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SLCene Suggests: Jenny Lewis at The Depot

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JENNY LEWIS, THE DEPOT, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 9 p.m., $20

A lot of music fans were introduced to Jenny Lewis during her stint as part of the popular indie-rock band Rilo Kiley back in the early ‘00s. For me, Lewis’s first solo album is the thing that made me a fan of the 38-year-old singer and songwriter. Rabbit Fur Coat was a revelation when it came out in the winter of 2006. It included musical contributions from the likes of Conor Oberst and M. Ward, but what really struck me was Lewis’s amazing voice, harmonizing along with singing sisters The Watson Twins. When Lewis came through Salt Lake City on tour, her show at Kilby Court was incredible, a high-energy gig featuring some amazing musicianship rarely found in many of the indie and punk bands that play the tiny all-ages club. Lewis’s second solo album didn’t hit me quite the same way, but she has a brand new collection of songs released at the end of July that has reminded me how much I love her work. The new album is called The Voyager, and its sunny sound belies some of the dark sentiments in the lyrics, many of them reflecting on the death of her father, and the demise of her old band. Can’t wait to see how it translates to her live show. Jake Bellows opens the show.

Concert review: Galactic and Trombone Shorty at Red Butte Garden

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With a so-called “supermoon” rising over the mountains and perfect weather greeting the crowd, Red Butte Garden got a serious taste of New Orleans Sunday night, courtesy of Galactic and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

The co-headliners both bring different flavors of the Big Easy in their shows and respective sounds. Galactic delivers a funk-infused bit of jam-band dance music that these days leans toward blues-rock thanks to the presence of vocalist Maggie Koerner. And Trombone Shorty and his band Orleans Avenue rely on a stellar horn-section led by the versatile leader who bounced between singing and playing along with a variety of instruments–he’s no one-trombone trick pony.

Galactic started the proceedings with a set alternating between instrumental jams and songs featuring Koerner–a formula later copied by Trombone Shorty. Koerner first made her considerable presence felt on “Higher and Higher” early on, as well as “Dolla Diva.” And while her flowing purple dress and powerful pipes made her a constant focal point when Koerner was on stage, the musicians in Galactic are too strong to stay on the sidelines. Trombone player Corey Henry and drummer Stanton Moore consistently took command of the proceedings when the mood struck them–Henry with his boisterous playing and crowd interaction, and Moore though his propulsive percussion.

Among the other highlights of Galactic’s set were “Doesn’t Make a Difference at All,” “Should’ve Known Better” and a scorching closing cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took the stage to a surprisingly heavy rock instrumental before the horns took over and a more traditional New Orleans vibe came in. Trombone Shorty (real name: Troy Andrews) is an engaging frontman, chatting up the crowd between taking turns on vocals, trombone, trumpet and tambourine. On Sunday, his repeated exhortations to the crowd that it was time to party were both endearing and completely unnecessary given how Galactic started the show.

The instrumental workouts from Andrews and Co. were my favorite moments of the Trombone Shorty set, but he’s no slouch on vocals, either. Songs like “Craziest Things,” “You Are My Everything” and “Fire and Brimstone” all kept the crowd on its feet and dancing as well as the energetic instrumentals.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have become regular visitors to Red Butte Garden the past few years, and nothing they did Sunday should keep their Utah audience from growing even more. Here’s hoping they and Galactic forge a long-term summer-tour partnership, because that’s a dance-party double-bill that’s hard to beat.

