It’s February and that means the heart of winter here in Upstate New York. Cold, Ice, Snow, and did I mention cold? We all know winter can be brutal here, but times like these brings us looking forward to the other season that’s so wonderful here-summer. With summer brings the great outdoors, beer and music concerts. In my lengthy concert experiences, the best place to see live music during the summer season in Upstate New York is no doubt CMAC. Nestled in the Finger Lakes region and sitting atop of a beautiful vista in Canandaigua, NY, CMAC yearly brings a handful of talented, national musicians to its hall.
There’s something about CMAC that makes me go back there every year for shows. Perhaps it’s the location and the scenery, or the stage set up, excellent sound system and seating that lets you have a good spot no matter where you sit, or just the general experience of a show itself. Even the lawn can be a fun spot to sit down in a chair under the stars and listen to some Journey, or in case with Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, dance your night away at CMAC.
CMAC brings a great variety of musicians ever year, and last year was no exception. Kicking the season off to a good start was Michael Franti & Spearhead with Steve Winwood, who was rolling through the area after performing last year’s Mountain Jam festival in the Catskills. The month of July glistened with some great 90’s rock and beats with Barenaked Ladies and Blues Traveler. Later on in the season to everyone’s delight, CMAC announced Dave Matthews would be playing an all acoustic night with Tim Reynolds, which happened to be my favorite concert last year. Also a show that was announced later on was the extremely talented and ever so growing popular Brit band Mumford & Sons. And finally, there was good old 80s rock night with Journey, Pat Benetar & Loverboy. Each of these shows that I went to last year at CMAC had different touches and momentum.
One of the most entertaining performers of the 2012 concert season at CMAC was Michael Franti & Spearhead, who rocked out the venue opening up for Steve Winwood. Anyone who has attended a Michael Franti show knows his concerts are unique and can be a super fun dancing experience. One of the sole reasons for going to this particular show at CMAC was the interesting combination of these two artist, who’s music are completely different from each other. Michael Franti’s energy was a perfect opener for Winwood and had the crowd going. It helped that he performed one of my favorite songs, ‘Everybody Deserves Music’ during the first few moments when he graced the stage. With his long hair and dreadlocks, Franti bounced around and was one of the only artist I’ve seen this year walk into the crowd as he sang. He not only did this, but Franti himself stumbled all the way to the back of the venue to the hilly lawn behind the seats where it was raining on fellow concert goers. It was interesting to see the diverse crowd, the young hippies there to see Spearhead, and the older ones to enjoy Winwood afterwards. Michael Franti & Spearhead proved to be an excellent choice for what would sure be a great season to come.
Michael Franti & Spearhead Average concert rating at their performance at CMAC:
B+ or *** out of ***** stars
Having seen Eric Clapton several years ago at Summerfest in Milwaukee, I was extremely excited to see his other half, legendary guitarist Steve Winwood. It was exciting and accelerating to view a legendary rock and roll guitarist and pianist at my favorite music venue in New York. Winwood’s passion and intensity filled the hall that rainy night, and his voice proved he was still on top of his game. Winwood rocked through such classics as I’m a Man and Low Spark of High Heeled Boys while breaking into his most well known tunes Higher Love and Gimmie some Lovin’ later during his setlist. Overall it was a great concert worth going to and be able to claim to see one of the legendary guitarists of rock and roll history.
Steve Winwood concert rating at his CMAC 2012 performance
A- Or **** out of ***** stars
Setlist for Steve Winwood:
1· I'm a Man
(The Spencer Davis Group song)
(Blind Faith song)
5· Dirty City
7· Empty Pages
8· Pearly Queen
10· Higher Love
- · Encore:
11· Dear Mr. Fantasy
(The Spencer Davis Group song)
Not only the best performance at CMAC this summer, but my favorite concert of the year, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds rocked Canandaigua this past summer on July 15th. The concert was announced only a month or so before the event, and upon being announced, many concertgoers were excited over the announcement. ‘I’m definitely going to this show more than any other this year, Dave & Tim shows are one of a kind,” said fellow concert goer Scott Lamb, who lives in Rochester, NY. Scott is right, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds only perform a few concerts every year, so it was extra special they would announce a show at my favorite music venue, CMAC.
And WOW, what a concert it was. The show lasted well over three hours, and all of it exclusively acoustic. Having never been to a Dave and Tim show, but have seen the Dave Matthews Band many times, I was shocked and greatly satisfied of the experience. Dave & Tim know how to play music right, and they seem to bounce off of each others never ending energy. Dave is often a comedian at his shows, and this one was no exception as he joked about Miami and Bath salts and more. It was great to hear “Funny the way it is’ as the second tune of the night. Dave and Tim continued and rocked the stage hit after hit as the night continued and the sun went down. This special evening had no opening band, it was just Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, so they had time to play whatever it was they wished to. Their set list included everything from Crush to Gravedigger and Grey Street to Jimi Thing and Don’t Drink the Water. One of the most special moments of this night came to me at the very end, during the encore when Dave and Tim sang a highly impressive cover of All Along the Watchtower, which Dave only rarely performs at his concerts. Overall, this concert was quite simply the best concert at Cmac this year due to the immense energy of Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, the impressive set list, and being able to see the two perform together live at CMAC.
Set list for Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds at CMAC:
Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds at CMAC 2012 overall grade: A+
One of the better concerts of the year at CMAC during the 2012 season happened a few weeks after Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds during the peak of the summer. Coming from England, Mumford & Sons rocked CMAC in early August. Like the Dave Matthews concert, this performance was announced only several weeks before the show and had thousands of concert goers in central New York head over heels. The show sold out all the seats in CMAC in just under a few hours, and at the concert, the place was literally jammed pack. Above all other concerts at CMAC this past year, Mumford & Sons was the most special.
