Marillion–Live at Variety Playhouse

So, how many would show up in Atlanta for an English progressive rock band?  Well, as it turns out, it seemed a sold out show.  Absent the presence of a radio station that would touch a band like this, you realize it’s not needed when those attending harkened to the days when radio, record shop discoveries and word of mouth were a thing.

untitled-1

I was never a huge fan of their early work, as it sounded a bit too much like Peter Gabriel era Genesis.  That was my reaction after the band’s first album, and it’s one that I regret.  Revisiting their work, with then-singer Fish and current singer Steve Hogarth, I find that there’s much to explore.

Mar-3

That said, I didn’t particularly care for 2016’s FEAR album – a too much narrative and/or too little instrumental passages.  Still, they’re one of the “greats,” and Marillion rarely comes around.  Hopefully other acts that participate in the Florida based progrock cruises will similarly follow the highway north after the tour is over.  So, with concert buddy in tow, off we go.

Mar-47

As expected, FEAR dominated the set.  And by the reaction of tour T-shirt clad audience, that was just fine with them.  Sound and lighting were excellent, and front man Hogarth commanded the stage.  As the night grew on, the crowd appreciation was reflected in his expressions between sections, often smiling and making eye contact with many of the fans.

  Mar-20

Ace guitarist Steve Rothery handled his solos beautifully, a prime example that fleet fingers aren’t needed for a career in rock music.  Wry grins and frequent nods were shared with his corner of fans in front of the stage. 

Mar-50

Highlights included “Season’s End,” “King” with an impactful visual of those passed away, and all of the encores, perhaps with an edge to “Sugar Mice” for its sing-along status.

Additional photos follow the set list:

Set list:

  • El Dorado I– Long-Shadowed Sun (FEAR, 2016)
  • El Dorado ii – The Gold (FEAR, 2016)
  • El Dorado iii – Demolished Lives (FEAR, 2016)
  • El Dorado iv – FEAR (FEAR, 2016)
  • El Dorado v – The Grandchildren of Apes (FEAR, 2016)
  • You’re Gone (Marbles, 2004)
  • White Paper (FEAR, 2016)
  • Season’s End (Season’s End, 1989)
  • Kayleigh (Misplaced Childhood, 1985)
  • The Leavers I – Wake Up in Music (FEAR, 2016)
  • The Leavers II – The Remainers (FEAR, 2016)
  • The Leavers III – Vapour Trails in the Sky (FEAR, 2016)
  • The Leavers IV – The Jungle of Days (FEAR, 2016)
  • The Leavers V – One Tonight (FEAR, 2016)
  • The Great Escape (Brave, 1994)
  • King (Afraid of Sunlight, 1995)
  • Encore:
  • The Invisible Man (Marbles, 2004)
  • Encore 2:
  • Sugar Mice (Clutching at Straws, 1987)
  • This Strange Engine (This Strange Engine, 1997)


Mar-15

Mar-22

Mar-24

Mar-27

Mar-37

Mar-64

Mar-90

Mar-96

Ice Fishing

The invitation was there, so I took it.   Ice fishing, in northwestern Wisconsin on the Chippewa Flowage!  It wasn’t a bucket list item, but hey, why not?  After working in St. Paul, we left for about a 2.5 hour drive “north.”  Roads were in good shape, with the sides cleared of trees a good distance so drivers have a better chance of avoiding deer, as well as wrecked vehicles to be found. Comforting, right? 

It’s rural, pockmarked with little towns that on average, have two to three little restaurant/bars, a general merchandise store, a beer store/gas station, with homes a small distance along the road on either side.  Throw in a grocery store, an occasional motel and fast food restaurant, and there you have it. What do people do up there for a living?  Well, there is some industry tucked away, but otherwise it’s farming and catering to the needs of hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers, and retirees.

IMG_0130

Sure.  The people are friendly.  So, we stopped at this little spot, regarded by my friend as having the best food between “here and there.”  He should know as he grew up in the area and has stopped at most of the bars over the years.  And, I had a tasty fried fish sandwich, coleslaw and the obligatory beer.  It was a small place, where people obviously knew each other, one selling raffle tickets for an ice fishing competition that was scheduled for the next day.

IMG_0134

So, what’s involved.  First, there is a fair amount of preparation needed – minnows, fishing rod/reel, ice auger, something to sit on, and general winter clothing.  My friend had extra clothing to help me out, but as he put it, “It’s like Spring!” meaning the temperatures were in the high 30’s and no wind to speak of. 