 

SLCene Suggests: Chris Isaak at Red Butte Garden

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CHRIS ISAAK, RED BUTTE GARDEN, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 7:30 p.m., $54

One of the advantages of being a music writer in Salt Lake City for a number of years is the opportunity of being exposed to artists and music I otherwise never would have given much time to. Such is  the case for me when it comes to Chris Isaak. Like many music fans, Isaak came to my attention through his ballad “Wicked Game.” The song was on his 1989 album Heart Shaped World, but gained popularity through its use in the 1990 David Lynch movie Wild at Heart. The movie was a wild psychedelic ride of murder and Elvis worship, but the video for “Wicked Game” was a phenomenon because of its simplicity–just black and white images of Isaak and supermodel Helena Christensen rolling around on a beach. As a young rock fan at the time, I didn’t have much use for Isaak’s sultry croon on “Wicked Game,” and it was only years later when I covered one of his Salt Lake City concerts for a review that I was introduced to all Isaak’s music has to offer. His sound is rooted in classic rock and roll, folks like Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Elvis. He’s found various opportunities to cover songs by those legends through the years, most recently on an album full of songs from the legendary ‘50s-era Memphis recording studio, Sun Studio. His own songs expand on that classic rock sound, and make for excellent live performances with his long-time band.

Concert review: John Hiatt at Red Butte Garden

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Given the popularity of John Hiatt’s live shows in Utah and beyond, it’s a wonder that he hasn’t enjoyed a ton of pop success during his lengthy career. The man regularly sells out when he comes through Zion, including his co-headlining gig with Taj Mahal Sunday night at Red Butte Garden, and yet he remains more of a critical success than a commercial one.

That’s great for those of us who have been turned on to the man’s rootsy blend of folk, rock and country, and his worthy way with words. Hiatt has released a series of consistently winning albums with a rotating cast of collaborators and bandmates, and constantly toured with just as diverse an array of players. And you can pretty much never go wrong when you delve into Hiatt’s music.

That was the case once again Sunday night, when Hiatt’s tour in support of his new album Terms of My Surrender brought him and his band back to Salt Lake City. In this case, Hiatt’s touring band and studio band were one in the same, giving the new songs like “Baby’s Gonna Kick,” “Old People” and “Wind Don’t Have to Hurry” the benefit of a confident band of players capable of really ripping into the music.

Guitarist Doug Lancio is a special player, ripping out eclectic lead guitar along with some fine banjo-picking over the course of the cloudy evening. Joined by bass player Nathan Gehri, drummer Kenneth Blevins and multi-instrumentalist Brandon Young, Lancio led the band as Hiatt’s right-hand man, leaving the singer to swap through electric and acoustic guitars, as well as a little harmonica.

Hiatt opened the show with “Your Dad Did” from his excellent Bring The Family album, and followed up with “Detroit Made” before hitting the first new song of the night with “Baby’s Gonna Kick.” From there, he bounced all over his catalog, bringing new songs in occasionally between older favorites.

Among the highlights for me: “Crossing Muddy Waters,” a rousing “Cry Love” and a lovely take on “Feels Like Rain.” “Perfectly Good Guitar” and “Thing Called Love” remain obvious crowd favorites, and his bluesy “Master of Disaster” proved a treat from one of his more recent collections.

Good stuff all around, and enough to keep the crowd on hand after Taj Mahal played for about 90 minutes himself to start the show. I only caught the tail end of Taj, enough to hear him play some mean guitar and get a rousing ovation.

(Photo from Zimbio.com)

Report card: Taste of the Wasatch 2014

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The annual Taste of the Wasatch fundraiser at Solitude on Sunday was another sold-out success, selling 1,500 tickets to the food festival and raising a lot of money for groups fighting hunger in Utah.

This year, those groups include Utahns Against Hunger, Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership, Utah Food Bank and 3 Squares, Inc., and a slew of Utah chefs, restaurants, and caterers volunteered their time and skills to feeding a hungry group of Tasters. There was a nice mix of vegetarian fare, and goods for the more carnivorous among us. Some chefs kept it simple–but still delicious–with grilled corn or cold soups, while others delivered some ornate treats sure to stick in the memories of the diners when they think about where to head on their next date night.

I did my best to sample as many of the offerings as possible, but tasting dozens of dishes is impossible, even with four hours to play with. And that’s before we even start talking about the Utah Baker’s Dozen, the annual favorite gathering an amazing array of desserts as part of the Taste of the Wasatch menu.

