Monday, December 27, 2010
1. Le Noise - Neil Young
2. Mojo - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
3. The Union - Elton John & Leon Russell
4. American Slang - The Gaslight Anthem
5. The Suburbs - Arcade Fire
6. Croweology - The Black Crowes
7. Reimagines Gershwin - Brian Wilson
8. The Big To-Do - Drive-By Truckers
9. No Better Than This - John Mellencamp
10. The Guitar Song - Jamey Johnson
I haven't got a chance to review this before. Liked most new and lesser known artists, I discovered this man through Rolling Stone's praising review of his latest double album. My verdict? Jamey Johnson is the most badass male country singer I've heard since Cash. He's one of the new generation of the outlaw country genre. This record showcases great live raw musicianship and stellar songwriting over 25 songs. A man bares his soul for us here.
White Crosses - Against Me!
High Violet - The National
Heaven Is Whenever - The Hold Steady
Love It To Life - Jesse Malin & The St. Marks Social
Street Songs Of Love - Alejandro Escovedo
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
The sound is much clearer from the front and also much louder, more 'in your face'. And the view is spectacular. Not too far so I can get a good view of the band, and not too near so I can experience the magic of the claw. I think this is the best way to experience U2 360. It's just so surreal, standing amongst the huge crowd -- brings me back to the Springsteen and Neil Young gigs last year. And somehow the light show looks so much better from the GA area.
From the get-go, I know this is gonna be a special night. Stingray Guitar has Bono and Edge going through the same routine (on the outer circle) as last night. But I get the feeling that there's more passion in the performance, and that goes the same for the rest of the night. Tonight Beautiful Day ends with a little Rain (Beatles), and Mysterious Ways with a Beyonce snippet (her hit Single Ladies). A great New Year's Day replaces I Will Follow, and Bono also makes a Christmas reference by having the crowd sing along to John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) after I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. I fondly remember him saying at the end "Happy Christmas John. Happy Christmas Yoko." That made my day.
At this point, I really thought we were gonna get Bad finally. But the band launches into All I Want Is You, last played at Sydney #2. The crowd ate this one up. And then came Love Rescue Me, a fairly short version but still great nonetheless. We're one of the lucky ones to hear it. If that weren't enough, comes the Rattle & Hum triple shot. Desire finally makes its live debut this year. Simply outstanding; and it's not often you have Bono playing harmonica. For In A Little While, Bono picks two kids from the front. The following Miss Sarajevo seems more poignant tonight; not only does he show off his operatic prowess, he also makes the song as relevant as ever.
Another snippet: a little Discotheque during Crazy Tonight; seems appropriate given the techno beat. The next song, Sunday Bloody Sunday, never rocked so hard; it definitely blows the previous night's one away. By the end of Walk On, the band's already in another stratosphere. Not to diss last night's performance, but tonight certainly triumphs it. This time Streets hit me more emotionally; I feel like Bono is singing directly to me. We can say whatever unpleasant things we want about him, but when it comes to fronting a band, he's up there with the best, no doubt about it.
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me is rotated back into the set. Awesome awesome song; Edge's guitars rock on this one. Bono also does more swinging around on the mike here. The last surprise of the night comes right before Moment Of Surrender, where Bono leads everyone into singing a bit of Party Girl, as requested by a fan at the front. By the time the show ends, U2 has already gone way past its curfew, but they look like they're in no rush to leave. The last shot we see is them walking to the back and waving & thanking the crowd. Elton John's Rocket Man plays over the PA as the screen shows some fun footage of the astronauts in the Space Station. Now I'm emotionally exhausted. I guess there's a little sadness that comes with it; as we probably won't be seeing U2 in a quite a long time. But I'm glad I managed to witness the biggest and most ambitious tour ever mounted. Just a truly unique way to experience the power that is Rock & Roll.Thank you Adam, Larry, Dave and Paul for giving us so much.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Fast forward to 6:30pm. Beastie Boys' No Sleep Till Brooklyn blares loudly from the PA as the 15min timer starts counting down to the opening act. Jay-Z walks out to his hit song Run This Town. He's backed by a ten-piece live band (including a horn section); not bad for a rapper. I'm mostly familiar with the stuff from Blueprint and Blueprint 3. 99 Problems is one of my favorites, so is Empire State Of Mind, which obviously gets the biggest cheer. Some interesting notes; the band plays the intro of Jackson Five's I Want You Back as he raps the chorus of Izzo. Towards the end, Jay-Z does some ad-libbing over a Radiohead sample. He jokingly introduces the next act as a little band who is sure to become famous soon. From my vantage point, it looks like the crowd is already fired up as he humbly leaves the stage. A job well done.
