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Concert Review

KISS – August 24, 2019 – Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Concert Review)

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KISS – August 24, 2019 – Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Concert Review)

When I was in high school KISS was playing at a local venue. I was planning on going with a group of girls, but as usual, my mother said no. She wouldn’t let me go to concerts, and she especially wasn’t letting me see KISS, even though the venue was about five miles away and parents volunteered to bring us both ways.

Flash forward to late 2003. KISS is touring with Aerosmith. I’m excited-I had never seen Aerosmith, either. My husband can only tolerate so much, and this was one concert he refused to attend. So I did the next best thing: I brought my two oldest kids, who were both in high school. Yes, I’m the cool mom!

Which brings us to August 2019. Still the cool mom, my oldest son and I were in the front row balcony when KISS brought their tour to my neck of the woods. Thousands of fans packed the amphitheater and lawn, some in face paint, many in KISS t-shirts from this tour and tours from years ago. The “KISS Army,” as the die-hard fans are called, were in full force.

“You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world…KISS!!” The curtain dropped, and descending from the ceiling were Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and Tommy Thayer, playing the opening licks to “Detroit Rock City.” Drummer Eric Singer was on an elevated platform at the back of the stage. Fireworks and fire were prevalent throughout the concert; I could feel the heat of the fire from the balcony!

KISS played the hits you would expect at one of their concerts: “Shout It Out Loud,” “Calling Dr. Love,” “Deuce,” and “Lick It Up.” KISS doesn’t simply sing their songs, they perform their songs. With the exception of “Beth,” beautifully sung by Eric Singer while playing the piano alone on the stage during the encore, every song had pyrotechnics, lasers, lights, rising platforms-more like a show within a show. And the crowd ate it up.

Paul Stanley, at 67 years old, is just as enthusiastic and happy to be on stage as he was when KISS was in their heyday during the 1970s. His schtick was obviously rehearsed and a bit insincere: “we will never, ever forget this night.” But that can be forgiven as he was relating to the crowd and showing appreciation. As a concert fan, I would rather hear that than have the artist ignore the fans.

A highlight of the show was “I Was Made For Loving You,” where Stanley was zip lined to the back of the amphitheater to a second stage. 

Before finishing the encore Stanley lead the crowd in singing happy birthday to Gene Simmons, whose birthday was the next day. Simmons proudly told the fans he was 70 *bleep bleep* years old. You’d never know it as he stood there in full leather and platform boots.

The just over two-hour concert ended with arguably their most popular and well-known song, “Rock and Roll All Nite,” complete with KISS balloons dropped into the crowd and enough confetti to keep the maintenance team busy for days. 

KISS isn't just a concert, it’s an experience. The fans, ranging in age from grade school kids to senior citizens collecting social security, were looking for a good time that night and they got their money’s worth. It was loud, gawdy, sometimes silly, even cartoonish-and the fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Fleetwood Mac – Concert Review

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Fleetwood Mac – Concert Review

When I was in high school, Fleetwood Mac released their seminal album, “Rumors.” Every song was a gem, and everyone I knew owned a copy. Everyone. It won a Grammy in 1978 for album of the year. Over 40 years later, Fleetwood Mac is still performing many songs from that album, but with a slightly different group lineup. Recently they were appearing in my neck of the woods, so of course I had to be there!

Lindsey Buckingham was unceremoniously fired from the band in early 2018 and was replaced by Neil Finn, of Split Enz and Crowded House, and Mike Campbell, guitarist extraordinaire from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch. I was worried that even though Finn and Campbell are talented musicians, would they be able to replace what Buckingham brought to the group. By the end of the evening my answer was no, not totally.

Let’s start with the overall concert. For just over two hours, Fleetwood Mac gave fans everything they had, singing hit after hit to an adoring crowd. Singalongs were common throughout the evening. One of my favorites, “The Chain” started off the show and set the tone for the rest of the night: a mutual lovefest between artist and fans.

