Soon in tunes: Kenny Chesney at the AMP

July 29th, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Kenny Chesney photo by Jill Trunnel

Kenny Chesney photo by Jill Trunnel

Country megastar Kenny Chesney brings “The Big Revival” tour to Rogers for a Thursday night (July 30) event that also features Chase Rice and Jake Owen. Chesney has recorded more than 25 country No. 1 singles and has four times won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award. Thursday night’s show at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion is sold out.

Walton Arts Center announces new shows for 2015-16

July 28th, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Diana KrallWEB

Diana Krall

Have you driven by the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville recently?

It’s stunning to see how much work is going on right now. Familiar parts of the facade and entrance ways are missing, and dirt work has removed all of the grassy areas.

But while the progress is exciting, it’s not stopping any activity at the center. In fact, the center promises to be just as busy in the upcoming 2015-16 season than it was in the just completed 2014-15 season.

In announcing the create-year-own subscription season, which allows tickets buys to purchase a block of tickets and get discounts and other perks, WAC officials also announced a slate of acts coming to the center in the next 12 months.

The shows announced include many genres, including children’s programming and comedy. Importantly, there are many live music acts coming this way, too. Here are the music acts confirmed:

• Nov. 19 — Diana Krall

• Dec. 13 — Jim Brickman‘s “Comfort and Joy”

• Feb. 19 — Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn

• March 12 — Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe

• March 17-18 — A Night with Janis Joplin

• April 1 — The Swingles

• April 12 — Branford Marsalis

• April 16 — Keb’ Mo’

More acts are likely to be announced as the season dates near. Read my story, published in Friday’s What’s Up! section, to learn about the season ticket series and get more details about many of the other newly announced WAC shows.

Single-session tickets for the shows listed above will be available in mid-August.

Soon in tunes: Finger Eleven, July 27 at George’s

July 27th, 2015 at 11:13 am

Finger Eleven photo by Dustin Rabin.

Finger Eleven photo by Dustin Rabin.

Less than a week before the release of a new album, rock band Finger Eleven will perform a show at George’s Majestic Lounge. “Five Crooked Lines” is the band’s eighth studio album but first in five years. Joining in for the evening are locals Eye For a Lie and Chasing Pictures. The show begins at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $17.

Concert Review: Fifth Harmony, July 24 at the Walmart AMP

July 25th, 2015 at 7:13 pm

Fifth Harmony live at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

Fifth Harmony live at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette

If you are a girl between the ages of roughly nine and 18 and attended last night’s Fifth Harmony concert at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers, you likely had an awesome time at what could be considered one huge party. If you are a parent who attended, well, that just depends on how much you’re into your preteen/teen’s music.
The five ladies of Fifth Harmony (who could just as easily be called Camila Cabella and the Four Harmonizers), showed up to their first ever concert in Arkansas last night to give the crowd of about 5,000 a loud, energetic, and rather promiscuous show.

Fifth Harmony live at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

Normani Hamilton (on screen) performing with Fifth Harmony live at the AMP.

Sure, there were a few male fans of the group in attendance, and a few younger brothers here and there, but most of the (limited) testosterone in the crowd was supplied by the dad chaperons, understandably. The first three songs belted by the girls involved powerful women demanding respect from the lazy men in their lives, and promoting self-love over idolizing your man. Although the girls have a few songs cooing over everlasting love and the breezy happiness of being in a relationship, the themes of girls just having fun and girl-power are more common. But it seems to be less “Don’t need no man,” more “Yo’ ass better show me some respect,” (via “BO$$,” the first single from full-length album, “Reflection,” released this year).
Fans of 5H will know the girls took a step away from the bubblegum pop sound of their 2013 debut EP “Better Together” and moved toward an urban-edge feel with “Reflection.” For better or worse, the new direction came with edgier music, skimpier clothes and more twerking and chair-straddling choreography. Despite the new sound mixed with the old, the audience last night, the largest the girls have seen so far for the “Reflections” tour, loved every second of the 65-minute set.

Debby Ryan and the Never Ending.

Debby Ryan and the Never Ending.