As the U2 crew sets up the amps and instruments, a clock shows up on the screen, but running unusually fast. About 8:30pm as the hands strike twelve midnight, the soft acoustic guitar strains of David Bowie's Space Oddity can be heard. Then, "Ground Control to Major Tom". The moment has finally arrived. The crowd behind the stage makes the most noise first. Then the four Irish lads appear on the screen as they strut to take their positions and the whole stadium goes off.
The houselights remain on as the Edge plays the opening riff to Stingray Guitar. Bono wastes no time walking to the outer circle, doing some funky cat walk. It's a fantastic way to start off the show, when you can see everyone in the audience going crazy. As the song ends, the stadium goes dark as the band launches into Beautiful Day. I remember falling in love with the song ten years ago, and now I can't believe I'm hearing it live for the first time. Then the band goes all the way back thirty years with I Will Follow, well received by all those in my area. I'm not particularly a fan of Get On Your Boots, but this live version rocks like hell. It starts off with the cool 'Let me in the Sound' refrain. Edge's guitar is so loud and piercing it's hard not to enjoy the song. We are treated to some nice accompanying visuals. And let's not forget the claw; there are shit loads of lights under every leg, and also on the spire. It's the main reason why this show works they way it does.
"Where are we going?" Bono gives a shout-out to Fremantle and Perth at the start of Magnificent, already in the book as one of the best U2 stadium songs. This is followed by the usual but always great crowd pleasing hits, Mysterious Ways and Elevation. Next up is Until The End Of The World, which features some awesome interplay between Bono and Edge. At the end of the song, they stand on the middle of the bridges, as their hands reach out to each other, as the bridges close in. Imagine standing right below those moving bridges. Bono also sings a short snippet of Leonard Cohen's Anthem here. Then the band takes a breather as Bono introduces the members. At every show, he makes an effort to do this in different interesting ways. This time he compares the band to different cricket players, and appropriately so since the Ashes (England vs. Australia) is in town the same weekend. Unfortunately, the references go right over my head.
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For is especially emotional for me. For the first verse, Bono leaves it to us to sing. It's one concert moment I'll never forget. The following two songs are the ones that rotate constantly every show. As Bono introduces the next one as a new unreleased song, I immediately think Mercy(!!!). But we get North Star instead, a tender stripped-down ballad with Edge on electric guitar. Then up comes Pride and the crowd goes wild again. During In A Little While, Bono picks a lucky young lady from the inner circle and serenades her. The same spaceship theme is left unchanged, as the video screen shows the commander of the International Space Station reciting some lyrics from the song. Next is Miss Sarajevo, definitely one of the highlights of the night. Bono nails Pavarotti's part perfectly.
Then comes one of my favorite parts of the night. There's a nice talking segue-way leading into City Of Blinding Lights, where the giant LED screen slowly descends and spreads out into tiny screens. This is where the claw really takes off. City has the prettiest lights of all, and rightfully so. It still blows my mind just thinking about that experience. Vertigo is also damn cool, with the screen spinning round 360 degrees to give that dizzy vertigo effect. Crazy Tonight is the usual remix version. Larry Mullen plays the bongos this time and has the chance to walk out to the audience. Sunday Bloody Sunday now adopts a new meaning, about the Middle East crisis. This is where the claw turns green.
