Life in the Slow Lane

January 7, 2010

Barenaked Ladies ready to move on

Filed under: Entertainment,Music — pauljlane @ 3:13 pm

The following release just came in stating that the Barenaked Ladies are set to release their first album since singer/songwriter Steven Page left the band last winter.

It will be quite interesting to see how (or if) the band will replicate the harmonies between page and guitarist/vocalist Ed Robertson that defined the band (along with their ad libbed banter during live performances). I have my doubts, but Alice in Chains hasn’t sounded all bad with that band’s new lead singer, so all hope should not be lost.

I also find it interesting that the following release does not even acknowledge Page. I wonder why …

•••

Acclaimed multi-platinum pop-rock group the BARENAKED LADIES and their label Raisin’ Records have signed an exclusive worldwide deal with EMI Music’s Label Services unit and are gearing up for the March 30th release of their 11th studio album, ALL IN GOOD TIME. The band and longtime producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda began recording the album last spring at Canterbury Studios and Jimmy C’s in Toronto and recently finished mixing with Bob Clearmountain (Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, David Bowie).

“This is a really important record for us and we’re really proud of it,” says guitarist/vocalist Ed Robertson. “We’re redefining who we are, and how we communicate as a band, and as friends. The album has an emotional rawness to it that we may have shied away from in the past. I think we pushed ourselves to heavier places, and also allowed for some really spacious moments. We can’t wait to play these songs live.”

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with The Barenaked Ladies on a global scale,” says said Dominic Pandiscia, Senior Vice President & General Manager EMI Label Services & Caroline Distribution. “We look forward to using our complete service platform in key markets to help connect their music with core fans and beyond.”

The first single from ALL IN GOOD TIME, “You Run Away,” impacts radio in January. The band (Robertson, bassist/vocalist Jim Creeggan, keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Kevin Hearn and drummer/vocalist Tyler Stewart) gave fans a sneak preview of the track during their recent string of live dates in the US.

On Saturday, February 6 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the Barenaked Ladies will perform at the 2010 “Taste of the NFL,” a Super Bowl culinary extravaganza that supports hunger relief organizations across the country. Tickets are available online at http://www.TasteoftheNFL.com or by calling 952-835-7621. On Tuesday, February 16th, the band will be among the headliners performing at the Olympic Winter Games as part of the Vancouver 2010 concert series. For  ticket information, please visit http://www.vancouver2010.com.

ALL IN GOOD TIME is the follow-up to the Barenaked Ladies’ 2008 Juno-nominated children’s album, Snacktime.

Over the course of the past twenty-one years, the Barenaked Ladies have racked up a half-dozen Juno Awards and multiple Grammy nominations, sold more than 14 million albums worldwide, written a plethora of hit singles (including “One Week,” “Pinch Me” and “If I Had $1000000”) and amassed an international fanbase whose members number in the millions. The band also wrote and recorded the theme song to the hit CBS television series, “The Big Bang Theory.”

Tour dates for The Barenaked Ladies are as follows:

Date                City                              Venue
Feb. 6              Ft. Lauderdale, FL       Broward County Convention Ctr
Feb. 16th          Vancouver, BC            Olympic Victory Ceremony
Feb. 17th          Whistler, BC               Olympic Village Free show

December 31, 2009

TSO makes spirits bright on holiday tour

Filed under: Entertainment,Music — pauljlane @ 1:58 am

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra dazzled nearly 14,000 fans at Buffalo’s HSBC Arena the evening of Dec. 30, performing 90 minutes of the rock band’s famed Christmas tunes that decked the halls with roaring riffs, vivacious vocals and more eye candy than your average Manhattan model runway.

Just as the patrons were brought to their feet, ready to hit the aisles as band members were introduced, an off-hand comment about “the second half of the show” amazed most of the people in attendance.

Second half? You mean … there’s more?

