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CRITICS CHOICE
HALL & OATES AND ROBERT PLANT: VOICES FOR THE AGES
6/15/18
By Phil Gallo Halfway through their summer tour with Train, Daryl Hall and John Oates delivered the sort of hits-packed show Thursday they have been delivering the last few years as they make their way around the country in the warmer months. That the concert was held in Madison Square Garden, which was packed to the rafters, and continues to venues such as Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and The Forum in L.A., speaks volumes about the lasting qualities of their music and the significant vocal talents of the two men. The duo, the best-selling ever, are peaking commercially as a touring act. That was unfathomable a decade ago. Amazingly, in the 10 years since their electrifying set at The Troubadour that resulted in a live album and DVD, they’ve been piling up the accolades from peers, young musicians and a growing fan base that crosses generation and demographics; it has led to larger venues, more cities on each trek and an introduction before each show as Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Just think, 11 years ago, Daryl Hall was focusing his efforts into bringing little-known newcomers and old friends to his studio in upstate New York to film a web series while doing the occasional weekend show with Oates in markets that were usually secondary and tertiary. The web series, Live From Daryl’s House, which became a syndicated TV show, revealed what fans have long known: Hall is one of the most gifted vocalists of the rock & roll era. Now, at 71, his voice retains the expressiveness of his youth as he passionately rips through the classics “She’s Gone,” “I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)” and “You Make My Dreams” with no sense of nostalgic yearning. The songs may be played on oldies radio, but the live interpretations are fresh and urgent. They do this despite keeping a good three-quarters of the songs locked-in to their recorded versions, using the rest as launch-pads for solos, extended group interplay and, during the finale of “Private Eyes,” a lengthy sing-along. None of it is excessive, merely a reinforcement of how solid Daryl Hall and John Oates have been as live performers for nearly five decades. They have a new record, “Philly Forget Me Not”, recorded with Train, and Train frontman Pat Monahan joined Hall and Oates for three songs late in the set, the new one, “Wait for Me” and “Calling All Angels.” Bringing the talents together gives the show a distinct 2018 air—it would have been a delight to hear Tears For Fears with them during last year’s joint tour—but you can easily guess which vocalist out-sang the other. Speaking of fresh and urgent…The day before Daryl & John played the Garden, Robert Plant performed at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens. Obviously a defining voice of the late ‘60s and all of the 1970s, Plant has become a calmer, more controlled singer, and they work marvelously in his current fusion of Delta blues, Middle Eastern rhythms and a soft twang offered by his fabulous band, the Sensational Space Shifters. (Hard as it may be to believe but Plant is a little less than two years younger than Hall.) He can still wail—“Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” rises seamlessly from the guttural to the ethereal—though he mostly works from the center of a song and works his way out rather than starting from the fringes as so many Led Zeppelin songs do. Songs in the set from his stellar Nonesuch release from last year, Carry Fire, and its predecessor lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar reinforce Plant’s position as a vital innovator. The evidence is in the polyrhythms underneath the welcoming melodies of “The May Queen” and “Carry Fire’”; the Chuck Berry-reduced-to-a-molten flow “Turn It Up”; and the early ‘60s R&B-Celtic rhythm mashup of “Rainbow.” Plant’s tour stops at Arroyo Seco Weekend on 6/24. Daryl Hall and John Oates and Led Zeppelin had little in common in the 1970s. Today, though, they stand of beacons of rock & roll styles many fear will disappear from the mainstream. While there’s little doubt their songs stand up to tests of time, it’s amazing and gratifying to find the artists standing up so brilliantly as well.
