Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dandy Delaware

I had, in part, decided to go to the Delaware show because Delaware was one of the few remaining states that I had never visited. I had also thought that I might get hubby to come out east for a few days. He is a history buff and Maryland and Delaware are chock full of early American history treats.
Well, the trip with hubby did not work out, but I did get to check another state off my list, flying into Baltimore and renting a car for the drive. Delaware was a surprise, at least the parts I saw. Even flatter than Iowa, but curving roads rather than Iowa's more systematic  checkerboard grid of county and state roads. And lots of cornfields just like home!! But in Delaware those fields were not fenced and the corn was planted almost up to the roadway whereas the fields in Iowa are set back 20-30 feet (no space to waste, I guess, in tiny Delaware). More variety and more incorporation was obvious in the Maryland countryside before I finally hit the Delaware state line.

The state fair appeared to be pretty much in the middle of nowhere, in a small rural town. I was pleased to find my motel was right across the street from the fair. I explored the fair a bit and had a "Chesapeake Bay brat" flavored with crabmeat and Old Bay's seasoning before going into the show. My seat, although on the track rather than back in the grandstands, was not the best, so I knew it would not be a good night for photos and videos (too far away with too many heads and waving arms in from of me). But it was a perfect night weather wise, so I just sat back to soak in some KU.

This was my first time seeing Brett Eldredge and I was quite impressed. Good looking and so energetic, with some great songs, I'm sure he is going to win the hearts of the fans this tour and head right to the top like Jake Owen did after touring with Keith. He has a 30 minute set, singing 8 of his songs and a bit of a Frank Sinatra song as well! :  )

Keith's setlist was somewhat different than in Atlantic City, and some of the staging had changed as well. I was happy that we saw more of Keith and the band on the video screens rather than abstract lighting effects. It appears that skinny assorted teeshirts are the "garb-de-tour" this time around. Tonight Keith wore a "Willie" teeshirt with a deep cut v-neck and form-fitting jeans that had almost a sharkskin-like sheen to them. He is obviously letting his short haircut grow out this summer. 

The lineup was:
Love's Poster Child 
Sweet Thing with a lovely extended guitar solo and comments on how beautiful the night was
In My Car ( the audience only seemed to know a little bit of the lyrics of this one, so kind of petered out when Keith turned over a chorus to them)
Only You

Then, chatting with the audience, Keith said it was so nice to be back in Delaware. "Its been a long time - the last time was in 2003! Larry the Cable Guy opened for us. Actually, we were closing for Larry…"  He read a few signs. One said something like "I look good in your shirt.: Keith laughed and said "I'll take your word for that." Another said " We raise 'em up to love KU" and Keith thanked them. Another said something about Keith being their lucky charm. "I'm a breakfast cereal?!" Keith joked.
For a change he not only asked the audience if they were doing alright and feeling good, He then asked the band  if they were doing alright - were they in a good mood? And then he commented that there was a lot of strange texting going on last night! (maybe the guys were out partying and doing a little 'drunk-texting'?)

Long Hot Summer
Even the Stars (no animation or crazy fonts this tour)
Good Thing
Kiss a Girl
Who Wouldn'tWanna Be Me - with the highlight of Brian, Danny and Jerry joining Keith at a single microphone to form a great quartet for the final chorus. Fantastic!

Then a change-up: I'm In   (I hope Keith keeps changing things to surprise us!)
Stupid Boy
Little Bit of Everything, with Keith using his silly deep voice for "a little bit of dirt on my hands"
Then out into the audience for Day Go By, with Keith telling them "I asked how do we get closer to Delaware? ……I'll go out to you!"
He also did You look Good in My Shirt out there,  signing and gifting a guitar as usual

Back on stage again, we heard:
Cop Car
You're Gonna Fly
Put You in a Song

Tonight's little bit of cover was She Looks So Perfect from the band 3 Seconds of Summer:
You look so perfect standing there
In my American Apparel underwear
And I know now, that I'm so down
Your lipstick stain is a work of art
I got your name tattooed in an arrow heart
And I know now, that I'm so down (hey!)
A yeah-yeah echo round with the audience followed, then the first 'thank you" and stage exit.

