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Concert Reviews

Happy Birthday Elvis!

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Though the birthday “boy” was not in attendance, there was no doubt that his presence was felt. It was Saturday night at The Variety Playhouse and it seemed as though every time I turned my head, I was seeing sideburns and big hair. Ah, yes. Elvis Presley’s spirit was alive and well in Atlanta on this night! It was the eve of Elvis’ 77th birthday and Big Mike Geier was performing his Elvis Royale show with The Kingsized Orchestra. My friend and I were drenched earlier in the evening as we made our way to the venue and the atmospheric outburst made me wonder how the turnout would be for this show. Have no fear, however, because fans were standing shoulder to shoulder as far as the eye could see by the time the lights went down and the curtain was pulled back.
Big Mike took to the stage and commanded attention, not as some Elvis knockoff, but instead, as a living legend himself! He performed with the same passion and flair that I imagine The King did so many decades ago. The musicians who comprise The Kingsized Orchestra are amazing in their own right, with each instrument swirling together to form the perfect blend of musical magic. The Dames Aflame completed the experience with colorful costumes and headpieces that were reminiscent of classic Vegas showgirls. Finally, throw a spunky little Elvis – no, seriously! They call him Little E! – into the mix and you have the makings for the most festive Elvis celebration this side of Graceland!
Big Mike delivered such Elvis standards as Viva Las Vegas, Burning Love, Hound Dog, and Kentucky Rain while also delving into more obscure songs from Elvis’ sessions at Sun Records. During the second half of the evening, Big Mike explained the concept of ‘What Would Elvis Do?’. He said that he and the band performed Elvis songs, but they also did their renditions of songs that they believe Elvis would have done, were he still around to see the contemporary artists. (Though I disagree with Big Mike on one issue. I don’t think Elvis would be a Beiber fan. I think he’d choose more of a southern rock / kick ass rock flavor, preferring artists like The Black Crowes and Foo Fighters. To quote Dennis Miller, of course that’s just my opinion…I could be wrong. ;o) ) Proving his point of WWED, Big Mike and the orchestra put a spin on Elvis favorites like A Little Less Conversation, In The Ghetto, CC Rider, Bossa Nova Baby by combining Elvis with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, The Doors, and Deep Purple. The biggest surprise of the night came when Big Mike began strumming his guitar and softly sang Can’t Help Falling In Love…and then flowed into Bad Romance by Lady Gaga! It took some folks a moment to process what song he’d morphed into, but once it hit them, there were chuckles and smiles and LOTS of singing along!
It should also be mentioned that while Big Mike and The Kingsized Orchestra rehydrated and caught their breath during the intermission, Little E called several men on stage who had donned their best Elvis wear for the evening. There were young and old Elvises. (Plural would be Elvi, right? Lol!) Some wore fake wigs and glasses while others were brave enough to sport spandex! An older man decked out in blue spandex was awarded the title of Best Elvis at the show. A couple of friends joined my companion and me and pointed out that one guy in the crowd looked like a Nick Cage – Elvis! When we told him that we saw a similarity, he politely disagreed, but still posed for a picture to get the opinion of others. Do you agree? (Much love to Pete who will always be Nick Cage – Elvis to us!)
In the end, Big Mike sang Graceland by Paul Simon and the party came to a close with confetti raining down on us all. Big Mike and The Kingsized Orchestra proved that Elvis Presley may be gone, but he’s certainly not forgotten.

Concert Reviews

Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad

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Jonah Parzen-Johnson has an innate ability to make the baritone sax sound like bagpipes, and maybe that’s why I cried.

Mostly I cried because Jonah tells radiant stories with his saxophone and analog synth, working the brass and pedals to recreate the framework which surrounds his album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow: Parzen-Johnson wanted to make “something of myself that’s for everybody else.”

Jonah opened his set with “Stay There, I’ll Come to You,” showcasing the harmony between synth and sax right off the bat. With haunting lilts, the two combined into a ribbon of melody, pulsating inside the ear as well as the heart. Much like the song’s title, Jonah was the one approaching the audience as an experimental troubadour of tête-à-tête.

The back stories and thoughts behind each song tied in so well with the raw, almost throaty sax, developing such strong, emotional resonance with the musical layers. The skeleton shook.

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Concert Reviews

Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair

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The Sinclair was a packed house Wednesday night for the Speedy Ortiz CD release party; as a hometown gig for the Northampton, MA-based band, kinetic warmth buzzed through friends and fans alike as Sadie Dupuis and crew played their freshly-release Foil Deer track-by-track.

What’s a party without some guests, though? That’s where Krill and Mitski come in.

Krill kicked off the night with some tracks from A Distant Fist Unclenching, other goods from Lucky Leaves. Lead singer/bassist Jonah Furman brought to mind early (read: good) Billy Corgan, which I’m not sure he will appreciate. But I think he’ll appreciate this: I couldn’t stop laughing because then I kept thinking about Marilyn Manson telling Billy Corgan that he looked like Charlie Brown.

Opening with “Theme from Krill,” the Boston trio has a knack for rhythm and melody that burrows into your brain. The dreamy bleakness of “Purity of Heart.”  The discordant garage rock and hiccupping guitar and warbly Scooter-ness of “Foot.” Krill’s sound is a good, comfy noise that keeps you wiggling and all that good stuff. Be sure to catch the band at Boston Calling.

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Concert Reviews

Years & Years at Royale Boston

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During winter storm Juno, UK electro pop group Years & Years were forced to cancel the first show of their two-night stint in New York City back in January. After the snow finally melted, they made the rounds again this past March, playing several shows in California, South by Southwest before finally landing in Boston.

Due to popular demand, the show was moved from The Sinclair to the Royale in downtown’s Theater District.

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