REVISITING BRUCE ON BROADWAY
5/4/18
By Phil Gallo In revisiting Springsteen on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theater nearly seven months after first seeing it, Bruce Springsteen has turned it into a better show these days. He is looser than in the performances that earned him raves back in October, moving more onstage and integrating extra dynamics into the show through simple actions—stepping away from the mic or pushing the volume of a guitar. At that October show I felt a subtle distinction between the portions of his autobiography he reads and the material written for the show; that separation is gone. He has a better sense of how to play for laughs and how to pause after lines get a round of approving applause—he’s not just playing himself, he’s learned how to use the skills of an actor to more dramatically tell a story. At that first show, “Brilliant Disguise,” “Tougher Than the Rest,” “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run” were favorites; this time it was the medley of “Dancing in the Dark” and “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” “My Hometown” and “Long Walk Home.” In a Broadway season when complaints abound regarding the paltry selection of musical offerings, Springsteen continues to deliver a show that will be talked about for decades. And, one hopes, may inspire others to consider the Broadway stage when the opportunity arises.
EL GOODO REDUX
4/26/18
It was 25 years and one day ago that the reborn Big Star—original members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens, plus Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow—played a historic show in the parking lot of the Missouri Tigers’ basketball arena in Columbia, which became the title of the ensuing live album on Zoo. Our own Karen Glauber and Bud Scoppa, who have some history with the legendary cult band, wouldn’t have missed this special occasion for the world. Immediately below, engineer/producer Jim Rondinelli remembers that magical day and the events leading up to it. “25 years ago, on one of the proudest if most intensely stressful days of my life, I had the honor of recording Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer for the Big Star Columbia album. “We had a few days of rehearsals in Seattle, but logistics precluded a full sound check on the day of the show. The final album is presented as the show was played---one shot, no overdubs. Oh yeah—I should mention that this show of a lifetime was happening outdoors in a leaky tent. “This shot was taken behind the old MetroMobile remote truck just after we completed recording. [Zoo’s] Bud Scoppa fearlessly supported my scheme to capture the show as a record from day one, and deftly shepherded the album to release. I remember Karen Glauber, James Barber, Scott Byron and I all being in a state of disbelief that it actually happened. Some feared Alex wouldn’t show. I never did. And despite his reputation, let it be known that Alex was a dream to work with from rehearsals through the completion. “Somehow, it did happen. And somehow, the rain held off until evening. I feel lucky to this day just to have been there to see it all happen. “I do miss those days.”
AN ERIC ANDERSON CELEBRATION
4/10/18
The lack of space on the stage at New York’s City Vineyard gave Eric Andersen little reason for pause Monday night. He just lined up his guest musicians in the audience at the record release concert at for his Sony Legacy/Real Gone compilation The Essential Eric Andersen, which covers music he recorded for Columbia, Arista, Warner Bros., Smithsonian Folkways and others between 1964 and 2010. Joining Anderson, who spent more than two hours covering his history from 1965’s “Dusty Box Car Wall” up to a new song he recently recorded, were, from left, guitarist Lenny Kaye, saxophonist Robert Aaron, Jayhawks member and Legacy exec John Jackson and guitarist Steve Addabbo. The well-traveled folk musician, who told tales about Rick Danko, Lord Byron and Lou Reed between affecting performances of “Blue River,” “Violets of Dawn” and “You Can’t Relive the Past,” is heading out on a 17-city tour that stops at McCabe’s in Santa Monica on 5/5.
ARE WE NOT MEN? NO, WE'RE A BOOK
3/21/18
Gerald V Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh have raided their archives for photos, artworks and memories to tell the story of DEVO from riots at Kent State University in 1970, through punk and new wave, and onto international superstardom. DEVO: The Brand/DEVO: Unmasked is a 2-in-1 upside-down book. The Brand contains music press interviews from major British and U.S. publications; Unmasked is packed with rare and unseen photos of the band from the 1960s to the present day. Casale and Mothersbaugh contribute testimony and commentary. Besides the classic version, there is a limited run Signature edition that contains the two books as separate volumes inside a hand-crafted, rubberized clamshell box, signed by the band and containing a vintage DEVO artwork. Preorders have begun here. For old-timers looking for that perfect sipper to consume while reading the book, try one of Casale's fine pinots.
RHINO SPREADS LOVE
3/19/18
Forever Changes, Love’s beloved masterwork from 1968 that has only been fully appreciated and honored in the last 15 years, will recive a 50th anniversary release from Rhino on 4/6. The set includes the CD-debut of a remastered version made by its original co-producer and engineer Bruce Botnick, as well as the first-ever release of the mono version on CD. Also included are alternate mixes of the album, as well as a selection of rare and unreleased singles and studio outtakes. Botnick's stereo remaster of the original album also makes its vinyl debut on the LP included with this set. It was cut from high resolution digital audio by audio engineer Bernie Grundman. The DVD that accompanies the anniversary collection includes a 24/96 stereo mix of the album version of the original album remastered by Botnick. Also featured is "Your Mind and We Belong Together," a rare promotional video directed by Elektra producer Mark Abramson in 1968, and a 12 x 12 hardbound book. A pioneering psychedelic folk-rock album, Forever Changes was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008 and four years later added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. Love mastermind Arthur Lee was performing the album in its entirety on tour in the three years prior to his death in 2006.
JIMI'S LATEST SIDES
3/9/18
by Simon Glickman I won't lie—it warms my heart to see Jimi Hendrix on the iTunes Top 10. The late, great artist's Both Sides of the Sky (Experience Hendrix/Legacy) collects some studio excursions from the last year or so his life; it's an impressive sampling of his stylistic range. There's some typically expressive blues (including a memorable "Georgia Blues" with Lonnie Youngblood on vocal and sax) and a number of workouts with his Band of Gypsys rhythm section of Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. Stephen Stills shows up to play organ and sing "$20 Fine" and Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" (on which Jimi switches to bass and plays an elastic, riveting solo on four strings). There's a powerful instrumental version of "Angel," here called "Sweet Angel," with some lithe vibraphone touches. Sometimes it's just Jimi and Buddy working out a song, an instructive demonstration of the latter's pocket. There's even a smidge of sitar on closer "Cherokee Mist," one of four cuts with Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. The great engineer Eddie Kramer oversaw the assembly of this set, and it's also further testament to his skill at realizing Hendrix's sonic ambitions. It may not be essential Jimi, but as a deep dive it's damn satisfying.
WEIR & LESH CATCH A PHISH
3/5/18
Phish’s Trey Anastasio spent Saturday night rolling deep into the Grateful Dead’s back catalog with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh at Radio City Music Hall, the second of six dates by the Dead’s guitarist and bassist on their first-ever duo tour. After a 70-minute opening set highlighted by Weir and Lesh riffing their way through a medley of “Cassidy” and “Touch of Grey,” the trio and drummer Wally Ingram delivered lengthy interpretations of “Playing in the Band,” “The Wheel” and “Dark Star.” They saved “Ripple” for last, which received a rather loud sing-along. The duo tour heads to Boston (3/7-8) and Chicago (3/10-11). Lesh has three festival gigs with his Terrapin Family Band—3/16-18 in Chandler, Ariz., 4/19-21 in Live Oak, Fla., and 5/25-27 in Geneva, Minn.—and a show with Steve Winwood at Port Chester, N.Y.’s Capitol Theatre on 3/14. Weir resumes touring with Dead & Co. on 5/30 with a 26-show tour that includes stops at New York’s Citi Field on 6/15-16 and Dodger Stadium on 7/7.
