5 Concert Keepsakes From A Year Filled With Voice

We are 11 days into 2019 and upcoming festival lineups are starting to post everywhere. It feels like every day this week a major festival launched their lineup like fireworks across the internet skies. Somehow, it’s making me reminisce to all the shows I saw last year. Whether it was a vast three-day swoop at Boston Calling or joining 20 other people at a hole-in-the-wall seeing Arthur Buck, I was fortunate to catch some incredibly powerful artists in 2018. When I think back to most of these shows, what I remember most is not necessarily what songs were played, how long the set was or how many times that marked seeing such an act. Instead, what’s resonating are the tiny unique moments within the experience. I scribbled them down and in no particular order here they are.

Brian Fallon/Gaslight Anthem/House of Blues Boston

The Gaslight Anthem – House of Blues:

For the first three songs I was in the photo pit snapping shots with … my iPhone. After a three-year hiatus, my fellow New Jersians returned for the 10-year anniversary of their dynamic record, The ’59 Sound. I hadn’t seen the band live since 2012. After two openers, the lights go down and the boys take the stage at 10:30pm. Without saying a word they rip into the drum-led “Stay Vicious” – the opening track off their last album, Get Hurt. By the second verse, I was blown away by how tight they were after all this time. Then, at the end of the song, frontman Brian Fallon rips (and I mean rippppps) this gnarly scream into the mic. It segues perfectly into “Drive”. My iPhone and I go from resting upon my elbows atop the stage to shattering through the back wall of the venue. Man, there was just something so profound about that scream… and damn were they good that night.

Royal Blood/Jack White – Boston Calling:

Speaking of Boston Calling – the first band I saw where I was able to stop everything and just focus on the performance was Royal Blood on day two. I have interviewed drummer Ben Thatcher before and have been fascinated by the unprecedented sound he and Mike Kerr generate as a duo ever since I heard them Howard Stern. They took the stage as the sun was going down and blew the roof off (there was no roof, it was outdoors at Harvard, but pretend. You get the point). During the outro of “Figure it Out’, the second song of their set, I see a tall frame fiercely head-bopping at the side of their stage. It was that evening’s headliner, Mr. Jack White. I love when artists support one another and seeing White getting lost in the Blood just hours before he was to grace the masses was a sight I’ll never forget.

Pearl Jam – Fenway Park:

During night two of a Fenway/PJ double-header, Eddie Vedder changed the lyrics in “Immortality” to reference the original version debuted in Boston in 1994. This was prior to the official release of Vitalogy. I was deeply moved by the delivery and emotion of this gesture and made certain lines the sub-headings within the article I would write days later. The passion Vedder exuded during this summer’s Fenway rendition served as a small sample of how Pearl Jam is the most thoughtful band in the universe. We earned an opportunity to photograph the show night one, and shortly afterwards I wrote the following in my ‘The Ripple Effect of Pearl Jam’s Home/Away Shows’:

Thanks to the Away Shows, I met a friend from across the country in person for the first time — who was not only going to join me in the audience but photograph the band. Thanks to the Away Shows, I spent three days with a family member who I rarely get to see. Thanks to the the Away Shows, I learned about a local ALS movement (an issue near and dear to me) and I’m proud to say I now have a Café Martin hat staring back at me. Thanks to the Away Shows, I participated in Given to Live’s beautiful mission. Thanks to the Away Shows I was able to dip my pen in an ink that had been sealed shut for a long time.

This one-off “Immortality” represents all of that.

Citizen Cope – Levitate Backyard:

Literally, a backyard. Levitate Brand, the curators of one of the most artistic and surf-celebrated festivals in North America, opened a porch style venue attached to their surf shop in late August of 2018. In a similar spirit to their July festival, they now host artists who embody their music-surf culture outside at their flagship store. A Citizen Cope solo acoustic performance launched the venue. Prior to opening night, I interviewed Cope and we went to dinner. We spoke of his new record, art as a form of inner-peace and his song “Lifeline”, which is one of my favorites in his catalog. We cracked open the lyrics and what exactly can be interpreted through the line, “Maybe we were born to be sure to endure when the storm comes.” As Cope took to the stage that Thursday night, he gave a quick peak and nod to the crowd. Without saying a word, he then grabs his acoustic guitar, steps to the mic and strums the opening to “Lifeline”. It was like picking up where we left off our interview as it was the first song played at the new Levitate backyard.

 Myles Kennedy – City Winery:

During the first U.S. leg of the Year of the Tiger tour, Myles Kennedy, the Alter Bridge and Slash frontman, returned to his roots and played solo at the intimate City Winery,  just five days before Boston Calling. Kennedy’s entire record is based off his personal experience growing up on the south shore of Massachusetts and then picking up with his mother and brother, heading west and starting again due to the death of his father. It’s a very deep concept album and to see Kennedy perform these songs for the first time – just a stone’s throw from where it was inspired was absolutely chilling. Kennedy is by far one of the most prolific musicians I have ever seen. Halfway through the set he speaks of the song he remembered playing in his mother’s car as they were leaving Massachusetts to move to Wisconsin. It was “Levon” by Elton John. Without further ado, he performs a beautiful version of his own. Eyes sealed tight and maybe thinking about how far he has come (and how many people he has so positively impacted) since that first Year of the Tiger day. The entire crowd joins in on the chorus.

Honorable Mention 2018 Overall Concert Experience:
Taking my son to his first concert (Imagine Dragons)
Lake Street Dive

*Featured photo: Pearl Jam/Fenway Park by: Michael Young