The five slim video boards at the back of the stage sat on an elevated platform and projected colorful visuals for each song that ranged from images of mirrors during “Reflection,” to cruising through a neon-lit city for “Top Down.” The smoke effects, dancing strobe lights, red lasers and electronic beat of “This is How We Roll” would be at home in the lineup of any techno DJ’s set, while the lighter (or smartphone)-waving “Who Are You” saw the girls sitting in a semicircle just in front of the audience, with the stage washed in soft blue and pink lights.
On either side of the harmony-rich acoustic set, the girls kept the energy high with synchronized hip-pops and hair flips. Visibly covered in sweat by the end of the very first song, the girls didn’t shy away from using the whole stage and were just as committed to the squats and booty-shaking during “Worth It” at the end of the night as they were when they first took the stage.
Most of the parents in the audience were not as resilient. But I couldn’t blame the moms and dads all over the venue for retiring to their seats and commencing the hand-fanning before the end of the third song. Even band member Normani Hamilton complained a few times of the heat. But not the youth of Northwest Arkansas. The girls of the audience (admittedly, of all ages, but overwhelmingly in the 9-14 range) came to dance and scream to music that just gets them. With lyrics about “turning up” with your girls and Instagraming, shaking it like Shakira and “waking up like this,” Fifth Harmony is all over that pop-culture relevance. And the crowd ate it up. Even the parents who had been cruising Facebook on their phones for most of the concert were back on their feet for the last few songs.

Dutch-born pop artist Natalie La Rose (in white) and her dancers on July 24 at the Walmart AMP.

Dutch-born pop artist Natalie La Rose (in white) and her dancers on July 24 at the Walmart AMP.

The three opening acts for Fifth Harmony came and went relatively quickly when the concert started just a few minutes before 7:00 with Natalie La Rose. Her second single “Around the World,” with its suggestive lyrical content, recently joined her popular debut single “Somebody” on the radio. Rose was joined on stage by two backup dancers and her female DJ, Sandy, and got the crowd sufficiently warmed up and ready for more. Rose was followed by Disney Channel darling, Debby Ryan, and her band The Never Ending. Ryan’s set started with sweet and vulnerable “Secondhand Heart,” for which she played the ukulele. The rest of her songs were not so mellow, and showed off Ryan’s smokey vocals as she head-banged her way through the rest of the performance that included a bouncy cover of The Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better.”

Bea Miller

Bea Miller

Ryan’s best efforts to pump up the crowd for the main event seemed to work only on the section closest to the stage. But when the final opener Bea Miller took to the mic, the crowd perked up. Fellow alum of season two of “The X Factor” (in which Fifth Harmony finished third), Miller owned the crowd as soon as the music started. The strength of the gravelly voice coming from that tiny person on stage was pleasantly surprising and the power she had behind those held out notes set her apart as the strongest singer of the three acts. The front section of the crowd was on their feet, but only a handful of small groups here and there throughout the rest of the venue. Those small groups though, were rocking out to Miller and knew every word.

As far as audience response, the mother next to me, who had a blast dancing with her daughter the whole concert, said it was definitely worth their four and a half hour drive from east Arkansas. And leaving the AMP, one of the 13-year-olds behind me proudly announced to her friends, “I cried like four times! It was so amazing!”

Fifth Harmony Setlist Walmart AMP, Rogers, AR, USA 2015, Reflection: The Summer Tour

Five times the fun: Fifth Harmony invades the AMP

July 24th, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Fifth Harmony

Fifth Harmony

They have their own fan group, known as the Harmonizers. And they currently have a major pop hit with “Worth It.”

Yes, Fifth Harmony is making a name for themselves. They’ve only gained traction since their formation on the television show “X Factor,” and their current world tour takes them all across the country. The tour, which includes guests Natalie LaRose, Bea Miller and Debby Ryan, makes a stop tonight (July 24) at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers.

My colleague Jocelyn Murphy interviewed band member Normani Kordei Hamilton in advance of tonight’s show. She shares some insight on tonight’s show, which starts at 7 p.m. Take a look at Jocelyn’s story online, or on newsstands today courtesy of the What’s Up! section of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Tickets range from $25-$39.50 and are available through the venue’s website.

