Monday, November 23, 2015

Davidson vs Mercer @ John Belk Arena

My neighbor, Aaron, is both alumni and a season ticket holder with Davidson.  It's normally a family affair, but school nights are hard for the kids to get to, so I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to see my first ever college basketball game.  So 30 minutes up the 77 and we are on the Davidson campus and entering the John Belk Arena.

Let me preface this review with the fact that I know the extreme basics of basketball (at a stretch) so this was definitely a learning experience for me (and probably a pain for Aaron, with all the questions).  We are seated 4 rows from the court behind the Mercer bench.  How much do I not know?  I had to ask where Mercer was.

The game itself was fast, too fast for me to keep up.  And without the help of replays I had no idea why fouls were being called and why the crowd was upset when they weren't being called.  What I do know is it was close, all game.  Davidson  took a 5 point lead into the half the break, and while there were a few scares, managed to hold Mercer off to take a 77-71 win. Shooting was far from accurate from both sides,  but this was definitely a good result for the Wildcats.

While I don't know much about the game, I feel I have learnt some things - if I can retain this knowledge is another story.  It was fun supporting the home team in a very one-sided crowd (maybe 40 Mercer supporters in the 3/4 full arena.  Was also great to see my mild manner neighbor get fired up for his team.  In comparison to Australia, where college sports are non-existent, American's definitely keep their connection to their schools, and it reflects in the difference in passion between college and professional sports in the US.  Hope I get the opportunity to see more.

Davidson Wildcats 77 (Aldridge 23 points, Barham 19, Michelson 15) defeated Mercer Bears 71 (Jelks 18, Lewis 10, Rivers 8)
Crowd: 3,861.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Willie Nelson & Devin Dawson @ Township Auditorium, Columbia, SC

This really was a last minute decision concert.  I waited until the afternoon of the show until I decided that I had the energy to drive down to Columbia and back to get my 2nd Willie show, and the first since Vegas in 2003.  Tried to have dinner with my nephew Mason, but he is out of town for the weekend.  I picked to Pawley's Front Porch, for a great burger and a beer, before getting back to the venue for 7.30pm start.

First show in Columbia means a new venue.  Found street parking about 3 blocks from the venue and really liked the layout of this 3,100 seat auditorium.  I was seated on the right of stage in the first level.  I usually can get good seats as a single, but this was great.  The seat next to me was vacant, due to it being a view obstructed by a support pole.

Had I known there was a support act, I would not have raced to the venue so early.  Devin Dawson is a young up and coming country artist, who was both humbled and excited to be opening for Willie Nelson (who wouldn't?).  But as someone who isn't really into the genre, I thought he sounded like (m)any other country artists.  His performance was enjoyed by his enthusiastic fans, and maybe a few new ones, but it wasn't for me.

Willie came on to a standing ovation, and deservedly so.  From the first strains of Whiskey River, for the next hour and a half, it was hit after hit from Nelson and his band.  Me and Paul, Crazy, Georgia On My Mind, Funny How Time Slips Away, Always On Mind, the list goes on.  Considering how little I listed to country music (I really have restricted myself to Nelson and Johnny Cash), it just amazes me how many great songs can come from one man.  Another highlight was the inclusion of family in the band.  A sister on piano, a percussionist son, and a guitar playing son, with one hell of a bluesman's voice.  

I definitely made the right decision to come to this show.  I was a little worried that he could never live up to that fantastic show I saw at the House of Blues in Vegas 6 months after we moved there. While this show didn't quite reach those heights, it wasn't far from it.  I don't think anyone who likes any type of music, could not like Willie Nelson, or one of his shows.  He is a true musician and a great showman.

The Crap Facts:
This is my 400th concert.
This is my 1st concert at Township Auditorium.
Township Auditorium is the 111th venue I've seen a concert.
This is my 1st concert in Columbia.
Columbia is the 47th city I've seen a show in.
This is my 2nd concert in South Carolina.
This is my 207th concert in the USA.
Devin Dawson is the 471st band I've seen.
This is my 2nd Willie Nelson concert.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Stevie Wonder @ Time Warner Arena

Was it because Stevie Wonder was so coveted on my bucket list? I mean, it's Stevie Wonder!  Or was it because it was the most expensive concert I've been to?  That and a combination of song choice made tonight a little disappointing for me.

The night after the shootings at the Bataclan in Paris, saw entry into Time Warner Arena take a lot longer than usual.  Security was on edge, but very thorough.  That delayed that start of the show.  Stevie was guided on stage by a back up singer and then spoke, at length, of the horrors of last night before sitting down at his piano's to perform his 1976 Songs In The Key Of Life album from start to finish.  I am not too familiar with a lot of this album, but considering last night's events the aptly named Love's In The Need Of Love Today.  It wasn't until Sir Duke that the packed arena was on it's feet as a whole.  Great song!  While not familiar with Pastime Paradise, I didn't realize it was the basis of the 90's rap hit Gangsters' Paradise.  The rest of the set, though, was pretty mellow.  And not even the 30 piece backing band could energize the show.

Wonder took a break after 12 songs, and upon return again somewhat lectured the crowd for what seemed an eternity.  He did, however, launch into the awesome Isn't She Lovely, which was definitely the highlight of the night.  The rest of that set, again, mellowed out.  I'd of thought at a Stevie Wonder show I'd be on my feet all night, but this was definitely not the case.  The other great song of the second set was his solo cover of John Lennon's Imagine, dedicated to those who had lost lived in last night's France massacre.

While we had already seen 2 hours, it wasn't until the final encore that things finally started to perk up.  Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours had everyone up instantly.  Straight into Living For The City.  And while a noise curfew threatened to end the show, Wonder decided one more song had to be done.  Superstition was the high energy, fun song I expected would have filled the rest of the night.  Was so great to see and hear such an iconic song, done by its legendary writer.  Definitely the right way to finish the show.

When I think back about the time Wonder spent talking to the crowd before his two sets, as well as the need to highlight every band member individually (for God's sake there was 30 of them - I understand they're talented - they work for Stevie Wonder - but that's not who I want to see perform), I feel that hour, yes at least an hour doing these things, would have been better spent performing other great songs of his.  Where was Master Blaster? Lately? My Cherie Amour? Higher Ground? I'd have even settled for I Just Called To Say I Love You.  Not to say I' didn't have a good night, but it wasn't the mind blowing experience I had hyped myself up for. 

Love's In Need Of Love Today / Have A Talk With God / Village Ghetto Land / Contusion / Sir Duke / I Wish / Knocks Me Off My Feet / Pastime Paradise / Summer Soft / Ordinary Pain / Saturn / Ebony Eyes
2nd set: Isn't She Lovely / Joy Inside My Tears / Black Man / All Day Sucker / Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call) / Killer Joe / The Star Spangled Banner / Imagine (John Lennon cover) / People Get Ready (The Impressions cover) / Ngiculela - Es Una Historia - I Am Singing / If It's Magic / As / Another Star
Encore: Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours / Living For The City / Superstition

The Crap Facts:
This is my 399th concert.
This is my 4th concert at Time Warner Arena.
This is my 42nd concert in Charlotte.
This is my 47th concert in North Carolina.
This is my 206th concert in the USA.
Stevie Wonder is the 470th band I've seen.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Jim Jefferies @ Knight Theater

I feel like it's hard to write a review about a comedian.  It's not like retelling the jokes would help. 

Needless to say Jim Jefferies was everything I expected him to be.  He started his show with two words that really set the tone for the night. Bill Cosby.  From there nothing was sacred.  He absolutely destroyed a woman heckler, almost to the point it was started to get really nasty (but I'm going to hell anyway, so I continued to laugh).  Though no one else was brave enough to interject again.  He also took aim at his girlfriend, son, mother, hunting, religion, America's obsession with Freedom, amongst other topics.  Nothing seemed to be sacred.

I spent two hours in stitches, and was a little proud to see a fellow Aussie perform in my adopted city, and do it so well.  Having said that, you'd have to be careful of who you would send to see one of his shows.  If you were easily offended by language, and considering everyone came under fire, there was no other couple we know that I'd take.  Fortunately, Amy knows my sense of humor, and knew what she'd be in for.  She laughed just as hard as I did.  Will happily fork out money next time he comes to town.