Photos from Mohegan Sun are here.
In the deep dark winter, I bought tickets to two concerts that I knew I had to see. Basically my holy trinity of bands were going to be on tour together. BNL, BFF (Ben Folds Five) and Guster. My father, son, holy ghost, all in one place.
Suddenly, the end of July arrived and it was time to go enjoy the "Last Summer on Earth" tour.
Mohegan Sun arena is a small venue, which is nice. Our tickets weren't great, they were on the floor but kind of far back, 20th row I think. Jess and I got stuck in traffic getting out of Boston, and my friend Valerie and her friend were there waiting for us to arrive. I had emailed her tickets to her but she couldn't access them on her phone.
While we were stuck in traffic, she worked with a manager at the box office to get her tickets, and nothing would work. Something about ticketmaster's transfer system wasn't showing the tickets to her. Eventually the manager canceled our tickets and gave us new tickets, in the 10th row.
Now, I appreciate that greatly. Super nice of the manager to do that, but really, it would have been nicer to buy those seats myself to be honest. The way the casino works is that they don't sell these seats, they comp them to high rollers and people spending a lot of money at the casino, or people in a package deal with hotel and stuff. So the "fans" get to sit a mile away and people who barely know the band are in the front row. It worked out quite amusingly at a former BNL show where some very drunk women decided to take off their underpants and throw them on stage THREE SONGS after "Pinch Me" when the usual underpants throwing takes place. Steve was singing something very serious and had to look up in the rafters to keep from laughing his ass off watching them contorting themselves and falling all over the place trying to get their panties off.
Anyway - our seat upgrade was nice, but the people all around us were bored, didn't care about Guster or Ben Folds... they were there to see Barenaked Ladies. The people to our right left halfway through Guster's opening set, guess they didn't like the band. So we spread out and had a row of ten seats for five people. It was kind of nice.
We arrived halfway through Guster's set, and that broke my heart. They were cranking out the end of "Airport Song" when we walked into the arena and I was pumped. Adam blew everyone's eardrums out with his trumpet part on "What You Call Love," and the audience seemed particularly entertained by "This Could All Be Yours." I managed to get some decent shots of them in the short period of time they were on stage for us.
I've managed to never see him or them live, and I wanted my face melted off by "Philosophy" or "Narcolepsy." I wanted to sing the horn part to "Army" at the top of my lungs. Instead I got to listen to people talk all around me, and watch them play on their cell phones while he played very nicely. Overall, I can't really complain. He gave us "Alice Childress," which was lovely. "Landed" which was GORGEOUS. I honestly could never hear "Brick" again as long as I live and of course he has to play it because it is his biggest hit (and how out of his entire catalog a song about taking his girlfriend to get an abortion is his only major hit... is beyond me). He did play "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" which got the crowd going, and closed out with "Song for the Dumped," and sadly most of the audience didn't know to yell "Fuck you too!" but Jess and I did.
And I laughed.
All told the people behind me talked through his entire set, the people in front of me were groping each other and making out. My friend Val was bored and it was obvious. It felt slow and flat and I really wasn't loving it as much as I do love Ben. I was a bit sad and let down.
He was lovely to watch, and Darren Jessee is such a tremendous drummer, such a joy to behold. Robert Sledge's dirty fuzzy bass playing was like getting a spine massage. They harmonize so beautifully, and it was a pleasure to hear them.
Even if it wasn't what I wanted overall from a rock show.
The last two albums from them have left me unimpressed, really overproduced, too many "noises," and not enough straight forward rock, and way too much electronic drum machine nonsense. They have one of the world's best rock drummers in their band, and it shows in a live show -- why can't it show on the albums? "All in Good Time" disappointed me, and "Grinning Streak has several songs that I like but don't love.
As much as I am crazy about Ed Robertson as the lead man and super rockstar in this Post-Steven Page era, I'm just feeling like things aren't what they could be.
Boothby Graffoe came out and did "Be My Yoko Ono" with them, and it was very funny. Seeing as I didn't get to see his opening performance, this was my introduction to him. He didn't disappoint -- he was very funny and not at all what I expected.
They gave "Enid" a sound-lift, changing it from a ska-esque song to a slower, dirtier, grungier, grindier tune and I loved it.
Ryan Miller came out and performed with the on a song off the new album called "Gonna Walk" which requires audience echo participation. And it is a very cute song that has been stuck in my head for days.
They blew the roof off the joint with their medley of current big hits like "Thrift Shop," "Trouble," and "Titanium" (ooh, all T songs. How funny) and for some reason "Blinded by the Light." Tyler Stewart's performance of "Alcohol" is always exceptionally amusing. There were lots of jokes and Ed mocking Kevin for liking his sparkly accordion. The interstitial raps were a riot, echoing former raps in this location with "Mohegan Sun, won't you come..." so it is nice they remember their history. Lots of joking about betting and gambling. Boothby Graffoe made a joke about "Grinning Streaky Bacon" which had the band in stitches and the audience confused. Go figure, Americans don't know what the English eat for breakfast.
It was a great show from BNL, and I really enjoyed it. I would have loved a lot more cross over between the bands, some Ed with Ben, some Ben playing keys with Kevin, some more of this wonderful Thundergodding with BNL.
Overall, a lovely performance. Thankful that it was indoors. Each of the bands did comment on how they've been sweating balls all summer long at outdoor festivals and this was kind of nice to play inside.
We didn't linger to gamble in the casino. I got to talk to Abbey, who I'd be sitting with at Tanglewood, and Alex and Ken. It's nice to have made friends with people through love of certain bands, and to see them at shows.
Next, the write up from Tanglewood!