Category Archives: Icon Fetch Blog

Musings about the artists featured on Icon Fetch and music in general

Captivating – Ruthie Foster goes solo in Cincinnati

2/17/17 – Southgate House Revival, Newport, KY

I’ve seen my share of solo acoustic shows, yet few have the ability to keep an audience’s attention quite like Ruthie Foster. Chalk it up to her Texas roots – there’s just so much diversity in music down there, and it was on full display during her show Friday night. There was plenty of blues – her own “Singing the Blues,” Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richland Woman Blues,” and even something she called a “Texas Two-Step Blues.”

Those were coupled with soulful numbers like “The Ghetto” by the Staple Singers, a surprise arrangement of “Oh Susannah,” and a vast re-working of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Several gospel songs allowed her an opportunity to belt things out, even stepping back from the microphone to sing, like Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” and a blues-holler-meets-the-pupit in “Runaway Spirit.”

But the one song that stood out was a moving version of her life-affirming anthem, “Phenomenal Woman” – that one made the entire crowd leap up for a spontaneous, rousing ovation. She encored with a taste of her forthcoming album, “Joy Comes Back.”

Foster, who usually is accompanied by a band, admitted between songs that it was a bigger challenge up there by herself, but delighted when the crowd helped sing her songs.

The best news of the night came from the Cincinnati Blues Society, who announced that Foster would be back, this time with a full band, for the Cincy Blues Fest in August.

Icon Fetch did an audio interview with Ruthie Foster which will be posted soon.  –Tony Peters

Seth Walker – Natalie’s in Columbus (concert review)

Seth Walker – Natalie’s – Worthington, OH (11/14/16) (concert review)

A surprising-for-a-Sunday-night, sold out crowd gathered to hear great music and eat delicious pizza

Seth Walker started out as a fairly typical blues musician.  But, over time, he’s developed an unique style – call it groove blues – and it was on full display during a recent Columbus performance.

Walker has lived in a variety of places, and he’s managed to soak up the goodness found in each residence.  His southern drawl comes from being born and raised Carolina, while his gritty guitar work is a product of living in Austin.  But, a more recent stop in Nashville has given him a gift of the melodic hook.  However, the biggest sway on his music is the groove, which has certainly come from his current residence in New Orleans.

Walker, augmented by bass, drums and keyboards, entered the stage in his usual attire – fedora and vest, and opened with “Home Again,” one of many cuts featured from his spectacular new album, Gotta Get Back.  Actually, that song featured accordion and stand-up bass, as the band eased into the evening.  Next came the light funk of “Another Day,” then “Tomorrow,” one of those songs you swear is a cover song, but is in fact Walker’s (off his equally good Sky Still Blue).

Walker is also an exceptional soul singer, and even though it’s apparent on his records, it comes through more clearly in person.  “Dreamer” evoked the Memphis soul of Al Green without copying.  He played a few songs solo – Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” and “Somebody Should’ve Warned Me.”

Things began to heat up with the chugging “Fire in the Belly,” which highlighted the bassist playing a bow.  “Trouble” featured a distorted electric piano that would’ve made Deep Purple’s Jon Lord happy.  The fast-paced “Way Past Midnight” incorporated rhythms borrowed from the Bayou, and was one of the many highlights of the evening.

At a time when we seem far too concerned with putting labels on everything, Seth Walker continues to develop a style that defies classification – dammit, it’s just great music.  If he comes to your down, I highly suggest you take in one of his shows.  Tony Peters

Frankie Avalon, Fabian & Bobby Rydell (concert review)

Golden Boys: Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Bobby Rydell – Rose Music Center – 8/6/16 (concert review)

A surprisingly satisfying trip down Memory Lane

Honestly, you just don’t know what you’re going to get at a concert these days.  Many artists feel they only have to play 60 minutes, despite the grumblings of fans leaving the venue.  That’s what made the Golden Boys’ concert such a pleasant surprise – a two-hour, fun-filled show from three performers whose average age is 74.

Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell were all teen idols from the 1950’s and early 60’s who all grew up in the same neighborhood in South Philadelphia, and all benefited from heavy exposure on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.  They’ve been touring together as the Golden Boys for over 30 years now.


The trio all came out together to welcome the crowd with the “Bandstand Theme,” then Bobby Rydell got the first spotlight. Despite having recently undergone double transplant surgery (liver and kidney), Rydell’s voice was by far the best of the bunch – still possessing immense power to tackle difficult numbers like “Volare” and “Sway” (both hits originally for Dean Martin).  “Forget Him” showed that he’s still got a deep warmth to his low register, while ”Wild One” was good fun.

Fabian came out next and told the best stories – especially one about meeting Elvis Presley (and giving him a pair of his pants).  He also invited members of the audience on stage to do the Twist to one of his songs, “Tiger,”  while “Turn Me Loose” was the hardest-rocking number of the night.  His self-deprecating humor was in contrast to the other’s more rosy approach.

Frankie Avalon was probably the best overall performer, joking with the crowd, even coming down off the stage into the audience at one point.  He recreated his role of Teen Angel, singing “Beauty School Drop Out” from the musical Grease.  He also paid tribute to his screen partner Annette Funicello with “Beach Blanket Bingo.”  His voice still sounded great with his signature hit, “Venus.”

One of the biggest surprises of the night was when Avalon introduced Edan Everly, son of Don, who was playing guitar in the show.  Edan’s voice was incredibly similar to his dad’s while he and Avalon ran through Everly standards “Bye Bye Love,” “All You Have to Do Is Dream” and “Wake Up Little Susie.”

If you really think about it, the three performers had only a handful of really great singles.  Cleverly, they used the concert as a celebration of all the music of the 1950’s: Fabian played Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy,”  while Frankie Avalon did “California Sun” and a medley of “Witch Doctor,” “Yakety Yak,” and “Charlie Brown.”

Toward the end of the evening, all three performers again took the stage to do a tribute to their idols.  Avalon did Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou,” Fabian rocked through Elvis’ “Hard Headed Woman,” while Rydell did a fantastic job with Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife.”  Then, all three combined for Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”  The set closed with a medley of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” and the Righteous Brothers’ “Rock n’ Roll Heaven,” then, a snippet of the “Mickey Mouse Club Theme.”

Plenty of familiar hits, some funny jokes, and lots of memories – the Golden Boys can still deliver a fantastic evening.  —Tony Peters


Frankie Avalon, Fabian & Bobby Rydell (concert review)

Golden Boys: Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Bobby Rydell – Rose Music Center – 8/6/16 (concert review)

A surprisingly satisfying trip down Memory Lane

Honestly, you just don’t know what you’re going to get at a concert these days.  Many artists feel they only have to play 60 minutes, despite the grumblings of fans leaving the venue.  That’s what made the Golden Boys’ concert such a pleasant surprise – a two-hour, fun-filled show from three performers whose average age is 74.

Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell were all teen idols from the 1950’s and early 60’s who all grew up in the same neighborhood in South Philadelphia, and all benefited from heavy exposure on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.  They’ve been touring together as the Golden Boys for over 30 years now.


The trio all came out together to welcome the crowd with the “Bandstand Theme,” then Bobby Rydell got the first spotlight. Despite having recently undergone double transplant surgery (liver and kidney), Rydell’s voice was by far the best of the bunch – still possessing immense power to tackle difficult numbers like “Volare” and “Sway” (both hits originally for Dean Martin).  “Forget Him” showed that he’s still got a deep warmth to his low register, while ”Wild One” was good fun.

Fabian came out next and told the best stories – especially one about meeting Elvis Presley (and giving him a pair of his pants).  He also invited members of the audience on stage to do the Twist to one of his songs, “Tiger,”  while “Turn Me Loose” was the hardest-rocking number of the night.  His self-deprecating humor was in contrast to the other’s more rosy approach.

Frankie Avalon was probably the best overall performer, joking with the crowd, even coming down off the stage into the audience at one point.  He recreated his role of Teen Angel, singing “Beauty School Drop Out” from the musical Grease.  He also paid tribute to his screen partner Annette Funicello with “Beach Blanket Bingo.”  His voice still sounded great with his signature hit, “Venus.”

One of the biggest surprises of the night was when Avalon introduced Edan Everly, son of Don, who was playing guitar in the show.  Edan’s voice was incredibly similar to his dad’s while he and Avalon ran through Everly standards “Bye Bye Love,” “All You Have to Do Is Dream” and “Wake Up Little Susie.”

If you really think about it, the three performers had only a handful of really great singles.  Cleverly, they used the concert as a celebration of all the music of the 1950’s: Fabian played Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy,”  while Frankie Avalon did “California Sun” and a medley of “Witch Doctor,” “Yakety Yak,” and “Charlie Brown.”

Toward the end of the evening, all three performers again took the stage to do a tribute to their idols.  Avalon did Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou,” Fabian rocked through Elvis’ “Hard Headed Woman,” while Rydell did a fantastic job with Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife.”  Then, all three combined for Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”  The set closed with a medley of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” and the Righteous Brothers’ “Rock n’ Roll Heaven,” then, a snippet of the “Mickey Mouse Club Theme.”