Scarlet is more appropriate than MLK this time, because Aung San Suu Kyi has been finally released from house arrest, as Bono sings "Rejoice". A particularly powerful Walk On (played now for the thousands of political prisoners in Burma) ends the main set. The ONE volunteers bringing out lanterns, surround the outer circle halfway through the song. As the band leaves the stage, the video screen plays Bishop Desmond Tutu's message of peace; the same one we've seen on the Rose Bowl DVD. One contains intercut footage of the band during the Achtung Baby era in Berlin, driving around in the tiny car. Next comes the best moment of the show, Streets. I like the Joshua Tree footage of the then still young band, discovering America for the first time -- that really hit home for me.
After a camp spaceship cartoon video, Bono comes out wearing what looks like the most expensive suit ever, complete with lasers. He sings the fan favorite Ultraviolet with the cool-looking wheel mike hanging from above. At this point, it's already close to 10:30pm, the expected curfew cutoff time. It seems like the band is just going through the motions and trying to finish up the songs as quickly as possible. I really thought they were gonna end after With Or Without You, but they manage to make it through Moment Of Surrender. It's a bold way to end the show, considering it's not a hit at all. The way Bono sings this is just awe-inspiring.
I leave the stadium still wanting more, like I'm somehow getting the feeling that something isn't complete. Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing show on every level, but it seems to me like the band isn't in top form tonight; it's just an average working day for them. Unfortunately, the sound from where we are seating at the side isn't that good; it's over distorted. I only realized later that there are half a stack of speakers less than the front and rear. As for the setlist; it may look like a greatest hits show. But in this case, the songs are there for a reason. There's a unique light show that goes with each of them, and all these songs work in that respect. The sequencing of the songs are almost flawless. So the question is does the 360 show live up to its hype? Absolutely it does. For U2, it's not just about the music, but also the spectacle that comes with it. They want to engage all our senses and they've succeeded in doing so. It really takes the live concert to a whole new level. And believe it or not, in a stadium of 50,000 plus, there is a sense of intimacy achieved. It's one of those hard-to-explain things, you just gotta be there to know.
Monday, December 20, 2010
1. Return Of The Stingray Guitar
2. Beautiful Day
3. I Will Follow
4. Get On Your Boots
6. Mysterious Ways
8. Until The End Of The World / Anthem (snippet)
9. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / Movin' On Up (snippet)
10. North Star
11. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
12. In A Little While
13. Miss Sarajevo
14. City Of Blinding Lights
16. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix) / Relax (snippet) / Two Tribes (snippet)
17. Sunday Bloody Sunday
19. Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet)
21. Amazing Grace (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name
22. Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
23. With Or Without You
24. Moment Of Surrender
1. Return Of The Stingray Guitar
2. Beautiful Day / Rain (snippet)
3. New Year's Day
4. Get On Your Boots
6. Mysterious Ways / Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (snippet)
8. Until The End Of The World
9. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / Happy Christmas (War Is Over) (snippet)
10. All I Want Is You / Never Tear Us Apart (snippet)
11. Love Rescue Me
13. In A Little While
14. Miss Sarajevo
15. City Of Blinding Lights
17. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix)/ Discotheque (snippet)
18. Sunday Bloody Sunday
20. Walk On
22. Amazing Grace (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name / Singing In The Rain (snippet)
23. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
24. With Or Without You
25. Party Girl (snippet) / Moment Of Surrender
Thursday, December 16, 2010
That highly talked about but extremely secretive show Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band performed last week at Asbury Park is finally out on webcast, in glorious high-definition. It's them saying thanks to us long-time fans. This is perhaps the best free Christmas gift I've ever received. So basically Backstreets invited about sixty odd fans down to the Carousel House along the boardwalk, where he and the boys played several songs from The Promise. We only get to see half an hour's worth, but boy, what a treat it is.
