Monday, August 30, 2010

Casey James and the American Idol Tour in Indianapolis, Indiana

When Casey sings It's All Over Now, it'll be the truth.  Tonight, at Conseco Fieldhouse, in Indianapolis, will be his last American Idol concert.  It must be both scary and exhilarating.  Because what's next is the great unknown.  But that great unknown may hold great things to come.

Those of you luck enough to be at this concert, especially those who meet Casey before or after the show (assuming he's still able to do that), please share your experience with us here. 

Tomorrow will be the start of Casey James, released from the constrictions of American Idol.  Don't get me wrong, we are all indebted to American Idol for introducing him to us.  I'm not going to bash American Idol today, but thank them for the opportunity they gave an unknown artist. So tonight, enjoy all of the AI spectacle.  The cheesy group songs and the strict adherence to numerical order, all of it.  This is Casey's last performance with these nine people, so take it all in.  Today we celebrate American Idol -- the show that gave Casey James a chance -- and this tour that brought him to meet so many of his fans.

I Got Mine



It's All Over Now


The IndyStar.Com review was right on the money:
Near the top of the class, third-place finisher Casey James and runner-up Crystal Bowersox took advantage of being liberated from filming car commercials, begging for votes and making small talk with Ryan Seacrest.

Wielding top-notch guitar skills, James deserves the shot at rock stardom previously afforded to Chris Daughtry. James takes more risks and exudes greater swing than Daughtry, as proven on steamroller renditions of the Black Keys'"I Got Mine" and "It's All Over Now" (written by Bobby Womack and popularized by the Stones).

Last Words:
It will take a little time to process the end of the American Idol tour. Casey put it all out there every night. You couldn't tell that he was the third place finisher or that this was part of a reality TV show/talent contest. When he took the stage, he gave a rollicking, rocking star turn. Almost without exception, at each stop along the tour he not only exceeded the rather stratospheric expectations of his fans but he stunned and impressed and garnered legions of new ones. Casey made the most of the opportunity he was given and, I hope, that will set a precedent for how he handles the next phase of his professional career.

Casey James and the American Idol Tour in Cincinnati, Ohio

Growing up in Los Angeles, you might be surprised that my favorite baseball team was the Cincinnati Reds  But they had an amazing line up with Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Davey Concepcion, Ken Griffey (no, not junior, the original) and my personal favorite, Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench.  What I loved about Bench was his old-fashioned, Oklahoma-bred values, his great work ethic, his commitment to be the best.  After surgery to remove a benign tumor, Bench's throwing arm was compromised and impacted how he played from then on, yet he continued to be the best in the game.

Do you see what I'm getting at here?  Reminds me of one Casey Everett James, Texas blues guitarist turned TV reality show contestant turned back into what he was and always will be -- a dedicated, talented and devoted musician. 

The penultimate concert of the 2010 American Idol tour takes place tonight at the Riverbend Music Center.  I won't be able to update this blog way into the early hours of tomorrow, as I have in the past, because real life intrudes.  Just as Casey's momma is about to get her youngest back, I'm about to let mine go.  The world is weird that way.  But she'll be in a dorm, not bouncing around in a bus (at least I hope not!), and should get some sleep (at least I hope so!) and take care of herself.  She's shown me how to do Skype video chat so, unlike Debra, I won't have to wait for someone to upload a YouTube video for me to see her (at least I hope not!).  She's starting a new chapter of her life too and with every turn of the page there is excitement and apprehension and the great unknown.  But mostly new experiences which are all part of Life's Rich Pageant (thank you REM). 

Feel free to use this blog as yours tonight.  Post whatever you find in the comments section for others to read.  On Wednesday there will be a major post for you to add your comments to reflect back on the first chapter of Casey's professional life.  Check back here then.  When I get back to a very quiet, very empty nest, I'll fully update this and the other blog posts.  Then we'll see where the next chapter leads us.

A few hours before the show, fans at the venue before the show tweeted that Casey was out there meeting fans.  This is great news, it means he's doing better.  Here's a tweet from one of them at the venue:  @poisnivyred Yeah! Someone actually asked him how he was feeling and he said he's much better :)"   But since she also tweeted it was very hot, let's hope Casey isn't over-doing it.

I found this with the correct date, 8/30/10, so I believe this is from Cincinnati.  If I'm wrong, let me know.



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Casey James and the American Idol Tour in Toledo, OH

Tonight's concert will be at the Huntington Center and, being a hometown venue, I hope it's a packed house.  I also hope the crowd gives Casey and the other Idols as great a reception as they received last night on what was supposed to be someone else's home turf. 

While I know that this tour has been physically taxing, I will be sorry to see it come to an end for a number of reasons.  But one in particular is the phenomenon that happens at every stop.   Wherever they play, you are sure to find a number of concert goers who may have come in not knowing about or particularly caring to see Casey, but who leave as full blown Casey James fans.  So tonight I salute another show and another group of Casey converts. 

Just as Iowa reminded me of Radar from MASH, it's impossible for me to hear the word Toledo and not think of the hairy-legged, cross-dressing, Mud Hens-loving, uncle-quoting, Corporal Maxwell Klinger from that same iconic show.
Klinger, in a lovely hat

Klinger spent the first few years of the show (which ran more than four times as long as the war it depicted) trying to get a Section 8 (psychiatric) discharge from the army by a variety of schemes.   He was creative, funny, entertaining, and persistent.  Which reminds me a lot (without the dressing in drag part) of ... Casey James.

Finishing his brief "I'm not going to let a little thing like my health get in the way of me playing" tour of the Midwest, Casey should be resting today in anticipation of rocking out on stage tonight.  We, as always, have Twitter fans at the scene -- today it's carolyn82960 and spinnyjb -- who will update us as the day progresses.   I, in turn, will update this post as new info comes in.  Till later!

Later came sooner than expected as Casey just tweeted this:

Okay, trying to compose myself as I compose this sentence.  Isn't the English language marvelous -- one word, two meanings.  I had already been preparing a post for Wednesday to give his fans the opportunity to reflect on this first chapter of his professional life.  I intend it to be an open-ended assignment, no right or wrong answers.  Just a chance to look back to when they first became fans, to discuss how his music and his story have affected them, and to examine what the past six months has meant to them.  What I've been hearing and seeing is pretty major.  Friendships have been forged, ennui has been replaced with excitement, dormant hopes and dreams are looking more possible than ever before.  People have galvanized behind Casey and in the process become more connected, more willing to take chances, more encouraged.   It will take more than one post to figure out the whys or what-this-all-means.  But I think we should start with people, on Wednesday, reflecting on what this connection to an up-and-coming singer/guitarist from Texas has meant to them, and for them.   

On with the show.

UPDATED -- Videos:

Credit ThatssoAbby

Majestik_Vi48 reports "Casey Rockin' Out"

Credit LeeDeWyzeArmy

Credit PamAnnB


Our two trusty Twitter pals had an amazing time at the concert:

Carolyn's story:

Last night, my fiftieth birthday, Jennifer Bussone and I went to see Casey in Toledo. Jennifer was so gracious and drove me all the way there from Port Huron, MI, as I am not able to drive. Anyway, as we left my house, we had heavy hearts because we knew Casey was sick and might not be able to come out and meet us. (Let me state this up front --- we both felt it was more important for Casey to rest than meet us). But being the die-hard Casey fans that we are, we were offering up prayers that maybe, just maybe, we would catch Casey leaving his bus or he might feel well enough to come outside for a few minutes. Off we went with letters and gifts for Casey. I had bought him a cool black fedora hat with a cross on it and Jennifer had given him a cd and had knitted him another guitar cap.

We tweeted to Casey from my laptop on the way to Toledo – thanks to all the ladies who re-tweeted to Casey for us – we really appreciated that our CJCC sisters were trying to help us out!

We arrived in Toledo a few hours before the concert and began to scope things out. We asked some security guards where the buses were, and also asked where the Idols would be signing autographs before and after the show. One security guard said “All 10 Idols will be over by the Aquarium signing autographs after the show”, and another one said, “Casey James is sick and won’t be out signing autographs at all.” Still, we kept a stiff upper lip and kept asking around. I then noticed a very official security guard walking into the front door of Huntington Center and asked him if he was security. He responded that he was Head of Security. I asked him if Casey was coming out at all and he said no. I put my faith in him and asked if he would take our gifts to Casey. He said it would be better to give them to the people taking tickets when we went inside --- but that wasn’t good enough for me. I gave him my best “please, it’s my 50th birthday” look, and he agreed to take them in. Then the praying really started, because we didn’t know if our gifts went on a huge pile somewhere - or in the trash can for that matter.

We went down and stood by the buses in the 90+ degree heat for a couple of hours. Crystal came out to see her hometown fans and she was very nice. It was great to see her – she’s a tiny little thing. Her son & boyfriend were out and her boyfriend was so friendly. He said he would tell Casey we were out there. Boy, Crystal looked really beat. Jennifer asked if she was feeling okay, and she said she had just lost a dear friend and had been crying all morning. Then a piano player from the tour and also Tim Urban came out and talked with some very cute young girls. Apparently he told the piano player to go get them backstage passes; I’m not really sure how that all went down because I was concentrating on spotting Casey. The girls were so excited and crying and shaking. This is where one of the funniest moments of the evening happened. Jennifer said to the guard at the gate, “Sure, the young, cute girls get backstage passes.” The security guard looked at us and said, “Oh ladies, I’m sure that happened to you when you went to see Elvis!” Elvis??? Seriously??? We laughed about that for hours. We asked Tim about Casey and he said he was feeling better, but still too sick to come outside. So we waited by the buses as long as possible and went inside when DiDi started singing.

Jennifer and I didn’t have seats together – she had bought her ticket after I did when she realized that I needed a ride to Toledo. (Her precious friendship to me could be a completely different discussion topic itself.). She was seated down on the main floor, 4th row, and I was up in the first risers. We both had excellent seats. I was sitting with my cousin who lives in Toledo. We watched the first half of the show and during intermission I tried to check Twitter. My phone had been freezing up on me all day, but I decided to take one more chance to see if Casey had tweeted or anything else exciting was going on. Much to my surprise, I saw that Casey had posted “a little note before the show,” or something to that effect. My phone then froze up again, and I was about to pitch it over the balcony, when his yellow sticky note popped up into my screen. It was then that I saw “A special thanks to @carolyn82960 for the note and the hat (which I will wear tonight). And special thanks to @spinnyjb for the card, cd, and hat.” To say I screamed would be an understatement. I probably looked like Jacob Black morphing into a werewolf. At that moment, Jennifer called my cell and asked where my seats were and said she couldn’t find me. I stood up out of my seat and waived my arms like a maniac, and she saw me instantly in a sea of thousands. I started screaming into the phone that Casey had tweeted about us and she came running across the arena towards me and I went running down the stairs to meet her (if you could call my limping running). We were screaming into our phones to each other the entire time we were running to each other. We finally got close to each other and I had to lean over the railing to hand her my cell phone so she could read the tweet. We both burst into tears. It was the most unbelievable moment of my life, really. Then the lights came down and Big Mike was about to come on stage, so we just hugged over the railing and went back to our seats. My cousin freaked out when I told her what happened. Another funny moment…a little girl came up to me then and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Did you just win the backstage passes”? No honey, something so much better!!!. She obviously saw my freak-out, the little cutie!!!

I was totally shaking through Mike’s set and then out came Casey --- with no hat on. The crowd was going wild. My cousin screamed, “Where’s the hat”? I told her I thought he would put it on during his duet with Mike, but I was kind of worried too. Casey just killed “I Got Mine”. I seriously don’t think I was prepared for his brilliance. TV and U-Tube just doesn’t do him justice. If he’s that good sick, Lord help us all!!!

I think this is the point where Casey saw Jennifer's sign and threw her a pic, but I will let her tell that story! ( I saw the entire thing happen from my seat). Then he sang “Don’t” and I was just swaying and singing along. It was gorgeous! The whole arena was singing too. He sounded a little stuffy, but still hit the notes man!!! Then Casey said Big Mike was coming out to help him sing the next song. And it happened…a stage hand brought out my hat and hung it on the mike stand…Casey took out his hair band and put his hair in a pony tail…and then he put on my hat. He leaned into the microphone and said, “Thank you for the hat.” (Y’all know that sexy, better-than-Bob-Seger, sexy, gravelly, sexy voice!). Had I died then, I would have died a happy woman. They sang their duet (again, awesome). Casey sang his last song, “It’s All Over Now.” WITH MY HAT STILL ON. And then he was gone…

Jennifer and I bugged out after Casey’s set so we could get a good spot over by the Aquarium. We were the first ones there. I had a feeling that Casey wouldn’t be coming out, but Jennifer was still holding onto hope. Then the Idols started coming out one by one. We asked a couple of security guards and they said Casey would not be coming out. It was sad, but we had already been given the best gift ever, I think. Lee came out, DiDi came out, Siobhan came out, Tim Urban came out, Aaron Kelly came out, Katie Stevens came out --- and I got all of their autographs. (Big Mike and Andrew Garcia did not come out;I don’t know their reason why). Despite the late hour, it was still so very hot outside and we were getting soooo tired. We had been on our feet for many hours in the heat at that point. At about midnight, a security guard came out and said either Crystal or her son was sick and she would not be coming out. It was very sad; her hometown fans were waiting there for hours – even some of her elementary school teachers were out there waiting. Jennifer was talking to two of the teachers standing next to us. But people do get sick, as we know.

At midnight we called it a day and we went to stand by the buses to watch them roll away. We tried a couple of times to ask security if Casey could come out, but it was a done deal. We stood across the street as the buses pulled out of the arena and held up our signs. Perhaps Casey saw us as they drove away.

I read Casey’s yellow sticky note to Jennifer several times on the way home. It really hit us on the way home that he actually read our letters and responded to us in an amazing and generous way. I cried when he thanked his fans for being so kind to each other. Jennifer didn’t know me from Adam a couple of months ago, and the Casey James Cougar Club brought us together. She generously offered me her friendship (and a ride!). I think the women of the CJCC are the most amazing people, and I am grateful to be a part of that.

Today as I was telling my family about what happened last night, it hit me that I had the great honor of NOT meeting Casey James last night. Because if I had to pick between getting a picture with Casey for my scrapbook or have him read my letter and respond to me in such a beautiful way, I wouldn’t change a darn thing.

Spinnyjb wrote:
Carolyn and I pulled out of her place about 2:30 or so. Got to the venue and as we were walking up to the arena a well dressed -man w/ a badge around his neck was just outside the doors. He was Steve, head of security and a sweet sweet man! We asked him where the busses were and he told us. Then we asked him if he would PLEASE take our gifts to Casey, because the word on the street was that Casey wasn't going to be allowed to come out. He said he would take them to him personally and make sure. Carolyn had gotten Casey a fedora w/ a cross on it (which casey wore for the last two songs!!) We both wrote him letters about how much he meant to us as fans, our personal "casey" stories. No sign of Casey before the show, so we finally went in. During the intermission Carolyn saw the yellow note tweet from Casey. We weren't sitting together because I got my tickets as a last minute thing. So I was actually calling Carolyn on her cell phone as she was reading the tweet! I was just trying to find where she was in the stands. I was on the floor, manned with my sign wit my twitter name. She called me over there and we both read it and were crying!! So I was snapping pictures like crazy when he put the hat on, but none turned out well. My camera sucks. :( The whole time I was bouncing around w/ my sign. He saw me during It's all over now...and flung a pick at me! I just saw it whiz by. I was scrambling all over the floor for it. I was the only overtly crazy fan in the vicinity, so I know it was for me, he looked right at me and carolyn said when I missed it he chuckled. I couldn't find it, just a bunch of gum wrappers and nastiness. I had given up and all of the sudden a litlle tap on my shoulder and some sweet young girl (I say young, she was prob 20) and handed it to me! I was flabbergasted! No Casey after the show but we stuck around just in case. It was completely and utterly amazing. He sounded like he had a stuffy nose when he talked. He looked tired, but he sounded amazing and his guitar was OFF THE HOOK!! I was out of my mind!!!!
Despite not seeing Casey because he was under doctor's orders not to do any meet and greets, it was the better than I could have imagined it!! I had sent Casey a heartfelt letter with my gift to him. We had hoped to see him before the show and we were asking anyone and everyone to tell him we were waiting to see him. No sign of Casey after 2 hours of waiting before the concert so at 7:30 we gave up and went in. When Carolyn called me over to read that tweet Casey sent (the yellow note above I was overwhelmed with emotion.

I tweeted him when I got home (at 3am!) that "I am blessed that your heart received what my heart was trying to convey in my letter." You just never know how things can get lost in translation. I won't go into details about my letter other than to say I told him how to me he is so much more than a gifted musician and a handsome face... he helped restore my hope through how he handled the hardships in his life. I am still very emotional about the whole thing. Lack of sleep isn't helping, but writing that letter brought up alot of painful memories. But it was very cleansing to write it. That tweet made my night. The pick was icing on the cake. He is such a beautiful soul, with such depth. I am so proud to be his fan. I will be his fan forever. 
It must be overwhelming at times for Casey to realize what impact he has had on some people's lives!
Thank you Jen for sharing!

Here are tweets from during he concert:

Bladepopculture tweeted: say this 4 casey, he's got the crowd on their feet. guess a shot.of blues rock and guitar is what the audience needed 2 wake up.

hannip4Crystal wrote: Casey James!!! Wow he's rocking that guitar

pamannb said: Casey James is easily the best guitar player AI has ever seen LOL

ToledoFreePress retweeted: Casey rockin' out hard!!!

Majestik_Vi48:  I am so melting right now! Song is when you really love a woman
half a minute ago via ƜberTwitter
During Casey's set, ToledoFreePress tweeted:  The @Huntington_Ctr crowd is really getting into the @AmericanIdol concert -- waving their cell phones like cig lighters!

mozart4898 wrote a brief review of the concert in the comments section of MJsBigBlog and said this about Casey:
I was already expecting Casey to be something beyond what he was on the show, so he wasn’t a true “surprise,” but still, quite impressive. Very much so. And the Toledo crowd loved him.
He wrote a more detailed review which continued, and expanded on, the praise for Casey.  A definite mustr read:
Casey – I knew nothing of the rumor that Casey might not perform. I would have been really crushed had he not, because I was looking forward to hearing him. And damn, I’m glad he did perform – wow. On the show he seemed like a decent guitar player but it was hard to tell how good he really was cause he never played that much (obviously, it’s a singing competition…right?) And when portrayed mostly just in terms of his vocals, at times he seemed out of his element. But the intro to “I Got Mine” was all it took. Bluesy, gritty Southern style rock…I loved it. And so did the rest of the Toledo crowd – I’m pretty sure only Crystal’s cheers hit higher readings on the decibel meter than Casey’s. His album IS now on my list to buy, as long as it’s in this vein. I wasn’t so impressed with “Don’t” as I was his other 3 songs (…seriously people, why can’t you just embrace the cheese of “Have You Really Ever Loved a Woman?” He and Mike killed that song on the show, minus 1 note, and it sounded great in concert too) but he’s awesome in his own style. Slide guitar, rock guitar, country acoustic and electric, even the Spanish/flamenco sort of sound – and he can sing pretty well too. I like. Came onto my radar when the videos of him at the Keys Lounge surfaced and it really all clicked what he was about. Definitely more than just your average bar band guitar player and singer, like he seemed for most of the show. Hendrix level chops on the guitar is more like it.
Wow.  He really gets Casey.  Wait, didn't that AI judge tell us his fans were women? You mean the real Casey is going to big with men?  Shocking! 

mcarolin05 posted this review today on MJsBigBlog:
Next came Casey…and this is when I realized just how close I was to the stage. I saw him come up the stairs before the lights came on.…and let me tell you, I could tell he was sick. He didn’t sound bad at all, but his eyes were drooping and his energy was very low. I felt so bad for him and at one point I really thought he was going to throw up on that stage. Poor Casey! He still sounded awesome, and his guitar skills are really incredible. When Big Mike came back out for the duet, he said to the crowd “how ya’ll liking Mr Pretty up here?”. Then Big Mike looked over and saw me and smiled at me for the whole time Casey was singing! At one point they faced each other to play guitar and Casey looked at Big Mike with a very sad look as if to say “help!”. Poor guy! After the duet Big Mike walked off on my side of the stage and waved at me, mouthed “thank you!”. So sweet <3<3

It's sad to read that Casey may still be sick, but great to hear how he still put on a fantastic set! 

ItssoAbby did a brief recap, saying " Most impressive were Siobhan Magnus (who sang a high energy set that included Rolling Stones, No Doubt, and Muse covers), Casey James (covered and played striking guitar on songs by The Black Keys, Shania Twain, and more), and, of course, Crystal."
Kirk Baird, of, who tweeted earlier under the name Bladepopculture, wrote a brief recap of the show.  While most of his review focused on their hometown girl, he had this to say about Casey:
There were other memorable moments, too. Casey James, who finished third on the show, brought some serious blues-rock to the arena, and the crowd was glad to have it, especially after a drowsy set by Michael "Big Mike" Lynch, who finished in fourth-place.

Top Ten Songs Bashing Music Critics

It’s easy to hate music critics. They get free CDs and concert tickets and then are paid to give their opinions about what they heard. They actually make a living offering subjective opinions about something intangible. Technically, music reviewers can never be wrong – they are telling us what they think. Where this goes wrong is when we decide to give weight to their opinions and treat them as the gospel.

So it’s not surprising that occasionally the musicians fight back, take up their pens against the poisoned pens of the critics, and have their say. I was listening to some songs with my daughter and noticed just how many of them were directed at “the critics.” She was able to rattle off a number of recent songs that shared the same theme – that music critics are not out to educate or inform but to tear down. We decided to come up with a list of anti-music critic songs, some old and some new.  In no particular order, here are our top ten.  Cathartic and angry, honest and indignant, these songs remind us that critics only carry as much weight as we give them. So let’s take a load off of them!

1. The Academy is… “Black Mamba”

One of the many recent rock bands unfairly saddled with the “emo” label, Chicago-based pop-punk impresarios The Academy Is… were criticized early in their career for their lead singer’s voice, a subject that fueled this track on their first, ironically positively reviewed, album, “Almost Here.”

Oh, Mr. Magazine
I never wrote one single thing for you
Or your so-called music scene
You don't mean a thing to me

Well they can love it or leave it or rip it apart
We're living what we're singing

2. Cage the Elephant… “In one ear”

The alternative/punk/blues/rock band from Bowling Green, Kentucky, turned their attention on those who are empowered to make the thumbs up or down decision that have such potentially serious repercussions.

They wanna criticize, scrutinize, cast another stone
Burn me at the stake and sit and watch it from the throne

They think they know my thoughts, but they don't know the least
If they listened to the words they'd find the message that's beneath

3. Cobra Starship "Guilty Pleasure”

Fellow label-mates of The Academy is…, Cobra Starship play similar alternative rock/punk music, but with a fun edge. Their first single, after all, was “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It).” They also had a hit featuring Leighton Meester, of Gossip Girl fame, called “Good Girls Gone Bad.” So it is not surprising that they would write:

And I don't even read
What the papers gotta say about me
Oh no, I can't believe
They take it so serious, seriously

4. Good Charlotte “The Young and the Hopeless”

And no one in this industry
Understands the life I lead
When I sing about my past
It's not a gimmick, not an act

These critics and these trust fund kids
Try to tell me what punk is
But when I see them on the streets, they got nothing to say
5.  Oingo Boingo "The Imposter"
One day I'll do an entire post about Oingo Boingo.  The Los Angeles band with the weird name and strange, even for the new wave era, vibe influenced musicians around the world with their complex rhythms, textured sound and avant garde image.  They became part of our cultural references with catchy songs (well placed in popular movies) like Weird Science and Dead Man's Party.  After they broke up, their lead singer Danny Elfman went on to write the theme song for The Simpsons and the score for endless Tim Burton movies.  Yet, even with all their success, they were not enthralled with music critics, as you can see from this song.
You never lived in the streets though you wish you had.

Not enough talent to play a guitar,
You failed as an artist 'cause you lacked in the confidence.
Now you're a critic and you're at the top (The top of what?)

You don't believe what you write (you're and imposter).
You can't get used to the fact that you ain't a kid.
You like to think that you speak for them all.
You'd cut off your nose if you thought it would make you hip.
You don't believe what you write (You're an imposter).
You take the credit while others do all the work.
You like to think you discovered them first.
But we all know you moved in after it was safe.
That way you know you could never get hurt (You like to play god!!).
Yes, for the record, I know imposter is misspelled -- it should be or not er, but knowing the band's sense of humor, I assume that was intentional.

6. Frank Zappa "Packard Goose"

Gotta love Zappa, the guy did not beat around any bushes.  He didn't think much of music critics, once famously saying "Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read."  So it was not surprising that he would skewer those who he felt really had no clue what they were talking about.

All them rock 'n roll
Writers is the worst
Kind of sleaze
Selling punk like
Some new kind of
English disease
Is that the wave
Of the future?
Aw, spare me please!

7. Graham Parker "Don't Let it Break You Down"

One of the most underrated singer-songwriters around, he does with lyrics what Tiger Woods used to do with a golf club.  Being as gifted as he is, he makes his point in very few, expertly chosen, words.
Some people are in charge of pens
that shouldn't be in charge of brooms.
They have the nerve to rip up a man's life
in a paragraph or two

8.  Nick Cave  & the Bad Seeds "Scum"

Not as lyrical or artful as Graham Parker, Nick Cave was po'd and wanted eveyrone to know it.  Don't get on his bad side -- it causes him to write melodically-challenged, vile, venal rants.   This is the only part of the lyrics I can print here.  Click on the link with care!
You gave me a bad review
And maybe you think that it's all just water under the bridge
Well my UNfriend, I'm the type that holds a grudge

9. Billy Joel "Still Rock and Roll to Me"

He's been maligned and mocked, but Billy Joel is a talented guy who doesn't deserve the treatment some critics have lobbed his way.  He, better than most, knows you can't please all the people and has had a long, successful career pleasing a lot of the people.  In this song, he gave a nod towards the fact that when it comes to music someone's going to have to show how cool they are by being insulting or dismissive.  But the music will last long beyond the critic's words.

it doesn't matter what they say in the papers
'cause it's always been the same old scene
there's a new band in town but ya can't get the sound
from a story in a magazine aimed at your average teen
10.  Pete Townshend "Jools and Jim"

In response to some negative writing about his late fellow bandmate, drummer Keith Moon, Townshend wrote this little ditty.  This is just one long screed set to music.
Typewriter bangers on
You're all just hangers on
Everyone's human 'cept Jools and Jim
Late copy churners
Rock and Roll learners
Your heart's are melting in pools
Of gin
In researching this post, I came across this terrific article in the Boston Globe by Steve Almond, a former music critic who makes clear where he stands on the profession.  "Am I suggesting that music criticism is a pointless exercise?  Yeah, I guess I am."  Read it, you'll thank me!

In today's instant-news world with Twitter and Facebook and other ways to report on the scene in real time, do we need to wait for the morning paper to see what one person, who may not have wanted to go to the concert but had to because it was their job, had to say about the experience?  I don't think so.  I rather read what the fans who paid their own money to see the show thought.  They aren't worrying about how cute or eloquent their words are, how many hits their article will get or how many comments will be posted, they just want to express their honest opinions about something they just witnessed.  And because they're not "professionals" we can read them and accept them for what they are -- one person's opinion and not the word coming down from  theTemple Mount.

That's why I have always included the feedback from the fans in the review section of each concert post and that's why my favorite part of my own blog is actually your comments.  Because they are every bit as valuable as something someone who is paid to write has to say.  Scratch that, they are more valuable because those comments are freely given and from the heart.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Casey James and the American Idol Tour in Chicago

Tonight the tour heads to the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, home of current American Idol title-holder Lee DeWyze. But when I think of Chicago I think of deep dish pizza, freezing wind coming in off the lake, and a week I spent there honing my trial skills. Well, I've put that, and my JD and my Master's, to good use now haven't I?

Chicago has many nicknames, but my favorite comes from an early 20th Century poem by Carl Sandburg:
Hog butcher for the world,
Tool maker, stacker of wheat,
Player with railroads and the nation's freight handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the big shoulders.
It makes it sound solid, dependable, yet free-wheeling.  Texas-born Casey James seems to fit very nicely into that description.  He hasn't missed a show, and from the video I've seen of last night, nary a beat either in putting it all out there for the fans. 

I know the place with be packed with Mid-Westerners probably geared to support their local boy, but if they open their hearts -- and their ears -- they should join Team Casey by the end of the show.

Any of Casey's twitter fans who are going, make sure to be loud and proud for Casey tonight!

First Photos (courtesy of MJsBigBlog):

 Photos 1 & 3 credit LeeDeWyzeArmy, Photo 2 credit amalama23

Photo Credit DeWyzeDork

Above 2 Photos Credit InvisiBel1

The first video is the first three songs of Casey's set including I Got Mine, Don't and HYERLAW

The second video is It's All Over Now

Group Finale (Don't usually include, but excellent quality and decent focus on Casey)

The Chicago Sun-Times reviewed the concert and while you might have expected it to be all-Lee, all the time, the reviewer actually seemed to utilize old-fashioned journalistic impartiality.  He wrote, about Casey:
The most entertaining guy on stage, though, came in third. Casey James can sing and play the bejesus out of his guitar. He shredded a solo in the middle of his opener, the Black Keys’ “I Got Mine,” and again for his closer, the Rolling Stones’ “It’s All Over Now.” His ballads sagged, even the duet with Michael Lynche on “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?,” but his rakish grin and studied nonchalance made him fun to watch, not to mention that Eddie Vedder quiver in his purr.
Let's just soak that in for a bit.  How nice, and rare, when a paid professional reviewer sees it the same as us amateurs, who have nothing to go on but our ears and our hearts.

Oh, and while we're reading the review again, basking in its positivity, I have a question.  For how long now have I been drawing comparisons with Casey and Eddie Vedder?  Well, I won't make you go back and reread all my posts (though if you haven't, you should -- darn good stuff there!) -- it's been a very long time.  I was not surprised to hear from BC what an influence Pearl Jam was on him and, being the good older brother, he introduced Casey to these guys who may have been placed under the "grunge" label, but were (and are) seriously fine musicians! 

On Twitter, fans tweeted praise for Casey's performance.

Indigo_15 said: U are officially the best guitarist EVER on Idol--and your singing tonight in Chicago was just as great! Thanx 4 a great show!

raisen06 wrote: You were awesome tonight in Chicago! I sure wish I could of met you! I hope you will be here again when you do your own tour!

Love_LeeDeWyze offered: Omg! You ... did "Have You Really Ever Loved A Woman" so beautiful! Honestly better than the original! =]

ChevyBear tweeted Casey: u have fans in chicago!!(: I saw u perform tonight at united center. u were amazing, as always. come back again&again please!

Over at MJsBigBlog, one of her reviewers, WJMTV, wrote up an interesting recap of the night.  Though not a typical narrative-driven review, it gives interesting tidbits about the night.  It's clear that this concert-goer was impressed with Casey:
Band’s Favorite Song: “I Got Mine,” Casey James. They didn’t try to hide it either. I thought we might need an ambulance for one of the backup singers. Oh, and the bass player is really hot.

I Can’t Believe I’m at a Cheesy American Idol Concert: Casey’s guitar solo during “It’s All Over Now.” I’m telling you, people, we’re gonna be saying, “I knew him when.”
That was my favorite line, "I knew him when."  How many of his fans have thought that, each claiming to be the first to discover him and see his potential?  What's interesting about this is I can see a time when we forget how we first were introduced to him, forget he was some guy on a TV show, and just think of him as an amazing performer who never disappoints.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Casey James and the American Idol Tour In Minneapolis, MN

As the countdown to the end of the tour continues with just five shows remaining, Casey James and the rest of the America Idol Top Ten head to the Target Center tonight.  As I told a Twitter friend/Casey James fan, when I think of Minneapolis, I think of the old Mary Tyler Moore show.  I used a quote from the first episode of that show in my novel (yes, I actually wrote a real book, for those of you who don't scroll down to the "about me" section).   During her job interview, Mary is told by the irascible Lou Grant, "You've got spunk."  As she starts smiling, embarrassed, he comes back with, "I hate spunk."  Love that!

You know who has spunk?  Say it with me -- Casey James.  He's back again tonight and I'm sure the fans who waited so long for their turn to see him perform live are thrilled -- even if he might not be able to meet with them in person.  No word yet if his schedule is being modified today as it was yesterday, but we have Casey fans on Twitter who will be at the venue to let us know.

Before tonight's concert Casey tweeted his concerned fans the following:

Then, as an added bonus, he tweeted a picture his mom had sent him:

Too much cuteness.

North Country Girl wrote on Jamestown II about her pre-show Casey encounter:
I saw some fans in Casey shirts, so I went to hang out with them. They said they saw Casey come out of the venue and go on the bus. So we went down to the other end of the bus, by the venue door. There were about 5 of us. Casey came off the bus walking like an 80-year old man, carrying his guitar case. He stopped by, said he couldn't do pictures, but y'all get a hug. He got one done, and of course it was prolonged by pictures. He started a coughing jag and bent over, his face turning bright red. We all started saying we felt so bad, he didn't have to perform like that, but he said he wanted to (that must be why he wrote the little yellow note) and excused himself back to the bus but said he'd be right back. When he came back, a pretty blonde woman was first in line for a hug, and then the handlers said he had to go. Her cousin said she (the blonde) was his biggest fan, she even follows him on Twitter (!!!), so he asked her Twitter name, and promptly forgot it. That is what you saw on Twitter. (An aside -- he didn't seem that tall to me!)

Photo by North Country Girl
She said this about his performance: "Casey didn't run around during the concert like he does when he is well, but his voice was very strong, never cracked, and he never had to sit down. He only coughed a bit between songs. He really is a magic man."
Twitter fan MNCyn was also at the concert tonight and took along two young friends.  I spoke with her after the show.  Cyndee raved about Casey's performance, even though she knew he wasn't 100%.  She had seen him briefly before the show when he left the bus to go get his guitar case.  She said he looked drained and pale.  She and a few fans went over to him.  One, Jesselynn_ on Twitter, told Casey "you don't have to sing tonight, you know."  Casey responded, "I want to" and then gave her a hug. 

Jesselynn_ and Casey
When I asked Jesse the day after the concert if there was anything she'd want to say to Casey she said, "No words, only love."  :)

Cyndee said "Casey opened to the roar of the crowds like always."  The audience was up on its collective feet for his set.  When Mike came out for their duet he asked Casey, who he called Mr. Pretty, "How you doing?"  The two, as they did for the first time on the tour the night before in Iowa, performed sitting on stools, no doubt in consideration of Casey's health.  He still threw picks out to the crowd and moved around on stage. He even waved at Cyndee's grandson, Spencer (a good thing considering how hard Spencer worked voting for Casey during American Idol).

By the end of the show's last group song, according to Cyndee, "Casey was smiling and it was almost as if doing the show gave him strength and wellness.  He was smiling and his eyes were brighter."  She observed that "performing was like medicine to him."

While Cyndee was a Casey fan going in, her fellow-concert goers, teens Anne and Ashley, "were so so about Casey before the concert - and afterwards --- wow."  They said of Casey's performance:  "hot -- crazy good ... only a true artist could do that while sick."  One of the teens, Anne, who plays guitar herself said,  "His guitar playing was amazing! We were not expecting that at all."  Ashley agreed. 

If he can get that kind of a response when he's not feeling well, it's no surprise Casey's been gathering new fans all along the concert trail!

I Got Mine


It's All Over Now (multiple versions since no one has the full song yet)


Photos by @LilyLulu2 more here

Above Photos from JesseLynn_

The reviewer posted a rather negative review of the entire American Idol show.  About the nicest thing he said of the performers was his comment about Casey:
The big discovery of the night was that Casey James, who finished third in this year's TV competition and signed with a country record label, aspires to be an electric guitar hero. He got bluesy on the Black Keys' "I Got Mine" and unleashed his George Thorogood-evoking slide and chicken-pickin' on a swinging sendup of the Rolling Stones' "It's All Over Now." James has the Goldilocks good looks of a rock star and encouraging guitar chops, but his voice was as generic as his name.
As bad as this seems, it was nothing compared to the ripping he gave everyone else. 

His review generated some contrary opinions, including this from Casey fan Jenna366:
Casey James in particular, who I also voted for like crazy and thought should have won, is incredible. Although you did say some nice things about him as a musician, the reference to his voice being as generic as his name is ludicrous and uncalled for. Give credit where credit is due but stop this ridiculous bashing and be objective. This season's tour was fabulous and the lower turnouts are more an indicator of the poor economy which has caused many tours to cancel shows or the entire tour in some cases. CASEY JAMES, LIKE ADAM, IS WELL ON HIS WAY TO BECOMING A HUGE STAR AND RIGHTLY SO.

Cyndee also responded to the lukewarm review by posting:
Here's another statistic for you, Mr. Bream. With a hospital worthy case of bronchitis-pushing-pneumonia and bed rest orders from the doctor, Casey performed at approximately 75% last night - and STILL he was the stand out performer of the show. And PS re: his name? Tell that to brother Billy James and mother Debra James. I think it's the real deal. And my bet ~ so is Casey!
With dedicated and loyal fans like these, and the others we've met around the country, Casey should soar when this tour is over!

Casey James Fans, Thank Stevie Ray Vaughan Today

John Mayer wrote a post today on his blog in honor of the 20th anniversary of the death of legendary blues musician Stevie Ray Vaughan.  In it, he wrote:
And I post this in honor of both Stevie and the thousands of undiscovered guitar players who shut the doors to their rooms, dim the lights and play along to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan and find their escape through a Fender Stratocaster.
I don't know whether the visual is 100% accurate (maybe Casey played in his living room, maybe the lights were bright), but it is fair to say that Casey James is one of those thousands of guitar players influenced by SRV.  The difference from a year ago to now is that he is no longer within the umbrella of the undiscovered, which is the usual fate for blues musicians.

That a musician so heavily influenced by the blues could get on American Idol, let alone have such a great run on the show, was a good sign. That he is now signed to a major record company is an even better one. Blues, and its purveyors, does not get the attention it deserves on its own.  It's a simple fact that far more people know who Ke$ha is than Kenny Wayne Sheppard.  Hopefully, Casey can continue to do his part to help change that as he has just by introducing me and the other millions of AI fans to a genre we may not have been that too familiar with.

For whatever reason, blues as a genre is not widely popular in mass media.  There is no major TV channel devoted to the genre, no nationally broadcast awards show for its practitioners, no top ten radio station playing the music.  Yet as a genre, it has had the widest influence on what is popular.  I recently interviewed Casey's brother BC James, Casey's bassist, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of music.  He rattled off to me all the progenitors of the blues and showed me just how much of what I and everyone else listens to came from the blues genre.  But when I asked who was his biggest influence, he went for one name -- Stevie Ray Vaughan.

When the brothers first started playing, they patterned themselves after Stevie Ray Vaughan.  As Vaughan influenced Casey's guitar playing, he told me, so too did Vaughan's bassist, Tommy Shannon, influence his playing.  Hearing that reminded me that however the mainstream media tries to tell us what's good and what we should listen to, there will be people out there who will think for themselves and find what's truly good.  The James' brothers, like those other still unknown musicians, discovered blues and with it discovered real music.  Nothing fancy, pre-fabricated, constructed to please.   Just honest music. 

Casey told LA Times writer Shirley Halperin that Stevie Ray Vaughan's 1992 release "In the Beginning" was one of the pivotal albums of his life.  He mentioned that he first discovered SRV thanks to his brother and that he used the record to learn how to play the blues.
It was a few years later when I started playing guitar, first by learning some simple stuff like country music and old rock 'n' roll, but then I remember hearing my brother listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was another moment where I was, like, “Wow, I really like what he’s doing with the guitar.” He was just attacking it like nothing I’ve ever heard. So I got an album called “In the Beginning” and I learned every note on it, which was easier to do because it was early on in his career [it was recorded in 1980]. I learned all those notes and it opened me up to the blues. When you look what he was doing, a lot of it was covers, and then you go back and start listening to those guys -- the originals Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins -- those influences changed me, too.
Casey James wrote in his high school yearbook that he wanted to be a famous blues musician.  He specified the genre back then that he connected with.  When Casey was playing at the Keys Lounge, he was a blues musician.  When he takes the stage during the American Idol tour, he's a blues musician.  Wherever he goes from here, he's a blues musician.  Because it's about heart and feeling it and not worrying about technique or formulas.  It means being so connected to the music that nothing else matters, you get lost in the notes and how they make you feel.  It is the most organic, most natural form of music, the most stripped bare and raw.  Whatever he does musically from here on out, it will be inspired and informed by the blues and in particular by the blues guitar of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Casey James and the American Idol Live Tour in St. Louis, MO

Overshadowed by the post-concert news that he had been taken to the hospital, Casey James performed last night at the Scottrade Arena in St. Louis, Missouri.  Now that we know Casey did not stay in the hospital overnight and instead headed to the next tour stop, Des Moines, Iowa, we can get back to the business of music.

Obviously, any recaps or reviews or videos of this show will be seen through the prism of knowing Casey was not at all feeling well.  That makes the many positive comments about his tough-it-out performances even more salient.

A couple concert-goers who are also Casey James Twitter fans posted their reviews last night, while waiting to hear how Casey was doing. They raved about his performances, even though they could tell that something was wrong.

CaseyEJamesFan tweeted: 
"He WAS amazing-- that's what was weird! But he just didn't look himself! He looked very tired." "Despite your illness, you still kicked butt!"
"He didn't look himself--I told my sis that right off the bat. His voice was a little off. He kicked ass on guitar though!"

Jlloy5  tweeted:
"He still sounded great but had a bad cough. I still cant figure out how he could belt those notes out with a cough"
"He didn't look real sick, but it was obvious that something was wrong, coughing a lot...not sure how he got all those notes out"

Jlloy5's picture -- for more click here
Photo by Jan Galloway Humphrey (CJCC)

Go! said, "James put in credible performances during his set, and is finally coming into his own on stage. He looked comfortable as he went full-blast rock and country-style. Lynche joined James late in his set for Bryan Adams' "'Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman.'"

PlayBackStL also praised Casey's performance, writing:
The top three was where the show really took off, and probably the biggest surprise of the night was Casey James. Now Casey had a rough climb to the top three and oftentimes was noticed more for his rugged good looks than his voice, but make no mistake, he can sing; and what’s more, the boy can shred on the guitar. He came out wailing with a killer solo for the Black Keys’ “I Got Mine.” He then slowed it down for “Don’t,” a Shania Twain cover he played on the show, followed by a duet with Big Mike on Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman.” James closed out his set by getting to his roots again on “It’s All Over Now” (most notably known for the Rolling Stones’ version) and playing a mean slide guitar. Judging by James’ guitar skills on display in the live show, I can’t help but think he was made to hold them back during the show. It makes sense, being that the focus of the show is a singing competition, but James is easily as good a guitarist (if not better) as he is a singer.

I'll update as more comes in.  I'm relieved, to say the least, to get to go back to updating about performances.  I'll admit it, I was scared last night.  Faked it well with that cool, journalistic detachment, didn't I?

I Got Mine


HYERLAW (Partial)

It's All Over Now

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Casey James News 8/25 in St. Louis -- Videos & Interviews

As the tour winds down, Casey James and the rest of the American Idol Top Ten head to the Midwest.  First stop, St. Louis, Missouri, which, as Casey has learned, is abbreviated MO and not MI.  Sorry all you Michigan fans on Twitter who briefly thought you might be getting a surprise return of the Idols.  ;)

This interview was conducted before the concert with KPLR in St. Louis.

This next video was just uploaded by Jross-TV.
It has Casey, Andrew, Mike and some members of the American Idol band including Brandon Brown and Gorden Campbell sitting around eating and talking music.

Next is an interview that was uploaded to YouTube today, but was actually conducted three weeks ago (8/4).

Late Night Sandwich (St. Louis ed., Pt. 1)

Late Nigh Sandwich (St. Louis ed., Pt. 2)

Casey James and the American Idol Tour in Denver

Casey James and the American Idol tour stopped off at the Comfort Dental Amphitheatre in Greenwood Village, Colorado, the largest outdoor amphitheatre in the Denver metropolitan area.  Does "comfort dental" sound like an oxymoron to anyone else?

In an earlier post, I discussed how Denver was where this phase of Casey's life began, this post is just about the show itself.  And from what I've seen and read, he was on fire, appropriate for the place where his career was ignited.


American Idol fan Carolyn posted a review on MJsBigBlog. Here are her observations on Casey's performance last night. 
Boom. Ba Ba Boom. Boom….. a tall, lanky guy walks right into the spotlight and the audience erupts. This is why live is always ten times better than watching on video. I could FEEL the energy explode. Amazing stuff. Everyone on their feet. Lots of screams and yells. Casey James‘ “I Got Mine” is a song I never heard of before he started the tour. It takes some guts to start your AI set with a song you never sang on the show and which most people don’t know. He rocked it. I’ve seen his guitar work on video – but in person? Incredible. His voice is perfect for this kind of music – a bit rough around the edges, whiskey-soaked. Halfway through the song, I manage to glance away from the blonde and look at my friend. Her eyes are wide, she’s a little slack-jawed. “Wow,” she manages. My gaze goes back to the star on stage. Lights are flashing, guitar is blazing, band is INTO IT. And I definitely had a moment. Actually, several moments. After this tour de force, Casey very simply starts “Don’t”. Now I own this Shania Twain CD. Play it all the time. Casey’s version is like a different song. Completely compelling, completely beautiful. His voice is pitch on. At one point, Shawty says “he’s beautiful.” I look at her and she’s looking at the big video screen. Interesting. I look back at the live guy. Definitely good-looking. I look at the screen. There are some people the camera loves. Every picture, every video makes them look like gods or goddesses. Mr. James is one of these people. In person, gorgeous. On screen, luminous. If Casey put his guitar down and decided to be an actor, he’d have people lined up to see his movies. I’m rather glad he’s not planning on doing that. Next, Big Mike comes back out for “Have You Ever Loved a Woman”. ”Oh,” my friend says. “This is exactly what I wanted – both of them at the same time.” She loves the whole thing. So do I. And finally, darn it, Casey ends with “It’s All Over Now.” I have this Rolling Stones CD also. Hard to say it, but I like Casey’s version over the great Stones’. I didn’t think I’d ever say that about any Stones song.

Shawty and I make our way back to the car. “What happened?” she said. “What do you mean?” She waves her hands in the air. “Why did Lee win? He’s not any better…” Pause. “Casey is better actually.” I explained about the fact he couldn’t really play his guitar much. “But his singing is better,” she protested. I told her about the eye candy/cougar thing. “He can’t help it if he’s beautiful,” she said. We keep walking, past the souvenir stand where a girl is asking why there aren’t any Casey James’ t-shirts. “Lee is forgettable,” my friend says. “But Casey? He’s going to take off. He’s going to be a big star.”

Did I mention she’s also my friend because she has excellent taste?


I Got Mine

Embedding disabled for Casey and Mike's duet of HYERLAW, but here's the YouTube link to the video.

It's All Over Now

Casey's become so much more relaxed on stage and more engaged with the audience. When the tour started, he seemed so thrilled to be able to play, but it was mostly internalized. He was almost alone up there, blissfully cranking it out. But now he seems more outwardly focused, more playful, more comfortable sharing this moment with the audience. The smile on his face is so big, so joyous. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but more than ever he seems to exude star quality.

The Appeal-Democrat interviewed some of the Idols before the concert. Here's the part of the interview with Casey:
How has the tour been going?
Casey: It's going great. ... I'm happy to be out here meeting fans and getting to play music in front of so many people.

What are you doing after the tour?

Casey: I get to do an album. I'm working with Sony Nashville, and I'm super excited. ... I'm from the country, so it's going to have that vibe. Kind of edgy rocky blues country.

What made you want to audition for "American Idol"?

Casey: It was a combination of me seeing I wasn't making a lot of headway where I wanted to be musically ... and my mom pressing me to try out. ... I literally went straight from a gig, wearing the clothes I wore to the gig, to try out.

What did you think of Ellen DeGeneres as a judge?

Casey: I liked her as a judge and as a person.

What will happen to "Idol" with the changes to the judging panel?

Casey: I have no idea what will happen. ... As massive as "American Idol" is, it will be interesting to see what happens.
While Casey may be indebted to American Idol for what it has done for his career, I bet he will be happy when he no longer has to answer American Idol questions!

From Jackie on MJsBigBlog:
Casey was the first really big taste of a really defined style and it was great to see his guitar skills in action. Even though the crowd was really into his first song I thought the highlight was “Don’t” and I actually prefer the more tender performances from him. The guitar change during one of the songs felt a little clunky but overall Casey really delivered a tight and cohesive set. It was great to see Casey in the town where he auditioned and he was able to thank some family in the audience for helping him out during the process.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Casey James Back in Denver

Casey James waiting in Denver 6/09
Tonight's American Idol Live concert in Denver has brought Casey James back to where it all began for him -- a fact not lost on his many fans who have tweeted him about the significance of the circle closing.  While I may write about Casey, I do not assume to know what it feels like for him to return to the place where just nine months ago he came looking to find help in making his dreams come true.  Perhaps he'll do some press and share with us what it is like to remember that the last time he was in Denver he was a relatively unknown local musician long on talent, but short on the indicia of success.  This time, he comes into the city as someone known around the world, with legions of devoted fans and a contract with a major record company.

The Casey James story, however, did not begin in Denver.  It started more than a decade earlier when he developed a love of music, channeled it into a dedication to become the best guitarist he could be, and focused all his energy on becoming a multi-dimensional singer-songwriter-musician.  Denver was the magic key, the enchanted ring, the supernatural "something" that acted as the catalyst propelling him from working to make his dreams come true to actualizing his dreams.  Without Denver we might still not know who Casey James is, as there are hundreds of other talented musicians still toiling in obscurity as I type this.  He, like them, could still be getting up every day and making that decision -- do I keep trying or do I give up?  Do I continue to play in front of three drunk guys or do I prop my guitar up against the wall in my bedroom and go out and get a "real job?"

Casey has said at almost every stop along the tour, and in so many interviews along the way, that the fans who voted for him have made his dreams come true (as they did for the other Idols, he adds).  But he could go back and thank the judges who put him through, and the producers before them who sent him to the judges, and the other musicians who encouraged him in the local music scene, and the venue owners who booked him, and the occasional fans who actually listened and shared their appreciation, and his friends and family for supporting him in pursuing a career as a musician and himself for having the internal drive to keep going in the face of substantial evidence that his dreams may never be realized.

This caused me to think about those who chase their dreams like Casey did.  How long do you continue?  When do you give up?  I suppose it depends on how realistic the dream is and how much it really matters to you.  I wrote elsewhere about a man I had the pleasure of interviewing earlier this year, Donnie Vann, who wanted to be a baseball player when he was a kid but, after a diving accident left him a quadriplegic, he had to envision a new dream, one that he might attain and that had value to him.  Eventually, he found poker and realized his dream this year to play in the World Series of Poker.  He also added new dreams -- traveling cross-country with his entourage, visiting famous landmarks along the way, and blogging about it ( 

For a musician, there are some different practicalities to consider in deciding how long to hold on to your dream.  How old is too old?  How many years of trying is too many?  Casey was 27 when he auditioned in Denver -- young to me, but not young to still be trying to break into music.  Not just because of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and the Jonas Brothers, but music is a young person's industry.  When, if ever, do you decide you're too old to pursue your musical dreams?  That's, I suppose, where the second part of the equation comes into play.  How much does it matter to you? 

There is no one who watches Casey James perform who does not recognize just how crucial music is to him -- how it is (as I've said too many times) as important as breathing air to the rest of us.  Again, I may be repeating myself, but it is almost voyeuristic watching him play the guitar, it is such a personal, emotionally-charged experience.  The fact that Casey was able to fight back after nearly losing the ability to play and the fact that he continued to pursue music as year after year went by without tangible, financial success shows how single-minded he was in not giving up on this dream.  Was he right to continue?  You can't look at the results, necessarily, to decide in retrospect if something was the right thing to do.

But you can look at what people do to try and realize their dreams.  And what stood out in the Denver auditions was Casey's comment "I'm willing to do whatever I have to do."  That showed me then that this meant everything to him.  That his priorities were aligned correctly.  Music was number one, everything else was not on the list.  If you are going to pursue your dream, you can't do it half-heartedly, you need to commit.  Casey missed the Dallas audition because he was doing that -- taking whatever gig he could get and playing whatever kind of music was required.  And his leap of faith in listening to his momma's persistent urging that he try out is more evidence of someone who was willing to go full out to make his dreams come true.

So Denver is significant as the place where Casey finally took a step that propelled him much farther than any step he'd taken before.  It is that crucial piece of the puzzle that put it all together for everyone to see.  But as we focus so much on Denver, let's not forget all the years before then that led up to Casey being able to try out in Denver.  He had a realistic dream that was nurtured enough and important enough not to give up on.   He had prepared for years for that one moment and made the most of it.  Denver was where the dream started to become a reality.

We all have dreams which, if they're not unattainable and if they're important enough to us, we might realize if we work hard enough.  Go find your Denver.

ED: After tonight's concert, Casey gave us a hint at what today was like for him, tweeting this: