Category Archives: Concerts

Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Performing live at Benaroya Hall, the veteran trib outfit covered all the expected bases while giving the Fab Four’s timeless music a unique feel.

BY GILLIAN G. GAAR  / PHOTOS BY PETER DERVIN

You can expect a lot of Sgt. Pepper hoopla this year, as 1967 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. At the time of its release, it was hailed as the greatest album ever made — a claim that’s been constantly picked over ever since, but that’s another story. As a prime artifact that epitomizes the heralded Summer of Love ™, the Sergeant still reigns supreme.

Sgt. Pepper was Paul McCartney’s idea of how the Beatles could reinvent themselves, and make an album without the pressure of being “The Beatles.” Which makes it a bit ironic to have it as the centerpiece of a Beatles tribute show. Rain is the premiere Beatles tribute band (they don’t call them “impersonators” any more) in the U.S., going all the way back to 1975 when they were based in Laguna Beach, California, and called themselves “Reign.” They weren’t a full on tribute band at the time, but did perform a lot of Beatles covers, which landed them a gig providing the Beatle music for the first feature film about the Fab Four, Birth of the Beatles (released in 1979, and for my money still a better film than Backbeat or Nowhere Boy).

Today, Rain is more of a brand than a band; there are various touring line-ups of the group. The band has grown and changed over the years, and I hadn’t seen most of the members of the line-up that played Seattle on February 21: Jimmy Irizarry (John), Paul Curatolo (Paul), and Aaron Chiazza (Ringo). I had seen Alastar McNeil (George) in Fourever Fab, a Beatles tribute act in Hawaii (a Beatle tribute artist can always land a gig somewhere), and I’ve seen Curatolo’s father, Joey, who’s also a member of Rain, playing Paul (like father, like son!). Also on hand was Chris Smallwood, playing keyboards discreetly at the rear of the stage.

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Rain’s shows follow a pretty standard format. Open with the group in their Fab Four Mop Top suits performing on The Ed Sullivan Show. A couple of A Hard Day’s Night songs, and then we’re into the Shea Stadium concert and “Yesterday.” Then to the Sgt. Pepper era followed by The Beatles (aka “The “White Album”) and Abbey Road period. But with this show featuring Sgt. Pepper as the centerpiece — Rain performs the album in its entirety — some adjustments had to be made. And this is what made the show especially interesting, for band rejigged the set list to include some songs that Beatles tribute bands don’t normally play.

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

The mood was set as you entered the venue; Benaroya Hall, home to the Seattle Symphony, so the acoustics were great. Rain has the best production values of any Beatles tribute band, with an attention to detail evident even before the show begins. There’s a black-and-white backdrop featuring pictures of 1960s signifiers (a peace sign, a lava lamp) and images related to the Beatles’ history (a Cavern Club sign, an Abbey Road street sign). The pre-show music is drawn from the early years of the decade (e.g. “Stand By Me”). There are numerous screens built into the set, with clips showing Rain re-enacting Beatles press conferences, and used to good effect at the show’s start, when a clip showing an Ed Sullivan impersonator introduces the band.

The first sequence emulates the Ed Sullivan shows, right down to “applause” signs flashing at the side of the stage after each song. You get the expected hits: “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Though right handed, Curatolo taught himself to play bass left handed — so important to that visual image of the Fabs (he did swap to a right handed guitar when playing “Yesterday”). By the middle Beatles period, the band had started to loosen up, delivering hard rocking versions of “Ticket to Ride” and “Day Tripper.” The screens flashed images tied in with each song (such as trains when the band sings “A Hard Day’s Night,” reflecting the train trip the Beatles make in the movie of the same name), along with vintage commercials shown during the breaks for costume changes (the one showing Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble taking a cigarette break drew the biggest laugh).

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Then came a melding of the Rubber SoulRevolver and “White Album” period, which brought the first surprises. I’ve never before heard a Beatles tribute band perform “The Word,” and they rarely tackle “Eleanor Rigby,” due to its having no rock instrumentation. Rain did both songs, along with other less expected material like “Drive My Car,” “In My Life,” and, skipping ahead, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” It was refreshing to hear a Beatles tribute band vary the “just play the hits” formula. The Beatles were a band with a fantastic catalogue — why not explore more of it?

