Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Neil Young and Crazy Horse
w/ Patti Smith and The Sadies
Scotiabank Place, Ottawa

Neil came through Toronto but Patti wasn't with him.
We have some friends in Ottawa we haven't seen in awhile.
So it's on the road again.

Two nights at the idyllic Dewar's Inn on the banks of the St Lawrence are just an added bonus.

The Sadies, the Godchildren of Grunk, were an unexpected surprise for the 2nd Runner Up spot. Love that surf guitar sound. They got to play to an arena 3/4 full as the Ottawa patrons were here early, in good numbers.

The reason they are so appreciative is that not every act comes through this town of one million inhabitants. A good deal of the big acts do, that's why Neil is here. Many of the middle acts, or cult acts, don't get near this burgh. Toronto, yes. Montreal, maybe. But that's usually it. Which is why this is Ottawa's first chance to be treated to Patti's set.

Saw Patti Smith for the first time in April of 2010 at Tipitina's, New Orleans. She opened with The Ronettes Be My Baby, covered Jim Carroll's People Who Died, and was joined onstage by Peter Buck and Michael Stipe for a rendition of Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman with REM frontman Stipe reading the lyrics off his I-Phone. I had no expectation this opening set in an arena was going to surpass that event. She was terrific. At 62 she dances up a storm on stage. It's life affirming to see her standing there, having survived her times, her environment, the tragedies close to her, to stand tall as the Godmother of Punk, representing the best and purist aspirations of that artistic sub-culture. She embodies the most noble attributes of that time; inclusiveness and personal freedom. She's no slacker. Sid Vicious was a punk, he had nothing to do with the revolutionary side of the punk movement. This lady is the real deal.

She starts by acknowledging the crowd response, noting she's never played Ottawa, and is at full speed and strong voice immediately as she launches into the anthemic Dancing Barefoot.  Her yelps are in good order early. Next a new song from 2012's Banga, with an old promise to break some rules.  April Fool could have been written 30 years ago, a love song. She follows directly with another new song, a prayer to mother nature and the great white mountain, Fuji-San, taking care of any obligation she felt to promote her new material and help Al Gore save the world.

The best Neil Young song of the night comes next as she covers a song from Prairie Wind, It's A Dream. Big quiet arena taking this in, she has 'em where she wants them.

1996 saw Patti dealing with some hardships especially the deaths of many friends and contemporaries, including her husband Fred "Sonic" Smith, her brother Todd, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Sohl and Kurt Cobain, for whom she wrote Beneath the Southern Cross.

That's it for the soft stuff and the shoe-gazing. Now it's on to some fun. A little leftist bait for the post-hippy audience, People Have the Power tries to wake us up to our reality.

The night closes with two songs that just wash over you in a wave of familiarity, can't help but be transported to simpler times when the celebratory Because the Night blasts into the cavernous hall.G-L-O-R-I-A was the perfect cap to a shortened headliner set.

Neil is, well, Neil. A bit of a chameleon. I prefer the CSN&Y version to the Greendale version. The early '70's Massey Hall or Shocking Pink rockabilly Neil were perfectly acceptable. You never know what he's bringing. The Crazy Horse Neil is familiar, that whole Rust Never Sleeps record and all. But on the stage, a couple decades later, it's like he's putting the DUL into self-indulgence. I like the songs well enough, especially the more familiar Needle and the Damage Done,  Hey Hey My My and Cinnamon Girl. The new song, Born In Ontario goes over real well here, perhaps better than when he's in the US or out west and it's a fun song. The excessive guitar mash ups throughout the show, 5  minute sonic grudge matches to close out songs, sapped a little of the life out of the evening. 'Course it did allow you to sneak a quick nap during some songs without missing anything. In fact, during Walk Like A Giant, (22:22) I was able to leave the venue, drive to the Parliament Buildings for some photo's, fill up my tank, grab a coffee at Timmy's and get back in time for Needle.

Below are some sound samples, including Patti's complete set, 'cause like I said at the beginning, I wouldn't have been here if she wasn't.

The Sadies

Lay Down Your Arms
Another Year Again
Cut Corners
Rat Creek(I)
Leave Me Alone
Higher Power
Tell Her What I Said
Ridge Runner Reel (I)
Tiger Tiger

Patti Smith

Dancing Barefoot (Wave, 1979) (#323 of Top 500 Singles, Rolling Stone)
April Fool (Banga, 2012)
Fuji-san (Banga, 2012)
It's A Dream (Neil Young cover)
Beneath the Southern Cross (Gone Again, 1996)
People Have the Power (Dream of Life, 1988)
Because the Night (Easter, 1978)
Oath/G-L-O-R-I-A (Horses, 1975 Them cover)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse    

O Canada (Calixa Lavallée cover)
Love and Only Love (Ragged Glory, 1990)
Powderfinger (Rust Never Sleeps, 1979)
Born In Ontario (Pyschedelic Pill, 2012)
Walk Like a Giant
Needle and the Damage Done (Harvest, 1972)
Twisted Road
Singer Without a Song
Ramada Inn (Psychedelic Pill, 2012)
Cinnamon Girl (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, 1969)
Fuckin' Up (Ragged Glory, 1990)
Cortez the Killer
Mr. Soul (Buffalo Springfield song)
Hey Hey My My (Into the Black) (Rust Never Sleeps, 1979)
Roll Another Number (for the Road)

Monday, November 19, 2012

C R Avery and the Madison 22 Review
3 Nights of Debauchery in So Ont
November 2012

Got CR Avery being backed by the Hamilton Philharmonic for a quick set this summer but it's been a lean year of music out of the man from East Van.

He's bringing his dancing friends along to entertain, titillate and warm your cockles this winter. While burlesque may not be a lost art someone has definitely misplaced it. A refreshing change to see titillation in place of the no-secrets exposure the internet provides.

We're at the same old haunts; The Pearl in Hamilton, The Rivoli and Dakota in Toronto. I go on ad nauseum about CR but you only have to see him once to be converted. The beauty of it is when you see him for the first time I'll be seeing him for the first time too...or this incarnation. It's never boring and never the same. He's been through town as a solo artist, with a stand up bass supporting him, with a full rock band, with a string quartet, with a gospel backing group, with a full philharmonic orchestra and now...with a burlesque show. Next year I expect knee cymbals.

November 15,2012
Night one sees The Pearl Company Theater packed to capacity.  CR moves from banjo to piano to carnival barker, as the evening requires. A lot of new songs tonight and the older ones are re-arranged, especially the smash hit-single of 2015, Dungeon of Love. Good show, if a little subdued for CR.

November 16,2012
The Rivoli on Queen St West loves CR Avery. And he loves it back. Everyone is excited tonight. Friends and family mix with fans and fanatics. Some are little more excited than others and forget they are in a public place, not their living room, but that's Friday night in TO. 

Opening the set is rock-a-billy sweetheart Ginger St James. An unexpected gift. Think I'll vote for CR.

November 17,2012
Travel issues tonight. Left a little later than normal and walk in just as Ginger is getting into her opening set. I like her.

CR is peaking tonight. Three times he walked into the audience for an unplugged song. When on the stage he was bombastic, improvising more than he has the past couple nights. I'm Canadian gets a new verse. No Anne Murray intro to Dinner For One, short set tonight as The Rizdales take the stage at 10. He does take the time for a salacious harp solo.

Set List: (same all 3 nights except for the addition of one poem at The Dakota)

Motel (50 Miles Out of Town) - banjo
Midnight Gold Mining -w/ Madison 22 and band
Explicit Lyrics - piano, band
I'm Canadian - band
Big in Japan - w/ Sassfarilla Fox
4 AM Text - guitar, unplugged in audience
Smooth Operator - CR on chair, Madison 22 and band on vocals
Dinner For One (piano, band)
Blues Harp - Madison 22 Review dance
Solemn Promist To You That I Keep - piano,band
Poems     - Thin Walls 95.3 FM
    - New Messiah
    - Do They Know How To Play Zombie Zoo?
    - A Crowd Favourite Under the Big Top Takes on the World (Dakota only)
    - Pretty Simple Funeral Arrangements
Heart Is As Black As Night - piano,band, Sassfarilla Fox Black Swan dance
Where Cain and Abel Are Buried -banjo, unplugged in audience
Dungeon of Love

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bob Dylan
w/ Mark Knopfler

So Bob's NOT touring his new album and Mark's only playing a song a night from his Dire Straits days and seldom any of the 3 I might recognize.

