Time to celebrate the first week of fall--asters are in bloom, the Texas Muhly (Muhlenbergia reverchonii) and the ornamental grasses simply glow in the late afternoon light. The waterlilies still look amazing and every garden has something visual to offer. Or take a walk at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield and enjoy nature and our working farm. Summer is over, and so is the 2012 Summer Concert Series at York Street and Chatfield. Please read these wonderful after-concert reviews from Denver Botanic Gardens member Rick Hum. And enjoy the stunning photos taken by Kate Battan, another member of the Gardens. Thank you, Rick and Kate, for these memories of another great summer of concerts.
B52s and Squeeze – These two energetic bands kicked off the concert series with a rockin’ hot time at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield while the smoke from fires in Wyoming kept the temperature from being too oppressive. B52s still deliver and are very entertaining. Squeeze is not as well known in this country as they are in the UK. Squeeze played great music with wonderful energy and fun.
Nanci Griffith and Greg Brown – This was the first show at Denver Botanic Gardens' York Street venue, and it was an absolutely perfect evening for a concert. Greg Brown and his guitar partner Bo Ramsey were very good. Greg writes incredibly interesting and cutting lyrics accompanied by fine guitar playing by the duo. Nanci Griffith thrilled the crowd both with great classics of her wonderful career and many songs from her new album Intersection. Pete and Maura Kennedy provided great accompaniment and support for Nanci. Their love for her was obvious.
Marc Cohn and Joan Osborne – Joan Osborne started off with a short but strong set. Marc Cohn and his band were good but displayed less energy than their previous performances at the Gardens; it could have been the rain, which was hard at times. Joan Osborne came back to sing a duet with Marc and that seemed to energize him.
Natalie Merchant and the Colorado Symphony - The symphony somehow packed thirty players on the stage leaving little room for Natalie to move around in her normal style. The orchestrations were wonderful and both the symphony and Merchant performed very well. Natalie was in full control conducting the conductor, wanting to arrange the stage and even turning off music stand lights after the musicians left. During the second half of her set, she sang with a smaller group and then a duet with her guitarist, Gabriel Gordon. The crowd was very responsive to her musical selections and it was a wonderful evening.
Al Green and Hazel Miller – It was great to see the Hazel Miller Band at the Gardens. She is a perennial Denver area favorite. The band and Hazel were on the stage and ready to go playing wonderful upbeat blues that got the crowd going early. Hazel was resplendent in a beautiful black dress and fancy red shoes. Al Green had a stage full of great musicians. Two of the backup singers were his daughters; they seemed to be enjoying the tour. Al Green’s voice is still strong and beautiful with incredible range. He is an ultimate showman and woos the ladies by throwing long-stemmed red roses to the crowd.
Mary Chapin Carpenter and Tift Merritt - Tift Merritt started the show in a black dress, her great voice and subtle guitar playing. She is a powerful presence on stage for a demure lady. Mary Chapin played most of the songs from her new album, Ashes and Roses, as well as her biggest hits. She seemed to be enjoying the evening and she and her band played so well together. It was a beautiful evening with great music and such fun dancing.
Diana Krall and Denzal Sinclaire – Denzal Sinclaire has a great voice nicely showcased with his mellow keyboard playing and bass accompaniment. Diana Krall was incredible. The jazz quartet featuring longtime sidemen guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton was wonderful. Krall left lots of space for each of these fine musicians to show how good they are. Diana’s vocals were excellent and her jazz piano playing was outstanding.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Johnny Clegg Band – Ladysmith Black Mambazo started the show with their incredible multi-part a cappella vocal blends. They use no instruments, only vocals, but they provide a wide variety of sounds, which could make you think there are some hidden musicians or at least percussion. The Johnny Clegg Band came onstage and lifted the tempo, the volume, and the crowd to its feet. In addition to the great music, he told some very touching stories about the people for whom the songs were written. The whole band not only provided great music, but also provided a lively stage presence that got the crowd up and dancing.
