The Black Keys roll through PPG with ‘Let’s Rock’ tour

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                                                                                                                       image via Josh McCann

by Josh McCann

The Black Keys launched into “I Got Mine” and the PPG arena exploded. The first song?! Wait, that can’t be right?! Usually the classic Keys jam is saved for last, but not this time. The bluesy guitar riff amped up to another volume while thunderous drums shook the seats–this was happening! I stood joyfully surprised, one hand holding a large overpriced beer, the other hand waving in the air to the melody. This was the “Let’s Rock” tour, and it was only the beginning of a show that saw The Black Keys bring a mix of their great rock and roll catalog to PPG Arena in Pittsburgh.

Earlier this year fans were excited to hear that the Black Keys had recorded a new album, their first in five years, with a huge tour to follow. “Let’s Rock” features mostly upbeat jams, with lyrics about heartbreak set to classic rock guitar solos and bluesy beats. To put it simply: the album kicks major ass. So I was extra pumped to hear how these new songs would sound during a large arena show. 

Following the epic blast of “I Got Mine”, the band jumped into new stuff, which included a soaring foot-stomp version of “Eagle Birds” followed by the cool crush groove of “Tell Me Lies.” The new material definitely held up quite well. If anything, it kept the upbeat energy alive. They can tell us all the dirrrrty liesssss but that’s the truth! 

Once the show revved up there was no stopping the ride. “Gold on the Ceiling” had everyone singing along to the chorus while bright gold lights flashed on the stage. This was my 8th time seeing the band live, having seen them at festivals, arenas, and even a parking lot—the stage is more elaborate these days. There was a huge oval screen behind the band, with lightning arrows on the sides. The stage had tons of lights, including these hanging poles that would flash different colors. The other band members were in the background, because that’s how the setup has always been. It’s lead singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach up front with drummer Patrick Carney to the side of the stage. Sidenote: In the early days it was just the two of them on stage for the entire show. Two people creating the crazy beautiful rock n roll noise. And as the years went by, the shows got bigger, and they added session players to thicken and boost the songs even more.

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                                                                                                                        image via Josh McCann

The band played “Next Girl”, which sounded great, and brought us back to the “Brothers” era. And then they shifted towards the new album, featuring “Fire Walk with Me” and the stand out slow burner “Walk Across the Water”. Those were awesome in terms of leading into the classic dance falsetto disco jam “Everlasting Light.” The way that song moves and grooves never gets old. See right there. The Black Keys can play fast full throttle jams but also shift gears into a sweet drive down the road. It’s all there man! 

Another great thing about the show was that our section (109!) stood during the concert, which is clutch because you have to get up and dance for this kind of show! The band kicked it up and Auerbach’s guitar roared through the air while Carneys heart pounding drums played a solid stretch of songs, including ”Your Touch”, “Strange Times”, and “Tighten Up”. I was surprised to see “Ten Cent Pistol” in the setlist just because they can only play so many songs, and this was a really good jam to hear live. 

And then came the part of the show that’s becoming the Black Keys staple live song–“Little Black Submarines.” The build up of that song had the crowd singing along, phones in the air, while Dan played on his acoustic guitar. The entire arena anticipated the break in the song. Once Dan stopped, the lights went out, the crowd roared, and we knew what was coming. All of a sudden you hear the crushing guitar chords while Patrick kicks in the drums which sets the place on fire. The lights blare to every beat while Auerbach’s guitar drives into an unbelievable blow-your-mind guitar solo straight from classic rock euphoria. It’s safe to say that the song is always going to be a major highlight of the show. But there’s more! Having the crowd in the palm of their hands, they played “Lonely Boy”, the popular hit with a driving riff and “ooohhhh, oooohh, ooooh” chorus which the crowd chanted along. We always got a love that keeps us waiting, waiting.

The band rarely talked to the crowd, except for when Dan mentioned that Patrick went to school in Pittsburgh. The crowd cheered. That’s how the Black Keys have always been. They established early on with their audience about what their live show was–plug in, play amazing songs, play them loud, leave the crowd wanting more, drive to the next city. The guys from Akron don’t mess around! A possible suggestion–maybe they could have a small catwalk extend into the crowd. It would be cool to see them do a few songs in the middle of the floor. Hmmm, maybe next tour?!

