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- Styx: June 6, 1997

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- Tommy Shaw:  7 Deadly Zens
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Shaw/Blades
with Murph
A Concert Review

November 16, 2007

Joe's Sports Bar

Chicago, IL

A Review by
The Dude on the Right
Dude Note:  As I sometimes tend to do for concert reviews I get long-winded and maybe give you more about the experience than you really care to read about.  If all you want is to read about the show itself, it's in the The Best, Acoustic, Bar Band in the World: Shaw/Blades section of this review.  Otherwise, happy reading!

The Trials and Tribulations Photographers Go Through
As fan of live music, Joeís is as good as any venue to see a show, and I was really looking forward to seeing Shaw/Blades there. As a photographer, though, Joeís is tricky because there isnít a photo pit so you have three options: Push your way to the front of the crowd and probably piss off fans who got there when the doors opened who may or may not let you in their spot for a few songs; Shoot from the back of the venue; or get there when the doors open, about two hours before the headliner comes on, to secure your spot against the stage. Sadly I was one car crash (not mine) from getting there when the doors opened.

So after way too long in traffic, I eventually made my way to Joeís, let the valet take my car (which proved to be a mistake), and found myself about three deep away from the stage, with an hour and half before showtime. The thing was, at first, it wasnít bad because it seemed like it was a shorter-than-me convention of people in front of me, with the average height about 5í5", and with my gargantuan tallness of 5í10" I could easily shoot pictures over them. To the right of me was a cute dudette about my height, but so far she wasnít a problem, until the 6í2" boyfriend of the girl in front of me showed up, and suddenly all of my camera sightlines were gone. Eavesdropping on conversations now, wondering if I would have to schmooze my way a little closer, the dudette next to me seemed really happy to be so close to the stage. Then, to my surprise, her boyfriend drug her away, to hang with his friend in the back, and suddenly there I was, technically in the second row, with a nice sightline on the Jack Bladesí side. I suppose Iíll have to see them again (which I would happily do) to get decent pictures of Tommy Shaw.

Now it was just time to wait, see the opening singer dude simply named Murph, and then, when Shaw/Blades started, the photographer in me simply said "Why does Jack get the red spotlight and Tommy get the white spot? God I hate red spotlights." But first Murph.

A Dude Simply Named "Murph"
So 8:30 rolls around, and after earlier finding out Murph was opening for Shaw/Blades I wondered what he would be about, and it turns out Murph likes to do covers, from the 80ís and the 90ís, just him and his acoustic guitar, only he does covers you donít normally hear. There was some "Down Under" by Men at Work, "Donít Stop Believiní" from Journey, and the crowd did their "tee hee" parts during Michael Jacksonís "Billy Jean." When "Jessieís Girl" started one of the cute dudettes in the dudette pack next to me got a little too excited, spilling her friendís drink on their jackets which they decided that the bar floor was the best place to store them, but the highlight of the evening was, as Murph put it, the most romantic song ever, and he proceeded to play the Adam Sandburg/Justin Timberlake smash, "Dick in a Box." Howís that for a cover!?!

Intermixed with the those covers, Murph played an original, which sounded pretty good, and my advice to Murph is that as much as you were spotlighting cover songs to keep the crowd into you for your 45 minute set, you could easily have dropped "No Woman, No Cry," and spotlighted another of your tunes. Itís Two Thumbs Up for Murph.

The Best, Acoustic, Bar Band in the World: Shaw/Blades
As Murph was done with his set it was time for an intimate setting to be created for one Tommy Shaw and one Jack Blades. The microphone stands (complete with groovy swag) were set; the stools were placed properly; the couches were ready for fans to get an on-stage experience; incense was lit, as were some candles; travel mugs, simply labeled "J B" and "T S", with a steaming beverage, were placed on their respective end tables; an intro video was played; and out came Jack, Tommy, and Will Evankovich (for some background guitar and vocal support). They took their respective stools and kicked into exactly why the fans were there Ė hearing fabulous harmonies and acoustic guitar work on rock classics many have grown to love through the years, intermixed with storytelling by rock veterans who have seen, pretty much, it all.

I donít even really know where to start, other than for the first three songs I was concentrating on my photo taking, wishing Jack Blades had the white spotlight and not Tommy Shaw, wishing a car crash wouldnít have slowed my drive (because now one of the dudettes from the dudette pack to the right of me was trying to creep in front of me and into my photo sightline), and remembering Tommy Shaw telling a story about Paco, intro-ing a song from Shaw/Blades first CD, Hallucination, which, from my brief internet investigation, I have to assume was "Down That Highway." But with my photo duties done I departed from my up-front location to a cozy spot near the back soundboard, and was able to enjoy every story, and more than that, fully appreciate the show Shaw/Blades was putting on.

With the first three songs complete, the boys kicked into some Yes covering "Your Move," a fabulous song to harmonize to, and then worked into a crowd sing-a-long with Simon & Garfunkelís "I Am A Rock" where lyrics were forgotten and Tommy Shaw blamed it on too much pot that was smoked back when.

