Kansas at Old National Centre 11/18/18 - Point of Know Return Tour

Kansas “Point of Know Return” 40th Anniversary Tour at Old National Centre 11/11/18

After 40 years and over 6 million copies, Kansas’ “Point of Know Return” album remains an icon of progressive rock. To see and hear it performed live, in its entirety, is an amazing experience, and one which I wholeheartedly recommend! I was privileged to be part of the sold-out crowd when Kansas came to the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre in Indianapolis November 11. I wondered if I’d recognize all the songs, how they’d sound after all these years, and if I’d like the new Kansas tunes. The answers to those questions were YES, ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, and YES!

Kansas began their 2+ hour set with several acoustic songs, including “Refugee,” from their latest album, “The Prelude Implicit,” and an emotional version of “People of the South Wind,.” They then transitioned to a full electric set, playing “Dust in the Wind,” as well as deep cuts off their various albums, and “Summer” from “The Prelude Implicit.” They then ripped through the entire “Point of Know Return” album – and it was incredible. To be honest, I had kind of forgotten how much I loved this album. I must’ve listened to it dozens of times, because I remembered all the melodies, cool riffs, key changes, and chord progressions. But I had forgotten how revolutionary, intricate - and technically difficult - these songs were. As leaders of the progressive rock movement, Kansas the set the bar tremendously high, and few, if any, bands have surpassed them.

But Kansas’ music isn’t just for audiophiles. Sure, those who understand the complexity and depth of Kansas’ performance will get more out of it, but honestly, there were a whole bunch of people in the audience who were there just to hear the hits they listened to on the radio, turntable, and/or 8-track back in the 70s, and I’m 100% sure they had a blast, too.

As for me, I loved every single song. And although I was jamming along with everyone else to “Portrait (He Knew)”, “Spider,” and “Point of Know Return,” I gained new appreciation for “Lightning’s Hand” and “The Tempest” after watching them being performed live. Fingers, bows, and drumsticks were flying, and the energy levels were out the roof for those songs, both of which completely engaged the crowd. Which reminds me: props to the lighting maestros, who did a brilliant job (no pun intended) of spotlighting each artist at just the right time throughout the whole show.

Kansas closed out the set with “Hopelessly Human,” and even though they left the darkened stage, there was no question they were returning for an encore, because one key song had yet to be performed: “Carry On My Wayward Son.” The entire crowd went nuts for this one, myself included. To say this song is iconic is cliché, but dammit, it’s true. The poignant lyrics, the harmonies, the heavy bass and guitar, and of course that hook in the chorus, come together in a masterpiece that generations know, love, and sing along to – at the top of their lungs. Although I’m sure it would’ve sounded a whole lot better if it wasn’t sung out of key by several thousand people, but it was still a beautiful thing.

Brent James and the Vintage Youth at the Deluxe at Old National Centre 10/19/18

See my review for Brent James and the Vintage Youth right below the Candlebox Gallery.

Candlebox at the Deluxe at Old National Centre 10/19/18

See my review below this gallery

Live Review – Candlebox with Brent James and the Vintage Youth at Old National Centre, 10 19 18

By Laura Fox for The Front Row Report

After a two-year absence, Seattle-based Candlebox returned to Indianapolis Friday night, playing to a packed crowd at the Deluxe at Old National Centre. The five-piece band, who describe themselves as “Face melting kinda metal but not really grunge yet close and VERY Blues based,” are undoubtedly icons of the 1990s Seattle music scene, and I was really stoked about seeing them again.

I was also excited to hear Brent James and the Vintage Youth. Although I knew the quartet from Cincinnati was more Muscle Shoals than Seattle Grunge, I was a little surprised when half the band appeared on stage barefoot. It started to make sense as they started jamming on their first song, “Fine Young Man,” which could’ve been on a Molly Hatchet album back in the day. Skillfully blending blues, rock and rockabilly, frontman Brent James, accompanied by Ricky Veeneman on guitar, Matt Gandenberger on bass, and Nick Baverman on drums, performed a rollicking nine-song set that left the audience in a great mood.

As I waited for Candlebox to take the stage, I thought about the last time I saw them. It was 1995, and they were at the peak of their popularity, right after the release of their sophomore album, “Lucy.” Their sound was fresh, and their performance was electrifying. After 23 years, a six-year hiatus and a few member changes, I wondered how they would sound. Would Kevin Martin’s distinct vocals still be strong? Would their music still be edgy and fresh?

The answer was a resounding, ”YES!”

They came out swinging with “Don’t You,” a high-energy hit from their self-titled debut album, which happens to be 25 years old now. They followed it up with “Change,” also from their debut album. I was relieved that founding member Kevin Martin’s distinct vocals were as strong as ever, and maybe even a little better – more mellow and less raspy than in Candlebox’s heyday. He did a fantastic job of engaging the crowd, making constant eye contact, giving high-fives, telling personal stories, repeatedly expressing appreciation for their loyalty, and explaining the meaning behind many of the songs. I found his “HAS BEEN” t-shirt hysterically ironic given the amount of energy he put into the show, as well as the fan love that was bestowed upon him.

That love was shared by Brian Quinn and Island Styles on guitar, Adam Kury on bass, and Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Famer Dave Krusen on drums. Although Martin is the only member who’s been with the band from the beginning, they played Candlebox’s syncopated riffs as though they’ve all been together for years. They jammed hard during their sixteen-song set, which included newer releases as well as older hits, along with some deeper cuts from their six studio albums, and extended versions of several songs. Nearly every song had at least a few people singing along, and I’m pretty sure 100% of the audience (including yours truly) was singing to the chorus of “You,” “Cover Me,” and “Far Behind.”

I was a little confused when the Martin took a survey near the end of the show to find out who all in the audience was Christian, then who was Catholic and who was Protestant. But then he explained that he doesn’t care what religion everyone is, and that we all need to respect each other’s beliefs and get along together. I normally hate when artists get political in their shows, but this is one message I can get behind. He then picked up an acoustic guitar for “Cover Me,” bringing an entirely different vibe and meaning to one of their biggest hits.

Candlebox finished their regular set with an intense and passionate version of “Far Behind,” which left everyone clamoring for “one more song.” The encore selection, “Rain,” started out slow and bluesy and ended with an all-out jam, which was a perfect ending to an amazing evening of rock and roll.

Rod Tuffcurls and the Bench Press at Federal Hill Commons 05/20/18

Rod Tuffcurls and the Benchpress kicked off the Noblesville Parks Concerts at the Commons series with a set of popular tunes from a variety of genres. The talented foursome from Chicago played everything from vintage Elton John to the theme from Disney's "Moana," and they played it with sensational style and skill. Their entusiasm was contagious - they were there to have fun, and they made sure everyone else did, too. I can't wait for them to come back this way!

mc chris at The Hi-Fi Indy

Live Review

mc chris and Bitforce at The Hi-Fi Indy 04/26/18

By Laura Fox - assisted by Michele Livingston

I admit, I’m not a huge fan of rap; I’m more of a head-banging kind of girl. So why did I jump at the chance to do a live review of mc chris at The Hi-Fi Indy? Because mc chris isn’t your stereotypical rapper – he raps about nerdy stuff.  And he’s wicked funny. And the opening act was a nerdcore band called Bitforce. (And yes, nerdcore is really a genre.) I expected a fun show, and that’s exactly what I got.

While waiting for the show to start, I couldn’t help overhearing bits of conversation around me. There were animated discussions about game characters and strategies, superheroes, bitcoins, wizards, and the latest Pokemon Go! raids. Although much of it was completely foreign to me, it was hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm for all things nerdy. It was interesting (but not surprising) to note that the crowd was mostly male, bearded, and under the age of 40.

What did surprise me was that there were moshers during Bitcore’s set! From the futuristic opening notes of “Exordium of Heroes” to their last triumphant chord, Bitforce commanded respect from the audience with their warrior attitudes, LED-lit uniforms, and kick-ass metal music. The San Antonio-based trio played a nine-song set that included original compositions, as well as metal versions of movie, game, and TV theme songs. Crowd favorites included the Power Rangers theme song, a Batman/Teen Titans medley, “Castlevania,” and the Pokemon theme song. Vocalist/guitarist Joey Devine (AKA Banta), Bassist Marc Lopez (AKA Ryokuen), and percussionist Toph Lawrence (AKA Shiden), were polished, yet edgy, throughout the set, and when they decided to get heavy, they got REAL heavy. They were great fun to watch!

Things were pretty casual when mc chris first took the stage, munching on a cookie and chatting with the audience. Then he suddenly switched gears, launching into “mc chris the shit,” a frenetic, autobiographical rap that’s both self-promoting and self-deprecating. His distinctive voice meshed well with the synth-y background tracks, and although I had trouble catching all the lyrics, Chris’ in-your-face attitude came through loud and clear. The audience clearly had no trouble understanding the lyrics, singing along lustily to “Neville,” “Pizza Butt,” “Hoodie Ninja,” “Wiid,” “Smackababy,” “I Want Candy,” and “DQ Blizzard.”

With over 17 albums and EPs, along with numerous movie and TV show credits under his belt, mc chris has a vast repertoire, and his setlist is always different for every show. His set at the Hi-Fi Indy was comprised of 15 songs, and included topics such as Star Wars, pot, Mario Brothers, obesity, pot, drug dealing, Harry Potter, pot, and cannibalism. Many of the songs drip with irony and reference things only fans of nerd culture and fans of mc chris would understand. Others appear straight rap/hip-hop, but take a corkscrew twist when you listen closely to the lyrics. And they all are insanely fast-paced and energetic, with mc chris spitting out the words like machine-gun fire.

One of the things that struck me about this show was the incongruity of every element of mc chris and his music. Logic says combining references to General Patton, Legoland, The Avengers, and Elizabeth Warren – all in one song – should not work. But it does. As does the unique blend of hip-hop, rap, pop, and cartoon theme-song styles. What’s also a little strange is that the artist himself is a vertically challenged, helium-voiced, 42-year-old white dude from Libertyville, Illinois.

The other thing I noticed was the way Chris interacted with the audience between every song. He went beyond the typical, “Hey Indy, how ya feeling tonight?” and cracked jokes about politics, drugs, tour life, sex, food, and the ridiculousness of life. He also took song requests, as well as talked about his wife and son, his nephew’s battle with Cystic Fibrosis, and the inspiration for some of his songs. It made my night when he asked a very tall man in the front to move over so the shorter people behind him could see, and later addressed me as “my Linda McCartney,” which was very sweet. (Google the story if you don’t know it already.) His mid-show, funny t-shirt contest was a hoot, with so many potential participants they wouldn’t all fit on the stage. (The winning shirt had a Luigi graphic on it I didn’t really get, but the crowd loved it.)

The only negativity of the night came when a drunk heckler got so out of hand that mc chris stopped performing his last song to chew him out. Fortunately, the guy settled down a bit, and Chris was able to pull it back together. Starting “Fette’s Vette,” over, mc chris rounded out the set on a positive note, with the crowd cheering and singing along, sharing in the super-cool nerdcore experience.

mc chris Funny T-shirt Contest at The Hi-Fi Indy 4 26 18

The Funny T-Shirt Contest is a huge part of every mc chris show, and there were some awesome entries at the Hi-Fi Indy! 

Red Sun Rising at Old National Centre, 2/18/18

I saw Red Sun Rising for the first time in 2015 and was immediately hooked on them. They rock hard, with a post-grungy sort of edge and a sound that is completely their own. In addition, these guys know how to throw down a good show, and they do it with such energy and passion that you can't help but get caught up in it!