Foo Fighters: Concrete & Gold Tour 2017 [Concert Review] 0 400

Foo Fighters: Concrete & Gold Tour 2017 [Concert Review] 0 401

Foo Fighters: Concrete & Gold Tour, US Band Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio – October 20, 2017

Dave Grohl is an everyperson’s rock star, he’s the rock star you think you would want to have a beer with, hell, he’s the rock star that would buy you a beer, and you’d gladly buy a round yourself. There’s no doubt that the appeal of Grohl’s band of 22 years, The Foo Fighters, starts there, and is no doubt complemented greatly by the fact that he has a knack for writing great, hooky songs, many of which have become hits on real rock and classic rock radio.

I have a music writer friend back in St. Louis named Dan Durchholz who likes to describe the appeal of the Foo Fighters this way: “If you could be in a rock band, it’s the rock band you’d want to be in. Maybe they’re not the best, but who has more fun?” (Dan’s work appears regularly in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,, and his website is And, clearly the sold-out crowd at Friday night’s show in the U.S. Bank Arena came to share in that fun.

And intimacy. Several times during the concert Grohl paused to say that there was a woman standing in the front row who was trying to hold a conversation with him and show him pictures on her phone throughout the show, and he tried to explain to her that “15 thousand people are waiting for me to start this song.” Then, about half way through the show he attempted to mollify her by playing “Times Like These” to her, which he started out solo but some became a campfire sing-along with the whole audience joining in. Half way through, the full band kicked in and rocked with authority, with a noticeable similarity to the band Rush in the song’s later instrumentals. “And the fans took every advantage to return the love to Grohl, singing back to him his own lyrics when they could, most notably on two of the Foo’s biggest hits: “My Hero” and “These Days.”

While the Foo Fighter’s set followed the pattern of previous shows on the tour pretty closely (something he seemed eager to breakaway from when I saw the band on Grohl’s “Broken Leg Tour” two years ago, where he used every shouted out request from the audience as an excuse to play a classic rock cover), there were regular moments like this one, where the fans took over singing loudly enough to lead Grohl to exclaim, “Ohio audiences, you’re loud as shit!”

The show opened with nearly a full hour of songs, played nearly back to back, with only brief moments where Grohl spoke to the crowd. The set started with “Run” from the band’s latest album, Concrete & Gold, followed by “All My Life” and “Learn to Fly.” Early on he referenced great things that came out of Ohio, “Devo, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, and Joe Walsh,” among others. “I like that old shit, that Bob Seger shit,” he said perhaps mistaking Cincinnati for Detroit, before adding “shit that makes you shake your ass to it all night long.” Then Grohl stepped over to the band’s lead guitarist Chris Shiflet, to jam for a while on the guitar opening to “The Pretender,” which was followed by another new one, “The Sky Is a Neighborhood,” which was one of several songs that included a trio of female background vocalists.

While Grohl gets a lion’s share of the attention, as he writes most of the material, does most of the running around on stage and dominates the festivities in nearly every way, he also insists that Foo Fighters is a band. The moment that proved that came following the song “Walk,” when as the song “Rope” reached its climax and what followed was an extensive jam and drum solo from drummer Taylor Hawkins. Events began to escalate when Grohl engaged Hawkins in a playful call and response where Grohl would play a line on the guitar, and Hawkins would try to replicate it on his drum kit, Grohl ran around playing blues licks over a calypso beat of sorts, and then the drum riser rose on hydraulics until it hovered over ten feet above the stage, where Hawkins did a brief solo and then sang lead on “Sunday Rain,” another song from the new one.

Later, the drum riser slid forward and the large square video screen that was tilted at a 45 degree angle moved out until in hung over the band, giving the large arena stage a bit of a cramped club feel for a few songs that recalled Grohl’s and the band’s earliest punk roots, “Let It Die,” “I’ll Stick Around” and “White Limo.” One of the evenings strongest musical offerings, “Arlandria,” followed, this time with Grohl and the band lit almost entirely by cell phone’s set on flashlight, while the stage were returned mechanically to their original positions.

