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John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp

by Joshua Miller

Although he might often be left out of the conversation when talking about legendary singers, John Mellencamp has chipped out an impressive career of All-American, small-town hardworking folk/rock that’s in a league of its own.  Not only does he know how to create a rock anthem but also knows how to make a song with an impactful message.  While other singers might sing about mortality, faith and relationships, Mellencamp Indiana-raised honest approach has hit home with many people.  Over the past few years Mellencamp has played Milwaukee several times, including a stellar Farm Aid performance.  But in the intimate confines of the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, he and his band seemed to relish the atmosphere and for two hours provided a diverse collection of songs spanning Mellencamp’s career.

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Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot - BB King’s, NYC, 9.12.11

by Michael Sherer

Canada’s Gordon Lightfoot gave his audience in the chaotic Times Square his sensitive, thoughtful, personal and self penned folk music, and they appreciated him giving his all in doing so. As it often happens over so many years though, Gord, as he’s affectionately known, doesn’t possess the strength in voice or body of the old days. Given that he’s 73 and suffered a near-fatal abdominal hemorrhage while performing in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario in ‘02, which put him in a coma for weeks, this is not at all surprising. The nearly life ending health scare took a further toll on what had already been a thin and lanky frame. Being a smoker for many decades and continuing to do only worsens things.

It’s clear that Gord does admirably try his best, and in a rather intimate setting like BB King’s, he still comes across with enough conviction to connect. His stellar band supports and accentuates him very effectively. They consist of bassist Rick Haynes, who’s been on board since ‘69, drummer Barry Keane, retained since ‘72, Michael Haffernan on keyboards, present since ‘80, and newcomer Carter Lancaster on guitar, who replaced long time guitarist Terry Clements after his most unfortunate passing from a stroke last year. They gel with exceptional ease, and don’t ever get in Gord’s way, which allows for him to be heard and understood.

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Billy Joel

Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame - Marriott Marquis Hotel, NYC, 6.16.11

by Michael Sherer

The 42nd annual Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame was held on June 16th at the imposing Marriott Marquis Hotel in the middle of Times Square. This year’s ceremony honored John Bettis, Garth Brooks, Leon Russell, Billy Steinberg & Tom Kelly and Allen Toussaint. Veteran songwriting team and married couple Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil received the Johnny Mercer Award. The “Towering Song” distinction was “It Was A Very Good Year,” given to composer and lyricist Ervin Drake. The Hal David Starlight Award was also presented to Drake. The Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award recipient was Chaka Khan, and the first-ever Visionary Leadership Award was presented to SHOF Chairman Emeritus Hal David.

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Mike Watt at Shank Hall

Mike Watt & the Missingmen

by Joshua Miller

Punk rocker Mike Watt (Minutemen) & the Missingmen played Shank Hall with a lot of energy.

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Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson and Family

by Jennifer Bronenkant

Willie Nelson played preacher man to a room full of believers with a show that felt like an old fashioned tent revival meeting. The enthusiastic crowd and Nelson seemed to feed off of each other’s energy to bring the mood at the Riverside Theater on Tuesday night to a fever pitch.

Opening the show with his standard “Whiskey River” and moving quickly on to “Still Is Still Moving To Me” and a medley of hits, Nelson had the crowd with his first note. Although the crowd remained seated during most of the performance, they rose to their feet in enthusiastic applause after every number.

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