Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Countdown Continues

Some great music happening this fall. I have tickets to:

  • All 3 days of ACL - Bob Dylan
  • 2nd leg of the Porcupine Tree tour
  • Zappa plays Zappa - this time with Ray White as Special Guest.

My mood: Psyched with anticipation.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ravens open their preseason vs. the Iggles

Watched the Ravens first preseason game against Filthadelphia. The Ravens controlled all aspects of the game throughout. McNair and Drew Olsen looked great. (Olsen probably won't make the team). The season is less than a month away, can't wait. I expect big things and a number 1 defense again.

The only downer so far, they have away games during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most likely, I will only get to see one game at M&T Bank Stadium this year, against the Rams, in October.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rush at the Verizon Amphitheater, in San Antonio, TX

Over 15 years have passed since I last saw Rush on tour to support Roll the Bones. I had seen them multiple times in the late 70's and early 80's, with an outstanding show at Radio City Music Hall during the Signals tour, being the most memorable.

I will admit to losing interest in the band, because of the direction they had taken during the 90's. Until two days ago, I was also unaware of the tragedy that had befallen Neil Peart and thought they had just gone inactive. I was somewhat surprised when I watched and heard Far Cry on Youtube 6 months ago, and really liked this return to their old sound.

While I will admit to being a fan of the band, I was never a fan-boy. I've noticed in the past that fan-boyism seems to be rampant amongst Rush (and Dream Theater) fans, and have always been curious (and somewhat annoyed) about this phenomenon. At the conclusion of this show, I discovered that nothing has changed in this respect (and I still don't understand it).

The show was listed as starting at 7:30PM, and probably started no later than 7:45. With one 20 minute intermission at the 2 hour mark, the show went all the way up to 10:52PM. The sight-lines were good once again, since my seats were about 30 rows back from the stage, dead center. Despite the great view, the heat and humidity made things uncomfortable.

The biggest downer for the show, was the sound. It sucked. The floor is a sloped, concrete slab. Ear plugs were an absolutely necessity. A real downer for me after the One World show two nights prior! I really despise large arena shows, and this did nothing to change my opinion.

Countering this, one of the cool features of the show were 3 large screens at the rear of the stage. There were live cameras in front, at the side and above the stage, that were used to focus in on the individual band members, and supply a "bird's eye" views of Neil. They also used the screens for CGI artwork and had two funny segues to introduce songs:

  • The first involved the MacKenzie Brothers from the SCTV skit the Great White North.
  • The South Park crew prepared a special cartoon, with Cartman, Kyle, and Kenny as Lil' Rush playing Tom Sawyer. There are several screeners posted to Youtube right now.

The show included a mix of material, obviously including Snakes and Arrows. It was a good cross-section of their discography, including cuts from Hemispheres, Signals, Moving Pictures, Power Windows, Vapor Trails, R30, and others. Noticeably absent however, were songs from 2112 and Farewell to Kings, other than Passage to Bangkok. The most glaring omission however, was that this was the first time I had ever seen them play where they did not play Closer to the Heart.

From what I could discern in the horrible mix the playing was tight. I did notice a reliance on prerecorded tracks at various points, and am pretty certain that some backing vocal tracks were also added at various points in the show. I'm not sure how I feel about this, and was a little disappointed.

Final Verdict: Good show, not great. I'll probably go see them again in the next few years, before they get so old that it's embarrassing.

California Guitar Trio at the One World Theater

Friday night, I attended another great show, featuring Guitar Craft alumni, the California Guitar Trio at the One World Theater. Without a doubt, the One World is probably the best venue in Austin to see a show. The room holds 300 people tops and has great acoustics. My seats were in 2nd row, right on center aisle. I was within spitting distance of all three members of the band, and it was amazing to see how relaxed and precise their technique was from that vantage point.

CGT played a solid 90 minutes. They played older (Melrose Avenue) and new material (Andromeda), and were joined on stage by several guests (their soundman playing a melodica and a woman playing mandolin). During one phase of the show they got the audience singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody, and of course played an encore with the most requested live song of all time, Freebird.

The highlight of the night for me was seeing them play a Bach Prelude in Circulation, a training technique used by Robert Fripp, in the Guitar Craft courses. Of course, I am now hoping that the League of Crafty Guitarists will make it to Texas.

After the show, the Trio was available for autographs and I was able to purchase a CD of the show I had just attended. They are actually touring with a CD duplicator and were able to burn 7 disks at a time. Very cool idea.