Rick Allen and Lauren Monroe Talk ‘Big Love’

This Saturday Rick Allen, iconic drummer of Def Leppard, will take the stage with Lauren Monroe, the Big Love Band, and a star-studded lineup of rock and country greats to raise money for out-of-work music industry professionals. Guests will include Wynonna Judd, Billy Idol, Allman Betts Band, and tons more.

The Big Love Benefit Concert is available to order now on nugs.net. All proceeds will go to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which provides financial assistance to the millions of music industry professionals who are out of work due to COVID-19. Ahead of the big show, we talked to Rick and Lauren about the show and more. 

nugs.net: What was the most challenging part of putting together an event like this during a pandemic? 

Rick Allen: There have been many challenges. From the COVID Compliances, travel, being in lockdown and with all of the chaos happening in the world.. just getting the word out so that people will understand the dire need. Thankfully, we have had an outpour of individuals and organizations that have come forward to donate and help with services and talent. Its been a real community experience with very dedicated people who love the crews and industry workers who are really getting hit hard.

nugs.net: What do you think makes drumming a healing art during these challenging times?

RA: Rhythm itself is always healing but in challenging times it can be a sanctuary. It’s a place my mind can rest and simply be with the rhythm. It’s a calming medicine, a heartbeat we all are connected to.

nugs.net: What advice do you have for new musicians who can’t perform their craft right now? 

RA: Keep practicing, keep playing, and improving your craft. Learn new things, pay attention to how you take care of yourself, and help others. Being of service always inspires me, I highly recommend it. Also, “Act as If” and Get ready because this pause won’t last forever.

nugs.net: How did you go about forming the massive lineup for the Big Love Benefit Concert? 

RA: I texted my inspiring friends who I know have big hearts… and they all said yes. They are not only extremely talented people but they are very generous and kind. Very grateful for them.

nugs.net: What drew you to Sweet Relief as the beneficiary of the event? 

RA: Lauren and I have friends that have been beneficiaries of Sweet Reliefs care. I’ve heard such great things about the organization. It was Laurens idea to reach out to them and I’m so glad we did. I’m very hopeful that the benefit, the merch, and the auction will help them continue to do their good work and help many people get through this devastating time

nugs.net: Lauren, when you wrote Big Love, did you know the message would be so universally relevant beyond the circumstances that inspired it? Especially over the past year. 

Lauren Monroe: Yes, I did. What’s been happening in our country is not an isolated picture, it’s an issue around the world. I feel that the message of love and empathy, in the face of fear and anger, is a global message. 

nugs.net: What are you most excited about from the concert? 

Rick Allen: Really, I’m most excited to be giving back to the industry that has supported me since I was a teenager. It makes me happy to help them. I’m excited to have audiences watch the show and get to know how important our backstage crew is and how the music industry couldn’t exist without them.

Watch the Big Love Benefit Concert on Saturday, January 23rd at 9:00 PM ET on nugs.net.

2020: HOW WE LISTENED

2020 changed everything we know about the live music experience. The industry as we know it fell apart, but the live music community is resilient. From the moment band names were pulled off marquees the only question was “how do we get back out there?” We saw an evolution of the live music experience, and the way we listened to and consumed live music changed dramatically. 

Thanks to the internet, concerts became more accessible than ever in 2020. Fans of all genres no longer needed to be in a certain city or at a certain venue. It didn’t matter whether the show was in a living room or on the track of a motor speedway, every show was available to everyone. Below is a list featuring some of our favorite shows that highlight the ways music adapted to 2020, and the ways we enjoyed listening to our favorite artists: 

LIVE CONCERTS

Before the pandemic hit, we actually got a few months to revel in the true live music experience. The first few months of the year are usually the time for Island concerts and Beacon runs, so we were lucky to get some truly special shows.

Dead & Company: Playing in the Sand – Cancun, Mexico 1/19/20

Gov’t Mule: Island Exodus 11 – Runaway Bay, Jamaica

Widespread Panic: Beacon Theatre – New York, NY 3/2/20

The Brothers: Madison Square Garden – New York, NY 3/10/20

311: Park Theater – Las Vegas, NV 3/13/20

IN-HOME CONCERTS

Bands like Goose invited us into their living rooms for intimate acoustic performances. It was an early escape that connected us to our favorite artists when we needed it most.

