By: Joseph Kathmann
Featuring Carrie Underwood, Ricky Skaggs, Logan Brill, Exile, Ashley Clark, Charlie Worsham, Connie Smith, Bobby Osborne, Jeannie Selly, and The Whites
Having recently moved to Nashville, I was eagerly anticipating my first show at the Grand Ole Opry. My expectations were high, but I really didn't know what to expect. After all with that many big country names on a bill you'd think the show would have to last about 6 hours, but this show was crammed into exactly (and I mean EXACTLY) 2 hours. So ultimately, the coolest thing about the Grand Ole Opry was also the worst thing about the show: the bill. Each artist only had time for 2-3 songs in their 15 minute set, and that stood true for everyone, from opener Logan Brill to headliner Carrie Underwood. While ultimately I enjoyed my experience at the Opry, I couldn't help but leave wanting more from the artists. After all how could you be satisfied with a 2 song set from old-school country star Ricky Skaggs? I sure wasn't.
It was obvious from before the first curtain that going to the Grand Ole Opry was all about the experience. The show was about being at the Opry itself, not the artists involved. But music fans everywhere have clearly moved on from the Opry's formula. Nearly everyone in the audience was waiting for Carrie Underwood, and they only got somewhat involved with everyone else before her. Now, maybe this is unfair to the Opry and its formula. After all, Underwood's fanbase is mostly teenage girls and recent female singer-songwriters who have moved to Nashville hoping to "make it" and don't understand or appreciate the history of the genre because they're so focused on wanting to be superstars themselves. I know this may sound cynical, but I was pretty insulted when people were talking through and all but ignoring bluegrass legend Bobby Osborne's set. The man is one of the greatest bluegrass artists of all-time, and I was honored just to be around to witness a set of his. So songwriters: if you want to be taken seriously in this town you gotta understand where your craft came from. Pro tip.
I know I had a similar complaint with the crowd in Metric's set in the Imagine Dragons show, but I'm going to keep hitting on this point. The old school artists that have inspired a ton of artists today don't get nearly the amount of respect they deserve from today's music fan. But, how was Carrie Underwood's 3 song set? Well, it was.....fine. Again, 3 songs really isn't enough to get a lot of momentum going for your set. But, I did appreciate Underwood deciding to go the route of the Opry and not the route appealing to her fans by only playing 1 of her somewhat popular songs and 2 old-school country songs her fans had clearly never heard of, and the songs she did go with all showcased her incredible voice. That's the reason I think Carrie is a must-see country act. While most of her songs are pretty surface-level and are more pop-country than anything else, seeing her live really gives you an opportunity to hear her voice, which I believe is one of the best in the business. Hearing her voice in a recording just doesn't do it justice.
So, ultimately, seeing a show at the Opry was fun. While I wish the sets were a bit longer, and I was a little disappointed with the crowd at this specific show, I was still very happy to see so many great artists in such a short amount of time. The Opry has mastered the set transitions and it was really quite amazing to watch from a technical standpoint. I hope to go see the Opry again, but I might decide to wait until there's no superstar on the bill. I think this would lead to a crowd who's there just to experience the show and not any particular artist. Because if you're there for just one artist, you're gonna be disappointed.
By: Derek Jung
I'll be the first to admit to not being familiar with or a fan of the vast majority of modern country music. I think that much of it sounds the same musically, the song topics are all similar, and all of the bands' images are cleaner than their spit-shined cowboy boots and brand new cowboy hats. Let this be my little disclaimer to this review.
The Reds and Major League Baseball invited Billy Currington to perform two songs in between the Futures Game, featuring up-and-coming minor league stars and the celebrity softball game, featuring old time baseball favorites and, well, celebrities.
I've never heard music performed at Great American Ballpark before. I missed the other concerts there that they've had in the past, and I went in assuming the acoustics were going to be pretty bad. They were.
Previously, when artists like Paul McCartney performed, the stage was set up in the outfield so that the majority of the ballpark was facing the stage. Yesterday, the stage was set up around second base and faced the home place/third baseline area, which meant that everyone in the outfield seats and most of the first baseline were looking at the back of the stage. Not only this, but the speakers were lined parallel to the stage so the sound that made its way to those people was only the echo that bounced off the seats behind home plate. Needless to say, the listening experience was very poor because of this. And given that most of the outfield wasn't even being used for the celebrity softball game, I don't understand why they didn't set the stage up there and not worry about tearing it down so quickly afterwards. Unless they were worried about messing up the outfield grass for the main events Monday and Tuesday.
