Sunday, November 18, 2007

International Pop Overthrow
The Rivoli, Toronto ON
The Original Segarini Band
The First Time
and more

The wife and I stopped in at the backroom of The Rivoli on Toronto's Queen St West strip for some punk-entertainment. International Pop Overthrow has brought their punk-based, mostly indie, festival north to Canada for it's club debut. They've got a 4-day run booked, presenting 10-15 bands a day. Quite a lot to take in some my ADD addled mind. So I picked four bands playing the Bullseye Records showcase. Thanks to Pete Kashur for the 'heads up'.

We're in the city early enough to find parking within a short walking distance of The Rivoli. It also results in our witnessing The Modern Punk Quartet. Two things of interest. 1) During their short set they were a trio for song 1 and a quintet for all but their last song, when they were finally a quartet. 2) The last song was a spirited, if flawed, cover of New York City by Canadian punk-legends The Demics. Made what preceeded it bearable.

Next up, from Youngstown, Ohio, a post-punk supergroup, of sorts. Actually I'd argue that the concept of a 'supergroup' is anti-thetical to the punk ethos but his band is comprised of former members of the Stiv Bators Band, Napoleon in Rags and the Infidels. (Those last two band names are somewhat related to Dylan.)

The Deadbeat Poets bring a tongue-in-cheek humour to the 2 minute power punk genre. The set opens with a self-searching blast at accountability, "Where Was I When I Needed Me?" Great work from shaggy-headed guitarist Pete Drivere who was just blistering the whole set. They had some troubles with tuning but after all, this is punk, tuning should be just an afterthought.

Third band is The First Time, a hard-driving punk band with something intangible happening. After making a buzz in 2005 on the Toronto Indie scene they underwent some personnel changes and have emerged with Ron McJannet fronting the band. If their success is predicated on his continued growth then they have a chance because he commands the stage well now and has the chutzpah to make an impression.

He opens the show with an a capella version of Dorothy Fields' If My Friends Could See Me Now, as dry-ice fog envelops him he belts it out like he was Judy Garland. Attention grabbing, but no gimic, it's a fun and powerful one minute intro. It accomplishes much more in my mind... you gotta respect kids who respect the history of music. The set showcases songs from their new release, TakingBreakingDown. Can-con highlight of the night...a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's Sundown that you would not believe.

Last band for us tonight is The Original Segarini Band. Now what to say about Bob Segarini? I dunno, so I'll just make some shit up.

He was there, in The Haight, when the counter-culture was busy being born. For reasons undisclosed (but likely having to do with morals laws) he made his way to Canada sometime in the mid-to-late '70's. Here he became a bit of a fixture on the college-pub circuit and in 1978 released a piece of art that stands the test of time, Gotta Have Pop. That record sits alongside Van Morrison's Moondance, The Beatles Abbey Road, John Prine's Sweet Revenge, Creedence Clearwater Revival's Cosmo's Factory, John Otway's Deep Thought (a NA release that was a combination of 'John Otway & Wild Billy Barrett' and 'Deep and Meaningless', but i digress) and Nick Lowe's Jesus of Cool, which was released in NA as Pure Pop for Now People.

Are they as good as those records?
Who am I to say?

The point is when you drop the needle on any of them, there's no need to remove it...every song is a joy to hear and that's quite an accomplishment.

Gotta Have Pop is both a send-up and an homage. It's a moment in time that never got it's righteous due in the rock pantheon. Them's the breaks, I guess.

Which is why it's a pleasure to be standing 15 feet from the stage with my sight-line and bead on the PA banks unimpeded by visual or auditory distractions. He's backed tonight by the players who were in the studio with him almost 30 years ago, and a couple of chick-a-dees they picked up on the way 'cause neither of those girls could have been born in 1978. Bob and the band deliver, covering a ton of songs from Gotta Have Pop.

They open with a trip to the Islands, Jamaica that is, a funky rendition of I Want You To Stay from the 1977 EP, Starlight.
I think lead guitarist Pete Kashur deviates from the set list and throws the audience an early bone as the ringing opening chords of Gotta Have Pop get us into and through the 800 pound gorilla in the room. A pop-anthem.
We dive into the melodramatic angst of the lovelorn and lovetorn with the pairing of I Don't Want to Lose You and the dreamy Hide Away.
Livin' in the Movies lightens the mood considerably. Some great lyrics in here as we wade through the pitfalls of a menage-a-trois, or perhaps merely unrequited love. Bob changes the line the whole song turns on though. What was once, "i'm not even sorry that I hit you that night..." becomes "i'm not even sorry that I spanked you that night..." I guess it stings a little less in this PC days. Still with tongue-in-cheek, which seems to be a sub-theme amongst the fun-loving bands onstage tonight, we get the 50's era Steady Eddie. There ain't no cumupance like your kids. This song could have appeared in a dream sequence in Blackboard Jungle or even High School Hellcats. We move from the coolness of James Dean to the dorkiness of the disco era with the hilarious Don't Believe A Word I Say. Almost a doo-wop song it lampoons the shallowness of the chase in the 'image is everything' age. Hey, if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? I used to own a crushed velvet jacket.
Back to some pure pop with When The Lights Are out before the set closes with the more mature Good-Bye LA and the anthemic Juvenile Delinquents double-shot.

I missed not hearing Dressed in the Dark or Love Story but it is a festival set. This band has tightened considerably since the last time I saw them, over a year ago, while retaining a party looseness that makes them a joy to witness. I hope Bob gets to play this show for more audiences...they'd do well to take in a night and revisit the golden age of new wave music.

There's a torrent of this show running at dime.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Herman's Hermits
w/ Peter Noone
Fallsview Casino
Niagara Fall ON

Had my first 'boy crush' on Peter Noone when I was about 8 years old. It's taken a long time to finally see him in concert. Back in the early '80's I did go to see a Noone-less version of the Herman's Hermits at a small bar in Toronto; obviously it fell short of expectations.

Peter is just a few days shy of his 60th birthday and he joins a long line of 60's rock heroes who are still plying their trade in the new millenium. Think I've seen most of them this year as well.

Now these guys never did pack the weight of the Rolling Stones or the Beatles or even the Hollies, but they provided more than a few moments of pop-joy and even produced one or two songs that are an integral part of the baby-boomer culture.

Tonight is a 'birthday show' for me (and, as it turns out, Peter's mother) so the days festivities contained numerous adult activities including, but not limited to, betting 13 on the roulette wheel (to no avail, I passed them an additional $150) and keeping my elbows bent most all day. Nice pastoral start to the day as we cruised the Niagara Parkway, driving in and out of the misty rain emanating from the Falls. Which brings me to my 3rd row seat with quite a glow-on and a strong need to pee.

Pre-show festivities were interesting, if unnerving. Casino shows are always a gamble, especially if you're close to the front where the 'comp' tickets land. The Avalon Ballroom is a terrific venue, all the seats are good, the sound is superb and it's just the right size. I've enjoyed both BB King and Loretta Lynn here in the past couple years and both evenings were great concert experiences. As showtime approached there were lots of empty seats in the front sections and the ushers were scrambling to fill them in with patrons. People were being put into empty seats and then the ticket holders were showing up...causing confusion and consternation. Four people were ushered into the seats behind us. The alpha-male was boasting that it was a good thing they improved the shitty seats they were given, after all, did they not know who they were dealing with? The ladies giggled with glee and fondled their jewellry. The alpha assured all in the party that they were set because patrons at these shows are told their tickets won't be honoured if they show up late...a concept I'm not familiar with but one I'm sure could not be imposed on me if I had a paid ticket. Not even if I just chose to show up for the encore. As luck would have it the real ticket holders showed up and it seems the usher didn't know who they were dealing with and the arrogant interlopers were sent back to their rightful places. Just in time too, because the show is not late in starting.

After a quick musical introduction Peter Noone runs onto the stage and leaps right into Can't You Hear My Heartbeat followed quickly by Wonderful World and Listen People. A few minor hits and he's covered most of his instantly recognizable vocal range. Some pop and some pulp.

The show is filled with light stage banter, running jokes and endless allusions to other pop-culture icons. He peppers the set with spicy imitations of a wide variety of artists from Johnny Cash to Michael Jackson and Tom Jones. Though he could have done a complete show and never left the Herman's Hermits catalogue, he finds himself reminding us of the likes of Johnny Horton, Davey Jones (of the Monkees, not that Ziggy Stardust guy) and Gerry and the Pacemakers. It's a real '60's flashback kind of thing and it works well for Peter and for his audience. He's very connected to his fans, I swear to god he looked right at me! At least long enough to ascertain I wasn't the parent of the two cuties sitting to my right...who he proceeded to stare down most of the rest of the night.

Throughout the evening cd's were passed about to audience members, t-shirts tossed into the crowd from the stage, LP's handed onstage for signatures...lots of stuff besides the songs. That's all well and good, but it's the songs we want to hear.

Fortunately they keep coming and they all sound great. An energetic Dandy is followed by some chat about their first North American single, banned by many stations because they thought the song said "she's a muscular boy." A testament to the difficulty some had adjusting to the hair back in the '60's. A Must To Avoid was a sonic treat as Peter's voice is surprisingly strong for a man approaching 60.

A truncated stab at Leaning on A Lampost (I believe the only original song that didn't get a full playing) is followed by a rare "B" side, No Milk Today. Peter has fun trying to explain to the youngsters in the audience that "cd's used to have a song on the OTHER side."

