Phil Vassar concert at Northern Lights Theater in Potawatomi Casino, Milwaukee, Wis.
Phil Vassar performed the second of two consecutive sold-out shows at Northern Lights Theater in Milwaukee, Wis., on December 5. The intimate venue located at Potawatomi Casino offered a great setting for the country music artist who could easily call Wisconsin his second home. He performs again tonight in Madison at the Barrymore Theater.
Taking the stage a little after 8 p.m., without an opening act, Vassar was greeted by a rambunctious crowd that eventually filled the aisle near the stage to dance the night away. He pounced upon his piano, playing "Baby Rocks" to get the night started, continuing with "That's When I Love You."
Smiling at the crowd, Vassar proclaimed his love for Milwaukee, then added, "We don't have a setlist, so call 'em out and we'll play it." A fan quickly yelled out "Joe and Rosalita" and Vassar immediately obliged. The night played out much like a house party. Vassar interacted with fans near the front, even celebrating one fan's birthday with an obligatory shot or two.
"We shot this video here during Summerfest earlier this year," said Vassar before breaking into his most recent single, "Love Is Alive." He later called out Milwaukee, noting "This song always makes me think about summer, even when it's 17 degrees out like tonight." That segued into "Six Pack Summer."
Phil left the stage for a quick break while his band took over toward the latter portion of the show. Longtime guitarist Jeff Smith sang portions of The Outfield's "Your Love" and Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl." Bassist Steve Cook took over for The Beatles' "All My Loving" before Vassar returned.
Vassar did perform one song from his latest album, "Noel," the original and entertaining "Santa's Gone Hollywood." Though he did stop briefly before the last verse when he gaffed the lyrics, he quickly recovered and completed the song while his bandmates gently chided him on stage. At least 40-50 fans purchased the CD after the show and Phil took time to sign their copies and pose for photos.
For more, including a complete photo gallery, please click on www.examiner.com/review/phil-vassar-brings-party-atmosphere-to-northern-lights-theater
I got a lot of great feedback from last week's Q&A, so continuing to roll through with more this week. Keep those questions coming on twitter to @philvassar using #5Questions and I'll answer away. My favs will be posted on my site each week.
Q: You’ve done a lot of shows for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. How did you get involved with St. Jude's?
Phil: We went down to Memphis to St. Jude’s the very first year "Carlene" came out. Ever since then we’ve done events for them. One of my friends is an attorney in Memphis and one of his kids had cancer. Seeing what he went through first hand and how St. Jude’s helped them, It’s an amazing thing. Since I’ve been a spokesperson for St. Jude’s I’ve noticed how much it has grown over the last 13-15 years. It seems like every time I go there they have a new wing. That’s great. Just knowing there’s so much going on there. So that drives me to continue to do more and more events for them.
Q: Do you use the same set list of songs for your concerts?
Phil: No, we switch up the songs from show to show. Basically before we head out on stage I’ll say the first song tonight is going to be this song and then we walk out. And then after that it’s a free for all. I call out from song-to-song. It keeps the show fresh. I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen do that, just go out and fans hold up signs and whatever. I love that. It just gives the show some added edge and spontaneity.
Q: You usually work in a couple of cover songs each show. How do you select the cover songs you play that night?
Phil: I don’t really know. Sometimes we’re on stage and I’ll just start a song we’ve never played together before. The guys just kind of kick in. It’s kind of a recipe for disaster, I guess, but for the most part it works for us. It keeps us all on edge. All sharp. I think it makes it fun for all of us; we’ll start a song and all of us on stage will be like, "Cool, I remember that song."
With the Titans games last year we did a bunch of covers, we learned quite a few new songs, so that’s really helped us as a band when we’re out on the road. We do so many different styles of shows – our concerts, private events, benefits – we now have different cover songs that fit what’s appropriate for that show. And we just go with the flow, go with the crowd.
Q: Are there any artists who you enjoy covering?
Phil: A lot of times I’m going to lean toward Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel the most. Or Elton John. It’s fun to do Ray Charles. The piano players probably catch my attention a little more.
Q: Who controls the television on the bus?
Phil: Pretty much everybody has a say on the TV. We really don’t have any issues with what to watch. Mostly we’re watching ESPN or different sports channels … or news, believe it or not. I’d like to say it’s more exciting, but that’s really it. We have all the sports packages for college and pro, you know, so we take advantage of that. And there’s a whole lot of sports going on this time of year. Actually, I’m surprised sometimes we find time to watch the news. And everybody also has their own TV in their bunk, so we don’t fight over the channel too much. But usually its Gordo or Jeff with the remote to the front TV.
Social media has provided me a great opportunity to hear from fans, answer questions, get to know you guys, let you guys get to know me a little better, share life on the road a little bit. But it's hard to really answer too much in those 140 space tweets. So we're going to start a weekly Q&A feature on the website ... well, mostly weekly, might miss one here or there. Gives me a chance to answer some longer questions and share a little more with you guys.
To get it started this week my team (mostly my manager, marketing people, daughters) came up with some questions. But I really want the questions to come from you. Ask away on twitter to @philvassar using #5Questions and I'll answer away. My favs will be posted on my site each week.
Q: How long have you had your dogs?
Phil: I’ve had my dogs for 12 years, both of them. They’re getting up there. I got Sammy, my lab, from Merv Griffin at an auction in Phoenix … a Childhelp USA auction. She was a puppy when I got her, a few months old with a red bow around her. Zach I got from the same program that trains all the secret service dogs. With his training, he speaks a couple of languages, I think sometimes he barks in German.
Q: Do you ever bring your dogs out on the road with you?
Phil: Man, those dogs, I wish I could but those dogs, they’re at the point now where they’ve become home-body dogs. I don’t think they’d want to leave the house. But good dear, they are just so big and there are so many of us on the bus … there’s no way in the world the guys would let me bring them on the bus. But I don’t think the dogs would like it; too cramped on the bus. They’re used to having my whole yard to play in. Gah, I can’t imagine what they’d do in a small place like the bus.
Q: How do you keep up with your sports teams while you’re on the road?
Phil: It’s really not that bad. We have all the TV sports packages for the bus, so I can watch games pretty much wherever. And now with all the apps for my phone, you know, I have the Titans apps, so of course I always keep up with them. And Virginia Tech, JMU ... any Virginia sports. The ACC, the SEC, I’m pretty much up to date with what’s going on. It’s a lot of fun this year, been a lot of fun keeping up with football.
Q: Last year you performed at the Titans home games, had a band stage set up there at LP Field. Being a Titans fan, what was that experience like?
Phil: It was a lot of fun! It was really busy having those games booked for all those Sundays, but it made for a lot of good times. And a lot of cool artists came and hung out with us during the games. You know, it’s fun to be a part of Nashville. I’ve lived here so long, this is my hometown. To be a part of something like that in your hometown is … well … it’s kind of special. I’m from Virginia – and that will always stay with me – but I’ve lived here in Nashville longer than I’ve lived anywhere so it is pretty much me. It’s fun to have the Titans and the Preds here. When I moved here we didn’t have any of that. Vanderbilt and the Nashville Sounds was it. I’ve adopted Vandy as my college team and I love having the Sounds, they’re really fun games to go to, but the Titans and the Preds have really helped take us that next level, I think.
Q: When you were singing at the Titans games did you ever hang out with any of the players?
Phil: I got a chance to meet some of them. I still keep in touch with a couple of the guys. Some of them will come over to my place. When we have a party at the house, you know, those guys come over. Rob Bironas always comes on by, Marc Mariani. A couple of the guys. It’s fun to see them around town, say hi, chat a little.