An Under Cover Weekend Returns

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AUCW returns to St. Louis for 2017 with a renewed sense of purpose. Not only will it be taking over a new venue, Delmar Hall, but it will also feature a more diverse set of bookings than the local festival has ever featured before.

The first night of the festival will feature the best of the 80s, with Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Madonna, Dolly Parton w/ Kenny Rodgers and Chaka Khan taking to the stage in the form of some of St. Louis most intriguing acts. Paige Alyssa promises to shine as Janet Jackson. Alyssa leans towards newer acts like Thundercat and Flying Lotus in her vibed out 80s sounds on “Beautiful” and “Lost Your Love”.

Night two rings in the 90s with Outkast, Third Eye Blind, Lauryn Hill, Counting Crows and the Offspring. Ramona Deflowered should prove interesting as the Offspring, and the band isn’t a stranger to AUCW as they return from a past performance as Joan Jett. Blank Generation should SHINE as Outkast if their Door No. 1 EP is any indication.

The 00s feel good on night three with Gorillaz (Blank Generation could make a killer Del the Funky Homosapien, just saying), Justin Timberlake, Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse and Death Cab for Cutie. I am in love with Aida Ade as Badu and 20708344_400360467027785_5125459013846865304_nshe will definitely be a crowd favorite after her set. Her Soundwheel EP should definitely be on your shortlist for best releases by St. Louis artists in 2017.

There is a decent chance that the weekend will sell-out, so pick up your weekend tickets now on Ticketmaster. A three-day pass can be purchased for only $30.00  or you can pick which night you’d like to attend for just $12.00 a night.

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Twenty One Pilots | 2.13.12

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Firebird, St. Louis

Note: I wanted to share my review of Twenty One Pilots from their 2012 show at the Firebird in St. Louis, MO. Seeing how far this band has come in just five years gives some perspective.

Twenty One Pilots fully encompassed every inch of the Firebird on a cold Wednesday night in St. Louis. Over an hour before the doors opened, hundreds of fans lined up outside for the sold-out show. Once doors opened, they did not move an inch as the headliners as well as the openers from Denmark, New Politics, took the stage.

New Politics, having previously played the Firebird, seemed extremely impressed looking at the large crowd that had filled in. The band from Copenhagen played through the majority of their first album in their short set and kept the crowd in it with a mix of fun pop-rock and rap, as well as a brief look into Euro-style break dancing by lead vocalist David Boyd.

The band played well with the ladies in the crowd, and given their (supposedly) not self-given doppelganger appointed looks, this was no surprise. Boyd proclaimed he was the James Franco of the group, with guitarist Soren Hansen playing the part of Kurt Cobain and drummer Louis Vecchio as Adam Levine.

All dancing and looks aside, the band put on a seriously awesome performance that left the crowd wanting more and looking forward to their upcoming album. New single “Harlem,” which is not related to the current “Harlem Shake” fad, gave a good sneak peek into the sound of the new album and got the crowd pumped up for the Ohioan headliners.

Twenty One Pilots—consisting of lead singer/pianist Tyler Joseph and drummer Joshua Dun—have jumped into the public eye since their December set at Peabody Opera House opening for fun. and The Joy Formidable. They scored a record deal with Atlantic subsidiary Fueled by Ramen a year ago, and now receive heavy radio play on alternative rock stations.

The duo quickly got the crowd moving, taking the stage in hoodies that fully covered their faces with the first song off their new album Vessel, “Ode to Sleep.” The song owes its intro to alternative bands like Hollywood Undead and further-reaching ’90s rap-rock, but quickly dives into a much more piano-pop friendly demeanor that takes over the rest of the night.

Seeming almost shocked by the crowd singing to every word and his every movement, Joseph had to take almost a full minute in between ukulele-featuring songs “Screen” and “House of Gold.” He proclaimed that every member of the crowd was a member of the band, though later in the show he admitted it felt a bit as if “you guys chased us around town all day, finally got us cornered and made us perform for you.”

