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Live Review: Glen Hansard with Colm Mac Con Iomaire at Rialto Theatre, Tucson, AZ – 27th September 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 12th October 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

In sharp contrast to the sparsely attended gig I saw in Phoenix on the last Monday night in September, that week’s Tuesday night show at Tucson’s Rialto Theatre was packed to the gills, with fans lining up outside over an hour ahead of doors to see Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard. Though Hansard’s fame on American shores came largely from the movie-turned-Broadway-musical ‘Once’, his more recent repertoire, including 2015 album ‘Didn’t He Ramble’, has also been well-received, as evidenced by the large turnout in Tucson on the night.

I was motivated to arrive early to the show myself to see the support act, violinist and composer Colm Mac Con Iomaire. We at TGTF were introduced to Mac Con Iomaire at SXSW 2015, where he regaled us with a memorable riverboat performance hosted by Generator NI. However, those familiar with Glen Hansard’s storied career will know that Mac Con Iomaire is also Hansard’s bandmate in The Frames, and his appearance here was integrated into Hansard’s show even beyond his supporting slot.

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Mac Con Iomaire played a elegant and pleasantly prolonged opening set of instrumental music that warmed the crowd up nicely, beginning with the lovely ‘Emer’s Dream’ and finishing with ‘Thou Shalt not Carry Timber’, both from his 2008 solo album ‘The Hare’s Corner’. In the middle of his set, he played through several newer pieces from 2015 LP ‘And Now the Weather’, including a bittersweet dedication to his late sister (whom he referred to very quaintly as having been “promoted” to heaven), titled ‘In the Arms of the Angels’. Mac Con Iomaire demonstrated his compositional skill as well as his technical versatility, switching from violin to acoustic guitar for the recently commissioned ‘Solasta’, which he also performed recently for RTÉ Radio 1.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/BeXYAZ8kjBU[/youtube]

Hansard himself took the stage with a large entourage of accompanying musicians, including a string quartet, and opened not with one of his own songs, but with a rearranged version of ‘Sunken Waltz’, originally by Tucson natives Calexico. Having thus successfully charmed his way into the hearts of his Old Pueblo fans, Hansard then dived headlong into his own repertoire, which was no less eagerly anticipated. ‘Paying My Way’ and ‘Renata’ were early highlights of the set, both prefaced by engaging, though possibly somewhat embellished, banter from an Irishman with a willing and captive audience.

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Commentary on the currently volatile American political climate was not to be avoided, I suppose, and in very Irish fashion, Hansard dedicated ‘Winning Streak’ to defeated American presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Later in the set, he performed an inspired version of Woody Guthrie’s classic ‘Vigilante Man’, with verses altered to name presidential candidate Donald Trump in a rather less than flattering metaphor. However, unlike fellow songwriter Foy Vance in Phoenix earlier in the month, Hansard’s political remarks were met with vocal agreement from the more liberal Tucson crowd.

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Following a lively and naturally verbose exposition, ‘McCormack’s Wall’ was one of the night’s uptempo focal points. But having been billed as ‘An Intimate Evening with Glen Hansard’, the show included some nice softer moments as well, with ‘Wedding Ring’ making an appearance early in the set and both ‘Falling Slowly’ and a solo acoustic version of ‘Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting’ coming later on.

Near the end of the show, a dedicated and clearly emotional fan in the front row took advantage of a quiet spell to offer a book of her poetry to Hansard. In a genuine moment of personal interaction, Hansard not only took the poems but invited the young lady onstage to read one of them, while he accompanied on guitar. Flustered but determined to be courageous, she accepted, and was rewarded with an experience that she will no doubt tell her own stories about for years to come.

Hansard closed the set proper with rousing versions of ‘High Hope’ and my recent favourite ‘Her Mercy’. The more than 2-hour show truly seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, and of course the enthusiastic Tucson crowd pleaded for more. With his characteristic warmth and grace, Hansard acknowledged our applause by returning to the stage for a fond and singularly appropriate farewell in the form of ‘Song of Good Hope’.

