Sunday, September 19, 2010

Concert Weekend

I know I said my previous post would be my last from Las Vegas. Well, I lied. This weekend, I attended what will be my last two concerts as a Las Vegas resident, so I decided to do a little recap.

Kip Winger/Warrant - Sunset Station Hotel & Casino: As a child of the 80's, I still enjoy the hair band music...and I'm one of the few who likes a lot of the NEW music from these bands. I'd seen Kip Winger once, and Warrant an inexplicable three times (inexplicable because they were not any good any of those times - they always seem to be packaged with better bands though). I only went to this show because, well, it was free. The last time I saw Warrant was at this same venue, and it was the most bizarre concert performance I've ever witnessed, as original lead singer Jani Lane was absolutely blitzed to the point that he couldn't carry a tune and barely sang any of the words anyway. Got my money back from that one. This time, with a new singer in tow, things were looking up. Let's start with the opening act though. Despite having been relegated to eternal "wuss" status by repeated ridicule from MTV's Beavis & Butthead, Kip Winger is one of the more vocally talented performers from the 80's hard rock scene, and he proved it with this set. It was just him and his acoustic guitar, so that voice was front and center. The Winger tunes sounded really tight, and although he didn't select the songs I liked from his solo sets, overall, it was a great performance. I don't care what anyone says, In the Heart of the Young was one of the rockingest albums of the 80's start to finish. He invited some random dude who volunteered from the audience to come up and sing with him on the hit ballad "Miles Away" from that CD, and Scott, whoever he was, was actually really good and kept up with almost all the harmonies. (Grade - Performance: A, Set List: B, Running Time: A-, Overall: B+)

As for Warrant, all original members, save for the oft-inebriated Lane, are back in the band these days, and I could tell from last time that they sound really good (it was easy to discern considering Lane wasn't even singing). New singer Robert Mason is nothing special, but he was up to the task and sounded fine on all their hits. Finally hearing the songs the way they were meant to be sung made a big difference, and reminded me why Warrant were one of my favorite bands from that era. The whole set, save for one song, was comprised of tunes from their first two albums, which is probably what the majority of the audience wanted, so I can't fault them for that. "Cherry Pie" of course, was the closer, and surprisingly enough, probably the least enjoyable performance. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" from that same album is probably one of my favorite songs of the 80's, hair band or not, so it was awesome to finally hear it done with capable vocals. I actually think that Kip Winger would have done an awesome job filling in as singer, but oh well. (Grade - Performance: B+, Set List: B+, Running Time: B+, Overall: B+)

Don Henley - Red Rock Hotel & Casino: Despite Rolling Stone's inane top whatever lists, Don Henley is one of the best songwriters of all-time. I wish he had put out more solo albums, but such is music industry bureaucracy. This was the 2nd time I decided to break my personal rule of not spending more than $50 for a concert ticket. The first was Bon Jovi a few years ago, and that remains one of the best concert performances I've ever seen. This one was the awesome concert that almost was. Henley himself sounded amazing. I actually found myself questioning throughout the first song, whether or not he was lip synching, because his vocals were that spot on. Like with Bon Jovi, you pretty much can't go wrong with the set list...every song is a hit, and every one is pretty much an incredible tune. Two things ruined the experience for me. First and foremost was the audience. When I say that every single person in the crowd started talking the second they set foot into the pool area, and didn't stop until...well, they didn't stop at all, I'm not exaggerating. I paid $75 (and those were the "cheap" tix) to hear Don Henley sing. Apparently, everyone else paid money to stand around a pool and have a conversation. Since it's not one of those amp-exploding shows where your ears are ringing for 5 days afterward, the perpetual chatter actually detracted a lot from hearing the actual music. It's just mind-boggling. The second thing that ruined the experience for me was Henley's fault. After about the third song, he specifically said, "We're going to cram as many songs in tonight as possible. They're going to kick us out around 11:15, and we're gonna play as many songs as we can." Well, as I knew they would, they bolted from the stage at promptly 10:45, leaving an extra half an hour of potential performance time on the table. Why bother making a statement like that if it has no bearing in reality? That kills the experience for me. Bon Jovi played for nearly 2 1/2 hours, giving the fans every single cent-worth of their money. Henley, with just as large of an arsenal of songs, possibly larger, apparently had somewhere better to be. That having been said, on the sheer merits of the performance and classic songs, the show was enjoyable, but could have been so much more. Check out this set list though:

One of These Nights
Sunset Grill
The Long Run
Everything is Different Now
New York Minute
Boys of Summer
Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears cover)
I Just Don't Give a Damn (George Jones cover)
Heart of the Matter
Witchy Woman
The End of The Innocence
It Don't Matter to the Sun (Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines cover)
Last Worthless Evening
All She Wants to Do is Dance
Life in the Fast Lane
Hotel California

A couple notes about the set (not the exact order, but pretty close). Many Eagles songs were missing, but mostly because they were not Henley tunes. The Eagles had 4 other guys who contributed lead vocals through the years, so it was understandable that Henley would choose "his" songs over the others. Unfortunately, many of my favorite Eagles songs were sung by Glenn Frey. With the extra half hour Henley could have used, he might have included "Get Over It" from their 1994 "comeback" album, Hell Freezes Over, anything from Henley's most recent solo effort, Inside Job (from which "Everything is Different Now" was oddly selected over the hit single "Taking You Home"), or one of several strong tunes from the 2007 Eagles CD, Long Road Out of Eden. The Tears for Fears cover was a great choice...something that everyone knew and that was perfectly suited for Henley's voice. I had no real opinion on the George Jones song, but the totally out-of-left-field choice of "It Don't Matter to the Sun" was a great addition to the set. I'd never heard the song before. It came from Garth Brooks' oddball turn as Chris Gaines, an alter ego he dreamt up in order to put out a pop/rock album in 1999. Henley made the song sound like a classic ballad and hit it out of the park. I can't find any trace of the original, although the three Gaines songs that are on Youtube are positively awful. "Last Worthless Evening" is one of my favorite songs...ever, so I'm happy he didn't leave that one off. However, I must say, if I never heard "Hotel California" ever again, my life would not be any worse off. The predictable encore of that and "Desperado" (which I was shocked to discover was never a charting single for The Eagles), really didn't get my juices flowing for the big finale. (Grade - Performance: A+, Set List: B+, Running Time: C, Overall: B+)

I've already been checking out the concert scene in NYC for when I arrive back home. So many great choices, I can't even decide which ones I'm going to attend.