Monthly Archives: October 2012

Draft Beer at Camden Yards

June 10, 2009

Originally published on Examiner.com

It was draft night at Camden Yards on Tuesday.  To celebrate, Ravens Examiner Tony Wisniewski and I spent the homestand opener indulging in the finest drafts available at Oriole Park.
And when it comes to drafts, we made sure we covered all of the bases.

Fans are still able to bring food and non-alcoholic beverages into Camden Yards, a perk that former O Brady Anderson was quick to point out when he came out of hiding to defend Peter Angelos in the pages of The Sun last week. 

And by hiding I mean roller blading in Malibu.

Anderson is correct in noting the rarity and potential value to fans that the right to carry in food brings to OPACY.  Of course, not since 1985 have Orioles fans been permitted to bring their own beer to the stadium.  Superfan “Wild” Bill Hagy famously responded to the outside alcohol ban by throwing his cooler onto the field and walking out of Memorial Stadium, never to be seen on 33th St or at Camden Yards, ever again.

In a nod to Baltimore tradition, Camden Yards does sell Hagy’s beloved Natural Bohemian, though it goes for a very modern price of $6.00 a can.

Along with the formerly local Natty, Camden Yards also sells the standard national “lite” brews that can be found in any ballpark in the country.  Coors, Miller, and Bud are available for $5.75 a draft at a 2 drink per person per purchase maximum.

Because the way to curb binge drinking is to prevent people from triple fisting it.  Surely, we’ve all heard some shirtless frat boy telling his buddy, “gee, I  would like to drink a lot during this game.  If only I could buy 10 beers from the vendor all at once instead of waiting until I’ve finished 2 before buying 2 more cold ones.  I mean, this guy only comes around with a gigantic box of beer for sale every 2 and a half minutes.  How am I supposed to get my buzz on!”

But when I go to The Yard, I often choose the beer path less traveled.  Microbrews such as Baltimore’s Clipper City are for sale at stationary vendors all over Camden Yards.  The brews are priced at only $1 more than their mass-produced, widely available counterparts, so why opt for a watery Coors Light when one can enjoy a locally crafted Old Scratch Amber?

The answer, I suppose, is that “cheap” beer and sporting events go hand and hand, and while the cheaply made Coors and Buds are no longer by definition cheap, they are considered central to baseball spectatorship.  The idyllic baseball viewing experience includes hot dogs, peanuts, and Bud, not hot dogs, peanuts, and Loose Cannon, which is a shame because I would prefer the latter.

Think about it.  Microbrewed beer comes in either a bottle or draft, and since Camden Yards does not sell glass bottles, microbrews can only be sold at beer stands and not by the mobile beer salespeople who circle every section of the park.

You can’t toss a buddy a draft beer and you’ll have to get up to buy one (or two, but no more than two…at a time).

But let me encourage you to make every night at Camden Yards draft night.  Take the extra few steps to the vendors at specially labeled “Microbrew of Maryland”  stands.   Get yourself a Copperhead Lager, Clipper City Gold Ale or Wild Goose IPA instead of a Bud or Miller.  They’re nearly the same price and since prices in the stadium are ridiculous all around, why not keep your cup filled with the good stuff?

Yellow Dog Tavern in Baltimore, MD

June 26, 2009

Originally published on Examiner.com

You may have heard about the microbrews available at Camden Yards and the O’s, bohs, and wing specials at Todd Conner’s.  If you can’t get to the park, and you want to enjoy the game with cheap beer and munchies that go beyond the typical sports bar fare, Yellow Dog Tavern on the corner of Potomac St and Foster Ave in Canton is also worth a try.

A sign outside of Yellow Dog promises $1 Miller lights during Orioles games.  I was dubious of the prospects of actually getting a $1 Miller Light on a Saturday because, having been to Yellow Dog a few times before, I knew it was far from a sports bar.

