Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders: Album & Concert Review & What I Wore

Don't forget to enter Princess of Taylor's first giveaway (click here for details and to enter). The prize is a travel sized Laura Gellar Blush-N-Brighten in Sunswept and Queen's Greatest Hits. And, um guys, right now everyone has like a 25% chance of winning. This is free stuff people - enter my giveaway!

On Sunday night, Husband and I drove to Boston to see Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders. I have a tendency to really build things up in my mind so I had really high hopes for this concert: basically I envisioned an audience of maybe 100, me in the front row, Roger Taylor showing up, and me hanging out with the band (and Roger) afterwards into the wee hours of the morning.

Um, guys? Other than Roger Taylor showing up (he didn't), my imaginary concert was not far from the actual concert experience! It seems that outside the Queen/Roger Taylor-obsessed bubble I live in, people don't really know who Taylor Hawkins is. On all the signs in the bar advertising the show, someone had written in "of Foo Fighters" next to Taylor Hawkins's name (this poster was on the wall in the ladies room). Now, granted I wasn't familiar with his solo work prior to the last few months, but I did know his name and that I always thought he was the "cute" one in the Foo Fighters. Clearly the rest of New England feels differently about Taylor Hawkins (or feels differently about going to a concert on a Sunday night) because there was a seriously small crowd at the show!

I borrowed my sister-in-law's camera and (because I couldn't figure out how to work the darn thing and, more importantly, wanted my hands free for potential Roger Taylor grabbing) deemed Husband the evening's "official photographer". He rose admirably to the challenge and took a ton of amazing photos.

Here's the venue. It's a bar with a small stage - I'd say at full capacity, it could maybe fit 250. According to the sign above the bar, the concert was not sold out. I'd estimate that there were about 100-150 people in attendance. No backstage. No dressing rooms. When the band left the stage prior to their encore, they stood in the public restroom for a few minutes and then joked that they had come back onstage a little early because someone had to use the restroom.

This is Taylor Hawkins's drum kit set up next to the stage on the way to the restrooms. Just sitting there in plain view. Husband admitted that he was seriously tempted to steal a piece of duct tape off one of the snares, but he figured that could lead to him being asked to leave. I told him that if he was asked to leave, I would have stayed so he probably made a wise decision by not touching the drums.

Here's the set list taped to the stage. I took this photo from where I was standing for the show (actually I think I even crawled up on stage a bit).

So do we have a general understanding of how small this venue was? It was ridiculous.

There was an opening band called Township. Here's their website. They were exactly what you would expect from a band opening for another band at a venue with 150 people in the audience. They played for about 45 minutes and their songs were catchy enough, they acoustics were good, and Husband and I decided that the guitar player was seriously the biggest poser on the planet so his onstage antics kept us amused!

It was after 10pm before Taylor Hawkins came onstage. I had my plan of attack all plotted out - I went to the ladies room and sent Husband to scope out a good spot. When I returned, I squeezed my way to the front of the stage and ended up in the front row, dead center in front of Taylor Hawkins's drum kit. I struck up a conversation with the guy standing next to me and was horrified to learn that he had been only 2 years old when Green Day released their debut album "Dookie". Man, did I feel like an old lady. I could have been this kid's mom!

Here are some shots from the show.

Husband found it tremendously amusing that I could turn around to face him and be in the same shot as the band so he took several photos like that throughout the evening. Unfortunately the silly camera missed the point of us both being in the photo so Taylor is basically in darkness - Arg!

At the end of the night, Taylor Hawkins skittered out of the venue right away which was a huge disappointment. I had so planned on cornering him and asking him about the rumored Taylor Hawkins/Roger Taylor tour. I did spot the guitarists Gannin Arnold and Nate Wood hanging around outside so I chatted them up a bit and had Husband take a picture. They both clearly need to work on their "picture with a fan face" - is it me or does it look like I've told them both that I intend to punch them immediately after the photo is taken? Smile, boys! I, on the other hand, look positively giddy as I have now officially met someone who is in a band with someone who is friends with RT. Nice!