So, we gear up and hop on to his ATV and head for, ultimately, an island known as Little Banana.  I’ll help with a map.  I’ve marked the spot with a “1” below, just south of island.

flowage

First, we get the ice auger out and drill.  Frankly, it’s kind of fun.  You drill until you feel it punch through, then lift it with what should be Black Gold or Texas Tea bubbling up, but it’s only ice water.  I mean, you’re standing on a lake and drilling a hole.  The water gushes up and then quickly freezes. 

IMG_0162

After drilling the whole, you take a plastic scoop on a long handle and dig out the displaced ice to clear out the hole.  Helpfully, the handle also serves as a measuring stick, and the ice was generally 13” to 17” thick where we drilled.   I gather around “4” is when people feel comfortable walking out on the lake.

At this point, and drilling several holes in a row, you bring out the electronics to see how deep it is.  This is a visual indicator where a lake shelf might be located because fish tend to follow the terrain.  By law, you can only tend three holes per person, so we end up with six holes.  Only, there’s only two of us, so you can only tend two, right?  Well, not so much.

However, there are these helpful little fishing tools called “Tip-ups.” It’s essentially a line that connects to a board that spans the hole, and should a fish strike the bait, it twists a catch and a spring loaded flag pops up to alert you get moving, yank the line, and pull it in.

IMG_0170

If that’s not enough of an advantage, the electronics also can show you where your bait is compared to the bottom and give indications when fish are in the area. 

IMG_0152

So, now all this left is to be “Grumpy Old Men” and pile into a comfy ice fishing house, complete with heater and a day’s worth of beer. 

flowage2

Those may exist somewhere, but not here.  First, this “lake” has marginally developed shoreline, so on the best weekend in a couple of months for ice fishing, we saw only a couple other people doing it.  So, no congestion.  Also, there was the spring-like weather, so it ends up looking like this:

IMG_0148

Not much different than sitting on a boat seat, only no boat.  Now, let’s say that it was colder and/or windy.  Well, behind the AV we’re pulling a pre-packaged “ice fishing house.”  It’s a sled with two mounted chairs that fold open, along with a cover that can be positioned overhead like a tent.  Just drill two holes a few feet apart, and you and a buddy can sit there in a tent and fish the holes.  It looks something like this, as erected by a guy who chose 50 yards from us as the best spot to fish among the 15,000 acres of fishing paradise.

   IMG_0165

So, you sit and fish.  And nothing bites.  Nothing shows on the electronics, and eventually you brag about your (lack of success) with a Facebook post because really, what else are you to do in an era when smart phones operate on a frozen tundra?

IMG_0164

Spot #1 didn’t work out, so we relocated to #2 over by Big Banana island.  More holes to drill (fun), but it was just as uneventful as the first spot. 

Day 1:  0 bites.

Okay, it’s Day 2.  Due to ice auger issues, we borrow some holes that had frozen over near home base (X on the map).   Only, it’s Sunday.  And it’s a doubleheader for the NFL Division titles.  No problem.  We have tip-ups.

IMG_0137

So, in the comfy den, we keep an eye on the flags, and when one pops, we rush to put boots and jacket on, hop on the ATV and drive the 100 yards or so to the flags.  Happily, we had several occasions to do so, resulting in the catch of one (1) Northern Pike.

IMG_0180

If we were starving, we could have eaten this one.  But we weren’t, so we let him go.  First, I was very happy to have caught the fish, about 14” but fairly slim.  It’s reportedly a decent fish to eat, though not as tasty as Walleye (out of season anyway) or Bluegills.  Whatever. Caught a fish.

It should be noted that my friend’s refrigerator and tables are decorated with many photos of him or his grandson holding fish that generally measure 30” to 42”.  It’s a really good fishing environment, and… at least I caught one. 

So ice fishing was a first, as was driving an ATV, with a daily double of first time driving an ATV on a lake.  “Don’t drive over there (a shallow dead end) but you can go wherever you want.”  So, I did.  By this time, I’d observed how my friend had stayed wide of the markers that define the snowmobile trails and often looked over his shoulder (the rear view mirror was marginally helpful).

Now, snowmobiling.  They tend to hunt in groups, which makes sense should one break.  But even in the best weekend weather in a while, that weren’t that many.  Those that were there, though… zoom.  It looks like fun.  Helpfully, they put maps in the lake to guide them, to lodges, trails (which connect paths on both shores, for example).  Still, it’s a little surreal to see “road” signs on a lake.

