A Blue Night In Vegas: Blue October, People In Planes And Bril
House of Blues, Las Vegas, NV, April 15, 2006
Under the blue skies of Las Vegas, Nevada, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino towers on the horizon and gleams golden in the sunlight. Its opulent, cold marble halls are trimmed in glitter and bright lights and it contains yet another infamous House of Blues. I hate to fly, but my trip on the plane during the Easter Holiday was made worthwhile by the grandeur of Las Vegas and an amazing show ... Blue October, People In Planes and Bril.
After winning a few dollars I left the casino and headed inside HOB with the rest of the pack. The room lights dimmed, the curtain lifted and the stage stood waiting bathed in deep blue light. Bril took their places and began to play. Unfamiliar with the band, I was in for an awesome surprise. All their songs were polished, pure alternative rock. Dave's vox reminded me of a young Tom Petty with smooth vocals transitions. At first the crowd was disinterested, but Bril turned their heads as "Far Away" started with an enticing rock beat. The crowd cheered and clapped for this up-and-coming band that well earned the spotlight.
Next up was People in Planes. This band comes from Wales, UK, and has a progressive alternative rock sound. They began with "For Miles Around (Scratch The Void)." A sharp, wide beat started out this sweeping song. Gareth Jones' clear, controlled, mature vocals sound a bit like Robert Plant but his vox are definitely, uniquely his own and one of the best in the new generation of musicians out now.
A slow guitar intro mixed with Ian Russell's keyboard and ambient sounds as "Light For A Deadvine" began. Then Kris Blight's bass and the drums kick in with a brisk, infectious beat and Gareth began to sing in a light tone that grew more intense. By the time the words "Give me some, recognition/Give me some, light for the deadvine…" reached a crescendo, I heard a collective gasp from the people behind me and someone whispered "oh my God." I stopped to watch then quickly returned to snapping pics of Gareth bathed in red lights as he took the crowd through the auditory adventure of this potent and engrossing piece. Next they performed the popping and quirky "Rush," which was followed by the angry high energy of "Moth."
Slow, bluesy ambient sounds and guitars intermixed as Gareth's tambourine established a beat and ushered in the progressive "Penny." Gareth's vox led the way as the energy built and John Maloney pounded out an intricate beat that merged to the forefront. Then the amazing Pete Roberts' lead guitar slowly grabbed my attention and he powered out an intense hot lick in the red and purple lights. The tambourine beat hard, Pete moved to the front of the stage and the crowd screamed as a liquid acid sound flowed from his guitar. A white spotlight dropped down on John as he assaulted the drums and the tension grew. Gareth grabbed the mike with both hands, his leg shaking hard to the beat, he harmonized with Pete then leaned his head back in the aqua lights and held the last word for the longest time "I'm a machine/ But I'm a funny colour…" The crowd roared when they were done.
Ryan Delahoussaye, the violinist from Blue October, joined PIP in "Falling by the Wayside." A softly played guitar and the violin began this haunting lament. Gareth strummed his strings. His voice was perfect, like magic in this piece. Under blue and purple lights Ryan and Kris performed a specially arranged and beautiful riff that drew a cheer from the crowd as they churned to the beat.
Their best known and hit song, "If You Talk Too Much," was up next. This piece began with a boy's choir, then Pete stepped up to the edge of the stage as the guitar intro kicked in. During the chorus Gareth sang "If you talk too much my head will explode…" and Pete's smooth vox echoed back the words. Flashing white lights led into deep red as the pressure and energy in the song rose. There were so many instrumental and vocal layers to this piece that many people in the crowd stood there with their mouths open looking rather stunned. They were shaken out of their state and started screaming as Pete once again stepped up to the edge of the stage, the stark white lights flashed faster and his hands became a blur. He head banged and performed an unbelievably fast flaming lick that flew into the ending chorus. The crowd went crazy, cheering with their hands in the air.
People in Planes' final song of the night was "Barracuda." This song exemplifies what I love about PIP: their music flows as if you're on a journey with them, all the musicians in the band are at the peak of their craft, Gareth and Pete's harmonies seem like one voice and Pete's lead guitar becomes an extension of them both. Red and blue flickering lights accompanied a trippy guitar lick and brought in Gareth's steely vox, which were tinged with the inflection of fearful stress. It was almost like you could feel the barracuda hunting him down. He was now dripping with sweat and his right leg was stomping to the relentless beat. Multicolored lights began to whirl, Gareth leaned his head back and his voice soared upward. Then, as if in an attempt to calm the room, his vox dropped softly to "Let the cats into the bag/And simmer down…" but the heat of the song was unstoppable and the stage exploded in flashing light. John's drums thundered, piercing notes poured out of Pete's guitar as he wildly jumped up and down with the crowd in the strobes and Gareth belted out a final powerful chorus. Their set was done and the audience erupted in a fierce applause as they whistled and hollered their approval.