McNeil’s star turn in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (a song which invariably brings down the house) brought act one to a dramatic close. The drum head on Chiazza’s bass drum was then changed to one emulating the drum on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, and we were ready for act two, with the band naturally attired in the colorful costumes also featured on the album’s cover. (Below photo by Richard Lovrich; courtesy Rain)

RAIN - A Tribute to the Beatles is a LIVE multi-media spectacular that takes you through the life and times of the world's most celebrated band. Featuring high-definition screens and imagery - this stunning concert event delivers a note-for-note theatrical event that is the next best thing to The Beatles.

Again, it was exciting to hear a Beatles tribute band play songs you never generally hear: “Getting Better,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “Good Morning, Good Morning” (complete with animal noises) Also, it was great to hear the entire album, not just the highlights you usually get in a tribute show. The album stands as the Beatles’ most imaginative work, as well as being one of their most musically versatile, and Rain clearly relished the opportunity to dig into the album start to finish. Though it’s a shame they didn’t take advantage of the Sgt. Pepper suits to perform “Hello Goodbye,” a song whose video also featured those iconic outfits.

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Then it was back to basics with the late era stuff, including a singalong to “Give Peace a Chance,” “Get Back” and “Revolution,” and an encore singalong of “Hey Jude.” The band was first rate throughout. Curatolo seemed to have the most fun, mugging and pointing at the audience just like the real McCartney, while Irizarry looked increasingly like Lennon as the show progressed. McNeil was suitably laid back as “the Quiet One,” and poor old Chiazza only got one song to sing. Never mind. As a group effort, Rain delivers. And with a crop of new songs in the setlist, even those who’ve seen Rain before will want to check out the new show.

Rain tours the U.S. through April 23, 2017.

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

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Setlist

Act One: “She Loves You,” “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “If I Fell,” “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You,” “Yesterday,” “Ticket to Ride,” “The Night Before,” “I Feel Fine,” “Day Tripper,” “Twist and Shout,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “The Word,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Drive My Care,” “In My Life,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Act Two: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Getting Better,” “Fixing a Hole,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “Within You Without You,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lovely Rita,” “Good Morning, Good Morning,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise),” “A Day in the Life,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “Get Back,” “Revolution,” “The End.”

Encore: “Hey Jude.”

***

Author contact: gaarski@hotmail.com, Twitter: @GillianGaar

Photographer contact: http://peterdervin.com (Copyright Peter Dervin)

Lydia Loveless 2/10/17, Denver

Dates: February 10, 2017

Location: Lost Lake Lounge, Denver, Colorado

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The Upshot: The Americana rocker sells out a two-night stand at Denver’s Lost Lake Lounge.   

BY TIM HINELY

It’d been about three years since Lydia Loveless had visited Denver. That last time was in that lucky year of 2014 or so when she and her band did a tuckered out set at the Hi Dive over on S. Broadway. That night the band seemed lively, but Lydia looked wiped out from too much touring. Energy-wise she made up for it tonight.

This time she played the equally a tiny Lost Lake but she was playing two nights here. We opted to catch the first night and it was sold out which had a lot of slackers who didn’t bother to get tickets early all bummed out; one middle-aged woman was freaking out, yelling and cussing.

Missed the opener but did catch a few songs by middle band Angelica Garcia and her band who are touring with Lydia and they were a mix of folky weave plus country-inflected tunes and jam band bore. Not bad but really my thing.

Lydia came out as the clock struck eleven pm with Ben Lamb on bass, Todd May on guitar plus drummer and pedal steel player. Lydia had cropped all of her hair since the last time I saw her and was a lot more lively this time. Joking with the crowd an she generally seemed in good spirits.

They opened with “Really Wanna See You Again” off of 2014’s Somewhere Else and proceeded to play a few other cuts off that record (“To Love Somebody,’ “Verlaine Shot Rinbaud” etc.) but the set was mostly from her latest album 2016’s Real (both records are on the venerable Chicago country-punk label Bloodshot). The set was solid and well-paced.