Neil Finn took over Buckingham's vocals, with mixed success. He was enthusiastic and animated, but his voice doesn’t have Buckingham’s strength. Finn’s best performance was a duet with Stevie Nicks, “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Finn’s hit with Crowded House. As for Mike Campbell, he gives Lindsey Buckingham a run for his money in the “shredding guitar” department. If you’ve seen Campbell perform with Tom Petty you know what I mean.

The highlight of the evening was Stevie Nicks singing “Landslide” while Neil Finn played acoustic guitar. Nicks dedicated the song to a young girl in the front row, telling her she can do anything she sets her mind to. Cell phone flashlights were prominent as the audience swayed and sang.

Another highlight for me was my all-time favorite Fleetwood Mac song, “Gypsy.” Stevie Nicks, dressed in black and with plenty of flowing scarves, twirled and spun as she did in the magical videos played on MTV and VH1. (Remember when those stations used to play music videos? Now they’re just sweet memories…)

Christine McVie sang lead on “Little Lies,” “Say You Love Me,” “Everywhere,” and “You Make Loving Fun.” While her piano skills are there her vocal skills are not. I saw Fleetwood Mac in 2017 and thought so then. McVie’s voice has no strength and wasn’t always on key.

The last song of the set was “Go Your Own Way.” It started out rough on the vocals, but they brought it home in the second half of the song.

The three-song encore began with a beautiful tribute to Tom Petty. Photos of Petty were shown on the video screen at the back of the stage while the band performed an emotional version of “Free Fallin.” It was sad and glorious at the same time. As a huge Tom Petty fan, those photos brought tears to my eyes.

Is it time for Fleetwood Mac to hang up their instruments and call it quits? That’s hard to say. I’ve seen the band three times, all with different iterations of members. The first time was without Christine McVie. This time there was no Lindsey Buckingham. My favorite Fleetwood Mac concert was the second one I saw, with all the members most of us know: Stevie Nicks on vocals, Christine McVie on vocals and keyboards, Lindsey Buckingham on vocals and guitar, John McVie on bass guitar, and Mick Fleetwood on drums. That’s the Fleetwood Mac of my youth, the Fleetwood Mac I sang along with, the Fleetwood Mac I remember. If you’ve never seen them in concert, I would say go, as they may not tour again. It will be worth it.

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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

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Elton John – Farewell Yellow Brick Road (Concert Review)

I recently had the privilege of seeing Elton John in concert for the fourth time. This tour, called “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” is world-wide and goes through 2021. If you ever had any intentions of seeing Elton John live in concert, do it now, as he is retiring from live performances after this tour. A list of tour stops can be found here

I’ve been a huge Elton John fan since (ahem) 1973, with the release of the album “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player,” which gave the world the classic songs, “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock.” Both songs were performed, as well as 22 more for a rocking and energetic evening of classic Elton John.

Opening the show was “Bennie and the Jets,” which set the tone for the entire evening: the fans went wild and were singing along from the first note. “Bennie” was followed by deep cut “All The Young Girls Love Alice,” exciting for me as it comes from one of my top ten albums of all time, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

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One thing I love about Elton John: he appreciates his audience. He thanked the fans throughout the show, noting that if it weren’t for them, he wouldn’t be there. He also explained the stories behind some of his songs. “Border Song” was covered by Aretha Franklin, which made Elton and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin feel like they would be taken seriously as musicians. “Believe” was important to his work with his AIDS foundation. He also spoke of his hitting rock bottom with drugs, alcohol, and overall bad attitude, and how saying three little words-“I need help”-made all the difference in his life. Again, he expressed appreciation for those people who helped and supported him during his difficult time, and for his fans that have bought his music, merchandise, and most importantly, came to his shows.

Behind Elton was a screen that played videos during some of the songs. I could have done without that, as most of them made no sense and didn’t add anything to the performance. That is, until he played “I’m Still Standing.” Those clips were fun to watch: Elton on the “Muppet Show,” “Simpsons,” and “South Park,” old MTV videos, footage of concerts from the 1970s.

