Concert Review: Chrissie Hynde at Winspear Opera House in Dallas

Chrissie Hynde

Photo Credit: Chrissie Hynde Website

In the Pretenders’ smash hit, “Talk of the Town,” Chrissie Hynde sings: “Oh, but it’s hard to live by the rules. I never could, and still never do.”  True to her words, Hynde broke away from traditional concert protocol Tuesday night at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas to deliver an eclectic mix of new and old songs…delivered on her own terms.

Instead of opening with the customary two or three upbeat songs to pump up the crowd, Hynde eased into the show with a string of subdued Pretenders tunes. “Don’t Lose Faith in Me” opened the set followed by “Biker” that featured an entrancing guitar solo by James Walbourne.  Hynde then grabbed a tambourine and performed “977.” 

Dressed in black and blue all the way down to her black Doc Martin boots with blue shoelaces, Hynde looked like a punk rock warrior (without the scars). In fact, she looked just as she did 35 years ago, and her voice was just as alluring as ever, especially on her new songs.

Most classic rock artists believe they should stick to the hits in concert… not Hynde. Eight of the 11 tracks from her new solo album, Stockholm, were performed…and in many cases turned out to be the high points of the evening. “Down the Wrong Way” and “A Plan Too Far” featured a grittiness reminiscent of the early Pretenders sound. Walbourne’s brash guitar work created a raw energy that would ultimately overshadow Hynde’s older punk tunes including “Tattooed Love Boys” and “Downton (Akron).” The classic numbers just didn’t have the same aura with the Winspear’s huge crystal chandelier hanging overhead (even if it was retracted).

Punk influenced numbers aside; the rest of the Stockholm tunes held up as well. The pop-fused “You or No One” resulted in Hynde receiving a rose (the second of many to come) from the audience. The set closer, “Adding the Blue,” an artistic take on lost love, was simply beautiful.

Hynde did throw in some hits throughout the show including “Talk of the Town,” “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and “Back on the Chain Gang.” Refusing to be tied down to all the chart toppers, Hynde left out many fan favorites including “I’ll Stand By You” and “Brass Pocket.”

Chrissie Hynde "No Phones" Sign

The absence of certain hits though wasn’t as disappointing as Hynde’s cell phone ban which quickly became a distraction within itself. Despite posted notices and several pre-show announcements, those who dared to grab a pic were called out by Hynde in mid-song. The chorus of “Don’t Get Me Wrong” was broken up by: “Hey, lady. Lady! Put the iPad down!” It was all for naught, however, as Hynde finally allowed pictures during her encore.

“Oh, but it’s hard to live by the rules.”  

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Concert Review: Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo in Grand Prairie

Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo in concert at Verizon Theatre Grand Prairie

Singer Pat Benatar and guitarist Neil Giraldo have been rockin’ together for 35 years, the last 32 of those as man and wife. Tuesday night the talented couple brought their anniversary tour to the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie. If anything, the show proved that romance rocks! 

As the house lights dimmed, a short video narrated by Benatar and Giraldo provided a look at their musical journey through life. Benatar described how she would sing so much as a kid that her parents sent her out in search of the ice cream man just so they could have peace and quiet in the house. Giraldo recalled his early club days in Cleveland and his first big break with Rick Derringer’s tour band. The two then described the moment they met, and naturally, how hot each other looked. 

Physical chemistry aside, Benatar and Giraldo hit it off musically as well and can still light a fire on stage as demonstrated in Tuesday’s performance. “Shadows of the Night” proved to be a powerful show opener. The song’s lyrics serving as testimony of the couple’s bond: “We’re running with the shadows of the night/So baby take my hand, it will be alright./Surrender all your dreams to me tonight, they’ll come true in the end.” “All Fired Up” and “Invincible” capped off an energetic opening sequence that had the crowd roaring with delight. 

“Let’s see who lasts longer,” the 61-year-old Benatar told fans. “You or us.” While the crowd could have rocked all night, one couldn’t help but sense that Benatar could have, too. Her powerhouse voice, attractive appearance (I’m a sucker for platform shoes), and energetic delivery captivated the crowd the entire evening.

