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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014

Fri
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Sat
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Sun
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Lo: 72
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Sleigh Bells' Alexis Krauss sings Wednesday night at Turner Hall.
Sleigh Bells' Alexis Krauss sings Wednesday night at Turner Hall. (Photo: CJ Foeckler)
The band returned to Milwaukee with material from their 2012 album, "Reign of Terror" as well as music from their previous release, "Treats."
The band returned to Milwaukee with material from their 2012 album, "Reign of Terror" as well as music from their previous release, "Treats." (Photo: CJ Foeckler)

Sleigh Bells stage a memorable return to Milwaukee

Two years ago, Sleigh Bells came to Milwaukee for a sold-out show at The Mad Planet, a venue that was far too small for their popularity. On Wednesday night, Sleigh Bells returned to the Brew City and performed at the larger Turner Hall Ballroom.

The duo behind Sleigh Bells, Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller, were joined by an additional guitarist for the tour. The band played in front of two giant sets of speakers and utilized a wide variety of lighting tricks, the most common of which was a strobe effect. Krauss, wearing a sleeveless shirt that cautioned "PARENTAL ADVISORY: Explicit Content," lived up to that warning by asking the crowd "How the f*ck are you doing tonight, Wisconsin!?"

Krauss also took time to look back at the memorable Mad Planet show from 2010, inquiring which fans in attendance had also made it to that show. "That was f*cking crazy! This one goes out to you guys, thanks for coming back!" That served as the introduction to "Comeback Kid," the single from their 2012 album, "Reign of Terror." While their 2010 show lasted just over a half hour, Sleigh Bells doubled that length on Wednesday, exhausting material from "Reign of Terror" and their previous release, "Treats."

Toward the end of the loud concert, one fan tossed a package of Pop Tarts on stage, which Krauss acknowledged with appreciation and indicated she would enjoy later. This bizarre moment was appropriate for a crowd composed of many of the area's hipsters. Also enhancing the unique atmosphere was a fan who brought two hula hoops into the Turner Hall Ballroom and utilized them for an impressive performance art-esque dance routine.

The final song of the evening was "A/B Machines," and Krauss made it a memorable closer by inviting female fans in the front row to join her on stage. As fans were pulled up, they immediately sprang to their feet to jump around and dance. As the song started to reach its conclusion, more fans snuck their way on to the stage, including a few fel…

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Frontman John Darnielle performs with the Mountain Goats Tuesday night at The Pabst.
Frontman John Darnielle performs with the Mountain Goats Tuesday night at The Pabst. (Photo: Erik Ljung)
The band played Milwaukee in support of its new album, "Transcendental Youth."
The band played Milwaukee in support of its new album, "Transcendental Youth." (Photo: Erik Ljung)
Musician Matthew E. White (right) and his seven-piece band opened the concert.
Musician Matthew E. White (right) and his seven-piece band opened the concert. (Photo: Erik Ljung)

Mountain Goats play a "transcendental" set at The Pabst

Touring in support of their latest release, "Transcendental Youth," the Mountain Goats performed at the Pabst Theater Tuesday night.

The Mountain Goats opened their show with "Love Love Love" from their fantastic 2005 album "The Sunset Tree." Unfortunately, for the first three numbers of the set, Peter Hughes' bass was disproportionately high in the mix and drowned out some of the vocals. This included both "Until I Am Whole" and their performance of the opening track from the new album, "Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1."

After the latter song, frontman John Darnielle expressed his joy that those surrounding the stage liked the new album enough to know the words to the song.

While the general admission show was contained within the first level of The Pabst, it was clear that those in attendance appreciated the music and Darnielle's unique charms. Unlike most performers who might introduce a song as being about a single topic such as love, Darnielle uses vivid language to explain specifically what the song is about.

Darnielle's song introductions were fascinating because of this element of unpredictability. For example, before the band played "First Few Desperate Hours," Darnielle explained that the song was about the first moments when one realizes they are going to get a divorce, but having to remain patient for it to come like a child waiting for the Easter Bunny.