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If you want to hear the hits, Elton has you covered. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” “Candle In The Wind,” “Bitch Is Back,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” all showcased Elton’s piano skills. As for his vocal skills, he still has it. At almost 72 years old Elton still brings everything he has to his performance.

I remember wanting the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album sooooo bad! Back then the double album cost $6. It took weeks of saving my allowance to have the money to finally buy it. I played it on constant loop; there’s not a bad song on the album. To hear Elton perform “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” was such a thrill for me, as it’s one of my favorites on the album.

During the concert I uploaded some videos to Facebook. A junior high/high school friend of mine was a HUGE Elton John fan, as in, she was a fanatic! I knew those videos would give her a thrill, and her responses to them made it all worthwhile: “OMGGGGGGGG!!” “Are you kidding me?!? He sang that too?!?” “Thank you for posting these!!”

I go to a lot of concerts, and many of the artists or bands I see are in their 60s or 70s. I’ve been asked why I bother seeing someone “so old,” what’s the point when they’ve already reached the pinnacle of their success. The reason is simple: I grew up with those artists. Yes, they’re older, and sometimes they can't hit the high notes like they used to. But they still have it! They bring their talent, charisma, and artistry to their performances. If they didn’t, no one would be paying good money for tickets. I’m afraid that in a few short years my concert going will be limited, as so many of my favorites are retiring. I forget that we all are much older than I think we are!

In just under 3 hours, Elton John sang 24 songs, with the crowd wanting more. There are so many I would have loved to hear: “Empty Garden,” “High Flying Bird,” “Harmony,” “Teacher I Need You,” and “Blues For Baby and Me” for starters. I’m sure if you asked each person in attendance, what they would like to hear, Elton’s entire catalogue would have been covered. Obviously that’s not possible. But if you like Elton John’s hits, you will NOT be disappointed with this show. Check Elton’s website for a show near you, and get tickets as soon as they go on sale. I promise it will be worth your while.

Click here to read other Elton John reviews by Subjective Sounds. 

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Cher At The Amway Center, Orlando, Florida 1/21/2019 (Concert Review)

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Cher At The Amway Center, Orlando, Florida 1/21/2019 (Concert Review)

One of my best friends lives in Orlando and I try to visit her every year. When she lived near me we went to a few concerts together, including Peter Frampton, Elton John, and Tom Jones, as her husband really isn’t a fan of the music we like, and it gave my husband an excuse not to go with me. Now that my friend is in Orlando the only concert she’s been to with her husband is opera great Andrea Bocelli. Since I’m a huge concert fan we’ve decided to time my visit based on a concert we’d both love to attend. Two years ago it was Billy Joel. This year it was Cher. Billy was once again performing at the Amway Center in early January, and he always puts on a great show. But people, this is CHER! Not just a singer or actress, but an all-around entertainer. This was a show we did not want to miss.

If you know anything about Cher you're aware of her wild costumes, big hair, and stunning sets. At the Amway Center she did not disappoint. The show started with a video montage of Cher, from the 1960s to the present day, including clips with Sonny Bono, her former singing partner and husband, and her children. This was followed by Cher’s dramatic entrance, complete with orange hair and golden headpiece, singing one of her more recent hits, “Woman’s World.”

She took some time during the show to tell a few stories as only Cher can. She told the crowd about her “two night” 40th birthday, which was when she met one of her longtime boyfriends, Rob Camiletti. Her 15-minute story had the crowd laughing and applauding, especially after she announced that at 72 years old she wasn’t as good as she once was but was happy just to be there. Hey, if I look like that when I’m 72 I’ll find a stage somewhere and strut my stuff!

During the numerous costume changes, video montages and voice overs played on small tv screens on the set: Cher dressed as Elvis Presley and singing “Heartbreak Hotel;” Sonny and Cher performing “Little Man/All I Ever Need Is You.” The most poignant was Sonny singing his part while Cher sang live on “The Beat Goes On” and “I Got You Babe.”

Remember the “Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” from the early 1970s? For me, it was must-watch TV. Sonny and Cher not only sang, but performed in silly skits. Cheesy by today’s standards, yet a fun memory.