Loveless gets lumped in the with the alt country crowd and , as previously mentioned, she did have a pedal steel player and is on the Bloodshot label but she is not so easy to pin down. Loveless herself has a punk sneer while guitarist May ground out feedback like he was in Robeert Pollard’s stable and bassist Lamb could easily tour with any working metal band out there. It’s Lydia’s show though, she is the sassy one with smart-ass comebacks. Regarding our current President  (“Come on people four years really isn’t that long…it’ll go by quickly…hell it’d been three years since we’d been to Denver”) or when she blurted out something about her sexual exploits (I’d write it here I’d blush).

For encores she came out and played a few songs with just she and her guitar (including “Clumps”) before her band joined her for a few numbers (including “Head’) and called it a night. The hard-to-pin-down thing is all Lydia. She probably wants it that way and who can blame her, most musicans want to keep you guessing, the good ones do, anyway and she’s one of the good ones.

Photo Credit: Ellis Abbott, via Loveless’ Facebook page.

 

 

Phantogram 1/14/17, Rochester, NY

Dates: January 14, 2017

Location: Main Street Armory, Rochester NY

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Onstage at the Main Street Armory in Rochester, the indie band thrilled the crowd and had a flawless sound.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY APRIL S. ENGRAM

Seven years have quickly passed since Phantogram’s debut album Eyelid Movies; the 2010 release attracted media attention and garnered fans for their ability to balance pop, hip-hop, electronica and dreamy shoegaze all into one. The New York duo, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, has come a long way since their formative days. After their catchy music caught the ears of industry veterans they’ve collaborated with acts such as hip-hop maven Big Boy and the eccentric alt-rock group Flaming Lips; further proof of their sonic chameleon abilities.

Perhaps this independent band is on the cusp of transcending the label “independent”; until then, Phantogram continues to tour extensively and made a stop in Rochester, NY while promoting their aptly named third LP, Three. Joining a long night of music, Phantogram was one of five bands performing at Main Street Armory. The roster included a mixture of alternative, pop, folk-rock with bands such as Bleeker, Judah & the Lion and headliner Grouplove; but, this biased BLURTer set her sights solely on Phantogram.

A sizable venue, Main Street Armory was the perfect venue for an indoor, winter festival. Able to hold a large audience concert-goers either milled in front of the stage or flowing about the outskirts drinking or smoking profusely while scores of music goers assured their spot centerstage. Billed to perform before the last act Phantogram played a slightly shorter set and had one hour to command the stage; they did just that.

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Touring with Nicholas Shelestak on effects and keys and Chris Carhart on drums, Phantogram’s sonic elixir enchanted their fans as the audience cheered, danced and jumped along to the music. Every song they performed sounded great as Barthel threw her hands in the air to pump up the audience during songs and fans happily joined her. Playing songs from their three LPs and EP Nightlife, Barthel and Carter played mostly high octane tracks to the delight of the crowd.

Opening with older songs first, Phantogram didn’t waste time getting the audience excited with the danceable “Black Out Days,” “Don’t Move” and “Fall in Love.” Early hits “When I’m Small” and their first big single “Mouthful of Diamonds” were met with loud cheers and hands thrown into the air. A multi instrumental band Barthel switched between her keyboard and bass while Carter played guitar and effects. Even the slightly mellower, ballad-esque “The Answer” from Three, sung by both Carter and Barthel was a thrilling performance as the bridge of the song gives way to an explosion of guitar and drums; the drumming was exciting to see live as Carhart feverishly and methodically banged on his set.

An exciting band, Phantogram sounded flawless live. Only room for improvement, if only they were not part of a music festival this night and could’ve played a longer set.

