Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top 10 Favourite Live Performances of the Decade
Pt. 2
Bob Dylan

with some reminisces culled from a book I wrote about these shows.

10) Mississippi 2001-11-10 Columbus OH
"this show is made by Mississippi."

09) Never Gonna Be The Same Again 2002-08-02 Worcester MA
"again, a lengthy break and the hall falls into silence as Bob chats with the band. a strange thing, the smaller the venue the more likely there will be ‘dead air’ during a show. you don’t seem to get that in the arena’s where there’s always background noise. until now we’ve had a decent, if hot, show, with no real indication we’re about to get one of the 5 most memorable moments in my Bob-story. Bob steps forward to the vocal mic as Charlie does a little noodle, boom – boom, counts Recile, as Larry’s pedal steel adds some melody. Bob plunks his way around the song as it takes form. ..,’now you’re here beside me baby, you’re a living dream’… pause… pause… pause… wow, there’s no telling what is happening now, the pause at the end of that couplet meets rapt silence in the hall. I’m thinking…Bob’s lost his place! the band was caught unawares! it’s the wrong song! George counts two… ‘every time you touch me baby, you make me want to scream’… plunk, plink, plunk, during the very pregnant pause. these starts and stops are breathtaking. for the first time in probably 20 years I had no idea where this could go, what was coming next. Bob was out on the edge, delivering the shortened lines and hanging in the empty, sparse musical fills between. couldn’t tell if it was about to fall apart and crash right in front of us. something was happening and I didn’t know what it was…right away. but we did catch on, and so did the audience. the song has only been performed rarely since its debut in 1986, the only outing for that year. it got 8 airings in ’95, 4 in ’96, 3 in ‘97, one in ’99…and now this new arrangement. for audience response, the version from Moncton a few nights later can’t be beat. by that time mp3’s were floating around the web and everyone, or those in the front rows, knew what was coming. on this night it was brand spanking new. unforgettable. even with the lyric flub in the second verse and some repeated verses later. the stop-start is excruciating…in a good way. it gets more and more intense with each break as the audience hoots and hollers become louder. after a bridge filled with some sweet pedal steel melodies and percussion work we’re back into the sparse noodles of the verse and Bob’s voice quavers as he sings …’you taught me how to love you baby, you taught me oh-o-o-o-h so-o-o weellllll/ I ain’t never gonna be the sa-a-a-a-a-me again’… Larry’s pedal steels gets to do a solo of the melody line that is left hanging on the cliff of …pause …pause …pause, broken by another pedal steel riff accompanied by Bob’s noodles. the whole band kicks in and it threatens to turn into a song as we ride a wave of emotion into another abyss of…pause …pause …pause and a lyric change in a repeated verse. …’I can’t go back to what was, sugar!’ … and closes with a nice little emphasis…’that I ain’t never, ahhhh-gonna be the same again’… two words: a – mazing! right up there with the opening of the ’75 Rolling Thunder show, the piano version of When He Returns in 1980, Idiot Wind from the rail in 1992 and a moment or two yet to come, with the most powerful memories of Bob on stage that I have retained."

08) Dignity 2004-11-13 Rochester NY
"a superb Dignity, a song he always treats well and, lucky for us, seems to have taken a shine too again. actually it’s beyond superb. Bob’s inflection is an animated as it ever was. whatever caught hold of him during LDB has carried on. we are not worthy but he’s not done. more vocal gymnastics then we get: “somebody showed me a picture and I just laughed…..ha ha...dignity’s never been photographed” wow. this marks the high point of the show. "

07) In the Summertime 2002-11-03 Kent OH
"get my third In the Summertime in a row. the song would be dropped from the rotation until I get the last ever in Philadelphia a couple weeks from now. "

06) TUIB Phoenix 2004-03-20 Toronto ON
"Tangled Up In Blue makes its second appearance on the tour. a new stripped down arrangement for the year, the song is driven by George’s cymbal work. it’s moving along nicely, not being dragged down by the complexity of the three guitar attack that tended to drown out the story in recent versions, primarily the 2002 versions. the song was fading fast after 52 performances in that year. in 2003, it had only 6 outings, of which I caught two. this is the third performance this year (there will be 8 in total) and it just explodes tonight. the crowd follows in time, a loud cheer going up at the first title line. after a few verses we get Freddy’s extended solo and then the verse with the altered lyrics.

now I enlisted the help of some poolers to get the lyrics right. here’s what they thought they heard:

dude’s rendition
“...stopped there in for a beer
a deep fork trottin' in the side of her face
I don't even drink beer here!
a deep throat job and the sun came down
she was just about the same
standin' there right beside my chair
I knooow your name!
she made a little suckle underneath my breath
she stu-died the caaaards
a lady wrote down in the hood of my face
I know you're miiiine
in blue
tangled up in blue”
close, but not quite.

this was VirgilCaine’s hearing:
“...stopped in for a beer
I been fools tired’f every side of her face,
(and) I don't even drink beer, here.
she grew tired when the sun came down,
she was just about to say,
she was standing there, right beside my chair,
I know your name.
she lit something underneath my drink...
she slipped me the ganga.
when we rolled down to hood by day,
I know your mine- in blue.
tangled up in blue”
they seemed to agree on the finish anyway.

Cece and I have turned our ears to the verse and this is the best we can come up with:
“...stopped in here for a beer
a deep hope shinin' in the side of her face
I don’t even drink beer, I hear
in no time when the sun came down
she was just about to say
she was standin’ there right beside my chair
I knoooooow your name
she giggled something underneath my breathe
she slipped me the Times
label down and the hood of my cape?
I know you’re mine in blue
tangled up in blue.”

not an easy task. took me 17 hours to write this book but 14 of them were spent listening to that verse."

05) To Ramona 2001-08-24 Las Vegas NV
"Larry’s mandolin intro during ‘To Ramona’ was also both a harbinger of good things to come and a reason this band is so easy on the ears. I love the little instruments. Bob’s in another world on this night’s version of a terrific song. he alternates between long extension on the rhyme words and short, almost clipped, staccato delivery of the transitional lines in the verses."

04) LDB 2004-11-13 Rochester NY
"the BEST EVER Lonesome Day Blues! the voice tricks are splendid. nice staccato effect, the song really rolls now, as well as rocks. and the most hilarious single word Bob sang all year...SEN -TI - MENT – AL. whatever he’s been working at with this song…he found it tonight in its definitive performance. he’s developed a mode of delivery I’ll call the “LDB lilt”. it’s not new; he’s used it sparingly over his whole career. I come across songs from the late 90’s where it’s evident. it’s all grown up now and in this song, it has found its home."

03) Hazel 2004-04-02 Washington DC
"a couple nondescript guitar noodles emanate from Freddy’s speakers as Larry takes a seat behind the pedal steel and strums a chord. I’m fearing Baby Blue, thinking it might be Lay Lady Lay if the descending chords rise again, when Bob leans forward into his mic and says... “Hazel...” I’m immediately transfixed. each word comes out crystal clear. Bob is telling the story and you know he feels no shame. even if he stumbles over the pronouns once. not even the pedal steel can distract me as Larry keeps it low behind George’s soft and steady rhythm. Freddy is staying away from the song as Bob works his way flawlessly through the verses. then, for my ears, the penultimate moment “ called and I caaaaame, now don’t make me play this waiting game...a-you got something that I want pleeeeennnty of...aaaaooooowwwee, a little touch of your love....” I am all choked up and just in awe at this point. Freddy moves in with another subdued and melodic 30 second fill that leads into a sweet and short run on the pedal steel from Larry. next time through the above refrain Bob totally changes the attitude. where the first time he was full of loss and sorrow and longing, this time he’s more emphatic, almost asking for his due, not begging for it.... ‘you called and I CAME!, (I brought my best with me) now. don’t. make. me. play. this. wai-ting. game. (don’t make me come up there) you got something I want plenty of (and I’m here for it) ooohh, a little touch of your love (and it’s worth the trip) ....’ Bob’s harp solo begins at 4:01 and it’s beautifully inside the song until the PA feedback at 4:28. everyone in the band cringes. Bob shakes it off, doubles the tempo, and rides the harp run with George’s soft cymbals, right into the end of the song, body shaking."

02) Carrying A Torch 2002-11-09 Elmira NY
"more piano on a heartfelt rendition of Van Morrison’s Carrying A Torch. Bob is deep in introspection, resigned to his fate. Bob’s hands dance like butterfly’s over the keys. it’s a captivating performance of a rare tune, only 6 live outings."

01) Standing in the Doorway 2004-07-02 Stra Italy
"what comes next can never be anticipated and can come out of the most unforeseen circumstances. a light drum roll and gently swaying guitar riff, coupled with some subtle piano, invites us into a definitive live version of Standing in the Doorway. it turns early as Bob puts his heart into “nothing left to burn…nowhere left to turn…” flipping the order but no matter. in the midst of this rain, with all that can do to distract, he’s found a zone inside this song and the delivery is spine chillin’. his voice is strong, plaintive, almost crying like a baritone Johnny Ray. emotion builds in the bridge as Bob barks “you left me STANDING, ahhhhhh, in the doorway cryin’…” he takes on a sardonic tone in the next verse, pulling back, not telling us the things he knows, then he dives into the midnight train…no ice water here. it’s breathtaking and we get a musical interlude so we can catch ours. the fill grows to almost a crescendo as George ups the volume and all the instruments create a lush center to the song. but it ain’t done yet. he steps lightly through the first quatrain of the last verse the bites out “it always means so much…” cutting this line short and giving the room to “ even the so-o-o-o-o-o-o-oftest touch…” he needs to offer no explanation, or words, as his plaintive wail takes us into the final couplet. and done. 7:40 of prime Dylan."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Top 10 Favourite Live Performances of the '00's
Part 1
Toronto Shows

It's been quite the decade of concert going. All lists are arbitrary and subject to change with the passing of time. Tonight I'm digging these moments.

10) Ryan Carey covering The White Stripes Offend in Every Way

This kid is a friend of mine, first met him on my way to seeing Dylan at Newport in 2002. Over the years he's taken an open mic at different get-togethers our travelling troupe have had in Toronto. No list of favourite music should be without an amateur in the mix. Take a few minutes to listen to this rendition. It don't suck.

09) CR Avery Midnight Gold Mining 2009-07-23 The Rivoli Toronto ON

Indy artists deserve a look as well.

08) Finger Eleven Paralyzer/Take Me Out/Trampled Under Foot/Another Brick in the Wall/Paralyzer 2008-03-08 Massey Hall

Big hit with Paralyzer but this version stretches the song as far as it can go.

07) David Byrne Life During Wartime 2008-10-29 Massey Hall

All I could have expected from this show.

06) Robert Gordon Suspicion 2008-01-05 Cadillac Lounge

This guy puts on the 'feel good' show of the year, every year.

5) Nine Inch Nails Only 2008-08-05 Molson Amphitheatre Toronto ON

Trent is the man.

04) Amy Winehouse Back To Black 2007-05-12 Mod Club

Amy, Amy, Amy. Hope you make it back, black or otherwise.

03) White Stripes Hello Operator 2005-09-16 Molson Amphitheatre

Lotta songs to pick from but this one is powerful.

02) Leonard Cohen Hallelujah 2008-06-07 SONY Centre

Get out of the way Jeff Buckley it's time to sing this song like it was meant to be done. The spiritual peak of a very powerful show. A strong song, a strong performance, an enraptured crowd.

01) Waterboys She Tried To Hold Me 2007-11-05 Danforth Music Hall

Went to hear two songs...and now I can't get this show out of my cd player. Both Whole of the Moon and Fisherman's Blues were played this night but The Waterboys were promoting their new record, Book of Lightning. A lot of good songs on that disc; Sustain, It's Gonna Rain, many more, and they were all delivered with gusto.

This song stood out. It's way superior to the recorded version. It builds in intensity, until it's an aural representation of the raging conflict in the song. Though the vocals make this version spectacular the pace of the story, how it's laid out, is a perfect emotional accompaniament, building to a crescendo.

Great rhymes ,well delivered.

You can tell early on on it's going to be a tour de force as Mike Scott carefully injects a raw emotion into each line. His diction achingly perfect as he introduces the cause of the conflagration.

"She said ‘I’m looking for perfection’
as she strode in my direction"

He doesn't waste a syllable in this couplet. 'perfection', 'strode' and 'direction', all have a another line or two of meaning buried in the single word.
She's not settling, perfection is perfectly dropped at the end of the line, the bar is high. Non-negotiable, period.

She's coming to take it, and she's not wavering. 'Strode' almost becomes a hidden 'oooooh', a warning, he should have know at this point.

She's got focus, as 'di-rection' closes the couplet with the same curtness and sense of lock-in purpose as the previous line.

He goes on to quickly lay out her game plan, her enchantment that leads to encampment and drops his objection at the end of the verse...'she tried to hold me'. A seemingly simple enough statement but it tells us what happened, why and how it ends, all in 4 words. All that's left for us is to witness the storm.

Grab some popcorn.

Sit back.

Enjoy the movie-song from hear on in.
This song has it all.
The words, the voice and you can let your eyelids be the screen for a wonderfully visual tale.

It really starts to take off vocally when he spits out the 'unrealistic/ballistic' couplet. 'Unrealistic' is imbued with a sardonic smirk, as he's using his voice to dismiss her opinion. 'Ballistic' explodes as he leaves no doubt this response was unexpected and overdone. And the fight is on.

Great juxtaposition in the next two lines as she delivers her fussilade "in her powder-blue pajamas' and you can see her, stomping her feet as she stalks around the bedroom. Then we're adrift as the explosioin leaves him nothing more than 'flotsam in her drama'.

She tries to inject reason into her outburst but he sees her as no man should ever see his woman; 'inside she was seething/with a cyclone raging under/like she was skin surrounding thunder'.

Wow. Gotta take a breath here.

So he's out, and when he hits the street, in a storm, escaping a storm, his voice wavers on the 'mutters farewell' from the stairwell line. The tone begins to shift as time passes and the singer looks back on the whole story; the start, the middle and the end. We are looking back from 6 years in the future and when he relates his battle to leave it all behind there's no doubt about the hold she had as he tells us 'she lingered like uranium/like a devil in my cranium'. You dont hear the word 'cranium' a lot in rock 'n roll, nor uranium for that matter, and you definitely never hear it like this.

The song is a bitter-sweet symphony. It closes with a recognition that it takes two to tango and more 'patience' for her 'stipulations' may have resulted in a less acrimonious outcome.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Robert Gordon
Cadillac Lounge
December 5,2009

Last show of the year, great way to wrap things up.

Caught Robert this summer when he came through with his all-star band for a stop at the Legendary Horseshoe.

This show is a bonus.

No Chris Spedding though, and that's a shame. The Royal Crowns provided adequate back-up in his stead. Lead guitarist Danny Bartley wasn't shy about filling space, bringing a new sound to some songs and paying homage to Chris' arrangements on others. Drummer Teddy Fury had a little trouble finding the tempo early on but once he decided that 'play faster' was the call of the day, found a groove that put a little more ooomph into some tunes, especially Fire. Bassist Jason Adams slapped up a storm.

A shakey start to the evening and a loose end. Perfect bar-night. Technical difficulties and a few between-song lulls were overcome by the 6th song of the night. Just when he was hitting his stride it was time for a break. The audiences' attention span never really got refocussed but the band played on.

This is my ninth RG show in the past few years and I still got a handful of new songs; Sweet Nothings, Rock Therapy, The Fool, Dreaming and Blue Christmas were all personal debuts.

Robert Gordon
w/ The Royal Crowns
Cadillac Lounge
Toronto ON

source:SP-CMC-8>CA STC-9000 Pre-Amp >Edirol R-09 at 24/48 >USB >Sonic Foundry 16bit wave> FlacFrontend
recorded by krewechief

Disc 1
Robert Gordon's First Set

Track 01 The Way I Walk (false start)
Track 02 The Way I Walk
Track 03 (I'm Gonna Be Your) Lover Boy
Track 04 Sweet Nothings
Track 05 Lonely Weekends
Track 06 Sea of Heartbreak
Track 07 Devil in Disguise
Track 08 Rock Therapy
Track 09 Suspicion
Track 10 Good Rockin' Tonight
Track 11 The Fool
Track 12 Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache
Track 13 Dreaming

Royal Crowns mini-set

Track 14 ??
Track 15 Wine Drinking Women
Track 16 ??Surf Instrumental

Disc 2

Robert Gordon's Second Set

Track 01 Little Sister
Track 02 The Worrying Kind
Track 03 Blue Christmas
Track 04 Black Slacks
Track 05 Mess O the Blues
Track 06 Move It
Track 07 Fire
Track 08 The Wanderer
Track 09 Rockabilly Boogie
Track 10 Drivin' Wheel
Track 11 Red Hot

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Phoenix Concert Theatre
Q:Are We Not Men?
A: We Are DEVO!

25 years since these freakaloids have been in Toronto. This tour is pure nostalgia for the post-boomer generation. A two-trick pony, I opted to see only one. A short set, under an hour, all of the album in the title and 3 encore songs. Just the right amount.

Part novelty-act, part innovative-performers, DEVO's camp falls in the grey area of rock'n'roll...where all the interesting shit resides.

In the dark grey area was opening act, JP Incorporated, easily the sorriest excuse I've seen for an opening act in all my days...and I've had Ron Sexsmith hoisted on me three times!

Or maybe he wasn't.

Perhaps it was high-art. Some Rip Van Winkle/Dick Van Dyke morphed performer doing faux-TV show themes and commercials to a video montage on a giant screen. He dances like Elaine in Seinfeld. The cat-calls and boos got louder as the set progressed. His shameless pandering to the audience was imbued with more bravado after each song. I think we were supposed to boo him off stage and our failure to do so makes the joke on us.

Or maybe not.

DEVO sounded good even when they weren't playing the radio hits. Thankfully it wasn't as 'electronic' as I'd feared; there's a good deal of screaming guitars and pounding drums. Complete albums, in order, is the only way to see old-timers. A novel concept, being utilized by many bands these days from Springsteen to Sparks...which should pretty well circle us around the alphabet unless Spandau Ballet decides to do Diamond live. I'll be there for that one too.

01) Uncontrollable Urge
02) (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
03) Praying Hands
04) Space Junk
05) Mongoloid
06) Jocko Homo
07) Too Much Paranoias
08) Gut Feeling
09) Slap Your Mammy
10) Come Back Jonee
11) Sloppy
12) Shrivel Up
13) Smart Patrol
14) Mr. DNA
15) Gates Of Steel

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Evidently Billy Bragg
Phoenix in Toronto
The Studio at Hamilton Place

Billy Bragg back in the Southern Ontario area and this time I opted for two shows. I don't have much to either get this guy or never will. Seeing him live is always life-affirming and a real bargain as you get terrific bang for your buck.

I try to see about 50 or 60 shows a year, if possible. Some nights I'm dragging my ass wondering why the fuck I bother. Then there are nights like these where I remember you can't get this stuff just anywhere.

Billy's had a great track record lately of inserting something in his show that I interpret as a personal treat. One year he brings CR Avery to open and the kid name-checks "Blind Boy Grunt" before doing a cover of Dylan's Things Have Changed. Another year he's booked into the Danforth Music Hall, my favourite city venue, I used to live around the corner from it back in the day and walked to many concerts; George Thorogood, Rockpile, Marianne Faithfull and Iggy Pop among them. Great memories.

This year he throws in a cover of John Cooper Clarke's Evidently Chicken Town sung to the tune of Bob Dylan's Desolation Row. Now the Dylan part's a no-brainer, but JCC...well that's another animal altogether. From this side of the pond you had a very narrow window of opportunity to be exposed to the witty Mancusian. (This was before the interweb.) I did find myself at one of his North American shows back in '81 when he played the Voodoo Lounge in Toronto. Best line of the night, as the fans called out for the radio versions of his manic musings, was JCC telling us... "If you want the fuckin' music, buy the fuckin' album!"

Billy Bragg
Phoenix Concert Theatre
Toronto ON

Disc 1

T01 The World Turned Upside Down
T02 talk - "we know how to deal with those bastards, don't worry"
T03 Accident Waiting to Happen
T04 Cindy of A Thousand Lives
T05 The Warmest Room
T06 Mr Love and Justice
T07 A Lover Sings
Woody Guthrie Suite
T08 talk - Tumescence, Google It
T09 Ingrid Bergmann
T10 Way Over Yonder In A Minor Key
T11 Ain't Got No Home

T12 talk - oxymorons
T14 Sexuality
T15 talk - John Cooper Clarke/Bob Dylan
T16 Evidently Chicken Town (DesoRow) (JCClarke/Bob Dylan)
T17 Oh Freedom, What Liberties Are Taken In Thy Name
T18 Levi Stubbs' Tears
T19 The Saturday Boy

Disc 2
T01 All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose
T02 talk - fight cynicism
T03 I Keep Faith
T04 Power in a Union
T05 encore break/talk
T06 Milkman of Human Kindness
T07 The Busy Girl Buys Beauty
T08 Richard
T09 The Man In The Iron Mask
T10 To Have and Have Not
T11 Lovers Town Revisited
T12 A New England

Second night was a touch mellower, especially without the inclusion of the JCC tune, due mostly to being a 'sit down' venue, very proper and all that. Great talk about his 15 year old son. Not the soccer player dad had a hope to bring up, but Billy knows his kids job is not to be what his dad wants. He seems to want to be a musician, got figure.

10 different songs tonight...thank you much. I think the tunes we lost were stronger than the songs we got...with the possible exception of Old Clash Fan Fight Song, but not by much and the variety made it worth the trip.

Billy Bragg
The Studio at Hamilton Place
Hamilton ON

Disc 1

T01 She's Got A New Spell *
T02 A Lover Sings
T03 Like Soldiers Do*
T04 Mr Love and Justice
T05 The Shortest Answer*
Woody Guthrie Suite
T06 talk - Guthrie talk
T07 I Woke Up In A Dry Bed*
T08 Way Over Yonder In A Minor Key
T09 Ain't Got No Home

T10 talk
T11 All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose
T12 talk
T14 Sexuality
T15 If You Ever Leave*
T16 God's Footballer*
T17 talk
T18 Oh Freedom, What Liberties Are Taken In Thy Name

Disc 2
T01 talk
T02 Milkman of Human Kindness
T03 talk
T04 Old Clash Fan Fight Song*
T05 talk
T06 I Keep Faith
T07 Power in a Union
T08 encore
T09 Tank Park Salute*
T10 Sing Their Souls Back Home*
T11 Jeane*
T12 A New England

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bob Dylan
Kitchener Auditorium

Saw Bob Dylan last night for the one hundreth and twenty-something time. I've been a little off the Bobster the past 5 years or so, not taking to his cowboy band. Things have changed. Charlie's back in the fold. That alone is worth a look-see.

I had low expectations and demands. Wanted to get the recently revived Gonna Change My Way of Thinking in the opening slot, followed by something strong like Shooting Star. As long as it wasn't Lay Lady Lay. Hoping for as many of the new songs just to knock them off my list but especially the wonderful Forgetful Heart. And Bob on guitar for a handful of songs. One more thing, not too many songs from the horrific Modern Times.

And what did I get?

None of the above.

Cat's opened and the dreaded Lay Lady Lay was Bob's ONLY guitar song. Had to wait for the well-entrenched Jolene in the encore to get a personal debut. 4 MT songs snuck in.

Strange thing though, I totally enjoyed the show. Perhaps that's what happens when you only see one a year. I suspect there is more to it though as this year's model is much more audience-friendly both in deportment and sound.

The changes in the show that make it the best I've seen since Freddy Koella left the band were obvious and subtle.

Charlie is a guitar god. He fills space and wastes no opportunity to inject himself into a song, something sorely lacking the past few years.

Chaplinesque Bob is back. At least he's out from behind the keyboards for a handful of tunes. Only once on the guitar tonight but the three 'stage front, harmonica' songs were terrific. Cold Irons Bound has to be seen to be believed. Ballad of A Thin Man gets a more theatric outing. Hollis Brown was riveting.

The upsinging is gone.

Bob's diction is in fall-mode, which is to say...playful and interesting.

A testament to how good this show was is that Lay Lady Lay was enjoyable and both LARS and Watchtower had me paying attention for the first time in a long time.

The inclusion of Million Miles and Every Grain of Sand (my wife's all-time favourite Dylan tune) didn't suck either.

As for the 4 MT songs I liked what Charlie does at the front of Thunder on the Mountain (muddiest song of the night). Spirit is better than getting Horizon. When The Deal Goes Down seemed a little sparse compared to what I remember from the '08 versions. Ain't Talkin', can't bitch.

The best part of the evening by far, and this is not to disparage the show, was seeing a large group of friends before and after Some from as far away as Italy and Vancouver, others who live closer by but we don't see nearly enough.

Kitchener, Ontario
Memorial Auditorium

November 7, 2009

Disc 1

1. Intro/Cat's In The Well
2. Lay, Lady, Lay (Bob on guitar)
3. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
4. Million Miles
5. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
6. Cold Irons Bound (Bob center stage on harp)
7. Every Grain Of Sand
8. Spirit On The Water
9. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
(Bob center stage on harp)
10. When The Deal Goes Down

Disc 2
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Ain't Talkin'
13. Thunder On The Mountain
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob center stage on harp)
15. (encore)
16. Like A Rolling Stone
17. Band Intro
18. Jolene
19. All Along The Watchtower

Bob Dylan - guitar, keyboard, harp
Tony Garnier - bass
George Recile - drums
Stu Kimball - rhythm guitar
Charlie Sexton - lead guitar
Donnie Herron - violin, viola, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Arctic Monkeys
w/ The Like

After a long hiatus the Arctic Monkeys were back in town as part of a small North American Tour showcasing their new release, Humbug. What, no bah? Last time these guys were on my radar they were doing their pre-Glasto/Reading/Leeds interviews of 2007 telling us we gotta see this years model, Amy Winehouse. How many fucking lifetimes ago was that?!?

The Like opened. There's no end to the amount of silly review headlines, most already used as EP titles, I Like The Like, or What's Not To Like? or Like It Or Not, They're Here to Stay...I'll stick with the first.

Industry babies they are, the most recognizable offspring being Tennessee Thomas the daughter of Elvis Costello's drummer Pete Thomas, but don't let that fool you. They are an accomplished band for some young upstarts. Refreshing as hell to hear boy/girl rock songs from the distaff perspective.
They are playing in the boys home court too. No ephemeral diva stuff here, it's straight up rock.
Highlight of the evening was watching an animated Reni Lane tearing it up on keyboards in a skin-tight chiffon dress with a pretty-in-pink bow adorning her mop-top hairdo. Bassist Laena Geronimo, with her semi-bouffant (a pouffant?), provided a heavy bass line and melded beautifully with drummer Thomas' take-no-prisoners assault on the skins. Z Berg brought a little hint of the girl-next-door look to the leading vox and guitar.

Setlist and sound samples:
?I Don't Hate You, But I Don't Love You
Square One
He's Not A Boy
In the End
?Walk of Shame/?
Band Intro / Fair Game
?I'm Not The One For You
?Don't Make A Sound

The chilly chimps will be full-grown soon. The new songs are slower, darker and not lacking any bass. Signature vocals and guitar riffs are still evident throughout but there's less playing to the ADD crowd. It's not like they are sitting back in rocking chairs, plenty of machine-gun riffs and some more than decent drumming.

Very heavy on the new less than 10, if you include various bonus tracks. We await the arena tour next spring/summer, the DVD and the B-sides.

Here's the setlist and some sound samples:

Dance Little Liar (Humbug)
Brianstorm (Favourite Worst Nightmare)
Crying Lightning (Humbug)
Potion Approaching (Humbug)
Pretty Visitors (Humbug)
This House is a Circus (Favourite Worst Nightmare)
Still Take You Home (Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not)
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor (Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not)
If You Were There, Beware (Favourite Worst Nightmare)
Sketchead (Humbug, iTunes only)
Dangerous Animals (Humbug)
The View from the Afternoon (Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not)
Secret Door (Humbug)
Cornerstone (Humbug)
Do Me a Favour (Favourite Worst Nightmare)
Fluorescent Adolescent (Favourite Worst Nightmare)

Red Right Hand (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds cover) (Humbug,Japan only)
My Propeller (Humbug)
505 (Favourite Worst Nightmare)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Marianne Faithfull
Town Hall, NYC

A great few days in NYC, always good for the soul, if not the pocketbook. In town for a reprise of the Marianne Faithfull show we saw at the City Winery in the spring. She's touring a little more extensively this fall but wasn't going to reach Toronto.

Caught an off-Broadway show the first night, The Marvelous Wonderettes. Could have seen 39 Steps or Gods of Carnage but we're down here for a concert and we should stay on course. A great little time-waster, tons of 50's tunes and smiles all night long, great choice.

Next day we stopped in at the Rock N Roll Annex, to take a look at the Lennon exhibit that is curated by Yoko Ono. Nice movie to start the tour, some great shots of seminal rock performers in their youth. Besides the obvious we had a young Muddy Waters, Ray Charles and James Brown. Great shots of The Beatles and Stones. Their displays are NY centric...lots of material on local punk bands from the VU to the Talking Heads and everything in between.

The Lennon exhibit was nice. The bag of John's clothes is not as sad as it may seem when reading about the exhibit. It's sealed. Touching. There's a phone on the wall that Yoko calls in on, it has a sign telling you to answer if it rings, she'll be on the other end.

Caught up with my son and his girlfriend for lunch in Times Square. Total coincedence that we landed in the city at the same time. It's his first visit, so I wasn't going to take up too much of his day.

We're here for Marianne. It's a fitting wrap to the year. Marianne has an inspirational story about her battle with breast cancer. My wife was starting her treatment in the spring and just completed the most difficult part of a 6 month regimen a couple weeks ago. Her story is pretty inspirational too; this is our celebration.

Pretty well the same show we got in the spring as she's touring her recent Easy Come, Easy Go album. We get Morrissey's Dear God, Please Help Me and Tom Waits' Strange Weather in place of The Espers' Children of Stone and The Chieftains Love Is Teasing.

Many highlights; Sister Morphine was killer, it was Marianne's idea to add the snippet of Mack the Knife to the beginning of Randy Newman's In Germany Before the War. Her chat was, at once, self-deprecating as she makes no effort to minimize the tribulations of ageing and life-affirming as it was tough to miss the joy she feels in just being here, doing this, as unlikely as that might have seemed 45 years ago.

The band is superb and Marianne is a wonderful host. The audience shows a lot of love; she returns it in spades. A couple changes in the band as guitarist Doug Pettibone and multi-instrumentalist Rob DeBellis replace Ryan Scott and Lenny Pippets. We also get the added pleasure of Jenni Muldaur helping out on some backing vocals. Lots of New York artists in this band. Fitting and first class all the way.

Go buy the record, go see the tour.
Here's the set list and some sound samples.

Marianne Faithfull
Town Hall
New York City

guitar Marc Ribot
guitar Doug Pettibone
bass musical director Greg Cohen
drums Joey Baron
keyboards & accordian Rob Burns
woodwinds Marty Allen
more winds/horns Rob DeBellis
violin Christina Courtin
cello Christopher Hoffman
b/vox Jenni Muldaur

Disc 1

Track 01 Times Square (M.Faithfull)
Track 02 Down From Dover (D.Parton)
Track 03 The Crane Wife 3 (Decemberists/C. Meloy)
Track 04 Solitude (D.Ellington)
Track 05 Hold On, Hold On(Neko Case)
Track 06 Easy Come, Easy Go (Bessie Smith/W. Jackson & E. Brown)
Track 07 Broken English (M. Faithfull)
Track 08 Mack the Knife/In Germany Before the War (R. Newman)
Track 09 Crazy Love(M.Faithfull/N Cave)
Track 10 Kimbie (J.C.Frank)
Track 11 Salvation (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club,Hayes, Turner & Jago)

Disc 2

Track 01 Ballad of Lucy Jordan (S. Silverstein)
Track 02 Band Intro
Track 03 Sister Morphine (Jagger/Faithfull)
Track 04 As Tears Go By (Jagger/Richards)
Track 05 Why'd Ya Do It? (H. Williams)
Track 06 Dear God, Please Help My (Morrissey)
Track 06 Sing Me Back Home (M.Haggard)
Track 07 audience/encore break/talk
Track 08 Strange Weather (Tom Waits)

Great review from an blog here with links to some youtube videos

Friday, September 18, 2009

The White Stripes
Under Great White Northern Lights
World Premiere
Elgin Theatre, Toronto ON

We caught a break in 2007 when the Stripes were able to finish the Canadian Tour prior to Meg's bout with high anxiety. Even better, their tour was unique, they went places people not named Jewel normally don't go. And they brought some cameras.

As documentaries go, it's a great concert film.

As concert films go, it's got a great subject.

I don't know if it adds to the canon of either but it sure was a good time.

We were in line early outside the gorgeous Elgin Theatrer/Winter Garden building. First they let the VISA Gold/Platinum/Titanium and Manganese card holders in first, then the rabble were allowed to shuffle along.
The wait wasn't that bad. Got to play "I'll show you mine, if you show me yours" with a couple. They put up a good fight..."We saw the Stripes 4 times and each of the Raconteurs and Dead Weather once." Hmmm, impressive. I put it away with, "Lost count right now but I can tell you about the places from Glasgow to Virginia to ... (wait for it) Cleveland." (That'll mean more after you've seen the movie.)
Luck was on our side,we pulled up to the entrance at the same moment as Jack and got to yell and wave at him from a few feet away as he was trying to do the 'red carpet' thing.

Jack and Meg joined director Emmett Malloy onstage for a brief introduction to the film prior to the screening. Jack talked the most, thanking Canada. We're waiting for everyone to respond. Meg was silent.

So what about the film? Well, I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies and probably less about film-making...BUT...

There was a certain esthetic beauty in the black-and-white segments, especially those shot outside in the barren northern wilderness.

Canada was made for the red and white segments.

Sometimes I wanted more music. Other times I wanted more talking. I always wanted more material and that must have been a huge challenge, deciding what didn't make it. In the end the film focuses heavily on the impromptu mini-shows done the afternoon of most major shows. It avoids the big arena shows in the populous cities on the southern portion of Canada; ie. Calgary, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Toronto and Montreal. It was those territories that really got their interest.

The off-stage stuff was raw at times, catching Jack and Meg tired or bored. There's no effort to deify the principals, they are shown as people hard at work, not always floating on that wispy cloud of superstardom. You can see them stumble across the melting permafrost, looking dishevelled smoking a cigarette or chugging from a bottle of liqour in the backseat of a car. The band is met by the local mayors in each of the small towns and that leads to some awkward and delicious moments. Meg explaining to a trucker they are a 'two piece rock band that makes a lot of noise." The mayer of Yellowknife describing a fight to the death between a wounded muskox and another who sensed it's weakness. Jack turning to Meg saying: "That's what I'm going to do if you get shot. I'm going to put you down!" A piece with the village elders in Iqaluit starts of somewhere on the borderline of uncomfortable and excruciating but ends up with one of the sweetest moments of the film, Meg beaming, smiling, as an old woman dances a jig while Jack accompanies another elder who's playing lead on an accordion.

Much of the video-verite portions consist of Jack expanding on Megs quiet nature. Most of her audio is accompanied by sub-titles as she tends to whisper, or at least get caught speaking underneath Jack who seems never to stop talking. In one scene Jack tries to get Meg to admit that it's HER choice to be the quiet one, not him hogging the spotlight. It ends with this little quip: "Randy Newman said short people got no reason to live...he never met a quiet person."