Wish that was the other way around. For reasons unknown Dylan has released a new album, Tempest, playing one song from it on the opening night of the tour, Scarlet Town, and it took him 20 or so shows before he played a second, Early Roman Kings, last Wednesday in St Paul. Dylan continued to leave the community flummoxed as he opens his Chicago show with an instrumental. After a couple of days thinking it might have been a mash-up of Watching the River Flow, Rainy Day Women #12&35, LSPH or some random blues chords, it was decided it was an homage to Obama's victory, Robert Johnson's Sweet Home Chicago?. Then the night before Toronto he breaks out his 3rd song from the new record, Pay in Blood.

Pay In Blood on youtube

Not that Bob has been stingy with the song selection. Lots of great wildcards; Mississippi, Visions of Johanna, Chimes of Freedom, Every Grain of Sand, Dignity,  You Ain't Goin' Nowhere, Delia(!), and on Wednesday nights, Joey.Those last two I've never seen live (by Dylan) and I'm nearing 150 shows now.

So how is Bob these days? Well you'd be hard-pressed to find any review of his music, from 1962 forward, where his singing voice was being praised. For decades now he's been playing the anti-rock star; touring incessantly but never giving the audience what they expect. Since June 2005 he hasn't given me much to write home about but others have kept up the pace. That makes me this decades Mr Jones.

Here's a sampling from a recent Grand Prairie, Texas show:

"No one in popular music is more worthy of hero worship than Dylan, and no one fails with such regularity to live up to it onstage."
" Dylan’s piano solos often sounded like amateur hour at an old Western honky-tonk..."
"Dylan’s gargling rasp of voice continues to decompose in unpredictable ways. At 71, he now sounds as eerie as a Delta bluesmen, but at other times, his singing bordered on comic. His recitation of “Girl from the North Country” sounded like William Shatner’s notorious reading of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”"
" A small but steady stream of fans left as the show progressed -- satisfied to have seen their hero, but not worshipful enough to stick with him until the very end."

But that's Texas, you may say, what about a place that loves liberals, like Hollywood, CA?

" We lasted through two Dylan Songs. His voice is gone and the sound was terrible. We left along with a lot of other disapointed people. Walking to the car it sounded different, like it was pre-recorded."

Or Berkeley, CA. Surely the home of Free Speech must still be in love with the voice of their generation?

"The bottom has fallen out on Dylan’s voice—he now croaks out songs with a fierce rasp, his thin, acidic singing voice of the 60’s long gone."

err, guess not. But wait, there's always the fan sites.

"on "Love Sick," it looked as if Bob at first was going to sing center stage with harp, but he abruptly turned and made haste slowly, like an early Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, and moving with the just-finished dignity, to the piano. There his sounds created just the right atmosphere for "Love Sick." We could hear the excruciatingly painful tick tock of time endured by the lover. Feel ourselves haunted by streets that are dead, silhouettes and thunderous silence. Understand the desire to be rid of the loved one causing such torment--wishing the past could be altered, wishing that forgetting could win out. And the closing overwhelming desire to be with the lover's source of pain. Throughout the song the band's full sound was relentlessly stark, emotionally brutal."

" For me all I can say is I'm glad I was in the 3rd row and close enough to see the "play within the play". At this point I would say the Dylan show is more vaudevillian at heart with a crack band providing a sometimes sonic but more often brooding landscape for Bob to play a spooky carnival barker right out of some Roger Corman B-Movie."

Yikes, there seems to be a contrast in opinions.

Guess I'll have to make up my own mind. I haven't seen Bob since the fall of 2010, since I weaned myself off that compulsive need to attend his shows...looking forward to this one.

Mark Knopfler refuses to play old songs and he tells us so part way through his set. He didn't suck and a couple of these songs were outstanding, saving the crowd-pleasing Dire Straits song for the encore.

What It Is
Corned Beef City
Kingdom of Gold
I Used to Could
Song for Sonny Liston
Done With Bonaparte
Hill Farmer’s Blues
Haul Away


So Far Away

Bob's not shy about rearranging his songs. The stage set up is dark and the players are back quite a bit. For the casual fans who haven't been to a show in 15 years they were probably wondering why the guitar wielding Bob was staying so far back and why didn't he hire a real piano player. Thing is that was Tony Garnier, bass player, in the center of the stage and dapper Bob on the keys.

