A Summer of Concerts Reviewed

Posted on October 23, 2022

 A Summer of Concerts Reviewed

After a two–year gigging hiatus, some of the bands I enjoy all coincidently went on tour in 2022. I saw more concerts this year than I have in a while (see: two–year concert hiatus) and I thought it would be fun to write a little something about a few of the gigs I went to. I don’t have enough to say about one particular show to justify a single post, so I’ll mix them all together.

April 24: The Dip (with Kiltro) at The Gothic Theater

I brought this gig up back in April when I wrote a blog post about these guys. The band sounded great, with some surprising improv; a lot of the Dip’s music is pretty poppy (and a bit saccharine), but these guys are good players. They even brought in some trombonist as a ringer to wail onstage for a few minutes before bouncing out. And I was a big fan of the opener Kiltro, which is actually from Denver. 

June 4: Ólafur Arnalds at Chautauqua Aditoruim 

This was a last–minute deal; my girlfriend’s older sister had tickets be couldn’t make it, so we scooped them up instead. 

I didn’t know much about this guy. It’s some pretty experimental stuff. Not quite ambient but very atmospheric nonetheless. 

June 5: Snarky Puppy (with Eric Krasno) at The Mission Ballroom 

I’ve thus far seen Snarky Puppy twice. The first time was at the Boulder Theater in 2018, which was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to:

The one at the Ballroom? Not so much…

To begin with, this venue is kind of strange. The idea is the same as a typical theater, with a GA standing room and elevated reserved seating running around the edge of the building. It’s just that the Ballroom cranks this design up to 11 and is way too big for this kind of getup.

The mix for this gig was lousy, with way too much high–end. There was a violinist with the band and by the end of the show, his high notes were rattling my teeth. Meanwhile, the setlist was downright harebrained — frontman Micheal League decided that 80% of the concert would be material from the new album Empire Central. Keep in mind that, back in June, this album hadn’t been released yet. It hadn’t even been announced yet. 

It was tough to really get into the music, being that this was my first impression of these tunes. It also really stifled the excitement of the crowd, for the same reason. I would probably see these guys again, but this was madcap (more on the new album next week). 

June 28: Fleet Foxes (with Tim Bernardes) at The Mission Ballroom

Now if I don’t care for this venue, why would I go there again? Well, I was in the seats for Snarky Puppy, so we decided to go on the floor for this one to give the place another chance. 

The mix and the set were a lot better, but the gig was a bit overlong. Despite the fact that this band has been around for over a dozen years, the guys did not have a great stage presence, awkwardly giggling at one another in between songs, leading to a lot of dead air and a lot of downtime. But all in all, pretty fun. 

July 20: Tower of Power & Lettuce with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks

I wrote another post about this one after I saw it. There’s not much more to say — these guys are the definition of consummate musical professionals. It’s pretty appropriate that the Symphony joined them onstage. Not only was it a good sonic compliment, but Tower of Power’s horn players probably inspired many wind musicians to pick up their instruments. 

I actually don’t know much about Lettuce. I was expecting a similar sound, perhaps like the Brecker Brothers, but it was very experimental, more like Snarky Puppy. It was enough for me to check out the band further, even though I struggle to stomach the fact that it has one of the dumbest band names in history. 

We didn’t stay for the whole gig, leaving with the Orchestra about two–thirds of the way through Lettuce’s set. 

August 27: My Morning Jacket (with Joy Oladokun) at Red Rocks

MMJ is one of my favorite contemporary bands, so this was a highly anticipated concert for me… but unfortunately, I did not enjoy this show at all. 

The first issue was the crowd. Sometimes Red Rocks can feel like a big party, but this was like a frat party that you secretly wish would get shut down so you have an excuse to go home. I’m talking about: people yelling at each other nonstop; a steady stream of drunkards walking in and out of the aisle to get more beer; and the pot. So much pot. I’ve been to a lot of concerts and I’d never seen so much pot smoke before. I don’t want to sound like a fuddy–duddy, but there must have been enough weed there to make Jeff Sessions wake up that night screaming. 

Now let’s talk about the actual band. For starters, this was another bad mix — I could barely hear the kick drum and it took several songs for Jim James’ vocals to become intelligible (I actually preferred the mix of the opener, sadly enough). 

The setlist was also wonky. MMJ released an album last fall, but despite the fact that the album’s artwork emblazoned Patrick Hallahan’s bass drum head, they didn’t do a whole lot of tunes from that LP. Instead, we got some tracks from James’ solo albums (which felt inappropriate) and a cover of “Rocket Man” that nobody asked for. 

They didn’t play “One Big Holiday”, my favorite MMJ track and one of the band’s most famous numbers. There were several shows at Red Rocks for this tour, each one with a different setlist, which reeks of the gimmick some bands use to try and get you to see multiple shows on the same tour because you don’t know if you’ll hear your favorite song at any one gig. 

The performances were top–notch, but the arrangements had a frustrating lack of imagination, where every tune ended with a big, drawn–out trashcan ending. Combined with needlessly long jams and a proclivity for slower numbers (not to mention a three–hour set), the concert was downright repetitive. 

It was honestly a bit heartbreaking. Win some lose some I guess. Based on this gig, I would not see MMJ again. Maybe I’ll give these guys another chance… I doubt it, because these were some of the more expensive tickets from this summer… but maybe. 

September 6: Roger Waters at Ball Arena

The big kahuna of them all. I bought the tickets for this one back in March of 2020, about a week before the pandemic started, which postponed the show for two years. 

I saw Roger once back in 2017 at (what was at the time) the Oracle Arena in Oakland:

That show was fabulous, and this one didn’t disappoint. Great production values, a stellar mix, and a good set that featured classic Floyd and some of Roger’s solo work. It made me miss the big spectacle of some concerts, the kind that I don’t often go to anymore. 

Now, I understand that a lot of people get antsy when they hear “Roger Waters”. I’ll admit, even I have my limits, and lately, Roger has said some daffy things about the Ukraine conflict. In an open letter, he made some interesting points about the military–industrial complex before bizarrely blaming Zelenska and “extreme nationalists [that] have set your country on the path to this disastrous war”… whatever that’s supposed to mean. 

He later wrote another open letter (this time specifically to Putin), saying “I know, I know, the USA and NATO invade other sovereign countries at the drop of a hat, or for a few barrels of oil, but that doesn’t mean you should, your invasion of Ukraine took me completely by surprise, it was a heinous war of aggression, provoked or not.”

Why not focus on that Roger? For a guy who filled his show with messages of human rights and anti–imperialism, it was so strange to see him apply such nuance to Putin invading a country that didn’t attack him or his allies. 

What can you do? It’s certainly not the worst nonsense to come from a musical artist as of late. I’ve never found a politically minded individual that I agree with on 100% of the issues; it’s just a bummer that my disagreement is over something like this and not legalized psychedelics.

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