IMG_0177

Economically, it makes sense, because other than the speed demons, people tend to drive from one lakeside bar to another for adult beverages.  Not a bad deal if you can get it.  Anyway, I drove “a ways” ultimately contenting myself by driving around an island for no other reason than I could.  It’s kind of a fun ride.  There was several inches of snow, but certain areas were icy which is pretty much exactly what makes ice driving fun.

IMG_0172

All told, I had a great time and got to appreciate why people love winter recreation in the north.  Fortunately, that doesn’t require living there.  No, not because I’m afraid of the cold, but rather giant mutant mosquitos and other insects that eat people alive in warmer months.  Yeah, it’s not the cold, really.

IMG_0169


Rollin’ Golden Pub – 2017

Humble origins.

It began innocently enough.  Someone goes to California on business with a side mission: “If at all possible, bring back this specific beer.”  She looked.  And had someone else help her.  And via faithful sleuthing and persistence, she found it.  She packed it in her suitcase.  It survived the flight.  It was delivered as requested. And then…  Glory be!

The recipient shared.

Four years later, that spirit of sharing endures.  The quest, however, has changed.  Sure, there are ample specific beers out there waiting to be found and welcomed to the RGP, but the nature of the endeavor has changed, described thusly:

Are you planning a vacation?  What breweries are there?  Is there a standout beer we haven’t sampled yet?  Is it a seasonal offering and will it be available?  Your spouse knows the itinerary includes breweries or craft beer retailers, right?
Are you traveling on business?  What breweries are there?  Is there a standout beer we haven’t sampled yet?  Do you know beer enthusiasts in the area who might have beers to trade?  Do you have a suitable stock of beers to trade in return?
Is a co-worker visiting your office?  Where are they from?  Would they mind stopping by this particular brewery on new release day an pick up this specific beer?
Are you surfing the internet?  Stop planning vacations and reading sports.  Focus on the beer swapping site.  You don’t need disposable income anyway. 

These are the questions that mark the passage from innocence to consuming hobby.  The RGP must be stocked and ready to serve.  Obligations exist. Capture5

And so it is time for our Annual Report.  For a detailed listing of beers, just click the logo to the right.    While we try to publicly disclose objective measures of our success, we regret to inform you that BeerAdvocate, one of our key rating agencies, abandoned their traditional grading methods mid-year, which, much like a fiscal accounting change, makes our year to year comparisons difficult. 

BeerAdvocate has done one thing to simplify their ratings and four things to confuse them.  The scoring is now plainly the average of ratings, from 1 to 5, given by anyone who cares to post a score.  That’s a good thing, because they removed algorithms to “correct” deviations in scoring as they saw fit.  However, that is also a bad thing, because our tasting over the years supported the ratings they provided, thus creating a lot of work by the RGP to compare apples to oranges.

Not bad, but the BeerAdvocate should clarify their ranking methodology, which seem to give more credibility to beers rated at least 1,000 times.  This is needed, else every new beer would be graded by its brewer and start off at the top of the list, but the question remains whether the number of ratings is the only influence on their rankings.

Thirdly, a bad thing is their own characterization of the ratings based on the new scoring system.   This requires a correction, we are obligated and decently qualified to correct. 

At the time of the change, BeerAdvocate offered their recalibrated range of scores and descriptions: 1Capture

That’s plain enough.  Only, in the real world, no multitude of people will score the perfect beer with top marks.  In short, a beer cannot sustain a 5.0 rating due to consumer preferences for styles.  The highest rated beers – those previously ranked 100 - currently average in the  4.57 to 4.70 range.   Although the original BA scores may have changed over time, the following is a truer approximation based on a comparison of beers as they were previously scored with their new ratings:

2Capture

Lastly, the scoring change should upset retailers.  “Outstanding” or “World Class” are helpful, but discriminating buyers want differentiation within those categories.  Buyers of both wine and beer are used to seeing scores, which retailers often place on the shelf to help guide buyers.  If they’re left with the scores of RateBeer for shelf guidance, they risk purchasing a beer that sucks with a score of anything less than a 96…

Enough methodology and disclosure.  Here’s the results:3Capture

And there we have it, 2017 brought an all-time high for the number of beers tasted AND overall quality ratings.

