Heart and Def Leppard in Atlanta…Electric…Literally!

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Last night the atmosphere at the Lakewood Amphitheater was electric…literally! I experienced one of the strongest displays of thunder, lightening and rain that I have ever seen just before the Def Leppard/Heart concert was to begin.

The venue lost power during Saturday’s viscous storm, which led to an hour of will-there-or-won’t-there-be-a-show guessing as fans waited for the gates to be opened. My friend Nick and I stuck it out! It wasn’t a pretty start, but most fans attending would likely agree that the concert was well worth the wait.

Eventually, with the storm passed, electricity restored and safety concerns cleared, the concert was a go, with Heart taking the stage at 9 p.m. for a condensed 40-minute set What a shame…they have some great hits, but anyone who has seen Ann and Nancy Wilson and the rest of Heart live before knows that the sisters put their all into everything they do.

Though Ann’s voice was lost in a poor mix of the opening “Cook With Fire,” the sound clarified for the sweetly sexy “Never,” re-dressed with an acoustic foundation and harmonica, and “What About Love.”

Ann, looking slimmed in black leggings and boots and the eternally cool Nancy, who came onstage wearing a top hat and still, at 57, managed to scissor kick her way through “Crazy on You,” navigated a powerful set high even if short on time.
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The ‘80s hits “These Dreams,” steered by Nancy’s wispier voice, and “Alone,” anchored by Ann’s husky pipes, have easily retained their singalong quality – a necessity at this show – even if they represent the poppier side of Heart.

No one should forget Heart’s roots, and I guess that is why they were a perfect match for Def Leppard last night, the sisters and the four members of the band, including the indispensible Debbie Shair on keyboards and percussion, tore through a trio of classic rock staples – the serrated guitar steamroller “Barracuda,” the prog-rockish “Magic Man” and, to end their set, a thunderous version of “Crazy on You.”

At 10:15, after the recorded strains of Def Leppard’s traditional pre-show song, AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You),” boomed through the nearly sold-out venue, a mirror ball dropped above the stage and the quintet appeared, banging out the new “Undefeated.” A four-on-the-floor fist pumper born to be played relentlessly at a stadium near you this fall, the song, from the just-released live “Mirrorball” CD, represented the only detour for a band that hasn’t much altered its playlist the past few tours.
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Performing on a spectacular tiered stage lined with panels of video screens and beneath a ridge of relentlessly spinning lights, the band had ample space to rock n’ roam. The light show was so well done it almost matched nature’s dazzling display before the show.

Singer Joe Elliott’s voice has always been a gruff instrument, and on this night, while it was sometimes swallowed by the huge sound of the band, it just as often soared on long-held notes in “Animal” and “Rocket.”

The front line of bassist Rick Savage and guitarists Vivian Campbell and (shirtless) Phil Collen infused the band’s songs with gorgeous harmonies – always a hallmark of Def Leppard’s sound – that are the perfect complement to their metallic guitar riffs and drummer Rick Allen’s steady electro-beats. I am still awestruck by the Allen’s expertise with one arm he is still one of Rock’s best.

“Foolin’,” in particular, sounded full and fresh, and the extended version of the beautifully complex “Rocket” included a dynamic interplay between Campbell and Collen.

Though it appeared that Elliott wasn’t going to talk to the crowd, instead to focus on fitting in the band’s full set, when he, Collen, Savage and Campbell sauntered down the catwalk extended about a dozen rows into the crowd for an acoustic segment, he indeed had something to say.

“We weren’t going to let a little proper rain spoil the party were we?” Elliott asked as the crowd roared. “But you should all get a pen and paper and write to your local electricity board and [tell them] that their generators suck!”

With that statement Elliott and the boys strummed through “Two Steps Behind” and “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” which kicked into its full electric grandeur midway through.

Savage pulled out his Union Jack bass for the zippy instrumental “Switch 625,” which segued into what is perhaps Def Leppard’s most epic song, the melodically layered “Hysteria,” which aped its recorded counterpart with technical proficiency and lyrical heart.

It was impossible for most in this generation-spanning crowd to refrain from playing air guitar or air drums at the first notes of “Armageddon It” and “Photograph.” I am sure by the last moments of the show the band had erased any trace of hindrances of earlier in the night. Electric.

Eagles Concert in Atlanta

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The Eagles may never get the critical adulation of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but they still have what it takes to entertain. And they didn’t disappoint the die-hards who attended last week’s packed Green Concert at Piedmont Park with a set list laden with greatest hits from their 1970s heyday…although my favorite, Already Gone, did not make the set!

Their vocals, harmonies and musicianship were impeccable. Their sturdy portfolio of songs, played ad infinitum on the radio over the decades, were well represented, from “Take it to the Limit” to “Hotel California” to “Lyin’ Eyes” to “Life in the Fast Lane.”

The audience (50,000 strong) vibe was happily California mellow, the odor of a certain illegal substance wafted through the air and the backdrop of a half-crescent moon and the Atlanta skyline comforting. With each song I was thinking, dang am I that old?

Though Don Henley, at age 63, is looking his age thanks to a paunch and white beard, he hasn’t lost his vocal skills, infusing songs with a sheen of sadness and longing, especially “Desperado.” I loved it.

