Friday, November 29, 2019

Caspian - Cabot Theater November 16, 2019

w/Lonsander Chamber Orchestra
The Cabot Theater, Beverly MA
Saturday, November 16, 2019
3pm and 8pm performances

It has been over a week and although I am not sure I can fully digest what I’ve seen I’d like to go ahead and at least put something out there in cyberspace about the Caspian show(s) from the Cabot Theater.

Quick back story.  Caspian, a post rock outfit hailing from Beverly Massachusetts announce a show that would have the Losander Chamber Orchestra performing with them (strings and brass).  The show nearly sells out during pre-sale so the band announces an afternoon show as well.  Through a tight friend/fan base I end up with front row center floor for the afternoon and front row balcony for the evening show.  Nothing like perspective.

Afternoon show:  Arriving at the Cabot was simple and easy.  Parking was fine and the walk to the venue brief.  I was told at the door to have my ticket out and was quickly whisked in.  Merch stand was to my right with a few t-shirts and the coveted “event” poster.  Limited to just about 60 copies per show I had to grab one for me and two additional for long time fans (one going later that didn’t want to be shut out, and another that had a family commitment that could not trump a Caspian show).  I packed a poster tube with me, rolled the posters and made our way to our seats.  Yep, front row center.  No security, no barriers just me, four feet of floor, and the stage.

Jumping ahead here was my view in Set II from said seats:

The orchestra took the stage to set up and tune and before you know it the rest of the band arrived.  The layout was similar for both shows, but for review sake.  Jonny Asburn (guitars) was to my left, Calvin Joss behind Ashurn on a riser with his guitars, mandolin, keyboards etc, then Jani Zubkovs on bass.  Center stage towards the back was new drummer Justin and in front of him was Phil Jamieson.  Continuing to the right it was two rows of the orchestra and then Erin Burke-Moran on the right front. All were seated for set 1 excluding Zubkovs who stood for the duration of the set. 

The first two songs played were new songs.  Nagoya and Ishmael.  Both had their moments and it begged the question(s) of “Was this sit down, with strings the original intent, or will these songs be totally different on an album or in a different live setting?”  Regardless both were great and felt like Caspian tracks if that is fair to say.

“Hymn For the Greatest Generation” found Jamieson speaking to the audience for the first time.  Thanking the audience for coming and sharing such a unique event.  This was a perfect song for the setting and mood.  It is a hard song for the band to perform due to the layers to begin with, but I’ve been lucky to see and hear it live a few times now.  The band dug in to earlier catalog next with “The Dove” and then “ASA”.  “ASA” always is a winner with me personally and when I listened and got lost in the moment I was actually excited that so many people were hearing it with me. Zubkovs has some wonderful bass fills on this track and I always catch myself signing those parts (at the very least in my mind).  The set continued with “Aeternum Vale” a terrific spin on “Dust and Disquiet” and the first set concluded with another new song “Division Blues”.

About 60 minutes in the band took their first (planned) break.  The idea was the first set was a “sit down” affair and then come set two they’d be doing their “Caspian thing” and we’d probably “stand”.

Intermission was brief enough for a quick restroom break, a few hugs and hi-fives but right back to my seat as the band opened with a new song “Wildblood”.  We got a 1 2 punch with another new song “Flowers of Light”.  The cool part about “Flowers” is that the band released it online just a few days before, as well as news about the album release.  Therefore, myself and a few folks around me could really get in to it as we had some exposure to it.  Mind you all the new songs are good, but of course familiarity helps.  It’s a KILLER tune live like I had expected and Joss’ with the mandolin intro really sets the tone.  The band was really hitting their stride and Burke-Moran (who I later found out largely wrote the scores for the orchestra) would get up and “Conduct” at times.  It then happened, something I didn’t think I’d hear I got “High Lonesome” in to “Hickory ‘54”  The later tune had not been played live in close to seven years! It was a rare one, my “Caspian white whale” up to this point.  I got it, they delivered and I clapped.  It was EXCELLENT!  “Riosco” followed and that is a gear shift song for the band.  Allows them to come up for air and boy they were going to need it we’d all find out.  “Gone in Bloom and Bough” was next and I’ve always been down the middle on this tune.  I like it, there was a time I couldn’t escape it live but was always sort of “ehh” on the first part, but it made up for my silly way of thinking in the second part.  Well, on this day that “second part” really took it to a new level.  Saxophonist John Aruda laid down this CRAZY good sax solo.  There are a few things in these last few sentences that I’d never thought I’d mention in a Caspian review but I assure you it was spectacular. (the second show was recorded by AudioTree Live and there is hopefully something that will come out of it…and I’ll call it now this clip will lead the charge with most watched).  How they could top that I was not sure, but it happened when they closed it all out with “Arcs of Command”.  I’ve always loved this tune and noticed that night its something I feel I hadn’t seem them do live that much, but maybe I am wrong?  It is an absolute banger of a song that keeps going and going and going.  By this point Caspian was well in to their usual whipping guitars around and just being so overtaken with the music.  When they hit that huge note (you know it) Arcs of Command  (6:23) I thought I was going to pass out due to blood loss to my face from smiling so hard.  Just an absolutely perfect set closer and terrific way to wrap up the matinee. 

