Sunday, October 06, 2013
CR Avery Can't Get Any Better
w/ The Weber Brothers
Special Guest, DJ PrufRock
The Pearl in Hamilton
CR Avery is a chameleon.
He can come out into the night as a solo artist opening for the "voice of his generation in a confined geographic location that is the UK and a bit of Europe", Billy Bragg.
Next time you see him he's a solo headliner packing The Rivoli with a circus troupe of friends.
Give him a few months off and he's backed by a Gospel band.
Then onstage for a roof raising set at The Rivoli with a string band.
He's most explosive when backed by a rocking band like The Special Interest Group.
He has even come through town with a burlesque review.
And all those words don't even tell half the story. Those shows have taken place in sweaty bars, open fields, family festivals, underground hangouts and concert halls. The audience is always challenged and they never fail to rise to the occasion.
Tonight we find the Bard of East Van pushing the envelope again.
I'm not prone to hyperbole (that may be an understatement), but something is happening here and I don't know what it is.
Went to a rock concert and got historied. The history of hip-hop and protest. Saw the best minds of this generation trying to right the wrong that is the Right. Expect every show I go to will be the one where I shrug and say; "Seen that before," and leave every night knowing it will be the next one...or will it?
It's T minus10 minutes and the assembled are watching something they've yet to see at a CR Avery show. Standing onstage, fiddling with plugs and cords, is hip-hop spoken word artist, DJ PrufRock, checking his two turntables and a microphone. Some in the audience are murmuring, doing their best Mr Jones. I have faith in the art of the show.
Tonight we have a seven-piece band. CR on harp and mic. PrufRock with the scratch. The Weber Brothers, Sam on lead and Ryan on bass, supplemented by Shai “Cookie” Peer on the keys, multi-instrumentalist Rico Browne and Marcus Browne on drums.
0:00 Track 01 Dylan Dub
The familiar voice of a young Bob Dylan begins to waft out of the PA system. The Times They Are A-Changing foreshadows what's about to come as this set will touch on significant sign-posts along our shared journey.
The band kicks in with a smoky, bluesy back beat...
Bob is back, PrufRock is scratching and the two bands meld into one funky riff.
1:44 Track 02 Street Poet Obscene
Theme from MGM productions.
Piano drops and CR is into a new hip-hop, beat-box piece Street Poet Obscene, a bombastic, biographical journey through airports and seedy bars and back seats of cabs. CR is out in the audience, working them into a hand-clapping, chanting chorus.
11:10 Track 03 Door By The River
Harp blast and in the background, Martin Luther King Jr speaking at the Washington Monument. I have been to the mountain. We are still in '63... still hoping. CR's promised land is found in his uplifting Door By the River.
19:06 Track 04 DJ PrufRock song
Mournful horn. Something new. CR calls up PrufRock for short piece, a word-dance... Know the world is listening, say something famous...
21.24 Track 05 My Bad
Band picks up the rhythm for the hilarious My Bad, totally reworked into a funky rap with explosive punctuation at the chorus. The song is filled out with band solos and a break-dancing exhibition from the drummer. It closes with the the four-armed horn and bass solo...for some of this you just had to be there.
31:48 Track 06 Dungeon of Love
Had enough of hip-hop? DJ PrufRock checks in with some disco, Bonnie Tyler's I Need A Hero, complete with three white men vamping Ronettes style, rocking neon sunglasses. (See point above about having to be there.)
Machine-gun fast word bullets spew out leading us into a scratch-laden version of The Dungeon of Love.
The Isley Brothers are on the turntable...you know you make me wanna shout! and the ensemble is dancing around waving their hands in their best Carla-from-Cheers imitation.
And this is where Dungeon of Love finishes.
42:09 Track 07 New Stanzas For Amazing Grace
Harp. The mournful New Stanzas for Amazing Grace by Ginsberg. Three part, a-capella harmony. Whew, needed that break.