Yet when ma’ lady and I walked in during the top of the 5th inning, there was our bartender, smiling and telling us just as we sat down that Miller Lights were, indeed, $1.  Rotating taps and an assortment of microbrew bottles are also available for patrons willing to spend more than a single.  After a buck’s worth of cheap swill, I opted for a $5 beer sampler that led me to a pint of Bittberger, which was dry, delicious, and $6.

My companion stuck with a dollar draft, which is just a small part of her charm.

We were also given a menu of $3-$4 appetizers that were actually small plates (see, I told you it wasn’t a sports bar).  I opted for a $3 falafel platter that included 3 small pieces of spicy falafel and a garlic mayonnaise.  Yellow Dog doesn’t sell wings or chicken fingers, but I suppose one can find those sports viewing staples anywhere.  I haven’t eaten dinner at Yellow Dog yet, but they do sell fish tacos, ribs, salmon and a host of vegetarian friendly entrees.

I can personally vouch for the breakfast burrito served during Sunday brunch.  Brunch runs from 10-3 on Sundays, long enough to get you through half of a matinée O’s game.  You can order $3 bloody mary’s for the early game on Sundays, but you might want to wait until after you finish your burrito;  you’ll need two hands for that.

Yellow Dog Tavern isn’t an ideal setting to watch a game.  They have a nice HD flat screen over 40 inches wide at the front end of the bar, though it’s the only TV downstairs.   The bar is small and crowds easily and on this particularly balmy evening the air conditioning was apparently only working upstairs.  I was sweating generously, and not only because the O’s were battling the Phillies.

Yellow Dog is not your typical sports bar, but it has a few things that corporate cookie cutter sports chains like Buffalo Wild Wings don’t have: good food made from quality ingredients and a menu that ranges from burgers to mahi mahi.

Oh, and if your girlfriend doesn’t care about baseball–doesn’t care about the fact that Danys Baez surrendered a three run home run to a pinch hitting Ryan Howard and the Phillies came back only to see the Orioles spoil their come from behind with two  homers in the bottom of the ninth—they also have a nice selection of gossip magazines like People and Star to keep her happy.

Can you believe that Jon and Kate are splitting up?

 

How Will Your Favorite Oriole Celebrate Baltimore Beer Week

September 2, 2009

Originally posted on Examiner.com

According to The Sun’s Rob Kasper, one-time Oriole great Boog Powell is set to kick off Baltimore Beer Week on October 8th by tapping a keg of beer aboard the U.S.S. Constellation.
No word on whether or not Powell plans to share.
Boog, already known around town for his home run hitting and barbequing prowess, may be the only Oriole playing an official role in Beer Week, but his involvement got me thinking about how some current and former Orioles may celebrate the occasion.
Erik Bedard will drink 2/3 of his beer and call it a day.
Albert Belle will…hey, what’s it to you?  That’s none of your business.  Get out of his face.
Daniel Cabrera will try to shotgun a beer…and miss badly.
Cesar Izturis will put a nice glove on his beer.
Aubrey Huff will…you really don’t want to know.
Adam Loewen will promise to have a beer with you then ditch you for one of his hometown friends.
Jim Palmer will tell you everything about the beer making process in painstaking detail.
Felix Pie will drink half of his beer really quickly, then stop, change his mind, and try unsuccessfully to send it back to where it came from.
Cal Ripken will drink a beer every day for fifteen years, no exceptions.
Brian Roberts will try a beer once because his friends and roommates drink it, but he won’t like it or ever do it again…he swears.
Luke Scott will have trouble drinking a beer for months.  Then all of a sudden he’ll drink like 5 in a row.
Miguel Tejada will celebrate his 21st birthday for the 15th time.
Ty Wigginton …“I thought every week was beer week…?”
In other news, the Orioles All Star Adam Jones is injured and the club has lost yet another series to the New York Yankees.

 

Blue October in Baltimore, MD

April 2, 2012

Originally published on The Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun

Blue October’s Sunday night show at Ram’s Head live began with an acoustic set by the band’s lead singerand songwriter Justin Furstenfeld.  Striking an Aaron Lewis-esque look in baggy jeans and a baseball cap, Furstenfeld strummed a few open chords and added an electronic drumbeat for portions of the 30-minute set.

