I had enjoyed Nielsen the last time I saw him, but I had a more pressing reason to go to tonight’s show- I had to find out if he had the amp. The Rick’s Picks exhibit, a collection of mementos from his dad’s long career as the gregarious guitarist of Cheap Trick, contained many fascinating and gorgeous guitars, but the one with the best story was a custom built cherry wood guitar. When the Nielsen family put in a new driveway it killed the cherry tree in the front yard, so Rick saved the wood, had it kiln-dried for ten years, and then had a guitar and matching amp made out of it. While the guitar itself was on display at the Burpee Museum, Nielsen reportedly had no idea where the amp was, “I think maybe Miles has it.” That matter had been sorted out before I even got there, he does have it, and it was in the van. While the museum card said that all the knobs were labeled volume, Miles went one better, telling my friend that “they all go to eleven.”
Nielsen has a likeable voice and the songs are catchy, but it’s his band that really sells the material. The best of these is multi-instrumentalist Dan McMahon. Not only is he a terrific guitar player, but he has a great voice which plays well with Nielsen’s. I’ve been a fan of McMahon for years since seeing him with the Wandering Sons, a band that got much less interesting after his departure. Also great is keyboardist/clarinetist Adam Plamann who added a lot without a hint of the cheesiness both of those instruments are prone to. The night had been a collaborative effort already with Daniel & the Lion featuring PHOX vocalist Monica Martin and Corey Hart inviting D&L up for one of their songs, so it made sense that Nielsen would invite everyone back to the stage for a singalong on the Beatles “Don’t Bring Me Down,” a song custom-made for all star jams. It took me a second to recognize the guy behind the keyboard as Rusty (whose last name I don’t know and who plays with Corey Hart) because it was the first time I had seen him without his hat.
I was running late since it was a volleyball night, but I still got there in time to see plenty of Daniel and the Lion’s opening set. They knew they were getting a good deal too, commenting “the opening band doesn’t usually get a chance to stretch out like this.” I was surprised that the long haired keyboard player was the one named Daniel since he looked much more like the Lion. Their piano/guitar songs were pretty but a little sleepy. Hart got a little more lively with his big band and his infectious tunes. It had been years since I had last seen him and it seems he has done well for himself since then. A lot of the crowd was definitely his fans. I was surprised I didn’t know more people there, but it was good to see our friend Eric from Milwaukee.
And it was very good to know that Miles does indeed have the amp.
Miles Nielsen & the Rusted Hearts