Cultural Events


Summer Concert Recap: Farm Aid Closed Out A Busy Season Of Smoking Hot Shows

Published: October 05, 2018 at 03:30 pm

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Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins donned a silver cape and sang to celestial projections during “Space Oddity,” one of several covers performed during a marathon three-hour-plus show at Mohegan Sun Arena on July 29.

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Dave Matthews put on a short but potent duo set with longtime guitarist Tim Reynolds on September 22 at Farm Aid, which was held in Connecticut for the first time at Hartford’s Xfinity Theatre. The nearly ten-hour show also featured Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, nephew Ian Mellencamp, Neil Young, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Margo Price, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Particle Kid, and Jamey Johnson, putting in his 11th appearance at the annual festival.

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Chris Stapleton and his band appear to be down on the farm in front of this projection image at Farm Aid, which was held for the first time in Connecticut on September 22. —Bee Photo, Voket

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Farm Aid Executive Board Member John Mellencamp chats with the sold out crowd during the 2018 Farm Aid concert at hatford's Xfility Theatre. —Bee Photo, Voket

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Accomplished musician; video director; author; and more recently, university professor Thomas Dolby brought An Evening of Music and Storytelling to The Cutting Room in New York City, and The Space Ballroom in Hamden in early August, where he deconstructed a number of his popular numbers or told interesting anecdotes related to the songs.

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Southern Culture On The Skids (SCOTS) brought their high energy brand of “psycho-billy” and surf rock to Daryl’s House club in neighboring Pawling, N.Y., on June 24. SCOTS will be returning to the area next weekend with an October 13 show scheduled at New Haven’s Cafe Nine. —Bee Photos, Voket

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Red Molly recently morphed from a trio featuring Laurie MacAllister, Abbie Gardner, and Molly Venter, into a five-piece act featuring Venter’s husband, Eben Pariser, on guitar and percussion and Gardner’s spouse, Craig Akin, both previously from the band Roosevelt Dime. Red Molly opened its national fall tour September 5 at Space Ballroom in Hamden.

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Candice Night and husband Ritchie Blackmore perform their version of "Diamonds And Rust," during an midsummer show at The Academy of Music in Northhampton, Mass July 21. —Bee Photo, Voket

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U2 made the last stop on one of their most technically and musically ambitious tours yet at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville on July 3. From left, Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen, and Bono spread out on a massive stage that spanned the arena for the "eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour." —Bee Photo, Voket

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Neil Young put on one of the best Farm Aid sets in years backed by Lukas Nelson + Promise off the Real at Hartford's Xfinity Theatre September 22. —Bee Photo, Voket

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The Smashing Pumpkins returned to Mohegan Sun with their Shiny And Oh So Bright North American Tour, July 29 reuniting original band members Billy Corgan, James Iha, Jeff Schroeder, and Jimmy Chamberlin. The band took no intermission, pumping out 32 songs over more than three hours. —Bee Photo, Voket

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Farm Aid co-founder Willie Nelson heads out onto Hartford's Xfinity Theatre stage September 22 to open what turned out to be a ten-hour-plus showcase of music and activism supporting family farmers in Connecticut and around the nation. —Bee Photo, Voket

The summer of 2018 rolled out a diverse and highly entertaining selection of concerts to attend and review, culminating in a breathtaking multi-act bill as Connecticut hosted its first Farm Aid, which appropriately happened on the first full day of Autumn.

The shows — covered in mini reviews that can be seen below — included more than a few legacy acts, a group of relative newcomers, several of the most popular artists of the ‘80s, a unique solo appearance, a marathon three-hour-plus set, and one act that draws its musical influences from roots that go back several centuries.

The dozen shows caught between June 24 and September 22 included the surf and “psycho-billy” trio Southern Culture On The Skids; Joe Jackson; Blackmore’s Night; a triple bill featuring Culture Club, The B-52s, and Thompson Twins; Smashing Pumpkins; Thomas Dolby; Counting Crows; Red Molly; J Geils’ frenetic frontman Peter Wolf; the 50th anniversary tour of Jethro Tull; and a soulful solo set with Sarah McLachlan.

