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Posts Tagged ‘Midland Theater’

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By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

For the first time in more than 20 years, the Pixies rolled into town in support of new material.

The influential college rock quartet has now been around longer as a reunion act than in their initial stint. Reunited contemporaries like Dinosaur Jr. have released multiple new albums, making the paucity of new Pixies material – two songs – even more glaring. That changed late last year when lead singer/songwriter Black Francis dropped four new songs on an EP and followed it up with four more last month.

All but one of those songs were played when the band performed at the Midland Theater on Tuesday night. Toss in the single “Bagboy” and the as-yet unrecorded “Silver Snail” and new material comprised nearly a third of the band’s setlist. The new recordings received a mix reception online, but for the most part they worked in concert.

The appropriately noisy “What Goes Boom” blended seamlessly with the band’s cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On.” Later, in a quieter moment, Francis segued from “In Heaven (Lady in Radiator)” to “Andro Queen.” The songs were recorded 26 years apart, but sounded onstage like they were pulled from the same session.

JfDKB.St.81“Bone Machine” announced the band’s presence, and although the thumping bassline that introduced the song was familiar the musician wasn’t. Paz Lenchantin, a veteran of A Perfect Circle and Billy Corgan’s Zwan, filled the gaping hole left when founding member Kim Deal departed last June.

Lenchantin didn’t have any problems replicating Deal’s basslines, but her thin voice was often buried in the mix.The band arrived as if shot out of a cannon, blasting through the first eleven songs in less than 30 minutes.

Doing their best Ramones impression, the band rarely paused between songs and hardly acknowledged the near-capacity crowd before barreling into the next number. The songs were never rushed, but they were definitely urgent.

Some of the best moments were the demented rockabilly of “Brick is Red” and the surf guitar intro to “Ana.” Guitarist Joey Santiago got plenty of time to play with feedback during “Vamos,” one of the few times the band deviated from the recorded arrangement. A medley of “Nimrod’s Son” and “Holiday Song” started with“Nimrod” at full speed before bouncing into “Holiday Song.” A slowed-down arrangement of “Nimrod” closed the medley.

At 33 songs and 100 minutes, the band devoted plenty of time to exhume some deep cuts from its catalog, and deliver most of its biggest songs (including both versions of “Wave of Mutilation”). Francis let the crowd take over the choruses on “Where is My Mind?” and “Here Comes Your Man.” Given the band’s underground legacy, it was odd to see fists pumping in the air with every “chien” on the chorus of “Debaser,” but the quartet definitely knew how to work the theater crowd.

The Pixies first reunion concert in Kansas City was a victory lap. The second concert was a celebration of their greatest album. This third visit was a view of the Pixies as a working band, trying to prove they still have plenty to say. They do.

Setlist: Bone Machine; Wave of Mutilation; U-Mass > Head On (Jesus and Mary Chain cover); What Goes Boom; Distance Equals Rate Times Time; Ilsa de Encanto; Monkey Gone to Heaven; Ana; Brick is Red; I’ve Been Tired; Magdalena; Cactus; Gouge Away; Bagboy; Blue Eyed Hext; Crackity Jones; unknown song; Veloria; Havalena; Snakes; Silver Snail; In Heaven (Lady in Radiator); Andro Queen, Indie Cindy; Greens and Blues; Where is My Mind?; Here Comes Your Man; Vamos; Nimrod’s Son/Holiday Song (medley); Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf). Encore: Debaser; Planet of Sound.

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(Above: Amy Lee delivers a spellbinding performance of “My Immortal” at the Midland Theater in Kansas City, Mo.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

Five years ago, Evanescence was on the verge of living up to their name. After losing a founding band member and laboring over their second album, more personnel problems left the band’s future in limbo.

A convincing performance Tuesday night at the Midland Theater by the hard-rock band left little doubt that it was still not only a force to be reckoned with, but very much here to stay. As the quartet relentlessly hammered heavy riffs, singer Amy Lee glided across the stage and sashayed over the cacophony, her voice simultaneously tempering and reinforcing the ferocity below.After roaring for nearly a half hour, Lee sat down behind a grand piano and dialed the music back a bit. Her near solo performances of “Lost in Paradise” and, later, “My Immortal” were spellbinding. When the band re-joined Lee, her piano provided the textured that made the performances even more intense. Even after Lee’s piano had been rolled offstage, her playing frequently appeared on the pre-recorded backing tape.