REVIEW: DAVID BOWIE IS IN NEW YORK
3/1/18
Photo credit: John Robert Rowlands By Phil Gallo Since 2012, the David Bowie Is exhibit has made its way to 11 venues, among them Chicago, Berlin and its starting place, London. It’s been seen by 1.79m people. Bowie wanted its tour to end where he did, in New York City, and on Friday it will open at the Brooklyn Museum for a four-month run through 7/15. London’s Victoria and Albert Museum organized the exhibit with the intention that it be like no other museum presentation it has presented. They have succeeded. It’s a compelling, immersive experience that, for fans who will undoubtedly connect with certain videos and artifacts, is quite emotional as well. David Bowie Is positions Bowie as a thinker, an integrationist who turns ideas from philosophy, literature, Little Richard and theater into music. It’s a celebration of his bold inventions of characters and costumes, and adaptations of musical styles that one would be surprised to find in a single record collection let alone one artist’s oeuvre: Philly soul, glam rock, pre-WWII German songs, electronic music and, eventually, the free jazz he listened to as a teenager. The exhibit, which includes about 100 items not shown at other stops, is set up to engage the viewer and force them to examine elements of Bowie’s life in depth. Visitors are giving headphones—which wonderfully prevents sound bleeds and makes the exhibit feel rather intimate—and in the early part of the exhibit, we hear Bowie speak about his childhood, his ambitions as an artist, where he got his ides and his thoughts about what he might have been had music not panned out. (Answer: A novelist.) Soon the audio becomes a musical soundtrack, songs paired with the visual you’re facing: Bowie performing “Starman” on Top of the Pops; a Saturday Night Live performance from 1979; “fame” on Soul Train”; videos of “Space Oddity,” “Boys Keep Swinging,” “Dancing for Blue Jean,” “Blackstar” and more. Each video is surrounded by the pertinent costumes and/or lyric sheets. For the man who coined the phrase Sound + Vision, the organizers could have just as easily used that title for the exhibit as it does focus on the relationship between Bowie’s visuals and his music. Unlike most exhibits dedicated to musicians, there are few instruments—just the EMS synthesizers used on “Heroes”; the “Space Oddity” 12-string, the banjo from Baal and the saxophone used on Pinups—no collection of album covers with metadata or chart positions on a label; no photos capturing the artist performing in clubs or in front of thousands of fans. The set up in 25 “areas” is loosely chronological—his school days are at the entrance and Blackstar artifacts fill the space before the well-stocked gift shop—but in no way does it delve into specifics about his career path or how popular one era might be compared with the next; there are more items related to his late ‘80s Glass Spider tour and the albums Never Let Me Down and Tonight and than one of his commercial peaks, the Let’s Dance album from 1983 and its Serious Moonlight tour. An uninformed visitor would be well-served to show up with a Bowie timeline or at least a Wikipedia page. By focusing on Bowie as an artist, it is an astonishing statement about change and evolution, how Bowe’s characters such as Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke made an impression and then were cast off. The exhibit, which has about 500 objects and about 60 costumes, is filled with sketches and photos that reveal how album covers and stage sets came about. There’s also a collection of clips from his film roles and an area devoted to his run on Broadway in The Elephant Man. The smallest object in the exhibition is his coke spoon from the early 1970s. Toward the end of the exhibit, a room shows concert footage from multiple periods. (I could have sat there for hours), and in the final hallway, there’s a behind-the-scenes film of Bowie playing guitar and singing during a Herb Ritts photo shoot. It personalizes the collection, giving you the sense he was a playful, approachable and joyous spirit, happy to engage and share. Details on the exhibit, which has a mega-deluxe package, can be found here. Photo credits: Heroes contact sheet, Masayoshi Sukita; Aladdin Sane contact sheet, Photo Duffy; The Kon-rads, Roy Ainsworth
THE DARK HORSE
2/26/18
On what would have been George Harrison's 75th birthday, we take you back to December 2001, just after his death, compelling Bud Scoppa to recall his day with the Quiet Beatle at Friar Park in 1974. The A&M Records lot was abuzz one day in early 1974 as word spread that a bona fide member of rock's royalty was scheduled to arrive at Herb & Jerry's Camelot on N. La Brea. As it turned out, George Harrison didn't show up with the expected fanfare; in fact, we wouldn't have known he was among us if the A&M campus hadn't been so open. We peeked out of our office windows as Jerry Moss greeted George and escorted the ex-Beatle to his office near the front gate. Later, a rumor circulated that Johnny the Guard, the celebrity-challenged keeper of the gate, had refused entry to Harrison on the grounds that his name wasn't on Johnny's list. Rather than kicking up a fuss, the rumor went, George meekly walked to the Safeway next door and used a pay phone to call Moss' office to secure a pass. I don't know if it really happened that way, but I want to believe it, because that was the kind of guy George seemed to be... Story continues here
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