The encore, again, was a bit longer than usual: 4 songs.
Making Memories of Us
Tonight I Wanna Cry on the acoustic guitar
Better Life with a special closing: Brian, Danny, Jerry and Keith all lined up at the front of the stage, rocking it out.  Keith yelled "Gonna have a hoedown now!  Brian had a bit of a banjo solo, but the other guys were not single out. It was a fun ending, a little bit like the band jam that opened the shows of the last tour.
Somebody Like You with a couple "Happy Birthday" shout-outs in the middle (in response to signs I imagine). Keith did brief introductions of the guys during that rhythmic interlude before the final ending of SLY, as well as a bit of the INXS song What You Need.

Keith thanked the audience for being in such good spirits and for giving them so much love. He also thanked everyone for choosing to come to this concert and for staying to the very end.

The newt day I headed to the Delaware coast, to see that part of the state and lunched on the boardwalk/beach in Rehoboth. On the curvy small roads of Deleware it took a few hours to drive back to Baltimore for my flight the next morning. I had a late dinner in a very popular Baltimore seafood restaurant called G & M even though I had to wait 45 minutes to be seated.

Last summer I made the drive from Maryland to western New York but found the drive through Pennsylvania to be the pits. So this year I was flying

 Raise 'Em Up Beginning at the Borgata 

A busy spring semester left me with no time for "All For the Hall" or other KU opportunities, so it has been nearly 8 months since I "shared a room" with Keith. Too long! So I was extra excited to head out to the opening show for his "Raise 'Em Up" tour at the Borgata Casino in NJ. The last time Keith played there I couldn't even get into their website to buy a ticket, but this time things went more smoothly. Though not physically up to "General Admission/Pit", I was able to score just about as good a seat as possible in that venue (5th row of the shallow risers).

I flew into Philadelphia and rented a car to make the 65 minute drive to the Borgata. I decided to drive straight to the casino, which turned out to be a good decision, even though I had no time to, as Springsteen sings " Put my makeup on and fix my hair up pretty, for my night on the town in Atlantic City". There was a fairly long line at the Borgata Box Office to pick up Will Call tickets, leaving me just enough time for cocktails and dinner before the show. The Borgata is not nearly as impressive as the Mohegan Sun but did have a few restaurants that appealed to my chef-y side. Unfortunately some were closed on Thursdays (??? Isn't Thursday the start of a long weekend?). And Geoffrey Zakarian (Iron Chef and Chopped judge) only does cooking demos there on Saturdays. But the bartender at the Long Bar (where I enjoyed a Black Martini and an Agave Punch) assured me that Bobby Flay's Steakhouse would be open even though theYelp website showed it as closed. Since my short visit wouldn't allow any further exploration of the boardwalk or coast, I thought at least a special meal was in order. I have a mixed review of my dinner - the waitstaff was very nice and attentive and my Halibut With White Clam Sauce and Parsley Pesto was to die for, but my appetizer of "Fried Lobster and Calamari Salad" was overcooked and not a salad at all. But I enjoyed the environs and experience and was glad I had arrived when they opened their doors for the evening, since there were probably 30 people waiting for tables in the jam packed restaurant when I left.

Show time!! The Borgata was very low-key in terms of security compared to the Mohegan Sun and many other concert venues. We were welcomed up the long escalators to the Event Center and only a ticket scan and application of a black light hand stamp (to allow us to go in and out of the concert without worrying about having our tickets checked again) were required. No handbag check or body frisk and little visible security inside the venue.

I'm always interested in the particular features of each new venue I visit, noting the pros and cons for future reference. The Borgata's performance space for the concert was unique: their grand ballroom! As such, it was relatively small compared to many arenas and outdoor amphitheatres, and, at max, holds about 3000. The ballroom did have a built in performance stage. The rest of the large room was basically divided about in half, with the front half being  a LARGE general admissions area and the rear set up with some shallow temporary risers with quite comfortable padded theatre type chairs. In the fifth row I was probably level with the stage and just high enough to see over the heads of those standing on the floor. By the time that Keith came on, the general admissions area was packed although I don't know why anyone would choose GA if they were going to be standing far away from the stage. This was much more than the usual "pit".

I'm afraid I was not a fan of most of the "before show" soundtrack - mostly rap and loud hip hop to my ear and little that you could sing along with. Not a country song in the mix unless they played one while I was out in the lobby, and it seemed to go on forever (maybe there was some hold up backstage because Keith did not come on until several minutes after 9:00, a good 35 minutes or more after the openers left the stage and 15-20 minutes after all the stagehands had finished setting up. I was also not too excited with the opening band (The Cadillac Three), especially since I was thinking that Brett Eldredge would be at all the Raise 'Em Up shows. I think that TCT (as their stage lights refer to the band) was too loud, a little crass and too indistinct in their lyrics for those not familiar with their music. Really looking forward to Brett!!