Half of the 75-minute setlist was dedicated to the group’s self-titled third release, which came out last year. Although it was often difficult to hear the crowd over the band, the audience was definitely involved all night. Lee stopped to commend the room’s energy several times. When she invited her fans to join her singing they nearly overwhelmed her voice.

The music was augmented by an impressive light show that sent rays throughout the room, bathed the stage in deep colors and punctuated every beat with a battery of strobes. A second bank of strobes above the stage revealed the band’s name behind a sheer backdrop.

Evanescence hasn’t been a consistent presence on the charts, but when the band has regrouped enough to release singles they’ve tended to stick. Although the audience didn’t waver in enthusiasm for the new or older material, the half-dozen songs that appeared on the radio got especially boisterous responses. The Top 10 hit “Call Me When You’re Sober,” which Lee dedicated to all the ladies, generated an especially passionate sing-along.

After more than an hour of music, Lee dropped the crowd off where she likely picked most of them up with a powerful performance of the band’s 2003 debut single “Bring Me To Life.”

Setlist: What You Want, Going Under, The Other Side, Weight of the World, Made of Stone, Lost in Paradise, My Heart is Broken, Lithium, Sick, The Change, Call Me When You’re Sober > Imaginary, My Immortal. Encore: Swimming Home, Your Star, Bring Me To Life.

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(Above: Roger Daltrey and his outstanding band, which included guitarist Simon Townshend, rip through “Tommy” at the Midland Theater in Kansas City, Mo.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

Roger Daltrey didn’t write a note of “Tommy,” but he found himself as a singer telling the story of the deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes a messiah at high-profile at Woodstock and the Isle of Wight. More than 40 years later, Daltrey is still finding ways to express himself through the character.

The Who singer brought a five piece band, including guitarist Simon Townshend, brother of Who mastermind Pete Townshend, to the Midland on Friday for a trip through “Tommy” and other favorites.The band stuck pretty close to the recorded version of “Tommy,” give or take a few guitar solos and a nice gospel piano intro to “Come to This House.” “Pinball Wizard” finally got the crowd on the floor to their feet, where they stayed for the rest of the night. After “Tommy” ended, Daltrey paused for a few minutes to introduce the band before plowing into more material.

For the second half, Daltrey wanted to sing some harmonies, so he enlisted the rest of the band to help out on “I Can See For Miles,” “The Kids Are Alright” and a side trip through Americana with “Gimme A Stone” and a Johnny Cash medley.

Although Daltrey’s voice isn’t as strong today, in many ways he’s a better vocalist. Improved phrasing and delicate attention to nuance make Daltrey more expressive than ever. This isn’t to say he doesn’t sing with authority. “Eyesight to the Blind” featured a tough blues growl, while “Smash the Mirror” and “Young Man Blues” were as forceful as the original Who recordings.

In an evening filled with highlights, the best moment was a potent reading of “Young Man Blues,” which featured Daltrey’s signature microphone twirling and incorporated the Who rarity “Water.” The immortal “Baba O’Riley” concluded a generous set that ran well over two hours.

Setlist: Tommy – Overture; It’s a Boy; 1921; Amazing Journey; Sparks; Eyesight to the Blind; Christmas; Cousin Kevin; Acid Queen; Do You Think It’s Alright?; Fiddle About; Pinball Wizard; There’s a Doctor; Go to the Mirror; Tommy Can You Hear Me?; Smash the Mirror; Sensation; Miracle Cure; Sally Simpson; I’m Free; Welcome; Tommy’s Holiday Camp; We’re Not Gonna Take It. Band introductions. I Can See For Miles; The Kids Are Alright; Behind Blue Eyes; Days of Light; Gimme A Stone; Going Mobile; Johnny Cash Medley; Who Are You; Young Man Blues (including Water); Baba O’Riley.

Additional thoughts:

The Star didn’t give me many words for this review, so here are some other thoughts that didn’t make the cut.

  • The set was cut short by a couple songs. Most shows ended with “Without Your Love” and “Blue Red and Grey.” It was clear after “Baba O’Riley” that the spirit was willing, but the throat was weak. Still, it’s hard to complain about an evening packed with more than two hours of classic material.
  • Filling standing room with folding chairs near the stage is usually the kiss of death for a performance  – most fans would rather sit than stand. But the crowd in the pricey seats on the floor stood and cheered for most of the night, a refreshing change of pace.
  • The first time I set foot inside the Midland Theater was when the touring version of the Broadway version of “Tommy” swung through town in the early ’90s. I was in high school at the time. Nearly 20 years later it was nice to come full circle.