Unlike other bands, which cut out solo hits by individual band members (no way the Go Go’s are playing Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You”), the Eagles were very generous. Atlantans heard three solo hits each from Joe Walsh and Henley, plus “Funk #49″ from Walsh’s band James Gang. (Sorry, Glenn Frey solo fans. No “Heat is On” or “You Belong to the City.”)

Henley’s solo hit “Dirty Laundry,” with the video screen popping up shots of Bill O’Reilly, Nancy Grace and the recently ousted Rick Sanchez, remains as relevant as ever 28 years later. Walsh was the loosest, goofing around after being introduced with some silly vocal exercises. His solo songs provided some welcome punch and edge to the proceedings.

While “Desperado” is typically their final song, they decided on the spur of the moment to play a second encore. It took a few moments to get ready because the crew wasn’t ready for it, but they gave the crowd an excuse to sway a few more minutes to “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” to conclude their two hours.

Here was the set list:
1. Seven Bridges Road
2. How Long Play
3. Take it to the Limit
4. Hotel California
5. Peaceful Easy Feeling
6. I Can’t Tell You Why
7. Witchy Woman
8. Lyin’ Eyes
9. One of These Nights
10. The Boys of Summer
11. In The City
12. The Long Run
13. Life’s Been Good
14. Dirty Laundry
15. Funk #49
16. Heartache Tonight
17. Life in the Fast Lane
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18. Take It Easy
19. Rocky Mountain Way
20. Desperado
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21. All She Wants to Do Is Dance

“Guitar Hero” Spawns Rock Music Resurgence

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich loves Black Sabbath and Deep Purple — and so does his 10-year-old son. Ulrich may have played songs from those old rock bands around the house on his stereo, but he gives credit for his son’s excitement to another source: video games.
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Myles Ulrich is a fan of games such as “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band,” which have spawned a comeback for rock music. “It’s a cool generational thing to share that with your kids,” said Ulrich, the drummer for the multi-platinum quartet. “My son’s favorite bands are the same bands that are my favorite bands the bands I grew up on.”
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A few years ago, rock music was struggling on the charts. With hip-hop and teen pop ruling, rock was finding it hard to break through with new music or sell more of the old.

But “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” have prompted kids born in the ’90s to discover artists from the ’70s and ’80s such as Aerosmith, Twisted Sister and Pat Benatar. The games’ amazing popularity (last year, the two brought in more than $935 million in revenue, according to the NPD Group market research company) has helped create success in other markets.

Geoff Mayfield, senior analyst and director of charts for Billboard magazine, said he sees a direct cause-and-effect for some of the artists who have licensed their songs to “Guitar Hero.”

A few weeks ago, when the game featuring Aerosmith [‘Guitar Hero: Aerosmith’] came out, there was more than a 40 percent increase in their catalog sales.
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I expect you’ll see that again when Metallica gets the same kind of treatment in a few weeks.

Once wary of downloading, Metallica has changed its tune with its upcoming album. “When ‘Death Magnetic’ comes out in September, you can actually download the new album the same day it comes out, and play it on your ‘Guitar Hero III,’ ” Ulrich said fully aware of the irony, given his band’s past litigation with the Internet music file-sharing service Napster.

Even in an uncertain economy, the video games also have increased interest in guitars, according to the nationwide Guitar Center chain. And bars holding “Guitar Hero” nights also have enjoyed a boost in business: Big Wangs sports tavern in Hollywood, California, reports a 25 percent to 35 percent increase in sales.

If you’ve ever played air guitar, more than likely, you weren’t doing it to a Michael Jackson song. You were doing it to an Aerosmith song.

What Obama Can Teach You About Millennial Marketing. Part I.

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Baby boomers and Gen Xers declared mass marketing dead long ago. We live in a world of fragmented media surrounded by cynical consumers who can spot and block an ad message from a mile away. But what Gen Xers and boomers may not realize is that the unabashed embrace of select brands by millennials, from technology to beverages to fashion, has made this decade a true golden era of marketing for those who know what they’re doing. And when it comes to marketing, the Barack Obama campaign knows what it’s doing.
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Mr. Obama’s brand management, unprecedented in presidential politics, shows pitch-perfect understanding of the keys to appealing to the youngest voters.
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Perhaps inevitably, among the first apps introduced for Apple’s new iPhone — the latest success from another millennial mass marketer — was an Obama “Countdown to Change” calendar that ticks off the seconds until Election Day.

So what’s the appeal to the under-30 set? True, the youth vote traditionally skews Democratic, but the difference this year is that Mr. Obama has actually motivated turnout. His success, it seems, is a result of both product and the branding behind it. The qualities he projects — a cool, smooth aura, the communal values of hope and unity, his teeming crowds and his campaign’s seamless graphics — are the essence of appealing to millennials.

“Millennials want someone smart, funny and with a slight edge,” observes Allison Mooney, who tracks youth trends for Fleishman-Hillard’s Next Great Thing. Mr. Obama’s occasional prickly moments, as when he dismissed Mr. McCain’s recent ad comparing him to Paris Hilton — “Is this the best you can do?” — shows them he gets it. “Obama’s kind of mellow. He doesn’t have polarizing views.”