Enore, enore! Who doesn’t love a good encore?! The crowd begged for more, the band came back out, played a couple of new ones, including the very catchy, very righteous riff of “Lo/Hi” and the bouncy dance single “Go”, proving that the new material can stack up against the old. The show ended with a fiery blast of “She’s Long Gone”. People danced in front of us, danced on the floor, I mean, the entire arena had a kick ass time. And that’s what it’s all about right?! The Black Keys showed that their new songs mixed with the classics make for an incredible night of live jams. The set list keeps getting stronger for each tour, and it’s only going to get better. After they played the final riff, Auerbach let the last chord ring out to an extra loud level, the lights flashed as Carney’s drums boomed through the arena; the crowds hands in the air, some clapping, some taking pics, everyone yelling for more. Let’s Rock. Oh it rocked, and then some.

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October 7, 2019

Hollywood Nights: Next City releases debut Single “Blue Star”

by Josh McCann

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Next City via Facebook   

The Hollywood scene and starlit dreams–it’s always an intriguing look when it comes to the reality of the city of angels. The debut single “Blue Star” by LA based rock band Next City shines a fresh take on the maddening LA lifestyle. It’s a song meant for a summer ride on the edge of LA—all the promises, hopes, and dreams in the distant glimmering lights. Watch out, you may never come back the same.

“Blue Star” kicks off with a catchy hand clap beat and sleek guitar riff. Lead singer Samuel Larsen, best known for his work on the hit show Glee, howls “I promise that I’ll never change” with sultry rock n roll front man attitude. You believe the vocals, and wonder how awesome Next City would be at a live show, massive crowd singing along, amps loud–all the blue stars aligned. The song keeps the momentum going, especially in the second verse, when Larsen sings “take me to the limit” over a dance party groove. “Blue Star” showcases an exciting new band on the rise. There’s loud guitars, strong charisma, and an awesome video too. The video features a girl lost in the madness, surrounded by creepy costumes and flashing lights, leading to a wild scene with a twist. Watch it here. Turn it up.

 

The Black Keys release new single “Lo/Hi”

The Black Keys
                                                                                                             Image via The Black Keys Facebook

by Josh McCann

Here’s five words that will jump start anyone’s day: The Black Keys are back. Yes, fans rejoiced when the duo released their new single “Lo/Hi” this past week. Has it really been five years since we last heard from them?! The wait is over, and all that waiting has payed off because “Lo/Hi” rocks like a blistering bar anthem star in the howlin rain riff that kicks.

As a huge fan of the band, in which I saw them blast out arena’s, festivals, and parking lots–I wondered when the band would step back into the spotlight and crush the rock world. The new single reminds us of the straight ahead gut punch pedal to the floor full throttle power they have. Attack and release lonely boy–there’s always gold on the ceiling. “Lo/Hi” begins with a cool crush guitar fuzz groove, moving to a gospel tinged chorus while the pounding drums keep the beat for the all afternoon drive. Lead singer Dan Auerbach sings, “Nobody to love to you/Nobody to care,” while drummer Patrick Carney strikes the beat with all the cool and all the flare. Low, high, high, low–let it rip.

Click below and listen to “Lo/Hi”

 

The Mowgli’s explore relationships with new EP “American Feelings”

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                                                                                                                    Image via the Mowgli’s Facebook

by Josh McCann

There’s something righteous about a new Mowgli’s EP being released on the verge of Spring. When I think of the Mowgli’s–I think of sun drenched days where the ocean waves break and there’s nothing but blue sky, beverages, and the promise of a crazy night. The band was meant to be a soundtrack for summer. The jams still kick during the cold bitter days, but there’s some extra sauce when the warm weather hits. Their new EP “American Feelings” is a fantastic set of songs by one of the most consistent bands in rock today.

To be honest—I wanted the EP to keep playing, leading to some bonus track like it was 1994 and the cassette suddenly plays a hidden track at the end. Speaking of nostalgia–the second track “Mr. Telephone” rings true. “What a sign of the time it is,” Colin Dieden sings over an upbeat rhythm and classic Mowgli’s group style chorus. There was a time when people actually talked over the phone, communication was ultra personal, and there’s a lot of that missing today. Music video idea! Maybe have the band talking on telephones and payphones with a split screen while they move across the American highways on tour. Say it, just say it.