Plenty of familiar hits, some funny jokes, and lots of memories – the Golden Boys can still deliver a fantastic evening.  —Tony Peters


Diana Ross / Rhonda Ross (concert review)

Diana Ross / Rhonda Ross – Rose Music Center – 8/3/16 (concert review)

The lady that put the “D” in “Diva” still has it

Legendary vocalist Diana Ross entertained a near-capacity crowd under a hot, midwestern sun at the Rose Music Center in Huber Heights. “I’m Comin’ Out” made a perfect opener; that funky number from 1980 got everyone to their feet.  Then, she went through a rapid fire set of early Supremes’ smashes – “My World is Empty Without You,” “Baby Love,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” “Come See About Me,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love,” all featuring Ross’ still-soaring vocals.  Her band featured a baritone sax, and you realize just how crucial this instrument was to her early singles.  An extended version of “Love Child” had a Caribbean feel and gave Ross a chance to switch costumes.


The wardrobe change also signaled a different direction – the remainder of her set featured songs heavy on funk – “The Boss,” “It’s My House,” and especially “Upside Down” really grooved in a way you might not expect from a lady who turned 72 in March.  The latter song gave the band a chance to stretch out and warranted another change in costume from Diana.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” really gave her an opportunity to show that she can still bring the heat – this was the highlight of her show.  Ross also grabbed several interesting cover songs – Spiral Staircase’s “More Today Than Yesterday,” Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” and the surprise show closer, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” – a statement of purpose for her long career.

Diana’s daughter, Rhonda Ross, opened the show with a high-energy set that spotlighted songs from her just-released In Case You Didn’t Know album.  “Nobody’s Business” really sounded great in the live setting, while “Summer’s Day” featured a snippet of the Emotions’ hit “Best of My Love.”  “Breathe” was slinkier than the version on her record, while “Drumbeat of Life” paid homage to Marvin Gaye at the end.  She cleverly wove elements of “Killing Me Softly” and “Uptown Funk” to add some familiarity.  There was a magnetic quality to her storytelling that really made you want to listen.  This truncated set left you wanting an entire concert of Rhonda Ross on her own.

Although the entire show lasted less than 90 minutes, there was an energy that emanated from the stage that few classic artists still possess.  Despite the heat, Diana smiled throughout, constantly thanking the crowd for their support over the years.  And, for those keeping score – four costume changes in an hour, each containing a color-coordinated fan she used to beat the heat.  —Tony Peters

Heart / Joan Jett / Cheap Trick (concert review)

Heart / Joan Jett & the Blackhearts / Cheap Trick – Klipsch Music Center, IN,  7/17/16 (review)

Heart headlines a stellar lineup that defies time

The bands on the Rock Hall Three For All tour have several things in common.  The obvious one is that they have all recently been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  But, there’s another, less apparent reason – until you actually see them in concert.  All three acts play with an energy that few artists, no matter what their age, are capable of.


Cheap Trick took the stage promptly at 6:45pm with “Hello There,” asking the musical question “are you ready to rock?”  Their 60-minute set contained a healthy dose of tracks from their multi-platinum, live At Budokan set, all played at maximum volume.  Robin Zander’s voice is still amazing, especially on their hit ballad, “The Flame” – how can he still hit those high notes?  A spirited version of the Move song “California Man” was a highlight.   An odd choice was “I’m Waiting For the Man,” originally done by Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground, with bassist Tom Petersson on vocals.  Their set closed with the trifecta of “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police” and “Surrender.” They left the stage with  “Goodnight,” giving guitarist Rick Nielsen a chance to bring out his five-neck guitar.

Joan Jett came out in a purple-sparkled outfit and rocked another solid hour.  Highlights were Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me,” her only #1 hit, “I Love Rock n’ Roll,” and her cover of Tommy James’ “Crimson & Clover.”  She acknowledged her Runaways’ roots with “Cherry Bomb” and the band’s first single, “You Drive Me Wild.”  The “Blackhearts” all looked young enough to be her own kids, and played with a youthful vigor.  “I Hate Myself For Loving You” is a great song that radio has forgotten.  And, leave it to Jett to provide the surprisingly poignant moment of the night – a cover of  Sly Stone’s “Everyday People” – a plea for everyone to just get along.

Heart took the stage with “Wild Child,” which builds in intensity and makes a great show opener.  The band did an excellent job of balancing the 70’s classic rockers like “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You” with 80’s ballads like “What About Love” and “These Dreams,” which featured Nancy Wilson on vocals and mandolin. Two new songs showed off the band’s continued versatility – “Two,” a light ballad written by R&B sensation Ne-Yo, and “Beautiful Broken,” a fierce rocker, which sounded particularly good in a live setting.   Album cuts like “Bebe Le Strange” and “Kick it Out” kept the die-hard fans happy.  “Straight On” was surprisingly funky while “Barracuda” was played at a slow, menacing tempo.