Shawn Colvin and Loudon Wainwright III – It was another beautiful evening. Loudon Wainwright III was very entertaining with his great songs, fascinating humor and wonderful stories. He was in the middle of reading a story by Loudon Wainwright, Jr. (his father) about the family dog written in the 1940’s when there was a commotion in the upper southeast corner of the amphitheater. A young woman was performing CPR on a member of the audience. Loudon III stopped his story and many rushed to provide assistance. The EMTs arrived and took the gentleman off on a gurney. All were pleased to see him sitting up and breathing into an oxygen mask. Shawn Colvin came on after a short pause and rearrangement of the stage. She looked great and performed extremely well. At one point she acknowledged an audience request and brought Loudon back out to finish reading the dog story. They sang a couple of songs beautifully together and Colvin announced before her short encore that the man was doing well in the hospital and would probably be released the next day. Shawn Colvin has always been a great songwriter but on this occasion she also was a comfortable, confident and accomplished performer.
Kenny Loggins and Gretchen Peters - Gretchen Peters and her husband Barry Walsh led off the show nice and early. The crowd was attentive and responsive, but was waiting for Kenny Loggins and when he took the stage the crowd responded warmly. He and The Blue Sky Riders started off with many of Loggins’ well-known hits with the crowd ready and willing to sing along. As the show progressed they played more of their new music, filling the dance floor. Kenny Loggins still has a great stage presence and The Blue Sky Riders is a great band and well matched vocally with Kenny Loggins.
Wynonna & The Big Noise – Wynonna is a dominant stage presence. She sang, played and conversed with the audience. Her drummer and new husband Cactus Moser seemed to be having a great time with his mother (from Olathe) present in the audience. Her band The Big Noise is a strong group, but Wynonna owned center stage only allowing glimpses of the other members. Unfortunately, Wynonna and Cactus were riding separate motorcycles near Deadwood, South Dakota the next day when Cactus drifted into an oncoming car. He had his left leg amputated and had surgery on his left hand. We all hope that after rehab he will be back on the stage with Wynonna.
Gipsy Kings – It was a perfect day and evening for a concert. The Gipsy Kings played their unique style and got the crowd moving early. The music was wonderful, up-beat dance music. There were six guitars playing on most songs (three played left-handed but strung as right-handed guitars). There was no narrative with the music but lots of raised hands and signaling to show which of the guitar players had played the lead. The crowd enjoyed the music, but was a little disappointed about the early finish (8:45 p.m.) with no encore.
Bruce Hornsby & the Noise Makers with Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers - Nicki Bluhm is a beautiful stage presence. Her husband and producer Tim Bluhm played keyboards and guitar. Deren Ney is such a wonderful lead/slide guitarist. Dave Mulligan had his trademark huge grin throughout the show. They were a great warm-up act for Bruce Hornsby. Despite Hornsby’s struggles with his piano amplification and his derision of the curfew, he gave an incredible show. The Noisemakers are wonderful musicians, especially the rhythm section of J.V. Collier (6-string bass) and Sonny Emory (drums and washboard). They played old songs, new songs, even a couple of Bob Weir and Grateful Dead songs. What an incredible evening of music – right up to 9:30 p.m. on the dot.
Buddy Guy and Robert Randolph & the Family Band - Robert Randolph & the Family Band were energetic, teleporting Jimmy Hendrix-style acid rock. They got the crowd up and dancing in anticipation of Buddy Guy. Buddy played many of his classic blues hits as well as his favorites written by other blues greats such as Eric Clapton. Buddy was dressed to a tee, down to a suit that coordinated with his guitar. He was bemoaning the dearth of modern artists interested in playing the blues and keeping the genre fresh and vibrant these days.
Pat Metheny Unity Band – Pat Metheny is arguably the best American virtuoso guitar player. He demonstrated his genius as both a guitar player and a musical innovator. He started the show with a solo on his pikasso (42-string guitar) and played much of the new Unity album. The quartet (sax great Chris Potter, long-time Metheny drummer Antonio Sanchez and 24year-old bassist Ben Williams) played remarkably tight, given the short time they have been together. Pat also played duets with each member of the band and a solo with his orchestrion. The band finished with a Pat Metheny Group favorite, followed by a solo acoustic number before bringing the band back for a final third encore.
- Rick Hum thanks Brantley Halstead, Karen Ortiz, Gary Snyder and Sue Ann Lee for their helpful suggestions in editing this summary.
- The Gardens would especially like to thank you, Rick, for sending us the concert artist blog posts throughout the summer so we could post here on our blog.