The set list was a mix of new material from Red Light Fever and songs from their self-titled debut album. I was actually a bit surprised by a few of the new songs that they played, but thought that overall the show was great (and according to Gannin Arnold the crowd was great too!) For some reason until last week I assumed that Taylor Hawkins did his vocals and played guitar. I have no idea why I thought that because obviously Taylor Hawkins is known as a drummer so he leads this band RT-style from behind his drum kit. That is absolutely amazing, to say the least. Drumming is hard. Crazy drumming like Taylor Hawkins does is insanely hard. Crazy drumming like Taylor Hawkins does while singing lead vocals is freakin' unbelievable!

I've reviewed each of the songs on the new album individually below. The songs that they played at the concert are highlighted and I've included live reviews as well.

Not Bad Luck - This song is the most Queen-like on the album, but ironically neither RT or Dr. May appear on it. It does feature Elliot Easton of The Cars. The choir in the chorus is definitely reminiscent of Somebody to Love, Bohemian Rhapsody or Let Me Live. This song also contains what I've decided is one of the most awesome lyrics ever written: "complicated doesn't make it wrong." I'd say this song is one of the top three on the album. Here's a clip of the band playing this song live on The Jimmy Kimmel Show. The song sounded pretty similar on Sunday night - except that there were no female background singers. This was the final song of the encore and really ended the show on a high note for me!

Your Shoes - RT sings backing vocals on this song. I like this song a lot - it has a really great beat and I've completely convinced myself that I could foot pedal the heck out of this song on Rock Band. I do wonder if I'd like it as much without RT. You can definitely hear him in the chorus ("And you know"), but I'm not sure whether he also does some harmonies during the verses. In any event, he sounds great and it makes me giggle to think of him in the studio recording his parts and then sending the track along to Taylor Hawkins. I really wish RT had done some additional vocals or drumming on the album, but I'll take what I can get. Before the band played this song, Taylor Hawkins said, "This is the second song on the album," at which point I could not stop myself from cheering because I knew what song it was. Then he said, "Roger Taylor sings backing vocals on it, but he's not here tonight." To that, I yelled, "Boo!" That got a grin out of Taylor Hawkins (who was super interactive with the audience - I mean we could basically just say something at normal volume level and he'd hear us and respond!) The song sounded great live and for the most part, the band didn't try to recreate RT's vocals which in my mind was a tip of the cap to his complete and utter greatness!

Way Down - Husband and I agree that this is the best song on the album. Dr. May sings and plays his Red Special on it (he also co-wrote it). The chorus is repetitive and catchy - I was singing along to it the first time I heard the song. This song also shows what a good voice Taylor Hawkins has - man, he is singing high! If you're going to listen to one track on this album, pick this one and you'll have it running through your head for days! Before playing this song, Taylor Hawkins said that he never in a million years thought this song would be the single because it's so goofy and that he was shocked that everyone likes it!

It's Over - This is a song that I was really surprised that they played at the concert, but once they started it, I completely understood why they picked it: this is a song meant to be played live. On the album, it's catchy enough, but watching Taylor Hawkins play the drum fills and then somehow having the breath left to sing the song was pretty spectacular and gave me a whole new appreciation for the song!

Hell to Pay - If I had to pick a song on the album that's my least favorite, it might be this one. Not saying that it's a bad song - it's just not as memorable as the others. I listened to the CD a lot in preparation for this concert and yet as I sit here typing the review, I can't for the life of me remember how this song goes...hmm okay it just popped into my head, but I really shouldn't have had to think that hard! I think the issue is that it's a bit slow compared to the rest of the songs on the album which tend to pick up a bit at the chorus. This one stays at a moderate tempo throughout and just ends up being forgettable.

Sunshine - The thing that stands out the most in my mind about this song is a metronome-style clicking that you can hear throughout. I cannot get out of my mind the mental image of someone in the recording studio playing ping pong! It's super annoying! RT, did you put Taylor Hawkins up to this? I can't imagine he'd come up with ping pong studio effects on his own! The ping pong lets up for the chorus so I enjoy that part. This was the last song of the set so they played an extended version complete with mini-solos for all four band members. I'm happy to report that the metronome-style-clicking did not make it to the live version so for that reason alone, I much preferred this song live!

Never Enough - This song reminds me of a Nirvana song which isn't terribly unexpected (of course, Taylor Hawkins drums for the Foo Fighters which are lead by Dave Grohl who drummed for Nirvana). I can actually picture Kurt Cobain singing this song, especially the "I give you everything and it's never enough" part of the chorus. That said, I was always a bit of a Nirvana fan so its nice to hear a new song in their distinctive style.

Hole in My Shoe - Another one of my favorite songs on the album. Taylor Hawkins writes a really good chorus and this song is the perfect example of that - the chorus is awesome and the verses...well they're good, but why don't you play the chorus again? I also very much like this song because I can hear the harmonies. This happens to me with a song every so often: for some reason, the harmony is just really obvious to me (and not because it's being sung!) so I have lots of fun singing this one in the car and imagining I'm singing backing vocals. I was really pleased that they played this one and sang along. I was close enough to the stage that I think Nate Wood noticed that I was singing along and was a bit surprised (it being a new song and all).

James Gang - This song is a grower: meaning I had to listen to it several times before I finally liked it. I bet I'd have more to say about it if they'd played it live because this is another one that like It's Over, I bet sounds ten times better live than on the record. I guess I'll never know for sure though.

Don't Have to Speak - This is the other track that Dr. May contributed to and I have to say, I have never been someone who even pretended to recognize what the Red Special sounds like. It's a guitar. Yeah Dr. May happened to build it himself fifty years ago, but it's still just a guitar. However, in this song, I can absolutely recognize the Red Special during the guitar solo. I didn't know which other song Dr. May appeared on besides Way Down, but then I heard this song and knew immediately this was it. This is a great song even without Dr. May's awesome guitar solo - probably the most ballad-like on the album and one of my favorites. Of all the songs on the album, I was most disappointed that they didn't play this one live, but I can see why with the Red Special being so prominently featured on the song. I bet they'll play it at their show in London next week when the rumor is Dr. May and RT are going to show up! ARG!

I Can See It Now - Here's another song that took me a few listens to warm to. At one point I was ready to write it off as forgettable and then I couldn't get it out of my head for the entire next day! The tune has some unexpected notes in it (and being totally unmusical I have no idea if they are flat or sharp), but I like 'em! This song also has a catchy guitar riff following the chorus which I rather enjoy.

I Don't Think I Trust You Anymore - Another song with a great chorus and a really cool guitar riff following it. The verses are kind of moody and whispered and then the chorus kicks in and the song really starts to rock. I was pleased that they played this song at the show, but really surprised that it was their opening song. It absolutely got the show off to a great start though so I guess that's why Taylor Hawkins is the rock star and I'm just sitting at home typing reviews on my blog!

So what did I wear to this exciting event? My outfit actually took a tremendous amount of planning. I knew from previous experience that closed-toed shoes were a must (especially anticipating that I would be elbowing my way to the front of the crowd). I also wanted to wear something sleeveless and machine-washable because I knew I'd be sweating like a mofo! I also didn't wear any jewelry for fear of it being stolen (*zoinks!*) or ripped off (*ouch!*)
Ludi V-Neck in Sky, Anthropologie, size Medium (available here)
Jeans, Banana Republic, size 12L (from fall 2006)
Puma sneakers, size 9

I'd definitely recommend picking up Red Light Fever. It's got a Foo Fighters/Nirvana/Queen influence which seems both nostalgic and modern at the same time. I liked the songs played off their debut album so I'll probably buy that one myself. I'd also definitely recommend seeing their show if they are going to be nearby. Their entire concert schedule is on their website here (they're in Baltimore, NYC, and Philly before heading to Europe for the summer). My one complaint is that I was really hoping for a Queen cover (the kid next to me, on the other hand, was really hoping for a Foo Fighters cover). What did we get? A Cars cover. Their first encore song was You're All I've Got Tonight from The Cars 1978 debut album (click here for details). It's a good song and they played it well, but I would have seriously lost my mind if they had busted out Tenement Funster or Now I'm Here!

So that's my review - two super duper thumbs up for both the record and the concert. Now, everyone go enter my giveaway!

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