Sum 41/The Hammerstein Ballroom/October 28, 2019
In 1995 in Ajax in Ontario, Canada, a few high school friends formed a NOFX cover band called Kaspir. Vocalist/guitarist Deryck Whibley was 15-years-old at the time. In 1996, on the 41st day of their summer vacation, the musicians changed the band name to Sum 41. In 2001, Sum 41’s debut album went platinum in the United States and triple platinum in Canada. In 2003, Sum 41 won Canada’s Juno Award for Group of the Year, and in 2005, the album Chuck won the Juno Award for Rock Album of the Year. Following several personnel changes, Whibley remains the band’s sole original member. Sum 41 currently consists of Whibley, guitarist Dave Baksh, guitarist/keyboardist Tom Thacker, bassist Jason “Cone” McCaslin, and drummer Frank Zummo. The band’s seventh studio album, Order in Decline, was released on July 19, 2019.
While websites had speculated that the Sum 41 tour would celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Chuck album and/or the release of the most recent album, the band played neither album in full at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Instead, the set consisted of 22 songs spanning six albums. Like many later-day punk bands, the songs largely pivoted on power pop vocal melodies and fast, bombastic wall-of-sound backing. Whibley’s powerful, urgent vocals were the key, and they held strong despite a considerable amount of shouting. Whibley was also very present to the fans, constantly pacing the edge of the stage and eliciting responses from the approving audience. During the song “Pieces,” he sang while walking through the audience all the way to the back of the room. As often happens at Sum 41 concerts, the band concluded its performance by returning to the stage as its alter ego, Pain for Pleasure. The band played a speed-metal jam in three takes, each more energetic than the preceding take. While power-pop punk bands proliferated in the nineteen-nineties and 2000s and typically sounded similar, Sum 41 added an element of audience-pleasing spectacle to make the performances memorable.
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band/Madison Square Garden/October 30, 2019
Born in Detroit, and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bob Seger was a local superstar for a decade before earning national attention. Starting as a high school student in 1961, he performed and recorded with the Decibels, the Town Criers, Doug Brown & the Omens, Bob Seger and the Last Heard, the Bob Seger System, Teegarden & Van Winkle, My Band, the Borneo Band, and the Bob Seger Group, but did not achieve commercial success until after forming Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band in 1973. With a career spanning six decades, Seger has sold more than 75 million records worldwide, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. In 1987, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Seger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. Seger released his 18th and most recent album, I Knew You When, in 2017. Seger resides in Orchard Lake Village, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.
A tour by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band in 1986-1987 was supposed to be the band’s final outing. Tonight, more than 30 years after the first final tour, Seger and his band headlined Madison Square Garden one night before the last stop of Roll Me Away: The Final Tour 2018-19. As this tour was not promoting a new album, the set list was comprised almost exclusively of hits and deep cuts from his peak period, 1976 to 1986. Seger’s powerfully masculine voice, still husky and raspy, navigated through blue-collar songs of love and loss honestly and vulnerably, and also commanded convincingly on his many roots rockers. The large band behind him more than ably supported and enhanced the songs. Among the most moving moments, Seger introduced “We’ve Got Tonight” by saying it was his late mother’s favorite song by him. Seger called Bob Dylan “the Mt. Rushmore of songwriters,” then sang Dylan’s “Forever Young” as a soundtrack to a slide show of images of musicians who died in recent times—among them Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Prince, plus two recent additions, Dr. John and Eddie Money. “Turn the Page,” with lyrics detailing his severe exhaustion due to a life on the road, was more poignant than ever. Similarly appropriate, Seger introduced “The Famous Final Scene” into the set. For the final song, “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” Seger altered his lyrics from “sweet 16’s turned 31″ to “sweet 16’s turned 74!” Sadly, the 74-year-old heartland rocker is turning the page for the last time, but this we learned from him: rock ‘n’ roll never forgets.
Knocked Loose/Webster Hall/November 3, 2019
A group of friends in Oldham County, Kentucky, formed a hardcore punk band around 2011. The band had several names, including Speaker and Manipulator, before settling on Knocked Loose in 2013. An EP, Pop Culture, in 2014 secured Knocked Loose an opening slot on several tours, and the debut album, Laugh Tracks, in 2016 turned the band into a headliner. Knocked Loose released its second album, A Different Shade of Blue, on August 23, 2019. Knocked Loose consists of vocalist Bryan Garris, lead guitarist Isaac Hale, rhythm Guitarist Cole Crutchfield, bassist Kevin Otten, and drummer Kevin Kaine.
Bryan Garris told the audience at Webster Hall that Knocked Loose was performing in the venue for the third time. The band worked its way from the now-renovated venue’s former small basement Studio, then the mid-sized Marlin Room, and now they headlined the large, upstairs Grand Ballroom. The band was more brutal than ever, at this point evolving into screamo and metalcore more than clinging to its original hardcore sound. Garris often provided death-metal growls and high-pitched vocals to the band’s dissonant chords, deep bass lines, blast beats, and breakdowns. The set included 10 of the 12 songs from the new album, demonstrating the band’s commitment to its maturing sound. Harsh, heavy, and quite extreme, Knocked Loose was as intense as a heart attack.
Trigger Hippy/Chelsea Music Hall/November 5, 2019
Trigger Hippy started more as a loose collective in 2009 than as a defined membership in Nashville. Thanks to marquee names like vocalist Joan Osborne and guitarist Jackie Greene, the band headlined large clubs nationally in 2014. By 2015, however, all of the musicians were involved in individual projects and Trigger Hippy disappeared. Earlier this year, bassist Nick Govrik, formerly of Highwater, and drummer Steve Gorman, formerly of the Black Crowes, revived the Trigger Hippy brand with vocalist/saxophone player Amber Woodhouse of Luthi and guitarist/vocalist Ed Jurdi of Band of Heathens. Five years after its first album, Trigger Hippy released its second album, Full Circle and Then Some, on October 11, 2019.
Aided by guitarist Sol Philcox and keyboardist Jimmy Rowland at the Chelsea Music Hall, the six-piece Trigger Hippy sounded like a band from another musical era. The band’s mix of Delta blues, southern rock, psychedelic jams, and rhythm & blues recalled the late sixties music of the Band, Little Feat, Dr. John, and Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. Woodhouse’s big vocals ignited some songs, multi-part harmonies enriched other songs, and swampy bayou grooves carried the remainder of the set. Trigger Hippy played as an ensemble, not as a support for a key member. The musicians knew when to step up and step back. In service to the songs themselves, no one was a star, but everyone shined. Trigger Hippy performed refreshingly honest music.