Glen Hansard set list

A full listing of Glen Hansard’s upcoming worldwide tour dates can be found on his official Facebook. TGTF’s complete archive on Glen Hansard is right through here, and our previous coverage of Colm Mac Con Iomaire is this way.

 

Live Review: Rogue Wave with Floating Action at the Rialto Theater, Tucson, AZ – 15th June 2016

 
By on Monday, 20th June 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Last Wednesday night a pair of veteran American bands, California’s Rogue Wave and North Carolina-based Floating Action, graced the stage at downtown Tucson’s Rialto Theater. I’ve been to the Rialto several times now, but I’ve never seen it set up in the half-seated, half-standing arrangement that greeted me on this night. The rows of seats in the back of the auditorium were convenient for fans who didn’t want to stand near the stage, but they also made the theater a bit cosier for these smaller bands whose devoted fans didn’t quite fill the Rialto’s 1,400-person capacity.

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Asheville, North Carolina’s Floating Action are normally a quartet, but they were represented in Tucson by only two of their usual number, singer and frontman Seth Kauffman and guitarist Drew Heller. The band self-released a new double album titled ‘Hold Your Fire’ earlier this year, and ahead of playing one of the new songs, Kauffman won over the local crowd by relating that the album’s vinyl was distributed by Tucson-based specialty label People In a Position to Know. ‘Hold Your Fire’ comprises a rather amazing 21 tracks, including ‘Don’t You Wanna Be Ready?’, ‘Split the Bill’ and title track ‘Hold Your Fire’, all of which appeared on Floating Action’s set list at the Rialto on the night. Punters in the crowd were audibly disappointed when Kauffman announced the final song of their engaging opening set, with someone pleading aloud for “two more!”. In the end we only got one, another new track called ‘Real Enough’, but Kauffman and Heller had already sealed a positive impression of Floating Action.

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As it turned out, Floating Action probably could have played another set in the time we waited for headline act Rogue Wave to take the stage. The Rialto was quiet for more than half an hour between sets, before the stage crew even came back to make their final arrangements. I’m not sure what the delay might have been, but the five members of Rogue Wave were met with enthusiastic applause when they finally did appear, easing into their set with the aptly-titled track ‘Take It Slow’.

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In a stroke of bad luck for Rogue Wave, it became apparent very quickly that one of the downstage lights hadn’t been adjusted properly during the lengthy intermission. The spotlight that had been centered on Floating Action’s Kauffman during his seated opening set was left to shine directly on Rogue Wave frontman Zach Schwartz’s crotch throughout the headline set, which made taking photos tricky, but more importantly distracted from his ability to engage the audience. Schwartz’s face was cloaked in shadow whenever he was singing or speaking into his microphone, and when he stepped back from the mic, his back was often turned so that he could interact with his bandmates.

Lighting issues aside, the band’s smooth, spontaneous interaction was one of the outstanding positive aspects of their performance. Despite the near constant flux of Rogue Wave’s lineup over their 14-year history and a lengthy recent absence from touring, this particular iteration of the group appeared tight and well-rehearsed, and familiar enough with each other to be relaxed and confident. Schwartz’s between-songs banter was minimal, and the band’s set list was jam-packed with catchy songs from their new album ‘Delusions of Grand Fur’.

The set started very promisingly with four tracks from the new LP, but things became a bit murky for Rogue Wave when they delved into their older tunes in the middle of the set. Schwartz’s singing voice is light and pleasant, but unfortunately for the band’s live sound, it doesn’t quite cut through the heavily-textured instrumental arrangements enough to make a strong impact. For those in the crowd who already knew the songs (and it must be said that there were quite a large number of familiar fans), this wasn’t an issue, but those of us new to Rogue Wave found no readily accessible lyrical hook to anchor us in the band’s swirling sea of haphazard psych rock guitar riffs. In that disorienting context, new album track ‘California Bride’ shone like a beacon of light near the end of the set proper.