From here to the end of the show it's almost all hits, every one a highlight. Got a special pleasure out of hearing Silhouettes, a long time favorite. Next to that would be a very restrained Mrs Brown, with Peter accompanied only by the familiar guitar and the audience at rapt attention.

We did get a loooooooong version of Henry the VIII, as in, millionth verse, same as the first. Complete with another sing-a-long.

The show closes with a lively version of A Kind of Hush and everybody got their moneys worth.

Peter joked all night about the 'love handles' he'd developed but he's looking great and moving pretty good for a senior. The tour still has a few weeks to run so you can check to see if he's coming to a town near you.

There's a torrent of this show running at dime.

Herman's Hermits
w/ Peter Noone
Avalon Ballroom
Fallsview Casino
Niagara Falls ON

taped by KreweChief on
Church Audio Cardioids>CA STC-9000 Pre-Amp >Edirol R-09 at 24/48 >USB >Sonic Foundry 16bit wave> FlacFrontend

FLC Row 3 Seat 4

Disc 1

Can't You Hear My Heartbeat
Wonderful World
Listen People
Love Potion #9
Battle of New Orleans
A Must To Avoid
Folsom Prison Blues/I'll Be There
Ferry Cross the Mersey
Travelling Light
Daydream Believer
It's Not Unusual
Leaning on A Lampost
No Milk Today

Disc 2

I'm Telling You Now
A World Without Love
Start Me Up/Talk
Just A Little Bit Better
Sea Cruise
The End of the World
I'm Into Something Good
Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter
Henry the VIII
There's A Kind of Hush

Monday, October 29, 2007

29 Years and Counting:
Costello, Dylan and Springsteen

Back in the fall of 1978 I had the good fortune to catch a few memorable concerts.

On October 12,1978 Bob Dylan brought his 'homage to Elvis Tour' to Maple Leaf Gardens for an excellent 27 song marathon concert.

On November 3, 1978 Elvis Costello graced the O'Keefe Center with his "2 minute power-pop" catalogue.

On November 11, 1978 Bruce Springsteen was in the Maple Leaf Garden Concert Bowl showing off the power of his Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour.

Had you told me that almost 30 years later I'd see the same three acts within a week of each other, I woulda thought you ... well, if not crazy, at least not very prescient.

As fate would have it Elvis Costello had the opening slot on Bob Dylan's Fall Tour. First time solo in 12 years for Elvis. Just him, his guitars and a bunch of cavernous arena's. 2007 finds him married with children and seemingly enjoying every minute of being alive.

Bruce is back together with the E- Street Band for what could conceivably be the last kick at the can. He's also hot on the heels of Magic...a record that sounds as close to The River as you could hope.

Bob...well, Bob just won't go away, he's in the middle of the longest death scene ever committed to film...or disc.

In 1978 Bob was on the cusp of his great religious conversion, a year removed from an acrimonious divorce and two years or more removed from the success and failure of the greatest rock tour ever, The Rolling Thunder Review.

In 1978 Bruce was returning from a forced three-year hiatus following the legal wranglings after Born to Run and putting on the best show a little money could buy.

In 1978 Elvis was dead and Elvis was exploding on the North American scene, buoyed by the great production of Nick Lowe and riding the crest of the British New Wave invasion.

These artists, while different in so many ways, have similarities as well.
Most obvious...they are saddled with a narrow public view of their output.
Elvis will live in our minds, forever bespectacled and knock-kneed.
Bob is that lone figure in the spotlight, harmonica rack and guitar, singing topical songs.
Bruce is a grease-monkey with a babe for a girlfriend.

Wonder if they've changed?

Elvis Costello
Albany NY

Elvis took all of 3 seconds to cover the ground from side-stage to center stage. He picked up his guitar on the way and before the crowd even knew it he was into The Angels Wanna Wear (My Red Shoes). The well-paced, but not frantic, vocal delivery belied the speed at which he was playing the chords. This was machine-gun-acoustic-arena-rock, if such a thing exists.
In strong voice he leads us through some new songs, with a heavy political bent to his stage chatter. Suffice it to say that as much as he might like to mow the lawn he ain't a big fan of bush.

Oliver's Army was the surprise of the night and in these mercenary times it fit in quite well.
Next best moment was getting the Nick Lowe gem, What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding.
We were also treated to an extended mix of Radio Sweetheart and Van Morrison's Jackie Wilson Said, complete with sing-a-long.

But every song was stellar. The frenetic, salacious ending to From Sulphur to Sugar Cane (where Elvis inserts a city-specific and rhyming alternative each night) may have been the height of concert, even in the midst of these great tunes. In Albany the line was "the girls in Poughkeepsie, take their clothes off when their tipsy/ but in Albany New Yawwwwwwk, they love the filthy way I talk...." A rollicking good time.

The most impressive element of the set was the joy with which he attacked the songs both new and old. It was also strange to see the post-punk, new waver taking on the mantle of 'voice of a generation'. His sound and his attitude have matured over the intervening years, it was a pleasure seeing him do his stuff.

Set list:
Track 01 Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes
Track 02 Blue Chair
Track 03 Either Side of the Same Town
Track 04 The River In Reverse
Track 05 Oliver's Army
Track 06 Down Among the Wine and Spirits
Track 07 Sulphur to Sugar Cane
Track 08 Veronica
Track 09 Radio Sweetheart
Track 10 What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding?
Track 11 The Scarlet Tide

There's a torrent of this show running at dime.

Elvis in Albany

Bruce Springsteen
Toronto ON

I hadn't seen Bruce since the Born in the USA tour. Didn't like the way his career was going then...he was destined to start thinking too much of himself, or the critics were going to do the same. The shiny, buffed pecs of the Born tour did not jive with the kid from Jersey ethos. The marriage to the model didn't help either. Then that "double LP" release where two separate records were issued on the same day, but not a double album, two separate records. His capacity to tell me things outstripped my capacity to listen. But there was no denying when you went to see Bruce you got your money's worth, so I'm looking forward to this incarnation/reunion.

'Course, at $133.00 per ticket they're also asking for more money, so the ante has been upped.

As it turns out Bruce has put together almost the perfect show for a lapsed-Boss-fan. His new album, Magic, sounds like The River. The show opens with a calliope crashing to the ground...ok, maybe it was just playing but that sound is the heart of this band. The new songs, while having a broader subject matter than the trials and tribulations one might encounter in Spanish Harlem, still evoke the same longing for a world-gone-right in place of what we have.

Highlights of the show were many. Going into the venue I had 4 songs on my 'wish list': For You, She's the One, Rosalita and Candy's Room. I had an expectation I'd get one. Turns out Rosalita was the one I didn't get. Candy's Room followed by She's the One was absolutely terrific. A wonderful version of For You was worth the ticket price all by itself. The inclusion of Incident on 57th Street just made it like Christmas. Even with all that the show-stopping song of the night was a full-band, full-throttle version of Reason to Believe.

Bruce sings a little slower but he didn't miss a lyric and there was all the passion you could hope for.

Disc 1
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
For You
Reason To Believe
Candy's Room
She's The One
Living In The Future
Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak (w/ Patti)
Incident on 57th Street

Disc 2
Darlington County
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last To Die
Long Walk Home

Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Born To Run
Dancin' In the Dark
American Land

There's a torrent of this show running at dime.

Bruce in Toronto

Bob Dylan
Ypsilanti MI

As Graham Parker once mused, "passion is no ordinary word". In the case of Bob Dylan and his live performance is the be-all and end-all. And it's what is sadly missing from this current incarnation of Dylan. Sentiment has replaced passion and I find myself on the outside looking in, standing next to Mr. Jones, vaguely aware that something is going on but unable to define it. Or uninterested.

I even know the moment it happened for me. June 24,2005, Little Falls, NJ, song 9. Got up to get a beer for the first time in a hundred shows.

Looking back I realize the moment for Bob was likely that weekend in the fall of 2002 when he taped the video for Cross the Green Mountain. Even as Charlie was setting the stage on fire at George Mason with his last performance in this band, Bob was looking forward to shedding off one more layer of skin. And now he's in a cowboy band, and while it may be technically proficient, it's kinda boring.

What has actually happened is that for the first time in my long career of listening to Dylan he is speaking to me from a 'future voice'. When I first came upon his music in the early '70's I had a wealth of material to uncover...all of the '60's. I was looking back, to attitudes and platitudes of a previous time. It was easy to find context, to make it fit.

For many years after that we were running a more-or-less parallel course through life but he's reached a time, being 15+ years older, where he's speaking to me from the future and it's likely my shortcoming that I can't take what he has to say to heart. I'm sure there'll come a day when I look back at Modern Times and say... "hey, he knew what was happening!" But it won't be tonight and it won't be here.

So I have nothing to say about the show except you won't need a doctors note to attend.

Disc One [68:45]
1. Intro
2. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
3. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
4. Watching The River Flow
5. Love Sick (Bob on electric
6. The Levee's Gonna Break
7. When The Deal Goes Down
8. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
9. Workingman's Blues #2
10. Honest With Me
11. Spirit On The Water
12. Highway 61 Revisited

Disc Two [34:40]
1. Nettie Moore
2. Summer Days
3. Masters Of War
4. (encore)
5. Thunder On The Mountain
6. Band intro
7. All Along The Watchtower

There's a torrent of this show running at dime.

Dylan in Ypsilanti

So what did I learn?

Some artists age like fine wine...getting better and fuller.
Some artists age like fruit cake...never changing, staying rock solid.
Some artists age like lettuce...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

1957 by Buck 65

1957 Live from Montreal

Buck 65 myspace page

i saw the best minds of my generation destroyed
devoid of conviction, conflicted, annoyed
kicked at and worn down
beat lookin' for the next quick fix
unpopular prophets and problems
up against angels in disguise who wanna rob them
they didn't want to end up crushed by god's embrace
in the age of the cold wind, blowin' dogs in space

space is a fake, the felonious drunk
empty rooms haunted by thelonius monk
felonious punk with plate glass squares
who see empty eyes and look straight past theirs
tree walking cheetahs with a gun in each hand
you are lost at sea, you're desperate to reach land
orpheus descending swimming in the crooked waters
hello sid vicious good bye Brooklyn Dodgers

no joke, hit the low note
we all go to heaven in a little row boat

like no joke, hit the low note
we all go to heaven in a little row boat
(repeat X3)
57, 57, 57

1957 Chevy Bel Air interior velvet special
playing poly-stereo Buddy Holly ,Elvis Presley
Black Flame Trilogyquadruple outer bass
battle sites, Little Rock , satellites in outer space
words won't help but a few bugs can
crew cuts and black leather, Ku Klux Klan
men wear hats, in fact ?heroin is shared?
opiates addicted to and parents are scared
the underground is real
deliver brains deliver queens?
perpetual motion, emotion, free thinkers and libertines
suffer alone all night with pains
hooked on drugs and a fight with chains
there's Faulkner and Baldwin
?? and some who curse reality
spy-vs-spy and the cult of personality*
what can the numbers and the words in my head mean
kilroy was here and so was Buster Crabbe and Ed Gein


1957, the pen keeps moving in attempt to sink the jingos
fight 'em with Hula Hoops, Frisbees and pink flamingos
up running all night, late sleep ordered
Have Gun Will Travel, Great Leap Forward
man on the corner with dark glasses free an' preachin'
appetite is monstruous, diet is Dionysian
all over the world, so much peril in one show
playright Arthur Miller marries Marilyn Monroe*
(ed. note: oops, seems like a 1956 happening)
hard rain fallin', baby sleepin' in god's palm
alarm clocks ringing, warrior monks and bomb squads
Invasion of the Body Snatchers*
corporate obedience, believers in numbers
speed freaks and bohemians
red is the new black,identity files
rebels and grand dragons, obscenity trials
the lead is Bobby Fisher, the country, no part is red
just black-and-white, Humphrey Bogart is dead

Friday, September 07, 2007

Virgin Festival
Toronto Islands
Day 1

So after the debacle that was the Virgin Festival 2006 Richard Branson promised he would make it up to Toronto.

You remember 2006 don't you? Second day headliner Massive Attack was replaced by local bar-band Broken Social Scene. The first day headliner, The Flaming Lips, had their set cut to only 4 songs. This due to Gnarles Barkley's inflated sense of their importance and a curfew, so the rich Islanders could get their sleep.

This is his idea of making it up?

He's a lying bastard at best. Already cancelled, after being announced and attracting fans, Amy Winehouse & The Hives. And no offer of a ticket refund even though those were the primary reasons for paying for a two-day pass. Add to that about 4 more announced-then-cancelled acts and you start thinking he's just jerking your chain. Don't be satisfied with Bjork and the Pumpkins as headliners. They were included in the US version which also got Incubus, Modest Mouse, Cheap Trick, Chris Cornell, The Beastie Boys and The Police, in place of a long list of bands that you wouldn't recognize. Weird concept of "make up" that Branson has there. It could be worse...they could have been pleased with last years shortcomings.

Next year I'll enjoy spending the $200.00 on about 6 different nights...but not at any Virgin event.

So I'm down to one day I think I might be able to tolerate.

Except for the way they make the main stage so 'name-heavy' that it takes away any chance of seeing a multitude of bands. With 3 stages (as opposed to last years 2 because I don't count the disco-tent-dj-stage as real music) there is so much overlap that you either have to live with 20 minutes of 20 bands or just hunker down by the main stage for the 'big' acts.

I use that term loosely as k-OS is no substitute for Amy Winehouse and the Stars are no substitute for the Hives.

On the 'good news' front, my Church Audio mics and preamp came in and I've got an Edirol R-09, so I'm hoping to get my first high-quality, 24 bit capture. If I can figure out how everything works in time.

One bright spot, as I head towards the Ferry Docks, Amy's spot is still open and TBA is slotted to play. Now if Branson really cared about quality he will have reached down deep and convinced the White Stripes to start their fall tour a few days early.

As if.

My prediction is we'll get someone like The Salads, or whoever came in second in the local radio contest for a spot at VFest.

So Saturday was a lovely day. The sun was high and it was hot. Kudos to the Ferry staff who moved us across the water in record time. Security was almost non-existant.
As for the VFest crew...well, they leave a little to be desired. After exiting the ferry we're hearded into a fenced enclosure waiting for the gates to open. Shouldn't be too bad, it's 10 minutes to 1, and sure enough, right at 1, an officious looking dude rides up to the entrance on a golf-cart...but doesn't open it. About 10 after 1 some guy with a clipboard does the same thing. Did I mention it's hot? At 1:15 I'm doing an interview with a reporter who likely works for a local paper. Rather than spew my venom on Branson & Co. I tell her I'm happy with the situation and it's really going to be up to the bands to make it a great day. By 1:20 pm we can hear the opening bands onstage and the doors finally open.

Without time to check out the venue I decide to drop The Vincent Black Shadow from the schedule and head over to the small stage where The Jon Levine Band is putting on a pretty energetic set to the gathered multitude of...oh, about 12 of us. As I say 'hello', he says 'goodbye' and within minutes Dragonette is onstage.

Now if you've searched around the internet then let me tell you Dragonette's reputation exceeds them. I thought they were going to be much raunchier. Of course it's hard to convey oozing sexuality at 2 in the afternoon on a sun-drenched stage. Lead singer Martina Sorbara is dressed almost demurely in a white demi-t and a skin-tight body suit. But she moves real good. The music is infectious, relying on a mid-80's synth-pop center, it's substanially muscled up by the work of bassist Dan Kurtz and guitarist Will Stapleton. It's like a cross between Nelly Furtado and Chrissy Hynde.
They did a good job of engaging the audience with a short 7-song set. Not a lot of time to build to a crescendo, so they just knocked them off in quick succession and ended up with an honorable showing in a tough time slot. Martina attacks the mic with a fervour normally reserved for ... well, for the sake of decorum let's say a tasty ice cream cone. She has a saucy mouth to go along with her salacious tales. The music needs to become a little more hardcore to jive with their personas. Definitely worth another look.

Local hip-hop god, K-OS, was a late addition to the lineup. Probably replacing The Coral. I'll say this: It's far from the worst decision made by the organizers. That'll come later. Though he seemed to be receiving a decent amount of respect from the large crowd K-OS admonished them on a couple occassions to move a little. That's the biggest downside to these types of festivals, besides the short set times...there's no guarantee your people are going to be present in force, so you may not always feel the love. His set closes with Danke Shein leading into a lively Sunday Morning and though it's a little late in the day I've finally heard the first song I recognize.

A quick stage change and UK songstress M.I.A. takes flight. Tight little cutie, dressed in pink and black leather. Short shorts too. She wins the "most captivating lead" category for the day. Her energy seemed boundless as she bounced from side to side, reaching out to the audience by setting up on the risers that extend from the main stage. Before 'Bird Flu' she invites some people up to dance and, against the obvious wishes of venue security, at least 50 people make it up there to provide a chorus line of sorts. Her set closes with a brief stint of body surfing. Very trusting lady.

Time now to track down a quick burger and drink as Amy Winehouse's replacement gets set to take the stage. No, it's not the White Stripes.

It's Kid Koala.



He was on the 2006 bill. Made my list of "artists not to see". To add injury to insult his set lasts only 15 minutes. You see, he's a DJ, and try as he might, he could do nothing to stop the hot sun from melting his records.

That leaves an excruciating one hour wait before the Arctic Monkeys set. Not enough time to catch another act but just enough time to suck the life out of an audience sitting in the ... did I tell you it was hot?

Who the f*ck are the Arctic Monkeys? Well, maybe a one-album band. In fairness, the new songs are exactly along the mold of the first album. Saucy power pop. They just haven't garnered the same amount of acceptance among the fanbase.

It was painfully evident that the greatest reaction was held for the holdovers from Whatever People Say I Am, yada, yada, yada. Most of the songs from Favourite Worst Nightmare were met with increased chattering in the crowd, save the opening numbers, This House Is A Circus and Brianstorm, which packed a punch and got the set off to a roaring start. It was in the middle portion, following a couple hits and before the closing hit-laden final segment, that the show lagged a little. Again, it's likely a by-product of the event but it was still a tad disappointing. What little stage chatter we got seemed to be further evidence that this is not something particular to the Toronto crowd as the onstage jokes were about how the audience really liked, and responded to, the old songs. I would suggest that rather than poke fun at them ("see i told you they would like this one", in response to the cheers that greeted Fake Tales), the band should appreciate their fans enthusiasm and get to writing songs that will be accepted with the same fervour. The relative silence that greeted 5 out of 6 of the following songs, all the new ones, should be testament to that.

These guys are a lot of fun live and I think they have talents not yet seen so I'll be back when they come to a venue that will let them display those characteristics.

Last band of the night, Interpol. (I'm skipping the bird-lady, Bjork. She's from Iceland you know, though they just call it "Land" there. Soon that's what we'll all be calling it.)After I got over the shock that David Spade was the lead singer I settled back to really enjoy a set that sounded like a marketable Joy Division. It was the best set of the day. I can't tell you much about it because I'm not at all familiar with their repetoire. I kept passing on them because I thought they were a German techno-metal band like Kraftwerk or something. It's that whole Euro-name. I do know David Spade isn't their singer, though.

On a side note, vegans may want to stay away from the Interpol site link.

Great work by the bands.

Terrible job by the VFest organizers who've had my money for almost 6 months. Promised a lot more than they delivered.
Didn't make up for last year.
Owe us still for this year.
I haven't even mentioned the sickening commercial crap all around these festivals. It'll be a long time before Branson gets me back to one of these things. But that's ok, I'm guessing I'll be seeing concerts long after this guy is done promoting them.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The White Stripes
Patriot Center
Fairfax VA

"Okay, you hear and see it and it's going to happen fast. Now, you're not going to get it all, and you might hear the wrong words, and then afterwards, see I can't...I won't be able to talk to you afterwards..."
Bob Dylan in Don't Look Back.

He could have been looking ahead.

An above average show from an artist that never fails to amaze. I'm on about my 18th show with Jack and there's always something new...and a promise that's not likely to change soon.

Overall the show was a little shorter than some this year but filled with more than enough special moments to warrant a "BEST EVER" or two in the immediate afterglow.

Standard opener in Dead Leaves And the Dirty Ground from the breakthrough third album, White Blood Cells. Usually the first two slots are fast-paced warm-ups Tonight it was done at about 3/4's speed. Not quite the 'rip your face off' pace it usually has. I think it was better for the care he took with the song.

What You Might Have Missed:
"I didn't feel so bad till the sun went down (plaintive moan)
then I come home
no one to wrap my arms around."
He did a 'timrod' on this one and just stole those words from Son House.

Always like it when he steps over to talk to Meg in a spot where you expect the second 'candy cane' song. Jack opts to do a verse of Icky Thump (normally the third song) and create a medley with When I Hear My Name, the song likely slated for the #2 slot. The extended center of this song explores the melody of WIHMN before
Jack closes with the remainder of an energetic Icky Thump. A two-fer.

What You Might Have Missed: WIHMN...not much to this one besides a monster beat. Icky Thump; "White Americans, what?/ Nothing better to do?/Why don't you kick yourself out?/You're an immigrant too?"

The long musical interlude had the effect of slowing the tempo, making this opening trio of songs a little less driven than normal. Later in the show Jack questions the audiences enthusiasm, saying he can't tell if they're excited or bored. He might have laid the seeds for a reticent audience in the opening segment. Icky Thump closes with some intensity but that momentum is lost during the rather long break for a guitar switch before Death Letter Blues. This made no difference in the quality of the opening, it just made it slightly different than your average show.

Death Letter Blues has moved up the set list a few slots. It's traditionally the blow-out guitar extravaganza of the night...or one of a few, in any case. In slot #4 it's shorter by a few minutes but no less intense. This song is the best modern-rock
interpretation of a Mississippi Delta Blues song I've ever heard. Jack's love of the blues is evident in most of what this band does but this song shows his unconscious talent. He has tapped into the soul of this music and it's passion explodes where it
may have merely simmered in the original version. We got a very good version tonight.

What You Might Have Missed: The ghost of Son House slapping his knee.

A show without Cannon is no show at all. When it's paired with Little Room, instead of it's normal mate, John the Revelator, it becomes a rare moment to savour. I'm not sure why we didn't get JtR but if you listen at the point the song switches and Meg
starts her beat, Jack is laughing, saying "oh, oh, oH, OH, OH", as if he is reading her lead and gives her what she's playing. Maybe he's not the control freak some make him out to be.

What You Might Have Missed: "Lord above, how could man, be evil?"

Hotel Yorba is fun filler at the best of times. And fun filler at the worst of times. Mostly it's just fun filler.

What You Might Have Missed: It's country night in Virginia.

Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman is another treat. Love the songs where Jack switches from piano to guitar.

What You Might Have Missed: "every single girl needs help/ climbing up a tree/ you know it don't take much/to satisfy me"

And now for the NIN-moment, complete with disco ball and crowd grunts. Slowly Turning Into You is the center piece of the whole set. Jack pulls out all the audience-participation tricks and light-show he has at his disposal.
Lovely moody piece that kind of noodles along until we get the hook and Jack implores the crowd to chant on queue. Great lyrics, the song is broken into two segments...the primary verses and the chant...which is where he really channels Trent. A little exploration of love-hate, coming down sqaurely in favour of love.

What You Might Have Missed: "I even love it when you're faking it/And it might sound a little strange for me to say to you/But I'm proud to be you/ And I'm slowly turning into you"

Next up another instrumental. Instinct Blues tease with Rat tease, basically the primary riffs from both those songs repeated alternately three times. Sometimes, most times in fact, when you get these musical teases you get a song
with lyrics attached to them. Lately the Rat tease has accompanied Martyr For Your Love and for a brief moment at the end of the triumvirate pair of teases it sounds like that is what we're getting, then he breaks down into the chords for
One More Cup of Coffee.

Coffee was extremely well done and much more enjoyable than the last time I heard it, while ducking flying beer pints in Glasgow. He really nails this, the quaver in his voice is bang on.

What You Might Have Missed: Likely not a beat.

Martyr For My Love For You is fast becoming a favorite from the new record. I don't worry too much about the possible age difference between the main characters or the reason he has to be a martyr, it's just a bitter-sweet story told with an edge and from a perspective not often seen in rock. He has come close to mastering that pregnant pause before he delivers the title...tonight it was excruciatingly long and he waited as long as we could bear.

What You Might Have Missed: the tricky word dance that is the opening verse; "She was sixteen and six feet tall/ In a crowd of teenagers comin' out of the zoo /She stumbled started to slip and fall / Teeter-tottered on the top of patent leather shoes /I happened to catch her and said, /"maybe these ruby shoes are a little cumbersome for you"

Meg always gets a good reception from the audience. Deservedly so too. For all people want to argue about her drumming style I'll say this: Jack White can play solo, he can play with the Raconteurs or he can back Dylan...he'll always be great.
He'll only be The White Stripes when Meg is on the drums. She's a much stronger singer now than she was a few years ago. Gotta like the way Jack sits at the back of the stage, with his back to the audience, and lets her have her moment. He also
takes the opportunity to mention it's her Virginia debut, as the Stripes are playing this state for the first time.

What You Might Have Missed: this is one creepy song.

What You Couldn't Have Missed: Meg's kinda cute when she's coy.

One verse of Do is a gift, tonight we get the second verse. Unfortunately it's coupled with/lost in a medley with Black Math, a screamfest that has it's own charm though it may not be immediately evident.

What You Might Have Missed: the angst in Do, "it doesn't matter cause my eyes are lying/and they don't have emotion/don't wanna be social, can't take it when they hate me/but i know there's nothing i can do "

What You Surely Missed: the slam at the education system in Black Math, mostly because he absolutely butchered the lyrics on this one. He repeated the first verse twice, almost catching himself the second time by putting the last couplet of the first verse in there. Hedoes nail the middle verse: "Mathematically turning the page/Unequivocally showing my age/I'm practically center stage/Undeniably earning your wage/Maybe I'll put my live on ice/And teach myself, maybe that'll be nice."
Then he spits out one line of the last verse, the wrong line, and packs it in, closing with guitar and drums.

Let's Shake Hands is another 'candy cane children' song, a single, not on any album. Well loved by one and all. Too raucous to be called filler but not that complex.

What You Might Have Missed: "oh, say my name/ oh, baby say my name/ you can do what you wanna do/ you can do it in a garbage can/say my name."

Ball and Biscuit finds Jack having some trouble with his onstage monitors. He claims it sounds like "donkey", which is a strange description for an audio sensation. He keeps on trucking though and we get a good sounding version from our side.

What You Might Have Missed: Having played this song live with Dylan he was channeling him a bit early on...dropping words from lines, either
by design or through sloppiness or distraction.

Hardest Button To Button is appropriate the day after the debut of the Simpson's.

What You Might Have Missed: I don't care to go on about the more popularly recognized tracks. It's the gems I'm looking for.

On to the encore. A fairly full first set clocking in around 60 minutes so I don't expect more than a half hour in the next segment.

The Blue Orchid tease at the start of the encore was actually a relief...not too keen on the song. An extra bonus when he broke into Screwdriver and even that was up another notch when we get the alternate opening verse. I don't know what monkey Jack was talking about but that was an enjoyable experimentation in ad-lib. He really extends this song as Meg finds a groove and elicits a wailing refrain of "got
a little feelin' goin' now" to close.

What You Might Have Missed: "what am i supposed to think?/drop a nickel in the sink/i love people like a brother now/ but i'm not gonna be their mother now/ what if someone walked up to me/ and like an apple cut right through me?/ i'm not just gonna stand their grinnin'/ i'm not the one that's sinnin'/screwdriver!"

300 MPH Torrential Downpour Blues is one that has to grow on you. Tonights version might not be the one to turn the trick. It was a little slow to start though he did nail the final verse. Jack visits his fetish for three's (and red-headed women) in this song probably better suited for a concert hall rather than an arena. It's not the easiest song on the new record to replicate live so many points for effort
and outcome. The lyrics to the whole tune are substantially changed in the center portion.

What you might have missed: the screamfest that closes the song and somewhat approximates this; "But I can't help but wonder if after I'm gone will I still have these three hundred mile per hour, finger breaking, no answers makin', battered dirty hands, bee stung and busted up, empty cup torrential outpour blues...." which is where it ends as Jack leaves out the closing couplet:
"One thing's for sure: in that graveyard
I'm gonna have the shiniest pair of shoes"

He admonishes the crowd for it's silence before sucking up to them and talking to some chick in a red dress.

Seven Nation Army sees the return of the malfunctioning monitors and Jack's whine.

We Are Going To Be Friends in yet anothe 'candy cane children' song. I like it. The wife doesn't. You can decide.

Now we get to the absolute gem of the evening, Sam's Place, a Buck Owen's cover. First a little useless information. Back in '05 when I was about a year into my 'bored with Dylan' phase, Cece had completed my database of Stripes songs.
I turned my energies to producing a couple compilation of rare songs and blues covers. One of the comps was called: Jack White's Kitchen: Rare Songs Well Done, a nod to Robert Johnson's Come In My Kitchen that appears on the disc. That comp opens
with a bunch of songs that contain the name 'Jack'... Jack On Fire, Everywhere I Go, I'm Jack and Black Jack Davey. I also had a song, played only once and unidentified, that came from a 2003 show. The taper called it "Oh Well", due to it's appearance
throughout the song. I subtitled it Jack's Prayer, because Jack is talking to God in the song and that would make four consecutive songs with "Jack" in the title. Flash forward to Icky Thump where that song appears as Little Cream Soda. Around the Stripes boards I came across a post that posited that Ben Blackwell, a member of the Stripes camp, passed on a 'show' with song called "Jack's Prayer" that had only been done live once. Legend (if we can build it) has it that Jack liked it so much he did a slight rework and put it out.

Now one might think that was stretching it a bit but Sam's Place is also on that comp. It's likely just as rare. I don't have all the shows but I have more than a handful. If we ever get Red Death at 614 all doubt will be eradicated.

So Buck Owen's, eh? told you it was country night. This was a terrific version of the song and a real special treat. Nothing to say about this song except enjoy it as many times as you can.

A really good version of I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself, a song I'm at risk of tiring of but really enjoyed this evening.

What You Saw: a rock god.

Songs By Record:

"The White Stripes '(self-titled)

When I Hear My Name

"De Stijl"

Death Letter (Son House)

"White Blood Cells"

Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Hotel Yorba
I'm Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman
Little Room
I Think I Smell A Rat (tease)
We Are Going To Be Friends


Seven Nation Army
Black Math
I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself (Bacharach)
In the Cold Cold Night
Ball and Biscuit
The Hardest Button To Button

"Get Behind Me Satan"

Blue Orchid (tease)
Instinct Blues (tease)

"Icky Thump"

Icky Thump
300 MPH Torrential Downpour Blues
I'm Slowly Turning Into You
A Martyr For My Love For You


Let's Shake Hands

Covers (not included above)

One More Cup of Coffee (Dylan)
Sam's Place (Owens)

The White Stripes
Patriot Center
George Mason University
Fairfax VA

Disc 1/Main Set
Dead Leaves
*Icky Thump>When I Hear My Name>Icky Thump
Death Letter
*Cannon>Little Room>Cannon
Hotel Yorba
*Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman
*Slowly Turning into You
*Instinct tease>Rat tease Medley
*One More Cup of Coffee
*Martyr For My Love For You
Cold, cold, night
*Do >Black Math
Let's Shake Hands
Ball & Biscuit
Hardest Button to Button

Disc 2/Encore
*Blue Orchid tease>Screwdriver (monkey version)
300 MPH Torrential Downpour Blues
Jack Talks
Seven Nation Army
We Are Going to Be Friends
*Sam's Place
*I Just Don't know what to do with myself

Dime Torrent of Show

Hunger City Torrent

Friday, August 10, 2007

Perry Farrell's Satellite Party
Opera House Toronto ON

Perry Farrell brought his latest project into Toronto this week, showcasing Satellite Party at the cozy Opera House, for what is promised to be "a night of absurdist, glamazon, alt-rock mayhem." Much like his name he has always been on the periphery of the new music scene, his first band, Psi Com, being in the hardcore, quasi-underground scene with LA heroes X and Black Flag.

Jane's Addiction followed and fame not too far behind. He hasn't been able to shake the shadow of Jane's Addiction, falling on-and-off the wagon through the years. That's not a bad thing. It was a seminal period, that brief time when talent and energy results in unconscious creation.

He was, and still is, a major player in the development of the Lollapalooza Festival, in 1991 and through the decade. This transformed the summer concert going scene in North America. On the heels of the European industry, with the help of the success of this project, large festivals are almost the sole means of seeing major acts once the season turns.

In the intervening years he's continued to explore and expand musically, his most notable incarnation being the wonderfully visual Porno For Pyros, a highlight of 1994's Woodstock reunion, where he gave a speech on the equality of man that rivalled Lincoln's opening to the Gettysburg Address...ok, maybe not, but it was a flag-waving moment for egalitarianism.

Perry is a hippy out of time, and that implies nothing negative from this corner. His personal interests find him putting his time and money where his heart and mouth it in Sudan, working for the Free Tibet movement or organizing a Purimpalooza in 2006 to showcase Jewish musical styles.

It seems nothing ever gets finished, or left behind, in Perry's world. Satellite Party has had a rocky start, be it by design or not, and has coped with a couple band shake ups in it's short life time. This show is only the 3rd on the current leg of the tour to promote "UltraPayloaded". In a recent blog Perry alluded they would compensate for the new personnel by mixing in some older tracks while they develop their chops. I can't see that as bad news.

Rock Star-INXS-loser Neil Carlson is fronting an Aussie/American power-pop band called Mink. Tonight they got the call, armed with their sixty (60!) songs written since their inception waaaaay back in early 2006, to warm the crowd. Of course, I don't know a band alive who did 60 worthwile songs in their first year of existence, so I just think...can you say: "shot your load?"

Neil bursts onstage with a ton of energy, looking like a thin Jim Morrison. Leather jacket, bare chest, dog-tag jewellery, oversized sunglasses and stage moves that are, at best, derivative, and at worst, awkward. It's like he's undecided whether he wants to channel Mick Jagger or Johnny Rotten(note: he does a better pogo than cock-walk). If he tones down the prima-donna posing this band has a chance of finding a niche with their straight-forward power-pop, led by a firestorm on drums, Stella Mozgawa. Now there's a person who moves fluidly and Neil could do with watching some film of her antics. Coolness is an intangible thing, you can look the part but you gotta feel it to carry it off.

On first listen the highlight of their set was a cover, Bowie's Suffragette City. A couple of their original tunes stood out...the upcoming single, Talk To Me, being the most memorable.

Eight songs later it's time for the main set.

With the stage quickly cleared the Satellite Party don't make us wait too long for their entrance. It's apparent, as soon as he steps on stage from the wings, that the crowd is here to lavish some love on Perry. It's a shame it's not a bigger crowd but you couldn't have found a more enthusiastic one. Throughout the night Farrell kept a steady stream of banter going with the audience at the front of the stage. Besides sharing his bottle of wine he accepted two beers, one mickey of Canadian Club and a joint from the adoring throng. After all, it is a party.

The recent departure of ex-Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and drummer Kevin Figg forced a change in direction for Satellite Party. Farrell quickly rounded up Nick Perri, formerly, and perhaps still, of the Philadelphia outfit Silvertide, who you might have heard covering a couple Dylan tunes on the soundtrack for Lady in the Water. Jordan Plonsky, of unknown origin, is in on drums. The band had some hurried rehearsals and decided to dig into the more familiar back-catalogue to narrow the learning curve from disparate parts to Satellite Party.

Which is a bonus for someone who's waited way too long to see Perry Farrell live.

The show opens with an anthem to bull-headedness called Ain't No Right, from Jane's Addictions third album, the breakthrough Ritual De Lo Habitual. The audience joins in right away as Perry spits venom with a smile. By songs end everyone has a glisten on.

Next up, a breather in Tahitian Moon, an hypnotic, harrowing, homage to unconditional love and the vagaries of a swift current. Not many songs like that in the rock oeuvre. This is from the short-lived career of Porno For Pyros, Perry's answer to the massive attack of fame that followed 'Ritual' and led to the demise of JA. I could play the hook on this song in one continual loop. A great back-yard hammock tune.

There are smiles all around the stage as the band is swimming in the love. Back up singer, exotic tightie extraordinaire, and, oh right, wife, Etty Farrell, ups the beauty quotient onstage all by herself. She feeds off the excitement of the crowd, sometimes miming the events in the song lyrics or just soaking up the mood being created by her beau's Party while gyrating agains the speaker banks. At times she seems almost overwhelmed by the response, her joy leaping out of her eyes as she watches Perry and the crowd engage in a virtual orgy. Not the extravagant show that was Porno For Pyros, but just as sensual.

Satellite Party is as much an IDEA as it is a thing. Perry's always got something going on and this time it has to do with 'solutionists.' The world inhabited by the Party seems to be cross between Hedonism II, 1984 and the Yellow Submarine. Survival is found in love. The wet messy kind too.

Insanity Rains is the story of the beat-down, when the bottom falls out. Nice moment when they dub in a piece of the Clash's Armaggedeon justice tonight!
Salvation for the Party comes in Hard Life Easy, where love is a salve for the bruised and battered.

The Satellite also time travel is on the schedule. Perry's taking trinkets from the crowd, signing cd's and tickets, when he's handed a gold bracelet. Holding it up for inspection he announces: "Fantastic, this is a beaut. Looks like it's real gold or something. See back in the day I couldn't afford this kind of thing but I would go, and I would just STEAL IT..." The crowd goes wild as the band breaks into the classic Been Caught Stealing. It's just a simple fact, for sure. Audience participation is over-the-moon on this one. During a late musical break Perry leans over, steals a camera from the hands of a rail-hugger, and takes a couple pics of her from the stage before handing it back. 600 greedy bastards close the song with chants of MINE, MINE, MINE. The band sounds great and the whole venue is energized another tier higher. "Never has theivery been so rewarded, thank you so much," Perry says as the crowd cheers wildly, "I so enjoy stealing, it's such a pleasure to be here with you."

Sensing he's soared to high, and not caring, Perry sends the fans into another state of frenzy by announcing he's "coming down the mountain" as he reaches back to Jane's second album.

Back to the Party Platform with the single,Wish Upon A Dog Star . No, not Keanu's band. Nor is he taking sides in the XM vs Sirius battle.
I think it's about the fireworks that would ensue if Christ bedded Cleopatra, but you can come up with your own wish.

Stage banter sets up another Porno For Pyros moment, and I'd forgotten all about this one, the insightful, Pets. OK, maybe it's more sardonic and cynical. A thesis on the plight of mankind whose only hope for survival is that some benevolent superior being will domesticate us. It's got a beat, you can dance to it, I give it an 87. Al Gore should co-opt it as his theme song.

The main set closes with the bands title song, both album and group, Ultra Payloaded Satellite Party, a call to arms of sort.

Perry keeps the party going with the encore opener, sister song to the set closer, Only Love, Let's Celebrate. Hard to argue with the sentiment.

Back to the Jane's Addiction catalogue for a loose, STOP, which kind of slowed down to a crawl, more than stopped. Another fan favorite and only the 5th singalong of the night. Another tale of man's inability to see the folly of his ways.

Jane Says is drowned out by the crowd. It's a dark song and though you fret for Jane you can feel the hope shine through as long as there's still tomorrow. Great end to the show which never lagged for energy. Not the longest show I've seen but it delivered and surpassed expectations for fun.

Support the band.
Buy the record.
See the show.

Download available at dime

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Maria Muldaur
Naughty, Bawdy and Blue Tour
Hugh's Room Toronto ON
May 8-9, 2007

Maria Muldaur was a shooting star in the paradise that was Top 40 Radio back in the early '70s. Her cross-over hit, Midnight At The Oasis, was an infectious jazz-infused, aural treat every time it came across the airwaves.

You're 15 minutes are up, thank you very much.

But, wait, there's more. Over the years she's kept producing music, with long pauses between incarnations.

More recently she's been visible through a couple of Bob Dylan projects. Her interview in Scorcese's No Direction Home was second only to Joan Baez' for being interesting and informative without being exclusionary. In 2006 she released an album of Dylan songs, called Heart of Mine.

This year she's touring a blues romp as she continues to interpret her roots and the roots of rock. The new album Naughty, Bawdy and Blue, is a tribute to classic female blues singers of the 1920's - 1940's, including Victoria Spivey, Ma Rainey and the incomparable Bessie Smith.

Come back next week for a full concert review.

Maria's myspace Page

Anjani Thomas
in a Leonard Cohen Presents
2 Night Stand at The Drake
April 25-26,2007

Anjani Thomas was in Toronto this past week for two shows at the cozy Drake Hotel. She's touring the recently released Leonard Cohen collaboration, Blue Alert.

This showcase launched in Europe back in March with some radio promos and live showcases. I was more than pleased to see Leonard sit in on a couple songs with her at a Warsaw record release promo and thought that was reason enough to get tickets for both nights in Toronto. He introduced her at a couple club shows. It's since been reported that Leonard, who usually sits in a 'Zen-like trance'when she sings, will not be in Toronto. I'm taking them on their word there but will keep a keen eye on the crowd.

The North American leg of this tour consists of only 8 shows so far, I'm betting it will be as sweet as it is short.

Anjani also has the distinction of launching a month of Toronto shows that will feature some classy and talented torch singers, from Maria Muldaur to Amy Winehouse and closing with Joan Armatrading. If fortune smiles they will be joined by a June date featuring Marianne Faithfull. All these women have talent and an edge. I think I'm going to enjoy this.

On the surface, Anjani is the least adventurous of those acts but she has one unique advantage...Cohen's words. Blue Alert is a collaborative effort, something more than Leonard-by-proxy but something less than Leonard. And to say that besmirches no one, you gotta climb a lot of steps in the Tower of Song to reach him, even if he's still looking up at Hank. She plays these songs pretty straight. A little jazzy-scat riff once in awhile, a bit of a diva reach for the high notes on occassion, but nothing that overwhelms the words. She really respects the emotion of the lyrics and you can tell by watching her that she pours all her energy into conveying them

Anjani has been an integral part of Cohen's act since she first signed on to do the backing vocals on Hallelujah in 1984. She's been an even more integral part of his life for most of the past decade as she and Cohen are...well, at the very least, friends-with-benefits. It's said that when Anjani sings Leonard sits front-and-center, enthralled. Well Leonard may have been born at night but it wasn't last night. I mean, how long can anybody sing in a given day? If I was 73 I'd sit enthralled in front of this 48 year old songstress and think it was a small price to pay for her company. Even if she couldn't sing. But she can.

The Drake Hotel is an upscale establishment on the western outskirts of Toronto's alt-club mecca, the Queen St West Strip. On his end of the neighbourhood there's a whole slew of less dangerous lounge-type bars for the more chronologically-challenged. Prime among those, the Gladstone, a Rolling Stones themed bar and the Cadillac Lounge. In the same league, The Drake. If it weren't for gentrification we boomers would have nowhere to drink.

The Underground Room holds about 200 people. Bench seats and fold out chairs provide a comfortable environment for an hour of soothing jazz stylings. Too bad we had to sit for an hour and a half before the start of the show. It'll be better tomorrow, I'll drink more, sit less. Wine glasses out numbered beer and liqour glasses combined. Broken wine glasses tied broken beer bottles, 1-1. Maybe I won't drink more, there's people here who have that under control.

So we await the arrival of the engenue, Anjani. Oh right, forgot to mention. The emphasis in on the last syllable. Read that sentence again and see how it sounds now.
That kind of pretentiousness is just perfect for this chandeliered basement room. There was a day it would have been a smoky, hazy, hole-in-the-wall but we're past that now. The disco ball looks a little out of place.

Any sense that we're putting on airs is immediately quelled when the very personable performer lights on stage with a 'girl-next-door-aw-shucks' appreciation for all the attention. Most photo's we see of her online are glamour shots. The moving version of Anjani is much more accessible, more magnetic, doesn't look like she'll break if you touch her.

She's backed by a four-man band and a female backup singer. Every one of them has their damper on. The music is soft, the vocals are soft, almost whispered, most every song. And no one is in a hurry to get to the end of the tune, each one drifts. Her voice is the vehicle that transports you along this emotive river of life. Or at least, that's how it's supposed to come off. As Blue Alert is a 'mood' record, this atmosphere works very well. It would have been nice to see more of the pace displayed in the lone non-album cover this evening, The Gypsy's Wife, but it's not my show to arrange, just to watch.

The show opens with a vow, No One After You. A story about how love can be revealed to even the most experienced practioner well after you think you've mastered all the gadgets.

That vow is juxtaposed with a peek through the Innermost Door to view final moment of another relationship. One where memory is the last tangible asset, where the starting comes after the parting.

Anjani, who has been standing center stage with a hand mic for the opening numbers, moves to the piano to deliver a Blue Alert, a sensory assault on the mind. A vivid word-picture of the power of passion and how wanting something can be an emotional minefield. There's perfume burning, shrapnel flying, soldiers hitting the dirt, bits of beauty everywhere, a woman telling you no and somebody bleeding from the lip.

And that's only the first verse.
It's woman as supreme being. Be careful what you wish for, you may not be able to handle it.

The Golden Gate is a travelogue of sorts, a descriptive narrative of the streets of San Francisco. A little lighter fare to ease the angst.

On the Leonard front she said he'd been with her in Europe and in New York on Tuesday but had grown tired and decided to go home to Montreal rather than come to Toronto. A shame, it would have been cool just to have him do the introduction

Half the Perfect World sounds like it could be a biographical account of the beginning of Leonard and Anjani's relationship. The woman in question was in her 30's when they met, already self-sufficient, already experienced. It's like a gender-mirror of Suzanne as the author finds himself serving her tea. It's really about two perfect worlds, equal halfs, finding themselves at the right time. Neither has a need that would weigh down the coupling, having found themselves at a time when they are weightless and transparent. At a time when 'no counting had begun'. There's a lot packed into a very few words and there's no mistaking the joy Anjani gets from singing this song with images of sex under mosquito netting where the giving and getting is shameless and reciprocal.

That is one raunchy song and even the 'blouse all undone' in Crazy To Love You, doesn't come close to the same heat level.

Band introduction to let the audience cool down. It's getting steamy in here. Actually we're past steamy to sweaty hot. The chlorine dripping from the ceiling pipes kind of gives the room an overall locker-room scent. Tomorrow I'm sitting on the left side.

The Gypsy's Wife is about as close to 'rocking' as we're going to get tonight as we take a brief break from the performance of the complete Blue Alert album.

Never Got To Love You is a song about the regret left behind when opportunity knocks and you're busy elsewhere. It's about pining for the time you could have put to better use. The moments you could have told her the things that would make sure she'd never leave. What I can't tell is if that time covered an entire relationship or a single night at a sky resort in Quebec. Having done a name-check during this song for the town of St Jovite, she tells us that Leonard warned her never to go there, she wouldn't like it. Of course she'd already asked the audience if any one had been there and a half dozen excited fans pumped their hands. She counted only two of them. When asked why Leonard would say that she found herself back-tracking and mumbled something about him not being 'that kind of bar guy', or something to that effect.

The lilting Thanks for the Dance, somewhat reminiscent of Take This Waltz, swings back and forth in a call-and-response kind of way, presenting words and lines as a counter-weight to each other. It's a throwaway song about throwaway emotions. The nonchalance of the brush-off is the antithesis of the sentiment found in the song that preceeded it tonight.

For her first encore Anjani covers a second Cohen original, As the Mist Leaves No Scar then closes the show with a 'fare the well' solo piano version of Nightingale.
Before As The Mist Leaves No Scar she talked about Leonard having written that when he was 17. She compared it to the stuff she was writing at that age and was humbled.

All in all a very enjoyable and successful Canadian debut.

Visit Anjani's MySpace Page

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hank Pine & Lily Fawn
in the Hootenanny Revue
Starlight Lounge Waterloo ON

So ten of us pull up to a table at the Starlight Lounge for an evenings worth of well priced entertainment with the Hootenanny Review, a travelling minstrel show with some fine Canadian talent. It's the last night of the Revue, so it's too late for me to convince you to go out and see it. But it's not too late to catch the hightlight of the evening: Hank & Lily. More on that in a bit.

The Hootenanny is a roots based revue filled with mostly orignal material from a cast of, well if not thousands, 8. At least tonight. It seems the group morphs. Taking MC duties tonight, and this tour I believe, is the enticing babe in a sundress and docs, Carolyn Mark. Cute and edgy, how can you not like that? She also carried a heavy load in the show, closing the main set with a wonderfully sardonic song, Two Kinds of Women.

Luther Wright joined Carolyn on a handful of songs and presented a strong mini-set of his own throughout the night, covering Steve Goodman's If She Were You and blowing the house away with a raucous request rendition of I Got A Broken Fucking Heart.

Cape Breton star Jim Bryson had some moments, when the lethargy caused by the racoon ribs he had for dinner wasn't dragging him down. He played a bunch of instruments and did some leads, as did all performers. By the second set he seemed in a groove and delivered a crowd-pleasing I Wanna Go Home.

We had a song or two from other support artists, Joey Wright, a regular, and Andrew Vincent, a guest. Dan Whitely provided excellent mandolin support throughtout the evening and even took a turn on drums.

Glowing-diva-of-the-night award goes to the 'banging for two', effervescent, pleasantly plump, cute as a button, Jenny Whitely. This whole piece should have been about her, and would have been if it wasn't for the chances we have in the next week to track down Hank & Lily live. Jenny's gonna take a breather soon. Hope she comes back with a vengance 'cause she's got a voice that can't be beat and some great songs as well. Though I liked them all I'd sure like a reprise of Banjo Girl and When It Rains I Pour.

All this was absolutely worth the price of admission.

But we got substantially more.

Hank Pine & Lily Fawn are an interesting duo, to say the least. He's got a face like a mask, welding goggles, leather body suit with shark fins and metal gauntlets, with shit-stomping boots. OK, he dresses like my son. She's a pixie. OK, a pixie on acid. Little antlers and tats on the arms. All 'katebushy' with the vocals in an endearing way. It's an act that must be seen...but listening don't hurt either.

They got 5 songs between the two sets and displayed a capacity to enthrall that was due to a combination of elements from interesting lyrics, funky instruments (a gas can guitar and a saw), tap dancing skills, roboticized vocals reminiscent of the sound Jack White got from his copper mic this past year and chutzpah up the wazoo.

They open with something that feels like a post-apocalyptic walk through the forest where Red Riding Hood found her troubles. A spooky otherworldy feel to the song is peeled back to unveil a most hypnotic and unforgettable hook... "don't be afraid /(don't be afraid)/ until I tell you why you ought to be afraid." How something can be so soothing and ominous at once is beyond me.

The second song sees the fairy tale theme continue with an appearance by the 3 Little Pigs going to market. It might be called Pushed & Pulled. I don't quite get this one yet but I'll keep listening and watching until it sinks in.

Last song of the first mini-set is called North America, a place where it's in the soil, it's not in the blood. Another spooky tale of... (see above).

Lily opens the second mini-set with a love song, her first, and it's The thing, and what it does. It starts as a lament and explodes into a 'can-can' complete with a tap-dance break. Lily squeaks out some salacious lyrics during what might be called Love You Don't Know Me: "love has come out me / like sap down a tree..." and "though i have been warned of the birds and the bees/ i still want you when you sting me."

The set closes with a song that may be called Prison Song, an Orwellian cautionary tale about a NWO where everything is a crime and everyone is watching you. One slip and you'll be in the big grey building up on the hill. And not in a good way. The song comes complete with a new-age chain-gang audience-participation jungle-chant. (That's more hyphenated words than you'll see anywhere outside of a Quebec phone book.)

Look around their website for dates, more music and more info. I'm not sure yet what they are, but I'm pretty sure they're worth deciphering.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Dr Hook feat. Ray Sawyer
Johnny B Club Whitby ON

Johnny B's is a roadhouse bar just off Highway 401 a few miles east of Toronto. The only thing missing is the cage around the stage. It's in downtown Whitby, one of the bedroom communities that contain Toronto's urban sprawl. Everyone with a good union job or middle-management position in the '70's and '80's thought they were movin' on up as they left the big-bad-city for the 'burbs. Didn't quite work out that way as union jobs and middle-management positions are on the endangered species list. Whitby, if it ain't the place the mullet was born it is the place it went to die in the guise of a skullet.

Secondarily, if we're ever in need of a large supply of bleach to fight an offensive in a chemical war...I'm sure there are gallons of it in Whitby. More faux-blondes-per-capita than Hollywood. I would have asked one of the ladies why someone with lovely blonde hair like hers would die her roots black, but I thought better. In Whitby, when you insult a girl she calls her boyfriend he can hold her smokes and beer while she kicks your ass. Think of them as urban-hicks.

Which is why it's the perfect place for the likes of Dr Hook.

In an attempt not to be early for an event (a symptom of my OCD) we don't even leave home until 20 minutes after doors. Inside the cozy bar (capacity probably 200) I'm smilin' hard as I only have 20 minutes before show time...not to gruelling. Time for a quick Jack and coke...only to have them announce we have an opening act, ironically named Roadhouse. Eh, how bad can it be? A 45 minute set then the Dr will be on at 9 pm. Or so I thought. Sometime around 10:20 the band was wrapping up it's extensive 'opening' set. (FTR, it was only 10 minutes shorter than the main set.) Not bad for a garage cover band. Good song selection for this crowd of boomers. I remember The Letter, Stuck in the Middle With You, and a more than passable version of Billy Idol's White Wedding.

I'm standing at the soundboard for tonight's show, hoping I'm not too obvious with my rig. I did move into the crowd for a couple songs but the 'room noise' was pretty much the same drone no matter where you stood. With a crowd like this, out for a raucous good time on a Friday night, what you usually get is a lot of talking during the lesser known songs and sing-a-longs on the hits. By 11 pm, when the band takes the stage, many of the patrons are walking a couple step sideways for every one step forward. We got us a power-drinking crowd. But a well behaved one as there was no trouble to be seen...just a lot of happy, pudgy, dancers.

And it's no wonder because Ray Sawyer and his buddies deliver the goods. Everything from the raunciest to the sweetest that the late, great, Shel Silverstein could write up.

The show gets off with a swaying good start as the band opens with Walk Right In, an invitation to all to join in the fun. You Make My Pants Wanna Get Up and Dance ups the ante, escalating the movement from walking to dancing, and the crowd loosens their vocal chords for the first of many singalongs for the evening.

From the back, near the soundboard, the vocal mic seems a little too low in the mix. I recognized the chords to A Couple More Years before I could pick up the lyrics. First highlight of the evening, actually made the trip out here worthwhile all on it's own. This song was the only highlight of Dylan's Hearts of Fire movie in the late '80's. A terrific song, among the best Silverstein left us. Unfortunately this crowd is waiting for only one (1) ballad tonight so the conversation level remains at a steady hum. The song is not served well by the environment.

Unlike Freaker's Ball, which fits in just fine, thx. Dr Hook continues to balance the raucous with the melodic as the band blasts through the party song and counters with the sweet, if creepy, Only Sixteen.

The pattern continues as the salacious Get My Rocks Off is juxtaposed against the angst of When You're Love With A Beautiful Woman.

One more kick at the can with the humourous I Got Stoned And I Missed It (source of Afroman's hit, And Then I Got High) and the sweet thoughts of Sharing the Night Together.

The good Dr and the band then swing into the heart of the set as they punch through
The Millionaire, Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk and Queen of the Silver Dollar. The main set closes with more great comic-music in Everybody's Getting Big But Me and the anti-thesis to that complaint, fan favorite, Cover of the Rolling Stone

Well, that's almost all of what I came for. The night's late, a couple less familiar songs lead the encore and I'm happy to hear the smash hit Sylvia's Mother before I find the door.

Would have liked to have heard Ballad of Lucy Jordan, Makin' Natural and True Love...but that's a testament to how much this band has to bring. It ain't like it was before time ravaged all, and it wasn't just time ravaging the Dr, but it was an entertaining trip down memory lane and a celebration for the survivors.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Night At The Ren
Part 2
Mike Ford (formerly
of Moxy Fruvous)

The second set at the Ren featured the musical, and comedy, stylings of Mike Ford. This guy has grown from street-busking legend to the 21st Century's Gordon Lightfoot.

The first time I had a chance to talk to Mike he was just wrapping up his sixth song onstage at Massey Hall, back in 1992. Moxy Fruvous were opening for Bob Dylan during his two night stand. Fortunately I'd clued into the burgeoning new music scene in Toronto (Canada really) that featured artists like The Barenaked Ladies, The Waltons, The Rheostatics (they are still out and about) and the aforementioned, Moxy Fruvous. The thing about Canadian rock/pop that's different from American pop/pulp is...the artists up here are way too smart for their own good. Take a look at The Hip. I mean they are made for the American market...until they decifer the lyrics...what'd'ya mean? debunk an American myth? (This assessment does not apply to the Americans I have met personally, who are all liberals...well, liberals to me, in their own country they are considered commie-scum.) But I digress. Where were we? Right, talking to Mike Ford. Anyway, those radical Dylan fans were growing tired of having their notions challenged and were three songs into chanting "we want Bob", "we want Bob". Privately, in my section of Massey Hall, I was telling those around me those hecklers were nuts...they were missing what was going to be the best part of the evening. So after song 6 some open-minded-60's-type-Aquarius-7th Sun/Son-radical yells "Get off the stage!" From my seat in the balcony I yell back: "Nevermind that, sing another song." (I knew full well they were only 6/7ths through their massive repertoire and we were going to get the hilariously acerbic Gulf War Song next.) Someone from the Fru-crew; it mighta been the other guitar player who leads on King of Spain, it might have been the long-haired guy with the French name, it definitely wasn't the silent bass playing Murray Foster, but for purposes of this story and because the statutes of limitations on my memory have long run out, we're gonna say it was Mike Ford, shot back, "Thanks Dad." So it was I came to be introduced to him some 15 years as he's at The Ren in support of a couple New York friends.

Mike opens with the traditional barn-burner, Ain't No More Cane. Though I've heard him do this once before I must have been more impaired that evening because tonight, at the age of 50, I learned something new...another place Bob Dylan stole another song. This rendition includes the line "Said, Alberta why don't you let your hair hang down/ You let it hand right down until it touches the ground." Terrific chain gang song with plaintive wail and indignant, ney bombastic, proclamations. It's not a lament for a nation, but it's a decent lament.

The Seaway tells the story of miles on the interior seaway of the Great Lakes and the ports of call along the way. It honours those who take those jobs no one knows exists and are repaid by discovering a world few get to see.

Well warmed up and into his third Chocolate beer, Mike figures it's time to stretch it out a little and we get the manically fast chorus of Huge on the Luge. Think John Prine if he'd grown up north of the 49th. Try this, really fast: "He was huge on the luge/when his cheeks went rouge/no fluke with a touque/subzero subterfuge/look at grandpa cruise/like a demon on the booze/not a stooge like scrooge/really huge on the luge." Admit it, it feels good. That, my friends is Mike at only quarter-speed.

Playing to the Dylan-fans he knows are always in attendance when his friends Mike Skliar and Ken Ficara venture north from the 5 boroughs, the next tune we get tries to f*ck with our heads. As the opening chords ring you think, "alright, spanish harlem incident! Bob don't play this much nowadays." Then the words to I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine (Spanish Harlem Incident dub) pour out. Neat trick. I've seen Bob play one song and sing another. Just not on purpose.

Now when I said Mike is a 21st century Gordon Lightfoot that might have been a disservice...and not to Gordon Lightfoot. I speak only of the very Canadian, topical or historical, nature of the songs, I'm not speaking to anyone's talents, for that, I'm not qualified. The next four songs lead us on a wild ride through Canadian history, from the excellent Louis & Gabriel, to a song about American-born urbanist Jane Jacobs, on to the mythical Voyageurs and closing with an homage to the rebel, D'Arcy McGee...where I learned another thing!

Louis Riel pissed off a lot of people in Ontario. There's a lesson in there for the PQ somewhere. Mike places him squarely where he belongs in our pantheon: a man before his times...or at least a man out of time. I remember being conflicted about Riel in grade school. Seems he should be a hero...but he did some bad things. A tough call for those who write the text books. (For you Americans think of John Brown.) Riel, and his friend Gabriel Dumont, were complex men in a complex land. The story, as told here, is more interesting than anything i got outa school.

Jane Jacobs. What can I say? Bet she knew Scarborough was gonna suck long before they renovated the Town Center.

Les Voyageurs is a campfire song that would have fit well in an aquatic Blazing Saddles. Except I would do that to the horses.

The final song in this segment, really a showcase for Mike's Canada Needs You Vol. 1, is D'Arcy McGee, a tale of a rebel who sought to find his way in Canada when our nation was forming, and met his end on Sparks St. and the hands of some even more whacked-out rebels, allegedly, the Fenians (think Siin Fein in diapers). Now that's a little ironic as they once were friends. What I learned here was that D'Arcy was a poet and songwriter, a la Joe Hill. No wonder our students think Canadian history is boring...we're missing the chance to make it exciting.

The next portion takes us into Mike's Stars Shone On Toronto album...more or less.

The Great Hall gives props to the majestic Union Station from where you can board a train to all-points-Canada. As long as you're not going to Sault-Ste-Marie.

Saskatchewan, a minor song from the soon to be released Satellite Hot Stove album, gives about all the due owing to that flat piece of land. You can tell which songs you write for the wife and which ones you write for the boys.

Eco-song Tank is reminiscent of the zany energy of Moxy Fruvous, a gentle, or not so gentle, shot at those who need an SUV (tank) to take Brittany to braces and little Brandon to the bank."

And it's back to the Fruvous catalogue for Heat-Seeker Boy, a cautionary tale about the fickle finger of fame.

Next is the title song from Stars Shone on Toronto, a song about the Great Blackout of 2003. I do remember that night...but not like Mike relates it. I was scheduled to leave at 4:00 am in the morning to drive south to Pennsylvania for a Dylan concert at Bushkill. Leaving work that fateful afternoon I knew I needed gas and was not at all upset that power was temporarily out and the stations weren't pumping. We spent the night eating melting icecream, not unlike the song, but could not relax enough to get the 'back to the earth' feeling this song evokes. We should have one day each year where all the power, around the world, is shut off so we can see the firmament, turn of the Playstations " and live a little more like people way back when." Except for the hospitals.

From "Canada Needs You Volume 2" we get a song about the slaughter that was Vimy Ridge, the third largest gathering of Canadians on that fateful Easter weekend. Not sure of the title but I'll go with "Creeping Barrage".
Man, how many more of these songs are we gonna need to write if we haven't learned in almost a hundred years? I'm glad Phil Ochs ain't alive today...he couldn't take this state of affairs. A bit of the John Brown feel to this song...Dylan's John Brown, not the abolitionist one.

Next, a WORLD DEBUT, from the forthcoming Satellite Hot Stove, Open For Business (how I learned to love Thomas Daquino and Allan Gregg of Decima Research and stop worrying) (Macadorian Homesick Blues). Now I'm not an industry guy but I'd shorten that just a tad. This shit is too good. I can't post it here because this is gonna pay for Mike's grandkids university. It's another nimble word dance that Mike almost nails, then recovers nicely by repeating a verse he stumbled into at machine-gun speed. Do not miss this when it's released this summer.

Mike dives into the catalogue of the Arrogant Worms, Kingston comedy/song legends, for the hilarious We're Not Americans(?best guess). Well, hilarious if you're not an American. But what is an American? Aye, there's the rub.

Another song from the unreleased record, and it's nice of Mike to try them out on us because they sound great, Maurice, pays homage to the Rocket. I'm not big on hockey songs, not counting The Hockey Song and maybe Clear Track, Here Comes Shack and, ok, 50 Mission Cap...hey, do Canadians write songs about anything BUT hockey?

Mike takes one more run at vocal gymnastics with the meth-fueled I've Been Everywhere (Canadian Dub). OK, maybe meth has nothing to do with it but it's still a toe-tapping romp.

Show closes with another unreleased song, The Easter Gap, a song for Torontonians who stare out into the lake.

Great show. A ton of songs, a handful of debuts and more entertainment for the buck than we deserve.

Thanks to Randy at the Ren, Mike and Ken, Mike Ford and Mr MikeL Productions.