With quantity and quality thus trending up, we bring our attention to another number… 8.53.  That’s the average ABV (Alcohol by Volume) of the 2017 RGP offerings… and squarely on par with prior years.    That may not be interesting to craft beer partakers (though unfathomable to imbibers of Bud Light and the like), the ABV is high enough that care must be taken, thus a segue to:  

RGP Bylaws

The following are understood to be the operating principles of the RGP, an IFG (Informally Formed Group) without legal standing, to meet approximately monthly at a publicly undisclosed parking space, for the tasting, enjoyment and subsequent judgment of beers reputed to be of the very highest quality or which, in a pinch, have a really cool label.

Forthwith, RGP members shall:

1.  Limit group consumption to a total volume of 72 fluid ounces, in due regard for preventing injury to public health and civility.

2.  The presenting host member(s) are required to arrange for suitable glassware and product refrigeration for each scheduled event.  And a bottle opener.

3.  A quorum is required for a standing event to take place, a quorum being defined as more than three members but fewer than five.

4.  As requirements for IFGs are, by definition, not well defined legally, if at all, the RGP hereby establishes that its count shall be four members, such that the quorum requirements can be met.  Such is considered fitting and appropriate so as to not overtax participants with a deluge of e-mails, conflicts, cancellations, delays, etc. etc. etc. so that such good times may be first be scheduled and then enjoyed.

Henceforth declared,

February 16, 2015 Anno Domini.

*All beers for one, one beer for all*

Wisdom, this is, much like the establishment of speed limits.  If speed limits did not exist, bad things would happen.  Chaos while texting.  Mayhem while dipping fries into ketchup.  Spilt coffee.  But everyone knows that a certain latitude is permitted by law enforcement, and so it is with the what is affectionately (I think) termed “Reese’s Rules.”   RGP members have demonstrated a far  closer tolerance to the stated limit than any might admit to whilst behind the wheel.  And, lest there be any confusion, the Rollin’ Golden Pub is much like a Food Truck.  Yes, it travels, but it does its business while parked.  So much so, that its existence and location can be objectively confirmed in Untappd, the mightiest of beer aficionado apps. 

Lastly, we come to our pursuits of achieving diversity.  Geographical diversity, that is.  We crossed off all 50 States a while ago, but now we aim to have tasted the #1 ranked beer in each State as ranked by Beer Advocate.   We’re at 18 after 2017, an increase of one after 2016.   All things considered, we’re pleased as the changing rankings could throw an upset as we also seek out anything related in the Top 3, understanding that some #1’s and others are available draught only, which is a bit of an impediment.  Alternately, I’ll offer that we have tasted 32 of the 150 listed in the State rankings.

We’d like to close with a hearty “thank you” to our mules who help source our heralded provisions, and a special shout out to our hosting property owner, who, despite our frequent and conspicuous activities – vehicles, glassware, beer cooler, open imbibing, duration of the event, and dumping of ice - imply their tacit blessing for use of the premises for year #5!

Counting Sheep

Well, what do you think about when you sleep? 

Many years ago, someone told me how to sum numbers from 0 to 100.  Essentially, just count by 100’s.  0 and 100=100, 1 and 99 = 100, 2 and 98 = 100, etc.  So, there 50 100’s, right?  0-49, plus the 50 left in the middle.  So 50 x 100 = 5,000, plus the 50 stuck in the middle = 5,050.

Easily done.  0 and 200?  100 x 200 = 20,000 plus the 100 in the middle = 20,100.  Keep the series going and you get 45,150, 80,200, etc. 

So, I can’t sleep.  Thinking it through is fine, but it would be pretty cool to have a formula!  Not useful, but… it’s something to think about.  So, converting how I explained it above to more mathematical terms, I take 100, divide by 2, then multiple it by 100.  And don’t forget to add the stray 50 in the middle.  That makes sense, but you can’t really have a formula without a variable, so… I’m essentially taking half of x, multiplying it by x, and then adding the change, which is x divided by two.   So x/2 (x) + x/2.  More properly:

… where x = the upper limit of the series, which begins at 0. 

So, 100 x 100 = 10,000.  Divide by two and add the change = 5,050.  It works, and I cede to sleep, my work completed.