For all but two of the 13 years since it first kicked off in 1985, Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson; Neil Young; John Mellencamp; and more recently, Dave Matthews, have hosted the multi-act festival to bring together a wide variety of artists, farmers, and fans for one mission: keeping family farmers on the land.

But the event in Hartford was so much more than just a music festival. Concertgoers were invited to explore the Homegrown Village, featuring hands-on activities promoting the Farm Aid mission.

Farmers and artists joined together to discuss pressing issues on the FarmYard Stage, other participating farmers and participants held demonstrations on agrarian skills, and dozens of exhibit spaces connected concertgoers with farmers and organizations doing critical food and farm work not just in Connecticut and New England, but all over the country.

Farm Aid was also an opportunity to connect attendees with the frontline individuals who grow or raise the staples of our American dinner table. There was plenty of locally-sourced, farm-fresh food to be had across the Xfinity venue as Homegrown Concessions served up specialties on compostable plates while promoting composting with a goal of zero waste to attendees and artists alike.

During an informative pre-show press conference where Farm Aid Executive Director Carolyn Mugar joined farmers and her leading board members to review key challenges facing family farms and ways to support them, John Mellencamp unleashed an expletive-laced rant that was as hard on conservative government leaders who continue to promote programs favoring huge factory farms as it was on liberals who he said are standing by and letting it happen without a fight.

During that pre-show gathering, Neil Young opted to kick off a theme that would be repeated throughout the festival, imploring anyone within earshot to never pass a farm stand or farmers market without stopping in, buying something, and making the extra effort to meet and get to know the farmers behind the counter. Young also took a swipe at “any store whose name has Dollar in it,” saying proliferating dollar stores are putting mom and pop grocers out of business at an alarming rate across the country while offering virtually no fresh food of any kind.

Native American Ceremony

The September 22 show began with Willie Nelson joining Wisdom Indian Dancers for a Native American ceremony before bringing Ian Mellencamp out for a brief set that showcased the young performer’s talents. Another member of the Nelson family, J. Micah Nelson, who goes by Particle Kid, was next, with a three-song set featuring the plaintive “Dreamer.”

Big brother Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real followed with a rousing rendition of “Entirely Different Stars.” “Forget About Georgia” followed, with Lukas turning in vocals that were unmistakably laced with Willie Nelson’s DNA, before the band was joined by Margo Price for a decidedly funkier “Find Yourself.” The band then took an extended break to get ready for backing Young later in the evening.

All warmed up, Price commenced to reinforced why she is so popular with new and old country fans alike with pitched vocals reminiscent of a young Dolly Parton on opener “All American Made.” “Tennessee Song” kicked it up a notch, and set closer “Cocaine Cowboys” rocked the house.

By contrast, Jamey Johnson was subtle and smoldering as he stood center stage with his autographed acoustic guitar and piercing blue eyes affixed to a spot on the horizon while he ran through a half-dozen numbers, including heart wrenching ballads “The Dollar” and “Can’t Cash My Checks.” Johnson followed up by covering George Strait’s “Give It Away” before slipping into a powerful take on Brook Benton’s Grammy-winning “Rainy Night in Georgia.”

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats elevated the massive Farm Aid audience further still with his special blend of rock and R&B. “I Need Never Get Old” was a high point, and The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” was a joyous collaboration that brought Price and Nelson back to join in the hootenanny.

Two time Grammy-winner Kacey Musgraves sounded impressive on each of her nine numbers, coming on to the Beatles “Because” and rolling through “Butterflies,” “High Times,” and “Velvet Elvis.” Musgraves and her band, all outfitted in powder blue sequined suits, transitioned from classic country tones to a haunting take on Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon” and the pop crossover closer “High Horse.”

Sturgill Simpson flipped to a more rock and blues feel for his brief set that cranked up the guitar on The Alabama State Troupers’ “Going Down,” along with his own “It Ain’t All Flowers” and “Call To Arms.”