Towards the end of the solo set, Furstenfeld proclaimed that he was not, in fact, a guitarist and that his “sausage fingers” made playing a six-string a difficult endeavor.  Still, the audience didn’t come to hear a guitar virtuoso put on a clinic.  They came to hear Furstenfeld’s lyrics, nearly all of which are melancholy tunes about breakups that rely heavily on words that rhyme with “girl” and “heart.”

Between the solo performance and Blue October’s headlining set, fellow Texas band Girl in a Coma amped up the proceedings with a hard-rocking set that included a bar-room bluesy cover of Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight.”  Signed to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records, lead singer/guitarist Nina Diaz’s confident growls and snarls provided a real contrast to the bummed out musings of Furstenfeld.

But if the acoustic opener was Furstenfeld’s opportunity to whimper softly about his heartache, Blue October’s hour and a half set offered a much faster-paced form of therapy.  With a touring band that includes a viola/violinist, Blue October’s hour and a half set included six tracks off of 2011’s “Any Man in America.”  The album deals with Furstenfeld’s divorce and custody battle, though you wouldn’t know it by the merrily dancing fans who filled most of Ram’s Head on a Sunday night.

Once the headlining set started, Furstenfeld’s soft-spoken persona gave way to a charismatic frontman.  Dressed in black and sporting a colorful mohawk, Furstenfeld donned a guitar for more than half of a set, though only strumming it on occasion.  Instead, he left the majority of the instrumental work to his four-piece backing band, including his brother Jeremy Furstenfeld on drums.

The band was given a fuller sound by multi-instrumentalist Ryan Delahoussaye’s ability to multitask, handling the violin, keyboards, and  backing vocals, often within the same song.

The band’s biggest hits, “Into the Ocean” and “Hate Me,” both from 2006’s “Foiled” LP provided the most audible sing-alongs of the night, and Furstenfeld let the crowd handle some of the duties for the latter.

Still, the fans on hand didn’t come out just to hear a six-year-old single.  Most of the audience was familiar with the band’s entire catalog, which the group sped up to a live pace and added plenty of vocal reverb to fortify Furstenfeld’s vowel-heavy choruses.

As he worked every part of the stage, holding the mic with both hands while carrying a guitar strapped to his belly like some kind of defense mechanism, Furstenfeld was the rock and roll everyman, oscillating from reserved talk-singing verses to big choruses and back, all the while looking to his audience through heavily made-up eyes for approval.

And approve they did, cheering and giving slightly misplaced devil horns at appropriate intervals for the duration of the evening.

Setlist:

She’s My Ride Home

Say It

Sound of Pulling Heaven Down

Dirt Room

Kangaroo Cry

Into the Ocean

The Feel Again

For the Love

The Chills

The Flight

James

The End

Hate Me

The Worry List

The Getting  Over It Part

X Amount of Words

Heart in Baltimore, MD

August 2, 2010

Originally published on The Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun

’70s hard rockers-turned-’80s balladeers-turned classic rock mainstays Ann and Nancy Wilson brought their 2010 tour to Pier Six Pavilion Sunday night, with a well-rounded set list and pleasing performance.

Heart’s multi-generational fan base was on hand, including a sizable number of sidewalk freeloaders and boat-dwellers.

Just as sunset hit the Inner Harbor, Heart made their way to the stage for a 100-minute set that featured every song the casual fan wanted to hear as well as a number of lesser-known tracks …

From the start, it was obvious that Ann Wilson’s voice is still  in fine form, and Nancy Wilson is still full of rock ‘n’ roll front  woman spunk after 35 years in the business. The group tore through two  songs, “Hey You” and “WTF” from their 13th studio album, the forthcoming  “Red Velvet Car.”