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(Above: Metric roar through “Dead Disco” in their native Toronto.)

By Joel Francis

It’s hard not to be impressed by the Midland Theater. The opulent 3,500-seat venue has hosted scores of acclaimed performances in its 82-year history. Both Spoon and the Bravery commented on the austere surroundings during their sets at the annual “The Night the Buzz Stole Christmas” concert on Thursday night. And why not? The grand old venue was both more stately and spacious than the clubs and outdoor festivals they were accustomed to playing.

Emily Haines, the vibrant front woman for the indie pop quartet Metric, however, did not comment on the hall; she owned it. Overcoming an unkind mix and unfamiliar audience, Haines commanded the stage and the band slowly won over the crowd with its merger of ‘80s pop, dance, industrial and indie rock.

Filled by the swirling synthesizers of opening number “Twilight Galaxy,” the Midland felt more like a basement club than a cavernous theater. Metric is much edgier in concert and they put it to good use. Haines strapped on an electric guitar for “Help I’m Alive” and locked eyes with guitarist James Shaw while he peeled off a solo that recalled Mike Campbell’s on “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” “Dead Disco,” the lone number not drawn from “Fantasies,” the ensemble’s celebrated new release. Packed with several crescendos, it was an industrial barrage that felt like a Nine Inch Nails outtake.

The first half of the 40-minute set felt like a teaser for the second. Haines prefaced “Gimme Sympathy,” a song that revives the age-old debate over the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with part of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My.” The performance drew a spirited response from the crowd. Metric seized on this newfound attention by segueing into the spiky “Sick Muse,” which drew even more cheers and hands in the air.

By the time Haines roared into “Stadium Love,” it felt like the band was ready to play Arrowhead. Although Metric headlined the much smaller Granada Theater six months ago, and couldn’t command a crowd this size on their own – the band was second on the “Buzz” bill of four acts – they’ll get there soon enough. And when they do, they’ll be ready for it.

Setlist: Twilight Galaxy, Help I’m Alive, Gold Guns Girls, Gimme Sympathy > Sick Muse > Dead Disco, Stadium Love

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Above: The Rev. Al Green brings “Love and Happiness.”

By Joel Francis

After barely over an hour onstage, Al Green said goodnight, grabbed a small black duffle bag and exited. The gesture was symbolic of the evening: the bags were packed and he was ready to go.

Saturday’s concert at the Midland Theater was the final stop on Green’s eight-month tour that took him across America and around Europe; he was anxious to get home.

“Two month is a long time,” he said. “Even a preacher can’t go that long.”

That might explain the truncated set – 77 minutes, with no encore – and why it always felt like Green had one foot off the stage.

For the most part, Green let his 13-piece band and the audience do most of the heavy lifting. After introducing the first couple lines, Green was all too happy to let the audience take over his songs. Beaming from ear to ear, he was content to scat guide vocals over the crowd’s singing and hand roses to women in the front rows.

Green Hovered like a cloud over the numbers, dipping in just long enough to let out a scream or prove the health of his pipes. When he fully immersed himself in a song, the result was even better than his allusions. During “Tired of Being Alone” Green dropped to his knees and uncurled a falsetto that raised goose bumps. He poured his heart into “Amazing Grace” and came alive during a medley of Motown and Stax numbers that inspired him as a boy.

It would be easy to assume Green was simply bored with his repertoire if he wasn’t so perpetually joyous. After overcoming some early monitor problems, Green chatted effusively to the crowd, healing the Kansas/Missouri divide, telling stories from the tour and preaching a little gospel. Since Green had tossed “Let’s Stay Together” out a half-hour into the night, he closed with his next-biggest song, “Love and Happiness.” At end the band vamped over the groove, stretching the number out as Green thanked his crowd again and again, but the effect didn’t work – it was still too soon for him to leave.

With the premium seats going for $70, the evening cost about a dollar per minute after service fees. While there are worse ways to spend a night out, there wasn’t enough of the man whose name was printed on the ticket to justify the price.

Setlist: I Can’t Stop; Let’s Get Married; Lay It Down; Stay With Me (By the Sea); Everything’s Gonna Be Alright; Amazing Grace/Nearer My God To Thee; Let’s Stay Together; Medley: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart / Here I Am (Come and Take Me) / I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) / My Girl / Bring It On Home to Me /(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay / You Are Everything); Tired of Being Alone; I’m Still In Love With You; Simply Beautiful; Love and Happiness

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