Making his Farm Aid debut, Chris Stapleton kept the rock and roll lovers happy, giving Willie Nelson’s storied harmonica virtuoso “Mickey” Raphael a chance to get warmed up. The band chugged through “Them Stems,” “Broken Halos,” and “Scarecrows In The Garden,” closing with David Allan Coe’s “Tennessee Whiskey.”

Heavy Hitter Headliners

By 7 pm, the heavy hitters started coming out, with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds offering up an incendiary set that opened with a brand new song, “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin).”

The balance of the duo set touched multiple points of the Matthews catalog with “Don’t Drink the Water” and “#41,” and Reynolds’ otherworldly guitar pyrotechnics eliciting screams of approval from his partner on “Grey Street,” before they closed with the abbreviated but crowd-pleasing “Ants Marching.”

John Mellencamp was next, strutting out to “Lawless Times” and transitioning into hits including “Small Town,” “Check It Out,” the obligatory “Rain On The Scarecrow,” and a thundering “Crumblin’ Down.”

The high point of Mellencamp’s set was his solo rendition of “Jack and Diane,” during which he invited the audience to assist, and they reciprocated in kind, virtually shaking the steel beams of the Xfinity Theatre’s rafters. “Pink Houses” closed the set and gave violin player Lisa Germano a chance to show off her virtuoso skills as the crowd howled with approval.

After an extended break that involved moving out some set pieces, it was Neil Young’s turn to thrill fans with a set that opened with “Tell Me Why” and eventually progressed into the crunchy “Powderfinger,” a delicately delivered “Heart Of Gold,” and an explosive “Ohio.”

Young then let loose with a brand new and beautifully played tune called “Children of Destiny,” before flashing back to his Crazy Horse days to close with “Love and Only Love.”

As had been the case from the beginning, the senior member of the Farm Aid Board, Willie Nelson, strode out onto the stage to close the show with the longest (14-song) set of the event. Willie didn’t miss a beat, hitting the right buttons to keep virtually every fan in the house enthralled, from his opener “Whiskey River” and late partner Waylon Jennings’ “Good Hearted Woman” to sing-along favorites like “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and “On the Road Again.”

Despite the country fried uptempo material, one of the best and most touching moments of the show came when things quieted down so Nelson could showcase the true depth of his musical expression with a truly heart-wrenching “You Are Always On My Mind,” before he was joined on stage by Young, Price, and Rateliff for “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and the final song of the show, “I’ll Fly Away.”

Anyone who missed the show can still view some video of select performances on the Farm Aid YouTube channel and are strongly urged to learn more about the great work Farm Aid is doing up until next year’s show by visiting www.farmaid.org.

Mini Reviews—

Southern Culture On The Skids (SCOTS)
Daryl’s House Club, June 24

PAWLING, NY — While the configuration of SCOTS has added various supporting musicians over the years since their three founding members came together in 1983 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, their standing room only show at Daryl’s House Club was a purist’s dream come true with just Rick Miller, Dave Hartman, and Mary Huff ably handling the entire two-hour set.

The band hit all the buttons with favorites including "Voodoo Cadillac," "Camel Walk," "Soul City," "Liquored Up and Lacquered Down," and "Banana Puddin'". This early summer tour served as a way for the trio to loosen up after hunkering down in the studio for several weeks re-recording a package of their most popular fan favorites that was just released.

Many of the 17 tunes from that new project, Bootleggers Choice, made it into the setlist, along with a handful of exceptionally well played numbers from SCOTS’ 2016 studio release, The Electric Pinecones. “Freak Flag,” and “High Life,” were especially tasty, while Huff tickled the audience taking over lead vocals on “House Of Bamboo,” and “Nitty Gritty.”

Miller was in great form as well, handling the lion’s share of vocals and ripping out smoking hot lead guitar riffs on instrumentals “Rumors Of Surf,” and closing the show with “Meximelt.”

SCOTS returns to the area with an October 13 stop at New Haven’s Café Nine, so don’t miss ‘em, y’all!

 

U2 "eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour"
Mohegan Sun Arena, July 3

UNCASVILLE — Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen, and Bono closed out the US leg of their eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour with a pre-holiday show at Mohegan Sun.

With music, staging, and visual effects that were nearly overwhelming, the band took over the entire rook by placing the main stage conventionally and a smaller round stage at the opposite end. In between, a two-level bridge masked by massive retractable projection screens permitted members to traverse the entire floor, or perform up close to the ecstatic crowd.

On a couple of occasions, one or more members of the group even stood on an upper catwalk while one or more bandmates performed just below. Another stellar effect was projecting huge silhouettes of the band members as they sauntered from the front stage to the back, with the actual (life size) players emerging on the mini stage as the silhouettes disappeared off the corresponding end of the projection screen.

And then there was the music.

Packaging two dozen songs in the two hour-plus set, fans of all the U2 stages got what they came to hear. Among the show’s musical highlights were the rousing "I Will Follow," "Gloria," the elevating "Beautiful Day," and the semi-autobiographical "Cedarwood Road."

The best mix of sound and visuals came during "Sunday Bloody Sunday," when Mullen donned a parade snare, strutting across the bride and whipping the crowd into a frenzy with the familiar opening beats.

Folks on the “other end” of the arena got up close on a pounding “Vertigo,” and took in acoustic versions of “"You're the Best Thing About Me," transitioning into Bono and The Edge delivering "Staring at the Sun."

 

Joe Jackson
Tarrytown Music Hall, July 6

TARRYTOWN, NY — Joe Jackson was as eager to try out his newest material, as the audience was to eat it up as he graced the vintage Tarrytown Music Hall Stage July 6.

And the British artist seemed thrilled when he offered to play two or three new tunes and the audience responded with multiple shouts for “three.”

Each of those numbers, apparently being debuted for the very first time, were exceptionally arranged and performed — albeit with Jackson’s unmistakable poise and style.

"Big Black Cloud," and "Fool," were trotted out early in the set, with "32 Kisses," "Alchemy," and "Friend Better," following along later.

But that still left plenty of time for favorites spanning Jackson’s 40-plus year career.

“It's Different for Girls,” and “Is She Really Going Out With Him,” and an invigoratingly peppy "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)" happened right up front, with other hits like "Breaking Us in Two," "Another World," "Sunday Papers" and a slower and melodic "Steppin' Out" being saved until near the end of the show.

 

Blackmore's Night
The Academy of Music Theatre, July 21

NORTHAMPTON, MASS. — Deep Purple’s hard rocking Ritchie Blackmore and his talented singer/multi-instrumentalist wife Candice Night discovered a brand new career together, along with a rabidly loyal global audience hungry for something different.

And whether they came fully decked out in Renaissance era garb, or khakis and flip-flops, fans got what they expected to hear at the Academy of Music July 21.

With an appropriately outfitted stage reminiscent of a wooded glade, the band which included Bard David of Larchmont (David Baranowski) on keyboards, a highly animated Earl Grey of Chimay (Mike Clemente) on bass, mandolin, and rhythm guitar, Troubadour of Aberdeen (David Keith) on drums and percussion, Scarlet Fiddler (Claire Smith) on violin, and Lady Lynn (Christina Lynn Skleros) on vocals did not disappoint.

Their 20 song set mixed originals spanning the groups two decade career with several well placed covers and earlier Blackmore compositions including a touching “Diamonds And Rust,” Uriah Heep’s “Lady In Black,” Deep Purple’s “Soldier Of Fortune,” and "The Temple of the King" from Blackmore’s Rainbow days.

Highpoints among the groups original compositions were show opener "Dancer and the Moon," "Dance of Darkness," "Under a Violet Moon," "Renaissance Faire," and "Mid Winter's Night."

 

Culture Club / B52s / Thompson Twins
Forest Hills Stadium, July 28

FOREST HILLS, NY — There was nothing but unabashed fun to be had July 28 as the triple bill of ‘80s hitmakers Thompson Twins, B52s, and Culture Club came together on a pleasant summer evening in the relative intimate outdoor confines of Forest Hills Stadium.

While the venue is a nightmare to get to, with the closest public parking areas blocks away, once fans got into the venue, it was very accommodating despite most of the seating being on bleachers unless one was crowded onto the floor.

Each of the acts seemed energized by the audience who were clearly there to relive their ‘80s days, or in the case of younger fans, to get something of a taste of what it was like during that emerging period of wild outfits, synth-powered melodies, and songs written as much for listening as for viewing on the fledgling MTV network (back when they still played music videos).

Tom Bailey represented his band well with note-for-note replications of “Lies,” “Lay Your Hands On Me,” “Doctor, Doctor,” and an extended encore of “Hold me Now,” that got everyone pumped for B52s.

Founding members Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland, and Cindy Wilson seemed bubbly and appeared to be having as good a time as the crowd running down favs like "Planet Claire," "Mesopotamia," "Private Idaho," and "Strobe Light," were followed by "Roam," a somewhat lackluster "Love Shack." But they managed to flip the switch for the always electrifying "Rock Lobster," to wrap things up ahead of the main event.

Culture Club was also in top form reuniting original members Boy George, Roy Hay, Mikey Craig, and Jon Moss. It was great to see that the band had not fractured or reformed with substitutes around Boy George after all these years since “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” ushered in one of the more interesting sounding — and certainly most interestingly dressed and outfitted bands of the era.

The band opened with an apparent tribute to the late David Bowie, who was a long-cited influence of Boy George playing, replicating the hit “Let’s Dance” — which also served as an open invitation to the crowd to stay on their feet for the remainder of the evening.

And dance they did – to the entire package of Culture Cub hits that spanned the relatively short period between ’81 and ’86. And each of those numbers were dealt out loyal to their recorded versions.

"It's a Miracle," "I'll Tumble 4 Ya," "Time (Clock of the Heart)," "Miss Me Blind," "Church of the Poison Mind," and show closer "Karma Chameleon," all elicited the same joyous bliss that they have been for fans new and old since the group first hit the scene.

 

Smashing Pumpkins
Mohegan Sun Arena, July 29

UNCASVILLE — While not a big Smashing Pumpkins fan, this reviewer does have a few select favorites, particularly “Tonight, Tonight,” which the band performed exquisitely during its marathon three-hour-plus, 32 song showcase of (mostly) all musical things Billy Corgan.

The “Shiny And Oh So Bright” North American Tour stop July 29 was most special reuniting original band members Corgan, James Iha, Jeff Schroeder, and Jimmy Chamberlin.. While the true disappointment was the conspicuous absence of D'arcy Wretzky, who was apparently offered but ignored the opportunity to come along for this tour.

Much like U2, which graced the same space at Mohegan Sun Arena several weeks earlier, Smashing Pumpkins brought sets, visuals, and even a couple of modest costume changes that dazzled the audience, but ultimately complimented each and every tune including conspicuous covers of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” a piano-driven take on Zepplin’s “Stairway To Heaven,” the band’s always too short but sweet version of Fleetwood mac’s “Landslide,” and show closer, “Baby Mine,” by Betty Noyes.

Many of the Pumpkins’ originals were electrifying, as many shifted between bombastic triple guitar walls of distortion, and sudden dark or quietly moody interludes.

While the tour setlist remained virtually unchanged for its duration, highlights of the Mohegan Sun show were "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," "The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning," "1979," "Ava Adore," "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans," and a trio of numbers — "Blew Away," "For Martha," and "To Sheila," that gave Corgan a chance to trade his guitar for piano.

 

Thomas Dolby
The Cutting Room, August 3 / Space Ballroom, August 5

NEW YORK CITY — Accomplished musician; video director; author; and more recently, university professor Thomas Dolby brought “An Evening of Music and Storytelling” to The Cutting Room in New York City, and The Space Ballroom in Hamden in early August.

While these sets were short on music, the two-set shows gave Dolby an opportunity to do TED-like talks, either technically deconstructing the arrangements of several popular numbers or revealing interesting anecdotes related to the titles he had audience members pick from a hat.

Like a number of acts on the road this summer, he paid his tribute to David Bowie, who famously invited Dolby to piece together a band for the thin white duke’s Live Aid appearance in 1985. Over the span of the two shows, Dolby also told slight variations of his original meeting and a strange visit with Michael Jackson on a cold and rainy night in Los Angeles some months later.

