Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Dirty Heads build on with 'Cabin By The Sea'

ORLANDO — SoCal summer reggae sound filled the House of Blues Orlando on June 25, as Big B, The Expendables, and The Dirty Heads sailed through on their “Cabin By The Sea Tour.”

All three groups that performed on this night have California roots and this musical styles reflected this fact. High-powered rapper Big B, started off the night with his aggressive underground hip-hop performance, and became a great hype man, getting the young crowd excited for the rest of the night.

Most of the fans in attendance represented typical summer break loving high school and college kids looking to have fun and blow off some steam between semesters. Brightly colored tank tops for the guys and tight fitting short shorts for the girls were almost a mandatory dress code for this concert.

Unlike their name would imply, The Expendables were vital to the overall success of this show. They performed an energetic set ranging from mesmerizing psychedelic reggae to moments of fast-paced punk rock breakdowns and solos. This group was highly divers in playing style with most of their songs featuring driving rhythms and catchy reggae choruses that fit perfectly with the overall tone of the show.

Anticipation slowly built between sets as the audience members waited for The Dirty Heads to take the stage, and they were not disappointed. It was undeniable from the start of their performance they possessed a strongly crisp sound that embodied confidence and fun.

The Dirty Heads sound and playing style represented an eclectic blend of surf rock, punk ska, rap and reggae music, perfect for relaxing with friends on the beach and kicking back with a cold drink. Reminiscent of other groups like Sublime and Slightly Stoopid, their rhythm-heavy songs were driven by tight percussion and walking bass lines combined with a fusion of laid back reggae and spirited hip-hop.

A large roar of applause from passionate fans came between each song performed, and the band members smiled and cheered back with unquestionable appreciation. One lucky contest-winning fan was even brought on stage a few songs into their set, and presented with a light blue colored Ernie Ball Music Man guitar that guitarist Dustin Bushnell had been performing with.

One audience members, Charles Frizzell, had seen The Dirty Heads perform several times before and said “Over the years they keep better with their live shows and the crowds keep getting bigger and with more energy.”

Some of the standout songs performed this night were “Believe,” where they pay homage to the artist that inspired their music, “Stand Tall” that had a large number of audience members singing along with the group word for word, and “Spread Too Thin” that created a audible exclamation point near the end of their concert.

Going back to the roots of reggae, they also covered “Sinsemilla” by the classic reggae group Black Uhuru. The chorus from this songs was blended with a jam session of The Dirty Heads sound that breathed new life into the decades old tune.

The evening could not have been complete without the band performing their breakout song “Lay Me Down,” which they saved until the second encore song near the end of the show.
Audience members lovingly danced and sang along as this live rendition that added a long jam sessions that isn't found in the radio edit version of this song that most fans are familiar with.

“They're really good dudes and you can tell when they’re having a good time, it’s like Orlando is a second home to them,” said concertgoer Jim Harvey.

Big things are on the horizon for these talented boys from Long Beach, California, as they continue to prove their west coast sound has a wide appeal that is supported by an ever-growing fan base.

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

New Kids delivered goods with 'The Package Tour'

     ORLANDO — Excited female screams, nostalgic crooning, and lots of love can best describe what New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, and 98 Degrees delivered with “The Package Tour" at the Amway Center on June 21.

     This co-headlining tour features all three groups performing individually; starting with Boyz II Men, who set a sensual tone for the rest of the night. The enthusiastic crowd often sang louder than the group during many of their classic R&B hits including “On Bended Knee,” “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” and “I’ll Make Love To You.” Almost immediately following Boyz II Men was and 90s hit vocal group 98 Degrees. They went straight into performance mode by singing and dancing to songs like “Heat It Up,” which comes off their newest album “2.0.”

     Both of the opening acts built up to the nights most anticipated performance by Boston's own and one of the most successful boy bands in pop music, New Kids on the Block.

     Originally formed in 1984; NKOTB has gone on to sell over 80 million albums worldwide, and after breaking up in 1994, have made a monumental comeback with successful tours and album releases since reforming back in 2008. Part nostalgia and part hit songwriting, this group is now best described as providing a thrilling live concert to fans that show unyielding love and admiration.

     “New Kids on the Block was definitely the best, we’ve been waiting over 20 years to see them perform live,” said concertgoer Brandy Shaffer, who traveled with a group of friends from Georgia to see this concert in Orlando.

