Sunday, January 9, 2011
Friday, March 21, 2008
Luckily for local fans tonight, scalpers were taking a big hit outside Copps Coliseum. The rain didn’t help them, nor did the fact that upcoming tour stops in
Copps Coliseum slowly filled up until the show began. The Boss led the temporarily reformed E Street Band on stage at about eight thirty. They kicked off with a one-two punch of “No Surrender” and “Radio Nowhere” which have been prominent on this “Magic and Loss” tour. “Magic” was sung with a subtle falsetto, reminiscent of Roy Orbison. This is usually performed as a duet with Patti Scialfa, but Springsteen’s wife and E Street back-up singer was absent on this stretch of the tour as was Danny Federici. Bruce explained Patti had to “make sure the house doesn’t burn down” and that Danny’s spot was being filled by keyboard player Charles Giordano. Giordano recorded and toured with Bruce for “The Seeger Sessions”, so he was naturally familiar with the material and a good fit with the band.
Bruce wailed on his harmonica introduction to the souped-up boogie of “Reason To Believe” which kept the crowd on it’s feet. A searing version of “Because The Night” followed, which featured some of the most intense guitar playing one still hears from Miami Steve and Nils Lofgren. Bruce is a fine guitar player too, but he doesn’t play those shredding assaults that he used to pull out. After “She’s the One”, Bruce introduced a new song, “Livin’ In The Future” with a few words about the rapid erosion of civil rights in the United States these days. The song itself borrows liberally from the classic “10th Avenue Freeze-Out” on the 1975 classic “Born To Run” album.
“The Promised Land” and the title track of Springsteen’s 1978 “Darkness At The Edge of Town” record followed. There were a few more vintage songs about disillusionment during hard times, which went over well in this crowd. Much of the audience kept sing along with tunes like “The Promised Land” and especially “
After the sing-along blow-out of “Badlands”, Springsteen dedicated “The Girls In Their Summer Clothes” to the ladies of
Baritone sax player Clarence Clemons, “The Big Man”, has kept a lower profile on recent tours, resulting in much speculation about his health. The man is 66 years old, but when he sauntered out to centre stage for jams like the middle part of “Kitty’s Back”, there was no doubt the man can still blow. Much of the “Wall of Sound” that people mention when describing the production and band sound of the “Born To Run” album borrows as much from the Motown sound as Phil Specter’s style. The follow-up to “Kitty’s Back”, “Born To Run” kept Clarence and the audience busy. While the days of three and four hour concerts are behind them, the E Street Band still brings an amazing amount of energy to the stage. They played encores of “Dancing In The Dark” and the tour’s finale “
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Tonight was a special treat for die-hard fans. The band tore into a searing version of “Red Hot Mama” which was followed by an extended oldies jam of “You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks”, “I’ll Bet You” and “I Got A Thing”.
The horn section has been reduced to a section of one, but Greg Thomas makes the most of his moments in the spotlight. His playing was devastating through the James Brown tribute led by one of several back up singers, Gene “Poo Poo Man” Anderson. This was worked into “Up For The Down Stroke” which kept the house moving with the music. Kendra, one of the newer singers in the band, led the charge through “Bounce To This” and Belita Woods sang a couple of songs as well. Michael Clip Payne is still the master of ceremonies, introducing members as they came and went from the stage.
Michael Kidd Funkadelic Hampton took charge for a typically intense guitar blow out on “Maggot Brain” which George Clinton dedicated to The Hawk’s Nest, Ronnie Hawkins’ long gone
The 1978 hit “One Nation Under A Groove” started off as a slow a cappella number before the band kicked in and brought out the usual arrangement. One thing that helps the band’s stage longevity is their willingness to try different styles of playing old songs. They are acutely aware that they are certain to remain a bigger concert draw than a music-retailing powerhouse.