With all of that behind him, Grohl reminded his fans that “we got a lot of records,” after promising earlier that they’d be sure to play something from every one of their albums before the night was through. Reconnecting with the audience around his status as “one of us,” Grohl adlibbed a lyric about minivans into the first verse of another rousing punk-leaning number, “Breakout,” assuring the fans that “I have one too.” Then played “Make It Right,” one of the strongest tracks from Concrete & Gold, before changing things up musically with “Skin and Bones,” which featured keyboardist Rami Jaffee on accordion, a novelty for a harder rock band, Grohl insisted.

Then as you could begin to feel things move toward the end of the set proper, Grohl introduced the other remaining members of the band with a bit of music to represent what they brought to the Fighting Foos. Shiflet led the band in a verse and solo from Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle,” bassist Nate Mendel offered up the bass line from Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” and long-time guitarist and side-kick Pat Smear, who goes all the way back to Grohl’s days as drummer in Nirvana, offered up a bit of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” And, can I just say, that seeing the 58 year old icon, Smear, who got his start in the influential punk band The Germs, hold his own on stage alongside Grohl and company is strangely but steadfastly comforting to this 60 year old rocker at heart. They closed the set with “Monkey Wrench,” one of the band’s earliest hits, and one of their best, and “Best of You,” a real sweetest day treat for his fans, offered a few hours early.

After a bit of video theatrics where Grohl appeared to negotiate the number of songs to be delivered during the encore, while egging the very loud audience to shout even louder, the band returned and did what was promised. First they played the most low-key track from the new album, “Dirty Water,” again supported by that trio of female voices filling out the song’s choral effect. Next came “This Is a Call,” going back to the Foo Fighters’ self-titled debut, which Grohl recorded alone, playing all the instruments before the actual band was fleshed out with supportive players. It was closing in on 2 and half hours, when Grohl led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to his somewhat shy guitar tech, and then said, “and I think it’s also someone else’s birthday,” before leading the band into a cover of Tom Petty’s “Breakdown,” that made up for whatever it lacked in finesse by playing with emotional spirit and then, following a lengthy piano solo by Jaffee, Grohl leaned toward his drummer and rushed the pace in true punk fashion, before returning to the songs singular guitar line. It was a think of beauty and emotional purity. And finally, the traditional Foo Fighters’ farewell song, “Everlong,” which the fans gladly sang along with the band, ending a long and fulfilling night of rock & roll.

The Struts opened the show with 45 minutes of 70’s rock trio instrumentals that were pretty solid, but left a syrupy aftertaste in your mouth because of the 80’s vocal imitations of either Journey or Boston, after a while it was hard to care.

-Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb has found work as rock critic and music journalist since the early 80's, contributing over the years to Billboard Magazine, Paste, The Riverfront Times, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Q. Newcomb
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Ruby Boots: Don’t Talk About It [Album Review] 0 507

Ruby Boots
Don’t Talk About It
Bloodshot Records [2018]

Fire Note Says: Aussie country rocker with promise debuts States-side for Bloodshot Records.

Album Review: The second album from Ruby Boots roars out of the gate with “It’s So Cruel,” a cow-punk rocker that recalls the energy of Jason & The Scorchers. But before you get your hopes up, producer Beau Bedford (of The Texas Gentlemen), perhaps eager to display the singer/songwriter’s versatility, offers her up in the big doo-wop wall of sound of “Believe In Heaven,” nostalgic for the early days when Phil Spector was producing girl groups as rock & roll was first finding it’s way into the mainstream. “Don’t Talk About It,” the album’s title track, follows. It’s another ballad with orchestration that draws inspiration from that old school retro-sound.

Ruby Boots (real name, Bex Chilcott) comes from Australia via Nashville and had one previous album on an Aussie imprint before this debut on Bloodshot Records, a journey made by Kasey Chambers and others. Following the first three big production numbers, Boots sounds more at home on “Easy Way Out,” with a chord progression borrowed from the Tom Petty songbook, and the country weeper “Don’t Break My Heart Twice.”

The second half of the album sticks closer to country/rock formulas, with “I’ll Make It Through,” co-written and with harmony vocals by Nikki Lane, “Somebody Else” and “Infatuation,” are set up by punchy rhythms, strong vocal hooks, and solid, rocking guitars and minimal twang. Okay Boots has some twang in her voice on “Infatuation.” On these three, and the closing angry, country kick you to the curb slow burner with bluesy guitar and honky-tonk piano/organ that is “Don’t Give a Damn,” Boots sounds a bit like a young Lucinda Williams as the song heats up like a Rolling Stones’ song.

It’s the nearly a capella, almost hymnic “I Am A Woman,” that exhibits Boots’ voice in all it’s unique purity, in a spiritual song that declares her feminine gifts and her internal strength of being, echoing strength alongside vulnerability. On the whole this is a solid, inviting outing, driven by good songs and equally solid performances. Ruby Boots will be one to watch.

Key Tracks: “It’s So Cruel” / “Easy Way Out” / “Infatution”

Artists With Similar Fire: Nikki Lane / Lone Justice / Lydia Loveless

Ruby Boots Website
Ruby Boots Facebook
Bloodshot Records

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb has found work as rock critic and music journalist since the early 80's, contributing over the years to Billboard Magazine, Paste, The Riverfront Times, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Q. Newcomb

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers: Forest Full Of Wolves [Album Review] 1 892

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers
Forest Full of Wolves
Self-Released [2018]

Fire Note Says: Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world.

Album Review: No one is ever going to call singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee an under-achiever. His latest release, a 10 song full-length effort, Forest Full of Wolves is his 78th album by his own count. Mallonee spent the 1990s fronting the Athens, GA-band Vigilantes of Love, shuffling from one label to the next, driving a van from coast-to-coast playing every alternative rock/Americana friendly venue who would let them. Hometown friend, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) co-produced one of the band’s early more-acoustic albums, the Killing Floor. The band’s 1999 album, released on three different labels of the course of 18 months, Audible Sigh was produced by Nashville’s favorite side-man Buddy Miller, and includes a guest vocal by Emmylou Harris, as well as some of Mallonee’s best loved songs. Paste Magazine has named him one of the 100 greatest living songwriters.

A rough count, say there were 10 songs per release (usually there were more), puts Mallonee’s songwriting output at nearly 8000, and those are the one’s he’s recorded. Now basic logic would suggest that they can’t all be good, and surely not all of them are memorable, but Mallonee’s work, his actual raison d’’etre, has proven especially consistent over the decades, and in the 2010’s he’s delivered a solid album’s worth of tunes each year, with a noticeable uptick in production values starting with 2011’s The Power & The Glory. Last year’s excellent The Rags of Absence was a case in point, with Mallonee especially attentive to his lead guitar parts.

Forest Full of Wolves continues to chronicle the challenges to working class people and even songwriters, as if Mallonee is creating his own musical version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” for what he calls this “new dark age.” “Greed and fear (have) gained the upper hand,” he sings in “Changing of the Guard,” so he’s “grabbed a guitar & a notebook or two… became a phantom with some conjuring ‘neath the moon.”

Musically, Wolves takes the energy of Rags to the next level, with bigger, noiser guitar tones. Mallonee captures a Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the garage vibe throughout, which is likely a lot harder to pull off since Mallonee’s playing all the instruments. Mid-tempo alternative country rock at it’s most earnest and relevant, and against all odds, Mallonee manages to offer a word of hope. “In the New Dark Age” he sings, borrowing the title from a different song that he recording on 2014’s The Winnowing, “the best thing you can do is fall in love.” Of course, “Love Is Always Risky Currency,” but it’s the best chance any of us have of surviving in this “Forest Full of Wolves.”

Like many artists scrambling to make art in the challenging digital marketplace and survive financially Mallonee has struggled to reach out and connect with Americana fans, break ground with new audiences, even though he’s stayed off the road in recent years. As a fan who first heard the singer songwriter live in the early 90’s, and many times over the years, Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world. It’s artists who wear their passion on their sleeves, who keep pouring out their hearts in songs, that make the music that matters. (One reason to order the hard CD copy of this one, is the cover art produced by another singer songwriter, Chris Taylor, from San Antonio, TX.).

Key Tracks: “In the New Dark Age” / “Voodoo Ink” / “Trimmed & Burning”

Artists With Similar Fire: Neil Young / Bob Dylan / John Prine

Bill Mallonee Website
Bill Mallonee Facebook

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb has found work as rock critic and music journalist since the early 80's, contributing over the years to Billboard Magazine, Paste, The Riverfront Times, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Q. Newcomb

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