The set change allowed me to catch my breath before Blue October took the stage. The house was packed and their fans were beaming with pride. Justin had the audience in the palm of his hand as he walked up to the edge of the stage and began "You Make Me Smile." The crowd roared. The unusual harmonic sound of his voice softy delivered this yearning love song.
Ryan's violin played a slow, clear and mournful intro to "What If We Could." The pace quickened as the beat kicked in. Justin Furstenfeld started this song out in a hushed tone then a count of four was heard, bright red, yellow and white lights flashed and the vocals became steadily louder. The changing colors grew more intense and confused as the song progressed then suddenly the instrumentals stopped and Justin softly cooed, "You're a superstar in my eyes…" then he dropped down low to the ground as the instrumentals slowed. He gradually stood up as the song steadily climbed back upward. Now agitated he screamed into the mic "My eyes/My eyes…" and head banged as Jeremy Furstenfeld's drums pounded overall and the final chorus rang out. The audience went absolutely crazy.
"Into the Ocean" began with Justin and C.B. Hudson harmonizing as he played his guitar. This song is basically about being overwhelmed in the sea of life. On a blue and purple lit stage Justin paced back and forth, he stopped and leaned out towards the crowd, waving his hand and sang "Let the rain of what I feel right now/Come down/ Let the rain come down…" The ocean of people in front of him, were swaying to the beat and sang the words with him. The harmonies were perfect. Justin leaned his head over Ryan's violin as it sweetly played and the song drew to an end.
The battle against the dark side within raged with "Drilled a Wire Through My Cheek." Jeremy established a heavy, relentless drum beat. Justin's voice inflected with an angry secret, attitude started in. He dropped to his knees and sang with passion as his body rocked softly, he stood back up and cried "So drill it/ drill it…" then he leaned over the crowd and screamed. Ryan stood on the edge of the stage and slammed his body back and forth playing his violin in the vivid purple, green and red lights. The crowd was beating their fists in the air and head banging away. In a deep red glow, Justin turned his back on the audience, put his hands on his hips and watched as Jeremy's drums drew this bloody song to a close with a fury.
When the first notes of the guitar were struck the audience let out a collective scream. A mother's voice mail message was barely heard beneath the din as "Hate Me" began. This hit song has captured a nation. Justin played an acoustic guitar as he sang, shook his head and let out an emotional "Hate me today…" He put his hands behind his back and then drew one out, pointed a finger, put it to his head and pulled the imaginary trigger while delivering the line "You never doubted my warped opinions on things like suicidal hate…" Streaming columns of white light whirled against a blue lit stage and Ryan's violin brought the spectacle to a calm bringing the song to an end. The crowd went buggy.
"Come in Closer" was instantly recognized by an appreciative audience that by now was beating their fists in the air. Justin held his arms out to the side and whirled while he sang. As the song ended he put his hands in his pockets and took the last word through a long, cool vocal run. Next, driven by Matt Noveskey's bass, "Overweight" took over the room and when it was done Justin said "Thank you very much, I had a good time" and the band left.
An empty stage stood in the purple and red lights, the crowd screamed and begged for more and they got it as the band returned and with "18th Floor Balcony." C.B. sat and played an acoustic guitar as the first words of this peaceful love song were sung. Ryan's violin was soon added and a rich soundscape filled the room as all the musicians joined in. A physical performer, Justin gently motioned to the audience, bent downward and slowly rose during the softly sweet "Flying away…" vocal run. His performance was so moving I must admit that it brought tears to my eyes. They finished the night with the "X-Amount of Words" and the show was over.
This was one of those captivating concerts where the vocalist and musicians didn't miss a note. The straight alternative rock of Bril, the pure, visionary and immersive sound of People In Planes and the introspective, poignant and epic music of Blue October made this concert well rounded and an outstanding event that I will never forget. Get the ticket, go to the show, buy the albums and go see these rising stars of the musical realm before you have to strain to see them through binoculars in a huge arena.
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