Oh yes. TSO ended up playing a 2 1/2 hour set. Although the band only makes two more stops on its 2009-10 holiday tour, you’d serve yourself well to make it if at all possible.

This reviewer went to the show primarily to see for himself just how great a spectacle this famed group put on. While the visuals – including bubbles dropped from the ceiling to simulate snow, a flying platform on the opposite side of the arena from the stage, hundreds of lasers and plenty of fire – were as advertised, the music was better than expected.

Sure, you can detect hints of those played-out Christmas songs in many TSO tunes, but the band completely reinvents the music, making it relevant and powerful in a way never imaginable. And the musicianship was top-notch, with all performers on par with the very best at their respective positions.

While the first half dealt with a Christmas theme (and made at least one pair of eyes in the arena a bit misty) the second half offered a selection of songs from the band’s “Night Castle” CD. Sounding like Mozart mashed up with Metallica and Led Zeppelin, the songs were quite powerful and made classical music enjoyable on a level beyond serving as the background music for Elmer Fudd’s pursuit of Bugs Bunny.

If you can’t make this tour, fret not. TSO promises a spring tour to support “Night Castle,” the band’s first non-holiday gigs. If that tour – for which the show’s creators promise to one-up themselves fromt his holiday tour – comes near you, do yourself a favor and check it out.

If TSO can make a fan out of this person, they can do the same for you.

December 17, 2009

TSO, Machines of Grace keep Jeff Plate’s plate full

Filed under: Entertainment,Music — pauljlane @ 4:14 pm

Trans-Siberian Orchestra might keep Jeff Plate busy during the holidays, but the TSO drummer has kept busy during his down time with a passion project.

Jeff Plate, pictured with the drum kit he uses with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, has revived material he and his Machines of Grace bandmates wrote years ago.

The former member of Savatage — from which TSO was born — gets to unleash his hard rock side with Machines of Grace, a quartet made up of Plate, Zak Stevens, Matt Leff and Chris Rapoza.
Although revived in the past couple years, Plate said the seed for Machines of Grace was actually planted nearly two decades ago. The musicians started playing together in 1990 in Boston and playred regional shows for several months.
“Then grunge came along and kind of screwed that whole thing up,” said Plate, citing a distaste that formed for metal around that time.
Both Stevens (in 1992) and Plate (in 1994) joined Savatage, staying along for the ride in 1996 when TSO first came to be. While Plate has toured and recorded for TSO since then, and Stevens has done some work with the group, Machines of Graces decided a couple years ago to revive the material they’d worked on in the early 1990s.
“We decided that the old material was strong,” said Plate, who cited Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Dream Theater among the group’s influences. “At the time that we were doing it, I felt that we were doing something unique.”
And so the band went to work in the studio, eventually releasing a self-titled rock album this past summer with help from veteran technician Paul David Hager (Goo Goo Dolls, Pink). Describing the album as melodic metal minus the thrash and “Cookie Monster vocals,” Plate said it felt good to finish off what had been started so long ago.
“It was just kind of a weird time. We felt that we had never gotten our due,” he said of the failed attempt at a record in the 1990s. “When it didn’t happen, it was quite discouraging, but over the years I always revisted the demos. I think it was just unfinished business.”
Business remains unfinished now. After performing some U.S. shows in September, MOG will look to be on the road some time next year.
“My schedule is obviously busy, so we will have to work around that and do some shows that make sense for all of us,” he said. “Finding the right band to work with, and the right markets to work in, is important, so we’ll take our time and make sure we do the right thing. You WILL see us out next year.
“Being out live is really going to be our biggest advantage at this point. We’d like to take this CD as far as we can.”
Although metal’s image suffered in the 1990s, Plate feels that the hard rock genre — and, thus, Machines of Grace — will always have a place with fans.
“Musically, metal will always attract the musician because of the remarkable ability of the players,” he said. “Regardless of your taste, you can’t deny how accomplished these people are and just how difficult some of the music is. I am always amazed at the drumming. And, of course, the killer guitar riff is essential. MOG has recorded this CD with the intent of being who we are, and that incorporates these elements, along with great melodic vocals and harmonies and strong hooks. I believe we deliver something for not just the metal fan, but for all fans of rock music.”
Metal might not seem a good fit with TSO’s classically tinged rock opera melodies, but Plate enjoys the contrast his two gigs provide.
“With TSO and Savatage, it fits my style of drumming quite well,” he said. “TSO is something that (creator) Paul O’Neill … they have a certain drum take in mind. Solid drumming, not a lot of flash. Make sure the drumming doesn’t clutter the landscape … Machines gives me a chance to open up. In a four-piece band, there is more to room and space to fill. I can be more aggressive here, and it makes more sense from a drumming perspective.”
With a spring tour for TSO on the horizon, followed by more promotional work for Machines of Grace, 2010 looks to be busy for Plate.
“It’s a great problem to have,” he said.