Those in attendance that particular day must've been the luckiest bunch of people in the world. The show begins with Racing In The Street ('78), done live for the first time. I never thought I'd hear Bruce start with the line "I got a '32 Ford, she's a 318." It's even more emotional and awe-inspiring than the album version. And guess who he brought along with him? The great David Lindley, on violins. That part where Bruce plays the harp at David is incredible.
This whole thing was filmed by Thom Zimny (and again fine sound mixing by Bob Clearmountain), so the mood is pretty similar to that of the now legendary Paramount performance of Darkness. Again, only the original E Street Band, this time with a small horn section. Gotta Get That Feeling, one of my current favorites, works pretty great live, but it doesn't seem to have that celebratory vibe I got in the album.
Next up is Ain't Good Enough For You. This is where things start to get interesting and surreal. I thought the audience were already getting up close and personal with the band just standing a few feet from the center stage. This time, Bruce gets everyone on the stage with him. They're so close to the band they're literally breathing down their necks. Some people look out of place when standing so near Bruce, like they don't know what to do, which is kinda hilarious to watch.
The Promise has David Lindley back on fiddle. He's old, but one cool looking fella. Instinctive musical abilities. This is the first time a full band version is done since the '78 tour, and it's a hell of a knockout. Please Bruce, let this be a tour staple. The band actually played more songs like Talk To Me, The Brokenhearted and Save My Love, which are not on this webcast. Hopefully we'll get to see it in the future.
The last song is Blue Christmas, a la Elvis. Towards the end, the audience crowds around the Boss, all wearing Santa hats. I love it when he speaks directly into the camera, wishing everyone happy holidays; just like one of those 60's live music TV shows. You can tell from all this that he and the band are just itching to go on out the road. From the looks of it, it'll probably be sooner than later.
This is my last Springsteen-related post of the year. It's been another great ride, with the fabulous Hyde Park DVD and Darkness box set. Thanks, Bruce and company. Merry Christmas and happy new year :)
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Return Of The Stingray Guitar, Beautiful Day (Blackbird), I Will Follow, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways, Elevation, Until The End Of The World, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, (Do They Know It's Christmas) Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of, Bad (Need You Tonight/Never Tear Us Apart), In A Little While, Miss Sarajevo, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I'll Go Crazy (Remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday, Scarlet, Walk On
One, Amazing Grace/Where The Streets Have No Name, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, With Or Without You, Moment Of Surrender
Return Of The Stingray Guitar, Beautiful Day (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band), New Year's Day, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways, Elevation, Until The End Of The World, All I Want Is You, Love Rescue Me, Pride (In The Name Of Love), In A Little While, Miss Sarajevo, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I'll Go Crazy (Remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday, Scarlet, Walk On
One, Amazing Grace/Where The Streets Have No Name, Ultraviolet (Light My Way), With Or Without You, Moment Of Surrender
Note: Two tour premieres; double shot of Rattle & Hum. Love Rescue Me is played for the first time since 1990, and All I Want Is You, since 2006.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Return Of The Stingray Guitar, Beautiful Day, I Will Follow, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways (Rain), Elevation, Until The End Of The World, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (Stand By Me), North Star, Pride (In The Name Of Love), In A Little While, Miss Sarajevo, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo (Thunderstruck), I'll Go Crazy (Remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday, Scarlet, Walk On (You'll Never Walk Alone)
One, Dear Prudence/Where the Streets Have No Name, Ultraviolet (Light My Way), With Or Without You, Moment Of Surrender
Return Of The Stingray Guitar, Beautiful Day, New Year's Day, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways, Elevation, Until The End Of The World, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Mercy, Bad, In A Little While, Miss Sarajevo, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I'll Go Crazy (Remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday (Oliver's Army), Scarlet, Walk On
One, Amazing Grace/Where the Streets Have No Name, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, With Or Without You
Note: Thanks to a strict curfew, the show ends for the first time sans Moment Of Surrender.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
But on this Exile tour, the Stones once again reclaimed the title of 'greatest rock & roll band in the world'. There's that very sloppy yet tight quality to the Stones' musicianship, which makes them one of the hardest bands to cover properly. Most of the songs here are played with a faster tempo, and it's kinda weird hearing some of them without the backup singers, like Gimme Shelter and Tumbling Dice, but Mick Jagger did just fine filling in those missing parts. He seemed really into the show, strutting himself all over the stage like he's been doing it for the past forty plus years. Here are some great live versions of Bitch, Dead Flowers and Rip This Joint.