     The over 20 songs performed by “New Kids” on this tour represented a wide range of selections from all of their studio albums. From early singles like “Didn’t I,” from their 1986 self titled debut album, to the currently released “We Own Tonight,” from their newest album “10.” Hit songs from their wildly successful 1988 album “Hangin’ Tough” were also a crowd favorite including “Please Don’t Go Girl,” “You Got It (The Right Stuff),” and “Covergirl.”

     Moments of audience interaction became a great way for NKOTB to show love back to their enthusiastic fans, such as near the end of the concert during the song “Tonight,” as all the members jumped off stage and connected with fans with hugs and posing for pictures. This along with several moments where members of the group, including Donnie Wahlberg, took time to speak with their fans and thank them for all their continued support over the group's 25 year history, which solidified the strong fan and band connection seen at this performance.

     “Everything was unique and wonderful, all three groups had a great show,” said concertgoer Gena Abel.

     NKOTB also surprised the audience by bringing out Boyz II Men near the end of the show to perform a collaboration of the song “Motown Philly,” and all the guys from both groups showed each other much love and respect during and after the tune.

     One of the most inspiring moments from this concert came when the guys all dawned custom jerseys that said “Boston Strong” on the back in reference to the Boston Strong concert they participated in on May 30 that helped raise funds for the victims and family members affected by the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15. This lead to a rousing rendition of the chorus from “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by the Massachusetts punk rock band Dropkick Murphys.

     With their youngest member being 40-years-old, it’s hard to call the New Kids on the Block kids anymore. But their talent and on-stage performance defines the concept of 40 being the new 20, and their fans will surely be with them to keep up their support and continued success.

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Technical troubles hit Inner Circle at The Social

     ORLANDO — Despite playing at a substandard venue called The Social that was plagued with several technical issues; vintage reggae music was masterfully performed by the “Bad Boys of Reggae,” know as Inner Circle.

     Regarded the world over as one of the greatest reggae bands in history, Inner Circle has endured many highs and lows since its initial formation back in 1968. They achieved early success in the 1970s with singer Jacob Miller, but momentarily disbanded after Miller’s tragic death in 1980. They reformed in 1986 and went on to reach international success with their two biggest hit singles “Sweet (A La La La La Long)” and “Bad Boys,” a song that is best known as the theme music for the “Cops” TV series.

     Roots reggae music has a traditional style typically known for a relaxed and uplifting feel. The members of Inner Circle stay true to their roots, but also have a strong stage presence that energizes the audience during their performance. Founding member and bassist, Ian Lewis, had a commanding control of the bass line, and drummer Lancelot Hall attacked the rhythms with perfect timing. Though the rhythm section of this band stood out the most, all the members of Inner Circle performed with the utmost control and professionalism.

     Inner Circle starting off the concert with some of their standard reggae jams including “We ‘A’ Rockers,” “Sweet Jamaica,” and the newly released reggae remixed version of “Young, Wild & Free.” The group also played a musical tribute their the late singer Jacob Miller, with a string of classic Inner Circle songs from Miller’s time including “Tenement Yard” and “Forward Jah Jah Children.”

     This show played at The Social in Orlando provided a unique experience to see such an iconic band in a small venue, but also created technical issues that plagued the performance throughout the night. Most noticeable was the sound mixing levels being too high for the bass guitar which overpowered the group, despite bassist Ian Lewis repeatedly motioning for the technician to lower it. The lead vocal’s microphone sound level also was poorly controlled leading to several instances of screeching feedback that left members in the audience yelling out in disapproval.

     Another founding member of Inner Circle and guitarist, Roger Lewis, looked openly frustrated  as he took the stage at the start of the performance, but played through the show like everything was normal. He then looked openly upset at the end of the main set and didn’t rejoin the group to play for the last few songs during the encore.

     Inner Circle has strong Florida ties with the group being based in Miami, and have played several times in Orlando before including shows at the House of Blues Orlando and Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom. These larger venues have superior technical accommodations and far better promotional campaigns than those found at The Social. It’s likely Inner Circle will return to Orlando in the future, but highly unlikely they will ever perform at The Social again.

     A band with such a great legacy has earned the right to play in a venue of a much high caliber.

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

Ian Lewis of Inner Circle performs in Orlando at The Social.

Roger Lewis of Inner Circle performs in Orlando at The Social.

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