Dave Stewart – Nashville – Live 9th December 2010
Review by Steve Gayler
Before we set the review off, you should visit www.theblackbirddiaries.com website, login and have the music playing in the background, Dave has kindly put some extensive samples of the tracks on his album online for you to listen to.
Having never been to Nashville before, i didn’t know what to expect, its such a vibrant and exciting town, its not that big, the people are so friendly, and everywhere you look there’s someone singing on a street corner or in a bar downtown.
The Belcourt Theatre is tucked away off a side street in the west end of Nashville, and from the outside is freshly decorated, the only signs that Dave Stewart is playing there tonight is a small poster in one window and a handwritten note in the box office window saying the concert is sold out.
The venue, formerly known as The Hillsboro Theatre, opened in 1925 as a silent picture house, and is an amazingly intimate venue, it changed its name in 1966 to The Belcourt, and has 2 main performance rooms that still show films today. More importantly in the history of the venue it was also the home of The Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee that has presented the biggest stars of the genre since 1925.
The staff were very welcoming as we arrive for rehearsals, lorries are being unloaded, packing trunks emptied, camera’s being setup to record the show, John McBride is in situ behind his mixing desk and a few people from Weapons Of Mass Entertainment and Surfdog are checking everything is going to plan.
A small merchandise stand is being setup with the T-Shirts Dave recently put on sale on his website as well as 2 different posters, one of the album cover, and a black and white photo of Dave performing. Dave arrives in his limo with his wife Anoushka and begins to plan his entrance for the evening, and asks for a few things to be changed at the front so he can get further out to the audience. The band arrive, instruments are quickly unpacked, and the soundcheck begins.
Dave has been in town for a few days and rehearsals have gone really well at Martina and John McBride’s recording studios, The Blackbird Studios, in fact Dave has recorded more songs! The soundcheck lasts for 2 hours, and all the songs are played through that don’t have a guest singer, final adjustments are made to the stage and the soundcheck is over. Dave comes down off the stage and chats to a few people before starting a TV interview sat in one of the seats in the theatre.
Once finished he comes out and chats to myself, Eduardo who had won Dave’s Twitter competition and had flown in from Mexico, and Danny who had come in from New York. Gifts are exchanged, Dave hands us each a copy of The Blackbird Diaries on vinyl and signs them for us, and then proceeds to autograph all of the posters that are on sale.
We chat for a while before Dave leaves to have some rest and something to eat. We are then given our backstage passes and a surprise invitation to an intimate private party after the show, a few miles from the venue. After getting something to eat, we return to the venue at 6.45, a queue is already forming outside, and there is a definite buzz in the air, the venue takes on a different atmosphere at night time, the stage lighting has been completed and as the venue quickly fills up, we take our seats in anticipation of what we are about to hear.
Of course a name like Dave Stewart can only bring out the best audience as well. The audience was full of today’s biggest Country Stars including Lady Antebellum, Big and Rich the American country music duo composed of Big Kenny and John Rich, famous Nashville producers like Tony Brown. Basically it was the Nashville who’s who.
The band take their positions on stage quickly, and before we know it Dave has launched into the first track, So Long Ago. The band assembled by Dave is the same band that recorded the album with him in August of 2010.
They are some of the most esteemed musicians in Nashville. See here for our previous post
Tom Bukovac (Faith Hill, Chicago, Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow ) played Electric Guitar, and is described by Dave as a thumping, slamming rhythm machine.
The legendary Dan Dugmore (Neil Diamon, Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift and Linda Ronstadt) played lap steel guitar. Dan has a song written about him called “My Steely Dan”. Dave says that its like being caught in a cross fire between Hendrix and Jeff Beck when he plays.
Chad Cromwell (Neil Young, Crosby Stills and Nash) played drums and according to Dave has a heart like a lion and a motor like a jaguar, nothing he plays is pedestrian, the man is mighty.
Michale Rhodes on bass plays with a who’s who of country (Faith Hill, Randy Travis and Dixie Chicks), and is described by Dave as having a mind blowing knowledge of music from British phsychadelic to R&B.
The final member of the Nashville band is Mike Rojas on keyboards (Hank Williams Jnr, Patty Loveless and Wynona Judd) and won the top keyboard category in the Academy of Country Music awards in 2005. Dave says that he sprinkles melodic motifs in between melodies and riffs that would be stuck in your head for days.
Ann Marie Calhoun on violins is one of Dave’s Factory Girls signed to Weapons Of Mass Entertainment The backing vocals were provided by the amazing Amy Keys who has played with Dave for a number of years now, and can be relied upon for her powerhouse performances and 2 other local vocalists completed the lineup.
As the lights went down we were asked not to use any flash photography because the concert was being filmed, in fact they used 8 camera’s to capture the event, so someone will have a big job in the editing suite afterwards, so apologies that the photos are not as good as they could have been!
So Long Ago is special for Dave as it was the first track on the album to be recorded in Nasville, and set the path for the album, amazingly, it was recorded live in one take, and this bluesy number set the direction of the evening. Dave looked on fire and was totally in the groove, his smile gave his feelings away, he was back exactly where he belongs, on stage, with an amazing band, thumping out some amazing tunes, everything had gone up a level from the soundcheck, and the rest of the band were on this ride with Dave.
The next track was one of my favourites on the album, Magic In The Blues, Dave’s vocals were faultless, his voice sounding velvety, yet very powerful. Dave played Play With Fire, which was a new song to me but I believe it was a Rolling Stones track, followed by another new cut from the album, Worth The Waiting For which had been written some time ago with Bob Dylan, and then as a nod to Dylan, went straight into the Dylan classic, Like A Rolling Stone.