November 3, 2009

Volbeat looks to put beat down during U.S. tour with Metallica

Filed under: Entertainment,Music — pauljlane @ 11:04 am

Having made a mark in its homeland and across Europe, the Danish hard rock band Volbeat sees the United States as its next land to conquer.volbeat
The fact that Metallica is on the band’s side is a huge step in that direction.
Speaking from Denmark during a recent phone interview, Volbeat frontman Michael Poulsen said his band’s connection with the biggest metal group on the planet began about 18 months ago. Volbeat supported Metallica during a show in Denmark, Poulsen said, and he quickly formed a bond with Metallica singer James Hetfield. The two talked music, cars and family before Metallica left, but within months Metallica called Poulsen to have Volbeat perform with them when they returned to Denmark.
“We saw Metallica wearing a Volbeat T-shirt on YouTube,” Poulsen said. “(Hetfield) knew song titles and everything, and I’m thinking, wow, this is crazy. I’ve been a fan of this guy since I was a teenager, and now he knows my songs.”
Two days after that second concert, Hetfield called Poulsen looking to hang out. They did that night, then again two days later, when Poulsen had to call his wife home from work to cook dinner for the two men.
“She screamed when she heard the news,” he said. “It was so weird, seeing James come into my living room and play with my dog.”
When the talk turned to business, Hetfield said Volbeat should tour with Metallica on this side of the pond. A call from a booking agent transformed that talk into action, and Volbeat’s been touring with Metallica for a few weeks now, beginning with an Oct. 26 show in Toronto.
The support helps, but Volbeat might not have needed a boost here. Since forming in 2001, Volbeat has topped the charts in Denmark and Finland while receiving heavy radio play in seven other European nations and performing sold-out shows across the continent. The band’s latest effort, “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood,” puts a metal spin on Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Williams and other vintage U.S. pop stars.
“That’s all I listened to growing up,” Paulson said. “I just love that type of music.”
That love led Paulson to vacation in Memphis and Nashville, Tenn., in February. He quickly fell in love with America, he said, and the band quickly spawned a U.S. tour that began and ended this past spring.
“I was really eager to go over there. It was such a beautiful feeling. I was actually looking for the camera. I thought I was in a movie. I just fell in love with America,” he said.
The current tour, which last through Dec. 12 and includes a handful of headline shows, is what Paulson considers a natural next step for the band.
“In the beginning, only concentrated on playing Denmark. Suddenly, that turned into … Europe. Now we’ve been doing that for a while, we pulled very big crowds,” he said. “Now I think it makes more sense to do the U.S. We knew one day we were doing to do the U.S. It was a matter of timing.”
Paulson said regardless of how his band’s music is received here, he would consider moving to the United States to live — although he was quick to defend his home nation’s history and living climate.
But before any homesteading considerations come up, there’s work to do. He hopes that Volbeat takes North America just as the Viking ancestors of his homeland did, but he knows that any success won’t come easy.
“People can expect a lot of energy at our show,” he said. “We’re so much into people buying tickets, buying merchandise and buying our CDs. We always go out after the show and talk to people. We have a lot of dedication.”