Charlie Watts has one of the simplest drumsets you'll ever see, but he still amazes me with his insane 'jazz' influenced licks; he's one of the all-time underrated drummers. Now if you listen to Exile, you'll know how incredible Mick Taylor is as a guitarist. Again I was blown away by his playing on this film. Just phenomenal on Love In Vain and Midnight Rambler. Quality wise, the picture on blu-ray is surprisingly good, the sound mix is just average. But that's not too much of a problem. And like I've said about Keith Richard's book before, don't think about wearing that tongue shirt till you've owned this film.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Return Of The Stingray Guitar, Beautiful Day (Here Comes The Sun), I Will Follow, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways (My Sweet Lord), Elevation, Until the End Of The World (Anthem), I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Mercy, Bad, In A Little While, Miss Sarajevo, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I'll Go Crazy (Remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday (Get Up Stand Up), Scarlet, Walk On (You'll Never Walk Alone)
One, Amazing Grace/Where The Streets Have No Name, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, With Or Without You, Moment Of Surrender
Return Of The Stingray Guitar, Beautiful Day (Blackbird), New Year's Day, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways, Elevation, Until the End Of The World, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of, Pride (In The Name Of Love), In A Little While, Miss Sarajevo, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo (Rockaway Beach), I'll Go Crazy (Remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday, Scarlet, Walk On (You'll Never Walk Alone)
One (I'll Stand By You), Amazing Grace/Where The Streets Have No Name, Ultraviolet (Light My Way), With Or Without You, Moment Of Surrender
Monday, November 29, 2010
Then, we get three live songs taken from one of their UK shows in '80. A country where the band hit it big first, and then their popularity in the States picked up after that. Also sadly, a country that has never had a major Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers tour in a friggin' long time. The final track of this disc is another take on Refugee, a more stripped-down version, less of Benmont Tench's keys, and without the background vox and Mike Campbell's recognizable guitar riff.
There are new liner notes written by Rolling Stone's David Fricke, in which there's a nice mention of Bruce. Back then, he had just finished Darkness On The Edge Of Town and had given Tom some advice about sticking to your guns. After all, both of them were in similar situations (legal issues and all) before recording their masterpieces. Actually a good companion piece to this album is the documentary film (available on DVD), detailing every aspect of the recording process. Everything needed to know about the album is in there.
This new remaster is a definite improvement from the one years ago. It's obviously louder in volume this time. And all the little nooks and crannies can be heard clearly; for example, I can now hear the little acoustic guitar picking during the intro to Louisiana Rain. But the real treat is finally hearing how pissed off Tom is in songs like Refugee, You Tell Me and What Are You Doin' In My Life?. Somehow I didn't get that feeling previously.
Damn The Torpedoes isn't an influential piece of work, but it did rejuvenate those core ideals of rock & roll and what it originally meant to people. It's possibly the best sounding rock record of the 70's; and of course the drums here are the best sounding set of drums ever put to tape. Period. It's pretty fair to say its sound blows away the majority of today's rock albums. It just gets better with age. The music is as straightforward as it can get, stripped of any technical bullshit. If you want rock & roll at it's purest and finest, this is it. Just two guitars like it always should be, simple set of keyboards and drums and lots of bad-ass attitude.