Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse R.I.P
This Year's Model
at The Mod Club Toronto ON
May 12-13,2007

UPDATE: Sad to see Amy joining a long list of tortured, talented souls that did not survive the dangerous years. Had the pleasure of seeing her when she was in good form, though already showing signs of the difficulties that would overtake her life.

Here's my 2007 preview of her Toronto Mod Club appearance. Unedited.

Scroll down for the review and mp3's of the full concert.

Amy Winehouse, darling of the British tabloids, exploded onto the music scene with skill, beauty and balls in 2006. The success of the jazzy-smokey, piano bar with scratchy records in the jukebox, debut of Frank was followed with awards, acclaim and a No. 1 record in Back To Black. Lots has been said about her antics, both onstage (nipple slip in CA) and offstage (too many numerous drunken encounters to list). A minimum amount of savvy with a 'google' search will net you more ink than Amy has on her lithe arms.

She's writing a story that will be interesting to witness. It may be tragic, a la Billie Holiday or Janis Joplin. It may be less than that. It should be a monumental truimph of talent over lifestyle.

Amy's on a short showcase tour in North America. She made a brief splash at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas in March and proceeded to appear at about 50% of her scheduled shows...suprisingly cancelling a gig at the renowned Spaceland club in LA.

Her first week Stateside saw Back to Black debut at #7 on the Billboard album charts. The highest rating ever for a female British solo artist with tats, f-me pumps and missing front teeth from drunken falls.

On the 24th of April she had a showcase on Jay Leno's program, followed by her performance at the SoCal Coachella festival, which launched her series of shows that brings her to Toronto for the final two performances.

Come back in a couple weeks for a full concert review and some mp3's if all works out.

Amy Winehouse
Live at the Mod Club
Toronto ON

Amy, Amy, Amy...she's finally here. In the short time since she first landed Stateside with a Billboard #7 debut and a showcase at the SXSW festival the press and blogosphere have turned on this rising star.
Just a bit.
I mean no one is going to far out on a limb but the overall assessments of her performances from Coachella on through the mid-west and the east coast have been less than glowing.

Of course, they've got it all wrong.

They think they are reviewing another flavour of Lily Allen or Norah Jones or Sharon Jones, even. Who? Exactly. And it's not to besmirch those talented ladies but there is no understanding Amy by comparing her to anyone.

She is a unique talent who combines retro hairdo's with new age full body tats, perched and painted on a nymph-like frame and stacked on heels. She has a penchant for dropping consonants and adopting a 'Dean Martin-like' stage demeanour, creating a soused, slurring and sassy chanteuse under blue and red lights. Onstage she can move from dreamy and disconnected when lost in a song to witty and caustic when trading barbs with the audience.

The mistake you make is in thinking it's not all absolutely plotted out in advance, that it's an accident, or an accident waiting to happen. While she's something to look at it's what you don't see that makes her a special talent.

Beyond all the stuff in the tabloids and the machinations of the star-making machinery, she is a singer-songwriter and her greatest strength is in her words.

Though she plays no instrument in her live set she writes and arranges her own material. Pretour rehearsals found her picking up her guitar to show the band the way she wanted it played. It's reported she takes no back seat musically and this live set is a testament to the success that doggedness has achieved.

She combines elements of jazz, blues and pop into her oeuvre, but it ain't the ingredients, it's how you mix 'em that counts.

The best ingredient to get the night off on the right track is found in "Addicted", her homage to herb. A light little song that sounds more like a cat-fight over a bag of green than anything else. Meant more to warm up the vocal chords than the cockles of your heart.
Lyric treat #1: "it's got me addicted/ done more than any dick did." (Now if Dylan threw out a line like that the geek-boards would be filled with essays on rhyme, they still haven't gotten over that 'capitol/skull' thing.)

Just Friends shows the wide gap between the male and female species. While mired in an affair she knows has to end she's already looking forward to when the participants can be 'just friends'. Even when doing the bad deed, knowing it's bad, knowing it has to be done, she can see a future friendship. Ain't a guy alive who could have written that piece. Well, maybe Prince.
Lyric treat #2: "the guilt will kill you...if she don't first" You've been warned.

She takes a moment to mumble something towards the audience, probably noting the opening two songs were from the new album and this one was from the 'old', or first album, Frank. "Cherry" is a tongue-in-cheek song that sounds like a lesbian tryst until it turns at the end. Just a song about a girl and her new red guitar.
Lyric treat #3: "her name is Cherry and we just met...already she knows me better than you do" ouch.

The crowd is heaping love on her with their enthusiastic applause and their attentiveness. She moves quickly into the title track, Back to Black and the level of intensity picks up in the hot, packed club. She's stretching it out vocally, dropping consonants and choosing not to finish every line. This improvisation puts some listeners off, those who would have been better to stay in their car and listen to the record. In concert it works emotively as the song takes on a feeling that transcends the literal.
Lyric treat #4: "we only said good-bye / with words..." That is some sparse writing that says so much more about the problem at hand.

Wake Up Alone is a wet-dream. Another breakup song (aren't they all?) but this one finds the author resolute in the day but vulnerable in the night. Salacious scenes stuffed with sexual images shattered by the final line that makes it all melt away: I wake up alone. Amy chooses not to sing 'alone' everytime, replacing it with what can only be called a moan.
Lyric treat #5: "when he comes to me i drip for him tonight / drowning in me we bathe under blue light." No need for pictures there.

Mid way through the song we're treated to a squeal from Amy as someone hands her a drink. Exploding applause from the audience as she doesn't miss a beat, vogues for the crowd, and sips, carefully. She explains, at songs end, that she'd been handed a 'Rickstacy', a homemade invention from her neighbourhood. She comically provides the ingredients while mentioning she does not condone this kind of behaviour and warning all to drink responsibly. That would include NOT sampling a drink that is made of 3 parts vodka, 1 part banana liquer, 1 part Baileys and 1 part Southern Comfort. As Amy said: "It'll set you on your mark."

It's just as well she took a little time to chat with the audience because this point is where the show goes from very enjoyable to superb. The songs and performance converge to raise the temperature inside this cozy venue packed tight with about a thousand bodies.

She has a false start to Tears Dry On Their Own because in the ecstacy surrounding the Rickstacy she'd forgotten she had a spoken introduction to this tune. It's a song about... "ummm, when sharks attack!" she says, before she clarifies it's more about one of those relationships gone bad that you know you'll get over...eventually.
Though the subject matter is rather depressing, the music is life affirming. Her phrasing is beyond excellent for such a young artist.
This song opens with two long lines that describe exactly how this is going to end. "All I can ever be to you is a darkness that we knew /And this regret I got accustomed to" There's not much room to crawl up from there. It may be a song about a break up but the author is not in denial. The rest of this verse takes the listener on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, one short line (or two) at a time:
pining - once it was so right /when we were at our height
reminiscing - waiting for you in the hotel at night
doubt - i knewe i hadn't met my match
desperation - but every moment we could snatch
confusion - i don't know why i got so attached
resolve - it's my responsibility / you don't owe nothing to me
compliance - but to walk away i have no capacity.

The chorus is her victory, as he walks away and she knows, even in the grey-blue shade her tears will dry on their own...meanwhile, she's free to wallow and rise above in her own time.
Lyric treat # 6: "I’ll be some next man’s other woman soon" Machine gun delivery and a ton of qualifiers all packed into a sentence that makes sense.

Cue the back up singers for their all too brief moment in the spotlight. He Can Only Hold Her turns on a shared break where 'what boys want' is juxtaposed against 'what girls want', another cautionary tale. Girls are warned about the boys who just want 'that thing' and boys are told to be wary of girls who want 'the bling'. What's strange about that central image, the hypnotic hook in the song, is that it's separate from the story of a man trying to hold a woman who's heart belongs to another.
Lyric treat #7: "Now how can he have her heart /When it got stole?" Point and match.

Time for some comic relief in the guise of F*ck Me Pumps. A cute little tune about the vaccuousness of what we all envy...youthful beauty. Light social commentary with swing. Wonder if she'll sing this song when she's pushing 30?
Lyric treat #8: "without girls like you there'd be no nightlife / all the men would go home to their wi - ives." Who's zooming who?

Turn up the soul to boiling for Love Is A Losing Game. Chock full of fire imagery it takes the listener on a lazy river ride of despair. Sh*t, if you can't feel better after listening to this can't feel better.
Lyric treat #9: :"Over futile odds,/And laughed at by the Gods." Talk about a rock and a hard place.

Next Amy gives props to one of her favorite bands with a cover of the Zutons, Valerie and then closes the set with the already over-played, Rehab, which the audience eats up.

Encore consists of two more excellent songs. First she runs the word 'fuckery' through its paces (ie. what kind of fuckery: 1) is this 2) are we and 3)are you) in Me and Mr Jones. A bombastic tune that celebrates the oneness of a relationship ("no one stands between me and my man") even as the players are playing themselves out.
Lyric treat #10: "What kind of fuckery are we? /Nowadays you don't mean dick to me (dick to me)" Now there's a phrase you don't hear in harmony often.

Last song, another monster, You Know I'm No Good. Another cautionary tale as she sets out her faults at the start. This triangular trip through hell runs the full gamut of emotion from masochistic, co-dependency to self-destructive behaviour. But it's got a good beat and you can dance to it, I give it a 93!
Lyric treat # 11: "You say why did you do it with him today? /And sniff me out like I was tanqueray" Green-eyed monster meets discerning palate.

Terrific show. A real talent. We're going to be talking about her for quite a long time.

Post script: Note on the condition of the scanned ticket. I used to keep my tickets in a bedside drawer. A few weeks ago I over-watered a plant and all the tickets got soaked. Most of the shows I see are GA so this can be a problem as Ticketbastard officially is reticent to replace GA tix. Thank god for those bar codes. My Arctic Monkeys tickets melted together, face to face. They are laminated with something that just dissolves when wet. My Anjani tickets were in pretty bad shape and couldn't be wanded at the show...they had to punch in the numbers. Trouble with the Winehouse tickets is that I bought them from a message board. Some kid needed a hundred bucks for a ticket to a Yankee baseball game. I bought 4 to the Saturday night and traded two of them for 2 on Sunday night (my son and his friend attended that show, Amy's too good to keep to 50 year olds). In any case, I could get them replaced. Fortunately it created no problem. Just a warning though, take care of your tickets.

R.I.P Amy. Here are the mp3's.

01 - Addicted
02 - Just Friends
03 - Cherry
04 - Back In Black
05 - Wake Up Alone
06 - Banter (Rick-stacy)
07 - Tears Dry On Their Own
08 - He Can Only Hold Her
09 - Fuck Me Pumps
10 - Love Is A Losing Game
11 - Valerie (Zutons Cover)
12 - Rehab
13 - Banter (Don't Say My House)
14 - Me And Mr. Jones
15 - You Know I'm No Good

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carole Pope
(formerly of Rough Trade)
Beaches Jazz Festival

It strikes me kind of funny, it strikes me kind of weird, some 36 years after I first saw this maverick clutching her crotch at a matinee show on Yonge St., we still haven't gotten over people being gay. We've come a long way, we still have a long way to go.

Carole Pope did an early evening set to help open the Beaches International Jazz Festival.
Staring into a bright setting sun, white jacket, lime green chiffon blouse and bordering-on-Elton-John-territory sunglasses, she launches into All Touch, No Contact and seems to be enjoying the scene.

Most of the songs she played tonight are available at itunes,from the transcend album.

She was also showcasing a few songs from her upcoming record, in conjunction with Rufus Wainwright. Tonight we got Did I Mention?, God = Love, and Viral. Apparently Viral is available at iTunes as well but I can't find it. Check out Carole's mySpace Page for a sample.

Stage patter included comments about the unsettling state of Americana, a story about Kevan Staples, not available tonight as his daughter recently had a baby, and the strange feeling one gets singing a salacious song about cool, blonde bitches when you're on the other side of 60.

She hasn't lost any of her spunk. The crowd was loving every moment as she ran through some favourites; Crimes of Passion, High School Confidential and Weapons among them.

All Touch, No Contact
Love Strikes Hard
Dream 6
*Did I Mention
Johnny Marr
High School Confidential
*God = Love
Crimes of Passion
Twist of the Knife

All Touch, No Contact (reprise)

Saw Carole at the Gladstone a few years ago and did this more extensive review.

David Bromberg Quartet
Hugh's Room
Song Links Corrected 07/17

Eclectic roots artist David Bromberg is performing in Canada for the first time in 35 years! For 22 of those he didn't perform for anyone so we don't feel so bad. He was a fixture here near the end of Yorkville's Golden Era, playing at The Riverboat and the local folk festival, Mariposa.

Hugh's Room is absolutely packed, which doesn't bode well for an interference free night. This venue, while it has excellent sound and good sightlines for 80% of the viewers, makes way too much money off the food and they keep serving, throughout the set. Bromberg did well to keep the show so interesting that the rest of the noise was of no consequence.

I came to hear two songs if fortune smiled; Sloppy Drunk and Miss the Mississippi. Got neither. In fact, got only one song I knew, Delia, not counting the instrumental version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Really enjoyed the show. From start to finish.

David Bromberg Quartet
Hugh's Room
Toronto ON

Disc 1
t01 Brown's Ferry Blues
t02 That's Alright
t03 Summer Wages
t04 talk
t05 Bring It With You When You Come*/Wooly Bully
t06 The Long Goodbye*
t07 Lookout Mountain Girl*
t08 Diggin' in the Deep Blue Sea*
t09 Blue Is Fallin'*
t10 Dark Hollow
t11 Somewhere Over the Rainbow (instrumental)
t12 Rock N Roll Millionaire/band intro
t13 Instrumental
t14 Instrumental

Disc 2
t01 Delia
t02 talk
t03 You Got To Mean It Too (?)
t04 Tongue*
t05 As the Years Go Passing By
t06 The New Lee Highway

t07 Will Not Be Your Fool

*from upcoming CD release

Friday, July 08, 2011

Daniel Lanois' Black Dub
The Opera House

OK, a little outside the box for this one. Continuing a pattern of seeing artists who are tangentially related to Bob Dylan, I find myself in a lovely little venue found in the heart of the Broadview/Dundas residential neighbourhood only steps away from Degrassi High, wondering what Daniel Lanois is up to.

He's jammin'.

Not my favourite form of music; no Phish, Moe or Dead on my calendar. I was going to leave after 17 minutes but I figured it was only fair to give them two songs. It got better, and continuted to get better throughout the night as the jams got shorter and the songs started having words.

The opening act, Rocco DeLuca, was different, actually toyed with interesting at times, but never quite broke through to enjoyable. A strange act full of echo, reverb, feedback loops, a single guitar and a voice that he used as an instrument, like bagpipes. OK, it's obvious I didn't get it. The set did provide a unique experience. Before starting "????" Rocco notes it was done with Daniel Lanois. The crowd isn't biting...especially not it's tongue as the chattering cacophony from the floor and backroom bars was carrying all the way back stage. Suddenly Lanois appears onstage and interupts the song, taking the mic from Rocco to let us know this is a good song but a soft song and everyone has to be quiet and listen. Lanois then leads into the song with the humming intro.

Daniel's looking great as he seems well recovered from his life-threatening motorcylce crash of a year ago. He was out on the floor of The Opera House, chatting with fans, signing autographs and taking pictures, as the crowd was filing in. His mom was in attendance. It was a celebration of being able to celebrate, reason enough for all of us to smile upon waking.

I missed my opportunity to get the sweet spot in this venue. Just before you take 3 steps onto the main hall floor you pass the soundboard. On the right side of the board there's a rail you can stand behind. No obstruction in front of you, perfectly placed between the two PA systems, optimum position. It was open when I came in but I took the time to get close to Lanois at the front of the stage and it was taken when I returned. So it's 3 feet from the stage in front of the left speaker banks. Took me most of the first song to lower my recording levels to something that wasn't totally blown out but I never did get to "not distorted". Fortunately a couple of the softer songs are listenable so I've posted some samples below.

It was a treat to watch Lanois' peculiar guitar stylings. He was working it hard...bleeding fingers and all. What made the vantage point even better was being positioned in front of Brian Blade; his drumming was superb. Brian worked with Lanois on Bob Dylan's wonderful 1997 record, Time Out Of Mind.

Sweet white-soul singer, Trixie Whitley, who has good genes and looks good in jeans, was a treat to hear and watch as she spend some time behind a smaller drum kit helping out the master.

Here are some samples, and, as i warned you earlier, they are a little 'hot' in taping parlance.


The Messenger
Jolie Louis

The Maker

Check out Roger Cullmans blogto post for another review and some terrific pictures.

And more great photos at this blog.