Concert Reviews

Music From The Hill (an evening of songs with Andy Reed, Brett Mitchell, Shannon Johnson, and Barney Betka) November 21 2015
It was an incredible night of music made even more magical by the first snow of the impending winter. We were still in November but after months of planning for this event mother nature decided she was going to dress us in white for the evening. I’m sure it kept a few folks away but those who came were not disappointed when the evenings entertainment began at six with Barney Betka and his unique acoustic guitar stylings.
Andy Reed, local studio owner and recording artist who at one time toured and recorded with “The Verve Pipe”, took to the mic at seven and delivered an impassioned performance of just over an hour, full of original music.
He even made available copies of, and snuck in a couple of songs off his at the time, unreleased cd “Andy Reed Relay vol 1”
He made us promise not to share with anybody until the release date!
After that, Andy stuck around and played bass as Shannon Johnson took the stage.
Eric Johnson played guitar while Nate Place provided percussion on his cajon.
What an incredible voice this woman has. Throughout the evening  Shannon delivered a variety of styles of music. Some classic rock mixed with some bad girl country with a couple of originals thrown in.
The bands groove thang came together on the Alanis Morissette song, “You Ought To Know” with a packed house of about 60 people singing along. It was good times.
After the smoke cleared Brett Mitchell took the stage. It was worth the wait. Brett displayed the prowess and stage presence that has made him a much in demand performer.
Brett effortlessly delivers his own original music in a way that makes them feel classic. As well as reinventing and breathing new life into an interesting choice of covers which he makes his own.
Shannon once again took to the microphone round 10:30 and delivered a breathtaking solo set. Her strong guitar playing supported her rich and powerful voice confidently.
Shannon delivered an interesting mix of songs including Justin Bieber’s “I’m Sorry”. The evening continued on as Jennifer Bartlett, the lead singer for the Fine Fine Titans joined Shannon for an after hours jam.
The evening finally wound down in the wee hours and the decision was immediately made to do this again.


Sufjan Stevens at the Masonic Temple: April 27, 2015

Sufjan Stevens is an artist who has fascinated me since I was first exposed to his music on the “Come On Hear The Illinoise!!” release.

More than a singer-songwriter, his music is typically labeled folk. Stevens plays folk music like Pink Floyd plays rock music. And that is an understatement. Sufjan is an iconic American composer. I believe he’s creating pieces of art that will stand the test of time.

Seeing him in concert felt like a potential recipe for disappointment. With such a high grade of admiration for his recorded body of work, certainly I thought, he can’t live up to that live. What he did at the Masonic Theater is take his new album “Carrie and Lowell “, which is primarily an acoustic affair, and proceeded to create a whole new piece of art. The subtle blend of synthesizers and electric guitars was woven seamlessly into the tapestry of sounds which were  generated by a song list slightly askew from the album track listing, yet in essence, presented the whole project in its entirety, even as he blended in other tracks spanning his career.

He pleased many fans with an encore that consisted of three tracks from “Illinoise” and two tracks from “Michigan” finishing with an incredible version of Chicago



The Punch Brothers at the Fillmore in San Francisco: April 3, 2015

I had never heard of The Punch Brothers before deciding to go to this concert. We were going to be in San Francisco the weekend of April 3, 4 and 5 and we wanted to see some live music. It didn’t take me long to discover the concert schedule of the famous Fillmore in San Francisco. I read a little about The Punch Brothers as the concert date approached. Learning that the leader was Chris Thile, mandolin virtuoso who was formally a member of the popular and influential new grass group “Nicklecreek”.

Climbing the stairs into this venerated and historic concert venue did feel very nostalgic. The names of the performers who have played there is a literal Who’s Who of rock and roll and all forms of music. Mainstream, Hall of Famer’s, indie darlings, all varieties of music genres. And the concert posters for a vast percentage of these events are displayed on the walls in several rooms surrounding the main concert hall. The sound quality when the first act took the stage was breathtaking. Opener Gabriel Kahane was impressive as he appeared alone on stage and presented songs on an upright acoustic piano before switching to an acoustic guitar to complete his set. Very compelling songwriting, exhibiting his musical theater roots. After a very entertaining set that connected well to the audience, the transition to the headliners was made.

Chris Thile and his bandmates presented their new recording, “The Phosphorescent Blues”

in a very polished manner, exhibiting their musical virtuosity as a group, along with their flawless vocal harmonies. The musicianship combined with the apparent sonic perfection of the acoustics and sound system, was enthralling and literally created one of those magic moments that you only hope for at most concerts.

I am now a lifelong follower of The Punch Brothers and owner of several of their CDs which we purchased that night. As well as two Gabriel Kahane CDs.

Needless to say I’m a fan.



Garth brooks in concert at Joe Louis arena: February 27, 2015

Having only recently been indoctrinated into loving country music, I’ve never really been familiar with Garth Brooks’  body of work outside of his hit singles. Well, I recognized nearly every song in a generous two set helping,. The evenings performance, delivered by a stellar band, and highlighted by the stars strong vocal skills and regular guy/superstar stage prescence,  was divided by a strong set presented by Mrs Brooks, Food Network star Tricia Yearwood.

Garth Brooks is a superstar who has had countless hits and exhibited the showmanship which drove him to the top of the entertainment industry.

Yet it seemed a humble man generated a powerful wash of adoration from the screaming throng after every song.  That whole crowd, with few exceptions, knew every word and sang along The whole night. It was an impressive demonstration of high quality entertainment.

The intensity did not let up much when Garth’s wife  took the stage. She seemed sincerely affected by the waves of love and acceptance from the crowd.

Garths set list certainly spanned his career but he also gave a good taste of his new album before wrapping the night up with a powerful encore.

Definitely a concert I’m glad I went to because I felt like I was watching history.