Thursday, August 29, 2013

VMworld – A Concert Review

     This week, the tenth annual VMworld conference was held in San Francisco. VMworld is hosted by VMware, Inc. and is the largest virtualization-specific event in the United States. There will be a corresponding VMworld event in Europe (Barcelona) in October. The IT professionals at either event have an opportunity to gain information and develop ideas while attending breakout sessions, hands-on labs, and solution exchanges. The four-day event drew more than 22,000 professionals this week.

Who cares, this is a music blog!!! 
     Well, while most of the activities occurred at the Moscone Center near the downtown area of SF, the VMworld Party took place at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The entertainment included Imagine Dragons and Train.
The party was spectacular. There was something for everyone. Some attendees focused on the no-charge carnival games and walked away with collections of stuffed animals. Others played the large array of video games or made sure that nothing interfered with the ability to take advantage of free food and beverages (yes, free beer and that stuff that non-beer drinking enthusiasts seem to like). The Giants’ batting cage was open and the carnival-type rides were popular.

     Well, you never know what to expect when concert-goers actually pay for something other than the concert and when the bands arrive knowing that they will be performing for an audience that isn’t primarily comprised of their fans. Will the attendees just talk through most of a band’s session? Will the band consider performing at a special-interest event less important than events for which they are responsible for drawing the crowd? At VMworld, the answers were both “No.”

     This was our fourth chance to see Imagine Dragons. The first time was in May 2012 before most people realized the band’s talents. At that first opportunity, the crowd was far less than 200 strong and we stood only a few feet from the stage. Nevertheless, the performance at VMworld was the best experience of the four. The band is now much more polished and the songs are more tightly performed. Interestingly, the song “Never Changing Who I Am” was more downtempo than the radio version and didn’t include frontman Dan Reynolds’ standard technique of holding the microphone stand high above his head near the end of the song. But it was a hit with the crowd. Imagine Dragons finished with “Radioacive,” which involved three of the members rhythmically and forcefully attacking drums. It was effective and the crowd responded appreciatively.  Embedded below is a Youtube video that was posted by another attendee. The audio is not production quality, of course, but our captures are typically no better.

Imagine Dragons gave every appearance that they wanted to be at VMworld. Reynolds talked about the band’s early days in Las Vegas and spoke fondly of the special-interest events that were the original performance outlets for the band. Reynolds also said that he enjoyed playing on the same stage as Train, since he has been a fan for a number of years. He did not mention the accuracy or inaccuracy of the story that Imagine Dragons’ first break came when they were asked to substitute for Train at a Las Vegas festival, after Train’s frontman (Pat Monahan) fell ill.

     After a quick stage change, Carl Eschenbach, the President and COO at VMware, introduced Train with his usual high level of energy. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell the story about the disappearance of his wife at a previous Train concert - disappearance until she and another spouse of a VMware executive were spotted on the stage, dancing with the band.
      As engaged and engaging as Imagine Dragons were, Train were able to reach another level. Pat Monahan allowed the crowd to vote “yes” or “no” as to whether the band should perform “Marry Me,” since “There are only eleven women in the audience.” The crowd went with “yes,” but Monahan playfully reprimanded one of the guys for singing along too emotionally. During another song, he repeatedly borrowed easily accessible cell phones from people close to the stage (who were already taking pictures) and then angled the lens to take a picture that captured both the phone’s owner and himself. Among their own material, Train played a medley that included Led Zeppelin, Lou Reed and Beatle songs. Every song the band touched, whether their own or a cover, was well received.
Below is a Youtube video posted by some kind person:

     The night could not have gone much better - two bands with charismatic leaders and solid setlists, non-musical activities for those who wanted them, respectful concert attendees, and a strong sound system.

Thank you VMworld and your host – VMware, Inc.  

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