Neil Giraldo in concert at Verizon Theatre Grand Prairie

The multi-talented Giraldo provided fireworks of his own with his trademark solos on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Promises in the Dark.” He also performed double-duty on acoustic guitar and piano during “We Belong.” 

Giraldo’s most impressive performance, however, came on the hard-driving “Hell Is For Children.” Performed at every Benatar-Giraldo show to raise awareness about at-risk children, the tune featured blistering guitar work by Giraldo that added heightened drama and intensity to Benatar’s powerful vocals. This is definitely a song you have to hear live.

Benatar then lightened the mood with one of her favorite stories. She recounted how “You Better Run” was the second music video ever played on MTV. But since the band in the first video (The Buggles -“Video Killed the Radio Star”) didn’t have a guitar player, Giraldo was actually the first guitarist to appear on MTV.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo in concert at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie

With so many hits and only so little time, Benatar-Giraldo closed out their 90-minute set with a medley filled version of “Heartbreaker” that included mash-ups of “Ring of Fire” and “Don’t Slander Me.” The crowd roared with approval as Benatar repeatedly egged Giraldo on for “just one more” guitar riff. 

Brought together by their love for rock ‘n’ roll, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo continue to win over the admiration of music lovers with their timeless hits. Indeed, romance rocks! 

John Waite (The Babys, Bad English) opened the show and received a little lovin’ of his own from Giraldo…make that a whole lotta lovin’. The two teamed up for a killer version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” It was so impressive that I heard a guy behind me say that it reminded him of the first time he heard the song.

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Concert Review: Night Ranger and Heart in Grand Prairie – Lone Star 92.5 Bo & Jim Bash 3

Heart in concert at Verizon Theatre

When Lone Star 92.5’s Bo and Jim throw a party, showing up fashionably late is a serious faux pas and leaving early just isn’t acceptable. The Bo & Jim Bash 3 at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie Saturday night saw electric and captivating performances from Night Ranger and Heart that were all-out parties within themselves.

The Dallas DJ duo greeted partygoers with music from their band Stone Cold Sweat. Their versions of Classic Rock goodies including “You Talk Too Much” quickly put the audience in a partying mood. 

A favorite on the Austin music scene, guitarist Monte Montgomery then took the stage. His dazzling dexterity demonstrated why he was named the best acoustic guitar player at the Austin Music Awards at the SXSW Festival four years in a row. Highlights included the jam session stylings of “River.”

Night Ranger in concert at Verizon Theatre

Then…the keg showed up…in the form of Night Ranger with an intoxicating performance that had the party flat-out rocking. The ’80s arena rock band brought as much energy and excitement to the stage (maybe more) as they did in their first Dallas performance back in 1983, opening for Sammy Hagar at Reunion Arena.

Night Ranger treated fans to a rousing set list that included more than just their biggest hits (“Sister Christian” and “(You Can Still) Rock in America”). Bassist/vocalist Jack Blades fronted “Coming of Age” and “High Enough” from his days with Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw in Damn Yankees. The band also slipped in the title track of their latest album, High Road. But it was a lesser known song that almost stole the show…”Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight” from the band’s debut album. The song featured searing guitar solos that had the guitar gods smiling down from above. 

Guitarists Brad Gillis and Keri Kelli traded blistering solos throughout the evening. Classic Rock fans may have recognized Kelli from Alice Cooper’s band. Kelli is filling in on guitar while Night Ranger searches for a permanent replacement for Joel Hoekstra. 

Saturday night proved that you can still rock with Night Ranger (in America…or anywhere else).

Heart in concert at Verizon Theatre

When Heart took the stage, they instantly transformed Verizon Theatre into the cool room of the party. That one corner of the house where everyone wants to be… and be seen. Ann Wilson, decked in black with her rocker aura, oozed coolness from every pore of her body. Nancy Wilson, the golden goddess of guitardom (as called by Ann), lit up the room with grace, talent and beauty. Simply put, Heart was mesmerizing.

The band wasted no time kicking out the hits, opening with “Barracuda” and “Heartless.” Then, with a bluesy guitar introduction by Craig Bartock, Heart launched into a guitar driven version of the mega-hit, “What About Love.”  

The classic hits, Nancy’s trademark jump kicks and Ann’s captivating voice carried the band effortlessly through an energetic set that also featured quiet and enchanting moments. “This is the part of the show where we take deep cleansing breaths,” Ann said as she introduced “Heaven.” A song that is not available on any Heart album and is only performed live. The introspective piece featured Nancy playing an upright acoustic guitar with a cello bow and Bartock on slide guitar. Afterwords, Nancy took hold of a mandolin guitar for a fresh and beautiful version of the ballad “These Dreams.” Then came a song that was worth the price of admission alone… “Alone.” Ann Wilson beautifully hit all the high notes as only she can, and the crowd didn’t take it for granted, providing a thunderous standing ovation.

Remember the part about not leaving early? Heart’s encore included a stunning performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” 

Indeed, the Bo & Jim Bash 3 was an all-out party. Is it too early to think about next year’s show?!

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Concert Review: Asia at the Granada Theater

Asia

For a moment on Saturday night, I wasn’t sure if I was at a Doctor Who convention or an Asia concert. Prior to the start of the show at the Granada Theater in Dallas, fan tweets were shown on a large screen.  “‘Only Time Will Tell’ when Asia will take the stage,” read one tweet. “Until then ‘Don’t Cry,'” read another. Then came a tweet that seemed to catch everyone’s attention: “Are there any Doctor Who fans here?” There were plenty of them. “Doctor Who and Asia: two British icons,” one person tweeted. Indeed, just as the Doctor Who television series features a time-travelling lead character, Asia continues to journey across continents building loyal and cult-like followings. The band’s performance at the Granada Theater on Saturday night not only revealed how they earned their supergroup status of the ’80s, but more importantly, proved that they are still worthy of the elite status today.  

It didn’t take long for Asia to transport fans in their time machine as they opened with “Sole Survivor” and “Wildest Dreams” from their 1982 debut album. The songs gave fans their first glimpse at Asia’s new lead guitarist, Sam Coulson. While he wasn’t even alive in 1982, Coulson fit right in with the band and stood appropriately enough in front of drummer Carl Palmer, the two feeding off of each other’s energy throughout the show. The rest of the band was in on the vibe as well with lead singer John Wetton turning in a vibrant and chipper performance.

The electric atmosphere spilled into the audience. Asia fans were ready for anything…new songs, old songs, rare songs…it didn’t matter. A thunderous ovation followed “Face on the Bridge,” a song that is only two years old. Even newer material like “Gravitas” and “Valkyrie” had fans roaring with approval. 

John Wetton of Asia at Granada Theater

When it came time to slow things down, Wetton and keyboardist Geoff Downes turned in a beautiful and captivating performance of “I Know How You Feel.” Wetton then strapped on an acoustic guitar for “Voice of America.” The soft-set came to a dramatic climax with the ballad “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.” Just as fans thought the song was over, the band tore into a rocking reprise that turned the tune into an arena anthem straight out of the ’80s.

Any Asia fan knows that no show would be complete without a solo from the man, the myth, the legend…drummer Carl Palmer. As exciting as he is to watch during a show, Palmer’s drum solos are simply breathtaking. Just about everyone had their phones out to record Palmer’s dazzling display of drumming dexterity. 

Carl Palmer of Asia at Granada Theater

With the energy in the room at a fever pitch following Palmer’s solo, the band launched into two of their biggest hits, “Only Time Will Tell” and “Heat of the Moment.” The perfect ending to a perfect show.

Just as Doctor Who has entertained television audiences for decades, Asia continues to treat music fans to legendary performances. Whether transporting fans to the past with classic hits or exploring new frontiers with fresh material, Asia continues to be one of rock’s biggest supergroups.

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Michael McDermott Kicks Off Kickstarter Campaign

Photo of Michael McDermott

Michael McDermott is ready to record his tenth studio album as well as a second album with his band, The Westies.  All he needs is a little help from his devoted fan base. McDermott officially kicked off a Kickstarter campaign today to help raise funds for the spring projects.

