Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

1Jul/0930

Concert Review: Better Than Ezra

betterthanezra.jpg

House of Blues - Cleveland
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Setlist:

1. Turn Up the Bright Lights
2. Good
3. Black Light
4. A Lifetime
5. Rolling
6. All In
7. Extra Ordinary
Segue into Love is What I Got (including small rip/impersonation of DMB)
8. Absolutely Still
9. King of New Orleans
10. Sincerely, Me
11. Hey Love
12. Under You (a half-assed performance)
13. Wallflower (I think)
14. Laid (James Cover)
15. Nightclubbing
16. Miss You (Stones Cover)
17. Juicy
18. Desperately Wanting

Encore:
18. Blackbird (Acoustic cover)
19. I Just Knew
20. The Loveless
21. In the Blood

I have been excited for weeks upon hearing tickets were available for another Better Than Ezra show in Cleveland. The last time I saw BTE was when the House of Blues first opened here in our fair city about five years ago. I was in love with that show. It was second in performance only to their 1995 tour (which is far-and-wide, my favorite live show that I have ever witnessed of any band).

Kevin Griffin always had a way to emotionally connect me to his music with his powerful, heart-wrenching lyrics and his lusty voice. And he had a particular genius in tying his music to some very special memories -- many of which should be forgotten.

Just as the most recent show in Cleveland should be.

The show started (innocently against Griffin) with major sound problems. It was disorienting at first (especially to a half-blood perfect pitch spawn) The first two or three songs on the setlist were incredibly bad and continued to be distracting at any time guitars played together (which, duh, is frequent). I hoped that the muddled sound would eventually correct itself -- it didn't; I drank more PBR. (note: I stood in the same location on Stage Left for my last show at House of Blues, with no problems).

Regardless of sound quality, I was pleased with the onset of BTE's setlist.

better-than-ezra-paper-empire.jpg

I found myself enjoying the new music from the Paper Empire album as the show progressed. "Hey Love," "Black Light" and "I Just Knew" were all GREAT selections. The song "Nightclubbing" is uber-catchy, resembling the glam-rock sounds of say, The Killers. Very, very sweet dance-when-no-one's-watching kind of song. “Nightclubbing” definitely perked up an otherwise very meh Better Than Ezra performance.

The new album is nothing short of fantastic – as one would expect from these talented musicians; however, I feel the band really let down the crowd in focusing mostly on the new release. There is no denying it was a really good show (save for shitty audio issues), but it was as if the original BTE nostalgia was entirely gone. Also, I detest when bands – who have an arsenal of great music -- skip it to play a handful of mediocre covers and medleys. Yes, we all hear James' “Laid” practically each and every time a bar owns a sound system. And “Blackbird”? Really? Yuck. Stick to Steely Dan's "Dirty Work." Now, THAT is a cover!

I sincerely hoped BTE would extend an encore to include my favorite live versions of "Porcelain" or "This Time of Year" (as MANY fans were chanting) or even for Griffin to plod his way further through "Under You." You know what, Kevin? This is NOT that obscure of a song. It came up on Pandora shuffle just a day or two after the show. Now, I am an obvious fan of the Deluxe era of BTE, and I would have switched out "Good" for an addition of any song from that album, had I known there would not be a place in the encore list.

And then... and then... Griffin compared a song on Paper Empire to Wings. I practically threw up in my mouth. Or wanted to eat the beer can in my hand and wish for an instant splintered death. Nobody. Ever. Should compare himself to Wings. Not even Wings.

wings.jpg

All that being said, I was still left somewhat empty by the performance. It felt as though my former emotional connection with the music had dissipated. This is not the Better Than Ezra I would have been geeking out for some fifteen years ago. It's as though... we broke up.

But at the end of the day, we can all thank the "King of New Orleans" for not boring us with "Rosealia."

  • ferris

    Thanx for the report… The long version of “In the Blood” has one of the great minimalist guitar solos. I think so, anyway.

  • Stacy

    So I take it you won’t be going to see Denny Laine (the dashing young lad in the very plaid jacket above) at the Winchester next month?

  • Matt Wardlaw

    Stacy, I’m thinking I might….with Denny Laine about a mile away from my house at a cool club, how could I avoid going?

    I’m sure Mel can give me reasons. But as a McCartney fan, and also a Moody Blues fan, I think I have to check out Denny!

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