The Buffalo Springfield classic, "For What Itís Worth," let Tommy showcase his "Dreamgirls" talent kicking from the last "Stop," into "Stop in the Name of Love," and the "giant photo" portion of the night showed a lovely picture of Tommy back in his younger days, and a nicely placed Washington Monument during a trip to Washington D.C. This little interlude really showcased that this concert wasnít going to be all about the music, but having fun with each other could also happen at any time. As Steely Danís "Dirty Work" and Damn Yankees "High Enough" finished, I also realized this would also be a night of lots of guitar solos, with Tommy usually taking that role.

Impromptu things also like to happen at a Shaw/Blades show, and that set list isnít always adhered to (much to the dismay of the dude who was running the lights for the show), with one deviation being driven from the Howard Stern fan base as someone yelled for the boys to play "When I See Beth Smiling," with the boys graciously obliging (For some quick history on this for those of you non-Howard listeners: Howard Stern has a fiancť named Beth and a listener, Lonny Heckman, wrote a pretty sappy song titled "When I See Beth Smiling." When Shaw/Blades were scheduled for an appearance on Howard they were asked if they could cover it, but they decided to change the lyrics a bit making the song pretty funny. Personally I think the boys should record the song, with their new lyrics and toss it up on iTunes, which would probably give the dude who originally wrote the song, whoís life is a little busted up, the dream of a lifetime to have a songwriting credit with Tommy and Jack, but Iím sorry, I digressÖ{Dude follow-up note: Lonny Heckman sadly passed away on November 27, 2007 from kidney failure complications.}). With the Howard fans now happy, and the non-Howard fans getting a kick out of the song, it was back to cover-time with a great version of "Sister Christian" into a great medley that included "Carry On," "Fooliní Yourself" and "Love the One Youíre With" as well as another kick-butt guitar jam.

"California Dreamin" brought another crowd sing-a-long, and "Lucky Man" rounded out the set. Encore-time brought more set list deviation with a fantastic "Crystal Ball," I didnít have to wonder who would be singing along with "Donít Tell Me You Love Me" because it was pretty much everyone, and the show wrapped up with "Blue Collar Man."

As I was standing there thinking about it, as the night came to a close, Shaw/Blades was kinda like a way-too-good bar band because the night wasnít really about their own music. Sure there were some Styx, Night Ranger, and Damn Yankees stuff, but technically, I believe, the only Shaw/Blades song was "Down That Highway" from the Hallucination days. They also did, as any good bar band with a CD for sale does, some great harping that "Weíve got CDís, hats, and shirts for sale in the back. Please pick some up on your way out!"

If you are a fan of music at its simplest, with two very talented dudes on guitar and harmonizing to lots of classic songs (and Ivan did great supporting our two dudes), might I highly recommend you check out Shaw/Blades latest CD, Influence, and for Godís sake, check out their live show. If you ask for it theyíll hopefully play "When I See Beth Smiling" because it wasnít on their set list when I saw them, and I loved the story about Ted Nugent not wanting to leave the stage during the Damn Yankeesí days. For Shaw/Blades itís Two "Nice Roller Skates, Tommy" Thumbs Up! If you see them in concert, and they share some pictures with you, youíll understand.

A Valet Nightmare, Sort Of
So at the beginning of this review I mentioned that letting the valet take my car proved to be a mistake, and Iíll bet you were reading that entire review wondering why? Werenít you? Mind you itís nothing completely horrible, like they didnít lose my car or anything, but thinking I was cool beans, and knowing "Blue Collar Man" would be the last song, the instant the lights came up I was by the exit, on my way to give my ticket to the valet dude to get my car back, only the valet dude was nowhere to be found. Finally he appears and by now thereís a group of about ten of us waiting to get our cars. The dude takes all of our tickets, gives us our stubs, and then wrestles up the keys, giving handfuls of keys to the boys actually getting the cars. Some cars show up, people leave, more people come out giving the head dude their tickets and more keys keep getting shoved to the boys getting the cars. Again some cars show up, people leave, more people come out giving the head dude their tickets and more keys keep getting shoved to the boys getting the cars. And again some cars show up, people leave, more people come out giving the head dude their tickets and more keys keep getting shoved to the boys getting the cars.

And Iím still standing there, more and more people get their cars, but still no dude-mobile. And again Iím still standing there, more and more people get their cars, but still no dude-mobile. And then I look and realize that an hour has gone by, thereís only three of us left, Iím shivering because I left my coat in my car rather than letting drinks spill on it, I now have visions that my car was stolen/towed/wouldnít start so skippy just kept getting other cars, and I ask the head valet dude "Hey, buddy, whatís going on?" Then, of course, here comes the dude-mobile. Here I was thinking I was so cool being the first in line to get my car back, I guess karma came back to bite me in the ass. At least the concert was great.

Thatís it for this one! Iím The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!

Oh Wait! One Final Thing Since This Review is Already Long as Hell
To the cute dudette who had the good spot in front of the stage before your boyfriend took you away, if you are reading this, the band that did the version of "Blinded by the Light" that the DJ played is Manfred Mannís Earth Band. Of course we all know the song was originally from Bruce Springsteenís "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.," and the lyrics isnít "wrapped up like a douche," but actually should be "cut loose like a deuce." You should have asked the dude who was singing along, who was me, and yes, I was eavesdropping on your conversation.