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To the delight of the longtime fans in the crowd, Rogue Wave closed their set with rousing performances of two popular tracks, ‘Lake Michigan’ and ‘Harmonium’. Both songs appear on the band’s 2007 album ‘Asleep at Heaven’s Gate’, but ‘Lake Michigan’ was featured more recently on the soundtrack for the film remake of ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’. The band took a brief pause after ‘Harmonium’ before treating their followers to an energetic three-track encore, ultimately finishing the night with an extended version of ‘California’.

Floating Action will play a handful of live dates in North Carolina this summer, including the All Go West Music Festival on the 25th of June and Asheville’s RiverLink in August. Rogue Wave will play the final shows of their current West Coast tour with Seattle-based band Hibou, wrapping up in Portland, Oregon on Saturday the 25th of June. They are scheduled to appear at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in their native Northern California on the 6th of August and will open for the New Pornographers in Sacramento on the 20th of August. Rogue Wave’s new album ‘Delusions of Grand Fur’ is out now via Easy Sound Recording Company.

After the cut: Floating Action and Rogue Wave set lists

Floating Action set list
Seized
Fate of the World
Don’t You Wanna Be Ready?
So Vapor
No Surprise There
Split the Bill
Hold Your Fire
Real Enough

Rogue Wave set list
Take It Slow
Ocean
Look At Me
Endless Supply
College
Eyes
Salesman At the Day of the Parade
Nourishment Nation
California Bride
What Is Left to Solve
Memento Mori
Lake Michigan
Harmonium
//
Publish My Love
Like I Needed
California

 

Live Review: M83 with Yacht at the Rialto Theater, Tucson, AZ – Tuesday 12th April 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 20th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

If you’re even a casual reader of TGTF, you’ll probably know by now that electronic music isn’t my particular cup of tea, though it is typically much more to editor Mary’s liking. She was quite disappointed to discover that electropop acts M83 and YACHT wouldn’t be passing through Washington, D.C. on their current tour, especially after seeing YACHT in Austin during SXSW 2016. But she did note that the Los Angeles-based bands were scheduled to play at the Rialto Theater in downtown Tucson, which is where I came into the equation.

I arrived at the venue early and was able to obtain my ticket and photo pass very easily thanks to the staff at the Rialto, so I took a spot in the crowd near the barrier and chatted a bit with some fellow punters. I was surprised to learn that many of the fans near the barrier were primarily there to see opening act YACHT, who they claimed were worthy of headline status themselves. They weren’t entirely wrong in that claim. YACHT’s Renaissance frontwoman, Claire L. Evans, who writes editorials and edits science fiction for VICE’s Motherboard channel when she’s not busy performing, was fierce and forceful from the moment she stepped onto the stage, even before she opened her mouth to sing. Throughout the set, she moved like a prowling panther on the stage, restrained by its dimensions but also using its levels and lighting to her advantage in striking a series of dramatic poses at appropriate points in the music.

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Evans’ colleagues Jona Bechtolt and Rob Kieswetter mixed energetic dance beats and intoxicating grooves under her half-sung/half-spoken vocals. To paraphrase Evans’ own description, the band juxtaposed songs about present day American society with songs about a more intimate social issue, namely sex, the latter of which inspired whistles and cheers from their audience. Most of the set list came from their current album ‘I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler’, but final track ‘Psychic City’ was apparently an older fan favourite, judging by the outbreak of ecstatic dancing at the front of the stage. On the brilliant recommendation of a fellow audience member, I took the opportunity to add the song to my own run playlist as soon as YACHT made their way off the stage.

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As spectacular as YACHT were, the production quality of the show ramped up exponentially for headline act M83. Even watching the stage crew work between the sets was rather amazing, as they rigged an amazing interplay of lights and sound equipment, the likes of which I rarely see in covering my usual singer/songwriter type gigs. Though the music seemed to drag a bit in places, the production quality was dazzling from beginning to end, and I could see that frontman Anthony Gonzalez must have intended this as part of his overall Gesamtkunstwerk, though it seems funny to use that Wagnerian operatic reference in a review of modern electronic music.

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M83 opened with ‘Reunion’, a familiar track from their 2011 breakout album ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’, before diving headlong into ‘Do It, Try It’, from their newly released album ‘Junk’. I was rather proud of myself for recognising both songs without prompting, but from that point I was a bit lost, as Gonzalez chose to play more older material than I would have expected. Keyboardist Kaila Sinclair, who is new to the M83 lineup, had ample opportunity to showcase her silky vocals on both the older tracks and the more recent releases, and Gonzalez handed the lead off to female vocalist Mai Lan on new album tracks ‘Laser Gun’ and ‘Go!’, the latter of which had a rather unexpectedly ’80s dance pop vibe. Naturally, Gonzalez held back the band’s massive radio hit ‘Midnight City’ until late in the set proper; though it prompted an outburst of manic energy from the crowd, the audience’s attention appeared to wander once they’d heard it and the jubilant mood dissipated quickly thereafter.

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I thought the headline set seemed rather short when Gonzalez and his crew signed off, but it turned out that they had a extended 5-song encore planned, including a lengthy version of the groovy new track ‘Walkaway Blues’, which featured vocals by guitarist Jordan Lawlor. Many of the casual punters in the back of the theater took this opportunity to slip out (it was a Tuesday night, after all!), but the diehard M83 fans stayed to the very end, and they were graciously rewarded with spectacular performances of old favourites ‘Couleurs’ and ‘Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun’.

M83 and YACHT will be on tour in North America through the end of April. M83 have a busy spring and summer schedule planned, with appearances at Coachella and Glastonbury on the docket. You can find YACHT’s upcoming live dates here and M83’s long list of live dates right here.

TGTF’s previous coverage of YACHT, including their recent appearance at SXSW 2016, is back this way. Our coverage of M83 is collected in one convenient spot right back here.

 

Live Review: Little Green Cars with John Mark Nelson at Club Congress, Tucson, AZ – 9th April 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 19th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

In the midst of our massive ongoing coverage of SXSW 2016, it’s often easy to forget that there’s plenty of music going on outside the scope of the annual Austin festival. I arrived back home after SXSW to discover that my own local clubs were just getting started with their busy spring concert season, and once again I found myself spoilt for choice of good local gigs to attend. It’s been nearly 2 weeks ago now that I caught Irish band Little Green Cars at downtown Tucson’s Club Congress, but the show is still fresh in my mind. With all the SXSW business going on at TGTF, I hadn’t had a chance to get properly acquainted with Little Green Cars or with opening act, singer/songwriter John Mark Nelson, and in the end I was pleasantly surprised by both.

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Folk-rock artist Nelson hails from Minneapolis, and I discovered after the fact that he had also showcased at SXSW in March, though I wasn’t lucky enough to catch him while I was there. Despite his relative youth (he’s only 24 years old), he released his fourth studio album ‘I’m Not Afraid’ on Gndwire Records last autumn. He played several songs from the new album at this show, notably including ‘After All I’ve Done’ and ‘Broken’. Just ahead of his SXSW appearance, Nelson unveiled the video for ‘Control’, which features on ‘I’m Not Afraid’ and which made a strong impression in live performance here.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/ZI1d-kLjaB4[/youtube]

Nelson at one point shared with us that his keyboardist and backing vocalist Kara Laudon is a songwriter in her own right, and he graciously allowed her a moment to shine during his set, though I found it odd in the context that she chose to do a cover rather than one of her own songs. A little post-gig research tells me that Nelson sang backing vocals on Laudon’s 2015 album ‘I Wasn’t Made’, and that guitarist Steve Bosmans and bassist Benjamin Kelly also played on both ‘I Wasn’t Made’ and ‘I’m Not Afraid’. The tight-knit nature of the group was evident in their relaxed confidence and spontaneous energy onstage at Club Congress on the night.

I had a fair idea of what to expect from headline act Little Green Cars after this review of their recent single ‘The Song They Play Every Night’ and a quick listen to their sophomore album ‘Ephemera’, which was released back in March. My first impression of ‘Ephemera’ was that its name seemed like a fair title for the record. It was pleasant enough, but nothing on the studio recording particularly struck me. In live performance, however, the songs took on a completely different tone, with the band’s strong vocal foundation lending a vibrant energy that was somehow missing in the album’s production.

LGC internal

Having toured America with blues rock superstar Hozier last autumn, Little Green Cars have gained a reputation that apparently preceded them here, as Club Congress was filled to capacity by the time they took the stage. They opened with slow-building ‘Ephemera’ track ‘The Party’, and co-frontman Stevie Appleby’s whispered lyrics “it doesn’t matter / she’ll believe him / once you’ve seen it / I don’t think you’ve got a choice”, underlaid by a sinister guitar riff, captivated the audience, including myself, in very short order. Appleby then switched spots with the band’s frontwoman Faye O’Rourke for a song showcasing her lead vocals, ‘Good Women Do’. The pair continued to switch at intervals throughout the set, but their transitions were seamless, with the rest of the band providing equally seamless vocal harmonies in almost every song.

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The Dublin quintet’s set was, to no one’s surprise, heavy on songs from their new album, but what did come as a bit of a novelty was Appleby’s reading of a poem, also titled ‘Ephemera’. His reading might have been more effective if not for an overly enthusiastic male fan in the front row, who took the quiet moment as an opportunity to shout out his undying affection for the band. This would unfortunately continue through the remainder of the set, as Appleby made the mistake of acknowledging the fan’s adoration with a reply. But the band soldiered through and seemed to genuinely enjoy the rapt attention they earned from the rest of their audience.

Of their older tracks, Little Green Cars naturally played fan favourites ‘Harper Lee’ and ‘The John Wayne’, the latter of which Appleby prefaced with a story about meeting a fan actually named—“I shit you not”—John Wayne. The energy level reached a high point with that upbeat tune, ahead of O’Rourke’s spellbinding vocals in the dramatic ‘My Love Took Me Down to the River to Silence Me’ and slow-burning set closer ‘Easier Day’.

As I’ve noted before, the backstage area at Club Congress is all but non-existent, and Little Green Cars didn’t even fully get out of view before coming back onstage for their encore. They chose one more track from each album (‘I Don’t Even Know Who’ from ‘Ephemera’ and ‘The Consequences of Not Sleeping’ from ‘Absolute Zero’) before descending into the crowd for a flawless group acoustic performance of gospel-tinged new album closer ‘The Factory’. Its spiritual chorus lines “Jesus, Mary, Mother of God / I’m alive again” was most effective for its beautiful vocal harmonies, which fairly resonated through the small venue and echoed in my ears long after the show finished. Seeing great bands in such intimate settings is always a treat, and though I’d had my fill in March at SXSW, this show at Club Congress was a nice reminder that I can have the same pleasure closer to home.

Little Green Cars and John Mark Nelson will be on tour in North America through the beginning of May. Little Green Cars will play both festival and headline dates in the UK and Ireland this summer; you can find details on their official Facebook.

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Live Review: Brian Fallon and The Crowes with Jonny Two Bags at The Rock, Tucson, AZ – 11th February 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 16th February 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The Rock in downtown Tucson is a gruff and gritty dive bar, known mostly for its willingness to host heavier rock bands than other Tucson music venues. Many of the bands on the docket are underground metal bands or local hard rock groups, but last Thursday night The Rock’s stage was graced by two nationally-known acts, though each was appearing in a new and novel guise. Brian Fallon, playing here with backing band The Crowes, is best known as frontman for New Jersey rock band The Gaslight Anthem, while his support act for the evening, Jonny Two Bags, is the current guitarist for Southern California punk band Social Distortion.

Relight

Having co-written tracks with Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness on two of that band’s albums, Jonny Two Bags (aka Jonny Wickersham) was no stranger to songwriting before he embarked on writing a solo album. But his own debut release, 2014’s ‘Salvation Town’ has an unexpectedly low-key “pub rock” feel to it, as described here by Rolling Stone. I had never heard of Jonny Two Bags before Thursday night, and I was only familiar with Social Distortion in passing. Despite my personal lack of knowledge, Wickersham clearly had a fair few longtime fans in attendance at The Rock. Several punters cheered and called out song titles, all of which were unfamiliar to me, but Wickersham seemed genuinely pleased with the attention and with the warm response his solo songs received from the Tucson crowd.

Wickersham played through most of ‘Salvation Town’ in his 45-minute set, opening with the album’s first single ‘One Foot in the Gutter’ (streaming just below) and closing with the surprisingly infectious ‘Hope Dies Hard’. ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Forlorn Walls’ were popular choices among the crowd, but the song that most captivated my attention was a cover of Elvis Costello’s ‘Lip Service’, which Wickersham cleverly disguised by crediting it to Costello’s given name, Declan McManus. (As an interesting sidebar, Costello’s drummer, Pete Thomas, also played on ‘Salvation Town’.) Well played, Jonny Two Bags, both in the banter and in the music.

Brian Fallon and The Crowes made their appearance on stage around 9:30 PM, with the lineup including Gaslight Anthem member Alex Rosamilia on keyboards and Fallon’s Horrible Crowes side-project partner Ian Perkins on guitar. The band played an hour-long set that shifted focus between Fallon’s new solo album ‘Painkillers’ and the Horrible Crowes’ 2011 album ‘Elsie’. The crowd appeared remarkably familiar with the new songs from ‘Painkillers’, starting right away with opening number ‘Red Lights’, especially considering that the album isn’t due for official release until mid-March. As for the Horrible Crowes numbers, Fallon mentioned early in the show that the band had been “waiting a long time to play some of these songs again”, and the crowd were evidently equally eager to hear them. All around me, voices sang along with every chorus in the set list and diehard fans alternated between dancing and ecstatically recording video on their smartphones.

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Fallon appeared relaxed and at ease on the stage, his boyish smile and improvisatory banter bringing a sense of energy and spontaneity to the songs, while the sheer number of guitars in the live arrangement rounded out the sound nicely. His between-the-songs monologue included a lengthy fable of acoustic guitarist Jared Hart’s proclivity for winning large sums of money playing dice along the Boardwalk. Aside from his dice-wielding talents, Hart displayed a lovely singing voice when he joined in on harmony vocals, as did bassist Catherine Popper (Molly and the Zombies, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals).
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Fallon’s mid-set acoustic break featured those sweet harmonies on ‘Painkillers’ tracks ‘Honey Magnolia’ and ‘Steve McQueen’. His obligatory Springsteen cover came in the form of ‘Atlantic City’, which is a personal favourite of mine and which Fallon performed with an admirable level of restraint, capturing the intimacy and urgency of the original. With their audience’s spirits lifted by that familiar tune, the band then broke into another popular choice, the rousing recent single ‘A Wonderful Life’. From that point forward, Fallon and company were in high gear. They raced through ‘Open All Night’ and ended the show with three Horrible Crowes tunes, finishing the night on a satisfying note if not a truly exhilarating one with ‘Behold the Hurricane’.

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Brian Fallon and The Crowes’ set list, 11th February 2016

Brian Fallon’s debut solo album ‘Painkillers’ is due out on the 11th of March on Virgin EMI in the UK and on Island Records in America. Fallon will play a run of live dates in the UK this spring following his scheduled appearance at SXSW 2016; you can find a listing of those dates right here. Our collection of current coverage on Brian Fallon is this way, and our previous coverage of The Gaslight Anthem can be found here.

 

Live Review: Ryan Adams with Natalie Prass at the Rialto Theatre, Tucson, AZ – 21st April 2015

 
By on Tuesday, 28th April 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

During my tenure here at TGTF, I’ve twice been able to attend the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX, and probably the best part of that experience has been discovering new artists that I might otherwise never have heard. Last Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to follow up on one of my new finds from SXSW 2015, as American singer/songwriter Natalie Prass opened for veteran rocker Ryan Adams at Tucson’s Rialto Theatre.