P-Funk stayed on the late seventies tip for the rest of the set with the exception of George’s “Ludicrous” rap. “Knee Deep” featured all hands on deck, as Belita Woods came back out to sing “Sentimental Journey” before the guitars restarted their night-long duel. With Garry Shider taking over some of George Clinton’s stage directions, the band was still as funky as ever. George came and went from the stage while the band ran through “Bop Gun”, “Gamin’ On Ya” and “Undisco Kidd” and “Flashlight”. They wrapped it up with their regular “Atomic Dog” finale. This usually ends with a sizable portion of the crowd dancing on stage. Happily, most of the crowd stayed on the floor instead of crowding the stage. I wish George Clinton had faith in some of the band’s other material to pull out as their closing song blow-out. P-Funk were definitely having a good night, but “Atomic Dog” has become an almost anti-climactic ending for their shows; it’s one of their few songs which you know pretty much what to expect for the remainder of the gig. “Atomic Dog” sounded just fine, but if they segued into another tune, newbies and long time fans alike would certainly embrace the change. As it was, the concert left everyone in an exhausted, sweat-drenched state of funky euphoria. So few acts can still pull off three and a half hours of hard funk on stage, one can forget P-Funk are still such a hot act. Their last local appearances have been either three hours away at the Kee to Bala or the short set they delivered at the CNE a few years ago. Now that the Canadian dollar is hovering around par, one might hope there is now an incentive to bring up bands like P-Funk more often.
Pictures at; www.flickr.com/photos/emangrooving
Friday, March 7, 2008
Cashing in on a well-past-one’s-prime reunion tour used to be generally derided by serious rock fans, and punk fans in particular. These days, the Spice Girls can fill the A.C.C. night after night on their reunion tour, the Eagles' first reunion tour still deserves credit for pushing concert ticket prices through the roof, and one band after another has reunited to great acclaim. The New York Dolls started out trading on youthful exuberance more than on musical dexterity. Their songs were not as catchy as the Rolling Stones', but they were certainly as sloppy as the Stones ever were on stage. They tempered their Stones-clones approach with harder edged songs and took effeminate flamboyance to a whole new level for straight guys. This earned the Dolls a place in music history, by inspiring the seventies punk bands who would have been reluctant to have cited contemporary arena rockers like the Stones as an influence. The New York Dolls finally fell apart around 1975, but David Johanson and Sylvain Sylvain played together in the David Johanson Band after the Dolls were done. One could argue this is a David Johanson Band reunion as much as a Dolls reunion, now that three fifths of the band have passed on. One could not be faulted for having lo expectations of the reunited New York Dolls, especially after a lackluster performance from some British festival was released to an underwhelming response.
Tonight was the second time around for the current incarnation of the Dolls. Their last c.d. has one of the best titles for a reunion effort, the self deprecating “One Day It Will Please Us Even To Remember This”. As it happens, this is one reunion effort that has proven to be more solid than most; and the Dolls’ career in this millennium will have lasted longer and surely have made more money than the original band ever did. After all these years David Johanson still looks and moves like Mick Jagger, but given the historically campy nature of his stage persona, this is not a bad thing.
There were two surprises waiting upon entering the
Sure, guitarist Steve Conte looks and acts like Johnny Thunders, but he can sure play those riffs. Sylvain Sylvain’s guitar playing still has its bite, and took a few opportunities to cut loose and play some of the Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” along with other chunky rock nuggets. The band tore through Dolls favourites with energy that must have been feeding back and forth between them and the contingent of hard core fans in attendance tonight. They still do a good version of Bo Diddley’s “Pills”, and the show gathered momentum as they played “Subway Train”, “Jet Boy” and a particularly loud rendition of “Trash”. The “first finale” of “Dance Like a Monkey” proved the Dolls can still come up with a decent song (preferable to the ballad sung for Johnny Thunders) and when they came back out, they ran through a raucous take of “Personality Crisis”. Who’d have thought the ’08 Dolls would be so damn good?
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
A little after the fact, along with the next few reviews as I dig through my hard drive and upload some more...
