Friday, January 1, 2016

Best Shows of 2015

Everyone is doing their “best of” lists so I thought I would too.  2015 was a great year for me - I attended almost 50 live shows, saw over 100 artists/bands perform and got the chance to meet more artists than I ever thought possible.  I tried to narrow my favorites down to a top 5 but just couldn’t so we’ll go with a top 10.

First off, what makes a great show?  For me, it is more than just a great singer.  Of course, the music and singing needs to be good, but more than that, I need to have an experience.  That doesn’t always mean a lot of fancy lights and big productions.  Sometimes it is the exact opposite and the pureness of a stripped down show is what makes it great.  If an artist can touch me with their emotion, enthusiasm, sense of humor or connection they create with the audience, the show is going to be at the top of my list.  There needs to be that extra something that makes me say to myself “I want to do that again!” So here are my favorite shows from 2015.

10. Nickelback – BOK Center, Tulsa, OK

I know, I know, a lot of people like to hate on Nickelback.  And I will say I’m not a huge fan of theirs but my husband is so I got us tickets.  Let me tell you, they know how to put on a show!  It’s not really a show but more of a party.  The audience was energized from start to finish.  And when they brought out the t-shirt cannons and tossed cups of alcohol into the audience, the entire place was having the best time ever.  Many say that if they had better music they wouldn’t have to do that, but I say their fans love it so why not.  I sure had a smile on my face that entire show.

9. Fleetwood Mac – Chesapeake Energy Center, Oklahoma City, OK

How can you go wrong with such a classic and amazing band?  The best part about this show was that Christine McVie was back with the group for the first time in 17 years.  She happens to be my favorite member of the band so I was very happy about that. I went for my birthday and it was the best present ever!  The energy on stage was incredible, the sound was amazing and Stevie Nicks is one of the best overall female performers I have ever seen.  They had no opening act and were on stage for almost 3 hours.  I hope they continue to tour as long as possible because this is one show I will go see again and again.

8. Wynonna and The Big Noise – The Joint at Hard Rock Casino, Tulsa, OK

Sass, sass and more sass - that is Wynonna.  My favorite redhead puts on an amazing show.  From the classic songs from The Judds to her own hits, Wynonna has everything it takes to entertain you.  She talks about her life with her mama and sister along with the love story and struggles of her and husband Cactus Moser.  The raw emotion she puts into her songs brings you to tears and her connection with the audience makes you feel like she is your best friend.  Read my full review of her show for #CMChat here.

7. 98.5 KVOO Jingle Jam – River Spirit Event Center, Tulsa, OK

Jingle Jam brought together 6 artists to play an acoustic show for the fans of the radio station KVOO.  This year the artists were Jerrod Neimann, Canaan Smith, Jana Kramer, Craig Campbell, James Otto and Waterloo Revival.  These shows where all the artists are on stage at once aren’t always my favorite because they only play about 4 songs each and the other times they are all just sitting there watching each other sing.  However, this one was great!  The chemistry all the artists had together was fantastic.  They were singing on each other’s songs and making jokes in between songs.  James Otto’s voice had everyone in tears, Waterloo Revival had all the girls screaming and topping the night off, radio DJs Sunny Leigh and Kelley Cash did the donkey noises for Jerrod Neimann on “Donkey.”  I do love seeing the artists in an intimate, acoustic setting and this not only showcased their talent but also showed their personalities and together that made it a great show.

6. Ed Sheeran – BOK Center, Tulsa, OK

How can one guy with one guitar and a loop station keep 15,000 people entertained for 2 hours?  Go to an Ed Sheeran concert and you will find out.  I was so amazed at how incredibly talented this man is.  He was on stage for 2 hours….just him….and you couldn’t keep your eyes off him.  He used his guitar to make all the instruments he needed, looped them over and over - live on the spot, sang and at times danced and ran around like you were at a rock show.  Not to mention he can bring you to tears with his voice and incredible ballads.  Go see him if you get the chance, he is freaking amazing!

5. Chris Stapleton – Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, OK

The biggest thing to happen to country music in 2015 would have to be Chris Stapleton.  His performance on the CMA's with Justin Timberlake was one of the most talked about stories all year long.  I had been a fan before that performance and was so glad see so many people finally discover him.  I got to see him in concert before all the buzz and let me tell you, he is phenomenal.  His show was very raw and stripped down.  Not a lot of fancy anything but his voice is so extraordinary that he captivates you.  His connection with his wife Morgane is out of this world.  There are times when you feel you are intruding on something you shouldn’t be because they are so in tune with each other.  I will make a point to see him anytime he is in town.

4. Josh Groban – The Music Hall at Fair Park, Dallas, TX

Being a 14 year fan of Josh Groban, of course he is going to make my list.  However, he makes it not just because he is my favorite singer ever, but because he brings everything to a performance.  This particular show was to support his Stages album that contained songs from Broadway shows.  Being a theater buff, this was a dream come true.  And he did not disappoint.  His voice was outstanding and to add to it, he is hilarious.  His jokes and witty comments in between songs had the audience smiling and laughing all night.  I found myself holding my breath during each song and finally letting it out once he finished with an “ahh.”  His voice is mesmerizing and his charm is undeniable.  I will continue to make the trek wherever I need to so I can see him in concert every time he tours.

3. The Swon Brothers – The Muskogee Event Center, Muskogee, OK

To say I am a huge fan of The Swon Brothers would be an understatement.  I actually saw them 6 times this year in 3 different states.  These Oklahoma boys really know how to entertain and being in front of their home town crowd made it even better.  Their mix of country and classic rock makes for a great show.  They involve the crowd, take jabs at each other and can harmonize like only brothers can.  They also include another favorite singer of mine, Seth Costner, in their show.  For the Muskogee show they went above and beyond and brought out Jermaine Mondaine to play saxophone and he blew us all away.  The Swon Brothers are rising stars in the country world and I highly recommend seeing their show.  It is a fun night full of great music you can get up and dance to.  Read my review of the Muskogee show for #CMChat here.

2. Rob Thomas – Brady Theater, Tulsa, OK

Rob Thomas really blew me away when I saw his show this year.  I like his music when I hear it on the radio but I was not expecting his show to become one of my absolute favorites of the year.  His energy on stage was unbelievable.  He ran around that stage for a solid 2 hours and his voice sounded just as incredible from start to finish.  His ballads were entrancing and his connection with the fans was genuine.  The crowd was on their feet the entire time – something you don’t always see at The Brady Theater – and he gave his all to that audience.  I will make a point to see him again.  He puts on a fantastic show.  Read my full review for #CMChat here,

1. Garth Brooks – BOK Center, Tulsa, OK

If you are going to make a comeback, might as well do it up big and Garth Brooks sure did just that.  He has managed to set records everywhere he has taken his show and it was no different in Tulsa.  I saw his show 3 times in 3 different cities and by far he takes the cake for the #1 show of 2015 for me.  He has everything I want in a show – incredible music, great singing, fun stories and astonishing energy.  He also has an un-paralleled connection with the audience.  He makes every single person in the arena feel like he is talking and singing directly to them.  A Garth Brooks concert is an experience worth having over and over again.  He is the ultimate entertainer and definitely my favorite concert of 2015.  Read my full review here.

2015 was a great year full of amazing performances and I am really looking forward to seeing many more incredible shows in 2016!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Double #Swoncert Weekend - July 2015

Warning:  This is a long one!

Is it possible to have the perfect concert experience weekend where everything goes just right even when it seems it’s going wrong?  If it’s possible, then my friend Amanda and I did just that. 

Amanda and I are big fans of The Swon Brothers - a country duo from our home state of OK - and have even traveled as far as Dallas/Ft. Worth to see them in concert....or what they like to call a #Swoncert.  We are also HUGE fans of their keyboard player, Seth Costner.  Being that big a fan of someone can cause you to plan a crazy road trip and decide to see the same band play 2 nights in a row in 2 different states.  Well, at least it can cause me to do that anyway.

Amanda and I found out The Swon Brothers were playing the Ellis County Fair in Hays, KS (5.5 hour drive) and had talked about going to see them.  Then they announced a show here in our hometown of Tulsa, OK.  We scored front row seats for that show but still had the bug to go to KS.  So, we decided to just go for it and make it a girls’ weekend and see them in both states.

We had a presale code for the Tulsa show and got front row off to the side but then, a couple weeks later, they opened up front row center seats.  So, of course, we bought a second set.  Within 2 days I had sold the first set to a friend who had read my blog about them from the Texas show we went to.  She had never heard of them but trusted me from my review and was excited to go and take her son who was turning 30 that week.  Sweet!

Our weekend started on Friday, actually.  We drove to Hays in a yellow convertible Camaro that Amanda rented.  You should have seen the 2 of us trying to get the top to open.  Neither of us had ever driven a convertible before so the owner’s manual was our friend!  And even with that, it took a bit to figure it out.  We finally got it open but it didn’t last long.  No way were we doing that whole trip with our hair whipping all over the place.  Plus I would have to wear sunscreen to keep from frying in the sun.  Redhead problems!

As we were leaving, our friend Kristina Carlyle from the radio station 106.1 The Twister played us a request of the The Swon Brothers song “Later On” and then dedicated another song to us for good travels on the road.  Too fun!  This day was off to a great start.

We took our time driving and managed to find “Road Trip Radio” on SiriusXM that just played great songs.  Amanda found out that I know the words to A LOT of songs.  Didn’t matter what genre, I was belting out the songs.  Have I mentioned before that I’m kind of addicted to music?

We arrived in Hays about 5:00pm, checked in to our hotel and headed to the fair.  This was just the cutest county fair ever!  You could tell they put a lot of work into it and the community really comes together for it.
We didn’t do too much walking around because our main goal was to secure front row for the show.  We were the 2nd set of people to go in the concert area.  We were able to rent chairs for $1 each so we grabbed those and headed to the stage.  Front and center baby!  Right where we wanted to be!  We made friends with the other group that came in the same time as us.  We agreed to watch each other’s stuff if we had to leave.  In talking to them we mentioned we were from Tulsa.  “Oh!  We heard about you” they said.  What?  We had planned to have a great time there but were we already legends in Ellis County before we even got there?  Well, ok then.

We just hung out at our seats for a while and watched the opening act do their sound check.  It was 101° outside but it didn’t feel so bad.  We were in a little bit of shade from the stage and the wind was blowing.  And boy was it blowing!  All of the sudden, somewhere around 6:30pm, 70mph straight line winds started blowing across the parking lot.  Dust was everywhere and the stage started shaking.  The lights were moving, the speakers were swaying and even the drums were falling over.  It scared us a bit so we decided we were not going to be by that stage during all this.   We took refuge over by a beer truck.  At this point we figured out that our back stage passes had a typo.  They spelled Swon wrong!   Oh no!!!!  You had 1 job, Ellis County!  We had quite a laugh about that while we were in the middle of this horrible dust storm.

Then out of nowhere the heavens opened up and it poured down rain.  I mean hail and so much rain you couldn’t see 5 feet in front of you!  We raced into the 4-H building to stay dry.  I’m glad we did.  We got a chance to look around at the sewing and art projects, the veggies that were up for display and even got to cast our vote for the best bedazzled bra to raise money for charity.  Yep!  I said bedazzled bra!  The minion bra was in the lead when we left.   I told you this fair was just adorable.

It didn’t rain for very long so we headed back to our seats to assess the damage.  Chairs were still there but just wet.  I had brought a towel with me so we wiped them down and took our seats again.  The parking lot was muddy but not for long.  Within a half hour or so it was completely dry.  Amazing!  The winds didn’t quit though.  The band members were having a tough time keeping the instruments upright for a while.  One of the drummers ended up just sitting at his drums for about 20 minutes so they wouldn’t fall over again.

The opening act was Curtis Grimes.  He was a contestant on the first season of The Voice.  We had meet and greet passes with The Swon Brothers so we didn’t get to see most of his set.  He did a great job with the few songs we did get to see him perform.

Curtis Grimes

I mentioned band member Seth Costner earlier.  I became a fan of his after seeing him with The Swon Brothers the very first time back in January.  He released an EP several years back and when I heard it I couldn’t stop listening to it.  He has so much talent.  Over the last 6 months or so I have listened to his music so much I pretty much have every word of every song memorized.  He has new music coming out soon so I’ll be bombarding all social media about it when it happens.  But for now, go listen to his EP From the Ashes or check him out on YouTube.   Here’s a great one to start with and also my favorite song of his. Seth Costner - "The Easy Part"

Anyway, Amanda and I decided just for fun we would have some t-shirts made to support Seth.  We even had one made for him.  He came out to say hi before the show and we were able to give him the shirt.  He even wore it for the concert that night.  

When we went back to meet Zach and Colton Swon they noticed our shirts right away and loved them.  We got to talk to them for a little bit, got a picture and then it was back out to watch the show.

The start was delayed because of the wind but they finally decided to go for it.  They had to keep the roof of the stage lowered until about half way through the show but it didn’t seem to matter.  They started the music and Amanda and I were on our feet dancing and singing for the next hour plus. There’s nothing like being front and center and the only ones up dancing.  But that seemed to be a theme for the weekend.

The Swon Brothers

Zach Swon
Colton Swon
Later on in the show, when they introduced the band members, they called Seth to the front and mentioned his shirt.  They then pointed us out and said that we had come 5.5 hours to see him and didn’t we realize we were at a Swon Brothers concert?  Too funny!  Yes, we love you boys too but you already have your own shirts.

Not too long after that, Colton came over and put the mic in front of Amanda to sing Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark” with him.  Totally made her night!

Seth Costner
Aaron Wolfcale
Joe Henderson

These boys really can put on a show!  If you want a detailed review of what they can do, just read my previous blog entry here.

They are working on new music now and I videoed one of the new songs “Just Another Girl.”  You can see it on YouTube here.

After the show was over we got a chance to talk to several of the band members who are all just the nicest guys ever.  Then we headed out with the convertible top down to grab some late night food at IHOP.  No way were we sleeping for a while after the day we had!

Day 2:

As much as we wanted to sleep in, we needed to get back home for our second concert of the weekend.  So, we said good-bye to Hays and drove back to Tulsa Saturday morning.  After just a couple of hours at home we were off to Hard Rock Casino for what was sure to be another amazing show. 

We had meet and greet passes for this night too.  So once the doors opened we headed over to get in line for that.  Remember the person I sold the other set of front row tickets too?  Well, she happened to be handed meet and greet passes as she was coming in that night for the show.  And it made it even better that it was her son’s birthday.  I even saw after the show that he got one of the drum sticks.  How perfect!

We got our picture again with Zach and Colton and they were even kind enough to sign our tickets for us.  You really can’t ask for nicer guys!  They remembered us from the night before and asked us where our Team Costner shirts were.  We opted for Swon Brothers shirts this time.  It is their concert after all.

The Joint was sold out.   The opener was Corey Kent White who was on this last season of The Voice.  He is from Bixby, OK.  I grew up in Bixby so it was really neat to see a hometown boy make it big.  He sounded great!  He’s got a smokey voice.  He played several songs but his cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together” was fantastic!  His voice is perfect for that song.  I would buy a copy of that for sure.  I also liked his song “Till I Find a Keeper.”  I hope he goes far.  He’s got the talent for it.

Corey Kent White

Now time to bring out The Swon Brothers!  We noticed that everyone stayed seated during Corey’s set.  This worried us a little bit.  We tried recruiting those around us to stand with us but it was no use.  The music started, we jumped to our feet and we were the only ones.  I was quite a bit self-conscious about it at first.  We could see our heads bobbing up and down on the big screen.  But it didn’t take long for me to forget there were 2,500 other people in the room.  It was all about having a great time and for me that means dancing!  So I apologize to anyone that might have been behind me that night.  But sitting just wasn’t an option.

Zach and Colton Swon
Colton Swon
Jeff Coleman

Seth Costner

Aaron Wolfcale

Joe Henderson

I have seen The Swon Brothers play 5 times now.  This was the best I had ever heard them.  I don’t know if it was the home state crowd and all the family and friends there to support them, the venue itself or a combination but they sounded amazing!  By the time they got to the classic rock portion of the show several more people got brave and stood up.  That added even more energy to the place.  As soon as the show was over I said “I want to do it again!”  I sure didn’t want it to end.

After the show we were able to chat with the band again.  Then we got in line to meet Corey and the brothers one last time.  I can’t say how much these guys appreciate their fans.  They just get it.  They stayed to sign autographs and meet each and every person.  That means a lot to the fans and you can tell it means a lot to them that people are there to see them play.

And that was the end to our amazing Double #Swoncert Weekend.  We could not have asked for it to be any more perfect.  The next time The Swon Brothers play your town make sure you go see them!  I can’t promise a perfect concert experience but I can promise a really, really great show!

Do you love The Swon Brothers, Corey Kent White, Curtis Grimes or any of the other band members?  Chat with me about them on Twitter @shanherrold