I hadn't read any reviews of the couple Canada stops, so the USA debut of the Raise 'Em Up Tour was a total surprise to me. Keith started with a bang, really surprising me with Love's Poster Child as the opener!! Hearing a song live for the first time is always exciting, and I had that opportunity several times during the night. 

The new staging, although often attractive, was a bit disappointing to a long time fan like me.
The centerpiece of the stage are banks of cube shaped lights above and behind the band, kind of like you are looking at a 7 X 7 rubik's cube. They are colorful and changeable, but they are not Keith or the guys! To me there was a distinct decrease in the display of Keith and the band on the video screens and too much light display and abstract graphic backgrounds.
Much of the show you could only watch Keith on the smaller video screens on either side of the main stage (probably the venue's own screens) while there was something more abstract or fancy lighting display on Keith's video wall. Some songs (like Love's Poster Child) were backed by more interesting images, but not all. Perhaps the decrease in the shots of Keith and the band were intentional and temporary - they did seem to be having some technical difficulties with the video suddenly freezing, often at a visually inopportune moment - so maybe that will change in the future..

The setlist in Atlantic City surprised me several times, which is always fun. First off, I never expected the show to open with Love's Poster Child, but this rocking song did get the audience going, that's for sure. Then Sweet Thing, followed by Somewhere in My Car and an oh so sweet Only You, with a special descending run of "only you, only you, only you, only you" before one chorus. 

Keith greeted the crowd with "Good evening New Jersey! Its happening out here tonight!"
Someone shouted "I love you Keith" and he immediately shouted "I love you too" back, but then followed that with "And that was a guy!" He read several signs, saying "You want me to put you in a song", and another one about raise 'em up, but then settled on one that asked him to pick a couple's wedding song. Keith brought the couple up on stage and asked about their upcoming wedding. He was tickled when the guy did remember it would be June 12, 2015 in Long Island. When Keith asked what song they would want played if the band were to show up - suggesting maybe "Another One Bites the Dust by Queen" (LOL). The gal said she wanted Keith to pick the song, the guy then offered "Her favorite is Everything". So Keith called for an acoustic guitar and sang Everything to them on stage. The couple began to dance on stage so Keith added "this is your very first (wedding) dance!" and ad libbed in the song "The sun coming up in Kyle's eyes" and "She's gonna be your everything!" and added "you'f better get a bigger place to hold the wedding because we are all coming...."  Keith commented "I can't believe I knew all the words to that songs - I haven't sung it in years!"
(2 years - he sang it in Bangor Maine in 2012..). 

Then: Long Hot Summer
Even the Stars Fall For You
Then another surprise (to me): Shame on Me (which I just didn't expect in concert)
Kiss a Girl
Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me

And another happy surprise: Used to the Pain!!
Stupid Boy
Then (yay!!) Come Back to Me
Little Bit of Everything

A short trip into the General Admission audience for Days Go By and You Look Good in My Shirt.

Back on stage for Cop Car.
You Gonna Fly
Put You in a Song with a bit of an echo round with the audience
And then another somewhat confusing surprise - Keith thanked the audience and they left the stage barely 75 minutes afte the start of the show. I couldn't believe PYIAS was the closer! After about 2-3 minutes they returned to the stage with an extra long encore. (I don't know why this change in timing?):

Making Memories ("Special request by Nicole and Anthony, wherever you are out there")

Started a song but then responded to a couple who shouted they just got engaged. Keith congratulated them, took a photo with them (telling the audience to talk among themselves) (But Keith seemed a bit skeptical, then saying "And someone's having a baby over here!" LOL Turns out the next song was a surprise tribute to our New Jersey location:  Springsteen's I'm on Fire. Keith was very impressed by how strongly the New Jersey audience joined in on this song.

Better Life. At the end he had us sing a little quieter and a little quieter, before the big finish.
And it was a special finish, with Brian, Danny, Keith and Jerry all lined up at the front of the stage, with brief banjo, guitar and bass contributions and Keith ending with "We're gonna build It up, gonna build it up, gonna build it up!" to the song's crescendo.