From what I heard, Currington and the band sounded fine to those who could hear them. There wasn't a huge performance involved and they pretty much stuck with the script of the two singles that are popular at the moment. I'm curious as to why MLB didn't just have Justin Moore, Cole Swindell, Jordin Sparks, Macklemore, or even Snoop Dogg perform before they played in the softball game. Hell, even Nick Lachey was there. Overall it just felt like an unnecessary time waster, but at least I can cross Mr. Currington off the list.
We Are Tonight
By: Joseph Kathmann
EDITOR'S NOTE: Full disclosure time. This is my first show in Nashville and Bridgestone Arena. While I feel I successfully did not allow the awe and beauty of Nashville and its ridiculously amazing music scene to impact my opinion of the show, if you want to discredit everything I say about this show as being unable to get past this fact....your call.
So. There's always been a soft spot in my musical heart for Imagine Dragons. I really enjoyed their first album, and I can proudly proclaim in pretentious hipster-like fashion that I enjoyed "Radioactive" well before it became one of the biggest hits of the past few years. So, after missing their tour in support of that album, I made it a priority to see them this time around. While I'm glad I can officially cross them off my list, I thought their show was.....something of a letdown. Ok. That's not fair. Let me rephrase that. It was polarizing. Ridiculously polarizing. So, let's jump into it, shall we?
First off, let's have a discussion about the openers. I was very disappointed with the crowd on this one. The first opener was Halsey. She sounded like a wannabe Lorde but minus the soul/personality. One day later, I've already forgotten most of her music. And yet....there was a lot of screaming from the younger folks in the audience. At the time, I was impressed with the crowd. I didn't know much about Halsey, so I was thinking, "Oh! This audience did their homework and checked out the openers before the show!" Looking back on it, I don't really know why I thought this given the demographics of the crowd. Personally, I knew very little about Halsey going in. However, I did know and was excited for the second opener. Metric. And I (foolishly) expected everyone else to be excited for them too. Least after Halsey's reception.
For those who don't know, Metric is one of the major inspirations for today's modern alternative scene. Imagine Dragons even came out and said during their show that Metric was a huge inspiration for them. They've been around for years, and have built a strong and loyal following of fans. But none of them seemed to be at this show, because no one cared about Metric. The crowd, that was so engaged during Halsey's set, suddenly could barely even be bothered to cheer after each of Metric's songs. However, they were, in fact, amazing. In my opinion the highlight of the night, (yes, over Imagine Dragons) Metric took the completely non-engaging crowd and essentially said, "Screw it. We don't need their energy." and proceeded to tear through a 9 song, 45-minute set. I could feel their energy all the way from the upper deck. But nobody else seemed to care. This made me kind of depressed. This crowd should be thankful for the set they witnessed from these guys, and I strongly recommend seeing Metric as a headlining act at some point. I know that's now on my list. So, after this incredible set, Imagine Dragons took the stage.
As I said earlier, Imagine Dragons had a very polarizing set. The set started out in a very lackluster fashion, with the band playing two of the weaker songs off Smoke + Mirrors and then playing a HORRIBLE rendition of "It's Time." Frontman Dan Reynolds made it clear that he absolutely hates the song and decided to pull a Jared Leto and have the audience sing most of the song for him. I don't mind a singer doing this once or twice during a set, but any more than that is too much. Much less for most of a song. But then the band started turning it around with a great cover of "Forever Young" by Alphaville. The set kept getting better, and it peaked with one of the highlights." I'm So Sorry." So, let's wind the clocks back to when Smoke + Mirrors came out. At the time, Imagine Dragons were the kings of the alternative world. When you're on top of the world, (see what I did there?) I expect you to do something different with your new album, because you have the influence to bring scores of musicians with you through musical inspiration. Rather than doing this, Imagine Dragons did more of the same. And I think it definitely hurt the overall reception of Smoke + Mirrors. However, on the song "I'm So Sorry," I saw potential for a new direction from the band. And it seems the band enjoys this different direction, because they had an absolute blast playing this song. It had a chance to be the highlight of the set if they had only added a jam session to end the song. Because the studio ending of this song is very abrupt, and that carried over here. But then, they removed all traces of their energy with a somewhat lackluster acoustic version of the song "Thief." "Gold" was ok, but there's simply just too much production in that song-which they brought into the live version-so you can't really hear and enjoy it. To complete the downward spiral, we came to a mashup of "Bleeding Out"/"Warriors." Now, I checked the setlist of the tour before the show, so I knew this mashup was coming. I was really looking forward to it: two massive songs thrown together should make for a heck of a live version, right? WRONG. No, what we got was literally just a line or two of "Bleeding Out," then Reynolds basically reciting the refrain from "Warriors." All acoustic. No energy. It was just a ridiculous tease. You could hear the crowd brace themselves for awesomeness as soon Reynolds started singing the refrain to "Warriors," but then you could hear an audible groan when they didn't actually play any portion of either of these songs. So, instead of an awesome 10-minute mashup of these two songs, with the band just having a blast and jamming out, we got a 2-minute acoustic, lifeless, going-through-the-motions-so-we-can-checkmark-these-songs-off-the-list mashup. This was easily the low point of the entire set.