The Toronto press absolutely slammed this show. Of course I remember when they were fawning over the last two albums so I don't hold their opinion in high regard. They are about 5 years late on the moaning about how boring the show is and they are on the wrong side of the curve. This is the most interesting show I've seen since Freddy Koella left the band. All the rest is true; the voice sucks, lighting is dismal, the band is handcuffed and Bob never engages his audience. But the songs are drastically rearranged and there's no mistaking something is happening here, even if we don't know what it is.

Toronto, Ontario
Air Canada Centre

November 14, 2012

1.     You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
2.     Man In The Long Black Coat (with Mark Knopfler on guitar)
3.     Things Have Changed (with Mark Knopfler on guitar)
4.     Tangled Up In Blue (with Mark Knopfler on guitar)
5.     Early Roman Kings
6.     Joey
7.     Rollin' And Tumblin'
8.     Visions of Johanna
9.     Highway 61 Revisited
10.     Sugar Baby
11.     Thunder On The Mountain
12.     Ballad Of A Thin Man
13.     Like A Rolling Stone
14.     All Along The Watchtower
15.     Blowin' In The Wind

Amanda Palmer Kickstarts TO
Phoenix Concert Theater

Amanda Palmer has been a busy girl since she was last through Toronto touring her Evelyn Evelyn piece. She's fully into the married life, had some serious party time down under, became a Kickstarter heroine and villainess all at once, put a new record together, Theater Is Evil, and is now touring with her cabaret-cum-busker-goth-orchestra troupe. She is a tireless dynamo and can blog the pants off anyone. She has survived the misery of her record company break-up, surpassed the promise of The Dresden Dolls, and emerged as a pioneer in the new artist-fan paradigm, one that takes out the middle man, the record company.

I think I even saw a piece online where she sold her virginity for $748,000.00 to an AntArctican penguin farmer.

Amanda is booked for 2013's Coachella Festival. I'm guessing she gets a 4 pm slot. Anything earlier would mean the organizers don't have their ear to the music. A later set time would show the proper respect for what she can bring to the stage.

After a brief stint in Europe this Toronto show is the first of the North American leg. It  coincides with the release of her ground breaking video for Do It With A Rock Star. Unfortunately we don't get that song in the set, even though it was on the cue sheet, likely due to the time taken up to wish a Happy Birthday to Neil via naked bodies painted to spell out the best wishes. Neil, you see, was in Paris. Fans wishing Neil well

Love the new record. It opens with an instrumental theme, a big orchestral cacophony of sound and quickly gets into Amanda's quirky observations on life, love, popular culture and death. Lot's of death. 

The night opens with a short set by the bass player and orchestral arranger. He's got a quartet of strings to accompany his electric bass. The crowd was won over by the end of  the opening track. Kind of like surf-grunge guitar, but with a bass.

The guitar lead on Amanda's backing band get a few songs to spotlight his band. All sorts of strangeness on stage. Every player a character, all loveable. It's like the cover of Dylan's Basement Tapes landed on your stage.There's a spirit to this tour that evokes  Bob's Rolling Thunder tour.

Amanda is a star. She's been onstage throughout, introducing the opening acts, organizing Neil's naked people thing, watching and cheering from the side stage. Every time she steps forward the beyond-enthusiastic crowds cheers loudly her movements and words.

A couple artistic treats in the set. Amanda exits stage left for a wardrobe change. She returns in a lengthy, clingy, gown and proceeds to enter the audience for a little crowd surfing. The gown begins to expand as she makes her way over a wave of fans. It creates a canopy that covers the floor as she moves from the stage to the soundboard and back. Very cool. And I got to touch her butt. Open hand, no grasping. Proper crowd surfing etiquette was displayed by all.

For the encore the band made their way to the balcony, climbing the rails to perform to the flashlight wielding multitude in the pit, an unplugged reprise of Want It Back.

And that's all she wrote. Here's the set list with a selection of songs.
 (NOTE: This recording is a little 'hot'. I did not do a good job gauging my levels tonight.)

 A Grand Theft Intermission
 Smile (Pictures or It Didn't Happen)
 The Killing Type
 Want It Back
 Missed Me
 (The Dresden Dolls cover)
 (Amanda Palmer cover)
 Grown Man Cry
 The Bed Song
 Trout Heart Replica
 Neil's B-Day Moment
 Melody Dean
 Girl Anachronism
 (The Dresden Dolls cover)
 Want It Back
 (from balcony)

And here's a link to some videos on youtube, 'cause lookin' at Amanda is almost as good as hearing her.

Amanda Palmer on YOUTUBE