Good Thing

Somebody Like You   Something cracked Keith up so we got a big laugh in the midst of the first line, then one of his 'wild bird calls' after the first verse and a verse from What You Need by INXS (I thought he also included a bit of another song, familiar, but I couldn't name it). Keith did brief introductions of the guys, complimenting Jerry's "cool hat" but then adding that it looked cool on Jerry but would not look good on him.

Finally Keith brought out Jeran Johnston from the opening band because he also helped write Raise 'Em Up so deserved to partner up on this closing song.

Keith gave thanks to everyone who traveled to get to the show and to their hard-working road crew. He also mentioned that this was the first show of the summer tour and he hoped he's get to see some of us somewhere else. (You will Keith!)

I'm having technical difficulties with my cameras, so can't currently open my videos, but I notice one fellow posted almost the whole Atlantic City show on Youtube, with much better videos than I could get from my seat.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Deep in the Heart of Dallas, TX

With me and my audiobook, the drive from Houston to Dallas went smoothly. Seems to me I've made that drive once before when Keith played the Houston Rodeo one night and then a special private House of Blues show in Dallas the next night.

I had looked up possible stops on the Roadfood website and ended up at a very interesting one in Huntsville, TX where the little New Zion Missionary Baptist Church operates a little Texas BBQ out of a rather ramshackle building next to the church. I figured I should have some good BBQ and also ordered a slice of old fashioned buttermilk pie. I chowed down on the ribs right away but couldn't finish all the brisket, so had a 'doggy bag' to take with me.

The Dallas venue was close to the Dallas fairgrounds and was quite large. I was back up in the upper tier tonight so pretty much all my videoclips had to be shot from the video screens. I was happy to see that Keith's video wall was back in commission (or they had a spare wall sent down from Nashville?) because tonight I was going to depend on the video screens.

After the first four songs, Keith greeted and joked with the audience, having fun with his spotlight.
Then he read a few signs and brought one gal, who had a sign like one of those Mastercard "priceless" commercials (Something like: Bought a ticket- check, Drove 5 hours - check, All for the Hall- check, Getting a hug from Keith - Priceless") up on stage. After chatting with her and giving her a hug, Keith asked where her man was and did he want to come up and take a photo of them. As the guy came up and they prepared for the photo, Keith told the audience "Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: Dueling banjos only had one banjo - discuss!" : ) Before the photo the gal must have asked Keith to sign her concert teeshirt (which she was carrying, not wearing) - but to have a solid surface to allow him to write on it, Keith had to kind of place the shirt on her shoulder/upper chest, mulling to himself "What must this look like? And her man is standing right behind me...." Because it was taking some time he also joked about what he was writing "We the people.... Four score and seven years ago..."

When that couple left stage and Keith was about to go on, he seemed to remember that something else was up that night and asked "Where's Josh?" He explained "I don't know Josh, I've never met Josh, but his friend slipped me a note at the meet and greet tonight. Josh and his girlfriend were conveniently located in the pit and Keith brought them up and then stepped back. Apparently Josh had asked for permission to propose marriage on stage! Josh pulls out a sheet of notes of what he wants to say. He was a bit nervous and soft spoken, so it was hard to catch all of it, but he had pieced together lots of Keith's lyrics to create his proposal. It did go on a bit and in the background eventually Keith starts making "come on, wrap it up" gestures (Josh was oblivious) annd eventually Keith creeps over and tugs on Josh's leg to make him get down on one knee and finish up. Her girlfriend gave Josh a big "yes"hug and Keith said "oh my God I'm glad she said yes!" He proceeded to question her: "When is the wedding? Can we all come? and says "Next Friday is good for me." (hee hee) She actually jumped on that offer (but in fact Keith is in St. Louis Friday). He asked them where they were from (Cameron, TX) and wished them wedded bliss and God's blessings.

For You was in the setlist again tonight (after Without You).  When Keith, Jerry and Chris went out to the small stage, we got a little bonus: First a few lines from ZZ Top's song Tush that mentions Dallas:

I been bad, I been good,
Dallas, Texas, Hollywood.
I been bad, I been good,
Dallas, Texas, Hollywood.

This was followed by a few lines of Deep in the Heart of Texas. [url][/url]
 During tonight's Once in a lifetime Keith made yet another little lyric change to: "Then the first ones born, then a sister comes along, and she's got your curly hair."  

Keith asked the audience to light up their cells for Tonight I Wanna Cry [url][/url]

My one closer view of the evening was oh so brief. Keith did come out to the end of my row for You Look Good in My Shirt. But almost as soon as this happen the crowd that rushed up, with their phone and camera arms raised up high, pretty much totally blocked my view : (

Maybe because tonight they did not need to rush off so quickly to another venue, Keith stayed quite a while not only shaking hands but also signing lots of autographs- so generous with his fans!

Once again I had searched for "late night dining in east Dallas" for a post-concert dinner. I have to say I was amazed at the lack of fast food, strip malls, or restaurants along the route my GPS took me. But I finally ended up at a place called Mexico Lindo that was packed at midnight. I knew Texas had good Mexican food and this place offered the full Hispanic experience! In this crowded restaurant with menus in Spanish I was the only gringo, surrounded by families - some with babies or kids, some with grandmas - as well as a long table of young ladies dressed in their finest for what looked like a "swwet sixteen" birthday party, while much of the rest of the patrons were fully engaged in Karaoke night (all in Spanish of course). I don't speak Spanish but I recognized enough on the menu to order my Carne Asada and thoroughly enjoyed my cultural immersion.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Under a ROOF in Houston!

The ride from Austin to Houston was mostly pleasant, although I am not used to  very commercial roads like Bob White Road in Austin, with business driveways every 30 feet, having speed limits of 70 mph!  I did not enjoy the superhighway traffic once I got close to Houston itself. I made a late lunch stop at a Captain Benny's Seafood for the fresh gulf oysters I so love,then on to the very pretty, wooded community of The Woodlands north of Houston proper.

I checked into my hotel and had time for a little nap, but was very worried when, at about 5:00, it started to rain quite hard. Oh no - not again I thought! But the rain abated and happily this venue did have a nice tented roof over reserve seating. My seat was close to the stage but not as centrally located as the one I was supposed to enjoy Keith from in Austin. I was in front of the right hand speakers and security was nice enough to hand out packs of earplugs to any of us who wanted them. Unfortunately because I was off to the side, my audios are a bit unbalanced.

Here is Little Big Town's Where the Pavement Ends

Here is the opening instrumental:  Love the way Keith moves (and also Jerry's entrance).

Once again, although I was close enough to have a good view during Stupid Boy, within seconds of the start of the guitar solo that stupid fog totally hid Keith - he might as well been playing backstage for all that we could see! Cut it out guys! We've had enough of "disappearing Keith"!! Let us watch the master!

Disappearing Keith

Here's Little Bit of Everything

I noticed before Keith came out that the silvery curtain was missing, and sure enough - as he dove into Long Hot Summer the big reveal of the video wall did not occur. Apparently the Austin storm had taken its toll on Keith's equipment. The venue did have decent sized side screens, but they were no match for Keith's usual high def video screens. When it came time for him to chat with the audience he explained that they "were supposed to play in Austin last night (lots of boos from the crowd - must be some competition between the big cities) but a horrendous storm took out our behemoth video wall which would have been back there (gesturing to the back of the stage). " But we are going to play as if our life depended on it!"

Keith was in a goofy mood it seemed. He asked us "By a round of applause, who has seen us before, and (without pausing) who hasn't?" Of course everyone applauded. "That's good," said Keith - "That's just about everyone!"  "Call the babysitter 'cause we are going to me here awhile! (cheers!) "We have two shows worth in us!"

Although Keith didn't really read signs, he did interact with the audience. One gals shouted an "I love you" and Keith gave the usual "I love you too but I don't even know you," but then continued. "You husband is looking very perplexed." (pause) " No, now he is blowing kisses too. Lots of love in Houston!"

Someone then handed Keith a big bouquet of flowers. After thanking her Keith said "I feel like a ballet dancer!"

We did get an extra song following Without You: Keith surprised us with a rousing performance of For You.  For the last few shows Little Big Town has been dedicating a song to the men and women serving our country (their song Self-Made) so amybe Keith decided it was time for him to do so as well.
And I found that I enjoyed "Even the Stars Fall For You" more without the video lyrics running behind Keith. Here is the portion of You Gonna Fly that Keith did down at my end of the stage:

When I entered the venue I noticed tonight's satellite stage was set quite high (maybe 9 feet in the air) so the audience won't be bodysurfing up to see Keith : )  Out on this stage Keith gave this audience another bonus in the midst of Once in a Lifetime - a few lines of Deep in the Heart of Texas!
He also followed that with the proclamation "Houston we have NO problems!" Tonight in OIAL he switched the lyrics to "Then the first ones born, and a sister comes along, and she's got your long legs."

 : )

We got a nice backbend after Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me and Keith collapsed and played from flat on his back after Somebody Like You. The encore included a chorus of But For the Grace of God.
Keith slapped hands long after the other guys had left the stage. Tonight it was a very happy crowd leaving the venue.

I had a hard time finding late night dining in the Woodlands and finally ended up at Denny's for an uninspired snack. But it was kind of fun listening in on the conversation of a concert security person
sitting at the table next to me. He was going on and on about Keith going right out in the audience for these long walks with barely any security.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Highs and Lows of the Concert That Wasn't

Wow, I hit both ends of the mood scale multiple times in Austin. I went straight from the airport to the venue - just a short ride on an 80 mph (!!!) highway and then experienced my first low as I prepared to go to the will call window for my meet and greet envelope. I happened to look at my paperless ticket receipt and OMG the credit card digits were unfamiliar!! I had used my TJ Maxx Mastercard for previous paperless tickets, but those numbers did not match. I searched my wallet for matching numbers - I had several cards with me - but none matched! Would I be missing both my meet and greet and the show after traveling all this way??? Panic!

Happily, with photo ID, my receipt, and several other cards with my name, Will Call said they were allowed to re-issue the ticket 30 minutes before showtime. What a relief. But now there was a huge line waiting for the gates to open and I had only 15 minutes to make it to the  meet and greet location - a new panic set in. I asked security if there was a special entrance or "go to the head of the line" for  meet and greet people, but no go. I waited nervously for the line to advance and then booked as fast as my old knees would go the long distance (1/2 mile or more) from the entrance to the stage. Made it just as staff was beginning to organize the group!! So now I was on that giddy pre-meet and greet high. All of us were fanning ourselves like crazy in the heat, hoping not to be hot sweaty messes when we met the man.

Keith was a little tardy but we patiently (well, impatiently actually) waited for his appearance. He arrived looking oh so fine in an olive green safari-style shirt. They nicely had divided the  meet and greet crowd in small groups and the Ville members went first. I was with 2 Texas gals. We entered the dimly lit black tent (I was last). Keith greeted each of us individually with a hug : ) . I introduced myself as Linda from Iowa and Keith made my spirits soar a second time when he said " I KNOW you Linda from Iowa!" I took the opportunity to poke fun at him: "Texas in August!??" I asked. "You Southern Aussies must love the heat!!" Keith replied " Or I must have a death wish..." He asked the others where they were from. One gal replied "Mercedes" and Keith, the car buff, asked "Is there really a place called Mercedes?". The other gal was from San Antonio. He then scooped me into his left arm for the photo, looking at me and saying "I'm so glad you came baby," and reached around the Texas gals with his right arm. They snapped 2 shots and then, all too soon, it was over. I must have walked out in a daze because one of his staffers ran down the ramp after me, asking "Don't you want a bracelet?" (the souvenir).

As I went to my seat I kind of I looked around with a bit of a sinking feeling. There was NO roof over reserved seating at this venue, it was sweltering hot and several hours until sunset! (Little did I know I would be cursing the absence of the roof long after than). The video screens carried warnings to drink lots of water, don't wait until you're thirsty, and drink a water after every alcoholic beverage.    But shortly my mood boosted quite a bit. Every venue numbers their sections differently. I had been to a few where sections 1,2, and 3 are up front by the stage and 4-8 or 9 are the upper tier sections. I thought I was in 4 and it would be another "upper tier" far from stage night. But no, I was in F4 which meant floor 4 (just behind the pit), 6th row.Much better seats than I thought I had ! I would have a great view of Keith!! (Little did I know again that that view would never materialize : (  )