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Setlist:

Black Out Days

Don’t Move

Fall in Love

Same Old Blues

Answer

When I’m Small

Mouthful of Diamonds

Howling at the Moon

You’re Mine

Cruel World

You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

Steve Gunn / Lee Ranaldo / Meg Baird 1/12/17, Winooski VT

Dates: January 12, 2017

Location: Winooski United Methodist Church, Winooski, Vermont

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The holy altar of the Winooski United Methodist Church proved to be the perfect setting for the three guitarists’ metaphysical musical mantras.

BY JENNIFER KELLY / PHOTOS BY BRITTAIN SHORTER

Three guitar players — two known primarily for acid folk, a third a veteran of noisy alternative-nation skree — convened in a blue-lit church off the main drag in a scruffy-but-gentrifying Vermont town for a night, and it was magic.

Meg Baird started off, seated on a stool, cool and unmoving as she played her eerily beautiful acoustic tunes. No hint of the Heron Oblivion keener here, nor of the battering drums of Watery Love, she stuck largely to material from 2015’s Don’t Weigh Down the Light, limpid, lucid cascades of guitar coursing like water through the air waves, her clean, high voice soaring effortlessly towards the rafters. “I Don’t Mind” came first, folky jangle intact, but minus the spectral slide of the record. It was gorgeous anyway, its soft vocal melodies curving flute-y arcs in the air and closing in a whispered, “When the night reaches out, I will be there, I don’t mind, no I don’t mind.”

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Baird dipped back further into the catalogue for agile, light-fingered “The Land Turned Over,” which intersperses bluegrass-y twang into its guitar architecture and a country warble into Baird’s phrasings. “Mosquito Hawks” wandered closest into rock, with its slow, baroque finger work, punctuated by booming chords and strident, dissonant runs, while “Don’t Weigh Down the Light,” was, as you might expect, luminous with swelling light, guitar notes dropping like rounded beads of water into the stillness, Baird’s voice soft but piercing, exactly the way you’d expect a shaft of moonlight to sound if it sounded at all.

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Lee Ranaldo went next, also bringing an acoustic guitar but putting it to louder, more anarchic use. Loops, pedals and, in the first song, a bow, elicited squalls of thunder from a succession of unassuming wooden instruments. Close your eyes, and it might have been Sonic Youth. Ranaldo played songs from an album he’d just recorded with novelist Jonathan Lethem writing lyrics, so none of the material was familiar. The first cut, the one with the bowing and massed (and massive) overtones, was a Lou Reed-ish spoken word travelogue type of thing redolent of open highways and mind altering substances. “Let’s Start Again” felt more like conventional rock (the opening guitar bit reminded me of Neil Young’s “Old Man”), but it blossomed through looping and layering into a powerful, transforming racket. You wanted to check to make sure it was just one guitar still. (Though not always the same guitar. Ranaldo was the only one of the night to bring a rack of instruments and a guitar tech to keep them in tune.)

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There were a couple of other new songs, one called “Circular” about the repetitiveness of daily life, another called “Electric Trim” with some more impressive feedback, and a composition called “Uncle Skeleton,” which moved from goofy country to blistering noise and, somewhere in there, broke out that “face bone is connected to the neck bone” ditty. Overall, the new material seemed a bit less indie rock, a little more sound experimental than his last solo album. I only wrote down R.E.M. once, and I had just jotted down Velvet Underground (bullshit reference, by the way, all it means is rock with some buzz around the guitars) when he closed with a cover of VU’s “Oceans.”

***

Steve Gunn closed with a low-key but wonderful set that seemed both effortless and really difficult. Only when you watch him do you realize how much he’s doing with his long elegant fingers, how quickly and precisely he moves them though complicated chord changes, bends and pull-offs. When you listen, it all sounds supremely laid back and day-dream-y, but as Yeats said about something entirely different, “we must labor to be beautiful.”

