Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kennedy Center Honors

"I believe Bob Dylan and James Brown had a son. His name was Bruce Springsteen." I'll drink to that. What a great guy, that Jon Stewart. Also a Jersey boy himself and a big fan, it seemed only appropriate he did the introduction speech for the Boss at the 32nd annual Kennedy Center Honors. Also honored were Robert De Niro (with a nice speech by Martin Scorsese), jazz legend Dave Brubeck, Mel Brooks and opera singer Grace Bumbry. All of the honorees were sitting beside President Obama and the First Lady.

I managed to catch the whole 2-hr broadcast. It was a real treat; all the segments were great, especially the stunning all-star jazz tribute to Dave Brubeck and the song & dance sequences from Mel Brooks' films. Bruce's segment was the last. After Jon's speech (and a short video montage narrated by him) Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, author of Born On The 4th Of July, came out to talk about how he and Bruce met back in the late 70's. I have to admit his speech brought tears to my eyes.

The tribute performances were quite good; it was a shame most of them were edited out. John Mellencamp did a haunting take of Born In The U.S.A. Man, you gotta love his southern drawl. I just love the way he sings. Ben Harper & Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland dueted together on I'm On Fire. Melissa Etheridge rocked out on Born To Run. But for me, the highlight was Eddie Vedder doing My City Of Ruins with a gospel choir. My hero honoring my hero. His voice just seemed so perfect for the song. During the song, the camera cut to a close-up of Bruce's face; he looked as if he was trying to hold back tears. That was priceless. Sting closed out the night with The Rising. During the last chorus, everyone in the house stood up. Funnily, Bruce looked really out of place, like he was embarrassed or something. Anyway, what a way to end the year.

Relive the night's moments:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Monday, December 28, 2009

One Year Anniversary

It's exactly one year since the day I first started this blog. My God, has time really passed. 2009 is by far the best year for me, musically speaking. From next year onwards, I hope to write about more music and also non-music stuff, and not just about The Boss. But for the time being, for lack of a better title, I'll just keep it as The Greatest Show On Earth. I'm actually aware that not many people visit (or know of) this blog, and sometimes I feel like I'm only 'talking' to myself. But I don't really give a hoot. Hopefully 50 years from now, I can look back on this and it'll all seem funny.

I'm so glad this year is finally over. My current 2010 resolution would be to try to attend as many gigs as possible. Right now, I got the fucking awesome Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Live Anthology to keep me company thru the new year...


As far back as I can remember, I only started getting into the show about four years ago. Man, it totally changed my view on television. Never have I come across a show so fucking funny, yet at the same time, so profound and deep, not to mention emotionally straining and heartbreaking. One moment you're laughing, and a second later, you are crying. It has happened to me several times while watching the series. And most of the time, there was also an important lesson to learn at the end of each episode.

Most of all, I just adore the characters and how they weave in and out of our lives; Hawkeye, BJ, Potter, Radar, Klinger, Margaret, Charles, Trapper, Klinger, Frank, and Henry Blake (why did they have to kill him off?!). They were no doubt some of the most memorable characters in television history. The first 4 or 5 seasons were fucking classic. By the time I reached the 11th and final season, the show got much less hysterical and more serious, but still great nonetheless.

The final episode (aired in 1983) ever still holds the record for the most watched television show in America. Unbelievable. I finally saw it for the first time. Two whole hours, played out just like a feature film. The final 15 minutes is one for the ages, where all the main characters stream out of the 4077 one by one, leaving Hawkeye and BJ together alone. Man, they looked fucking old. It seemed like the Korean war had been going on for eleven years. But their last scene together just killed me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Songs

Not a big fan of the X'mas songs, but here are some of my favorites:

Merry Christmas Baby - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

White Christmas - Frank Sinatra

Let It Snow - Dean Martin

The Christmas Song - James Taylor, Diana Krall

Have Yourself Have A Merry Little Christmas - James Taylor, Diana Krall

River - Joni Mitchell

Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis - Tom Waits

Happy Christmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon

Christmas Song - Dave Matthews

The Christmas Blues - Bob Dylan

All Alone On Christmas - Darlene Love

Sunday, December 13, 2009

BEST OF THE DECADE (2000 - 2009)

This decade has produced loads of great music. We saw the slow death of the boyband, the rise of hip-hop and indie rock, and many classic bands reuniting. If there's one thing I'm grateful for this decade, it's the Internet, for bringing the music to us faster than anyone could've imagined. Unfortunately, this revolution has also caused the extreme decline of album sales.

