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