44:43 Track 08 The Weber Brothers Jam
PrufRock scratches as the band picks up the beat for an extended jam that leads into a long improvisational piece that must be called, Madison 22 Review. This is the group of ladies that CR came through town with last time out. A risque show, fun times and I got to chauffeur the girls.
47:20 Track 09 Madison 22
Story telling time about the Pope and Elvis.
Madison 22 chorus.
Auto-biographical story about an ADD afflicted youth who grew up to write a book of poems called 38 Bar Blues that is on the curriculum at York University. The moral of the story is you don't have to be a martyr to peoples classification, you don't have to be Christ on a cross, you can be Johnny Cash giving the world the finger.
Madison 22 chorus and extended instrumental jam.
Harp lead-in to harp-duet.
Underdog story and Ronnie Hawkins lesson followed by great story about how a cat comes to own you.
Madison 22 chorus and a final inappropriate joke involving Willie Nelson.
That was a 20 minute theater piece.
1:04:09 Track 10 Money Changes Everything
Theme from Hockey Night in Canada (the real one, not the current one) mashed with a quote from Ani DiFranco's Self-Evident. You don't come across that every night.
Band intro over a Lou Reed type bass riff. CR introduces a piece that was commissioned by the Sierra Club to help fight the Northern Gateway, wrapped inside Money Changes Everything..
The show has come full circle. Back to protest. The soul of Dylan, King Jr, Ginsberg...all morphing in this lengthy eco-lesson.
1:05:39 Pierre Eliot Trudeau is name-checked.
1:06:53 Rubin Hurricane Carter checks in
1:07:25 LL Cool J's mom.
Money Changes Everything chorus
1:09:27 More eco-lessons...the blue-collar and bar-stool pundits get climate change.
Money Changes Everything chorus
1:11:06 Billion year old carbon. Everything is broken on this slippery slope.
Money Changes Everything chorus
1:13:06 More complexities layered into the problem.
1:14:43 Fight the Power mashup, with Woody Guthries' This Land and Dead Prez hip-hop-hip-hop-hip, Dylan's Hurricane, Cohen's Democracy and Holiday's Strange Fruit. DJ PrufRock struttin' his stuff.
1:15:59 Piano intro to cover of Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five's The Message. We are still moving ahead in time, still protesting the social injustice, illustrating the frustration of a lost generation, giving re-birth to this anthem in our First Nations. And giving warning.
"Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge..."
1:17:10 Every Canadian say...don't push me... CR delves into a sell-out rant.
1:17:57 We get a visit from The Clash, White Riot, with Stand-Your-ground lunacy rant.
1:19:15 PrufRock brings in his friend Beethoven, with Ode to Joy. CR's invocation to action.
Money Changes Everything outro with crowd.
1:23:16 Spoken word close.
1:24:10 Encore break. Track 11 Encore break with sweaty stage talk
Let's take a minute to recap while the band wipes down the sweat.
That was another 20 minute piece of rock n roll theater.
1:25:43 Track 12 Piano Ballad
CR chats to quite the crowd and introduce a ballad.
Solo piano...he goes all boozy, bluesy on us for a story about finding yourself in your music.
1:32:24 Track 13 Improvisation and Sgt Peppers Outro
PrufRock brings in The Staples Singers for a soulful interlude, I'll Take You There mashed with "damn I wish I wasn't such a wimp" from The Pharcydes Passin' Me By, provides the melody behind another spoken word piece. PrufRock checks in with an improvisational couple of verses, while CR moves back and takes over the turntables. Even with the repeated "wimp" refrain CR is unable to entice anyone to come up from the audience and take over the mic.
Show closes with The Weber Brothers taking us out singing Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
1:43:48 Dirty jokes, dirty politics and almost two hours of musical genius.
How insane was that?
Nights like this I am OK with James Brown's passing. It wouldn't be right to see him lose his crown.
The hardest working man in show business... C R Avery.
He can't get any better.
Or can he?