Sharon Jones and her incredible back up band revisited
Adhering to the live Revue tradition, the band started things off with an instrumental, and Binky Griptite sang a slow groover before
They performed a solid set which was heavy on new material and some of their earlier cuts, but for some reason they largely ignored their brilliant 2005 c.d. “Naturally”. The new material like the title track of “100 Days” is strong, but Sharon Jones and the band passed over much of their best-loved material tonight. There were certainly a few tried and true crowd pleasers like “How Do You Let A Good Man Down?” and “That’s the Way It’s Got To Be”. Altogether, it was an excellent performance, running almost two hours, including their standard encore set which usually includes a couple of James Brown nuggets. Tonight, we got “It’s A Man’s World” rolled into the encores, and
Photos can be seen at- www.flickr.com/photos/emangrooving
Concert Review; Hugh Masekela and the Chissa All Stars- Friday, February 15, 2008; Phoenix Theatre, Toronto.
This is a special tour for Hugh Masekela, a man who has played tiny clubs and packed stadiums from
This is a special tour for Hugh Masekela, a man who has played tiny clubs and packed stadiums from
The most stunning of Hugh’s guests tonight was a lady he introduces as his sister, Sibongile Kuhmalo. She performed with Hugh at Harbourfront about eight years ago, and her voice is as powerful as ever. Her operatic style brought the house down with the sheer strength and control of her voice. She even seemed to have caught some of her band mates off guard, tonight.
Hugh alternated between singing songs about his homeland, where he grew up in a Township shebeen (an illegal bar which are common in South African Townships which pay off the police to stay in business), and simply playing trumpet or flugelhorn or leaving the stage to let various Chissa All Stars take over. While they sounded unmistakably African, the band features decidedly western instruments including a giant bass guitar and a set of timbales in the back, near the drum kit.
“Grazing In The Grass” turned into an extended jam that thrilled the crowd. I wish Hugh would perform “Riot”, his follow-up single, but the brass interplay through “Grazing In The Grass” was such a treat, that one can easily forgive Hugh for ignoring much of his late sixties output.
The African continent was well represented both on and off stage. As Hugh called out the home towns, countries and townships of each of the Chissa All Stars, some people in the crowd hollered back in recognition, every time.
Before announcing the encore “Bring Him Back Home”, Masekela’s 1987 tribute to Nelson Mandela, Hugh cited
Pictures can be seen at; www.flickr.com/photos/emangrooving
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Iggy Pop; Open Up and Bleed, By Paul Trynka. (Broadway Books)
Open Up and Bleed is the most extensive book written about the life of James Osterberg, better known as Iggy Pop. Previously, all fans had to go by were Iggy’s less than completely reliable 1983 autobiography I Need More and the excellent, but brief Per Nilsson book The Wild One. The English writer and Mojo Magazine editor Paul Trynka has, over the course of many years, managed to track down pretty much everyone from Iggy’s past who was willing to discuss their relationship with Iggy.
Indeed, the coverage of James’ Osterberg’s childhood is more thorough than that of his seventies concert tours. Former school mates and ex-girlfriends are consulted along with other people from Iggy’s
Iggy Pop, or James Jewel Osterberg (named after his father James) was raised in a close knit, if uptight family where both parents worked and the preferred recreational father and son activity was golf. James, or Jim, as just about everybody in this book including its author calls Iggy when he’s in his “normal” persona, was an exceptional student as well as quite the social climber, while growing up. Interestingly, Iggy’s father was raised by a Jewish couple who adopted him, but Iggy would later make some rather anti-Semitic remarks on stage, as well as record most of his best music with a guitarist who had a Nazi fetish which included wearing SS outfits on stage. This incongruity is seldom addressed in Open Up and Bleed, but the author doesn’t gloss over or ignore Ron Asheton’s Nazi predilections, either. Trynka mentions Ron’s Nazi paraphernalia was still a fixture of life in his mother’s basement in
One interesting observation that comes up early in the book is that being raised in a trailer park, Iggy’s stern school teacher father left no public misconceptions about his family’s social or economic status around affluent
Jim was apparently popular with the girls from a young age, which was presumably helped by his well built body and rather large penis which comes up, so to speak, through the course of the book. Suffice to say, even when he was a broke has-been, which happened several times in his remarkable career, Jim never had a problem finding girls, even if some of them were underage.