The pace was brought back down a notch with my second favourite track, One Way Ticket To The Moon, featuring Michael Rhodes on the accordion, the album featured The Secret Sisters on vocals, but this was covered with ease by Amy Keys and the girls.
Next up was a Beast Called Fame, another tight strong performance, followed by the first of 5 Eurythmics tracks, Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves with Amy Keys taking lead vocals with determined aplomb, and delivered a totally convincing version of song, almost as if the song was meant for her. The first guest singer of the evening, the stunning Martina McBride, took to the stage, the album was recorded in her and her husband John’s studios just a few miles from the venue. Martina is often referred to as the Celine Dion of Country Music for her big voiced ballads and soprano range, and put her talents to great use on the the track All Messed Up.
You could see the bond that Dave and Martina have had over the last few months in this performance, filled with so much passion, and well received by the Nashville audience. I’m sure that it is not often you get to see Martina McBride play such an intimate venue. It was Anne Marie’s turn to shine as the instantly recognisable staccato intro from Here Comes The Rain Again played out, with Martina McBride taking the lead vocals, the band delivered a robust version of the track, and was interesting to hear the ever so slight country edge the song had acquired. Dave then introduced the next song, Mind Games, (Not On The Setlist) as a dedication to one of his favourite songwriters of all time, John Lennon and whose 30th anniversary of his murder had just been commemorated in New York. Fans had an idea of Dave’s love for this song as he recently posted a version of this song on YouTube, and it almost seemed Dave was channelling John Lennon, there were so many similarities in their voices. This led neatly into one of Dave’s favourite tracks to play live, Don’t Come Around Here No More, a song he worked on originally with Tom Petty.
As many of you will now, Dave Stewart has been working on Stevie Nicks’s new album, in fact she appears on a track on The Blackbird Diaries, although it is not on the first edition print run of the LP. The next track Stevie Baby is Dave’s tribute to her. Dave and Stevie go back many years, in fact there is a great story in his book, The Dave Stewart Songbook. It makes the lines “Stevie Baby, I’ve Got A Lot Of Things To Say To You, and It Took One Second, Just One Kiss, To Realize All The Things I’d Miss.” seem so more pertinent.
Bullet Proof Vest, was next, performed with Colbie Caillet on the album as a tender duet, but she couldnt get to Nashville as she was performing live at the Nobel Peace Ceremony in Norway, but the vocalist, Sarah Buxton, who contributed backing vocals to the album took her place admirably. It was a very tender performance about the hurt that love can bring, and the defences people put up to stop getting hurt, and how difficult it can be for a lover to break those barriers back down again.
The Gypsy Girl and Me an autobiographical song from Dave’s past, one of the faster paced tracks challenged Dave to keep up with the band as the lyrics are delivered pretty quickly, but again it is such a fun and sexy song, another small insight into the life of a rock star! And to the final song of the set, the Eurythmics classic Would I Lie To You, the whole audience were on their feet for the song, and Amy Keys belted out the vocals so effortlessly, the band left to a huge standing ovation and cries for more. Content goes here
We didn’t have to wait long, the band returned for the final 3 songs. Dave introduced the song Country Wine with a story that he’d been in Nashville all this time recording the album, but what he hadn’t done was recorded a Country song, the band had looked at each nervously, as they’d heard all this before, people coming to Nashville to record a country song and getting it all wrong. Dave asked for a few minutes and came back having written the song, and it was recorded very quickly, like the rest of the album had been. It is the most Country sounding of the tracks, and was great to hear Dave pushing the boundaries of his own comfort zone. Most importantly the Nashville audience received the song well and showed their appreciation with another standing ovation.
Those unmistakable bars of Sweet Dreams kept the audience standing, but what was great about this arrangement was Dave taking the vocals throughout the song, the slowed down tempo, almost along the lines of the Marilyn Manson version of the song, I love hearing how Dave and Annie can keep reinventing the same song, and boy did this deliver, building and building to a frenzied explosion at the end, and linking straight into another chance for Amy to take centre stage as Missionary Man was sung, Dave took some of the vocals with a robotic style voice which again added another new dimension to the song.
But all too soon, the gig was over, the band left the stage, after 19 songs, we hung around in the venue to hear what people were saying, I only heard positive comments, a lot of people had come out of curiosity, some had come to see Martina McBride, but the overwhelming comments were that people had been blown away by what they had seen and heard.
We were lucky to go back stage, or rather, under the stage as was the case, everyone was down there, and we were able to chat with various members of the band, and grab a quick drink, but it wasn’t long before we got onto a bus for the short ride to the after show party at The Patterson House.
A relatively new addition to Nashville, but one with a strong reputation for its food and unique style of cocktails served over filtered ice balls, something I’d never seen before! We were presented with a range of finger food and the most amazing Dave Stewart related Cocktail Menu, it seemed rude not to try a few! You can see them all on the picture, Dave Stewart’s Blackbird Martini – was pretty mindblowingly strong, The Surfdog, All Messed Up, Beast Called Fame, Bulletproof Whiskey Smash, Gypsy Girl Margarita and the Champagne Cocktail.
We stayed at the venue until about 3am and left soon after Dave and Anoushka did, there were no more performances or jam sessions, everyone just seemed happy to have been at the concert and to have been part of something very special delivered by the creative genius that is Dave Stewart. Thanks Dave for some wonderful memories! Visit The Blackbird Diaries website to find out and listen to more. Here’s a gallery of photos taken by Kirstin Burns and sent to us by Dave Stewart.
The evening has been filmed and Dave has told us that the footage and audio have come out really well, something to look forward to later next year when it’s released on DVD.
I’d just like to end by thanking Dave once again for his kindness and his generosity