Fortunately things improved from here on out. "Demons" was fun and everything I hoped it would be, "On Top of the World" was fantastic, "Friction" contained an awesome, live-exclusive jam session, (that should've been in "I'm So Sorry" but better late than never I guess) and "I Bet My Life" was exactly what I was expecting. However in all honesty, by the end of "Demons" I was mostly just waiting for "Radioactive." I've watched the live version of this song many times and loved it, and what I got was exactly what I was expecting, which was one heck of a fun time. However, my final quirk with this set was the encore. After ending with an explosive finale in "Radioactive," Imagine Dragons thought it would be a good idea to come out and end the show with the finale of Smoke + Mirrors, "The Fell." Couple things wrong here. First off, a one-song encore is not an encore. It's an....appearance. But I would've been ok with that had the encore been "Radioactive." You can't end a set with that much intensity and then come out with a soulless, energy-less appearance for your encore. No. This decision by Imagine Dragons is catastrophically wrong. It's almost on the same level as Tegan and Sara ending their encore with a terrible cover song in place of what was obviously supposed to be "Everything is Awesome." I fear that this horrible choice of song for the encore is what will stick with me long after most of the set has left my memory. Only time will tell.
At the end of the day, Imagine Dragons was.....fine. I'm glad I saw them, but there were just too many horrifically bad moments in this set for me to truly say I had a great time. Especially when compared to Metric's set. Yes, at the end of the day, Metric stole the show on this one. You just don't know it yet.
Forever Young (Alphaville cover)
Smoke and Mirrors
I'm So Sorry
Bleeding Out / Warriors
On Top of the World
I Bet My Life
By: Derek Jung
How fitting that on a weekend celebrating red, white, and blue, a band called Red Wanting Blue would be playing the Midpoint Indie Summer Series show on Fountain Square in the heart of Cincinnati. RWB, originally hailing from Athens, Ohio before moving upstate to Columbus, have been criss-crossing the Midwest for much of the last two decades and lead vocalist Scott Terry, with his unique growling baritone, can fill a room with his emotionally charged stage presence.
I had the pleasure of seeing the band in April at Madison Live!, a small theater next door to Madison Theater in Covington, KY. I wasn't super familiar with their material, but given the chance to see them, I was happy I went. This weekend, however, was a different story. There were at least five times the number of people in attendance for this outdoor, free show than there were in April. Not only was it free, but before the set started there was a fireworks show for the 4th of July. The combination of the fireworks, which drew people not necessarily there for the music, and the way the outdoor stage affected the band's sound, led to an underwhelming show.
This is nothing against the band. Terry played with the same energy that I saw back in April, and the band played well, but the sound on the outdoor stage was very underwhelming and seemed small given the space. The drums sounded muffled and distant, and Terry's vocals didn't fill the open aired space with the power and authority that it did in the small theater. You could tell that the group of people towards the front of the stage were RWB fans, and the band was trying hard to use their energy to drive the set, but Terry had a difficult time even getting the crowd to clap along with him. This lack of energy became worse and worse the farther from the stage you were.
The band covered many of the songs from their newest album Little America, as well as the fan favorites. They brought out Cincinnati locals, The Young Heirlooms, who played before the fireworks, to help with a song. If you haven't seen them before, check them out.
Hopefully the next time Red Wanting Blue comes to town they'll return to a theater instead of an outdoor space, because their band is much better suited for that.
Watch a live take of "Hope on a Rope" from 2012 below.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: