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