Mid-set, they mixed in a faithful rendition of  “These Dreams” and a stripped-down take of ’80s megahit “Alone,” which  Ann noted came in at an octave lower than it was 25 years ago. It was a  sultry and full as ever. Change is good.

The group back loaded their set with ’70s classics “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” and  “Barracuda.”  Near the end of the show, it seemed like Heart had finished, and a few fans left. They  missed out on an encore that featured covers of Led Zeppelin and The  Who. Heart has a powerful rendition of “Love, Reign O’er Me.”

As  with most classic rock shows, last night’s Heart concert was not without its  cliches, including an unnecessary video montage of machine-generated  visuals. Fire! Black light! Flaming donuts (I think)! But the cliches  did nothing to take away from the power and professionalism of Heart’s  current incarnation and the ageless vocals of Ann Wilson. The Wilson  sisters have still got it

Steel Panther in Baltimore, MD

May 18, 2012

Originally published on The Baltimore Sun’s The Midnight Sun

Comedy clubs are littered with guys who can strum the guitar and tell jokes concurrently, but the key to a great musical comedy act is the strength of their musicianship. As with Weird Al and Spinal Tap, Steel Panther demonstrate talent comparable and at times superior to the acts they parody.

The ’80s glam-metal foursome formed in 2000 according to its bio (or in 1988 according to the “bio”) and since then have been regulars on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, where they perform a mix of covers and originals. The group’s national tours, however, predominantly feature original material from 2009’s “Feel the Steel” and 2011’s “Balls Out.” Thursday night’s 100-minute set at Rams Head Live highlighted the band’s professionalism and penchant for crotch jokes.

First, “American Idol” Season 10 fourth place finalist James Durbin opened the show with a surprisingly hard-rocking 40 minute set. Think a glam-rock Adam Lambert with more emphasis on the rock part.

Taking the stage at 10:45 p.m. in full costume, Steel Panther opened with the first two tracks from “Balls Out,” the space-age concept album that spoofs “In the Future” and “Supersonic Sex Machine.” The first of several breaks followed as the band bantered with one another between songs. Singer Ralph Saenz and guitarist Russ Parrish handled most of the emceeing duties. Though veterans of ’80s bands including LA Guns and Fight, the duo go by the stage names “Michael Star” and “Satchel.” Together with gender-bending bassist Travis Haley (“Lexxi Foxxx”) and drummer Daren Leader (“Stix Zadinia”), their act includes as much wink-and-nod hedonism and misogyny as their album cuts and the crowd responded to their jokes with enthusiasm nearly equal that of their songs.

Additional highlights included a rousing rendition of the power ballad “Community Property” and the band’s slowest song, “Weenie Ride,” for which Stix took center stage for keyboard duties.  For heavier fare, including “Just Like Tiger Woods” and “Turn Out the Lights,” the band shared choreographed head-banging that matched their Flying V guitars and later invited a dozen women on stage with them for a discussion of domestic policy and the forthcoming election.

Just kidding, they danced and took their tops off.

For the encore, Durbin joined the band for the lone cover of the evening, a spot-on rendition of “Sweet Child of Mine” during which the 23 year-old reality contestant’s vocals noticeably outshined those of Michael Star. Panther and Durbin’s impassioned take on the Guns ‘n’ Roses standard easily bested the half-hearted rendition Mile Kennedy performed with Slash two weeks earlier earlier.

The band’s parodies are also in many ways a tribute to ’80s rock. On the day that Van Halen announced the cancelation of most of their tour due to in-fighting, Steel Panther stands as a better tribute to the ’80s than many of the current bands from the big-hair era. Though they laughed at appropriate intervals, the crowd’s animated approval of each soaring guitar solo shows that they, too, came to rock out to the ’80s, albeit with a millennial-appropriate level of self-awareness.