I’ve been a fan of the Kansas City based band since they took the alt nation charts by storm with their hit “San Francisco” back in 2013. Since then they have put out two strong LP’s–2015’s “Kids in Love” and 2016’s “Where’d Your Weekend Go?” A few months ago they released the the four track EP “I Was Starting to Wonder”. The band keeps busy with non-stop touring, churning out more music along the way. We’re all waiting for the next album, but with a new EP, how could anybody be living in a bad dream?

“Hard to Love” has a sweet acoustic breakdown and guitar riff buildup, “Norman Rockwell” features a revelation in the day to day life of trying to figure shit out. “I’m stuck in the paint on the wall in a picture frame” can be relatable to anyone feeling trapped. The awesome thing about the Mowgli’s is that they take dark lyrics and set them to bright melodies, all the while keeping their signature sound and growing with new music. A good example of that is “Let’s talk about it” which is the best track off of “American Feelings.” The rousing amped up jam features singer Katie Earl crooning “Maybe the universe is giving us a sign,” while the anticipation builds with a solid drum beat and punk rock stride –you can just imagine all of the kids in love jumping in unison at the shows. If the tracks off of “American Feelings” is a taste of what’s to come–I’m there man.

 

Are you ready for it? Taylor Swift lives up to her Reputation with an amazing show at Heinz Field

By Josh McCann

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The energy at Heinz Field reached new levels as Taylor Swift smiled and addressed the packed crowd. “You guys are taking it up a notch,” she said. “You’re not just singing the words, you’re screaming them!” And she wasn’t kidding! The set showcased a true artist at the height of her powers, delivering a show that featured everything from fireworks to intimate songs, along with a track that hasn’t been performed live in nine years! We will get to that later!

Are you ready for it? Yeah, it’s safe to say that the crowd was ready, as the excitement amped up moments before Taylor hit the stage, when Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” blasted through the speakers. Fans danced around, singing the words, as they anticipated the big opening. There was a vibe in the air, one that makes you think that the stadium is about to go nuts. And it did.

The lights went down, the crowd screamed, and the huge 100-foot big screens opened up, revealing Taylor dressed in black behind a cloud of smoke. Let the games begin. The bass dropped as Taylor walked out to the front of the enormous stage, singing “Are you ready for it?”, which sent fans into euphoria. This set the stage for a Reputation filled set, which followed with an intense performance of “I Did Something Bad,” complete with fire and pyro, as Taylor and her backup dancers made their way down the stage ramp. And this was only the beginning!

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The Reputation tour has been rolling through North America since early May, shattering ticket sales, and becoming the highest grossing tour of the year. It’s no surprise, because Taylor Swift knows stadiums like she knows how to write hit songs. Her move to go full on pop has been wildly successful. How many artists can consistently tour stadiums, album after album, yet alone switching from country to pop? Is it cool that I said all that? Thought so!

One of the more compelling moments in the show happened when the big screens ran clips of Taylor when she was a country star, innocent and new to the game. But that all changed when the screens went black, and a huge inflatable snake hovered over the stage, as the opening to her lead single played. It was a message to all the haters out there. Taylor doesn’t like your little games. Look what you made her do.

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Swift also reached back into her catalog of hits, which combined the songs “Style” “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” into one gigantic sing along. “Bad Blood” and “Should’ve Said No” was also a surprise in mixing up current with classic hits.

The cool thing about a Taylor Swift show is that you not only get the big spectacle of a stadium show, but also the intimate singer/songwriter heartfelt moments as well. Swift played the piano alone on stage while performing the aching ballads “Long Live” and “New Years Day.” At one-point Taylor stopped and grabbed her eye. “I’ve been having this really intense eye situation all day,” she told the crowd. Fans laughed and cheered louder. “You guys are amazing,” she said, as she smiled and finished the song.

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Speaking of intimate moments, the two B stage’s, which were located near the back of the floor, provided for all out fun and pandemonium among fans. Midway through the set, Swift performed “Delicate” while riding high above the crowd in a snake contraption, which sent her to the B Stage, and sent fans into a frenzy. People ran to the stage, rushing to get a good spot, holding their phones in the air to capture the moment. All of a sudden, the show felt closer to everyone, as openers Charli XCX and Camila Cabello joined Taylor on stage for “Shake it Off.” Swift followed the big hit with two solo acoustic numbers—”Dancing with our hands tied,” and the 2006 track “A Place In This World.” The last time Taylor performed that song live was 2009!