Most of the concert featured the core trio of the Mountain Goats: Darnielle, Hughes and drummer Jon Wurster. However, throughout the show, the band mixed up the configuration so Darnielle performed on his own, as well as just with Hughes or Wurster. During this shift when the full band wasn't on stage, the song that garnered the biggest reaction from the audience was "You Were Cool." This song is a cult favorite since the Mountain Goats have never released it on any of their albums, making it a "live-only" specialty.

The Mountain Goats also spiced up their lineup by adding a three-piece horn secti…

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Jackson Browne played an all-request show at The Riverside Sunday night.
Jackson Browne played an all-request show at The Riverside Sunday night. (Photo: Melissa Miller)
Opener Sara Watkins provided her violin and vocals on a number his songs during his set.
Opener Sara Watkins provided her violin and vocals on a number his songs during his set. (Photo: Melissa Miller)

Jackson Browne gives The Riverside a customized night of rock and roll

On Sunday night, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jackson Browne performed a nice sample of his vast catalog of music at the Riverside Theater.

After opening the show with "Black and White," Browne indicated that this show would be a bit of a free-for-all, meaning that audience members were free to yell out whatever requests they had. This format created an air of unpredictability, since it seemed like Browne was sincerely going along based off of whichever request he heard that he found to be most appropriate.

Since Browne wasn't touring in support of any new release, that meant no unwanted tunes were shoe-horned in, and instead the audience got to hear most of their favorites. Browne would bounce back between the piano and the guitar, consistently backed by a drummer and guitarist, and occasionally accompanied by bass and violin.

Occasionally there would be outliers among the audience requests in between songs. In one case, a fan asked Browne to wish happy birthday to one of the members of their party, which he obliged. At one point he was hit with such a big wave of requests that he remarked, "There's kind of art to calling out for these songs, don't you think?" Not surprisingly, someone thought it was still funny to request "Freebird," but Browne turned the tables by singing the opening lines of the song while playing the piano.

Impressively, the clean-shaven Browne has aged very well, and does not look all that different than he did when he started his solo career about 40 years ago. More importantly, his voice has remained the same. While the request format limited his banter with the audience, he still found moments to pick his spots. Before launching into "Redneck Friend," Browne segued into the tune by declaring, "You got some rednecks in Wisconsin, you know that?"

One of the two band members that played with Browne the entire night was guitarist Val McCallum. About mid-way through Browne's set, McCallum was given center stage and performed …

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Adam Ant performed at Turner Hall Ballroom Sunday night.
Adam Ant performed at Turner Hall Ballroom Sunday night. (Photo: Robert Kenney)

Adam Ant brings Turner Hall a welcome blast from the past

Adam Ant's U.S. tour made its way to Milwaukee Sunday night at the Turner Hall Ballroom, almost eight months after the original scheduled date was postponed. Even though the calendar read 2012, the whole night felt straight out of the mid-'80s.

After his band came on stage to the avant-garde track "Rock 'n' Roll Station" by Nurse With Wound, Ant followed but turned his back to the audience during the opening number of the set. Finally at the song's conclusion, Ant turned – dramatically – revealing his face for the first time and drawing instant applause and cheers.

Ant wore an outfit modeled on what he wore on the cover of the album "Prince Charming," looking like a cross between a French Revolution soldier, Captain Jack Sparrow and the '90s-era Milwaukee Admirals logo. Throughout the show, he stripped away elements of this outfit, ultimately revealing an Adam Ant 2012 U.S. Tour T-shirt. He even did a Hulk Hogan-esque move and ripped the top of this T-shirt, essentially turning it into a v-neck that revealed more of his chest.

The entire show was full of Ant prancing and preening, and based on the catcalls, he still has a niche audience to play to. After a number of songs, he would remove a handkerchief from his back pocket to wipe off his sweat. He then would dangle it and toyed with the audience like he was going to toss it to a lucky fan before putting it back in his pocket.

Unfortunately for him, only two songs into the night, after he had twirled the microphone stand around and strutted with confidence, Ant dropped the mic. The song didn't suffer from the mistake since this was during an instrumental portion, but it took Ant a couple of seconds to find where the mic had landed. Being a pro, Ant didn't let this accident stifle his antics the rest of the night.

While Ant did preview his upcoming album, due out around the end of the year, the biggest audience reactions were to songs from his catalog between Adam and the Ants and his solo career.

I…

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