Kenny Rogers' Christmas & the Hits brought plenty of holiday cheer to the Riverside Theater Sunday night.
Kenny Rogers' Christmas & the Hits brought plenty of holiday cheer to the Riverside Theater Sunday night.

Christmas comes early for Kenny Rogers fans

It was far from a warm summer's evening last night at Kenny Rogers' Christmas & The Hits concert at the Riverside Theater, but that didn't stop fans from making an impressive showing at the legendary country music superstar's remarkable show.

Rogers hardly needs any introduction, but his list of accomplishments is truly astonishing by any standard. He has charted more than 120 times with hit singles. He's recorded more than 65 albums in his more than 50-year career.

He's sold more than 120 million records and on top of winning three Grammy Awards, Rogers has won top honors at the Country Music Association awards, the American Music awards and the Academy of Country Music awards. A poll in 1986 taken by USA Today and People Magazine placed Rogers as the readers' "Favorite Singer of All Time."

Pulling hits from a historic and storied career, Rogers spent the first half of the concert bringing to life songs from his expansive archive for the Milwaukee crowd, rolling out his biggest hits one after another.

Early in the show Rogers sang "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" and a medley of old hits that included "You Decorated My Life" and "She Believes In Me," a song that Rogers said "out of all those ballads of the '80s, this one was my favorite." True to form, he sang it as such, with genuine heart and soul.

"Coward Of The County" and "Daytime Dreamer" also made appearances on the setlist last night. Rogers was upbeat and enthusiastic throughout the concert, and near the end of his first set shared the stage with fellow country artist Billy Dean, a guest vocalist on Kenny's No. 1 single "Buy Me A Rose," which charted back in 2000. The two crooners looked comfortable onstage together during the duet, looking back and forth in honest admiration. Dean also performed his tune "Billy The Kid."

Rogers took a moment to call attention to his fiddle player, Amber Randall, who, like all of the musicians in his band, was simply outstanding last night. You could feel t…

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Anthrax finished their tour for "Worship Music," their first CD in eight years, at The Rave Saturday.
Anthrax finished their tour for "Worship Music," their first CD in eight years, at The Rave Saturday.

Anthrax finishes their tour on a high note

Anthrax ended their tour last night at The Rave, a venue they have rocked for nearly 30 years in their illustrious career as thrash metal pioneers.

Supporting their first CD in eight years, entitled "Worship Music," the band played well beyond their scheduled time and added some bonus songs to the setlist on the fly. Fans showed up in droves and it was shoulder to shoulder inside the concert, which probably should have been held upstairs in the ballroom. Death Angel opened up the show, and Testament co-headlined.

There were more photographers in the pit than I've ever seen at any show at The Rave; I counted at least 12 or 13 in the cramped space between the fans and the stage. It was a rather amusing scenario, but kudos to Anthrax for working the stage and giving the fans and photographers a wild show. By the third song, "Caught In A Mosh," I was concentrating more on not getting kicked in the head by fans body surfing into the pit than taking photos. Such are the hazards of photographing a metal show.

There's an inherent risk for some bands to become a parody of their former selves after such a long time in the industry. It's easy to slip into the curse of becoming more or less a tribute band with more replacement members than original musicians, playing to half-sold venues. Nothing could be further from the truth with Anthrax; they've remained true to their music, their fans and themselves. Anthrax currently consists of almost the entire "Among The Living" classic lineup, with lead guitarist Dan Spitz the only missing member of the band.

Lead singer Joey Belladonna declared that the concert had "The absolute potential to be the best show of the tour," which of course was met with fervent approval, and the crowd stepped it up a notch. Metal horns were raised in the air and body surfers made their way to the front one after another. A bit later in the show Joey would tell the crowd, "Thank you so much for loving this music."

Deviating from the setlist I saw ons…

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Dawes lead singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith is a unique performer.
Dawes lead singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith is a unique performer.
Taylor's brother Griffin Goldsmith on drums puts 100 percent into his effort.
Taylor's brother Griffin Goldsmith on drums puts 100 percent into his effort.
Wylie Gelber on bass has his own brand of concentration.
Wylie Gelber on bass has his own brand of concentration.
Keyboardist Tay Strathairn is perhaps the least animated member of Dawes, but his focus is key to the band.
Keyboardist Tay Strathairn is perhaps the least animated member of Dawes, but his focus is key to the band.

Dawes lights up Turner Hall

There are a lot of labels that attempt to define Dawes as a band. Rock, Americana and folk rock all get tossed around in an attempt to define these musicians, and the terms all hint at the truth, but the fact is they're an amalgamation of many different types of modern and vintage music with an underlying root structure of raw talent and emotion that can't be taught or learned.

Touring behind their sophomore disc "Nothing Is Wrong" and co-headlining with Blitzen Trapper, Dawes came to Turner Hall Saturday night and handed in a performance worthy of a band who recently broke into the top 10 on the VH1 video countdown for their current single "Time Spent In Los Angeles." It's a lyrically gritty song about finding love, finding yourself and ultimately sharing compassion for the experience that is L.A. in all it's glory.

An enthusiastic crowd gathered before the dimly lit Turner Hall stage to greet the band, and Dawes broke into a rollicking rendition of "The Way You Laugh." Each member of the band has their own unique stage presence. Taylor's brother Griffin Goldsmith on drums is at times one of the most expressive and passionate drummers I've witnessed. His lips curl and with each pounding beat his entire body is put into the effort.

Wylie Gelber on bass has his own way of doing things. There's an intensity on his face, a deep concentration on each note played, and often a face that scrunches up during the focused delivery of his bass notes. Keyboardist Tay Strathairn is perhaps the least animated member of Dawes, but his focused demeanor shouldn't fool anyone – he's a man laying down a thick and textured layer to the Dawes onstage equation, a critical role for a band with only one guitarist.

And then there is Taylor Goldsmith. Taylor is a unique performer in the industry.

Lead singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith is the kind of vocalist that understands the dichotomy of the soft nuances between a verse and a chorus, and ultimately how to build a song to a pe…

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