With the limitations of one man’s stomach in mind, here are my highlights from Taste of the Wasatch 2014:

Most Unexpected Favorite: Del Mar al Lago’s Anticuchos. I’m enjoyed Del Mar al Lago’s various sebiche dishes many times, and I’m not the kind of guy who goes looking to grub on some organ meat, like, ever. That made this traditional Peruvian skewered and grilled beef heart dish all the more surprising. It was delicious, with some wonderful flavor from both the meat and the spices. I went back for seconds.

Del Mar al Lago's grilled beef hearts.

Del Mar al Lago’s grilled beef hearts.

Most Expected Favorite: Tie between Tin Angel Cafe’s Pato Tacos and Red Iguana’s Ahi Tuna Tostadita. Both the Tin Angel and Red Iguana make amazing stuff that I get into regularly. Even so, their dishes Sunday stood out from the pack. Tin Angels tacos put together duck confit, hummus, slaw, feta and pickled onion in a corn tortilla fried in duck fat. Yes, it tasted as good as all that sounds–unbelievable. Likewise, Red Iguana’s dish worked in a wide array of ingredients, including chile-lime crusted yellowfin tuna, a cilantro-pepita emulsion, cabbage, pico de gallo and an avocado puree.

Serving up some Red Iguana.

Serving up some Red Iguana.

Best Way with a Mango: Francks’ Foie Gras Panno Cotta with Spicy Mango Soup. Many participants make creative shot glasses of soups and such, and this was my favorite on Sunday. The foie gras gave the sweet dish a little crunch, and the spicy mango was impressive. I seem to bump into mango a lot lately, but this is one mango dish I could see ordering, and often.

Best Date of the Day: Meditrina’s Chorizo & Chevre-stuffed Dates with Red Wine Demiglace. Let’s just say the fellow serving for Meditrina recognized me within the first couple hours of the event thanks to my repeated stops at his booth.

Best Way to Beet It: Chaia Cucina Catering’s Chilled Roasted Red Beet Bisque with Mind Oil & Feta. Cool, refreshing, remarkably tasty and purple. That goes a lot way for this Prince fan.

Best Summer Soup: The Blue Boar Inn’s Corn & Crab Chilled Soup. Well-balanced between the flavors, and light. I could eat a lot more than a shot glass-full next time I’m near The Blue Boar.

Favorite Creative Presentation: Riverhorse on Main’s Fresh Watermelon with Jalapeno Vinaigrette, Crumbled Feta and Local Honey. A blast from a syringe planted in each piece of watermelon unleashed the vinaigrette, and the honey was subtle and delicious.

The Rivershorse on Main knows how to deal with watermelon.

The Rivershorse on Main knows how to deal with watermelon.

Best Making Shrimp Taste Large: Pallet Bistro’s Shrimp Pate with Red Beet Cocktail Sauce and Pressed Citrus Salad. This little dish was perfect for the hot part of the afternoon. The shrimp pate was the first I’ve ever had, and the beets and citrus flavors proved perfect complements.

Best Chance of Turning Me Into a Vegetarian: Sage’s Asian-style Lettuce Wraps with Tempeh and Locally Grown Vegetables. Easy to eat, hearty, and a nice spicy sauce turned the tempeh and veggies into one of the dishes I tried all day.

Best Messin’ with the Salmon: The Aerie’s Honey & Rosemary Cured Gravlax with Preserved Lemon Cream Cheese and Brioche Toast Point. Looking at this dish, it seemed like a simple bit of smoked salmon on min-toast. But the blend of flavors was incredible, and I don’t even like cream cheese.

Best Yes, I Still Tried Some Dessert: Pago/Finca’s Utah Peaches and Cream. Simple, creamy and killer.

Utah peaches and cream from the Finca/Pago team.

Utah peaches and cream from the Finca/Pago team.

Kudos to the organizers of the event, always one of the best of the year, and all the restaurants, chefs and groups  involved with Taste of the Wasatch. It’s a mid-summer treasure worth putting on your schedule every year.