IF YOU GO
• WHAT: Metallica in concert with Lamb of God and Volbeat
• WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 10
• WHERE: HSBC Arena, 1 Seymour Knox Plaza, Buffalo
• MORE INFORMATION: Call (888) 223-6000

October 28, 2009

Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ is a fitting final chapter

Filed under: Entertainment,Movies,Music — pauljlane @ 10:56 am

We’ve all seen Michael Jackson the superstar, MJ the sideshow, MJ the accused felon, MJ the child prodigy, MJ the medical experiment gone wrong and Jacko.Michael Jackson's last show rehearsal at STAPLES Center on June

Who knew that it would take until his early demise for the world to see Jackson’s human side?

“This Is It,” which chronicles the final rehearsals before what was to be Jackson’s farewell concert stint in London this past summer, shows us Michael the person. He had a sense of humor, was a bit of perfectionist when it came to his work and had a better understanding of music than he was probably ever given credit for.

Sure, the film gives fans what they want: extended cuts of hits like “Thriller,” “Smooth Criminal” and “Beat It.” But you also get Michael chewing out a bass player for lackadaisical musicianship, encouraging his guitar player to completely put herself out there on stage and getting chided by Kenny Ortega (who co-produced the concert and made this film) for playing it safe with his voice.

We’ve become so saturated with imitations and satirical takes on Jackson that it’s been easy to forget what the real Michael Jackson was about. Yes, he had a high voice, and (as my wife pointed out) his frequent nose jobs caused his glasses to slide down every time he spun. But he was genuine, empathetic and … well … sweet. Whether the world would have thought that way if he didn’t die in late June due to a medication overdose will never be known, unfortunately.

Jackson had more troubles than most third-world countries during his final few years on Earth, but this film indicates that London audiences would have been in for one whopper of a farewell show. He still had his vocal chops, his trend-setting dance moves (which his background dancers simultaneously showered with praise and struggled to master during cutaway segments of them rehearsing) and his command of an audience (nearly every song was interrupted by his suggestion for a pause, extended keyboard run or other bit of flair).

The audience at the preview show I attended was wowed by all of this, with multiple exclamations made throughout the film and a rowdy round of applause offered up at its conclusion. He’s not around to see it, and it’s not in the venue he imagined, but that’s still precisely what Jackson would have wanted. Kudos to Ortega and the film’s other creators for giving him a fitting farewell. GRADE: A-

September 29, 2009

Skynyrd cuts ‘rock’ out of ‘Southern rock’ on latest record

Filed under: Entertainment,Music — pauljlane @ 11:48 am

The first few bars of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s latest album, “God and Guns,” don’t really sound like the same group that gave us “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Freebird” and countless other classic rock hits.

Given that those songs are decades old, a shift in songwriting style and musicianship is natural.

But in this case, it’s not for the better.

By the time this record is finished playing, the listener is overwhelmed by country licks that are well-polished if fairly generic. And depending on where you sit on the political scale, the right-wing dogma that’s propagated by this album (with a name like “God and Guns,”one can guess without hearing a single song what the group’s message is) will either leave you sick to your stomach or ready to march on Washington, rifle in hand.

The album’s title track, as one could guess, rambles on about how guns are a part of this nation’s fabric. “Well, we might as well run if we let them take our God and guns,” lead singer Johnny Van Zant proclaims near this tune’s chorus.

This song is by far the most politically leaning, but the rest of the record sells a similar down-home country message. “Floyd,” with its rambling acoustic guitars, sounds like it was meant to be on the “Deliverance” soundtrack. “Simple Life” and “Southern Ways” lighten the mood quite a bit, offering feel-good messages that can be heard on just about any song you’ll hear on country radio these days.