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It was “Night Wander” right off the bat, Gunn executing the glittering runs of Television-like notes in between terse verses about black cats and nocturnal rambles. Gunn seemed to be in a contemplative mood, as he introduced “Old Strange” (from 2013’s Time Off) as a song he’d written when an old friend disappeared; he was just as lost now, he admitted, on the eve of the Trump inauguration. The song is a slow, drone-y blues, a remnant of days when Gunn was primarily known as a guitar picker, but it had an undercurrent of angst as he played, the sharp starts of guitar like yelps when someone pokes a bruise. “Milly’s Garden” may have also had a Trump-ish undertone. When I interviewed Gunn a couple of years ago, he explained that it was inspired by a religious neighbor who kind of freaked him out. The line, “Your faith is savage, and your mind is damaged, you’re halfway home,” resonates in an eerie way now. Two songs from the new album, Eyes on the Lines came after, “Ark,” breaking its chiming chords and murmured folk jams for some guitar shredding and even a little bit of wah, and “Park Bench Smile” with its spiraling, baroque guitar figures, the song that welcomes you in, then pins you there, eyes pin wheeling to the psychedelic patterns that you see.

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Perhaps because he was in a church, Gunn got to reminiscing about the last show his father had attended before passing away, at what sounds like the chapel at First Unitarian Church in Philly. Gunn went over to say hi, and noticed his dad had a beer in his hand and asked how it felt to be drinking a beer in church for the first time. Mr. Gunn countered, “This is not my first time.” And with that, Gunn launched into “Wildwood,” a song at least partly about summers on the Jersey Shore, and sad and sweet and folky as the story he told.

I was a little disappointed that the three artists didn’t get a chance to jam together, as they did at other venues, certainly Chicago, later in the tour. But maybe the thing to remember is not that their show at a little church in a little town in Vermont shut down early, but that it happened at all.

Photos courtesy of Brittain Shorter of Winooski’s Section Sign Records – a big BLURT thank-you! www.sectionsignrecords.com / www.soundcloud.com/sectionsignrecords

Link to the concert promoter: https://www.facebook.com/WakingWindows/

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Portraits of a Rock Band on Fire: Parquet Courts

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“Fight back!” On February 11, the Artist Sometimes Known as Parkay Quarts stormed the gates of Atlanta’s Terminal West venue, ultimately selling out (the venue, not the band). And we were there.
Photo Gallery By John Boydston

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Bigger galleries of this and other curiosities in rock and nature are at jobo.smugmug.com
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Bill Laurance, 2/6/17, Raleigh NC

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Snarky Puppy dude turns Raleigh venue the Pour House into a 21st century jazz haven.

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY TODD GUNSHER

On a typically quiet Monday night, GroundUp Music artist Bill Laurance (one of the Snarky Puppy crew) brought some 21st century jazz to Raleigh’s Pour House.  Following area jazzers Eric Hirsh Quartet, keyboardsman Laurence took the stage for a well received 90 minute set. Laurance, Jamison Ross (drums), Chris Smith (bass) and Felix Higginbottom (percussion) packed the stage with various instruments both acoustic and electronic, and filled the room with stellar musicianship, rhythms from around the world and outside the box compositions.

I didn’t get all the song titles, but mid-set Laurance spoke of how the original Cosmos inspired “Aftersun” and later, of writing “Money In The Desert” while on a trip to Dubai. Many of the compositions featured Ross & Felix who weaved together complex rhythms that Smith would glide into while Laurance floated above. Whether he wowed us with a quick run or an extended chord it always sounded just right.

Laurance is currently on a solo tour hitting a handful of east coast cities before heading to Europe. If you’re into modern instrumental jazz and don’t know Snarky Puppy you should, and if you do know them then you definitely need to check out Bill Laurance who brings his own take on that sound.

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Adam Ant, Glam Skanks 2/3/17, Seattle

Dates: February 3, 2017

Location: Neptune Theatre, Seattle WA

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This past weekend at Seattle’s Neptune Theatre, antmusic ruled as the antmaster performed his classic album Kings of the Wild Frontier.

BY GILLIAN G. GAAR

Antmusic returned to Seattle in a big way when the Dandy Highwayman himself, Adam Ant, graced the stage of the Neptune Theatre on Friday, February 3, as part of his Kings of the Wild Frontier anniversary tour, which saw Ant performing that 1980 album in its entirety.

But first, a short set by Glam Skanks, a hard rockin’ quartet headed up by glitter-attired lead vocalist Ali Cat. This was ‘80s music of a different stripe, the kind you might’ve found on the Sunset Strip before grunge arrived and (mostly) swept it all away. There were songs about fashion (“Tube Tops”), Valentine’s Day (“Fuck Off”), and female empowerment (“Bad Bitch”). Ms. Cat retained her aplomb even when her costume got snagged on the microphone cord.

The evening ran like clockwork, with Glam Skanks starting, bang, at 8:45 p.m. There was a half hour set, and then a long, 45 minute wait before Adam began at 10 p.m. (really, a 30 minute wait would’ve raised anticipation just as much). Finally, the lights dim, the band slouches on stage, and then… is it Captain Bligh? Mr. Bumble, that nasty beadle from Oliver! The real long lost father of Captain Jack Sparrow? No, it’s Adam Ant, sporting a military jacket replete with elaborate braiding, a towering Navy cocked hat, and leather trousers, all the better to swagger around the stage in. adam-ant-at-the-roundhouse-2-web-dec-2016-pc-michael-sanderson

Adam’s career took off shortly before MTV was launched, and a musician who came of age in the video era naturally knows the importance of having a strong visual appeal. Thus it was no surprise that Adam held the audience in the palm of his hand from the get-go, striking a pose, bopping from one end of the stage to the other, pointing to a select favored few in the crowd. And with two drum kits on hand to emulate that distinctive Burundi drum style, the packed house was solidly locked into the groove from the beginning.

After running through the 11 tracks on Kings, Adam took off his jacket, now wearing a black shirt (later removed to reveal one of his own tour shirts). This signaled the end of the “highwayman” period, as least as far as stage attire was concerned. Then came a steady stream of hits and other much loved Ant tracks. If you had a favorite, he probably played it: “Stand and Deliver.” “Goody Two Shoes.” “Desperate But Not Serious.” “Prince Charming.” “Physical.” Plus one cover, “Get It On.” All knocked out with precision, and buoyed by Adam’s boundless energy. Here’s a performer who knows what his audience wants, and delivers. Adam’s a true showman, determined to give the best performance he can, as only he can. It all added up to a truly satisfactory evening.

Author contact: gaarski@hotmail.com, Twitter: @GillianGaar

Photo credit: Michael Sanderson

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THE RUMBLE IN BEIJING: Vieux Farka Toure

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On January 15th at the Yugong Yishan Club, the African guitar legend – and son of the late Ali Farka Toure – rocked a packed house to wrap up his Asian tour. Our man on the ground in Beijing was there, camera in hand, and ready to document the occasion. Following the video and the text, also check out his photos from the show.

By Jonathan Levitt

Two nights ago, the Blurt Beijing team consisting of myself and Zhou Jialin made our way through Beijing’s smog choked streets to the Yugong Yishan rock club in central Beijing for a rare treat of a concert that I felt I had to share with the Blurt readership. Vieux deserves every accolade thrown at him. He is the true heir to his father’s musical legacy. Vacillating between traditional Bambara songs, blues, and more rock oriented workouts, Vieux cuts a commanding presence on stage. The concert which lasted for about an hour and forty-five minutes, spanned both his older material as well as a few new songs. The near-capacity crowd shook their asses to the beat and hung on every note that Vieux coaxed from his guitar.

This was the final show of the Asian leg of their tour and you could tell because everything seemed to have a relaxed flow about it. Hell, they even sold the calabash drum to the highest bidder at the end of the concert! The following day, Vieux flew back to Mali where he’ll remain until April when the US tour begins in earnest. This is one show you won’t want to miss.

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A little of my own background for Blurt readers. When I worked for Rykodisc records in their international promotions department in 1995, I was fortunate enough to be invited with my then boss to travel to NYC to watch the late great Ali Farka Toure give a free concert in Central Park. After the show, I went back stage to meet the legendary guitarist. It was truly an awe-inspiring moment, that I continue to cherish. Talking Timbuktu was the album they played and to this day it remains one of my favorite records of all time.