Setlist:

In the Future Supersonic Sex Machine Tomorrow Night Fat Girl (Thar She Blows) Asian Hooker Just Like Tiger Woods Gold-Digging Whore Turn Out the Lights Community Property Eyes of a Panther Weenie Ride Party All Day It Won’t Suck Itself Death to All But Metal

Encore: Sweet Child of Mine 17 Girls in a Row

Slash in Baltimore, MD

May 4, 2012

Originally published on The Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun

The banner atop the stage during Thursday night’s tour-opening performance said it all. In size-72 font was the billboard for monosyllabic lead guitarist Slash, followed by a colorful size-48 font promo for his current lead singer-collaborator, Myles Kennedy. Below Kennedy’s name, in 12-point font was the name of their touring rhythm section, the Conspirators.

For their part, the Conspirators were a capable and enthusiastic group, tearing through a 19-song set that showcased Slash’s solo material and his work withGuns N’ Rosesand Velvet Revolver equally. Bassist Todd Kerns brought a particularly high-octane stage presence to Rams Head Live, working every part of the stage and providing standout backing vocals for the golden-piped Kennedy. Kennedy, too, was game. The 42-year-old rock veteran’s octave-scaling range was on full display throughout the evening.

That said, the setlist, the songs and the crowd reinforced what the sign suggested: this was a Slash concert. The crowd consisted mostly of fans who were around during Slash’s heyday and beer sales were no doubt brisk for this distinctly “of age” demographic. When the band took the stage at 9:45 (more than two hours earlier than Axl’s Guns N’ Roses showed up for their recent set at the Fillmore) 1,800 beery fans popped for Slash, who appeared in full regalia, wearing all black with his trademark long curls and tophat. Slash’s post-Guns song catalogue are all distinctly Slash, highlighted by recognizable bluesy guitar solos played atop fast-paced, straightforward rock riffs.

While the crowd cheered enthusiastically for each portion of the 19-song, 100-minute set, “Night Train,” the first of five Guns songs, got the most bodies moving. Kennedy, who at this point probably possesses greater vocal ability than Axl, hit every note of the Guns songs. However, his clean-throated high-range is in stark contrast to Rose’s raspy yowls. Songs such as “Night Train” and “My Michelle,” which tell tales about a seedy underworld of booze, drugs, and prostitution, don’t have the same dirty feel with Kennedy’s crisp vocal delivery.

Also interesting is the fact that the set pays nearly equal homage to Velvet Revolver as it does to GnR.  Surely, it is an easier task to replace the deep-throated Scott Weiland than it is to approximate Axl, and the crowd was happy to have four Revolver songs on Thursday night. Chart-topping ballad “Fall to Pieces” was a mid-set crowd pleaser.

For their part, the sold-out crowd responded enthusiastically all night. They were there to see a Hall of Fame guitarist, and even when his guitar died during “Back to Cali,” forcing the band to hit rewind and restart, he did not disappoint. A few times during the cover-heavy set, Kennedy looked like he didn’t want to be playing the replacement rock star the way he did in the movie “Rock Star.” During “Sweet Child of Mine,” he incited the crowd to do the wave with more than a hint of detached irony. Still, as the confetti rained down during closer “Paradise City,” Slash had put on another great rock show and Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators proved worthy touring partners, if not peers.

Set list

Mean Bone (Snakepit) Dirty Lil Thing (Velvet Revolver) Ghost Night Train (Guns ‘n’ Roses) Rocket Queen (Guns ‘n’ Roses) Back From Cali Sucker Train Blues (Velvet Revolver) Standing in the Sun Fall to Pieces (Velvet Revolver) Dr. Alibi Speed Parade (Snakepit) Watch This Starlight You’re a Lie My Michelle (Guns ‘n’ Roses) Just Like Anything (Snakepit) Sweet Child of Mine (Guns ‘n’ Roses) Slither (Velvet Revolver)

Encore: By the Sword Paradise City (Guns ‘n’ Roses)

Def Leppard, Poison, and Lita Ford in Columbia, MD

July 11, 2012

Originally published on the Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun

At around 10 Tuesday night at Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, a pair of fans were relieving themselves of $12 margaritas and $10 beers when the following disagreement took place:

Fan No. 1: “Poison should be headlining this show, man. They’re better than Def Leppard.”

Fan No. 2: “No way. Def Leppard’s still got it! Poison is just collecting a paycheck.”

The importance of this conversation is not which fan is right (though for the record, I stand with and directly next to fan No. 2), but that this conversation is still taking place in 2012.

Twenty-five years after Def Leppard’s Hysteria album and 13 years, even, since Poison kicked off the ’80s amphitheater revival with its 1999 comeback tour, the veteran acts still refuse to either burn out or fade away.

Though neither Def Leppard, Poison, nor opener Lita Ford is likely to put out a new record that’ll go platinum (is that a word anymore?), their fans are willing to shell out $50 to spend a perfect summer evening dancing and fist-pumping to back catalogues and reliving decades past, when they did exactly the same, only with bigger hair and fewer bills to pay.

For the most part, the bands delivered as if Hammerjacks were still packing the house on a Tuesday night.

Ford took the stage for a short set at 7 p.m. Though the crowd had not yet filtered in and her four-piece band only had a tiny portion of the stage to work with, she proved she has shaken off any rust that may have accumulated during her lengthy break from performing in the late ’90s and ’00s. At 53 and incredibly fit, Ford donned a black leather jacket and leather pants that may have been the same pair she wore in her MTV heyday. She strapped on a gigantic white double-neck guitar for the sing-along “Kiss Me Deadly” and closed the set by singing both parts of her duet with Ozzy Osborne, “Close My Eyes Forever.”

Poison followed, opening with the traditional first song, “Look What the Cat Dragged In.” They ran through all of their hits, including “Unskinny Bop” and “Talk Dirty to Me” as well as two-and-a-half covers, Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band,” Loggins and Messina’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and bits of Rick Derringer’s “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.” These guys prefer to rock out to songs about rock.

Of course, Brett Michaels, 49, has also embarked on a second career as a reality TV star, and he was sure to plug an upcoming appearance on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” all but asking the female-dominated crowd to set their DVRs. Solo career choices notwithstanding, however, Poison is a band better suited to open a show like this than headline. The band simply doesn’t have the hits for a full headlining set, as a 50-minute performance sprinkled with covers, guitar solos and drum solos proved.

Def Leppard, on the other hand, has amassed a collection of singles that can rival any group of its era.  That’s why opening with a new song, “Undefeated,” was an odd choice. Typically, the new single marks an opportunity for fans to fork out a few bucks for another drink and find a bathroom mid-set.

But Def Leppard’s presence and command of the audience built from a relatively weak start to full steam by about the fifth and sixth songs, Hysteria’s “Animal” and “Love Bites.” Singer Joe Elliot, 52, a man who once admitted to shooting needles full of Jack Daniels, now looks like a distinguished British gentleman. Lead guitarist and apparent ab-roller enthusiast Phil Collen, 54, on the other hand, may have the same intense personal trainer as Lita Ford.

The band’s audio included plenty of reverb and layered vocals, but their acoustic miniset proved that they didn’t need flashy studio wizardry to keep the crowd happy. In fact, drummer Rick Allen, 48, who lost his left arm in a car accident in 1984, got one of the biggest pops of the night when he joined the band on the catwalk during the acoustic set to play a maraca.

The band churned out crowd-pleasers as the night drew toward its conclusion, closing with a string of chart-toppers that included “Hysteria,” “Armageddon It,” “Photograph” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”

For the encore, the band launched into “Rock of Ages,” without any mention of the play or the film that borrowed its name. Before leaving the stage at the conclusion of the 100-minute set, Elliott made a pact with the crowd, “Until next time — and there will be a next time — do us a favor: don’t forget about us and we won’t forget about you.”

Still rolling indeed.