The fans were truly loving Cher’s covers of ABBA hits: “Waterloo,” “SOS,” and “Fernando.” Cher was feeding off the crowd’s energy and they responded by singing and dancing along.

For the ending songs, “If I Could Turn Back Time” and “Believe” Cher was rocking an outfit very similar to the risqué body stocking she wore for the video of “Time” in 1989, though this time much more modest.

Fans were expecting a party at the Cher concert and they were not disappointed. While her voice isn't quite as strong as it once was Cher still knows how to work a crowd. She may be 72 years old but she still has a bright future ahead of her.

The opening act for Cher on this tour is Nile Rodgers and Chic. I have to confess the first time I saw Chic was…ahem…40 years ago when they played at my college. Yes, that’s how long I’ve been going to concerts, with a gap when my kids were young. Chic performed for close to an hour, which really wasn’t long enough. They started with the hits, “Everybody Dance,” “Dance, Dance, Dance,” and “I Want Your Love.” Nile Rodgers talked a lot about his history in the music business, as most people either know him from his work with Chic, or his work as a producer of many well-known artists: Duran Duran, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, and Daft Punk, just to name a few. Rodgers, a cancer survivor who acknowledged music is what kept him going during his recovery, really got down and funky with Chic singing and dancing to their huge dance hits, “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” It felt like we were back in the late 1970s/early 1980s disco era, and I loved it. What a way to end the show!

Seeing Chic brought back some sweet college memories. Cher was just a lot of fun. And of course spending time with my BFF – priceless.

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REO Speedwagon/Chicago (Concert Review)

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REO Speedwagon/Chicago (Concert Review)

I went to high school and college in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, the music I prefer is from that time period. And the many concerts I attend are artists and groups from those eras. Recently I had the pleasure of enjoying a band that has been making music for over 50 years: Chicago.

But first, let’s start with the opening act, REO Speedwagon.

The first time I saw REO was in July 2003. I remember thinking at that time that lead singer Kevin Cronin talked a lot! In the 15 years that have elapsed, nothing has changed! However, his talking between songs was showing appreciation to the fans. He acknowledged that without us, there would be no REO Speedwagon. As fans, we pay good money for concert tickets, merchandise, physical media, and streaming services. It’s nice to hear that the artist is aware of this, and recognizes it. Many artists don’t.

REO played their hits, including, “Take It On The Run,” “Roll With The Changes,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” and “Keep On Loving You.” REO performed like they wanted to be there, not as if they were begrudgingly fulfilling an obligation. At 66 years old Cronin can still sing the hits like it’s 1980.

The show ended with a tribute to Tom Petty. Cronin told the story of how Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was his favorite band (as is mine), and that he and Petty were neighbors in Southern California. The band dedicated “Listen To Her Heart” to Petty. REO kept it simple and beautiful.

Chicago was the headliner, and based on the crowd reaction, they were ready to party. But the mood grew quiet as Chicago announced they would be playing their album, Chicago II in its entirety. The only songs most fans recognized were “Make Me Smile,” “Color My World,” and “25 or 6 to 4.”  While they sounded great, it was a bit of a bore, as most people, including myself, like to hear the hits from a band that has been around more than 20 years, and in this case, more than 50.

The crowd woke up once the classic rock section began: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Beginnings,” “Saturday In The Park,” “If You Leave Me Now.” The brass section, including original members James Pankow and Lee Loughnane, were having the time of their lives, and sounded amazing. Another original member, Robert Lamm, sang with as much enthusiasm as he did when he first performed these songs 40 plus years ago.

The highlight of Chicago’s set was the Spencer Davis Group cover of, “I’m A Man.” Drummer Walfredo Reyes, Jr., and percussionist Ramon Yslas couldn’t have enjoyed themselves more banging on the drums, bongos, tambourine, occasionally trading places without missing a beat.

I would have preferred for Chicago to skip playing the album and focus on the hits. Their catalog is so vast, ranging from rock to brass to pop, that there’s a little something for everyone. While this wasn’t my favorite Chicago concert, if they come back to my area I will be in the audience once again.

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