Filmed by Jonathan Levitt and Zhou Jialin exclusively for Blurt Magazine. If you’d like to use this video, feel free to contact Levitt through Blurt. Special thanks to Vieux Toure and Marshall Henry. For more inforon Vieux Farka Toure visit his website at http://www.sixdegreesrecords.com/1971…
or http://vieuxfarkatoure.com . This concert film was shot on the mighty Nokia Lumia 1020 and edited on Adobe Premiere. Below, check out photos from the same show.

***

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(Vieux Farka Toure and Jonathan Levitt)

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(Toure and Zhou Jialin)

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(bassist Marshall Henry)

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(Zhou Jialin’s tattoo)

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(hand stamps from the concert)

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ACOUSTIC CHURCH MUSIC: Steve Gunn, Lee Ranaldo, Meg Baird

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The holy altar of the Winooski United Methodist Church proved to be the perfect setting for the three guitarists’ metaphysical musical mantras. Above: Steve Gunn.

BY JENNIFER KELLY / PHOTOS BY BRITTAIN SHORTER

Three guitar players — two known primarily for acid folk, a third a veteran of noisy alternative-nation skree — convened in a blue-lit church off the main drag in a scruffy-but-gentrifying Vermont town for a night, and it was magic.

Meg Baird started off, seated on a stool, cool and unmoving as she played her eerily beautiful acoustic tunes. No hint of the Heron Oblivion keener here, nor of the battering drums of Watery Love, she stuck largely to material from 2015’s Don’t Weigh Down the Light, limpid, lucid cascades of guitar coursing like water through the air waves, her clean, high voice soaring effortlessly towards the rafters. “I Don’t Mind” came first, folky jangle intact, but minus the spectral slide of the record. It was gorgeous anyway, its soft vocal melodies curving flute-y arcs in the air and closing in a whispered, “When the night reaches out, I will be there, I don’t mind, no I don’t mind.”

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Baird dipped back further into the catalogue for agile, light-fingered “The Land Turned Over,” which intersperses bluegrass-y twang into its guitar architecture and a country warble into Baird’s phrasings. “Mosquito Hawks” wandered closest into rock, with its slow, baroque finger work, punctuated by booming chords and strident, dissonant runs, while “Don’t Weigh Down the Light,” was, as you might expect, luminous with swelling light, guitar notes dropping like rounded beads of water into the stillness, Baird’s voice soft but piercing, exactly the way you’d expect a shaft of moonlight to sound if it sounded at all.

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Lee Ranaldo went next, also bringing an acoustic guitar but putting it to louder, more anarchic use. Loops, pedals and, in the first song, a bow, elicited squalls of thunder from a succession of unassuming wooden instruments. Close your eyes, and it might have been Sonic Youth. Ranaldo played songs from an album he’d just recorded with novelist Jonathan Lethem writing lyrics, so none of the material was familiar. The first cut, the one with the bowing and massed (and massive) overtones, was a Lou Reed-ish spoken word travelogue type of thing redolent of open highways and mind altering substances. “Let’s Start Again” felt more like conventional rock (the opening guitar bit reminded me of Neil Young’s “Old Man”), but it blossomed through looping and layering into a powerful, transforming racket. You wanted to check to make sure it was just one guitar still. (Though not always the same guitar. Ranaldo was the only one of the night to bring a rack of instruments and a guitar tech to keep them in tune.)

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There were a couple of other new songs, one called “Circular” about the repetitiveness of daily life, another called “Electric Trim” with some more impressive feedback, and a composition called “Uncle Skeleton,” which moved from goofy country to blistering noise and, somewhere in there, broke out that “face bone is connected to the neck bone” ditty. Overall, the new material seemed a bit less indie rock, a little more sound experimental than his last solo album. I only wrote down R.E.M. once, and I had just jotted down Velvet Underground (bullshit reference, by the way, all it means is rock with some buzz around the guitars) when he closed with a cover of VU’s “Oceans.”

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Steve Gunn closed with a low-key but wonderful set that seemed both effortless and really difficult. Only when you watch him do you realize how much he’s doing with his long elegant fingers, how quickly and precisely he moves them though complicated chord changes, bends and pull-offs. When you listen, it all sounds supremely laid back and day-dream-y, but as Yeats said about something entirely different, “we must labor to be beautiful.”