Part of that awkward, uncomfortable feeling of watching a band discover its newfound fame is fun in itself. This is only amplified by an awareness that the next time they come through town will be at a much larger venue, losing some of that intimate feeling of a band personally expressing its appreciation.

Joseph spouts lyrics about depression that appeal to a new generation, while also bringing everyone together to say “remember this moment, when you and the other people in the room experienced this together, and how happy you are.” That group mentality is what drives fans to line up in the cold to get closer, and develops a near cult-like devotion. Alternative bands like 30 Seconds to Mars and My Chemical Romance have developed this so wonderfully by bringing the “broken people” together, as everyone in the crowd sings, lifting them all. | Bruce Matlock

The New Ticketmaster Presale Scam

Over the past few months, and particularly the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a new trend among new bands releasing albums and pitching them via Ticketmaster. It began as a bonus for buying tickets. As if the band appreciated you attending their show so much that they’d treat you to their new album free of charge.

Then… the “Verified Fan Presale”. Here’s the pitch for that… “Hey, here is a presale password for our show, specifically for our fans.” Except there is no restriction to prove fandom, so anyone can get in on it. But it continues, “If you buy our new album, we will make sure you get the best tickets, first come.” Okay, now I’m listening. Except scalpers will happily pay the $10 dollar fee for a new album for an opportunity to make hundreds of dollars for the best tickets.

Next problem. I don’t know if it is Ticketmaster, or the venue, but somewhere along the line the message seems to be, put the worst tickets up first, fans will suck them up because they think that’s all that is left and they actually are fans, so they will be mad, but still click purchase. Then when the regular on-sale comes, put up whatever is left. The worst tickets in the building are sold to “verified fans” like me, and unless you have hours to spend waiting for the best tickets to pop up, you are stuck with whatever they so graciously offer.

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I do not have proof of this, only my fairly extensive experience in concert ticket buying, but over the past few days, I have spent approximately three hours trying to buy Queens of the Stone Age tickets for the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis. Consistently, without fail I’ve seen the cycle over and over. Only mezzanine, only single tickets, release better seats. Only mezz, only singles, release better seats. Shortly after the image above, I scored tickets in row F in the Orchestra. Does it look like those were tickets that were available five minutes earlier?

My point being, presales are about as effective at getting the best tickets to your fans as shooting a t-shirt cannon in a crowded square at one person. Bands beware. Fans also beware the “Verified Fan Presale”. If you normally just listen to your music on Spotify, keep on doing it. Spotify presales actually seem to be more legitimate fan presales anyway.

 

Best Week of New Music This Year

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So, this week is really incredible. On top of long anticipated releases from Lorde, Royal Blood, Fleet Foxes and Portugal. the Man; we also had new singles from some unsuspecting parties. The four I’ve chosen to feature were Queens of the Stone Age, The Killers, Shania Twain and George Ezra.

Melodrama is perhaps as close to a perfect pop record as we will get in 2017. It should win awards. Lorde is 20-years-old. Let that sink in… 20. Hasn’t she been around for like… 5 years? Yeah. She has. Moving past that, Jack Antonoff of Fun./Bleachers/Steel Train guided this record lyrically and musically, and Lorde couldn’t have picked a better partner. “The Louvre” is silly, light and perfectly sums up the feel of the album. “But we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in the Louvre. Down the back, but who cares—still the Louvre.” The album also has it’s more dramatic moments, like any good house party. “Liability” is a still-teenager coming to grips with her stardom. “The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy, ’til all of the tricks don’t work anymore and then they are bored of me.”

How Did We Get So Dark? is the second album from British rock revivalists Royal Blood.  They’ve opened for the Foo Fighters, sold out tours in support of their first album, and will open for Queens of the Stone Age in America throughout the Fall. Given their short but excellent track record it’s no surprise that they’ve delivered another banger of an album. It does have a few shortcomings in that some of the tracks feel somewhat generic. “Hook, Line & Sinker” is the band at their heaviest, but also catchiest. Every riff sounds like it comes straight from the same desert as the band they’ll open for in the Fall.