The opening acts Charli XCX and Camila Cabello were solid in performing their hits to the lively crowd. Charli XCX opened her show with the catchy pop jam “Boom Clap,” and ended the set with “I love it” as the crowd jumped up and down to the dance hit. Camila Cabello hit the stage sporting a Steeler jersey, as she kicked off with “Never Be The Same.” “This is one of the loudest crowds on the Reputation tour,” she told fans. Her set ended with “Havana,” with half of her heart now in Pittsburgh.

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The final stretch of songs helped to pull everything together, beginning with “Getaway Car,” an upbeat standout track that is rumored to be the new single. Swift danced across the stage while the big screens showed images of a highway in the desert. We were riding in a getaway car, and we didn’t want the ride to end just yet. The song was followed by “Call It What You Want” which kept up the momentum, leading to the opening drum beat and guitar riff to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” The show closed with an epic version of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” which featured backup singers, dancers, and the full band. The guitar solos rang out while Taylor waved to the crowd under a massive display of fireworks shooting off above the stage over Heinz Field. We can’t have nice things, but we can have an amazing finale.

The show was insanely good and extremely loud and it’s hard to come down off that ride. Taylor Swift proved how her new material is just as strong as her classic hits, with the show relying heavily on the new record. She can rock the crowd with high energy hits, and she can play emotional personal ballads on a piano or acoustic guitar. Call it what you want, but Taylor Swift lived up to her reputation, delivering another amazing show, and judging by the crowd, fans can’t wait for what she does next.

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8/8/18

#reputationstadiumtour #repTourPittsburgh #TaylorSwift

 

 

 

The new video from alt rock artist Meg Myers is both awesome and uncomfortable

By Josh McCann

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During the new video for Meg Myers single “Numb,” the artist sings into the camera while other people hover around and poke at her. Yeah, it can be uncomfortable to watch, and that’s the point. This is the first we’ve heard from Myers, who garnered alt rock fans with her 2015 LP “Sorry.” The new track, which is the first single off of Myers upcoming record “Take Me to The Disco,” is an alt rock blast with a bass/drum buildup and gut punch chorus that screams to be played live.

In the video, Myers is put in awkward situations, from people invading her space in a cubicle, to being surrounded by a circle of people, trapped with nowhere to go. Myers howls, “I hate the feeling of this weight upon my shoulders / Pushing the pressure down on me.” The track has a 90’s grunge vibe, and the video would be a hit on 120 minutes. If this is any indication of the new record, Myers will be poised for more success, leaving fans anything but numb.

 

Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett turns up and rips loose on sophomore record

by Josh McCann

 

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“I don’t know, I don’t know anything,” Courtney Barnett sings on the catchy upbeat track “Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence.” The title is a very Courtney Barnett title, and the lyric is a very non-Courtney Barnett lyric, who took the alt rock community by storm with her 2015 debut breakthrough Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. But the simple chorus line shows how Barnett is honing her craft, with the less is more technique. By the end, you can just see the crowds jumping up and down to the chorus.

On Tell Me How You Really Feel, Barnett uses her guitar, and more guitar, to new levels. The driving rhythm of “City Looks Pretty” sets the tone for the record, which also features a beautiful breakdown of atmospheric guitars and a melancholy solo. The volume keeps ascending with “Nameless Faceless,” where Barnett rips it loose over punchy guitar riffs in pure signature form.

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But the record isn’t all rocked out ragers, as the Australian singer/songwriter brings it down to add dynamics to the ride. On “Need a Little Time,” Barnett sings, “I don’t know a lot about you/ but you seem to know a lot about me,” over a chill groove with a sweet B3 organ and a falsetto that rings bittersweet summer. The track is a clear indicator of how Barnett is growing as an artist. She can be loud. She can be quiet. And both ends of the spectrum sound awesome!

The album opens with “Hopefulessness,” as Barnett sings, “Take your broken heart/ Turn it into art,” a line that is an ode to Carrie Fisher. The closer “Sunday Roast” feels like a moonlit drive, complete with grunge guitar echo while Barnett brings it home with an optimistic message, singing, “Keep on keeping on/You know you’re not alone.”

It’s ultimately the decibel raising anthems that define this record. On “I’m not your mother, I’m not your bitch,” Barnett howls over wild guitars and chaotic drums for an epic 190 seconds of rock fury. That’s how it’s done! There are no signs of a sophomore slump here. Barnett pushes her sound in both directions for the record, showcasing an artist that is just getting started both lyrically and sonically.