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It was “Night Wander” right off the bat, Gunn executing the glittering runs of Television-like notes in between terse verses about black cats and nocturnal rambles. Gunn seemed to be in a contemplative mood, as he introduced “Old Strange” (from 2013’s Time Off) as a song he’d written when an old friend disappeared; he was just as lost now, he admitted, on the eve of the Trump inauguration. The song is a slow, drone-y blues, a remnant of days when Gunn was primarily known as a guitar picker, but it had an undercurrent of angst as he played, the sharp starts of guitar like yelps when someone pokes a bruise. “Milly’s Garden” may have also had a Trump-ish undertone. When I interviewed Gunn a couple of years ago, he explained that it was inspired by a religious neighbor who kind of freaked him out. The line, “Your faith is savage, and your mind is damaged, you’re halfway home,” resonates in an eerie way now. Two songs from the new album, Eyes on the Lines came after, “Ark,” breaking its chiming chords and murmured folk jams for some guitar shredding and even a little bit of wah, and “Park Bench Smile” with its spiraling, baroque guitar figures, the song that welcomes you in, then pins you there, eyes pin wheeling to the psychedelic patterns that you see.

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Perhaps because he was in a church, Gunn got to reminiscing about the last show his father had attended before passing away, at what sounds like the chapel at First Unitarian Church in Philly. Gunn went over to say hi, and noticed his dad had a beer in his hand and asked how it felt to be drinking a beer in church for the first time. Mr. Gunn countered, “This is not my first time.”  And with that, Gunn launched into “Wildwood,” a song at least partly about summers on the Jersey Shore, and sad and sweet and folky as the story he told.

I was a little disappointed that the three artists didn’t get a chance to jam together, as they did at other venues, certainly Chicago, later in the tour. But maybe the thing to remember is not that their show at a little church in a little town in Vermont shut down early, but that it happened at all.

Photos courtesy of Brittain Shorter of Winooski’s Section Sign Records – a big BLURT thank-you! www.sectionsignrecords.com / www.soundcloud.com/sectionsignrecords

Link to the concert promoter: https://www.facebook.com/WakingWindows/

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Red Hot Chili Peppers 1/12/17, Memphis

Dates: January 12, 2017

Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis TN

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TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON

On the eve of Friday the 13th, the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought The Getaway tour to the home of the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tn.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been grooving since 1983. They came together while they were still in high school and have been rocking ever since. The band have had ups and downs along the way, but the band has always found a way to keep going and make chart topping hits. The new album was released in 2016 and has also quickly climbed the charts. This album is opening the Peppers up to a new generation of fans, while reminding us long time fans why they have always been one of our favorite bands ever! The RHCP’s will also be co-headlining the 2017 Bonnaroo festival this June in Tennessee. Look for Blurt’s extensive coverage of the Peppers and all other acts from the farm.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have always had a strong stage presence and they haven’t lost any energy over the years. At one point during the show Flea even did a hand stand and walked two thirds of the stage, that is impressive at any age little alone at 54 years young.

The show was a great mix of new and older music. My only wish is that the show could have been three to four hours long so that I could have relived more of the classics. There are just too many great songs to squeeze into a concert.

The Peppers have taken the light show to a whole new level. The entire length of the floor had the ceiling area covered with LED light tubes that could not only change color, but also being on metal cords. They could be lifted and lowered at will to make patterns such as a wave effects and patterns. This was the first time I’ve seen anything like this, but I suspect it won’t be the last!

Drummer Chad Smith was spotted in a local club on Beale Street sitting in and jamming with a local band the night before the concert. He must have had a good night in town because as the band came back out for the encore Chad was sporting a Memphis As Fu*k shirt.

The guys are headlining festivals and touring most of 2017, so make sure this is one show you don’t miss!

Text and Photos by: Mark Jackson / Instagram: @markjacksonphotography1  / Email: Mjaj93@bellsouth.net

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