On its own, “God and Guns” isn’t horrible. But there’s nothing about this album that defines it as Lynyrd Skynyrd, nor is there anything to distinguish it from all the other country fare out there (the opener, “Still Unbroken,” might as well be credited to Toby Keith). Diehard Skynyrd fans will probably like this album, as will mainstream country fans, but the rest of us better hope the band sticks to the old stuff when it tours. C+

September 21, 2009

New wedding dance craze not exactly thrilling

Filed under: Entertainment,Life,Music — pauljlane @ 4:57 pm

I’ve been to two weddings in the past couple weeks, and at both of them I’ve seen something I thought I never would.

People showing love to Michael Jackson.

“Thriller” was played at both weddings. At both occasions, people attempted to perform the dance from the music video. Both times, they failed.

Having looked it up on Youtube, I see that I might be a little bit behind the times with this. But I’m really not sure how I feel about this. So, let’s break it down.

POSITIVES: Well, “Thriller” is a better song than pretty much any other song you’ll hear at any wedding (“We Are Family,” for example). It definitely makes people want to dance, and it can’t help but make you feel happier. In fact, more Jackson songs than just this would be welcome; gimme some “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” or “Beat It,” for cryin’ out loud.

NEGATIVES: Well, you have to watch people butcher the dance. I know that weddings are the place to cut loose in ways you wouldn’t ordinarily, but at both weddings I went to I saw people coordinate, get through about six measures of the song, screw up, stop, laugh and meander through the rest of the tune doing the zombie walk. That’s not especially entertaining. Also, while this trend did start before Jackson’s passing, would the song receive the same cheery reception if he were alive, and still known as a weirdo rather than musical genius? Just saying.

At the end of the day, I guess there’s no problem with hearing the song at a wedding (at least for now, ask me again in 10 years when “Thriller” reaches the pit that the Macarena currently occupies). I’d throw out the caveat, though, that unless you REALLY know the moves fromt he video, don’t imitate it. Just go out there and do that awkward shuffle-step taht most people do as a dance.

Unless you’re these guys. Then the floor is yours.

August 12, 2009

‘Video Games Live’ is a nerd’s paradise

Filed under: Entertainment,Games,Music — pauljlane @ 11:15 am

Walking into the Artpark mainstage to see the recent “Video Games Live” concert, it was clear that I was among people

Yeah, I'm a dork. But at least I got to stand next to a giant inflatable Super Mario.

Yeah, I'm a dork. But at least I got to stand next to a giant inflatable Super Mario.

who still possess the mindset about gaming that I used to (I still love games, mind you, but my time for them has diminished).

After posing next to the giant, inflatable Super Mario, I had to walk past people a “Guitar Hero” contest and people dressed as Zelda, Little Mac from “Punch-Out” and the princess from the “Super Mario” series to get to my seat.

I expected to enjoy the show – which features a symphony orchestra (in this case the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra) performing songs from video games, with the games playing behind the orchestra on giant screens.

What I didn’t expect was to see so many people so fervently into the event. And once I got the past the fact that they’re  bit nerdy (hey, so am I), it was fun.

The house was only about half-full, but those who were there saw a terrific show (and, at nearly 2 1/2 hours, a longer show than I expected). Created by Tommy Tallarico (who has family in Niagara Falls) and Jack Wall, the show features plenty of great music, several interactive components and some neat surprises (such as the local cover band Armcannon being brought out to play songs from “Super Mario Bros. 2”).

Anyone who thinks this sounds like kids’ stuff, well, might be right. But if you can forget about the music’s origins, close your eyes and listen, you WILL be blown away. From the eerie, solitary feel of the “Metroid” theme song to the passionate “Halo” soundtrack and the ominous sounds from the “Castlevania” game series, video game music is actually pretty good.