Most music magazines have already revealed their top 100 albums and songs of the decade, with Rolling Stone having the best lists. So I thought I'd do my own list of favorite albums. It was pretty fun doing it, being able to look through the many great records from the past ten years (some of which I haven't heard in years), and selecting the top 50 ones from a list of over a 100. Some of these albums on my list may not be the best (and there were many more good ones that didn't make the list), but these were the ones that certainly meant a lot to me personally.

Top 50 Albums Of The Decade:

1. Magic - Bruce Springsteen (2007)

2. Elephant - The White Stripes (2003)

3. Modern Times - Bob Dylan (2006)

4. The Rising - Bruce Springsteen (2002)

5. That Lucky Old Sun - Brian Wilson (2008)

6. Backspacer - Pearl Jam (2009)

7. The '59 Sound - The Gaslight Anthem (2008)

8. Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King - Dave Matthews Band (2009)

9. No Line On The Horizon - U2 (2009)

10. Gold - Ryan Adams (2001)

11. Taking The Long Way - Dixie Chicks (2006)

12. American IV: The Man Comes Around - Johnny Cash (2002)

13. Boys & Girls In America - The Hold Steady (2007)

14. Graduation - Kanye West (2007)

15. American Idiot - Green Day (2004)

16. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb - U2 (2004)

17. Neon Bible - Arcade Fire (2007)

18. To The 5 Boroughs - Beastie Boys (2004)

19. Under The Blacklight - Rilo Kiley (2007)

20. Love & Theft - Bob Dylan (2001)

21. Easy Tiger - Ryan Adams (2007)

22. A Ghost Is Born - Wilco (2004)

23. Smile - Brian Wilson (2004)

24. Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch (2008)

25. Streets Of New York - Willie Nile (2006)

26. American Gangster - Jay-Z (2007)

27. Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam (2006)

28. Into The Wild - Eddie Vedder (2007)

29. Icky Thump - The White Stripes (2007)

30. Back To Black - Amy Winehouse (2006)

31. Cardinology - Ryan Adams & The Cardinals (2008)

32. Evil Urges - My Morning Jacket (2008)

33. Death Magnetic - Metallica (2008)

34. Get Behind Me Satan - The White Stripes (2005)

35. Accelerate - R.E.M. (2008)

36. October Road - James Taylor (2002)

37. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco (2002)

38. Warpaint - The Black Crowes (2008)

39. Stadium Arcadium - Red Hot Chili Peppers (2006)

40. Love Is Hell - Ryan Adams (2004)

41. Late Registration - Kanye West (2005)

42. Prairie Wind - Neil Young (2005)

43. West - Lucinda Williams (2007)

44. All That You Can't Leave Behind - U2 (2000)

45. Sky Blue Sky - Wilco (2007)

46. Continuum - John Mayer (2006)

47. Viva La Vida - Coldplay (2008)

48. In Rainbows - Radiohead (2007)

49. The Girl In The Other Room - Diana Krall (2004)

50. Patti Scialfa - 23rd Street Lullaby (2004)

Top 10 Films Of The Decade:

1. Almost Famous (2000)

The Departed (2006)

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

5. Milk (2008)

6. There Will Be Blood (2007)

7. A History Of Violence (2005)

8. Mystic River (2003)

9. Into The Wild (2007)

10. The Wrestler (2008)


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN is no doubt the hardest working artist in the music business over the past 10 years or so. I'm gonna try to summarize as much as possible here. It all started in 1999, when Bono inducted Bruce into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, the first year of his eligibility. A few months before turning 50, he decided to reunite and tour with the legendary E Street Band. The reunion tour kicked off in Barcelona, and when the band first reached the States, they played a whopping fifteen night stand at New Jersey's Meadowlands, and finished the tour with ten straight shows at Madison Square Garden.

Bruce was about to make a new record with the band when the tragic events of September 11 occurred. The Rising was released 10 months later in 2002. It was also the year when I discovered Bruce and ultimately, Rock & Roll music. It felt like I was born again in 2002. The Rising was in constant rotation everyday for at least two years. It was the first record that truly meant something to me. I can't even begin to emphasize the enormous cultural significance of this album. It was the first great piece of art in a post-Sep 11th world, and it's a real shame that Bruce wasn't awarded Album Of The Year at the 2003 Grammy Awards. Nevertheless, a hugely successful world tour followed, that lasted for a year and a half, including an unbeaten ten night run at Giants Stadium.

Usually, after a big tour is over, one might think that the artist would take a few years off. Not for Bruce. I'll always remember 2004 as the year when the many great musicians of America fought to reclaim their country from the tyranny of Dubya. And luckily for me, I was big fans of most of these artists (Pearl Jam, DMB, Dixie Chicks, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, R.E.M.). Bruce was one of the artists who openly supported John Kerry, occasionally playing at his big rallies close to Election Day. No Surrender became Kerry's official campaign song. But we all know how the elections turned out eventually. But looking back, the Vote For Change Tour really opened my eyes to the world of American politics and the power of music to change the world, while of course, discovering many more great artists along the way.