By the time The Stooges were formed with the thuggish Asheton brothers and the late Dave Alexander, playing
Various lingering debates among Iggy fans over such matters as how much input came from the respective producers of the three Stooges albums are discussed at some length in Open Up and Bleed. Over the years, Iggy and the Stooges have lamented the production on all of their records, especially the first and third releases. An early and long time champion of the band, Danny Fields (who got them signed to Elektra Records with the MC 5 in 1968) managed to get the well respected John Cale to produce the Stooges debut, and regardless of Jim’s comments about Cale and his input, it would seem the producer was indeed an active and effective producer for The Stooges. The 1973 classic record “Raw Power” was produced by David Bowie. He was later referred to as “that fucking carrot top” who destroyed a brilliant recording by Iggy and the rest of the band. The Stooges used to describe their mix as heavier, and without the yelping sound on the original record. Unfortunately for the Stooges, their preferred mixes have been well distributed among fans and sold by bootleggers over the years, and the record as produced by
In any case, David Bowie would prove to be Jim Osterberg’s best friend for many years. David suggests they grew apart in the nineties after Jim was sick of discussing David Bowie in every single interview. Paul Trynka asserts the both Jim and David recorded much of their best work collaboratively over their time living and recording in
David Bowie came to Jim’s aid several times before their retreat to
In 1972, the original Stooges had blown apart. MainMan saw Iggy as a solo artist rather than the Stooges as a group. The afore-mentioned Danny Fields, is one of the book’s most engaging raconteurs. He described the Stooges highs and lows from that brief two year period when they looked to be poised for success. Iggy himself was a big hit with the trendy regulars at Max’s Kansas City during several visits to the New York City night spot, and Danny Fields had the presence of mind to have recorded a few of the New York Stooges performances for posterity. Whether these include the recently discovered 1970 recording from Ungano’s, a New York City club, is not mentioned, but Danny’s perspective is interesting.
Danny also introduced Jim to cocaine in
In 1971, Iggy and MC 5 guitarist Wayne Kramer even had a heroin selling business, which seemed to involve Iggy steering clients for
By the time David Bowie visited Jim in rehab in 1975, the singer’s post-Stooges
There are a few topics which are covered all too briefly in Open Up and Bleed and Iggy’s 1970’s live career is one of them. While Paul Trynka talked to Michael Tippin, who recorded some of the Stooges Detroit concerts, including the notorious final show at
I have to disagree with this assessment, especially in the case of singers like Iggy Pop, who’s reputation comes from his live appearances more than his records. “New Values,” “Soldier” and “Party” are described as being mediocre to dreadful records, in descending order. Road-testing new material would have quite likely saved Jim the trouble of recording some of the turkeys he released in the early eighties. Iggy Pop was a steady live draw, and it was his concerts (and definitely not his new records) that kept his fans around during those years. Touring was also the only way for Jim to make any money; his records were expensive to record, and kept tanking. The expenses of studio bills and a cocaine habit took a lot of road work, and Jim was living night to night.
The author proposes “Lust For Life” should have been a strong seller, having made the English charts upon release, but at this time, in the summer of 1977, Elvis Presley died. This meant RCA Records virtually shelved all non-Elvis projects, and went into overdrive rush-releasing Elvis product through the rest of the year. Once the first pressing of “Lust For Life” sold out in the
Paul Trynka gives the reader a stronger appreciation for Jim’s backing bands over the years. The Stooges, for all their perceived incompetence, were one of the most adventurous sounding groups to emerge from the musical hotbed of the Motor City, and later players included the famous Sales brothers (bass and guitar), Ivan Kral from Patti Smith’s band, Fred Sonic Smith, Carlos Alomar from David Bowie’s group, and many others. For all the debauchery and antics of an Iggy Pop performance, the band’s playing was usually tight, and surely helped Iggy Pop get repeat bookings when album sales might have suggested it wasn’t worth bringing Iggy Pop to one’s town.