Crack-Up – The first time I witnessed Fleet Foxes was opening for Death Cab for Cutie in 2008, just a few short months after the release of their first album. Bandleader Robin Pecknold looked fresh and awed by the beautiful venue surrounding him, The Fox Theatre in St. Louis (it is stunning). Fleet Foxes have always been a dense listen that takes a long time to grasp, and that’s how I feel about this album as well. It sounds like Fleet Foxes, it’s beautiful and Pecknold still has a feel for folk, but this album feels less Americana and more global, worldly. I hope he is still as fascinated by the world around him as he was in 2008. It sounds like he is.

Lastly, Woodstock by Portugal. the Man. The first words you hear after the album starts is, “No fake presidents.” It might be the first alternative rock album of the resistance to President Donald Trump. Their first single, “Feel It Still” got the band attacked by Alex Jones, which is pretty much like receiving a liberal gold-medal. It has also been at the top of the charts longer than any other song this year. Oddly, they are already mid-way through a year-long tour in support (or anticipation) of the album, with more dates coming in the Fall. “Noise Pollution” might be the song that takes the band furthest from their comfort zone, but works well to end the album. It features frequent contributor, Zoe Manville, as well as Mary Elizabeth Winstead of Scott Pilgrim fame, and more recently the latest season of Fargo, speaking French… so that’s cool, which this band seems to exude.

Now, for the song I’m most excited about this week, “The Way You Used to Do” by Queens of the Stone Age. If this is an indication of their new album, Villains, we are in for a change in direction like the band has never seen. Mark Ronson produced the new album and it shines though. Speaking with Zane Lowe of Apple Beats 1 Radio, Josh Homme shared this on the decision to work with Ronson, ““I think one of the reasons was to act like a talisman as a reminder of listening to ‘Uptown Funk’. It’s very tight and vacuous. It sounds fucking great.”

Shania Twain returns! “Life’s About to Get Good” is a great summer song. Twain certainly hasn’t removed herself from paying attention to today’s music scene. The album is more pop than country, but it does features instrumentation you’d normally hear in country music. There is some sort of… mandolin (perhaps) incorporated in an electronic way. Anyways, you’ll be hearing this one if you listen to pretty much any station that doesn’t purely handle rock.

“The Man” sounds like it could have come off the Killers 2008 album, Day & Age. It has the potential or perhaps a bit stronger than “Human” or “Spaceman” off that album. It features a swagger similar to Aloe Blacc’s song of the same title. This song could very well push the band back into pop culture in a way that they haven’t seen in some time.

George Ezra hasn’t found the same fame as others that came out around the same time as his first album. The first time I heard “Blame it on Me” and “Budapest” I thought Ezra would easily be as popular as Hozier. That didn’t pan out as Hozier topped music festival lineups by the end of his album cycle while Ezra still remains mid to low on posters. I still feel Ezra has that potential, and this new single, “Don’t Matter Now” feels like a good start. The horns separate this from his previous work and compliment it well.

 

 

 

 

MUSE/ Thirty Seconds to Mars | 6.13.17

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Rock has changed through the decades. Muse have changed over the last decade plus. When I first discovered them they were the headbanging band standing on the table in the “Time is Running Out” video. It could be said I learned how to headbang watching bassist Chris Wolstenholme playing the opening bassline to “Hysteria”.

This tour gave me access to fanboy excessively due to the stage setup that extended out into the pit area. As #Wolstenbeast ripped into that opening riff, I was transported back to being a 17-year-old kid.

Over the years I’ve grown frustrated with the bands’ insistence on providing America audiences with decidedly shorter and more pop-heavy sets than their European counterparts. Songs like “Micro Cuts”, “Assassin” and “Butterflies and Hurricanes” are routinely rotated overseas while American audiences are lucky to be thrown a bone and receive “Bliss” which lead singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy joked on Tuesday night, “a few of you might know.”