Goose: T’s House – Somewhere, Connecticut 3/15/20

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong: Live From Out There -Somewhere, USA 4/17/20

STUDIO CONCERTS

Once it became apparent that live audiences wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon, bands reunited in the studio to record shows and share virtually. BIG Something dubbed their studio series “Escape From the Living Room,” I think we all felt that.

BIG Something: Escape From The Living Room – Winston Salem, NC 8/16/20

Metallica: Metallica HQ – San Rafael, CA 11/14/20

DRIVE-IN CONCERTS

When the weather turned warm, drive in theaters suddenly came back into style in ways not seen in half a century. The ability to play a show to a crowd that is safely inside their cars was the perfect solution to getting live music to live audiences in the age of social distancing.

Umphrey’s McGee: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, GA 10/9/20

Aqueous: Transit Drive-In – Lockport, NY 6/19/20

The Disco Biscuits: Yarmouth Drive-In – Cape Cod, MA 10/19/20

LIMITED CAPACITY EVENTS

Eventually, spaces with large outdoor capacities began opening with extremely limited and distanced in-person shows. South Farms in Morris, Connecticut became a space for Twiddle, Warren Haynes, moe., and other artists to play live outdoor concerts that fans could safely enjoy. We’ve come a long way from the living room.

Twiddle: Greenbush Studio – Ferrisburgh, VT 5/30/21

Warren Haynes: South Farms – Morris, CT 9/12/20

moe.: South Farms – Morris, CT 10/25/20

ARCHIVAL CONCERT RELEASES

With so many bands sidelined for the year, it was also a great chance to dig into the archives with classic shows from our favorite artists of yesterday and today.

Pearl Jam: The Fox Theatre – Atlanta, GA 4/3/94

Jerry Garcia and John Kahn: Garcia Live Vol. 14 – The Ritz, New York, NY 1/27/86

The White Stripes: Urga – Tokyo, Japan 10/27/2000

Looking For A Moment When The World Seems Right

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota, November 12, 2012

By Erik Flannigan

Our nostalgia for great concerts of the past is not dissimilar to that of sports. For over 20 years before it went on-demand, ESPN Classic aired some of the most memorable football, basketball, and baseball games of the last few decades. NBA TV still does. You know the stuff: Buzzer beaters and walk-off home runs in game sevens. Bowl and playoff games with miracle finishes or remarkable individual performances. Retro sports programming helped define what constitutes a classic performance and naturally led to the idea of an “instant classic,” a recent game with the same kind of thrilling dynamics as those revered events of yore.

In live Springsteen concert collecting, a (relatively) clear consensus has been reached as to the all-time great shows from his first three decades on stage. Concerts like Passaic 9/19/78, E. Rutherford 8/20/84, and the Christic Institute benefits from 1990 enjoy near-unanimous agreement as to their exceptional quality. Recent archive releases like London 11/24/75 rise from the vault to join them, gaining appreciation thanks to the availability of incredible new audio.  

Assessment of performances from the reunion era to today tends to be more subjective. One obvious bias for the current audience comes from having attended contender shows in person, which isn’t the case for most people when it comes to ’70’s and ’80s concerts, save for a lucky few. So what constitutes a post-reunion instant classic?

St. Paul 11/12/12 provides a worthy example. This excellent show checks a lot of boxes. Great versions of songs from Bruce’s most recent album? Check. Strong performances of core, classic material? Rare and surprising setlist inclusions? Bruce calling audibles, telling stories and jumping into the crowd? Check, check and check.

I make it a point not to presume the thinking behind a particular decision Bruce makes, but it does feel safe to infer that his decision to audible “I’m a Rocker” to open the St. Paul show—having never opened a set with it before—likely reflected his enthusiasm in the moment. It’s a lively rendition that sends a cue that the audience is in for an especially good time.

Ensuring his point isn’t missed, “Hungry Heart” comes second, with the crowd immediately answering the call to sing their part, verse one, quite capably. Bruce matches them, singing with intention to connect all the way to the back of the hall. He points to Jake Clemons, who makes the “Hungry Heart” solo more his own than his uncle’s.