It laid there a while, satisfied.  I go to sleep pretty quickly, so it was months later before I gave it another thought, expecting I’d have to move on to some non-mathematical thing before falling asleep.   Yeah.  But, wait…   There’s still the utility of the thing.   Where would I find that, exactly?  Well, back in grade school, I guess.  Math class.  The teacher asks for the sum for extra credit, and I can quickly do that.  They want a formula for it?  Ha.  I’m ahead of you on that one.  And then there’s another quiz, we’ll say, for summing numbers between, oh, 60 and 170, and well, I haven’t actually tried that

Those numbers are too much to deal with, so… I can handle a range of 10 to 20 without a calculator while noodling over this.  One might think, and hope, that just adding those particular sheep in my head would put me to sleep.  It didn’t.  The answer is 165. 

Now, admittedly, I didn’t actually add them.  Counting from 10 to 20, I have 11 base values of 10, and I can use my little formula for the change from each number (0 from 10, 1 from 11, 2 from 12… 10 from 20).  So, 11 x 10 = 110 from the base value, then my little formula works for the 0 to 10 of the leftover digits:  102/2 = 50.  Add the 5 left over, and we get 55.  110 + 55 = 165.  Maybe I should have just used 2- 7 for a proof?  

Anyway, following my original formula, 202/2 + 10 = 210.   Not good.  My little formula is no good for anything other than a very specific parlor trick.    

So, let’s backtrack and see what can work.  I need another variable, resetting to:

  • x = lower number
  • y= higher number

The numbers in the series no longer add to the upper number in the range, unless the range starts with zero, but the same “easy math” matching process is the same – 10 and 20 = 30, 11 and 19 = 30, 12 and 18 = 30, etc.  So, there’s a strong similarity to what I was doing before as that is the number I’m multiplying against, x + y.  Now I need to figure out how to express how many times I’m multiplying against it.

From 0 to 100, the midpoint happens to be the number of times to use, but that doesn’t apply in the range of 10 to 20, because there’s only 11 number being summed.  How many counts are there before I reach the midpoint?  Well, the midpoint is 15, so… 5.  So, it’s the difference between the two numbers, divided by two (y – x)/2, not the average (y + x)/2 which was implied when I started at zero in the original formula.   

So, the number of times is (y-x)/2.  Multiplied against the sum (x+y), then adding the change, which is now more properly described as half of the sum rather than the number in the middle of the range (x+y)/2.  Let’s test that. 

  • 20 – 10 = 10. 
  • 10/2 = 5. 
  • 5 x (10 + 20) = 150.
  • Plus the change, 30/2 = the 15 left in the middle.
  • 150 + 15 = 165.

Bingo.  And no bothersome “squaring” a number, either.

For not-yet-asleep fun, back to my original problem of 0 to 100:

  • 100 – 0 = 100
  • 100/2 = 50
  • 50 x 100 = 5,000
  • Plus the change, the 50 left in the middle = 5,050.

For your math quiz needs:

Capture5

Perhaps the more notable thing is that my blogging is at such a standstill on thoughtful content that this is what I felt most compelled to write about.  I don’t plan on losing sleep over it.

Note: My smarty-pants daughter informs me that my original formula is commonly known by smarty-pants people to be ∑ = n * (n +1)/2… 

Grizzly Bear – Live at Tabernacle

The night began with an expectation of mediocre Mexican food with friends who refuse to relocate from their weekly gathering spot.  Ah, the sway of margaritas.  A phone call changed all that, and off I went to battle traffic to downtown Atlanta for this show.  Note:  Surprisingly, there are not that many great spots for a pre-concert meal around Olympic Park.  If you’re in the area, try Der Biergarten, and perhaps the Jagerschnitzel. 

Grizzly Bear – I bought their 2012 CD, Shields, soon after it was released.  I was teased by a few of the songs, but it collected dust ever since.  A friend had bought tickets and someone dropped out, so aside from trading up on a meal, I was curious to see what the band was like live, especially coming off their latest release, Painted Ruins.

We arrived to find a full crowd, noticeably younger than my typical shows and also approaching gender equity.  In other words, it’s date night for a lot of folks.



Overall, the sound was pretty good.  Instrumental clarity was fine, and the vocals were probably suitable for those more familiar with their lyrics.  Each singer has their own style, Ed Droste fairly straightforward and Daniel Rossen with a penchant for a fairly unconventional delivery, ala Tim Smith of Midlake.  This provides good variety in their songs, which were roughly evenly split.

So, what is left is the performance.  Instrumentally, I liked what I heard.   Bassist Chris Taylor added sax and flute, which added good variety to the band’s keyboard heavy sound, not to mention his backing vocals which are key when then their songs are at their best. 

Drummer Christopher Bear was a pleasure to hear, playing a variety rhythms generally categorized as “things Ringo wouldn’t play.”  On the other hand, Ringo could play a big beat, and as “Indie” as this band is, an occasional sprite melody wouldn’t be unwelcome.  The band’s big hit, “Two Weeks,” isn’t their best song, but it was by far the biggest crowd pleaser – perhaps from familiarity but also because it has a simpler structure.



Visually, the band does not lack stage presence, but there’s not much to watch as each member stays close to their kits.  The Tabernacle’s lighting worked well, as the only visual focal point in the band was the drummer.



The band played a variety of songs from their last four albums – Veckatimest (4), Yellow House (5), Shields (3), and Painted Ruins (5).  As for their latest, I’m not certain that they chose the best songs.  That album closes well, and I was particularly surprised that they didn’t play “Neighbors.”

untitled-15

Highlights included “Cut-out,” “Fine For Now,” and “Mourning Sound,” but most disappointing was the encore.  “Colorado” drones on and on repeating the song title and “What now, what now, what now?…” Answer?  Another song please.  “While You Wait for Others” is a fine song, but it’s not a parting gift.  I might have preferred a “gun-shy,” “Half Gate” combo.  Heck. Make it a triple with “Speak in Rounds.”



Overall, this was a very good concert.  Grizzly Bear is fully an Indie band, which might mean that from track to track, some people get it and some don’t.  I’m one of those, but I’ll remain curious for future releases to pick out their little treasures.

Setlist:
  • Losing All Sense
  • Cut-Out
  • Lullabye
  • Ready, Able
  • Four Cypresses
  • Mourning Sound
  • Sleeping Ute
  • Yet Again
  • Fine for Now
  • Two Weeks
  • On a Neck, On a Spit
  • Foreground
  • Knife
  • Three Rings
  • Sun in Your Eyes
Encore:
  • Colorado
  • While You Wait for the Others

King Crimson – Live at Center Stage

One King Crimson to Rule Them All!  Or, so the thought occurred to me while enjoying their Tuesday performance in Atlanta.  Looking at the audience, it was clear that some who attended enjoyed KC during their early years.  I was a relative latecomer when I saw the mid-period band play in June, 1984, and I didn’t see them again until their 2003 Power to Believe tour.

Both of these concerts were undeniably good, the former generally “strange” as contrarian as it was to the current music trends, the latter focused on their 2000’s “industrial” work.  There’s a lot of history to their lineup changes, but suffice it to say that while I enjoyed Adrian Belew’s guitar, I found his voice, at best, curious or, at worst, distracting.

Currently, the band has eight members who are more than capable of playing music from any of their various periods and with a singer, Jakko Jaksyzk, who does justice to any of them.  Thus, One King Crimson…

This show was their second in Atlanta, well attended by people who had seen the show the evening prior.   I had read some of bassist Tony Levin’s road diaries over the years, and this was my first concert with the three drummer line-up.  Sound… interesting?  Well, then imagine putting all three drummers at the front of the stage.

untitled-3

As one may expect, it was a percussion-heavy performance, but not one that lacked for visuals.  Actually, the remaining members were fairly static, so the drummers were the visual focus through much of the show.  My son pointed to “poly-rhythms;” I just absorbed three drummers mostly playing different things at once, fascinated not only by musicians who knew when to play but also when not to play.  A little reading finds that they practiced separately well before the full band began rehearsals for the tour.  This was not a surprise given the deftness of trading parts even as they all three played. 

Center Stage is a great venue, without a bad seat in the house.  However, there are worse seats.  We were next to the back row (Row L, hardly a far distance) in the amphitheater styled seating.  Those to our far right would be blocked from seeing Robert Fripp, the leader/guitarist mainstay since the band’s founding in 1968.  Likewise, those that paid for the pricier seats on the floor may have hardly seen anything beyond the front line of drums.  In the cheap seats, we had a clear view of all.

Worth mentioning, the sound was excellent.  Intermission comments from those around us indicated that the sound level was good the prior night but much better for this show.  No complaints here, except that Tony Levin’s bass/stick were difficult to decipher particularly during the first set.

And about that, yes, sets.  The last time I saw them, they played 12 songs and a three song encore.  This time around, there were nine songs in the first set, 10 in the second, plus a two song encore, encompassing about three hours.  This gave the songs ample room to stretch out, though just a “hello” to the audience would have been appreciated. 

Fripp did comment on their policy of no photos until the end of the show, which was enforced to several folks’ discontent (spotlight with a bonus of Fripp pointing to the offender).   Even those who activated their cell phones for messages were confronted by ushers.  That said, it was nice not be distracted by all the camera/phone screens, and this was an evening of music that required concentration by both the band and the audience.  That attention was most obvious in quieter sections, when not a word was heard from the crowd.

untitled-1

Highlights.  As much as Robert Fripp was the draw, our vantage didn’t allow watching his hands on the frets, but that was okay – he was clearly heard, at times with blistering guitars and quite frequently on keyboards.   He has an evolved kit to shape his guitar so that were you not watching him, you might assume the notes were from a keyboard.  Time and again there was a beautiful handoff from guitar to Mel Collin’s brass that melded perfectly.

untitled-7

And Collins stole the show.  Sax, flute, whatever – his was the extra dimension that was missing from the previous versions of the band I had seen.  After a particularly splendid solo following preceding hours of great play, the audience gave their approval to which Collins grinned and tugged his bowtie in minimalist appreciation. 

As for the drummers, I don’t know enough about the art to comment about the various styles, but visually, Gavin Harrison seems to inhabit his drums as opposed to “masterfully play,” “command” or other words I might put to it.  There’s a beauty in just the way he wields his drumsticks and owns the space. 

Lacking in the evening’s set list were two standouts played the night previous, “Larks’ Tongue in Aspic” and “One More Red Nightmare.”  That’s okay – we didn’t suffer, but I’d happily trade “Neurotica,” the misfit of the night, for just half of either one.  That said, “Islands” hadn’t been played on tour since 1971 – it’s too rich a catalogue for one night.

In any case, it was a phenomenal show.  They rarely play Atlanta, and I’ll probably have to travel to see them again (and go consecutive nights to maximize the opportunity).  And, per the set list below, what a finish to a show!  Draw the line where you like, but from the start of Set Two going forward… wow.


Set 1:
  • Hell Hounds of Krim - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind, 2016
  • Pictures of a City – In the Wake of Poseidon, 1970
  • Cirkus – Lizard, 1970
  • Neurotica – Beat, 1982
  • Lizard (Battle of Glass Tears, Dawn Song, Last Skirmish, Prince Rupert’s Lament) – Lizard, 1970
  • Epitaph - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
  • Meltdown – Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind, 2016
  • Level Five – The Power to Believe, 2003
  • Islands – Islands, 1971
Set 2:
  • Drumson Outbreak of Wonderment, Joy & Bliss Arising - New
  • Discipline – Discipline, 1981
  • Fallen Angel – Red, 1975
  • The Letters – Islands, 1971
  • Indiscipline – Discipline, 1981
  • Easy Money – Larks’ Tongue in Aspic, 1973
  • Breathless – Exposure (Fripp Solo album), 1979
  • Moonchild - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
  • The Court of the Crimson King - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
  • 21st Century Schizoid Man - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
Encore:
  • “Heroes” – David Bowie track on which Fripp originally played, 1977
  • Starless – Red, 1975


untitled-5

Garth Brooks–Live at Mercedes Benz

Full Disclosure:  This was a free ticket for me, and I’m not a Country/Garth Brooks fan.  Going into this show, I’d seen him on TV and knew he was a good showman.  He’s also the #1 selling solo artist in U.S. history, with 149M albums sold.  My wife has his Greatest Hits CD, but it never gets played. 

The ticket did cost a friend $150, though.  Here’s the view – lower bowl, sort of corner end zone.  For a stadium show, this is a pretty good seat.  It’s Thursday, a weeknight, and traffic in downtown Atlanta is its usual hell.  Ergo, the stadium fills slowly.  The opener was Mitch Rossell, an enthusiastic performer fairly overwhelmed with the opportunity and the space.  Regrettably, though visibly enjoying his performance, the sound was much like listening in over a Public Address speaker.  We quickly became worried about the sound prospects.  The second opening act, Karyn Rochelle, was similarly muddled, though she was at least more visible by playing to our side of the up-to-now curtained in-the-round stage.  Still, ‘twas awful audio.

untitled-13

Speaking of a PA, an announcement is heard that Garth will be recording the show, and the audio folks need our help in setting levels.  The crowd cheers as instructed.  Translation, they turned the volume up when Garth took the stage.  That entrance was electric.

untitled-4-2

It’s a huge stage.  The center core is surrounded by floor seats, with runways that reach towards the end zones.  Garth is an energetic guy; he’s going to play to the crowd.  Helpfully, from this distance, the Mercedes Benz circular graphics board helps zoom in on the action, else most folks would be left with “just” the audio.  Oops, rather, just the “audio.”

untitled-25

Curiously, the “halo” video ring at the top of the stadium was pretty well synced with Garth, while the video in his own stage was a tad behind.  In any case, it didn’t freaking matter.  The music reverberated in Atlanta’s now hallowed structure, taking any musical enjoyment out of the experience.  All it left was Garth, warming to crowd, soaking in its adulations, and energetic presentation.  That would have to be good enough.

untitled-18

I went for a beverage and found other people similarly complaining.  One in the upper deck actually said she came down to a lower level – the speakers around the perimeter were not functional.

IMG_9850[953]

Hey, what’s there to do in a terrible sounding concert?  Surf.  Thanks Twitter.  It isn’t just me, and it wasn’t just those in the upper deck, per a perfunctory post-concert announcement by Mercedes-Benz operators that “we have heard some fan concerns about sound quality in certain sections of the upper concourse…” 

Well, let’s look at that upper concourse.  If you’ll click the picture below to expand it, you’ll see many empty seats (red) for this sold out show.  Ample tickets were available up to the start of the show in the $30-$40 range, which suggests that many, many seats were originally bought by resellers (no evidence for this, but seat licenses for stadiums are gold mines for resellers), without anyone to grab them. 

"Two Pina Coladas" graphics scrolling by.

I’m not going to place the blame fully on the stadium.  Garth shares in the lousy sound audio.  Though intended for sports audiences, the facility was built with an expectation of hosting concerts as well.  Whatever acoustic properties you consider in a concrete and steel structure, they either were not good enough or were not related adequately to Garth’s audio team.

On Garth’s part, his stage is obviously built for basketball arenas.  In the cavernous Benz, it looks small, and the speakers that surround it are pointed towards the floor and level audience.  By other reports, the sound quality on the floor was sterling.  Some people got their money’s worth, at least.  But I’ll refrain from a show there until I hear of a few that people actually compliment.  None of those people were on the MARTA train home – everyone seemed thrilled to have seen him and deeply disappointed that it wasn’t a concert to remember.  Fondly, or as fondly as the should.

untitled-26

On the plus side, the stadiums graphics were sizzling, the seats are generously sized and comfortable, and I’d hop, skip and jump back there for a sports event.  Speaking of Garth, he may have done just the same getting to the ends of the stadium.

untitled-29

I can see why people like Garth.  He writes good songs, everyone, it seems, can relate to them, and most of those gathered knew the words and could sing along.  He’s not like most performers who settle for a “Hello, Atlanta!” and “Here’s one you might remember.”  Instead, almost every song was introduced in some context, and his appreciation for his audience seemed both gigantic and heartfelt.  There’s a lot to like about a celebrity who interacts that way.

His wife, Trisha Yearwood, took the stage for a couple duets and solo songs, surprisingly giving wa to an honorary Georgian award presented by Jimmy Carter.  Not every concert features a Presidential address, but it was a good one, as well as seeing him spryly descend a ladder without assistance.

untitled-37

untitled-38

Other notes:  I enjoyed the solo-acoustic songs, “The River” song/cellphone lightshow, his “I got a guitar to hide my gut… but I did learn four chords” – intro to “Friends in Low Places,” a rocking “The Thunder Rolls,” and the familiar but appropriate “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Oh, and Der Biergarden pre-show!  Good friends, audible conversation.

Setlist:

  • Devil Went Down to Georgia
  • Rodeo
  • Two of a Kind, Workin’ of a Full House
  • The River
  • Two Pina Coladas
  • Papa Loved Mama
  • Ain’t Goin’ Down
  • Unanswered Prayers
  • That Summer
  • Ask Me How I Know
  • The Thunder Rolls
  • In Another’s Eyes (with Trisha Yearwood)

Trisha Yearwood:

  • XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)
  • How Do I Live
  • Prize Fighter
  • Georgia On My Mind
  • She’s in Love With the Boy

Garth Brooks:

  • Callin’ Baton Rouge
  • Friends in Low Places
  • The Dance

Encore:

  • She’s Every Woman
  • The Change
  • The Red Strokes
  • Piano Man
  • Standing Outside the Fire