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?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Green Day
Copps Coliseum
Hamilton ON

"do you have the time
to listen to me whine
about nothing and everything
all at once?"

Much like The Offspring, I first saw Green Day in the company of my pre-teen son back in '95. That show was at the cozy Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto (back when they played shows with the original three-man contingent). This one's a little less intimate and not so close to home. For reasons unknown they've passed on the big city this time through Canada. Been awhile since they've been about too but they've never dissappointed.

Bad news heading out of Toronto (usually an hour away from Hamilton), as the 403 going in the other direction was completely shut down since 2 pm for an accident with loss of life. Ironically this didn't affect our drive until we were about 200 yards from our highway exit...where we sat, for 20 minutes, without moving forward.


Taking a chance I opt to enter the city from another highway exit a couple kilometers further along. This is a risk because I have no maps and Hamilton is an upside-down-one-way-street-mofo to get around in. Happens that accident forced all westbound traffic into the city...all day long. By 7 pm it was one massive grid-lock. We finally make our way to the general vicinity of the arena where I make my next error. I don't park on King St, but on Bay St. This will add 45 minutes to my egress at the end of the show.

The Bravery in the opening slot, was a bonus. Too bad we missed about a third of their set as we had to meander through a 30 minute line up to gain entrance with the 'forced will call' policy in place.

With Green Day having been away so long they had ample time to build a show...and that they did. Big screen videos, pyrotechnics and too many opportunities for audience participation. Nobody just does a concert anymore.

The set comes in at a staggering 2 hours and 15 minutes, long by any account. Back in the day this band would have played around 60 songs in that time period. 'Course, I also remember when Green Day was a 3-man outfit. Tonight we get 23 songs or so, depending on how you count the intro and the medley. About a half hour of that time was filled with Billy Joe exhorting the audience to chant in variance cadences...mostly the old fall back "Aaaaa, Ooooo". Twenty-five call outs to "Hamilton" and "Canada" filled another half dozen minutes. Three trips to the stage for kids under 10 to participate in various ways with the show took up 17 minutes. "Guest" singers filled about 3 and a half minutes. Don't forget the t-shirt toss. When you boil it all down you're still left with an awesome 70 minute set.

There were highlights, low lights, and things in between.

The definite low was the aforementioned incessant chant mongering.

The encore was a distinct highlight as it was delivered with little unneccesary interuption. The kid pulled out of the audience to play lead guitar on Jesus of Suburbia was great. Had me smiling as I watched him cavort around the stage trying to interact with Mike on bass. He was having nothing of it. I mean as big as you are when you're Green Day, it's gotta be weird to see a kid from Sect 5 Row B Seat 12 play your songs as good as you could.

The medley was terrific too. Billy Joe started out doing his best imitation of Carla from Cheers with the opening segment of Shout, which was explosive. The band then laid on the stage for the middle section of ballads/slow songs before springing back to life for the reprise of Shout. Great use of the horns which were around for a couple of songs from the new record.

In between was Longview, sung by two tone-deaf kids out of the audience. On the upside there's no mistaking what a great experience this must have been, to be belting out this song with Green Day backing you. Both the young girl and boy who took part relished the chance and played it to the hilt. Sent goosebumps up my arm. Technically, though, they murdered the song, sent a chill down my spine. Even-Steven.

This tour is really the 21st Century Breakdown Opus with a light smattering of thematically related songs from American Idiot. The other hits were rather random, or expected, and the band really didn't pay them as much heed as I'd have liked.

I spent half the night thinking, "I don't get it, what is this shit?" Each time the chants threatened to get repetitive or the special guests made the show drag. In the end it wasn't shit...I just didn't get it, at first. This is a band of modest talent and big heart. As Billy Joe said during one of his rants, it's NOW that we have to enjoy, so get off your ass, put down your computer, your cell phones or your ritalin and find your groove. He seemed pleased to see the kids sharing the spotlight and really sees his job as head cheerleader for anyone who wants to let loose. That might be incongruous with the epic (for Green Day anything over 4 minutes is epic), political songs they're flogging and maybe it's that dichotomy that made this show strange.

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

Song of the Century
21st Century Breakdown
Know Your Enemy
East Jesus Nowhere
The Static Age
Before the Lobotomy
Are We the Waiting
St. Jimmy
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Hitchin' A Ride
Brain Stew
Basket Case
King For A Day
Shout/Earth Angel, I'll Be There, and Stand By Me snippets (The Isley Brothers cover)
21 Guns
American Eulogy


American Idiot
Jesus Of Suburbia (Sam from Toronto on lead guitar)
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Offspring
Molson Amphitheatre
Toronto ON
Shit Is Fucked Up Tour

It's been awhile since I've seen these guys...they seem shy about playing North American dates; first time through here since 2005. Perhaps that retro-stuff goes over better on the Continent. First time I saw The Offspring I was sitting on the rail at the KOOL HAUS with my pre-teen kids. It hasn't gotten better than that... 'course it hasn't gotten much different either.

We have the distinct pleasure of having Pennywise open the show, their only appearance on the tour. We won't be lacking any Orange County feel tonight.

They better bring it though, they are playing in a cavern, not the Cavern Club.

Caught a break during the day as it rained almost non-stop. Ontario Place is open now and if it's sunny and warm parking can be a problem. I'm late getting out of a downtown meeting, had to rush home to feed the family (or at least arrange for them to be fed), then rush back down to the lakefront for what promises to be a night of power-pop-punk that should release all the pent up frustrations.

Luckily I wasn't looking at my ticket of the 6:30 pm doors would have had me even more concerned as I left home at quarter past the hour. We end up inside the venue at 7...just in time to miss Frank Turner's opening song. This was a pleasant surprise. Very much in the Billy Bragg mold with a young man's anger still present.

It's a band like Pennywise that makes a band like The Offspring necessary...and possible. That's no diss. They embody the spirit and soul of Second Wave punk movement that spawned rock-gods Green Day and the Princes' of Power Punk, The Offspring. They are not as accessible as those bands and it appears they have no desire to change that. As noted from the stage: "We've been a thorn in their (Offspring's) side for 20 years." That alludes to the grief The Offspring used to take in the press about being punk-lite. That's a press thing though. Dexter was Fan #1 sitting along side-stage for the complete set.

Nothing lite about the Pennywise set as they joked going into their 3rd song; "Here's another slow one for you."

Lots of jawing with the audience. They wouldn't start their set until everyone in the Amphitheatre stood. The instant mosh-pit set the tone for the was gonna be raucous. We got a couple covers via the "t-shirt" request method...a Misfits shirt was spotted...don't know why we got the Beastie Boys cover but it was cool.
Sample Track: You've Got To Fight For Your Right To Party/Pennywise

The sun goes down and Dexter is finally touring his 2008, prescient record, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace.

If only those guys at the Fed were listening to Stuff Is Messed Up last summer...when there might have still been time to avoid the panic. Ya, right, as they say.
We get a generous helping of tunes from Americana, Ixnay and three from Smash so the old-goat's happy with the set list. The new record, first in five years, is more to the familiar formula we all came to love.
With this band it's not about the flash, though their backing screen was filled with images most of the evening and the lights were intense. They are definitely a case where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Even with the serious subjects they tackle they remain a 'feel-good' band...there's just something about the way they do it that makes you want to smile.
Here are some samples and the set list.

The Offspring
Molson Amphitheatre
Toronto ON

Track 01 Stuff Is Messed Up (Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace)
Track 02 Bad Habit (Smash)
Track 03 You're Gonna Go Far Kid (Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace)
Track 04 Come Out And Play (Smash)
Track 05 The Meaning of Life (Ixnay on the Hombre)
Track 06 Have You Ever (Americana)
Track 07 Staring At The Sun (Americana)
Track 08 Dexter's Amazing Piano Solo
Track 09 Gone Away (Ixnay on the Hombre)(Dexter on piano)
Track 10 Kristy, Are You Doing OK? (Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace)
Track 10a Gotta Get Away
Track 11 Half-Truism (Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace)
Track 12 Get A Job (Americana)
Track 13 Intermission (Ixnay on the Hombre)
Track 14 Americana (Americana)
Track 15 All I Want (Ixnay on the Hombre)
Track 16 Noodle's Talks Beavers
Track 17 Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) (Americana)
Track 18 (Can't Get My) Head Around You (Splinter)
Track 19 The Kids Aren't All Right (Americana)
Track 20 (encore break)
Track 21 Hammerhead (Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace)
Track 22 Want You Bad (Conspiracy of One)
Track 23 Self Esteem (Smash)