A particular thrill was hearing the rarely-played “Screen Kiss,” during both shows, which followed a story about Dolby falling in and out of love with a long, tall, and beautiful record industry exec in his more impressionable days, and loving words about his wife of 30 years, Kathleen Beller, whom he met filming the video for another of the numbers he played, “I Love You, Good-bye.”

His Cutting Room show, which went three songs longer than the set in Hamden, featured a gorgeously rendered “Oceanea,” as well as the title track from The Flat Earth album. He also purveyed a perky “Hyperactive,” and “Europa and the Pirate Twins,” both evenings, along with the dramatic “Evil Twin Brother,” the expansive “Budapest By Blimp,” and the obviously required but totally unnecessary “She Blinded Me With Science,” made tolerable with the lead up details on working on the recording session with “known scientist,” Magnus Pyke.

 

Counting Crows
Xfinity Theatre, August 15

HARTFORD — Hitting the road with yet another multi-band jaunt this summer, Counting Crows brought its cleverly dubbed “25 Years and Counting Tour” to the Hartford shed with support from LIVE.

With the death of Tom Petty, Counting Crows has ticked upward on the pecking order of surviving and active classic rock bands that arrived just before that aging genre was re-labeled as “legacy acts.”

Unfortunately, over time, Counting Crows have opted to become organizers of annual summer mini-festivals that bring along additional opening acts at the expense of lengthier sets, unlike peers Smashing Pumpkins who played an exhaustive show with dozens of selections.

So this year’s appearance of Counting Crows was less than satisfying.

It seems that these three-month long, five nights on / one night off schedules may be taking their toll on the band’s literal and creative energy. Most of the Hartford set, which was seemingly punctuated by longer and longer spoken meanderings by front man Adam Duritz, felt phoned in.

There were still a few moments of brilliance, mostly involving instrumental interplay among David Bryson (guitar), Charlie Gillingham (keyboards, piano, accordion), Dan Vickrey (lead guitar), David Immerglück (lead guitar, pedal steel, mandolin, bass guitar).

Highlights of the show were “Omaha,” “Washington Square,” “A Long December,” and the always breathtaking “Round Here.” Missing however, were many other hits (“Mr. Jones,” “Angels Of The Silences,” and “A Murder of One“…) that so many audience members came to hear, and were complaining about missing as many filed out before the final encore.

Instead, the crowd got more recent and less accessible tunes (and stories about) "Colorblind," and "God of Ocean Tides."

 

Red Molly
The Space Ballroom, September 5

HAMDEN — Red Molly recently morphed from a trio featuring Laurie MacAllister, Abbie Gardner, and Molly Venter, into a five-piece act featuring Venter’s husband, Eben Pariser, on guitar and percussion and Gardner’s spouse, Craig Akin, both previously from the band Roosevelt Dime.

The newly super-sized Red Molly opened its national fall tour September 5 at Space Ballroom in Hamden with a mix of originals spanning their decade of working together, and a few well-placed covers.

The two-set show featured a song dedicated to getting around on Connecticut’s highways, James Taylor’s “Traffic Jam,” a memorable take on Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” and Venter’s smoldering version of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”

The quintet also did great work with material either exclusively conceived by, or collectively created by its individual three members, with each of the girls crediting and complimenting the others’ contributions throughout the show.

While New Haven native Venter and MacAllister contributed great guitar accompaniment and in Venter’s case, a bit of percussion, Gardner was a standout with her complex mix of chording and lead fills on Dobro and lap steel guitar. Their own material sprinkled amongst the covers highlighted tunes including “Truth No. 2,” “Lost & Found,” “Willow Tree,” and “Lay Down Your Burden.”

With its now five talented musicians and songwriters, it will be exciting to see how Red Molly develops as its members come off the road and begin collaborative songwriting with an eye on completing either an EP or full album together by this time next year.

 

Peter Wolf
Infinity Hall, September 8

NORFOLK — You don’t have to be a fan of the J. Geils Band to fall in love with its front man Peter Wolf as a solo artist.

