Nick Cave/The Town Hall/September 23, 2019

Nick Cave was born in Warracknabeal, a small country town in the Australian state of Victoria. When he was a child, his family moved to Wangaratta in rural Victoria. There, at nine years of age, he joined the cathedral choir. A few years later, he moved with his family to the Melbourne suburb of Murrumbeena. There, in 1973, Cave founded a band and sang cover songs. By 1977, the band members were writing and performing original songs, and enjoyed regional popularity as the Boys Next Door. In 1980, pursuing grander success, the band became the Birthday Party and relocated to London, and then West Berlin. The Birthday Party drew a following, but disbanded in 1983, and Cave formed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Cave also has written a libretto for an opera, novels, screenplays, and movie soundtracks, and has acted in films. Cave was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2007 and named an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2017. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 17th studio album, Ghosteen, was released on October 3, 2019. He currently is based in Los Angeles.

Nick Cave’s latest project has been Conversations with Nick Cave, a tour in which Cave performs solo on piano and fields questions from the audience. At the Town Hall, he intermittently performed songs from his catalogue and responded to unscreened and unfiltered questions. With music sheets arrayed on the piano and a nearby table, Cave’s selections of songs seemed whimsical in some cases, while others were responses to audience requests. Barren arrangements spotlighted Cave’s rich baritone and emotional intensity on compositions inspired by love, death, violence, and religion. The audience came for more than music, however, and given a microphone, fans gushed over their admiration of Cave; some asked questions about his music and, perhaps given the bleakness of his works, a great many seemed to seek his solace in coping with grief, a recurring theme. In many of his responses, Cave emphasized his positive and optimistic outlook. “Happiness is an act of defiance,” he said. At the end of the two-hour program, however, the audience was left to connect the dots as to how the upbeat person he projected authored such dark, brooding music.

Skillet/The PlayStation Theater/September 24, 2019

John Cooper, bassist and founder of Skillet, began singing at a young age, playing guitar around age 18 and bass guitar at 19 in Memphis. From 1989 to 1995, Cooper was in an experimental and progressive rock band called Seraph, which released a four-song demo before disbanding. Cooper co-founded Skillet in 1996, but by 2000, he was the only remaining original member of the band. The hard-rocking band cultivated an audience in Christian rock, and became one of the biggest sellers in the genre, while also touring numerous times with secular hard rock bands. Several of the band’s bombastic anthems songs have been adopted by sports teams or used in sporting events over the years. One Skillet album achieved double platinum status, one hit platinum, and two hit gold. The band released its 10th album, Victorious, on August 2, 2019. Skillet currently consists of husband John (lead vocals, bass) and wife Korey Cooper (rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Seth Morrison (lead guitar), and Jen Ledger (drums, vocals).

Co-headlining with Alter Bridge on the Victorious Sky tour, Skillet stunned many of the hard rock fans at the PlayStation Theater who had never before heard the band’s music. Skillet honed in on its five most recent albums, and in those albums concentrated on the more anthemic arena-rockers. With or without his bass, Cooper was the consummate showman, his body moving dynamically on the stage in tune with the aggressive music, all the while singing in a muscular, gravelly voice. On a couple of songs, his deeply masculine voice alternated with Ledger’s light feminine voice, and the vocal interplay was stellar. Skillet periodically employed fog canons to create a line of fog pillars along the front edge of the stage, and for one song, two roadies strapped smaller cannons to Cooper’s wrists for a superhero effect. The music was heavy and highly melodic, always building to a crescendo for the choruses, and the lyrics were positive, encouraging, and uplifting. Skillet proved to be the perfect antithesis for the current trend of dark and morbid metal.

Alter Bridge/The PlayStation Theater/September 24, 2019

After 10 successful years, the band Creed became inactive in 2003. In 2004, Creed’s lead guitarist Mark Tremonti and bassist Brian Marshall teamed with original Creed drummer Scott Phillips and recruited the Mayfield Four’s vocalist, Myles Kennedy, in Orlando. They named the new band Alter Bridge after a bridge near Tremonti’s home on Alter Road in Detroit. Alter Bridge was an immediate success; the 2004 debut album sold 750,000 copies worldwide and achieved gold status in the United States. Alter Bridge paused in 2009 when Creed reunited for an album and tour and Kennedy began singing with Slash’s new band, a back and forth pattern that has repeated itself. Alter Bridge’s sixth studio album, Walk the Sky, will be released on October 18, 2019.

Alter Bridge’s Victorious Sky tour was scheduled to hit Terminal 5, but the venue suffered a small fire in a storage room and the concert was moved to the PlayStation Theater. After strong sets by Dirty Honey and Skillet, Alter Bridge performed a 70-minute set that showcased 10 older songs and three new songs. Behind the band, a line of LED panels showed swirling colors and shapes; other than that, Alter Bridge’s staging was kept simple, with no fog, flames, lasers, confetti, or other gimmicks. The performance was strictly about fast and furious hard rock, powered by Kennedy’s bluesy vocals and Tremonti’s frequently raging guitar leads. “Ghost of Days Gone By” and similar ballads showcased the band’s lighter side, but melodies were prominent in the chunkier rockers as well. Tremonti proved to be a solid singer as well on his one lead vocal turn, “Water’s Rising.” The newer songs fit neatly into the band’s signature post-grunge style. While many of the popular bands from the beginning of the century have exhausted their creativity, Alter Bridge gave evidence that the alt-rock era is still alive and well.

George Thorogood & the Destroyers/The Town Hall/September 25, 2019

Born in Wilmington, Delaware, George Thorogood in the nineteen-seventies played second base in a local semi-pro baseball team. Inspired by a John P. Hammond concert he attended, he also began performing as a solo acoustic performer in the style of blues giants Robert Johnson and Elmore James. Thorogood soon formed a band, the Delaware Destroyers, with high school friend and drummer Jeff Simon, who also played center field on his baseball team. Adding musicians and playing the regional rock club circuit, the band eventually shortened its name to the Destroyers. During this time, Thorogood supplemented his income by working as a roadie for Hound Dog Taylor. Relocating to Boston, the new George Thorogood & the Destroyers began touring and releasing albums; the band sold 15 million albums worldwide, scoring two platinum and six gold albums in the United States. The band’s 16th and most recent studio album is 2011’s 2120 South Michigan Ave., although more recently, Thorogood in 2017 released a solo album, Party of One. George Thorogood & the Destroyers presently consists of Thorogood, Simon, saxophonistBuddy Leach, rhythm guitaristJim Suhler, and bassistBilly Blough.

George Thorogood & the Destroyers headlined at the Town Hall, performing high-energy, guitar-fueled original songs plus a handful of vintage cover songs. Thanks to the band’s loyal fans, the concert was already a rock ‘n’ roll party even before the first song, “Rock Party.” Lyrics that honored bad behavior and alcohol drinking added to the festive spirit. Most of the set was comprised of charging rockers deeply rooted in Chicago blues, classic rock ‘n’ roll, and boogie, and Thorogood played almost non-stop slide and finger-picking guitar leads, only occasionally stepping back to allow his saxophonist to shine. Thorogood’s musicians ably supported his rampaging drive, and Thorogood’s gritty vocals added to the raw thrust of the set. George Thorogood & the Destroyers capitalized well on retro rock ‘n’ roll riffs that remain thrilling in any music epoch.

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