 

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“The Handler”

 

Having said all that, I had an excellent time. The first half of the set had my jaw constantly dropped as the band joyfully ripped through songs from a large portion of their catalogue. “Map of the Problematique” is always wonderful live, “Bliss” was bliss and “The Handler” is quickly becoming a great standard, and it’s visually impressive as well, with the band performing in front of giant hands pulling their puppet strings.

19149471_10154492985031976_1360083490405112541_nThe second half slipped a bit with a cover of The Cramps “New Kind of Kick” for which Bellamy was absent, and the combination of “Starlight” and “Madness” which just seem droll by comparison. Luckily, “Mercy” and “The Globalist” work well to end the main set, with the former stunning the crowd with massive amounts of confetti and the later with on-stage visuals.

 

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Leto rocking a look he described as “Stone Cold Steve Austin mixed with someone’s Grandma”

 

Before Muse took to the stage, Thirty Seconds to Mars played a brief set that lead singer, Jared Leto, noted was just a warm up for an album to be released in 2017 and a tour to follow. As 105.7 the Point’s Donald Fandango noted, St. Louis LOVES this band. They’ve been selling out shows  The Pageant since they released A Beautiful Lie in August of 2005.

19148998_10154492984506976_356228607502370355_nUnfortunately they didn’t have any new songs to play, which was disappointing, but as usual, Leto and co. more than made up for it with charisma and crowd interaction. Not only was there a proposal, Leto brought three crowd members onstage to judge which side of the crowd was more passionate, and as usual, the band brought up dozens of fans for the set-ending “Closer to the Edge”.

Show openers PVRIS also got the crowd going with an energetic set. New single, “Heaven” was well received, but it was “You and I” and “My House” off the bands’ debut album White Noise that got the crowd jumping and ready for what would be an excellent evening.

Roger Waters | 5.30.2017

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Three dates into the newly unveiled Us + Them World Tour, Roger Waters brought the epic political spectacle to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO. The tour has received widespread publicity for its intense scrutiny of President Donald Trump.

Kansas City’s date featured several people reportedly walking out with middle fingers raised during Animals song “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” There was only one noticeable walkout in St. Louis, as an attendee raised a Trump yard sign as he was peacefully escorted out.  Waters noted towards the show’s end that, “Some morons suggested we might not receive a very warm welcome here in St. Louis, but we have received a very warm welcome. It means a great deal to us.”

For the first time in my adult life, Waters is not touring behind a classic Pink Floyd album, but rather had put together a set that blends expertly with a few songs off of his rock release since 1992 album, Amused to Death, titled Is This the Life We Really Want? The new songs blend seamlessly, which is great news for fans of Pink Floyd. “Smell the Roses” and “The Last Refugee” particularly stood out.

The stage is intense and perfect. The screen is as large as the famous wall from his last tour when assembled. There were some staging issues that arose before the St. Louis show. The large screen that stretched over the middle portion of the crowd during “Dogs” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones) apparently malfunctioned during rehearsals, so a decision was made to take it down to avoid any potential crowd danger issues.

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The stage was stunningly executed, the sound was PERFECT, and the crowd returned the love sent to it. As the iconic pyramid was formed from lasers during “Comfortably Numb” it finally hit me how surreal of a moment I was actually in. As two giant hands on the screen finally connected and an explosions of confetti with the word, “Resist” printed on them rained from the sky, a sense of connectivity washed over the crowd. Political messaging aside, this was a night that brought together Waters collective discography and (almost) everyone in the room.

Video:

Finale

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“Another Brick in the Wall”

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I’m begging you, please wear earplugs

My first concert was in 2004. Since then I have attended 223 concerts. I am now 29 years old and have tinnitus. Another thing I have learned in the past few months is that tinnitus worsens anxiety, and anxiety makes your tinnitus worse. It used to be that I would hear the ringing every night while going to sleep, so I’d turn on a fan and hope it would drown out the noise.

Now, I hear it non-stop, regardless of how quiet a room is. There is no cure.