“No Surrender” extends the “we’re in this together” sentiment, and the band is playing hot already when we arrive at a four-pack that would be a thrill to witness, for those of us who appreciate great songs that lie deeper in the catalog.

“Night” isn’t the rarest song, but its power and precision always resonate, and it has played a role in many a classic show. Jon Altschiller’s mix nicely balances guitars and piano to propel the performance, and here Clemons follows The Big Man’s footprints appropriately.

The final note holds and charges into “Loose Ends,” the outstanding River outtake in only its 25th live appearance. Again, guitars and Roy Bittan’s piano do the heavy lifting, with Garry Tallent’s bass part richly realized as well. Stevie Van Zandt, perhaps THE strongest advocate for performing outtakes, matches Springsteen’s true-to-the-original vocals and helps make this one of the best live “Loose Ends” ever.

Without so much as a breath taken between songs, Bittan starts the moving piano melody that opens “Something in the Night.” The band is locked in, and Springsteen sings with gravelly passion in a gorgeous overall reading. With feelings already heightened by “Something in the Night,” Bruce selects what for my money is the saddest and most emotional song he has ever written, “Stolen Car.” 

In just its second appearance with the band since 1985 (the first being the 2009 River album set at Madison Square Garden), “Stolen Car” is about the recognition of love unraveling. The song’s musical arrangement illustrates the range of the E Street Band to marvelous effect, connecting with as much prowess in the spare grace of their playing on “Stolen Car” as they do in the crescendo of “Born to Run.” “Something in the Night” and “Stolen Car” also carry poignant accents from the horn section, adding new tones and colors to these genuinely profound performances.

Following that memorable quartet we move through the core of the 2012 set with tour-honed versions of “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Death to My Hometown,” “My City of Ruins” and “Pay Me Money Down.”

In addition to making his standard band introductions, Bruce addresses the crowd in “My City of Ruins,” telling them he and the band love “repeat customers” (St. Paul was the only market on the fall arena tour with two shows) and, rather amusingly, that special recognition of their status in the Twin Cities can be fleeting. “We are the band that yesterday had two streets named after us right here in the city,” he brags. “Today, nothing! No streets! Back to Butthole Avenue or whatever it was before yesterday.”

Also slipped into the set after “My City of Ruins” is an exuberant version of “The E Street Shuffle,” complete with horn-section tune-up prelude, an Everett Bradley percussion solo that walks the song to the edge of Santana, and a full outro. Perhaps less faithful than the version on the Christmas release from 11/7/09 but no less fun.

With the second St. Paul concert falling on the Veterans Day holiday, Springsteen worked up the first-ever, full-band version of “Devils & Dust.” The solemn and striking arrangement leverages the full capabilities of the expanded line-up: Curt Ramm’s trumpet and Soozie’s violin set the initial tone; Max Weinberg’s drums along with Nils Lofgren’s and Van Zandt’s guitars carry the majestic middle; and the E Street Choir add their graceful voices as the song eventually grows to its fully realized conclusion.

“Youngstown” feels appropriately positioned just after, reminding us of the plight of veterans who return to hometowns as the jobs that long sustained and provided identity to their working class are disappearing. “Murder Incorporated,” 2012 edition, is a horn-led affair in addition to a triple-guitar showpiece.

Sure, the junior vocalist on “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” may be in slightly over their head, but 2012 also means we have the E Street Choir to ensure the rest of the singing is sweet (they performed the same service in “Hungry Heart,” which also featured audience members on mic). Choir voices also further enliven “She’s the One” and provide backbone to “Shackled and Drawn.”

“The Rising” and “Badlands” both stick their landings, and the main set concludes with “Land of Hope and Dreams” calling on the horns and extra voices for additional heart and soul power. For the encore, Jake steps into the biggest of the Big Man’s shoes and delivers his own soul power to “Jungleland,” soloing impressively above Bittan’s fluid piano runs. “Born to Run” sustains its crescendo an extra long time, with horn blasts keeping the tension building. “Dancing in the Dark,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” and “American Land” send everyone home happy and inspired, as well they should.

Perhaps “instant classic” is a term best left in the sports realm, but contemporary subjectivity acknowledged, what more could one want from a Wrecking Ball tour performance than what Bruce delivers on the second night of St. Paul?