Seger, Reynolds, Larkin, Taylor All Turn In Memorable Concert Sets
By John Voket
From the cavernous confines of Mohegan Sun Arena, to the intimate dome of the Discovery Museum’s planetarium, and the intimate stages of the Ridgefield Playhouse and Edmond Town Hall in Newtown, Connecticut concertgoers have been treated recently to several well-received performances from Bob Seger, Dave Matthews wingman Tim Reynolds, Patty Larkin and Ben Taylor.
While at least a couple of his songs could serve as ripe clichés for a casino crowd, Bob Seger resisted the temptation during a sold-out stop on November 26 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. “Beautiful Loser” and “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” were both performed with nary a wink or sideways glance, but audience members still must have departed the arena following Seger’s two-hour-plus show feeling like they were the ones who hit the jackpot.
At age 66, the Dearborn, Mich., native hit the road once again earlier this year to promote a new greatest hits collection, Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets, and left just a few of those 26 hits on the sidelines during his Connecticut stop.
Besides longtime bandmate and sax player Alto Reed, the Silver Bullet Band also featured bassist Chris Campbell, who has been backing Seger since 1969. Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer, lead guitarist Kenny Greenberg and backup singer/percussionist Laura Creamer also turned in great performances.
It may have been lost on many, but the set list appeared to be constructed to provide Seger with maximum energy by breaking up not only the musical pacing, but switching him around from standing center stage to singing extended parts of songs on either the far right or left-side wings. At other points he sat with his acoustic guitar, or was seated at the piano.
Throughout the performance, Seger looked happy, even jubilant, although his choice of a black headband in contrast to his white head of hair and beard looked a bit silly. It certainly did not detract from his performance, however, as he jammed his way from opening number “Roll Me Away,” through “Fire Down Below,” “Main Street,” “We’ve Got Tonight,” “Turn the Page” and the set-ending stomper “Katmandu.”
The set also included a holiday season gift to the Mohegan Sun crowd, with Seger seated and strumming acoustic guitar on “Little Drummer Boy,” another long-standing hit from 1987 that is a staple on radio airwaves and piped into many a shopping center during Christmastime.
The first of two encores saw Seger back behind the piano for “Against the Wind,” and then revved up with “Hollywood Nights,” while encore number two brought the house down with “Night Moves,” and the appropriate closer, “Rock & Roll Never Forgets.”
TR3 And Ben Taylor
The audience for the second of two Connecticut stops for Tim Reynolds and his band TR3 was sparse, especially for a weekend evening, but the talented trio still delivered a stellar set at The Ridgefield Playhouse on December 2. Mixing complex instrumentals with his own creations and select covers, Reynolds — along with bassist Mick Vaughn and drummer Dan Martier — zipped along with great energy, even on some of the slower paced selections.
Switching off among a rack of guitars that included a Fender Strat, Gibson Les Paul and Flying V, and a Paul Reed Smith solid body, Reynolds utilized combinations of effects and the best features of his instruments to coax buzz-saw power chords one moment, spacey tonal sounds the next, and melodic, jazzy melodies the next.
Among the best of his originals were “Kabbala,” “Indoctrinate” and “See You In Your Dreams,” which sounded better, or at least harmonically tighter, than the version on Reynolds’s latest project From Space and Beyond. He even took a few moments to perform a speed metal version of “Happy Birthday,” after being informed that an audience member was celebrating that evening.
Anyone coming to the show to hear Dave Matthews material may have been disappointed, but Reynolds chose to spice up his set with a number of well-known covers that appeared to get the half-full house fired up. Among his tributes that evening were “Radar Love,” Led Zepplin’s “Kashmir,” “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, and even a Portishead tune.
One night later and a few miles north was one of the most unique and creative concert experiences available to music lovers this year as Ben Taylor crooned to two sold-out audiences of just under 100 as stars, comets and galaxies churned past under the dome of the duPont Planetarium at Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum.
Lit by a single, low powered red spotlight which shed just enough light for the accomplished offspring of James Taylor and Carly Simon to see his guitar, attendees were otherwise plunged into near total darkness for the museum’s “Music Under the Stars” program, which will hopefully continue in the new year.
Taylor’s second set of two on December 3 was flawless, and his understated personality was charming as he opened (and closed) with a poem he scripted for the occasion. His one-hour musical set also featured the humorous “Your Boyfriend is a Really Nice Guy,” as well as “Wicked Way,” “Island, and “Love Is A Losing Game,” his poignant tribute to Amy Winehouse.
Flagpole Radio Café
The 2011 holiday-themed Flagpole Radio Café hit the Edmond Town Hall main stage on December 3 featuring radio style skits that poked fun at some longstanding Christmas traditions and icons. The scripted routines which featured Martin Blanco, Barbara Gaines, Kate Katcher and David Wheeler (a/k/a The Flagpole Shakespeare Repertory Theatre) included a hilarious send-up of the Pope’s traditional Christmas season confessions during which he heard from former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and erstwhile Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain.
Another skit showcased “Jesus’ First Hanukkah,” where one of the lord’s earliest miracles was beating cousin John The Baptist over and over again by throwing nothing but Gimmels during a game of dreidel.
The house band — Jim Allyn, Rick Brodsky, Dick Neal, Rob Bonaccorso and Francine Wheeler — filled in the gaps nicely with their own versions of “Greensleeves,” “God Bless the Child,” “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Singer, songwriter and masterful guitarist Patty Larkin arrived mid-show and turned in an abbreviated but thrilling set that included “Tango,” and “The Book I’m Not Reading.” As she worked on perfecting some specific tuning on a less than cooperative guitar, Larkin also talked about the challenge of explaining war to one of her adopted daughters before launching into a haunting version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”
Another instrumental number saw the self-described “guitar-driven” artist mixing a looped musical pattern with a melody and rhythm part performed by striking her electric guitar with a violin bow. And while her set was short, based on the thunderous applause that followed, Larkin may have inspired more than a few audience members to head out to purchase some of the material she has compiled over her 26 years on the music scene.
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