow has to be better, then hurry up tomorrow. We need you now.

 

Thank you for reading,

Barry

Your History Is Waiting To Smack You In The Face

In 2003, at a time when I was changing Primary Care Physicians, I sat down to type out a medical event history, basically a dot point listing of every surgery, major procedure and extended hospital stay from 1977 until 2003. I also sent a copy of the document to my internist, who had known me since 1992. I make updates to my copy, but haven’t sent it to any providers since I started seeing my latest PCP which was in 2014.

Thursday this week, as I lay prone on a hospital bed awaiting an IV nurse to prep the anesthesia for an outpatient procedure, the Admitting Nurse who asks all the relevant questions (When was the last time you ate? When did you last take your meds?) started to ask about my medical history and then before I could answer, she began to tick off a slew of events from the late-70’s. I was a little out of it since I had not eaten for the last 27 hours, so it didn’t immediately register that she was reading off of my old list, which meant that my typed medical history had successfully made the move to the Electronic Medical Records ‘vault.’

At the same moment I thought, ‘Cool, they still have my sheet so I don’t need to tell them about all of this ancient history,’ I listened as she continued to read off the list. I confirmed that yes, all of those things happened to me and added two more events that happened from 2015-2017.

After she left, I stared up at the celling, head on a very flat pillow, and thought ‘Goddamn, I’ve been through a lot of shit!’

I know I have faced a lot of challenges in my 40+ years, but to hear them all read off in succession, it took me aback. I really do live one day to the next, looking forward to upcoming events like concerts, and do my best not to dwell on things that hold me back. Those of you who know me well know that every single day I deal with chronic pain that’s not severe enough to debilitate, but not minor enough to ignore. Some days it’s just something to deal with, and some days it’s a feat to get out of bed and function. More often than not, though, I manage to get moving. My attitude though is that everyone is dealing with their own challenges, so what I deal with is nothing really unique or special.

I’m facing another medical adventure/challenge in the very near future, and I will write about it at length once I know more info, but I wanted to scribble this here because I knew it was far too long for a Facebook post. (That’s why I have a blog, right?)

In the meantime, thank you for reading and have a great weekend!

–Barry 

Alan Doyle Still Has A Smile On His Face (And Four Walls Around Him)

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Doyle play a very small local music venue. Who is Alan Doyle, you ask? He’s best known as one of the founding members of the band Great Big Sea, who tried their best to hit the big time in the US in the late 90s and early 2000’s after conquering their homeland of Canada a few years before. While they would play to stadium sized crowds in Canada, Great Big Sea (GBS) would play small theatres and clubs in America, where the crowds were smaller, but no less enthusiastic.

GBS is pure nostalgia for me. Their music marks a very specific time period in my life, and reminds me of very specific people. I honestly was not aware that GBS had officially split in 2013. When I heard that Alan Doyle was going to appear at Tin Pan, I knew I had to get a ticket to see what he’d been up to since I last saw him fifteen years ago.

Tin Pan is an interesting, intimate venue in the mold of Alexandria’s Birchmere. They offer dinner reservations with your ticket for preferred seating, and the music, not chatting is the most important thing.

 

After a funny, sardonic and brief opening set by Donavan Woods, Alan took the stage to sing a song a cappella, proving that his voice is still in top form,  then his band Beautiful Gypsies joined him and they started with ‘I Can’t Dance Without You’ from Alan’s latest solo effort, 2015’s ‘So Let’s Go.’ The mix was great, the house was packed and I was pleased to see Alan had not lost any of the gregariousness that made him my favorite member of GBS.

The sing-along started early when the band kicked into ‘When I’m Up’ and Alan demanded audience participation. It was around this time of the night when the crowd began buying Alan shots and doubles of Jameson Whiskey, which Alan never refused.

Here’s the set list, and then some thoughts:

Dream of Home (a cappella)

I Can’t Dance Without You

When I’m Up

Come Out With Me

My Day

Where the Nightingale Sings

Sea of No Cares

The Night Loves Us

Lukey

Forever Light Will Shine

I’ve Seen a Little

In The Morning (Guitarist Cory, solo)

Old Black Rum

Roll Me Bully Boys Row

Consequence Free

Testify

1,2,3,4 (featuring verses from ‘Tub Thumping’ and ‘You Can Call Me Al’)

[Encore]

Wave on Wave

Shine On

Ordinary Day

 

No matter the size of the stage, Alan is a showman, making sure that everyone in attendance has a good time. Even though we were seated at tables and the bar, dancers got up and waltzed, reeled and jigged. 

The biggest surprise for me was that, while with GBS, Alan would sing at least one ballad per album. His set Tuesday was more upbeat and, as such, none of the three pop ballads Alan sang (‘Fast As I Can’, ‘Boston and St. John’s’ and ‘Clearest Indication’) were highlighted. Not that I minded, I was just very surprised. 

Bonus: Murray Foster, formerly of Moxy Fruvous and mote recently the bassist for GBS is part of Alan’s band, as is former GBS drummer Kris MacFarlane. 

As the show ended, Alan implored fans to stick around for autographs and selfies. Instead of sitting behind his merchandise table, just outside the venue in an entrance hall, Alan took a seat at the bar and the fans queued up to get a pic, a signature and share stories. Props to Alan for taking time with everyone, including a ten year old girl who got a drumstick from Kris and the setlist. Alan autographed the setlist and got a picture. He also spoke for a bit with your dear author, whom he remembered from a meeting a very long time ago. 

If you’re like me and lost track of Great Big Sea and their members, Alan has two solo albums (“Boy on Bridge” from 2012 and the aforementioned “So Let’s Go” from 2015) and he’s also written a book. If Alan Doyle, the self-proclaimed ‘Prince of Newfoundland’ and his band of Beautiful Gypsies land in your town, go see him and say hello. It’s a good time, I promise. 


Thanks for reading. 

Barry