Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pvris, 30 Seconds to Mars and Muse, plus Chester Bennington

So after not attending a concert at Jones Beach since three years ago when I took my son and his buddy to see Linkin Park, I've been to two concerts there within a week. Life is strange sometimes.

I'm not sure why I haven't been there in a few years. Denise and I used to go a couple of times a year. I think part of it is that I really wasn't feeling my best until this last year. I think it's also because some of the prices got out of hand. I looked into taking Denise to the Sting/Peter Gabriel show there two years ago, and it was so expensive it just pissed me off. Denise loves Sting (I think she'd dump me for him in a minute), and we've seen him several times, including three times (I think) at Jones Beach -- twice solo and once during The Police reunion tour. And I'd have loved to have seen Peter Gabriel live. But I think the tickets for their tour together were close to a couple of hundred dollars a pop, and that's a lot for one night of music.

So last week, we saw the Incubus concert there, partially because the tickets were just $20 each, and it got to me to thinking, "What was the last show I saw here?" And as best I can remember, it was that Linkin Park show. And then, the very next day after seeing Incubus, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park killed himself. Weird. And sad.

I don't know a lot about Chester Bennington outside of Linkin Park. I was a late arrival to the LP train -- I first heard them through their song on the first Twilight soundtrack album, "Leave Out All the Rest", which I liked. The first album of theirs I ever bought was Living Things, a very solid album. Their song "Burn It Down" from that album made my Top 20 Songs list for that year. My son got very into the band, primarily through his best buddy, who cited Linkin Park as his favorite band ever. Usually my son hates my music (not unusual, I know). Linkin Park was the rare band we could enjoy together. So 3 years ago, I took my son and his friend to see Linkin Park at Jones Beach for their tour for The Hunting Party album, and it was a great show. I'm pretty sure my son will still have the memories from it when he's my age.

Like a lot of Linkin Park fans, we were both a little shocked at their new album's sharp turn into light pop. It's not that they didn't have that side to them -- "Leave Out All the Rest" certainly isn't a heavy song. But especially after The Hunting Party, it was a huge change in direction, and not an entirely welcome one by their fan base. My son really doesn't care for One More Light much. I like the title track a lot, but most of the rest of it is pretty mediocre. But a lot of the kids on The Sputnik Music site hated it -- its current rating on the site is 1.7 out of 5 stars -- below poor. And I know that Bennington was very defensive about some of the reaction to the album. From what I read, he had a lot of other problems, including issues with depression, and a strong reaction to the suicide of Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, a close friend of his who killed himself two months ago. So there was a lot that contributed to his death. But I'm sure the fans' reaction to One More Light couldn't have helped things.

Anyway, here's to you, Mr. Bennington. Thanks for all the music, and especially for giving my son and I something to bond over. I hope you've found peace.

So, Muse. Muse is a weird group. I wouldn't exactly consider myself a fan, although I do like some of their stuff, and I do own a copy of their album The Resistance. Much like Incubus, Denise likes this band better than I do, and she was the one first thinking about going to the show. I was on the fence, but then I saw the full lineup for the concert, and noticed that Pvris was opening for them. (I know they like to stylize their band name, but I don't do all caps. It bothers the hell out of my OCD.). Now I won't say I love this band -- I rated their first album, White Noise, at 2.5/5 stars, which is average. But I do love their song "Smoke" -- It was one of my Top 10 Songs of 2015. And they have a new album coming out next month, which I'm definitely going to check out. The other act scheduled was 30 Seconds to Mars, who I'd heard of but wasn't familiar with at all.

It's kind of brutal comparing music shows, but in this case, having just gone to the Incubus show, I can't really help but to compare it to this one. And although I enjoyed Incubus, in every way but one, the Muse show was better. The only victory in the Incubus column was the weather. While the weather for the Incubus concert was as perfect as you could ask for, for Muse, it was less so. Saturday was a hot, cloudy day. It was humid, and there was rain on the horizon, so much so that we were never really sure until the show was over if the concert would take place, or if they'd make it all the way through without stopping. Happily, they did, although not without us getting wet. It drizzled all through Pvris's set, then stopped raining for 30 Seconds to Mars. Then, about halfway through Muse's set, just as they were about to play "Supermassive Black Hole", the skies opened up, and while it wasn't exactly pouring, it rained for most of the rest of the night. Luckily, it never quite got heavy enough to send us scrambling for cover, although it got close a few times. Anyway, Muse made it through the show, and all was well.