See you at the show.

The weekend in live music, with Messages and more

July 24th, 2015 at 5:03 am



Oh, Friday. You beautiful creature, you. It’s good to see you, Friday. Have I told you that recently? I can’t say it enough, that’s for sure. You wanna go out together, you sweet day of the week, maybe for a drink and some live music?

Maybe, you said? You want to know your options?

I’m so glad you asked.

Do you like indie rock music?

Austin, Texas, band Messages is still in the process of recording its first album, scheduled for release later this year. But the newness hasn’t stopped the indie rock band from attracting some buzz and opening spots for acts such as Erykah Badu, Of Montreal and Grouplove. Messages comes to Ryleigh’s on Dickson in Fayetteville today (July 24) for a 10 p.m. show. Admission is $5.

You want some pop instead? That’s okay? How does the Fifth Harmony show tonight at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion sound? You know Natalie LaRose, Debby Ryan and Bea Miller will all be there, too? It starts at 7 p.m. Sure, of course we can talk about it later today.

Oh, you might want something completely different? Like, metal? We should probably check out The Lightbulb Club. But that’ll have to wait until Saturday (July 25)? Is that okay, Friday? Can we go out with Saturday, too? I don’t want to make you jealous. Maybe? Would a Black Sabbath tribute show by Made in Sabbath that evening with guest Antartichrist excite you?

Or maybe we can take a little trip? And go see Magnolia Brown at Chelsea’s Corner Cafe in Eureka Springs? Yes, that’s it. Friday, you’re looking great. Come on. Let’s go have some fun.


UAFS announces upcoming Season of Entertainment

July 22nd, 2015 at 1:23 pm

LeAnn Rimes

LeAnn Rimes

Even though the heat of summer is still upon us, students’ time off for the break is nearing its end.

Among its preparations for the upcoming school year, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith has unveiled the acts that will take place during the upcoming Season of Entertainment 35. My colleague Becca Martin-Brown has the details about the upcoming slate of shows, which includes an appearance by Broadway star Patti LuPone, who just made the news for quite awesomely calling out a theater-goer for using their cell phone during a show.

Importantly for music lovers, there are a few dates to take note of as well. LeAnn Rimes will perform on Nov. 12. Also, UAFS announced the names for their three-show season at the Blue Lion in downtown Fort Smith:

Matt Stansberry on Sept. 18

• UAFS music faculty on Jan. 30


Rising Stars of the Metropolitan Opera on Feb. 16

Tickets are on sale now and available by calling 788-7300.

Soon in tunes: Albert Lee, July 21 at George’s

July 21st, 2015 at 10:13 am

YouTube Preview Image

British-born guitarist Albert Lee is instead a “Country Boy” by heart. Here, he joins other country acts such as Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Listen to him tonight at George’s Majestic Lounge.

There’s a chance you don’t know the music of Albert Lee. As a studio musician and hired gun of a guitarist, he’s flown just under the radar.

But talk to country music insiders, and performers, and they likely know him. He wrote what became an eventual hit for Ricky Skaggs. He shared the stage with Emmylou Harris in her Hot Band. The list of other artists he’s worked with is a mile long.

Lee, born in England but sounding like he came from somewhere deep in Texas, brings his live show tonight (July 21) to George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville. The set by the five-time “Best Country Guitarist” — as ranked by Guitar Player magazine — and Grammy winner will begin the show about 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Concert review: Widespread Panic, July 17 at the AMP

July 18th, 2015 at 11:49 am

John Bell of Widespread Panic, photographed at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on July 17. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

John Bell of Widespread Panic, photographed at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on July 17. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“Do you like Widespread?” I was asked more times last night (July 17) than I could count while at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion.

I’m a walking target, with my camera bag and notebook giving away my intentions and purpose.

The cult of Widespread Panic is quick to welcome a fellow diehard or initiate someone experiencing the now almost 30-year-old jam band for the first time. As for the ambivalent, or rarer, the unconvinced, there’s usually a line of defenses constructed.