If I regret anything in my life it would be that I didn’t heed the advice given to me and wear earplugs at every show I went to. Maybe if I had known you could spend $10-$30 dollars and get quality earplugs that didn’t completely muffle out nearly all sound I would have. Those cheap foam plugs you buy at your local CVS are great for being on a factory floor or in a construction area, but for hearing a wailing guitar solo they are about as effective as pouring cement in your ears.

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If you’re someone like me, you probably lose everything that isn’t literally strapped to your body, so it’s hard to justify spending $15 dollars on something so small that you’re almost certain to lose before you even use it. My last purchase was EarPeace HD Ear Plugs. They are on the higher end cost-wise at $21.95 on Amazon, but in my opinion, they are worth it. They come with a small metal cylinder that can be put on your keychain when you go to a show, so you’re less likely to lose them and more likely to use them. They also don’t ruin all levels of sound going into your ear. In fact, when I saw the Flaming Lips last month at The Pageant, I felt like I could actually hear the music better than if I hadn’t had them in at all.

There are plenty of option out there that are barely visible in your ear so your friends won’t think your lame for wearing them, and when you’re 40 you might even still be able to watch TV without the volume being pumped to the max. Or you could join me and keep your fingers crossed that science develops a procedure to reverse a condition that forces musicians off the road, and people like me to lose sleep.

The Glorious Return of Gorillaz

Just in time for the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump (I feel nauseous just typing that) comes a track for the times via Damon Albarn and his band of cartoon co-conspirators known as Gorillaz. English artist/poet Benjamin Clementine comes along for a scary ride into the true religion of America, the almighty Dollar. Hopefully more details of a new album aren’t far off. Enjoy!

My Top Live Acts of 2016 (and what i’m looking forward to in 2017)

2016 may have been the most depressing of my life (29 years). When it came to live music however, it was one of my best. It featured TWO shows at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, a Beatle,  two Cage the Elephant shows and an exclusive show in St. Louis by rock and roll hall of famers Green Day. While this year guaranteed i’ll never see David Bowie or Prince live… I also saw the emergence of Lewis Del Mar, Judah and the Lion and Anderson Paak..

10.14.2016 – Lewis Del Mar at Blueberry Hill Duck Room, St. Louis, MO

These dudes ended up being the top of my most listened to according to Spotify, in spite of the fact that their album didn’t come out until October. When I realized I had an opportunity to see them in the dark basement of Blueberry Hill, class the next morning wasn’t going to stop me.”Loud(y)” was my top song of the year and the eruption from the minute crowd upon hearing it let me know Lewis Del Mar is destined for much bigger venues.

12.4.2016 – Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

Stardom looks good on the 38 year old from Hermann, MO. It was clearly a very emotional night with Rateliff avoiding cracking up most of the night, and early on mentioning he didn’t want the evening to go down a darker road. It felt more like a celebration, like a returning champion, though the band calls Denver, CO home now. By the time “S.O.B.” arrived, the crowd was in a fervor that ended in the entire building humming the tracks famous chorus until the band returned to the stage.

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6.22.2016 – Sia – Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO

The first of my two prior mentioned Red Rocks shows. It was not a pleasant evening, especially if you weren’t a local who knew. As show time approached a chill swept over the mountain and rain licked the faces of fans. No one was leaving, maybe to the gift shop to buy every blanket and rain jacket they had. Those who waited and laughed at the pure oddness of being shown a preview of BBC nature show “The Hunt”. Even the spokespeople for the event were almost blown offstage. Arrive Sia did, and a performance ensued. I say that word specifically because it was not a concert. Yes, a vocalist performed, and dancers acted out breathtaking scenes, it was beyond what a concert is. There was no front man cracking jokes or doing power fists. There was a shy Australian named Sia Furler hiding at the back and exiting with a meek “thank you”. Coloradans are insanely tough.

10.26.2016 – Green Day – The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

Green Day have never been ones to shy away from a small venue tour. Hell, they go as far as to tour as other bands entirely. This felt special though, in a way that St. Louis doesn’t normally get this kind of show. It was supposed to be the first of the tour, but due to sickness ended up being the last show. Maybe that was for the best as the band were as tight as you can imagine any band being. All of the new songs were great, and extremely well received. The selection of covers are silly and lighthearted, and the politically commentary was sharp. Billy Joe Armstrong lead the crowd in a chant of “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA” only two songs in during “Bang Bang”. The closing combination of “Ordinary World” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” was surreal, even though the real world came back all too fast.