While he still has plenty of juice to thrill Geils fans with energetic solo takes on “Hard Drivin’ Man,” “Start All Over Again,” “Love Stinks,” and “Must of Got Lost,” his own material supported by a stellar backing band that includes Duke Levine is as good or better than his best work with J. Geils.

His intimate Norfolk Infinity Hall show this time around (he performs there annually) featured Wolf’s jackhammer raps, frenetic dance moves, and soulful crooning on original numbers from “Nothing but the Wheel,” “Waiting on the Moon,” and “Some Things You Don't Want to Know,” to “Rolling On,” “Peace of Mind,” and “I Don't Wanna Know.”

 

Jethro Tull featuring Ian Anderson
Toyota Oakdale Theatre, September 12

WALLINGFORD — Jethro Tull’s founding member and primary songwriter Ian Anderson brought the band’s 50th Anniversary tour to the acoustically superior Toyota Oakdale Theatre — much like Counting Crows — trading lesser known selections from his catalog for more of the band’s popular hits.

While the close to sold out audience for this weeknight show did get “Locomotive Breath,” “Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll, Too Young to Die," "Aqualung,” and a short and unsatisfying sample of "Thick As A Brick," hardcore fans also enjoyed a few obscure selections that were truly great to hear in concert.

Much of these early career selections performed by Anderson and his more than capable band featuring bassist David Goodier, drummer Scott Hammond, keyboardist John O’Hara, and guitarist Florian Ophale were exceptional.

Among them were the show opening “My Sunday Feeling,” Love Story,” “A Song for Jeffrey,” and "Some Day the Sun Won't Shine for You.”

“A New Day Yesterday," "Heavy Horses," and "Songs From The Wood," were also deftly delivered with Anderson sticking mostly to vocals and flute, only picking up guitar for a couple of numbers.

As Anderson told The Newtown Bee in a pre-show interview, "I’m really there to celebrate the repertoire of Jethro Tull and the 36 band members who have been part of that story. And then a few months into next year, done and dusty — we’ll have done the 50th Anniversary thing and I can get on to the rest of my life.

“As much as it’s fun to do this and wallow in nostalgia for a while, it’s tricky, primarily because nostalgia for me is not the moving force when it comes to performing a song that you last [played] not 49 years ago, but just last evening,” he said. “So, the currency in which I deal is very much of the present day.”

 

Sarah McLachlan
The Capital Theatre, September 9

PORT CHESTER, NY — In various configurations over the years, from being backed by a full symphony orchestra, to performing with her own incredible band, or among contemporaries and mentees on various Lilith Fair turns, nothing compared to hearing and seeing the prolific Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan on her brief solo tour in the waning days of summer at the revitalized Capital Theatre tour opener September 9.

The person that took the stage for a surprisingly bulky 19 song set (with no intermission!), was a mature, composed, articulate and fun performer clearly comfortable with herself and the enthusiastic audience she still draws. And the chance to see her accompanying herself on just guitar, piano, and ukulele could not be passed up.

McLachlan was in fantastic form, sticking mostly to piano and crushing numbers like the opening triad “Possession,” “I Will Remember You,” and “Adia,” which was preceded by a delightful if not somewhat rambling back story.

Switching to acoustic guitar, McLachlan continued to hit all the right buttons with “Building a Mystery,” and later, “Song for My Father,” before closing the show with a tiny uke and engaging the crowd with a singalong on “Ice Cream,” and the decidedly more introspective “The Sound That Love Makes.”

In between, she told a few more stories about becoming resilient and creative again following her divorce, raising her two daughters, and taking a few furtive stabs at dating.

McLachlan repeatedly drove the audience into apoplectic ecstasy, pegging the needle repeatedly on “Fallen,” “World on Fire,” “Sweet Surrender,” and the breathy “Loving You Is Easy,” and always well received ballad, “Angel.”

She also included a new song which may or may not have been finished, that was nonetheless wonderful to hear, giving hope that a new set of original (non-holiday themed) material will follow sooner than later — along with more touring!

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