I did have a great view of Dustin and Little Big Town. Little Big Town was great as usual. But Midway in LBT's set it began to drizzle (ah that's refreshing!), and then rain (oh, that's cold rain!). When they left stage the video screens suddenly showed a warning that a serious electrical storm was heading for us and we needed to evacuate the premises for our safety. They were essentially going to 'cattle herd' several thousand people (13,000?) about 3/4 of a mile in the rain to their "garages" for their formula 1 racetrack.  They got a lot of resistance, and people try to hide away in the nearby washroom buildings, but they kept prodding the crowd along. I made it the half mile back to the park entrance but could see the garages were still distant and would require going down (and later up) a substantial hill. I didn't think I could handle that trek so I and quite a few others who had cars in the closest lots retreated to our cars for the duration (they opened all the gates and allowed this in this emergency). And it was a SUBSTANTIAL storm - lightening, torrential rain blowing sideways in winds that rocked my Chevy even though I was parked between other cars. It raged for a good 30-45 minutes. At 10 it had lightened to drizzle and we heard they would resume the show at 10:30. So the masses of people started making the long hike back (some actually "mooing" in this herd) but we were held out of reserved seating for quite a while. When we finally got close enough to see the stage I could see dozens of crew members squeegeeing waves of water off the stage, lifting dripping cables, looking sadly at equipment. The video screens showed only a few random dots of light. We waited another 15 minutes and then the manager gave us the sad news that the lights, the sound and production systems had been taken out by the storm and there was no way to resume the show. We were told to watch their website for info on how they'll handle this.

So it was another very sad hike out of the arena by thousands of disappointed fans. It didn't quite match the sadness experienced by those of us at the Mohegan Sun venue when Keith's performances there were canceled because Keith had entered rehab, but still very sad.

But the evening did not, thankfully, end with that 'funeral dirge' march back to my car. Earlier in the day I had looked up "late night restaurants" on that side of Austin, so I punched an address into my GPS and ended up at a really delightful place called Justine's Brasserie. Brightly lit with festive bulbs and nice outside tables, I chose to dry off at an inside table in this funky, somewhat French - looking place, which was just hopping with diners at midnight on a Thursday night. I had wonderful chef specials. I am definitely a foodie and Top Chef fan and loved my cabbage and radish salad with bacon viniagrette, blackberries and charred shishito (sp?) peppers, my grilled mackeral on a bed of bok choi and spring onions, and my grapefruit curd, grapefruit, shortbread, and ice cream dessert, making me feel oh so much better. Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"Going Back to Massachusetts"

Daughter Jen went for a run before we began our trip east towards Massachusetts. She warned me that Interstate 90 is pretty boring. But we did stop in Albany and shared a sampler of craft beers at the Albany Pump Station (my kids are all into craft beer so I have been trying to learn a little about them even though I am not much of a beer drinker). And then we paused in Worcester for an early supper at the Armsby Abbey . It was a beautiful day so we sat out at one of their sidewalk tables and I had fun trying their "top chef"- like dishes.

Our seats at the Comcast were a little bit better than the night before. We were still in the upper tier of seats but in the center and not as far away from the stage. But we were in the center of a very long row of about 40 seats, so I knew I would be staying put this evening.

When Keith came out he raved about how perfect a night it was and joked that they should open the roof. When he greeted each section of the audience he got out his big spotlight to take a look at the lawn crowd. Now that spotlit view that they show us on the big screens is complete with "binocular-like" views. Tonight Keith then turned the spotlight on Danny and asked him how he was doing : )  He said it was far too long since they played Boston and then gave a birthday shout-out to Carol and told her Al loved her - Al's crazy about you. Keith then went into his best Boston accent when imitating Al's warning before the show "Don't forget that happy birthday now or I'll come kick your ass!" " I didn't forget Al, so don't kick my ass Al!" hee hee       Keith went on to talk about how some performers liked the audience to be polite, courteous, well-mannered, well-behaved. This is NOT one of those concerts." As soon as he said that a red bra flew up on stage. Keith scooped it up with the neck of his guitar and went on: "I personally implore you to be as uncouth and unruly as this bra." (cheers from the audience) "   "Gives a whole new meaning to Boston strong now. I was going to ask who threw this up, but you guys are going to figure that out pretty soon. Oh God" and shakes the bra off his guitar with a funny grimace.

 Since we were in the upper level center section the second stage was not too far behind us. I thought we might have a decent rear view from our seats when Keith went out there. But I forgot about the basic physics of such a venue. When everyone stands up,  the audience behind you almost totally blocks your view of things that are higher up in the arena, so I ended up watching on the big screen. 
I don't think I've mentioned before that lately Keith has been switching up Once in a Lifetime, singing
"A sister comes along and she's got your smile" or tonight it was "and she's got your face, your pretty face"

I'm enjoying Little Bit of Everything. I wasn't very close, but here's the great extended guitar play that follows that song

Maybe I'm crazy, but tonight to me it seemed like Keith changed the settings on his guitar for Without You. It seemed to have a fuller, almost steel guitar like sound. Maybe it was just my center position this time... Here is my video      but actually someone else's captured the beautiful guitar introduction with much better sound.

