Concert Review: The Doobie Brothers “2013 Tour” – Mohegan Sun Arena

The Doobie Brothers: 2013 Tour
Mohegan Sun Arena
Uncasville, CT
July 3, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“We decided to play a little rock and roll this evening.  Are you up for that, Connecticut?”

And, with that, the Doobie Brothers delivered as promised: nearly two non-stop hours worth of straightforward rock classics with instantly recognizable riffs that have been the band’s calling card for over 40 years. The focus of the 18-song show consistently stayed on the band’s most prolific era of the 70’s when they churned out anthems such as “Long Train Runnin’”, “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, “China Grove”, “Jesus is Just Alright and “Take Me in Your Arms”, all of which feature the founding vocal/guitar duo of Tommy Johnston and Patrick Simmons – both of whom are still part of the group’s current eight-member line-up.

The mellower Michael McDonald era of the late 70’s and early 80’s was only represented by the inclusion of an extended version of “Takin’ It to the Streets” that featured an impressive keyboard intro from Guy Allison, vocals from Simmons and bassist John Cowan, and a rippin’ sax solo from Marc Russo. It was a wise choice for the set list not only because of the song’s popularity as a hit, but because its inherent funky groove matches the Johnston-era classics that dominate the current touring band’s repertoire. They pull off the tune flawlessly live – so well, in fact, that the concert version almost outshines the McDonald original.

As far as newer material is concerned…well…the Doobies don’t really have much of it. The group has only released one studio album over the past decade: 2010’s reunion with longtime producer Ted Templeman, “World Gone Crazy.” While that album is fairly tepid in comparison to the band’s multi-platinum mega-sellers from the 70’s, the two songs performed from it at this show – the title track and “A Brighter Day” – work quite well when played live and are a good addition to the band’s set list of classics.

With all of the driving guitar rhythm provided by the band’s four axemen and the percussive power of dual drummers Tony Pia and Ed Toth, it’s easy to forget that one of the key ingredients to Doobies music is intricate vocal harmonies that flesh out the songs and provide them with the richness that makes them worth savoring. To that end, the show’s overall sound was impeccably mixed, something that was especially evident when all four of the band’s frontsmen, Johnston, Simmons, Cowan, and endlessly-versatile instrumentalist John McFee, delivered the four-part a cappella harmony outro to “Black Water.” As much as it is truly amazing that these guys can still belt it out as clearly as they did when they recorded the song in 1974, it’s equally impressive that the 2013 tour’s audio crew was able to make every aural nuance sound as clear as possible within the context of a live show.

The music of the Doobie Brothers, when at its best, manages to effectively blend elements of rock and roll, country, bluegrass, soul, funk, and blues to produce songs that never pidgeon-hole themselves into an era and subsequently become dated. At their core is an element that is truly timeless: they’re fun. Given the band’s sheer exuberance while onstage, it’s clear that the Doobie Brothers themselves are still having a blast touring and energetically jamming out to these classics. As they proved to the Connecticut crowd, you don’t necessarily need fireworks to kick off a 4th of July holiday party. All you have to do is listen to the music. All the time.


[NOTE: Big thanks go out to the guy who first introduced me to the Doobies – and music in general – my father, Tom Picton, for his invaluable assistance with this article. ]



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Blu-ray Review “The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia”

Starring: Chad Michael Murray, Abigail Spencer, Katee Sackhoff, Emily Alyn Lind
Director: Tom Elkins
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Lionsgate
DVD Release Date: April 16, 2013
Run Time: 100 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

Let’s get this out of the way…what were they thinking with this title? I remember when I first say this film announced on Bloody-Disgusting and I just thought to myself “WTF, are they serious?” I understand that “The Haunting in Connecticut” was a very successful film but they could have easily have just called this “The Haunting in Georgia” and it would have gotten much more respect. It is based on a true story and in fact the film is quite awesome! Yes, I am serious.  The film is scary and has about tons of really great jump moments. I mean seriously, a man can’t handle that much! The story itself might not be the most well thought out of the year but it delivers the scares and for me that is the more important.  After watching as many shitty horror films as I do per year, this was easily one of the better and quite impressive.  I don’t look forward to going to bed tonight though. I will look forward to the third installment “The Haunting in New York” for sure!

Director Tom Elkins gets his first time in the director’s chair with this film and really proves his knows what he is doing.  He previously worked as an editor on films like “The New Daughter” and “Red Eye”, so he knows the genre quite well.  Since he also edited this film, he succeeds in piecing the good parts together well and effectively. I can’t wait to see what his next directorial effort will be.  Chad Michael Murray and Abigail Spencer both deliver strong performances or at much they can expect from a direct-to-video sequel. The star of the film for me is Emily Alyn Lind.  She is absolutely amazing and might I mention only 10 years old! You might know here best from her roles in films like “Won’t Back Down” and “J. Edgar, as Shirley Temple” and her TV role in ABC’s “Revenge” as Young Amanda Clarke.  She is going to be a huge actress for sure as she grows up, she keep an eye out!

Official Premise: Building on the terror of The Haunting in Connecticut, this horrifying tale traces a young family’s nightmarish descent into a centuries-old Southern hell. When Andy Wyrick (Chad Michael Murray, House of Wax) moves his wife Lisa (Abigail Spencer, TV’s “Mad Men”) and daughter Heidi to an historic home in Georgia, they quickly discover they are not the house’s only inhabitants. Joined by Lisa’s free-spirited sister, Joyce (Katee Sackhoff, TV’s “Battlestar Galactica”), the family soon comes face-to-face with a bone-chilling mystery born of a deranged desire a haunting secret rising from underground and threatening to bring down anyone in its path.

Lionsgate delivered a very impressive Blu-ray release for this film.  It also comes with an Ultraviolet streaming digital copy.  The 1080p transfer looks absolutely stunning within its 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The visual aspect of the film is a real home run and is well represented here. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is also amazing.  Yes, some of the jumps are a little cliche but it is effective and very scary. The special features are a bit of a let down though.  There is an audio commentary track with Director Tom Elkins, Writer David Coogeshall and Co-Producer Brad Kessell, which is not bad.  “Seeing Ghosts: The True Story of the Wyricks” is a cool feature for all ghost lovers.  There are over 15 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary with Director Tom Elkins and also some outtakes. Lastly there is a trailer for the first film and the sequel.

Concert Review: The Power of One Voice – Martin Sexton “Winter Tour 2013”

The Power of One Voice:
Martin Sexton “Winter Tour 2013”
Date: March 28th, 2013
Venue: FTC’s Stage One in Fairfield, CT

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

[NOTE: Credit must given where credit is truly due.  The review that appears below was written by my good friend, Denise Dean, a longtime Martin Sexton fan (to put it mildly). She accompanied me to the FTC show so that I could better understand Martin as a performer and as a person. After the show, it became clear to me that it would make much more sense if we switched roles – she would become the main writer and I would assist as editor. Thanks for taking the lead on this one, D! – Dave P]


“Oh please, it’s not really going to be that bad. Weather men have worse odds than major league hitters these days.”

Man, did I eat my words.

On February 8th, a massive nor’easter buried New England’s section of I-95 and all roads leading to and from it under feet of snow. It also postponed the Martin Sexton show scheduled for the following night at FTC in Fairfield, Connecticut. Lesson learned: mock Mother Nature, and you will pay. However, the rescheduled performance on March 28th was well worth the wait.

If you have never been to a Martin Sexton show, quite simply, go. His live concert recordings give you a taste of his true talent, but even they pale in comparison to being in the same room with the power of his actual voice. Sexton has a range from the absolute top of the scale, strong, and angelic, all the way down to a gravelly-bluesy drawl, and he’s able to race up and down octaves with bewildering ease.

Fairfield’s FTC is a bare-bones, very small, and very intimate venue – one where all of the audience’s attention will be focused on the art of the performer. It is a space reserved for the brave where the artist can’t hide behind a fancy light show or special effects. And, given that Sexton’s shows frequently feature him on stage with only a bottle of water, a towel, and a guitar or two, he seemed right at home. As Martin himself quipped, “It’s like I’m just hanging out with friends, playing in my living room.”

The first part of the show was an all-acoustic set that frequently electrified the house with its quiet power. He opened with “The Way I Am”, a self-reflective a story of a distraught elder realizing that he’d made for himself quite an unlovable life. However, as is what often Martin’s way, the man proclaims he will just “change the way I am.” In the appropriately named “Happy,” he names the moment he can finally own this new ‘life is good’ feeling – and we watched “happy” dance across his face. He moved on with “Glory Bound,” which alludes to his own story of a 20-something kid leaving his real job, grabbing his guitar, and heading for Harvard Square. “Making the mistake he’s got to make,” he pops his case open, plays his heart out and waits for that first dollar. The lyric is solid testimony to the fact that, from the start, Sexton was firm in his faith that he was destined for greater good.

Upbeat, faster-paced songs often elicited mass audience participation through foot stomping and hands clapping. Martin had to rein the crowd in, cautioning that they would ruin the acoustic vibe, promising that the wilder stuff was to come later in the second set. He knows his craft and is passionately committed to giving his fans an amazing set, and will accept nothing less than perfection.

After a short break, he came out with his electric guitar in hand, and kept the crowd awestruck under his spell for almost two more hours. He danced around the stage, played beat box on his guitar, and trumpet, snare drum, and high hat with his voice box. Unlike the first set, he often invited the audience to join in: to sing the chorus, clap their hands, stomp their feet, snap their fingers – and make the show a shared journey. Martin was clearly convinced that he had excellent travel companions, telling his gathered disciples at FTC that if “amen” and “hallelujah” could be sexy, their chorus hit the mark. Since his earliest days, he has always invited the crowd in, and feeding off the energy he elicits, he seems to dive deeper into each song right before their eyes.

Riding the rollercoaster of his experiences was thrilling, and all over the map. Martin’s music is pure emotion, and song by song, he showed the steps and the missteps he’s made throughout his life, instantly connecting to us on a most human level. We watched the unforgiving tale of heartbreak after playing with the fire of your drummer’s girl in “Gypsy Woman. “ We followed him deep into the raw pain of self-questioning in “Where Did I Go Wrong?” a song that he admitted was perfect for FTC’s intimate space, and felt the torment caused by that unforgettable gal in “Can’t Stop Thinking ‘Bout You.” Interspersed between the tales of despair was the toe-tapping, “13 Step,” a classic tale of fine food on the road, “Diner,” and the funky, sex-charged “Boom-Sh-Boom ” and “Beast in Me.” Marty pulled out all the stops and treated long-time fans to all their favorites, often at the request of the loudest shouter in the room.

On this night, he wound down his curtain call with “America” reminding us of the good of our nation, but he left us with his rendition of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” This was no accident.

Every time Sexton opens his mouth he captivates his audience with his power, his passion, and his mean and soulful guitar playing. And Sexton’s lyrical genius has true staying power…especially when you realize what he’s actually SAYING.

Martin has always asked the listener to reframe life as a journey. His two-plus hour show showcased his own journey to peace: the good and the bad, the funny and the tragic, the pain and the glory. With his genuine humility, Sexton presents his challenge. He reminds us that life is a colorful tapestry of experiences, and that it is our duty, as residents of this great nation, to learn from each step and, furthermore, that we hold up a mirror, see who we are, and then, with our eyes wide open, “look what’s going ‘round.” And then we must stand up and do what’s right.

Sexton uses his voice to encourage us to find ours, to use it to do good, and to “spread peace all ‘round this world.” Maybe if we fused all of our voices together, they could be as strong as his. Marty’s voice is truly inspirational and, for that, we send peace and love right back ‘atcha, brother.


For more information about Martin Sexton, visit