The real show-stopper was “Alone.”  With light keyboards and guitar (from Nancy), the lights dimmed, focusing everything on Ann as she belted out this heartfelt number.  There are very few artists that are capable of evoking this kind of raw emotion in a large concert setting – it was truly a moment full of chills.

After hitting all their personal high points during their set, Heart actually saved the best for last – a riveting performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” – again reminding everyone that Ann Wilson is THAT good.  It left the crowd buzzing on their way to their cars.

Rarely does a triple bill deliver such impressive performances – Rock Hall Three For All is a tour you definitely need to catch this summer.  —Tony Peters

Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon (concert review)

Def Leppard / REO Speedwagon / Tesla – 7/5/26 – Riverbend Music Center – Cincinnati, OH (review)

A trio of bands play familiar favorites

At first glance, these three bands together seem like an odd pairing for a concert.  But, after a closer look, they all share several things in common.  One is their ability to write hook-laden, memorable rock songs.  The other is that they all have hugely-successful power ballads to their credit.


Tesla took the stage first, opening with a couple of lesser-known tracks – “Rock Me to the Top” from their debut Mechanical Resonance, and “Edison’s Medicine” from Psychotic Supper.  They made sure to play their cover of Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs,” which is surprisingly Tesla’s biggest Top 40 hit.  Their power ballad, “Love Song,” was the only point in the set where vocalist Jeff Keith seemed to struggle – everywhere else, he sounded great.  Their short set closed with a raucous version of “Modern Day Cowboy.”

REO Speedwagon began their slot with “Don’t Let Him Go,” the opening track on their insanely huge Hi Infidelity album.   LP cuts like “Keep Pushin’” and “Back on the Road Again” sounded great in a live setting.  Kevin Cronin’s voice has definitely thinned out, especially apparent on their cash-in power ballad “Can’t Fight This Feeling,”  but sounded better on “Ridin’ the Storm Out.”  “Keep on Loving You” got everyone singing, while “Roll With the Changes” made a fitting closer to their set.

Sporting the same stage setup as 2015’s show (read review here), Def Leppard opened with a new song, “Let’s Go,” before launching into “Animal,” one of six cuts from the their multi-platinum Hysteria album.  “Let it Go” is one of the band’s most underrated songs (from High n’ Dry) and they turned in a blistering rendition.  Their so-so cover of David Essex’s “Rock On” has been in their setlist for a while now, while their power ballad, “Hysteria,” brought out old photos of the band through the years on the video screens.  “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak / Switch 625” is another live standout.

Besides a pair of new songs, “Let’s Get Rocked” was the only post-Hysteria song they tackled.  Despite getting one of the best crowd responses all night, you’d be hard pressed to find a radio station in the country with that one in rotation.  The main set closed with their stripper anthem, “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”  Their encore was two key tracks from Pyromania, “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph.”

It was great to see guitarist Vivian Campbell, who’s been battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, still plugging away.  His solos were a welcome change from main lead guitarist, Phil Collen, whose lead work can be shrill and over the top at times.  Singer Joe Elliot sounded surprisingly good considering his age.  And if there ever was a symbol of determination, it’s drummer Rick Allen, who’s now played with one arm for over thirty years.

Out of the 33 songs performed tonight, only two were recent, which means there was plenty to sing along to.  A great rock n’ roll show.  —Tony Peters

Show #265 – BJ Thomas (4/26/16)

BJ Thomas is a 5-time Grammy winner who’s sold over 70 million records worldwide.  His hits endure to this day – songs like “Hooked on a Feeling,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Another Done Somebody Wrong Song,” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”  He remains active, still recording and playing shows to this day.  Thomas tells us the stories behind some of his biggest songs, and about touring with James Brown early in his career

Show #264 – Gary Lucas (4/1/16)

Gary Lucas wrote songs for Jeff Buckley and played guitar with Captain Beefheart. His latest project is a pairing with acclaimed vocalist Jann Klose for a stripped-down, acoustic-based album called Stereopticon. Lucas tells us how he got hooked up with Klose and the stories behind several songs on the new record. He also talks about meeting Buckley for the first time and writing songs for the Grace album.

 

Show #263 – Carlos Calvo (3/25/16)

Carlos Calvo is known as “Hollywood’s Guitar Teacher.”  He’s taught Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, and actors David Duchovny (X-Files, Californication) and Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure) how to play.  Plus, he’s worked as a guitar coach, teaching actors how to portray musicians on the big screen. Calvo also writes and records his own music and has just released his first new album in 15 years called Further Down the Line.