Never mind the fact that the band had to change their concert schedule in order to play at CMAC, they had a special stage set up just for the venue. One glance at the stage and shell at CMAC one knew right from the beginning everyone was in for a special night. During the concert, dazzling lights angled from the stage to the roof of the venue, providing a spectacular display.
Having released their debut album over a year ago, Mumford & Sons were ready to perform several songs off their upcoming album Babel, which would later receive highly critical reviews as one of the best albums of 2012. Despite the album not released yet, everyone at the concert didn’t mind listening to the new songs Mumford performing during their set list. The band also played all their familiar hits, including “Little Lion Man’, which was impressively the second song of the night. One would have guessed the band would emotionally perform ‘The Cave’ as the last song, making the sold out crowd cheer wildly as Mumford & Sons insisted they will return soon to central New York. The band’s energy, guitar playing and Mumford’s vocals throughout the night proved to be one of the best concerts of the season. It was extra special to see one of the most upcoming modern rock and folks bands performing at CMAC.
Performance Grade A+ or ***** out of 5 stars
1) Lover’s Eyes, 2) Little Lion Man, 3) I will Wait, 4) White Blank Page, 5) I gave you all, 6) Timshel, 7) Roll Away your Stone, 8) Lover of the Light, 9) Thistle & Weeds, 10) Ghosts that we knew, 11) Below my feet, 12) Awake my Soul, 13), Whispers in the Dark, 14) Dust Bowl Dance, 15) Winter Winds, 16) Where are you Now? (Encore), 17) The Cave (Encore)
Nothing creates summer like going to a good old fashion 80s rock concert, and nothing reflects the eighties like Journey, Pat Benetar & Loverboy, who all played CMAC this past august in one night. The weather was perfect, a drifting cloudy blue sky on a hot August night. One knew even before going to the party it was going to be a good time as fellow concert goers packed the road heading to the amphitheater.
To me, Journey & Pat Benatar was the most entertaining concert I went to this season at CMAC. Everyone there sang along to just about every song both bands performed, and people were just excited to see Pat Benetar. Pat Beneatar had headlined CMAC a few years ago, so it was special seeing her opening up for Journey. She rocked the night, kicking all her hits as the crowd sang along with her. The two bands seemed to go together like peas and carrots. Pat performed an extensive set list that lasted well over an hour, proving that she was not just an opening band. She even had her own encore. And who could not sing along to ‘Heartbreaker’? During ‘Heartbreaker’, Benetar mixed the tune with her own version of ‘Ring of Fire’, originally sang by Johnny Cash, which was a nice surprise. Sharing the stage, Pat Benetar was just as good as Journey and got the crowd going with excitement for the headliner.
Performance B+ or 4 out of 5 Stars
Set list: 1) All Fired Up, 2) Invincible, 3) Promises in the Dark, 4) We Belong, 5) You better Un 6) Hit me with your best shot 7) Love is a battlefield, 8) Let’s stay together (Encore), 9) Heartbreaker/Ring of Fire (Encore)
There is one thing Journey knows how to do, and that is to melt faces. They did this and more when they graced the stage after Pat Benetar. For me, I’d much rather see Journey then any other 80’s rock band, simply because when you think of 80s rock music, Journey automatically comes to mind. The Journey concert this August was an excellent time at CMAC and like all shows at the venue was well worth going to.
The best things about this concert was the impressive set list and Journey’s new lead singer, who hit every not perfectly. He seemed to blend in well with the band, and I’d highly recommend others join the cause and see the lead front man Arnel Pineda. His stage moves stole the show as he bounced around the stage and swung the microphone as if he’d been with the band all along. Having never seen Journey before, I was very skeptical of them having a new lead singer, but after the show I just kept on wanting more. Nowadays, for anyone that have seen Journey, it’s hard not to disagree that Arnel Pineda is Journey.
L et’s not forget the man everyone came to the show to experience-Mr. Neal Shcon. Schon rocked out on his classical guitar throughout the night, and one was in simply awe being in a great guitar player’s presence. It was a great thing going to the concert just to be able to see Neal perform and play, and being in the presence of a legendary guitarist deliver the goods.
The Journey/Pat Benetar concert was a great way to end the 2012 concert season at CMAC. I wouldn’t mind seeing them again after their awesome performance, which included hit after hit and of the most impressive set lists I’ve ever seen. By all means, anyone who is having doubts about the new lead singer Journey, erase them now and go see them for yourself for one hell of a rock show.
My Performance: A- or **** in a half out of 5 stars
Set list at CMAC for Journey: 1) Majestic, 2) Anyway You Want it, 3) Never Walk Away), 4) Ask the Lonely, 4) Only the Young, 5) Send her my Love, 6) Faithfully, 7) The Star-Spangled Banner, 8) Stone in Love, 9) Lights, 10) Wheel in the Sky, 11) Escape, 12) Anytime, 13) Be good to yourself, 14) Piano Solo, 15) Open Arms, 16) Don’t Stop Believing, 17) Separate Ways (Worlds Apart), Encore: Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'.
This concludes my reviews at CMAC this past summer. Having been to many beautiful music venues across the nation, including the Greek Theatre in San Francisco and the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, I can say that CMAC has become of my favorite all time places to enjoy live music. Everyone living in central New York should go at least once during the summer. And what better chance than this year, which happens to be CMAC’s 30th anniversary. Already announced to their 2013 concert season is Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Fun, LL Cool J, and Luke Bryan. So get out of the house this summer folks and enjoy some great live music at one of the best musical venues not only in New York but in the entire country- CMAC!
Concerts in CMAC Summer 2012 by
Leo Pareti , music/concert writer and photographer