As I said, in comparing the shows, everything else was in Muse's favor. The crowd was much larger -- not a sellout, but not far off. Consequently, the sound was better from the beginning of the show -- more bodies in the seats equals much less echo. And going band by band, Pvris was better than Judah and the Lion, 30 Seconds to Mars was better than Jimmy Eat World, and although I actually like Incubus better than Muse as a band, Muse put on the better show.

Pvris didn't play for that long -- setlist.fm only lists 6 songs for the show, although I'd have sworn they played more -- but they played well. I notice that their drummer Justin Nace really plays the hell out of those drums. And while Lynn Gunn's voice was maybe a little wild, it was strong and powerful. I haven't formed much of an opinion of their new material yet, but they did a nice job on "Fire" from their first album, and yes, they made me happy by playing "Smoke".

I didn't realize until I researched them a few weeks before the show, but 30 Seconds to Mars is the actor Jared Leto's band. I watched a couple of their videos prior to the show -- very high concept. I'm not sure what genre they fit into most comfortably -- maybe heavy alternative. Anyway, considering how hard it is to enjoy a band whose music you're really not familiar with, I liked their set a lot. Leto is a weird guy -- he came out  wearing some kind of silver mumu. But he has a strong voice, and he knows how to take control of a crowd. It's sort of not fair. He's rich, good-looking, a famous actor and a talented singer -- shouldn't he share at least some of that good fortune with poor Corey Feldman?

Leto's band started out blazing hot with a couple of numbers called "Up in the Air" and "Conquistador". I thought they lost a little energy in the middle part of their set, but they picked it up again later on. A couple of their highlights were a song called "Kings and Queens", and another song called "Do or Die" (both of which had sing along parts. Leto loves his "Whoa whoa"s and "Oh oh"s). They also had fans sing along on a new single they're recording (I don't know the name of it). And Leto did a tribute to Chester Bennington during his set, and dedicated the song "Alibi" to him.

As for Muse, I have to tell you that they're a great live band. Matt Bellamy has an amazing voice that's as accurate live as it is in the studio, and their set is littered with interesting video effects and various other forms of entertainment (such as pyrotechnics during one song, huge white balloons for the crowd to bat around during another, and a machine that shoots out snow and confetti during yet another song).

A lot of the folks on the Sputnik site who attended the show are longtime fans of the band, and were excited about songs played from the early albums. Even Denise was thrilled that they closed their encore with "Knights of Cydonia" from their Black Holes & Revelations album. But I only became familiar with them from the version of "Supermassive Black Hole" on the Twilight soundtrack, and the only album I own of theirs is The Resistance, although I've heard Denise's copy of The Second Law a few times. You'd think I'd like them better -- I'm a huge progressive rock band. But the prog rock band they remind me of the most is Queen, and I was never a huge fan of theirs either. I like certain songs from both bands, but they're both a little too theatrical and over the top for me. And it's actually a bit of a shame, because as much as I enjoyed this show, I'm pretty sure that if I were a big Muse fan, it would have been one of the best shows of my life. As it was, it was still pretty good.

The two songs I most wanted to hear were "Supermassive Black Hole" and "Uprising", both of which they performed. The only song I can think of that I would have liked for them to play that they didn't was "Neutron Star Collision" from the Eclipse soundtrack. Other highlights of their set included "Hysteria" from their Absolution album, and "Resistance" from The Resistance. They ended their set with a loop of "Drones" from their most recent Drones album, which I liked enough that now I'll have to buy that album. It's almost like electronic medieval chamber music. They also did their own tribute to Chester Bennington before performing "Starlight" from Black Holes & Revelations.

My appreciation for Muse has definitely increased, and given the opportunity, I'd love to see them live again.

So that's about it. I've got a few more concerts coming up in the near future. So you know you'll hear from me again soon, right on this very page. And sometime in the next few days, I'm hoping to finally get to my review of the excellent new Matisyahu album, Undercurrent.

'Night all.