01.22.16 Tool/Primus, 3.19.16 Cage the Elephant, Silversun Pickups, Foals

I’ll call these two shows, having your cake and eating it too. Normally with bands this large, you either settle for a sub-par opener or perhaps more often none at all. These mega-tours broke that norm early in the year. No band I saw this year was a better live band than Cage the Elephant. The antics may have calmed down a bit, but the band sounds all the better for it, and the lightshow is excellent but not distracting. Tool may be the most perfect sounding live band on the planet. The intensity is doubled somehow live, and after the oddity of Primus, Tool somehow levels everything in you spiritually.

 

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SO far next year we have Red Hot Chili Peppers, Roger Waters, the Flaming Lips, Jay and Silent Bob, Colony House, Guns N Roses (yes, you read that right). Hopefully a return to Bonnaroo as well as Beale Street Music Festival. Fingers crossed for a North American Radiohead tour in the Spring, a A Perfect Circle show somewhere within 6 hours of me and whatever new and crazy things I can discover.

Green Day | 10.26.16

It isn’t very often a band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame plays a venue that holds under 2,300 rabid music lovers.  That was the case as Green Day wrapped up their small club tour at The Pageant in St. Louis, MO. The show was supposed to be the first date of the tour, but ended up coming last due to a sickness that forced the band to postpone three dates. Lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong thanked the fans for their patience and said nothing was going to stop them from making the rescheduled gig.

The story starts sometime well before the show though. When a band that size does go on a tour that is designed for the fans, special ticket redemption scenarios are often implemented to keep tickets out of the hands of scalpers. This took the form of a fan club presale that forced ticket buyers to enter the venue only with the credit card they purchased them with. Everyone else in attendance was forced to pick up tickets via the box office on the day of the show.

As the show was kicking off inside with opener Dog Party, hundreds remained in line to get their tickets from the box office, no doubt to the frustration of many. The Sacramento punk two-piece roared through a set worthy of the headliners. The sisters Lucy and Gwendolyn Giles focused on tracks from Til You’re Mine ending with a raucous cover of Bikini Kill track “Rebel Girl” while Green Day drummer Tre Cool danced on stage in a 14889756_10153876897946976_1556539113537330781_o.jpgbunny outfit.

Before Green Day emerged, the crowd came together in a singalong as “Bohemian Rhapsody” blasted over the loud speakers. Once their vocal chords were properly warmed up, Green Day emerged with the only track that would be heard from 21st Century Breakdown, “Know Your Enemy”. The band have never been one to shy away from controversy, and Armstrong came head first at it, calling out Donald Trump to thunderous boos from the crowd.

After that though, Armstrong seemed much more interested in peace and love, calling for the crowd to let the show be their “own personal underground” where they didn’t have to put up with the “bullshit” outside. New songs “Bang Bang”, “Still Breathing”, and “Revolution Radio” all became loud singalongs, which is extremely impressive considering the album came out just two weeks before the show.

“Geek Stink Breath” and “Going to Pasalacqua” both received their first airing in 2016 in the fan-service portion of the show, and the crowd wasn’t quite a receptive, though that might have just been more of a mid-set energy dip.

Closing out the rock portion of the evening were “American Idiot” and “Jesus of Suburbia”. The tracks still feel as relevant as they did in 2004 when the album was released in the heart of the Bush administration, and the album may be one of the best of the aughts.

Sadly, things did have to end after two-and-a-half hours and 30 songs. Armstrong returned to the stage alone with an acoustic guitar to play the excellent new track “Ordinary World” and a staple, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. It felt bittersweet, yet knowing the band is just beginning its touring cycle is a bit of a relief. However, no arena show will compare with this intimate evening. | Bruce Matlock