“As we all now know, it has become increasingly evident that it is the responsibility of the artist to raise their head, raise their hope, raise their hands and raise the funds needed to make their art,” McDermott wrote on his Kickstarter page. “And as the support of the art and the artist has grown increasingly dire…it is with this landscape that brings me to you, to humbly ask for your assistance.”

McDermott says the material will define his life’s work and his life as an artist. 

Donation rewards run the gamut from pre-release album downloads to a private house concert. 

Concert Review – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in Dallas

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in Dallas

I would like to take this moment to blame Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for my insomnia. Since the band released their Hypnotic Eye album in July, I have been waking up in the middle of the night to guitar riffs from “American Dream Plan B,” “Red River” and “Fault Lines” swirling around my head. After seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at the American Airlines Center on Friday night, I might as well not even try to go to bed.  The band turned in a straight-forward and masterful set that will have me, and countless others, wired for days.

“You better call the babysitter,” Petty said. “He’s looking a little wacky; this could take a while.”  Indeed, Petty and band were in no rush to deliver their two-hour set of new songs and fan favorites. Given that every ticket to the show came with a digital download of Hypnotic Eye, it wasn’t surprising that Petty’s new material was very well received. In fact, performances of “American Dream Plan B,” “U Get Me High,” “Forgotten Man,” and “Shadow People” fit into the set so well that the songs felt like instant classics.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in Dallas

Long-time fans got their fair share of favorites, as well. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “Free Fallin'” had the entire audience on choir duty. It was ironic when Petty asked the crowd if they felt like singing prior to “I Won’t Back Down” since they had been doing just that from the start of the show. 

As expected, guitarist Mike Campbell tore up the stage with his guitar work. His calm demeanor was similar to a wolf in sheep’s clothing as he electrified the crowd with his blazing solos. Just as entertaining were his interactions with fans near the front of the stage. You could definitely tell that Campbell was having fun.

Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers in Dallas

Benmont Tench, who recently put out an album of his own, shined on piano especially during a solo lead-in to the bittersweet rocker, “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me).”

Halfway through the show, a fan in front called out for Stevie Nicks. A reference to Petty’s show in Dallas a few years back when Nicks surprisingly joined Petty on stage. “Sorry, I don’t have her,” Petty joked. “Unfortunately for you, I made the program this evening.” That said, it was a program that rocked from beginning to end. Even the quieter moments of the show had a captivating aura. A scaled down, acoustic version of “Rebels” had Petty promising and delivering a quiet moment with “cosmic rewards.” 

This review would not be complete without a mention of the opening act, Steve Winwood. The iconic rocker, with grey pirate-like sideburns, served up a hearty platter of groove-a-licious jams. At one point in the show, Winwood and his four-piece band had been jamming so long that a crew member had to come onto the stage mid-song to replace the incense. Winwood dug deep into his catalog, performing “vintage” cuts from his Blind Faith, Traffic and Spencer Davis Group days. There was also a jazzed up version of Winwood’s solo hit, “Higher Love.”

Steve Winwood in Dallas

The jams could have gone on all night, and in some respects, for me and my insomnia, they will. Oh well, sleep is overrated. But Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Steve Winwood definitely aren’t. 

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Bryan Adams to Release 30th Anniversary Edition of ‘Reckless’

Bryan Adams 'Reckless' Anniversary Edition

Released in 1984, Reckless turned Bryan Adams into a worldwide rock star. Timeless hits like “Run to You,” “Heaven” and “Summer of ‘69” pushed sales of the album to over 12 million copies.

This November (Nov. 10th in the UK/EU and Nov. 24th in North America), Adams will release a special 30th Anniversary Edition of Reckless. The lavish four-disc super-deluxe set will include the 2014 re-mastered audio and seven bonus tracks, a BBC in Concert performance from 1985, a DVD of Reckless-The Movie, and a Blu-Ray audio recording of the original album and a stereo mix re-mastered this year.

The Super Deluxe Edition is available now for pre-order on Amazon. And…while you’re waiting for the set to arrive, check-out Bryan Adams’ new covers album, “Tracks of My Years.” Set for release on September 30th, the album features a diverse collection of time-honored classics from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.