Guns N’ Roses in Silver Springs, MD

February 23, 2012

Originally published on The Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun

Say what you want about Axl Rose’s erratic touring schedule and late-night performances, but when the man shows up for a gig, he sticks around for a while.  That was certainly the case at the Fillmore on Thursday night, where Guns N’ Roses took the stage just after midnight, playing a three-hour set of more than 30 songsfor what looked like an at-capacity crowd.

Openers Electric Sun handled the unenviable job of playing to a packed house of fans more engaged in prognostications about GnR’s enigmatic singer than in watching them.

For those wondering,

Axl’s hair: covered with a large hat, but at least not cornrowed

Axl’s weight: covered with layers.  Paunchy but not his paunchiest.

Axl’s face:  covered with sunglasses.  Lifted.

As the Chinese Democracy Tour begins its second decade (the band has been performing in the U.S. in support of the long-in-the-works album since 2001), Axl’s latest band includes an impressive stable of musicians.

Standouts include a guy named Bumblefoot, who looks like he may have wandered directly off a six-month hiking trek and into GnR, and former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, who has now been a replacement member of GnR longer than he was a Replacement.  Drummer Frank Ferrer was turned way down in the club mix, but his precision and force is more Matt Sorum than Stephen Adler.  DJ Ashba seems to have been brought in for his ability to wear a top hat and smoke cigarettes ala Slash.

The technical proficiency and sheer size of the band, now an eight-piece with two keyboardists and three guitarists, lends itself more naturally to big, busy songs like “Estranged,” which they brought out surprisingly early in the set.

After opening with “Chinese Democracy,” Axl got the crowd going with three consecutive Appetite-era songs – “Welcome to the Jungle,” “It’s So Easy” and “Mr. Brownstone” followed shortly thereafter by a funked-up version of “You’re Crazy.”

But oldies like “Rocket Queen” felt a bit hollow without Slash and Izzy’s loose blues rock or the swing original drummer Stephen Adler brought to the group.

The current group could have played to their strengths by venturing further into the back catalog of “Use Your Illusions” songs and digging out big, broad opuses like “Coma” and “Locomotive.” But instead, it built the set around “Appetite for Destruction” and “Chinese Democracy” songs, with a few instrumentals thrown in for good measure.

Newer songs – and by newer I mean songs that Axl tinkered with for 17 years before releasing “Chinese Democracy” in 2008 – sounded great, but even in an intimate setting there was an inevitable lull each time a “Democracy”-era song came on.

One exception was “Better” an  up-tempo encore inclusion with a full light show and harmonies that got the crowd buzzing.  But Axl knows where his bread is buttered, and so “Appetite” classics “Patience” and “Paradise City” closed the show as the house lights went on not long before sunlight started peeking into the morning at 3 a.m.

If Axl Rose doesn’t want to cash in on a reunion tour with Slash, he’d do well to stick to venues like The Fillmore, where he can pack in a full house of die-hards. Still, it’s clear that while he may not need his old bandmates to play a Guns N’ Roses show, he certainly needs their old songs.

Set List

Chinese Democracy

Welcome to the Jungle

It’s So Easy

Mr. Brownstone

Sorry

You’re Crazy

Estranged

Rocket Queen

Richard Fortus Guitar Solo

Live and Let Die

This I Love

Motivation – Stinson solo

Dizzy Reed piano solo – Baba O’Reilly

Street of Dreams

You Could Be Mine

DJ Ashba Guitar Solo

Sweet Child of Mine

Used to Love Her

Instrumental Jam

Axl Rose piano solo/November Rain

Bumblefoot

Don’t Cry

Civil War

Knockin on Heaven’s Door

Night Train

Madagascar

Better

Instrumental

Patience

Instrumental/Paradise City

Kiss and Motley Crue in Bristow, VA

July 23, 2012

Originally published on The Baltimore Sun’s The Midnight Sun

Thirty years after they first toured together, Kiss and Motley Crue are back out on the road, opening their 2012 summer tour on an intermittently stormy night in Bristow. But if Crue is officially the opening act on this tour, their bigger stage show, equal-lengthed setlist and more frenzied audience suggests otherwise.