After several complex 'echo rounds' with the audience Keith has brought back that exceptionally long, complicated, almost African sounding, impossible-to-echo excerpt and is tickled when the audience still tries to provide some echo.

When Keith returned to the stage for the encore he was wearing a bright orange Boston Strong shirt and yelled out " Boston Strong!". He then treated us to a verse of the old Bee Gees tune Massachusetts  before going into Tonight I Wanna Cry. He again suggested the audience light up their cells to give a firefly like lighting of the arena.

As he left stage he tossed out not only his wristbands, but also stripped off the orange shirt and tossed it out as well. Someone will truly be looking good in his shirt (well, at least as good as you can look in a giant orange shirt : )

Keith at Canandaigua

I hung around in Columbia, MD Friday morning until I thought the Baltimore rush hour would be over, then headed towards central New York. Driving north through Pennsylvania was the pits - heavy traffic, lots of roadwork, and a mighty rainstorm, so I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally hit Syracuse. I was going to rendezvous with my daughter Jen who had driven over from Providence. She had lived in Syracuse a couple years, so was happy to wait for me in her favorite pub Kitty Hoynes, where I had a bite to eat before we drove west to the CMAC in Canandaigua.

We were surprised to discover the CMAC was on the campus of a community college! Sadly our fan club presale seats were pretty bad - we were in the upper level (about 60 rows from stage) and way at the edge. We wouldn't be seeing much "live Keith" and the CMAC has no side video screens - just one puny little screen up on the rear ceiling to supplement Keith's screens on stage. Of course we still enjoyed the music but I felt like I was almost out on the lawn!

I understand no pit tickets had been sold for the CMAC concert but in his first song Keith made it clear that he welcomed fans down front - the hell with security! I don't know what the experience was in other areas of this venue, but Jen and I thought the sound there was much poorer than elsewhere. We couldn't hear Dustin's lyrics at all and had trouble catching many of Keith's comments.

My one chance for a closer view was to head to the satellite stage at the appropriate time, and Jen followed me. Well, this audience anticipated Keith's trip out and even before Kiss a Girl was over a large crowd had gathered at the base of the second stage. I've been in many of these second stage crowds over the years and know that being squished and pushed by excited fans is par for the course. But poor Jen was appalled and, although she is half my size, she kept trying to fend off those behind and on either side of her mom, worried that I might get hurt. She was so protective - I think Keith could hire her to assist on his walks through the crowds! : ) Frankly, this NY crowd was the worst that I have been in, with some of the fans getting rather brutal, forcefully elbowing and shoving through those in closer positions like a football players trying to take the ball that final yard!! For the first time I was actually worried we were going to have injuries or have someone fall and get trampled by these idiots who would do anything to anyone to get to Keith. One woman actually climbed on top of the tightly packed crowd and tried to body surf over their heads to Keith! My 'bulldog' Jen did not allow her to climb on top of me and she finally got down.

This physical assault at the small stage was, unfortunately, not rewarded by being able to hear Keith's performance there. I could see him but much of the time could not hear him even though I was just 4-5 feet away. There were no speakers near the small stage itself so Keith's microphone did us little good. In my videoclips you can hear Chris banging on his drums but they are almost "silent" videos as far as Keith is concerned. What a shame there wasn't better sound.

Won't Get Fooled Again
Days Go By
Keith Rocking to Jerry's song
Once in a Lifetime

Besides what I tried to capture at the small stage I really had few video opportunities from our distant seats. I do have one brief bad angle shot of Keith's interaction with the little girl whose sign asked Keith to put her in a song - which he did, but he cracked himself up when then he could not remember the words to Put You in a Song and had to adlib about forgetting the words to his own damn song : ). I also only caught a tiny bit of tonight's little "bonus" during the encore: a few lines of Shine sang at the piano.

We were able to make a quick escape from the CMAC parking lot, which was good since our hotel was back in Syracuse. Our GPS took us on quite an exciting route down pitch dark country roads before finally putting us on the interstate about 15 miles east of where we had exited to get to Canandaigua.
My daughter is convinced that the GPS is evil or has a wicked sense of humor!