Jack talks about the constrictions of playing inside the "White Stripes Box." All that stuff about 3. He addresses the strange path they've taken from 'Detroit indie-gods to Product'and how that puts pressure on your artistic development. The indie-fans were fickle, he says, leaving them in droves after the success of the early releases. "Once somebody else on the block liked you...they didn't like you anymore." "None of those people who filled the early shows came out to any after that." He talks about the press adulation that was always accompanied by a death-knell call of "how long can they keep it up?" In other pieces he responds to the critics who have labelled them a 'packaged' band, admitting the 'candy cane' stuff was absolutely an affectation but only the thin shell covering his vehicle for experimentation and expression: the live show. He acknowledges they are at once phony and real. It's the box.

The music was terrific, always is. While we don't get any extended concert scenes we get plenty of full songs, so it's not irritating. An early clip from one of the impromptu mini-sets gives us a great version of Black Jack Davy. We get a full version of Blind Willie McTells Lord, Send Me An Angel during the elders meet. Concert footage includes a fan favorites, met by applause inside the theatre, for Jolene and Meg's solo turn at Cold, Cold, Night. More applause for the wicked guitar solos in Death Letter and 7 Nation Army. A nice version of Doorbell with Jack on bass. Shorter shots of the shows on a city bus, a boat in the harbour and a small stage in a city sqaure. Near the end, a quick medley that tried to cover some of the hundred other great moments there was no time to show.

The film closes with a real tear-jerker of a scene.

A short Q&A after the showing led to a couple interesting moments. An astute audience member stands up to shock the director and producer by informing them they made an error over the opening credits. "I live in Nova Scotia but I was born in Newfoundland. At the beginning of your film your on screen text says the scene is in NS butit's really in Newfoundland. Are you going to fix that before it goes to general release?" Next question please.

And finally, as Emmett Malloy is brandishing the mic to explain how difficult it was to get the rights to include a snippet of Citizen Kane (which was overlayed with Jack's vocals borrowed from the film and placed into Union Forever), Jack comes running out for his Kanye moment, grabbing the mic saying: "I'm gonna let you finish, I'm gonna let you finish... but Orson Welles made the best movie ever..."

So we let Jack have the last word. He had most in between.

CBC News Thought It Was 'Stylish', great overview here

The Globe and Mail informs us there's going to be a DVD, live CD and coffee table book. What, no video game?

The Canadian Press has Jack talking about the uniqueness of Canadians

Critic Kevin Williamson bravely picks UGWNL for Best Picture.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CR Avery: Live at The Rivoli Feb. 24,2009
YouTube videos

The CR Avery DVD came out great. There are some samples up at MrMikelProductions' youtube page.

Monday, September 07, 2009

CR Avery Gets Sirius
Harbourfront Sirius Stage
Toronto ON

Bonus fall show from CR Avery, who I enjoyed the hell out of back in July (check the blog for samples and reviews). I know I should have stuck around for Irma Thomas but I've overbooked my little lady this month and we were well satiated after CR's set.

I have an affinity for Harbourfront. Not because it's comfortable; it's usually cold and windy. Not because it's accessible; the traffic down here is a bitch. Not because it's conducive to a good concert; too many people, here for disparate reasons. No, it's because Harbourfront won Trudeau an election...and man, I miss THAT guy.

We caught an International Iron Chef competition in the afternoon. This concert is part of a "Hot and Spicy Food Festival" that features Louisiana cuisine and culture. Appropriately Chef Ben Thibodeaux of New Orleans won the contest. The Rebirth Brass Band, also from the Crescent City, played an early evening set and the aforementioned Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, closed out the evening. Sandwiched in between was a myriad of food expositions. A sensory feast.

So what's a pale-skinned, hip-hop-beat-boxing-spoken-word artist doing here?
Well, providing contrast and context.
He's definitely a little "outside the box", as he said, but he's got the heart of New Orleans buried in his music. It can be heard in the improvisation, the transformation of familiar tunes and in that wailing harp, which never failed to get the audience on it's feet tonight. It can be seen in the sweat dripping out of every pore as he mines the piano keys for that mercurial tinkle that will send a chill down your spine at the end of a line. It can be felt if you let yourself ride the aural wave of the ballads that move from 'rolling river' smooth to 'shooting rapids' rough.

Now I'm gonna mention this again, in case you don't get around to the other reviews; calling CR Avery a 'hip-hop-beat-boxing-spoken-word artist' doesn't do him justice. First off, I think it scares people off. It sounds like 'niche' music...for the very few and the very young. It's a label that applies a too narrow definition. It's like saying water is wet. It may well be, but it's much more.

Unfortunately the music industry needs tags. You can't raise a lot of interest by describing yourself as a challenging and ever-changing entertainer. Last night, like every night I've seen this guy, there were people who didn't know what they were in for when the evening started who were lined up for cd's, autographs and a chat post-show. All of them amazed they liked it. The fact this guy's ticket hasn't been punched is a shame and an indictment of the current state of the industry. We should sue those motherfuckers for not finding the talent available and get extra money for having to endure the shit they hoist upon us.

Contrast and context, eh?

I love CR's opening songs 'cause they set the audience right back on their heels. It's usually a harp blow-out of a familiar tune with some challenging beat-box effects; Leadbelly's 'Sylvie' and Tom Waits' 'Big In Japan' usually do the trick. Tonight we get a cover of one of the premier blues artists of our generation, Bob Dylan.

WFT? Dylan a blues artist? Isn't he that hillbilly-folkie-religious-mumbling guy? Does anyone know if he's still alive? The answer to all is yes.

CR does to 'Maggies Farm' what Bob does to all his songs...he deconstructs it. Upon reassembly it's both hardly recognizable and faintly familiar. Each night the opening song gets the same result; it grabs your attention.

He follows with something more palatable. Taking a seat behind the piano he drops the volume and intensity, sucking the still head-shaking and gasping listeners in. Tinkle-tinkle-tonk on the keyboards, then a ballad. In the past it's been 'Things Have Changed' or 'Rain Falls' or 'Like A Train In the Snow'. Tonight we get a song that fits the theme, Lucinda Williams' 'Bus To Baton Rouge'. Lots of empty spaces in this song, it takes some nerve to leave them hanging, hoping they won't get spoiled by obnoxious drunks, but he's got everyone leaning forward, listening.

Up to the mic for a spoken word piece, an homage to Charles Bukowski, a showcase for his beat-boxing (he,he) skills, 'The Boxer Who Just Returned From London'. This poem has a tipping point and he nails it every time. "I found myself in a little room."

Now into the centre of his show, with the audience right where he wants them, he indulges himself for a couple songs. Two slow and low piano pieces wrapped around a bluesy romp. CR finds a space inside these songs that's not always accessible to the audience but you can tell it's a creative space as he forces the tempo to a crawl while trying to squeeze out that elusive chord.

First up is a Willie Nelson cover, Home Motel. Goin To Be Hungry Blues is downright raunchy. I'm not sure what CR's eating habits are but between the way he introduced Lemon Meringue Pie this summer ("This song is called 'Eating Pussy on a Hot August Night') and this tune, I'm guessing; vagitarian. Chainsmoking Blues closes out the moody portion of the show.

He's joined onstage by local bass-player Michael Liston for the remainder of the set that starts with a spoken word piece about a young Jimi Hendrix trying to get a Bob Dylan record played in a black club. A song about fusion and not closing your mind by shutting off your ears. Like I said, context.

Set closes with a lovely ballad, 'When I'm Gone' and CR's called back for an encore and true to his style, chooses not to make it easy as he ends with a key-tar and harp driven, 'Love Song', which is a litany of things you hate wrapped in an epileptic fit inducing syncopation.

Here are the songs and samples:

Track 01 Maggies Farm (B Dylan)
Track 02 Bus To Baton Rouge (L Williams)
Track 03 Boxer Who Just Returned From London
Track 04 ??Home Motel??
Track 05 ??Goin' To Bed Hungry
Track 06 Chainsmoking Blues
Track 07 ??Black Hippie
Track 08 talk
Track 09 When I'm Gone
Track 10 Love Song

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wanda Jackson
Queen of Rockabilly
The Cadillac Lounge

Nothing much to say about the lovely little lady from Oklahoma City...nothing that ain't been said before, anyway.

Here's a link to last years review. More of the same tonight.

December 2008 Show

Really raucous crowd. Perfect party mood for Wanda's show if a little disrespectful at the quiet times.

Set list
01 Mean, Mean, Man
02 Rock Me Baby
03 Hard Headed Woman
04 I Gotta Know
05 I Betcha My Heart
06 In the Middle of A Heartache
07 Elvis talk
08 Good Rockin' Tonight
09 Let's Play House
10 Heartbreak Hotel
11 Fujiyama Mama
12 Funnel of Love
13 Cell Block 9
14 Right or Wrong
15 Wanda's Witness> I Saw The Light
16 Band Intro >Sam Dedication
17 Let's Have A Party > Outro / 24 Whole Lotta Shakin' > Rip It Up > Let's Have A Party

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Robert Gordon with
Chris Spedding (Roxy Music)
Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and
Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats)
The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern

For the last decade or so when Robert Gordon brought his show to Toronto is was at the Cadillac Lounge. For reasons I can't comprehend, this configuration chose to pass on that loyal and lovely venue. But, hey, it's an All-Star band so I guess a The Legendary Horseshoe bar is in order.

Great crowd tonight, very few obnoxious drunks though we had a handful of happy drunks. Got stuck with 'Sir Clap-A-Lot' close to me during Robert's set so I chose to move onto the floor somewhere around Look Who's Blue. Met a couple from Barrie who were in the middle of a marathon biking weekend which involved something that might have been the Harley Olympics in Kitchener and a 5 am road trip to Toronto. While they were a little tired waiting for doors I'm sure the action inside perked them up. Motorbikin' for sure. Met three rambunctious guys from Ottawa and environs who were seeing Robert for the first time in 22 years...and seemed pretty excited about it. They managed to find themselves on the rail and never did return to their seats.

Opening the night are local artists KC and the Moonshine Band. They were a treat as their swamp-rock, Elvis-cum-zombie-schtick, is engaging, entertaining and anything but boring. Tip of the hat to Ronnie Hawkins as the show opens with Who Do You Love? They pay homage to acts as disparate as The Cramps (GooGoo Muck) and Led Zeppelin (Rock N Roll). I will be adding them to my ticketmaster alerts.

This All-Star Band is a gift from Robert Gordon. I'd watch him sing his song list a capella. When he has a virtuoso guitarist like the late-great Link Wray or the still-with-us-and-beyond-belief Chris Spedding, well it's 'bonus fries' time. Tonight he's brought along a couple minor-icons in the rock echelon; Glen Matlock of Sex Pistols fame and Slim Jim Phantom who kept the beat for The Stray Cats.

Now I've seen a few magical shows in my time; The Rolling Stones with 90,000 other people at Rich Stadium in 1975; February 1979, The Clash at The Rex Theater on the Danforth; April 20, 1980 Dylan's magnificent religious show at Massey Hall; Springsteen's 4 + hour show in Detroit in 1980; sometime in the early '80's Iggy Pop did a 24 minute headlining set at the Danforth Music Hall and left the stage swearing at us, Wanda Jackson's 70th B'day show at the Caddy in 2007 and a few more. This one just vaulted into the top 10.

Robert does his magic, bringing songs that are inbedded in our rock-n-roll psyche to the stage. His voice is still terrific as he evokes the spirit of Elvis, Conway and Roy. He always delivers of Springsteen's Fire and never fails to thank Bruce for the song. Rock classics from The Way I Walk to Suspicion to Make Believe are brought alive.

He truly enjoys the fans enjoying the show and that's something you wouldn't see if you were spending $200 to sit in the back of an arena. The other members, from Matlock to Spedding to Phantom, were all-smiles, all-night.

Chris' set was cut a little short tonight to make room for the other illustrious guests. I can't say enough about this guy. I thought a show I saw back in '08 was the ultimate representation of his prowess as a lead guitarist in support. I was wrong. He was ripping it tonight and you could tell he was motivated by the prescence of Matlock and Phantom, each performer driving the other to find a magic moment. Chris delivered many, usually behind Robert's lead vocals. He never stops filling space and this show is great if the only thing you heard was his lead.

Matlock had the unfortunate luck to have a medical emergency in the middle of his performance of God Save The Queen. A young lady fainted. Don't know if it was because she was hearing this song from this artist or because it was a hundred and twenty degrees and the booze was flowing freely. In any case the band called out for help, left the stage for a few minutes and returned to complete the song when said fainting-girl was revived. A weird moment, but ain't that rock n roll?

Slim Jim dropped to massive bombs on the audience with his renditions of Riot in Brighton and Rock This Town. His stand-up drumming was a pleasure to watch all evening as he bounced around in front of and back of his kit.

Robert returns to close the evening with another 30 minutes of superb rock 'n roll. He closes the set with a very rare Make Believe, and though he says he hasn't played it in 15 years, I know he's pretending, because I heard it at the Caddy in '08. The inclusion of Black Slacks was a surprise. Have never heard it live though I've heard the same guy (and I think he was here tonight) yell out for it at every Gordon show for the past 5 years.

This show will go down as the best-bang-for-your-buck in '09. Pure magic for a mere $30.

Here's the set list and some mp3 samples.

Disc 1

Track 01 The Way I Walk
Track 02 C'mon Everybody
Track 03 I'm Gonna Be Your Lover Boy, Tonight
Track 04 Ubangi Stomp
Track 05 Suspicion (incl Chris' intro)
Track 06 Look Who's Blue (incl Glen's intro)
Track 07 Fire (incl Jim's intro)
Track 08 -talk - technical problems
Track 09 Lonely Weekends
Track 10 Wild Wild Women (w/ Chris on backing vox)

Chris Spedding's mini-set
Track 11 Guitar Jamboree
Track 12 Motorbikin'

Glen Matlock's mini-set
Track 13 Treat Her Right
Track 14 God Save the Queen (w/ edit for medical emergency)

Slim Jim Phantom's mini-set
Track 15 Rumble in Brixton
Track 16 Rock This Town

Disc 2

Track 01 Beside You
Track 02 Move It (and Groove It)
Track 03 Little Sister
Track 04 Twenty Flight Rock
Track 05 The Wanderer
Track 06 Wasting My Time
Track 07 I'm A Hot Rod
Track 08 Black Slacks
Track 09 Rockabilly Boogie
Track 10 thanks - band intro
Track 11 Make Believe
Track 12 Robert Gordon's PSA

John Prine
Massey Hall
Toronto ON

John Prine is one our best, most engaging, storytellers. While his story is often told it doesn't wear thin.

Thoroughly enjoyed his 2004 Convocation Hall concert, even though it was a year before I started taping...maybe BECAUSE. Massey Hall is another animal though, a premier venue, historic and elegant, though somewhat less than in her glory days. Downtown early for dinner we saw that outside the gates, the trucks were unloading, roadies sweating it out. The weather was hot, nearly 90 degrees...a good night for a kick-back and enjoy concert.

But tonight I'm hampered by a couple talkative, loud clapping, inappropriate singing, drunks. Which brings me to the biggest disappointment of this year's concert schedule...Massey Hall has a 'stadium license'... you can take your beer and liqour to your seats. Wish that was all that people did. If you come in packing two, grab another two at intermission, leave just before Sam Stone for another two...well, you just know there's gotta be a piss-break in there somewhere. Note to audience: The part of the song where the money goes into the hole in the arm is NOT cause for celebration.

Opening act Carrie Rodriguez brings some Brooklyn moxie to the stage with her solo set. Takes a bit of gumption to stand alone with a fiddle on the Massey Hall stage. The dress didn't hurt though. I was 50/50 on this artist. Loved her when she was raw and skanky...not so much when she slipped into diva-mode. She won the audience over and got a well-deserved encore.

Now you'll have to excuse the guy sitting to my right, his head was exploding and I was praying the pieces wouldn't fall on me. Seems a John Prine concert is akin to a religious experience with him. Not the Catholic kind where everyone's quietly nodding off in the pew but the Baptist kind where every call demands a response. There were so many things wrong with this guy, not the least of which he thought, for reasons unbeknowsnt to be, that I wanted to talk. It's not like I give off friendly vibes when I'm running tape. He also felt compelled to provide harmony on most songs, sometimes accompanied with ill-timed clapping.

Prine was in good humour and good form. The set list was a bracket of his career...heavy on the first record and heavy on the award winning 2005 release Fair and Square. The stuff in between didn't suck either.

Here's the set list and some sound samples:

John Prine
Massey Hall
Toronto ON

Disc 1
1. Spanish Pipedream (Blow Up Your TV) (John Prine)
2. Crooked Piece of Time (Bruised Orange)
3. Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore (John Prine)
4. Six O'Clock News (John Prine)
5. Souvenirs (Prine/Goodman) (Diamonds in the Rough)
6. Grandpa Was A Carpenter (Sweet Revenge)
7. Fish and Whistle (Bruised Orange)
8. Glory of True Love (Prine/Cook) (Fair and Square)
9. Taking A Walk (Prine/MacLauglin) (Fair and Square)
10. Angel from Montgomery (John Prine)
11. Long Monday (Prine/Sykes) (Fair and Square)
(moved away from the motherfuckers talking all through the show)
12. Donald and Lydia (John Prine)
13. Dear Abby (Sweet Revenge)
14. Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian (German Afternoons)

Disc 2
1. Sam Stone (John Prine)
2. Bear Creek Blues (A.P Carter) (Fair and Square)
3. That’s Alright By Me (Prine/MacLauglin) (Fair and Square)
4. She Is My Everything (Fair and Square)
5. Hello In There (John Prine)
6. Lake Marie (Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings)
7. In Spite of Ourselves (duet with Carrie Rodriguez) (In Spite of Ourselves)
8. Muhlenberg County (John Prine)

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Rizdales
Cancer Benefit
Cadillac Lounge
August 9,2009
4 pm Matinee

We saw The Rizdales back the wonderful Wanda Jackson last December.

Let me tell you it seems like a lifetime has passed in the interim.

Don't think I don't appreciate irony as we find ourselves heading back to the Cadillac Lounge for this benefit show. In December of '08 my wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She did a 5 month chemo regimen, followed by surgery in June and is currently nearing the middle of her radiation program. We have been fortunate as the team at Sunnybrook's Odette Center have had terrific success. Her sister, who will be with us for this matinee, was diagnosed in early '09 and is still in treatment. These ladies deserve a party. Also joining us, a third sister; she's the nervous looking one, she doesn't have breast cancer yet.

Great benefit in honour of George O'Connor, father of Tara Dunphy, lead singer and fiddlatrix of the band, who passed away two years ago. Tom Dunphy worked the MC mic all night encouraging the patrons to dig deep in support of the Canadian Cancer Society. By all accounts it was a successful evening.

Musically, it was lengthy. Show opened at 4 pm with a tight set from The Swinging Blackjacks. Next up was Mr Rick and the Biscuits, who did a different version of House of the Rising Sun but were most notable for the young man from New Orleans who was playing slap-style stand-up bass. Local rockabilly icons, The Royal Crowns, who also boast an excellent bass player, rounded out the show.

After a few quick "thank you's" and a raffle draw, we are through with the fund-raising and on to The Rizdales main set. Love the opener, Cash & Carter's Jackson, done with loving eyes and a sardonic smile. Also of note songs; It's Not Me, It's You and My New Wife's Kids.

You can see these guys a couple times a month between the London and Toronto dates they do. And they do their share of matinees so you can make it part of a weekend stroll.

Friday, August 07, 2009

RIP Willy DeVille

Message from a Friend:

"Willy DeVille died last night in NYC. Pancreatic cancer.
Hearbreaking news - and sadly, no american press or news site seems to give a damn:"

Google News Link

Paul James will remember.

Here's Paul covering Cadillac Walk and dedicating it to "Mr and Mrs DeVille" at The Cadillac Lounge (!) last April

Cadillac Walk by Paul James

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dead Weather vs CR Avery
Round 3
The Motown/Steeltown Showdown
2009-07-24 & 2009-07-29

Jack White in Detroit...something so right. Unfortunately the Tigers were playing a double-header at Comerica Park, across the street from The Fillmore, so we had to get in town early to find a parking spot.

Turned out it was no problem at all as we found a spot near a bar and the venue. We're accompanied tonight by two friends who we've shared many a Dylan show with. They cross-over too.

We catch a break at the door when we line up with the early entry Vault winners. A very kind usher, realizing we belong in the back of the long line that wraps the venue, also notes that it's a bit of a challenge for one of our party to be out and about at a rock concert and instructs us to just sit still and he'd get us in after the VIP's. I've been to the State, now the Fillmore, before. Each visit I'm amazed at the courteous service we get from the staff. It's a fan-friendly environment.

Dead Weather's set is the same. Only better. Every night they're getting tighter. Alison is exploding. She's found the sweet spot in most of her solo songs. Because the band has more confidence, Jack is stepping out a bit. We got a little impromptu talk from him this evening. While it made little sense, it was fun to hear: "Saw two guys in a park today. One of them said "Don't look at me bitch"... fifteen feet away the other guy said "Can you, yeah, but can you spell 'bitch'? My God!" He said "My God.... can you spell 'bitch'? The other guy said 'I AM GOD!'. "

Another 64 minutes. Tonight's top ticket price was $52.00 + fees.

The show can be broken down into three distinct segments: Her songs, His songs, Their songs.

Her songs:

60 ft Tall: Great opener, she throws down the gauntlet from the outset. Each show she tries to find a spot high on the monitors to deliver the first refrain.

Bone House: Not only can she take it, she can dish it as well. Stalker-rock from the distaff side.

Hang You From the Heavens: Maybe her best song. Must be seen to be properly experienced.

So Far From Your Weapon: Takes a little longer to build momentum and never explodes in the same manner as the other songs but it's a nice moody breather in mid-set.

No Hassle Night: This one's not working for me yet.

Forever My Queen: This is starting to grow on me but still not as accessible as her strong songs.

Treat Me Like Your Mother: Another wonderful stage performance, improving every night.

New Pony: She just slays this Dylan tune. Wish they'd add the extra verse and fill out some of those lines instead of truncating them but I do dig the refrain.

His Songs:

You Just Can't Win: The fans aren't quite getting this yet. The part at the beginning, when Fertita is noodling and Jack is posing, standing, at the drum kit, IS PART OF THE SONG....PAY ATTENTION. There's only a couple quiet parts in the show and both of them end with Jack being center stage. It's the foreplay beforet he sonic mind-fuck. Half the song is done at the mic, with no instrument, before he returns back to the kit for the explosive finish. Great spotlight on singer and song.

I Cut Like A Buffalo: I'm giving this one to Jack 'cause I don't think it's fair to blame Alison for it.

Their Songs:

Child of A Few Hours: Can you say 'weird'?

Rocking Horse: Getting better every night. Didn't take too much to this song at first but now I'm loving the interplay.

Will There Be Enough Water?: What can be said about the epic album tune? It's simple and simply over-the-top all at once. Must be seen to be appreciated, like lots of Jack's stuff. The image of the two singers, face to face, lip to lip, behind the lead vocal mic reminds me of those silhouettes we used to cut out in crafts. They are like twins. Jack's guitar blow-out is vintage Jack and crumbs for the audience all at the same time.

Here's the set list and a few mp3's.

Track 01 Intro
Track 02 60 ft Tall
Track 03 Bone House
Track 04 Hang You From The Heavens
Track 05 You Just Can't Win (Van Morrison)
Track 06 Band Intro/Bitch Talk
Track 07 So Far From Your Weapon
Track 08 I Cut Like A Buffalo
Track 09 Child of a Few Hours
Track 10 Rocking Horse
Track 11 No Hassle Night
Track 12 Will There Be Enough Water?
Track 13 audience/encore
Track 14 Forever My Queen
Track 15 Treat Me Like Your Mother
Track 16 New Pony (Bob Dylan)

Finally, the end of a gruelling 14 days with 8 concerts in 5 cities as CR Avery pulls me out of my stupor with a lengthy set at Hamilton's This Ain't Hollywood. Not as gruelling as it's been for this band of gypsies as they've criss-crossed Southern Ontario in search of festivals and stages the past few weeks.

Tonight there's no ticket at the door, I think the band is playing for drinks. The crowd is sparse early in the evening but by showtime we have a decent, if boisterous, gathering. This bar is in the process of changing it's identity...very early in that process, so not everyone here tonight was expecting live music. Sometimes the artist challenges the audience, sometimes it's the other way around.

We have a replacement for Serena Eades in the Legal Tender String Quartet, sister Laura Bates,if I heard right. This fusion of strings and hip-hop has been enjoyable. Meredeth Bates on lead violin has gained in confidence and her sound adds a unique quality to all the songs, from the moody swirls in The Ballad of Charlie Parker and Patsy Cline to the chops in Folk Singer and the swing in Bigger Fish To Fry. On bass and cello Evan Bates holds the beat, which isn't as easy as it sounds when you consider CR is wont to ramble and improvise. Drummer Matthew Rogers doubles as 'strings arranger' and his job was mostly completed before this collective hit the stage...what we are reaping are the rewards of his labour.

Was hoping for 2 sets tonight but the bar found a last-minute fill in for the opening slot. Gord Lewis, of Teenage Head fame, supported on guitar. Don't know if that's 'nuff said but that's all I'm going to say.

For the first time since September 2005 I'm not taping a show in stealth. Got a soundboard patch. Wish I didn't as the guy manning the board neglected to turn on my output until about 57 minutes into the show. No matter, I got to applaud, laugh, sing and get up to take a piss, instead of playing the human mic stand for two hours.

CR had to work this crowd. The beauty of his shows is that you don't really know what you're going to get. Tonight he came into the audience for 3 songs in an attempt to win the attention of the chatters. I've seen this work to perfection, where he mesmerizes the crowd and you can hear a pin drop beneath his unamplified vocals. You coulda heard one tonight but it would have had to have been a bowling pin, followed by 9 others crashing against the back wall. But for those in close we got a great rendition of Bigger Fish to Fry and Midnight Gold Mining. Earlier in the evening he came out to finish Parker/Cline. While CR is taper friendly, he's not taper easy. If he has to work, then everyone has to work for their stuff.

Don't have a complete set list tonight...due to the aformentioned technical difficulties, but here's a few samples of what did come out.

From the soundcheck

Hank William's Lost Highway

Town To Town

From the main set

Channeling Frustrated Energy

Midnight Gold Mining

Folk Singer (fast version)

Get off the couch and support your local artists!

And if you can't get off the couch roll over a little, pull out your wallet and buy CR Avery's Magic Hour Sailor songs at CD Baby

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dead Weather vs CR Avery
Round 2
The Tango in Toronto
2009-07-22 & 2009-07-23

CR definitely has the advantage this round as his show is in the comfy confines of The Rivoli while the Dead Weather are housed in what's become a more and more uncontrolled club environment at the KOOL HAUS. This place is like an asshole magnet...which is probably why I find myself here a half-dozen times a year when I've grown to not enjoy the venue.

The thing about the Dead Weather is...not much variance in the set list. If they were a real 'new band' we'd probably see them experimenting with songs and styles and taking some chances. Instead we have them here, virtual stage-virgins, pushing polished product. It's not like the Stripes where you know you're getting something different. In that way they are not as exciting to see again-and-again-and-again. There's a couple slots in the set list where there's a chance for some variety...the cover slots, but even those are rather static. Combined with their excessive promotions (I get about 5 emails a week from Third Man Records/Dead Weather/Raconteurs/White Stripes), it's this rather blatant commercialism that turns me off these 'experiments'. With the demise of the record companies you gotta find a new path...but does everything from access to music have to be for sale? I'm out here for one reason: Jack White is rock deity. Opportunities to witness him practising his art will be few and far between. Anytime you can catch him, you should.

On the other hand the band is getting progressively more comfortable with each other and this show was the most rollicking, rocking and sweaty of the few I've seen so far. The volume, as always, was set to 11. Alison prowls the stage, like a tigress on the hunt, perched on monitors or stage wings, doing her petulant "no smoking rules don't apply to me 'cause I'm cool" schtick. Jack's two forays to front-stage are becoming more choreographed as he stands from his kit and meanders slowly, teasingly, towards the mic. His guitar spot on "Will There Be Enough Water?" was through the roof as the audience response seemed to elicit a more energetic solo.

Unfortunately the songs remain the same so I find myself looking forward to Hang You From the Heavens, Jack's vocals on You Just Can't Win, the duet and Jack's guitar on Will There Be Enough Water? and the final song, a cover of Dylan's New Pony. They are worth the price of admission on their own.

Here's the set list and a few mp3 samples:

Track 01 Intro
Track 02 60 ft Tall
Track 03 Bone House
Track 04 Hang You From The Heavens
Track 05 You Can't Win (Van Morrison)
Track 06 So Far From Your Weapon
Track 07 I Cut Like A Buffalo
Track 08 Child of a Few Hours
Track 09 Rocking Horse
Track 10 No Hassle Night

Track 11 Will There Be Enough Water?
Track 12 audience/encore
Track 13 Forever My Queen
Track 14 Treat Me Like Your Mother
Track 15 New Pony (Bob Dylan)

At the CR show we have the added pleasure of promoting my son's DVD capture of his February set at The Rivoli. You can check out some video samples at his youtube page

No Sojourners tonight but we have the CR Avery Band and the strings are still with us.

The trouble with CR Avery's press/bio clippings is that everyone calls him a 'hip-hop' or 'beat-box' artist. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Except it's like saying water is wet. It barely begins to describe the properties. Water is also calm, turgid, hot, cold, and rushing. It's also ice and steam. CR is soulful, melodic, bluesy, pop-punk and a kick-ass rocker. He can change his properties as easily.

He's an unconscious wordsmith. I've seen my share of songwriters over the years but not many as nimble of lip and mind as this guy.

He's a sponge, reminiscent of a pasty faced kid who left the midwest for the bright lights of NYC in 1961. He transtextualizes with the best of them. If you think that's cheating, try it.

At the Rivoli he has his friends from Vancouver, The Legal String Quartet and Noah Walker on guitar. This show was promoted locally by The Undesireables, who usually hold court at The Cameron House. You'll be hearing about them in the next month or so.

CR laid them to waist tonight. Massive set...1 hour and 50 minutes of pure joy. A handful of new songs for me Midight Gold Mining, Dear Colonel, Lemon Meringue Pie, Channeling Frustrated Energy and Work To Be Done) plus two radically different version of familiar songs (a subdued (?) Motel: 50 Miles Out of Town and a sped up version of Folk Singer).

I can't even begin to break down the subtle variances in his rap, or the dramatic changes in the songs because I actually have a day-job and it would take a good 10 hours to point out the changes we get night-to-night. Suffice it to say you gotta see this guy.

And if you're thinking: Who the fuck is CR Avery? Well, just lift up your head and look...his name is written in the stars. Check out The Ballad of Charlie Parker and Patsy Cline. If that don't do the trick, you're free to leave.

Here's the set list and a few samples:

Track 01 Intro
Track 02 ??Big In Japan
Track 03 Rain Falls On Eternity
Track 04 talk
Track 05 ??Push the Envelope (Dear Colonel)
Track 06 Songs From The Underground/Trudeau Rap
Track 07 The Ballad of Charlie Parker and Patsy Cline
Track 08 Door By The River
Track 09 talk
Track 10 Boxer Who Just Returned From London
Track 11 Lemon Meringue Pie
Track 12 talk
Track 13 Motel: 50 Miles Out of Town
Track 14 ??Lover's Tattoo

Disc 2

Track 01 Midnight Gold Mining
Track 02 talk
Track 03 Channeling Frustrated Energy
Track 04 encore break/talk
Track 05 ??Work to Be Done
**Track 06 ??
Track 07 Folk Singer

filler aud. soundcheck

Track 08 ??Push the Envelope (Dear Colonel)
Track 09 Folk Singer

Monday, July 20, 2009

CR Avery vs Dead Weather
Round 1
Perth FolkFest/Ottawa BluesFest
2009-07-18 & 2009-07-19

On the surface it may look like a mismatch but on any given weekend anyone can win.

Helping his cause CR Avery has Legal Tender String Quartet & The Sojourners backing him up so it's not just him and his piano against Jack White's screaming banshee band. They are both playing the Bluesfest (19th) except the schedule has them opposite each other. Much as I love CR, I'm hoping to see Jack more often than I've seen Dylan and I'm lagging about a hundred shows behind at the moment.

This should be a fair opening round, both artists are on outside stages, competing against the 'festival' atmosphere and the natural surroundings. CR has the advantage of a nighttime set opening for Melanie Doane at the Perth Restaurant in the evening.

Which is why we find ourselves in the lovely town of Perth, ON., at a free concert in Stewart Park. We were on the road early out of Toronto to make CR's 12 NOON set time. Unfortunately we have a little rain. Truth be told it's much preferable to blazing sunshine. Nobody ever stroked out 'cause of too much rain. Umbrella's and folding chairs are in order.

The Sojourners and CR Avery were first paired up on CBC Radio's "The Fuse". That radio show brought together Canadian artists from disparate genres to see what would ensue. That is such a great idea that the show has been canned, effective September of this year. Leave it to the corporations to fuck up a good thing. You can catch an audio replay of their collaboration HERE.

CR's afternoon and evening set were pretty much the same, the biggest difference coming in the improvisational verses thrown in to make this show a little more Perth-cific. oh, and it didn't rain inside the restuarant.

Disc 1

Track 01 Clean Up (Canton Spirtuals)
Track 02 Rain Falls
Track 03 Children, Go Where I Send Thee (trad. Jean Ritchie)
Track 04 The Ballad of Charlie Parker & Patsy Cline
Track 05 ?Ain't No Use Nobody Try To Turn Me Around
Track 06 Motel: 50 Miles Out of Town
Track 07 talk
Track 08 People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield)
Track 09 Eating Pussy on A Hot August Night
Track 10 Farther Along

Disc 2

Track 01 Hymns from the Underground
Track 02 Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
Track 03 Door By the River

First saw the Dead Weather at their impromptu Horseshoe gig last month. It was, ummm, dense. Today we start in the light. The release this week of the album is going to help me recognize the songs much easier...maybe even like more of them.

They are further aided by some much improved sound. Without the low ceiling and narrow space of the Horseshoe the mix was superior, almost excellent.

Pretty well the same set list. I'm not expecting a lot of variety on this tour. We did get an 'extra' Jack song when he stepped forward to cover Van Morrison's You Can't Win, and a song or two I couldn't identify.

I could watch that duet on Water in a loop, coupled with New Pony, great stuff.

Track 01 Intro
Track 02 60 ft Tall
Track 03 Bone House
Track 04 Hang You From The Heavens
Track 05 So Far From Your Weapon
Track 06 You Can't Win (Van Morrison)
Track 07 I Cut Like A Buffalo
Track 08 ??They Like To Watch Fire
Track 09 Rocking Horse
Track 10 No Hassle Night
Track 11 Will There Be Enough Water?
Track 12 audience/encore
Track 13 ??
Track 14 Treat Me Like Your Mother
Track 15 New Pony (Bob Dylan)

As for the versus part of this blog...who the f*ck am I to judge these artists? I'm grateful I'm going to see them 3 times each in the next couple weeks. But for your consideration here's a couple songs from the weekend.

I've got two versions, each distinct, of CR Avery's Motel: 50 Miles Out of Town.

No need to be shy, we're going to pit that against Jack's monster song, Will There Be Enough Water.

You choose.

If you're smart, you'll choose both.

Motel...afternoon version

Motel...evening version

Will There Be Enough Water?