Motley Crue’s stage show is a spectacle. Working with the carnival theme they’ve been experimenting with for years, this tour includes a huge stage production incorporating all of the classic elements of arock ‘n’ rollcircus and a healthy dose of vaudeville.

The band entered via the aisles in a druid-style ceremony, accompanied by roadies bearing Motley Crue flags. The show began with the eponymous single off the group’s latest album, “Saints of Los Angeles.”  Frontman Vince Neil’s stage presence may not be impressive enough to carry a show, but he’s barely noticeable mixed in with the lights, smoke, fire, dancing backup singers, and roller-coaster drum set that serve as a backdrop for Neil’s jazzercising routine and often strained vocals.

Motley Crue is one of those rare bands in which the rhythm section’s personalities are larger than the lead’s. This was evident during Friday’s show when Tommy Lee took the spotlight for a two-part drum solo, during which he played the drums while spinning 360 degrees and later picking up an audience member to accompany him.

Lee then played piano on “Home Sweet Home,” probably one of the most touching songs ever performed by a man dressed as a court jester. Bassist/songwriter/biographer Nikki Sixx, who looks like a touring member of Nine Inch Nails these days, took center stage with a flaming bass guitar during “Primal Scream.”

Despite debuting a new song (“Sex”) midset, Crue otherwise stuck to their classics during the 75-minute production, wrapping things up fittingly with one of their biggest hits and self-laudatory tributes to their own decadent legacy, “Kickstart My Heart.”

But if Motley Crue is representative of ’80s raunch and excess, Kiss is a genre in and of itself.

Though only half of the original band is represented in the current lineup, the group arrived in full makeup, platform shoes and cartoon regalia, as did many of their fans. Kiss’ LED-light stage show didn’t live up to the high expectations set by Motley Crue, and it’s a bit surprising that they didn’t add more to it in order to outshine their showy supporting act.

Taking the stage at 9:45 with their traditional opening song, “Detroit Rock City,” the band front-loaded hits into the first part of the set, following with “Shout it Out Loud,” “I Love it Loud,” and “Love Gun.”  Paul Stanley rode a zip-line to the middle of the pavilion for “Love Gun,” utilizing a temporary structure that brought him closer to the audience. Later, long-tongued bassist/reality tv star Gene Simmons spit blood during their new single, “Hell or Hallelujah,” released earlier this month.

Stanley and Simmons left the stage for a midset guitar and drum solo showcasing Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, current representatives of the Space and Cat Men. Highlighting their ’70s roots, the band interspersed bits of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” into “Lick it Up.”

If you’ve seen Kiss before, you know what to expect from them, including the mega-hit encore “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Their show remains formulaic, but it’s a formula that has helped them maintain a legion of loyal fans and keeps them drawing as a major touring act 16 years after the band’s MTV reunion and resurgent comeback tour. Objectively, however, the metal lunch box heroes haven’t stepped up their touring act to match that of their Sin City-meets-Ringling-Brothers rock-‘n’-roll roadshow counterparts in the Crue.

Jay Trucker is a frequent contributor to Midnight Sun. He teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County in Dundalk and blogs occassionally at WNST.net. He last reviewed Def Leppard and Poison at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Wesley Case edited this post.

Motley Crue

“Saints of Los Angeles ” “Wildside” “Shout at the Devil” “Same Old Situation” “Looks that Kill” “Girl, Don’t Go Away Mad” “Sex” Drum solo (club mix and “Roller Coaster”) “Home Sweet Home (Tommy Lee on piano)” “Primal Scream” “Dr. Feelgood” “Girls, Girls, Girls” “Kickstart My Heart”

Kiss

“Detroit Rock City” “Shout it Out Loud” “I Love it Loud” “Love Gun” “Firehouse” “War Machine” “Shock Me” “Hell or Hallelujah” Bass solo “God of Thunder” “Lick it Up (‘Baba O’Reilly’ splices)” “Black Diamond”

Encore”Rock and Roll All Nite”