I had never attended a show at this venue before, but neither of the artists on the bill was a stranger to the Rialto stage. Adams had graced the stage previously in 2008 with his band The Cardinals and Prass appeared here as Jenny Lewis’ keyboard player last year. Adams and Prass have spent the first part of 2015 touring together through Europe and the UK as well as in America, and they have grown comfortable enough to play a few cheeky covers of each other’s songs during the current tour cycle. Adams even donned a full costume and filled in for Prass when flight delays caused her to miss their show in Copenhagen in March.

I saw Prass’ set at Maggie Mae’s on a whim at SXSW 2015 a couple of weeks after that ill-fated Copenhagen show, and I was excited to see her opening set at the Rialto, but as fate would have it, she faced a similarly challenging situation in Tucson on the night. After playing her first song in solo fashion, Prass related to the audience that her band had gotten stuck on the road with bus trouble. She did, however, have a few friends on hand who were able to step in. Keyboard player Daniel Clarke, who also played keys on Prass’ self-titled debut solo album, came onto the stage to accompany her, and he was soon joined by the other members of Adams’ touring band, including “Spaceman Adams” himself on the drum kit. Prass said that they had been cramming on the bus, listening to her record in order to learn the parts. If that was truly the case, they did their jobs admirably, playing a nearly seamless set that allowed Prass’ sultry singing voice and country-noir songwriting craftsmanship to take center stage.

For Adams’ headline set, he stage was decorated with vintage arcade game and vending machines, along with symbolic representations of Adams’ previous album titles, including a stuffed tiger for ‘Easy Tiger’, a glass smoke machine for ‘Ashes & Fire’, and an American flag for ‘Gold’. His current self-titled solo album, number ten in his extensive discography, was presumably represented by the man himself, and he opened with its hit single ‘Gimme Something Good’. I was familiar with this track already, having heard it on the radio here in America, and while the guitar riff is hot on the recording, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the scorching impact it makes in live performance. While Adams’ older tracks have a more alt-country flavour, his guitar skills leave no doubt about the rock aspect of his music, and the most effective tracks in the set list were the ones where Adams let loose with amazing guitar solos.

Surprisingly, Adams didn’t play as many songs from his new album as I expected, but he touched on it most notably with the slow burning ‘Kim’. He played through most of the show without any banter between songs, which allowed his songs to do the talking, and up to that point I was completely mesmerised. When Adams did finally stop to chat and catch his breath, he wryly taunted the crowd for taking photos and watching the show through their smartphones, which I must admit did register a slight pang of guilt in the back of my mind. On a more good-humoured note, he also pointed out a woman wearing her sunglasses inside the dark venue, speculating that she was either hiding tears after Prass’ lovelorn set or that she was possibly high. This led to a lengthy tangent about eating boxed macaroni and cheese seasoned with instant onion soup; I’ll leave you to imagine how those things might be related.

Getting back to the music, Adams responded to a shouted request from the crowd by playing a thrash metal number I didn’t recognize. The song was received with great applause, and I found out later that it was a version of ’16 Days’, from Adams’ former band Whiskeytown. For my money, Adams’ decision to stay on stage and play straight through the set rather than taking the obligatory encore break was most welcome, and he wisely took advantage of Prass’ presence on the tour by bringing her back to the stage for vocals on ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ and ‘When the Stars Go Blue’. At the end of the night, after having forgotten to introduce the aforementioned Daniel Clarke as part of the band, Adams proceeded to invent an entire song centered around Clarke while the other band members gamely jammed along.

I came away from the show with a slew of new songs buzzing through my head, and I stopped at the merch table outside to pick up both Adams’ and Prass’ latest CDs. I was already a fan of Natalie Prass after her charming SXSW performance, and she didn’t disappoint in Tucson, even with her somewhat impromptu band arrangement. I was only a casual fan of Ryan Adams previously, having listened to his songs in passing on the radio and after hearing other artists such as The Young Folk name him as an influence on their songwriting. I was impressed enough to amass a collection of his music during my road trip to Los Angeles the following weekend, and his 2001 album ‘Gold’ became a fast favourite on the long drive home through the desert. Better late to the game than never!

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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