2005 was another fruitful year for Springsteen, as he channeled his anger and despair from the presidential elections into the brilliant record Devils & Dust. A solo tour soon followed, which was a real treat for all the fans. Bruce dusted off his big songbook and surprised everyone by playing very obscure songs. This was when I really started to get into the business of trading and obtaining bootlegs, which is one of the greatest treasures music has to offer.

Less than a year after the solo D&D tour, Bruce was back on the road yet again, following the release of We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, this time with a very big band, playing the most joyous music I've ever heard in my life; the melting pot of American music. I still listen to that album from time to time. It feels like you're in church, worshipping God, with Bruce as the preacher, and his backing band as his choir and congregation. If you wanna learn about the musical history of America, start with The Seeger Sessions.

2007 marked the return of the E Street Band. Just when I thought Bruce couldn't top The Rising, he goes on to make one of his best albums since 1975's Born To Run. I won't go into detail, but I'll say this: Magic worked because the songs could be interpreted on two levels, the political and personal. I listen to Long Walk Home, and can't help but think that the character is the same as the one in songs like Thunder Road, Racing In The Street, The River, Atlantic City, Born In The U.S.A.. Through these songs, we saw the evolution, through one man's eyes, a once innocent American society that has long moved away from its democratic values. Long Walk Home is like the end of a thirty year journey.

2007 would also mark the start of a two year tour with the E Street Band, their best ever tour. But it was in 2008, when the band got much stronger after the untimely death of keyboardist, Danny Federici. I think I speak for my fellow fans that the band played some of their best shows of their career since then. And now comes the part where I name-check the greatest live band ever: Nils Lofgren, Steve Van Zandt, Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, Charles Giordano, Patti Scialfa, Soozie Tyrell, and last but not least, the Big Man, Clarence Clemons.

Working On A Dream came out during a time when America was slowly moving towards the right direction, with Barack Obama becoming President and all. In January 2009, at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in front of 100,000 people, Bruce opened the historical inauguration concert for Obama with a emotional gospel version of The Rising. The song, originally written in response to the Sep 11th tragedy, would now take on a whole new meaning. This year also saw Bruce winning over a younger generation of fans as the band played the Superbowl and world's biggest music festivals (i.e. Bonnaroo and Glastonbury). And for me personally, my first Springsteen show ever in London would be a significant turning point in my life. After seven years of waiting, I had finally witnessed the Greatest Show On Earth. Towards the end of the tour, The E Street Band did what very few live bands have done, which is play all their classic albums in their entirety. But all good things must eventually come to an end.

At an age where many start to falter and play safe, Bruce didn't fall prey to becoming a nostalgic act. Just look at all the memorable songs he has written over the past decade, many of them which stand shoulder to shoulder with his classics from the 70's and 80's. They've already become staples and crowd favorites in his live shows. And speaking of live shows, he has played over 500 of them in just this decade alone! I'm real certain Bruce will continue making music for many many more years to come. For the time being, it seems like we won't hear much from him in 2010. But who knows, Bruce always likes to surprise us....

Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs Of The Decade:

1. The Rising

2. Long Walk Home

3. Kingdom Of Days

4. My City Of Ruins

5. The Wrestler

6. Girls In Their Summer Clothes

7. Long Time Comin'

8. A Night With The Jersey Devil

9. The Last Carnival

10. Radio Nowhere

BEST OF 2009

2009 was another great year for music, with the exception of Micheal Jackson's sudden death of course. Most of my favorite bands put out new albums, and I got to see most of them live in concert. And we also got to see the second coming of the Beatles, with the absolutely fantastic Rock Band game and the even better entire reissued catalog. We still owe a lot of our lives to them.

Top 10 Albums Of 2009:

1. Backspacer - Pearl Jam
PJ, soon approaching their 20th year as a band, is still going strong. Backspacer isn't groundbreaking in any way, but listening to this record, you just can't help but feel an immense amount of joy overwhelm you. This is one of those rare records that make you believe in the power of rock & roll to heal people. Seriously, there hasn't been a band that made a rock record this good since The White Stripes' Elephant.

2. Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King - Dave Matthews Band
DMB's comeback album after their previous two mediocre ones, and their best one in over ten years. As much as I hate to say it, this definitely had something to do with Leroi Moore's death last year. Not only is every song good here, I particularly like the way they are sequenced. This album is so 'full' of music that every time I listen to it, I always hear stuff I never heard before. Big Whiskey is a heartfelt tribute to a fallen comrade.

3. No Line On The Horizon - U2
U2 has been making consistently great music over the past twenty years, despite their selling themselves out many times. It's no doubt that No Line is their best since 1991's Achtung Baby. I like that the band didn't really take the 'commercial route' this time (thanks to Brian Eno); instead they challenged themselves and made an album that makes you wanna pay attention to all the songs, rather than just one or two standout songs. Some of the best work of their career (i.e. Magnificent, Moment Of Surrender, Unknown Caller, Breathe) can be found here.

4. Together Through Life - Bob Dylan
Dylan, already in his late 60's, still proves he's got the chops, and can easily wipe the floor with any young recording artist. The feel of this album is quite similar to his previous two classics, 2006's Modern Times and 2001's Love And Theft; in a way, Together Through Life is the last of the great trilogy. This time however, he adds the accordion on every song, which actually is a good thing, like a breath of fresh air. Many people might disagree, but I think he still has a fucking awesome voice; a voice that can't be imitated, no matter how hard you try. The man has put a unique stamp on his songs; you listen to them, and even without the singing, you can almost immediately tell it's a Dylan song.

5. Before The Frost...Until The Freeze - The Black Crowes
It took me a while to get into this album, but once I did, I was absolutely floored. The double album (one more rock & roll, and the other acoustic) was all recorded live at Levon Helm's studio, and it shows what great musicians they are. The Crowes have earned their rightful place as one of the greatest southern rock bands of all time. This is one band I have to see live.

6. Wilco (The Album) - Wilco
This is probably the band's most easily accessible album since 1999's Summerteeth. Lots of fun pop songs here. It's amazing when you look back at Wilco's incredible output this decade, from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to A Ghost Is Born to Sky Blue Sky, and now to their self-titled release. Every one of these albums is totally different from each other. One of my favorite songs this year has got to be You Never Know, a very uplifting 'George Harrison-inspired' tune, which IMO, should've gotten a Grammy nomination for Song Of The Year.

7. Revolution - Miranda Lambert
I got many good things to say about this Nashville girl. Forget Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift; Miranda Lambert is the real deal, the best thing to happen to modern country music since the Dixie Chicks. She has a nice way of injecting her quirky and funny lyrics into those beautiful ballads, and she's an incredibly sincere singer too. After listening to Revolution, one thing's for certain; she don't take shit from anybody.

8. Monsters Of Folk - Monsters Of Folk
Sometimes a supergroup can be a very good thing. Four talented guys from three different bands (Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, She & Him) get together to make a diverse record rich of musical styles. So it's not entirely a folk album, contrary to what the title might suggest. The best songs here are the ones where Jim James takes the lead vocals, with his beautiful falsetto voice. Being a fan of MMJ, I immediately fell in love with this album.

9. Horehound - The Dead Weather
I vote for Jack White as the breakthrough artist of this decade. He's like the Prince of our generation. This time, he's keeping a low profile by playing the drums, and he does it pretty fucking good as well. Alison Mosshart (from The Kills) is the lead singer here, and she never made the blues sounded so dirty and good. I get chills whenever I listen to this. Check out the kick-ass cover of a Dylan song, New Pony.

10. Working On A Dream - Bruce Springsteen
In my most honest opinion, the Boss is THE artist of the decade. Bruce decided to take things down a notch after his two previous heavy albums, The Rising and Magic, making a lighthearted record, with an ode to the wonderful pop music of the 60's, full of beautiful harmonies and catchy melodies. This is one of the most underrated albums of 2009.

Top 10 Songs Of 2009:

1. Amongst The Waves - Pearl Jam

2. Lying In The Hands Of God - Dave Matthews Band

3. Magnificent - U2

4. Why I Am - Dave Matthews Band

5. Unthought Known - Pearl Jam

6. Kingdom Of Days - Bruce Springsteen

7. You Never Know - Wilco

8. Backwards Down The Number Line - Phish

9. Empire State Of Mind - Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

10. I Feel A Change Comin' On - Bob Dylan

Top 5 Gigs Of 2009:

1. Pearl Jam -- Nov 14, Perth

2. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band -- Jun 28, Hyde Park

3. Neil Young -- Jun 27, Hyde Park

4. Dave Matthews Band -- Jun 26, Brixton Academy

5. The Gaslight Anthem -- Jun 28, Hyde Park

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pearl Jam Tour Posters 08/09

While I'm still at the subject of Pearl Jam, I thought it'd be nice to put up all the beautiful posters from this year's and last year's tour. Thanks to the 10c for the scans!!