The co-creators have made more than 60 distinct segments for their show, and they choose about 15-20 for each performance (each segment highlights a different game/game series). Both Wall and Tallarico participated throughout the show, with Wall conducting the orchestra and Tallarico playing several guitar parts – including, during one especially fun stretch, when a teenager came on stage to play Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” on “Guitar Hero,” an Tallarico nailed Joe Perry’s lead guitar part. C’mon, that’s just plain, pure fun right there.

Sure, there were several songs that I didn’t know (at 30 years old, I am practically aged out of the gaming target group already). But hearing the “Tetris” theme once again and having the “Super Mario” music played at warp speed on the piano (complete with the high-pitched “dink-a-dink dink-a-dink” that accompanied the character’s picking up an extra life) brought back some great memories and provided quite an entertaining evening.

For at least one night, Western New York’s dorks had their day.

July 30, 2009

Country music once again rules Buffalo-Niagara radio roost

Filed under: Entertainment,Music,News,Radio — pauljlane @ 11:42 am

For the first time in a year, Western New York radio listeners have made the local country music offering their No. 1 choice on the dial.

In ratings released July 30 by Arbitron for spring 2009, WYRK 106.5 FM posted a 10.3 rating, meaning that 10.3 percent of local listeners had that station on in any given 15-minute period.

That pushed WYRK ahead of news talk station WBEN 930 AM (9.6 rating), which had been atop the ratings since last summer. The station’s rating dropped from 10.3 in winter 2009.

WYRK last topped the ratings in spring 2008, when the station posted a staggering 11.8 rating. Either WYRK or WBEN has been the No. 1 station in Western New York for most of the decade.

Making a huge leap to No. 3 was top 40 station WKSE 98.5 FM, which posted a 7.3 rating in spring  – up from 5.5 in winter. Rounding out the top five were urban contemporary station WBLK 93.7 FM (6.6 rating) and classic rock station WGRF 96.9 FM.

WKSE’s ratings spike was by far the biggest for the spring quarter, with adult hits station WBUF 92.9 FM jumping 0.6 points to 4.7 (good for seventh place). Nearly every other station held steady or saw ratings decline, with WBLK (a drop of 1.3 percentage points) and adult contemporary station WJYE 96.1 FM (down from a 6.4 rating to a 5.6) among the biggest quarter-to-quarter losers.

Also losing listeners was sports talk station WGR 550 AM. Thanks in large part to another lackluster Buffalo Sabres season (the station broadcasts the hockey team’s games) that saw the team miss the playoffs, the station’s ratings dropped from 4.1 in winter to 3.3 in spring (good for 11th place). That number traditionally creeps upward in summer, when Bills training camp begins, before surging in the fall, when football, hockey and basketball kick off their seasons.

WGR has simulcasted some of its programming, such as the “Schopp and the Bulldog Show,” in Rochester since September. WGR registered a 0.4 rating in Rochester for the spring quarter. The station failed to register a rating in Rochester for winter but posted a 0.6 rating there in fall, thanks largely to the station’s extensive Bills coverage.

Lockport-based news talk station WLVL held steady with a 0.4 rating.

Here are the top five Buffalo-Niagara radio stations for the spring quarter, along with their ratings and improvement from the winter quarter:

1. WYRK, 10.3 (+0.4)
2. WBEN, 9.6 (-0.7)
3. WKSE, 7.3 (+1.8)
4. WBLK, 6.6 (-1.3)
5. WGRF, 6.1 (-0.3)

June 30, 2009

Photos released of Michael Jackson’s final dress rehearsal

Filed under: Entertainment,Music — pauljlane @ 10:53 am

These images, courtesy of image.net, show Michael Jackson on June 23 as he took part in a final dress rehearsal at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Jackson was preparing for his string of concerts in London that was to begin in July.

Michael Jackson's last show rehearsal at STAPLES Center on JuneMichael Jackson's last show rehearsal at STAPLES Center on June

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