Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Concert Review: Sheryl Crow At MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB, 09/27/2008

Around 9 pm, the lights went down inside the MTS Centre, Winnipeg's main concert venue, and taped music of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" was played for a few minutes before the headliners took to the stage. I had an excellent view from the third row on the floor and some of the people around erupted in excitement as they spotted the band members climb the stairs to the stage, from the side, partly obscured by the curtains.

Suddenly, there was someone with long, curly blond hair walking on and with the stage still in darkness, Sheryl Crow (46) strapped on an acoustic guitar and began playing a bitter-sweet slow number that referenced 9/11 and the lies that led to the war in Iraq. It was "God Bless This Mess," from her new album, Detours. A giant peace symbol was projected on the curtains for maximum effect, in case you didn't get what the song was about or what helped inspire some of the new disc.

After that number, the curtains fell down and revealed the backing band, which was comprised of a percussionist with a drum kit, a drummer, a bassist, a lead guitarist, a mandolin/ acoustic guitarist, a keyboard player, and two back-up singers. They were tight and sounded good. Crow mistakenly mentioned that it was Friday night and had tomorrow as a bonus. She asked the audience whether or not she had played Winnipeg before. She joked that they were nodding yes but saying no.In fact, she played a rural festival in 1996.

She spoke about watching the debate between the two Presidential candidates yesterday, on their day off, and moaned about how messed up the US was as a result of Bush. She then played another new song, "Shine Over Babylon." Crow supports the US Democratic party. She performed at their convention this summer and in 2007, she famously got into a heated exchange with Republican brain trust Karl Rove at the White House's annual Correspondent's Dinner, over global warming.

Before introducing another new song, she also mentioned how she was engaged and then not, was diagnosed with breast cancer, but beat it. Crow asked the audience if they read the tabloids and wondered why people were famous for being famous and mentioned quickly Paris Hilton before breaking into "Motivation," another new song.

There was also a green bent to one of her songs, an apocalyptic tune from the future about the long past year 2017 and the gasoline crisis, called "Gasoline." Crow is quite the political, social, and environmental activist, sort of like a female Bono. She plans on donating $1 from every ticket sold on the 2008 tour to the United Nations World Food Programme. The audience wanted to hear her best-known songs and they were not disappointed with "The First Cut Is The Deepest," "Leaving Las Vegas," "If It Makes You Happy," "Everyday Is A Winding Road," "A Change Would Do You Good," and "Soak Up The Sun." "All I Wanna Do" and Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll" were saved for the encore.

Curiously, she utilized snippets of a couple of songs in the show. "Gimmie Shelter" by the Rolling Stones crept into "Gasoline," Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" and early in the show, Johnny Nash's 1972 hit, "I Can See Clearly Now," which she made into a sing-along.

Sheryl Crow flashes her pearly whites an awful lot, and she smiles and sings a great deal. Bob Dylan doesn't smile when he sings. Crow is the master of it. Her vocals were always spot on. Whether she sang in whispered "come hither" tones or from the bottom of lungs in the rockier tunes, her voiced seemed to be beautiful and flawless.

This was the second time that I've seen Blue Rodeo front man Jim Cuddy open for someone at the MTS Centre. The last time he opened, it was for John Forgerty in 2007.

Cuddy is an excellent singer and storyteller. He looks sincere and passionate, unlike the cold, distant Oasis singer, Liam Gallagher. Some of the songs they played were good, but some were forgettable sound-alikes. Cuddy's weakness lies not in his singing, stage presence, strength of his or the band's musicianship, or his lyrics. The weakness lies with the sameness of the songs. He and his band make for a good opening act, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see them headline. The highlight of his show was when the band played extended songs and did some jamming. His fiddle player, Anne Lindsay, put on a volcanic performance that brought considerable applause when she was finished.

Attendence was 6000 and my rating for this show is 3.5/5.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Coolermaster Cosmos case

Here's a review of a case that I'm thinking of using for my next system. It's by s. Gunnell from Watauga,TX and was posted on Amazon.com.

"I basically divide cases into 3 types:

1. Economical cases which serve only to hold your hardware.

2. Gamer type cases can be cheap or one of the finest on the market, but they all offer features that make them flashy, such as windows, lights, etc.

3. Luxury cases I define as cases that are solid, very well built and made of top end materials, but are more artistic and stylish than gamer cases and are appropriate for your home office up to your corporate office.

This is one of the finest "Luxury" cases I have ever built a system in, and I have built well over 50. An aluminum skin all around with noise blocking material installed from the factory is just the start of a long list of quality features.

I would have liked to have 1 or 2 more 5 1/2 bays, but that is more of a personal preference. Above that, this is a solid, stunning case (much more so in person) that will leave most buyers content with their decision to buy this one.

UPDATE: After building several systems in this case for customers, a serious flaw became very apparent. The HDD (Hard Drive) bays basically act just like mini toaster ovens on the drives due to the enclosed design and lack of any ventilation or cooling. After doing a dual OS system install on one computer, the two installed (Raptor 150's) were so blazing hot you couldn't hold them in your hand for over a second.

REMEDY: Normally I would discontinue using a case with a flaw like this, but I like this case so much I decided to search for a solution instead, and found a great one if you WATER COOL your PC.

Get one Koolance Hard Drive Hydra-Pak soft Cooler #HD-50-L06 (HD)for each drive. The cooler fits between the drive and the removeable hard drive tray and fit right back into the slot. You CAN NOT use the Koolance dual drive cooler due to the way the hard drive bays are designed on this model. This solution allows you to "sandwich" the water cooling Hydra-Pak between the HDD and tray and have the water connections easily available on the back-side.

I water cool all my systems, and this solution turned a serious over-heating and HDD killer into a constant 20-24 temp. reading on the hard drives at all times (readings from a Koolance Exos 2 LX at both idle and heavy, sustained system testing)! If your not up to speed on temps., that's a pretty impressive range for a hard drive under heavy use. Went from a problem to a positive if you have decided to use water cooling on your new rig.

If your not water cooling, don't mess around too long before finding a good air solution or you will be replacing your hard drives and having the huge headache of re-installing everything back on new ones. The extreme high temps will be a huge burden on your HDD's over time if it doesn't knock them out sooner than later and cause a source of high temperature inside your case that makes all the fan cooling just that much more inefficient. The High Performance Raptor 10,000 drives I was using produce more heat than normal 7,200 drives so the problem may not be as extreme using most hard drives, but it will still be an issue that needs to be addressed sooner or later.

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