After bottoming out again in 1983, Iggy pulled himself together and apparently quit cocaine again. Quitting such a destructive drug was obviously a sound move, but the influence cocaine on Jim’s studio work is unclear; if coke helped ruin albums like “Party”, suggests Trynka, then it must have helped during the equally coke-infused “Lust For Life” sessions, or it might not have had much effect on Jim’s recording sessions. The author also paraphrases the photographer Robert Matheu on the topic of being “clean”; “drug-free simply meant that it was not cool to share your cocaine anymore; instead, everyone snorted in private.”
Regardless, Jim’s relative good health was matched by David Bowie’s when they got together to record “Blah Blah Blah.” This was described by many fans and critics as the best 1980’s record that
The follow-up “Instinct” record and tour is decried by Trynka as corporate rock, and lamented Iggy’s going on tour with a “hair band”, but only one “hairy” newcomer was on that tour. It was also hailed by a lot of fans as Iggy’s return to hard rock, after drifting dangerously far into Bowie-territory over the previous two years. Of course, the quality of Iggy Pop records and tours is as debatable as any esthetic argument, but almost everyone was surprised when the follow-up record, “Brick By Brick” became the best selling Iggy release to date. In fact, the nineties were Jim’s most prosperous decade ever; his old songs suddenly became hip, as one popular new artist after another insisted on singing Iggy’s praises. The smash hit movie “Trainspotting” featured a generous helping of Iggy music in the soundtrack, and “Lust For Life” enjoyed a second life as a hit song and a third life as a catchy jingle, minus the “liquor and drugs” reference (at least until the song is licensed by some private rehab-clinic). A string of increasingly predictable releases followed, but once again it was the live performances (as well as “Lust For Life” by this point) that kept Iggy in demand. One drawback with Iggy Pop recording sessions for many years now has been the steadfast desire for one record company after another to hook him up with a hot-shot producer-du-jour who was expected to get a commercial success out of the work. One would have thought this unreliable method would have lost favour by now, but perhaps the need for record company staff to cover themselves for slow sellers requires they only release the most commercial sounding music they can.
Trynka suggests Iggy’s constant touring was an attempt to make up for wasting so much time, blowing off potential work right through the early and mid-seventies. It could well be the case, as Iggy is hardly desperate for cash, as he was on those early eighties tours.
Finally, in 2003, twenty years after publishing his often petty autobiography, the impossible finally happened; the Stooges reunited. They played on some of Iggy’s c.d. “Skull Ring” and even performed a few dates together. The shows presumably went well, because The Stooges have been playing on and off ever since. Earlier this year they recorded a new c.d. together called “The Weirdness.” Open Up and Bleed is nothing if not up to date.
Overall, this huge undertaking has paid off in an enjoyable and informative read. Anyone interested in this book is presumably an Iggy fan already, but there Paul Trynka adds plenty to the already well known facts about Iggy Pop. There are a few points where the author might have dug a little deeper, most notably on Iggy Pop’s live career. There are plenty of bootlegs and other live recordings, as well as other people’s accounts of those shows. Similarly, the infamous Skydog label is barely discussed, and erroneously cited as beginning operations in 1973 with the release of a Flamin’ Groovies album. In fact, Skydog released a (terrible) performance of Jimi Hendrix with Jim Morrison in 1970, as well as the first Velvet Underground bootleg, using Brigid Polk’s Sony cassette recording that was later used for the “Live at Max’s Kansas City” set. There was a lot of controversy over the “Metallic K.O.” Skydog release in 1976; it was by all accounts a bootleg, and Iggy claimed the label’s owner Marc Zermati never had permission to release the set. “Metallic K.O.” must be one of the most influential rock albums of the seventies, and the controversy surrounding it surely contributed to its punk cache. In fact, a complete discography of The Stooges that included the bootleg and quasi-legitimate releases through the seventies and eighties would have been an excellent addition, and it has after all been almost twenty years since Per Nilsson’s book (with it’s extensive discography and listing of available recordings) book came out. More pictures would have been most welcome as well. That said, there is a decent collection of pictures featured, covering Jim’s entire life on and off stage. Open Up and Bleed is one of the more ambitious recent books about any rock star, and the research is complemented by some particularly well informed interviews.