 

 

SLCene Suggests: Motley Crue at Usana Amphitheatre

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MOTLEY CRUE, USANA AMPHITHEATRE, WEST VALLEY CITY, Friday, Aug. 1, 7 p.m., $30-$100

Is this really the end? That’s the question Motley Crue fans have to ask as they consider buying tickets to what is being billed as the L.A. glam pioneers’ final tour. The band members even held a press conference earlier this year to sign supposedly binding contracts that they will never go on tour together again–an effort to juice ticket sales from fans who have been able to see Motley Crue nearly every summer of the past decade. Who knows what the fine print in those contracts says, but regardless of whether or not this really is the end of the line for Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil performing together, you can count on the fact the live show will be full of over-the-top theatrics and a cavalcade of hard-rock hits like “Shout at the Devil,” “Wild Side” and “Dr. Feelgood.” Add opener Alice Cooper to the evening’s proceedings, and you have the makings of a fine Friday night.

 

 

Concert review: Santana at Red Butte Garden

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The first time I saw Santana was opening a Grateful Dead gig in Vegas back in 1991, and while I entered the show having never seen either band, I left feeling Santana was the better live act.

I saw better Dead shows in the following years, but never saw Santana again until the band headlined a sold-out show Tuesday night at Red Butte Garden. And while I wouldn’t say Santana was as good as I remember, there was little mistaking the potency of the band’s live show even all these years later.

Carlos Santana used his still-impressive guitar to lead a 10-piece band of percussionists, horns and singers through more than two hours of lengthy instrumental excursions and dives into some of the classic American rock songbook.

I was pleasantly surprised at Santana and Co.’s early run through some older classics, from “Everybody’s Everything” from the band’s 1971 self-titled release to a one-two punch of “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” and “Oye Como Va.” Even if the man’s exaggerated guitar workouts aren’t your thing, there’s no denying the ability of “Oye Como Va” to get a crowd moving. And move it did, the audience staying on its feet throughout the early burst of favorites.

“Maria Maria” from Santana’s 1999 mega-comeback album Supernatural proved just as winning for the crowd, and “Foo Foo” gave co-vocalists Tony Lindsay and Andy Vargas the chance to engage the crowd, beckoning the audience to wave its hands, or jump to the beat throughout the song. Both singers were competent at best, lacking the personality of the band’s namesake as they delivered a slew of hits they didn’t have a hand in recording. That’s a thankless task–but upon watching and listening to them early in the show, I jotted in my notes: “No one here paid for the singers.”

They did, though, pay for Carlos Santana to blow their minds, and he did his best to deliver. “Corazon Espinado” (with a dash of “I Like It Like That”) was a highlight, leading into a lengthy jam in which Carlos Santana allowed his massive band to take turns with solos before he led the back into what a called “a new song”–a cover of “Tequila.” The follow-up jam touched on the  Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a song he’d teased early in the set, before the band launched into a full-bodied “Evil Ways” (complete with an aside into War’s “Spill the Wine”).

Carlos Santana let the music do the talking for the most part all night long, before encouraging the crowd to “turn off the TV because most of the time it’s just stupid shit. Not very elevating, or inspiring.”

A few seconds of the crowd chanting “light” and “love” led the bandleader into his monster late-career hit “Smooth” and oldie “Soul Sacrifice” in an encore featuring band introductions and brief excursions into songs like Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” and The Police’s “Roxanne.”

The two-plus-hours flew by, and the long day of rain was well gone by the time Santana took the stage at 7:30 p.m. By 10, the crowd was spent and satisfied by nearly two-dozen songs of remarkable playing by Santana and his band. If lengthy jams and dance-friendly songs aren’t your thing, the Santana show was probably not what you were looking for Tuesday night.

For most on hand, though, it was exactly what they were hoping for when they put down money for the most expensive Red Butte show of the summer–a high-energy mix of hits and experimental excursions led by a true legend who still can play like few others.

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