The lone bummer was the band teased us, way too long before doing their curtain call.  Thought we had another song…but alas we did not.

We got to do it all over again!

The first show ended a bit after 5pm, so as promised we had about 1hr of the “sit down” then 1hr of the “standup” sets.  It was perfect length and of course I could sit here and wish for song XXX instead of XXX but it is nearly impossible to find a flaw in the first set so I was pleased.

Headed back to my car to drop some stuff off and then met with some other friends for dinner.  At this point my phone started to get active.  One of my favorite things about this band is how I have met, and share the love of this band with so many. To have had so many “where are you” texts to “lets meet for a beer/food” messages made the day even more special.  It was hard to connect with many, and everyone knew that I was doing both shows so they were pretty cool with “grab dinner where you are we will connect later” type messages.  Club shows are always fun with this crew as we can laugh, hi-five and carry on like the hard core fans we are.

Back in to the venue about 730. This show was a sell out and I had to get upstairs to my seat for this one.  So for set 2 I had a totally different view and sonic experience.  Front row at the stage sure is cool but knowing what I was about to see I was happy to be able to see it all again from another angle.

Here is my view before they took the stage:

The set list for the second show was identical.  The band had cleaned up some things on their end with some sound (I never noticed issues) and the evening show did sound better and seemed to flow a little better too.

The first of major differences though was the solo by Aruda during “Gone in Bloom and Bough”.  This put the first show to shame.  Aruda seemed to be given free reign and he took full advantage.  At times the smiles on Ashburn, Jamieson and Burke-Moran said it all.  It was really really something and I assure you if this performance sees the light of day to the masses it will be a game changer.
So the band wraps up and I think…that’s it…but no.  They return to the stage and Jamieson once again thanks us for attending and speaks about how special this day had been.  It would take a long time to put it all together and here I even sit at over 1500 words talking about it myself.  Jamieson then noted they had one more song and although the orchestra was not part of it he wanted them to share the stage and the band began “Castles High Marble Bright” which to me, is the very very best of Caspian.  I adore this song.  This is the song I tell new fans to check out.  This is the song to close their shows in my opinion.  No other piece of music in recent memory evokes so much emotion from me personally.  From the quiet simple beginning to the absolute wall of sound it ends with.  I sat in my front row balcony seat and watched..but come the end I had to stand and just erupt with the band.  I do not care.  Apologies to those that wanted to remain seated but this tune just does that to me.  I had a similar moment when the band performed this opening for Minus the Bear at the Paradise.  I spun to the couple behind me and said “I apologize for the next 8 or so minutes”.  They didn’t move and at the end when I spun back saying “thanks for being cool” they simply both said, almost in harmony “No…I get it”.

That was it.  A perfect evening came to a close.  The band was really cool about having some post show options for people to get together and mingle but after nearly my 8th hour and a good one hour + ride home it was time to call it a night.

The band hit a home run on these shows.  They pushed themselves to a new level, they challenged long time fans to come along for the ride and I am pretty sure the bandwagon is getting to capacity.

Set list
Set 1: Nagoya*, Ishmael* Hymn for the Greatest Generation, The Dove, ASA, Aeternum Vale, Dust and Diquiet, Division Blues
Set 2: Wildblood*, Flowers of Light*, High Lonesome, Hickory ’54, Rioseco, Gone in Bloom and Bough#, Arcs of Command
Encore (evening show only) – Castles High Marble Bright

* - new songs
# extended saxophone solo by John Aruda
all songs both sets excluding Castles had orchestra accompaniment.

Caspian release their new album “For Circles” on January 22, 2020.  You can do that pre-order stuff here.

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Friday, November 8, 2019

Love me some good news.

It has been a while since I’ve posted.  Interesting how many posts around here seem to start off that way.

Life has got in the way and Facebook as an example is a quick burst of getting a thought out to people, but it is nice to sometimes elaborate via a blog post.

I’ve been involved with a project at work for the last few months.  Like most things it has its ups and downs and now that it is live it has had its ups and downs as expected.  On top of all that I was tasked with another project for the same team.

Earlier this week I spent over 5hrs on a conference call, doing 98% of the speaking.  I don’t mind really.  It’s not that I love the sound of my voice, it’s just where I feel I can lock in to a groove and “go”.

Later in the week I had a conference call (not lead by me this time) and before it got started one of the upper managers from the previous project called me out.  “Thank you for all your time this week, it was very good and very informative”.  Always nice to hear and even a slight bit embarrassing so I followed up with “Thank you, I am glad I was able to help” to which was followed by them “I am not just saying that, you were great you should be proud of the job you did”.

That will stop you.

To break the ice I said “Is (my boss) on the line?”  Did (my boss) hear that?  It was met with laughter and a little more pleasantries which was really great.

As a trainer I do try to encourage people, especially the newer hires.  A quick “I am hearing good things about the job you are doing” can be a huge weight to lift for them.

It’s easy to go to the break room and slag off someone, but man I gotta tell you compliments feel way better to give.