Monday, June 28, 2010

Jun 27 -- Goffertpark, Nijmegen, Holland

Main Set: Do The Evolution, Got Some, Save You, Given To Fly, Animal, Dissident, In My Tree, Even Flow, Just Breathe, Unthought Known, Whipping, Daughter/Blitzkrieg Bop/It’s Okay, Jeremy, Rearviewmirror

Encore: Small Town, The Fixer, Life Wasted, Better Man, Rockin’ In The Free World

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Jun 25 -- Hard Rock Calling, Hyde Park, London, UK

Main Set: Given To Fly, Why Go, Brain Damage, Corduroy, Got Some, Once, World Wide Suicide, Small Town, Amongst The Waves, Even Flow, Unthought Known, Nothingman, Arms Aloft, Not For You, Of The Earth, State Of Love And Trust, Do The Evolution, Wasted Reprise, Better Man/Save It For Later

Encore 1: Just Breathe, Red Mosquito (feat. Ben Harper), Black, Porch

Encore 2: Go, The Fixer, Alive, Yellow Ledbetter

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jun 23 -- Odyessy Arena, Belfast, Nothern Ireland

Main Set: Sometimes, Do The Evolution, Animal, The Fixer, Tremor Christ, Low Light, Even Flow, Unthought Known, No Way, Insignificance, Present Tense, Daughter/The Real Me, Got Some, Save You, Given To Fly, Black, Rearviewmirror

Encore 1: Just Breathe, Amongst The Waves, State Of Love And Trust, Wasted Reprise, Better Man/Save It For Later

Encore 2: Jeremy, Leash, Crazy Mary, Alive, Yellow Ledbetter

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jun 22 - The O2, Dublin, Ireland

Main Set: Long Road, Once, The Fixer, Why Go, Corduroy, Severed Hand, Amongst The Waves, Even Flow, Unthought Known, Nothingman, Lukin, Not For You, Down, Got Some, Comatose, Arms Aloft (by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros), Do The Evolution

Encore 1: Just Breathe, Given To Fly, Of The Earth (new song), Porch

Encore 2: Small Town, Better Man/Save It For Later, Kick Out The Jams, Alive, Yellow Ledbetter

Friday, June 18, 2010

U2 360 @ Rose Bowl

Just when you thought U2 couldn't become any bigger, they defy everyone's expectations by giving the world the biggest and most ambitious stadium tour in the history of mankind. Their latest live release was taken from the Rose Bowl show in October '09, which also made history by being the first to be broadcast live through youtube for the whole world to watch.

The show itself is a real spectacle. The claw looks amazing from the sky at night, and that giant rotating LED screen above the stage is just so astonishing. The whole point of the 360 tour is to place the band right in the middle of the crowd, and through that, even the people in the nosebleeds would be able to have the same experience as those right in front of the stage. But during the show, I somehow got the feeling that the audience was rather distant from the band in terms of connection and intimacy. Could be because there weren't a lot of shots of the audience. But again, I guess you have to be there to really know what it feels like.

The setlist contains the same old hits mixed in with the newer stuff, somewhat predictable. Though I like that they brought back songs like Ulraviolet (Light My Way) and The Unforgettable Fire. I also prefer the current version of Where The Streets Have No Name to those from the previous two tours. It's a pity with a show of this magnitude, they can't really change the setlists much. On the other hand, there's a great feature on the second disc about the making of the tour and the setting up for the first show at Barcelona. Apparently this was something the band had been wanting to do for a very long time. The whole stage plus claw looks fucking immense, even on screen. The whole thing could easily pass off as another man-made wonder.

Like every U2 tour since the early 90's, the show is indeed a visual treat, and I ain't gonna miss it for the world next year. Right now I wish Bono a speedy recovery. Australia 2011.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

REVIEW: American Slang - The Gaslight Anthem

Summer of '08: I first found out about The Gaslight Anthem in Rolling Stone magazine right after they released their 2nd album, The '59 Sound. The selling point for me was 'Punk rock music influenced by The Clash and Social Distortion with a twist of Bruce Springsteen-inspired lyrics'. My initial thoughts about The '59 Sound was that the music was great, but nothing I've not heard before. The lyrics, on the other hand, was what made that album special. I fell in love with Brian Fallon's words instantly. Some may think his lifting lyrics directly off classic songs and namechecking rock stars are cheesy. But what he really was doing was paying homage to them. Look beyond all the early Springsteen-esque songwriting and you could tell Brian was writing from the heart. Those songs sure had great rock beats, and they had lotta soul too. They really captured the essence of being young and growing up, and I could relate to that. The '59 Sound has become one of the my favorite albums of the past ten years. And then when I saw their live set at Hyde Park last summer, I was blown away by their sheer passion for rock & roll.

Their debut effort, Sink Or Swim, sounds like a freight train coming right at you. It reconvened my love for punk music, without any bullshit about politics or popular social trends; just straight-up raw, loud and fast punk. And like The '59 Sound, the songs romanticize the feeling of growing up as a teenager; songs like The Backseat, Here's Looking At You Kid, Drive, Old White Lincoln, Meet Me By The River's Edge, The Patient Ferris Wheel, Casanova Baby, Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts, and many more.

Before I carry on any further, I think it's important to note that The Gaslight Anthem is an outstanding band in their own right. But partly why they've gotten to where they are now is because Bruce Springsteen had 'sorta approved of them'. But I'm not listening to this band because they're somehow related to Bruce. I'm sure the band wants to rid themselves of all the references to Bruce in the music press and make a name for their own. And also fuck the press for saying that their sound is influenced by Bruce's because it's obviously not. Besides, they also happen to be one of the very few new rock outfits amidst the huge pile of music shit that's worth checking out now.

American Slang: I know not to judge how good an album is by looking at its cover, but when I first saw this one, I had a gut feeling that it was gonna be something real special, also not to mention its beautiful sounding title. My expectations were high, but at the same time, I thought they really couldn't outdo themselves after The '59 Sound. Some may be disappointed by the fact that the music here is quite similar to their previous album. I'm not really troubled by that, cause it's not entirely the same. I like that the band has taken the effort to mix up their sound a bit more. There's a little more motown and soul music infused in some songs, and also many more infectious guitar hooks here. Thanks to the rhythm guitars, they actually make the songs sound very distinct from one another. I can hear that the reverb in Brian's voice is now gone. He knows he's not a great singer (and it's quite obvious), but he's proud of that fact and isn't afraid to show it.

While Sink Or Swim and The '59 Sound is about the wonderful, heartbreaking experiences of youth and reminiscing about the past, American Slang is a record about coming to terms with reality and knowing you can't stay young forever. It's time to move on and make something of yourself. In the words there are lots of references to growing older. And once again, Brian takes his songwriting chops to an even higher level. I can't say this enough; he's just SO GOOD at writing. There are even a number of great and memorable lines that can be quoted in a high school graduation speech!

The title track starts off mellow and then the music crashes in with the snare as a downbeat (this is used quite often throughout the album) and an awesome guitar melody. I especially like the bridge here:

Here's where we died that time last year, and where the angels and devils meet
You can dance with the queen if you need, she will always keep your cards close to her heart

I still don't know what the hell it means, but it sure gives me the chills. Stay Lucky is probably my favorite tune here and it won't sound out of place on The '59 Sound. What more can I say? It's just fucking catchy as hell! The third song, