Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Leonard Cohen
Copps Coliseum Hamilton ON

This whole Leonard Cohen revival is really getting a little old...or is it?

After a 15 year hiatus from the road 2008 found Leonard back out there with a wonderful career retrospective and a crack band. This leg of the North American Tour 2009 finds him passing the 1 year mark with a summer tour in Europe still to come. While the set list remains rather static he has added 5 new songs to the rotation and we're still waiting on Joan of Arc.

The whole 'religulous' experience around the event is somewhat subdued in the arena settings we find ourselves in this year. Still, the reverence heaped upon Leonard is palpable; the crowd is music-hall respectful and attentive.

Having had the pleasure of three concerts last spring, all in proper, cozy auditoriums, I was reluctant to pay the big bucks to see the show this time around. Actually chose not to when I saw the top ticket price for Hamilton was $589. That was through Ticketbastard, not a broker. F*ck that shit. I might spend that to fly to NY to see an act but not to sit on the expressway out of Toronto, ending up in Hamilton.

Finally broke down and decided to look for the cheapest seat in the two tickets for $50 ea., high in the back corner of the lower bowl. Glad I did. Our seats were about 30 feet from the entrance...which made for a quick exit at shows end, beating the traffic out of the city.

The sound was great. The site lines were decent, aided by two giant screens. Got 5 songs I didn't hear in the previous three shows. Leonard was more playful, less talkative. The Webb sisters do a somersault to Cohen's "white girls dancing" refrain in The Future. Sharon Robinson solo's on Boogie Street. Only two band introductions, at the end of each set. Monster-never-ending-encore. Leonard's voice is not as strong as it was a year ago, noticeable only on the songs that require the voice of God, like Hallelujah. It's still marvelous and he's using some nice phrasing tricks to make up for what little has dropped off.

For two years running: The Best Show on the Road.

Here's the set list and some listenable, if less than stellar, mp3's.

Dance Me to the End of Love
The Future
Ain't No Cure
Bird on the Wire
Everybody Knows
In My Secret Life
Who By Fire
Chelsea Hotel
Waiting for the Miracle
Tower of Song
Sisters of Mercy
The Partisan
Boogie Street - Sharon Robinson
I'm Your Man
1,000 kisses recitation
Take this Waltz
-small bow=
So Long Marianne
-small bow-
Famous Blue Raincoat
If it Be Your Will - Webb sisters
Closing Time
-small bow-
I Tried to Leave You
Whither Thou Goest (with crew)

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Tragically Hip
Massey Hall

A fixture on the Canadian rock scene for years running, The Tragically Hip now have a monstrous catalogue to their credit and a 6 night stand provides ample opportunity to explore it. Each night has a handful of hits and rarities. With New Orleans Is Sinking, Nautical Disaster and Little Bones I got the ones I wanted.

The show was LOUD.

Like Foo Fighters loud.

Gords onstage antics are somewhat subdued, if no less spasmodic. Still his movements are a performance piece, akin to interpretive dance, within the show.

Here are some samples and the set list:

01: The Last Recluse
02: Family Band
03: Gift Shop
04: Now The Struggle Has A Name
05: Puttin’ Down
06: New Orleans Is Sinking
07: Throwing Off Glass
08: Bobcaygeon
09: Honey, Please
10: The Lonely End Of The Rink
11: The Depression Suite

12: Are We Family? (Acoustic)
13: Thompson Girl (Acoustic)
14: Wheat Kings (Acoustic)
15: Nautical Disaster
16: Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park
17: Coffee Girl
18: Love Is A First
19: Springtime In Vienna
20: Morning Moon
21: Grace, Too
22: Frozen In My Tracks
23:Music At Work

24: The Dark Canuck

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Arlo Guthrie
The Grand Theatre
Kingston ON
Or: you can get anything you want BUT alice's restaurant

I don't need many reasons to get out to a show but when you have a certain convergence of events it can make it a sweet experience. Arlo Guthrie, a pop-culture icon (if by attrition), a lovely resort on the banks of the St. Lawrence (Dewars Inn On The River ), and a 30th anniversary to celebrate. Nothing can rain on this parade.

Well, except rain, of course.

No matter, the Inn is idyllic. We had the pleasure of some company one day and some time to meander about the country roads on another day. Sunday night finds us at the elegant, recently refurbished Grand Theatre, Kingston, to bask in a little hippy-nostalgia.

We got way more than that...a history lesson or two, a walk through the American songbook and an excellent show. Arlo has brought a full band with him; led by the understated brilliance of Bobby Sweet's guitar, aided by the dulcimer sounds of the Burns Sisters of Ithaca NY on backing vocals, supported by Arlo's son Abe on the Yamaha synth and carried on the rhythms of ?? Landreau on bass and Terry Oliveri on drums.

The show was a sonic trip in time, sometimes evoking early-Dylan, or Donovan. His forays into blues-roots songs was great. Best live version of St James Infirmary I've heard to date, and that includes one or two screamo-versions from Jack White. The stage patter covered everything from the unfortunate historical accident of being a songwriter when Dylan was plying his trade to memories of standing at the knees of Leadbelly. The Woody talk was precious 'cause our links to these times are fast fading.

Nostalgia is for the rocking chair, though. This show is here today even if it looks back once in awhile. A good helping of original tracks and a healthy dose of covers...just the recipe required.

He tours almost constantly. Don't miss it if it comes by your door.

Set 1

Track 01 Chilling of the Evening
Track 02 Shade of the Old Apple Tree
Track 03 talk - downstream from Dylan
Track 04 Darkest Hour
Track 05 Band Intro/talk - I Tune By Sight
Track 06 St James Infirmary

Track 07 talk - Old Songs
Track 08 Cornbread, Peas and Black Molasses
Track 09 talk - In A Pickle
Track 10 The Motorcycle Song
Track 11 talk - Dangerous Friends
Track 12 Dangerous Friends Instrumental
Track 13 talk - Woodstock
Track 14 Coming Into Los Angeles

Track 15 talk - Woody
Track 16 Pretty Boy Floyd

Track 17 talk - Leadbelly's Grave
Track 18 Alabama Bound
Track 19 talk - Pete Seeger
Track 20 Deep Blue Sea

Set 2

Track 01 talk - Hoyt Axton
Track 02 Evangelina
Track 03 My Old Friend
Track 04 talk - Okemah OK Festival
Track 05 When A Soldier Makes It Home

Track 06 talk - Disaster TV
Track 07 In Times Like These
Track 08 Days Are Short
Track 09 City of New Orleans

Track 10 talk - Steve Goodman and others who have passed
Track 11 ??Compassion, Forgiveness and Love
Track 12 This Land Is Your Land (Canadian Dub)
Track 13 talk - Show's Over...more Woody
Track 14 My Peace

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Kills
Phoenix Concert Theatre

The Kills first came on my radar when news of Jack White's new project, The Dead Weather, broke last month. It's ironic because the tag of 'the NEXT White Stripes' is what kept me away. We already HAD the White Stripes, or did. Since The Dead Weather will not likely grace our shores until the summer I thought it would be worthwhile to see the lead singer in her current incarnation.

We have two other emerging bands filling out the bill tonight; The Magic Wands (careful when you google that) and The Horrors (that's 2 syllables), so it promises to be a night of minimalist garage-rock. Of course we all know what promises are made for. Two unremarkable sets, the second slightly better than the first. The sound was muddy but I suspect that was on purpose and therein lies the problem...I got no idea what to make of that.

The Kills were a step up. So was their sound mix. A couple enjoyable covers; Crazy (no, not that one, the OLD one) and I Put A Spell On You. The drum machine is a little disconcerting. Live music should be, well, live. The guitar work was very good and Alison's schtick is going to fit in well with Jack's new project.

Track 01. U.R.A. Fever
Track 02. Pull A U
Track 03. Sour Cherry
Track 04. Tape Song
Track 05. No Wow
Track 06. Alphabet Pony
Track 07. Last Day Of Magic
Track 08. Kissy Kissy
Track 09. Black Balloon
Track 10. Hook and Line
Track 11. Crazy (Patsy Cline)
Track 12. Getting Down
Track 13. Cheap and Cheerful
Track 14. Fried My Little Brains
Track 15. audience/encore break
Track 16. ??
Track 17. Wait
Track 18. I Put a Spell On You (Screamin' Jay Hawkins-cover)