I found an empty area of the lawn for the first half of the show to watch the band’s light show, which is impressive and expansive. Swirling lights affixed to towers placed all across the stage danced just as much as the crowd did, which was a considerable amount. When I found my seat for the second set, the woman sitting next to me wanted to know how much I loved the band.

I told her I try not to make judgments until the day after a show. That’s true, by the way.

“For me, so far so good,” she said. “But you’re talking to a superfan.”

Jimmy Herring of Widespread Panic

Jimmy Herring of Widespread Panic

The Georgia-based jam band drew about 5,000 to the outdoor venue in Rogers on a warm summer’s evening. Most, like my neighbor, could pick out the name of the song after the first chord, drum fill or lick. She liked to scream out the name of the song as soon as she recognized it. There was a seat open to my left, and for that I’m glad. One seat could not contain the spastic dancing of my concert neighbor, so I shuffled left to give her some space. The crowd came to boogie, and they did just that.

The seats created a different vibe, actually. Friday night’s set in Rogers was actually my fourth Widespread Panic show. All three previous sets were part of a music festival — I’ve watched them twice at Wakarusa, and once at Bonnaroo. In large open fields, with space to roam, those shows felt like a carnival, everyone dressed in strange attire and screaming. Inside a proper venue — albeit outdoors — with seats, this show seemed subdued or somehow constrained. To wit, earlier in the day, the venue posted on social media that hula hooping wouldn’t be allowed because the hoops are considered potential projectiles. This was the tamest Widespread Panic show I’ve watched. It also was a bit on the short side, at least compared to Widespread standards. The band played for just a little less than three hours, if the 30-minute break between sets is factored into the equation. The band did roll well past 11 p.m., generally considered the cut-off time for shows at the venue.

Dave Schools

Dave Schools

Even if subdued, the show expanded the collective mindset and demographics of the AMP. This show set many records for AMP shows, including most tie dye clothing, most guitar solos, most shoeless attendees and most marijuana smoked. When a concert crowd out-smokes those assembled for a Willie Nelson concert, a show that took place last year at the same venue, you know it’s a significant factor. Friday night’s show also set the record for most people wearing Viking horns with American flags taped to the tips of those horns, with one such example. One is plenty for such things.

The most remarkable thing during the evening was the playing onstage, however, and that’s the draw for Widespread Panic. Each of the band members got a moment, if only one. I often wished the band would turn excellent bass player Dave Schools loose a few more times, but like all of the members, he was fairly stoic and subdued in his onstage mannerisms. If all of the members had at least a moment, lead guitarist Jimmy Herring had moments, plural. His ace playing graced each and every song, and the band wasted no opportunities in letting him ramble.

I like surprises at concerts — choice covers, unexpected tempo changes, guests and the like. There were too few such interludes last night. Widespread Panic jammed, just like they always do. The players, looking inconspicuous and unaffected, dazzled with their musical abilities, just like they always do. And for the cult of Widespread, that was a perfect combination.

The spread of Widespread Panic

July 17th, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Widespread Panic

Widespread Panic

John Bell thought about it for just a second. I had asked him if tonight’s Widespread Panic concert at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion would eclipse the three-hour mark. He looked at the date, realized the start time and lack of opening act, and reached his conclusion.

Yes, we’re in for 3 hours, and likely close to 3 and a half hours, of Widespread Panic tonight (July 17) at the Walmart AMP in Rogers.

The highly regarded Southern-rock influenced jam band came back from a hiatus earlier this decade and came back with a flourish. They’ve passed through the area twice in recent years, both times headlining the local Wakarusa music and camping festival. And they’ve returned to the studio, too, prepping for the September release of the album “Street Dogs,” the band’s first in five years.

Bell, Panic’s founding guitarist and vocalist, talked to me about his tomato plants, the current lineup of the band and the new album. You can read my story in today’s What’s Up! section, available in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or online.

Tickets remain for tonight’s concert. Those tickets range from $31-$55.50.

See you at the concert.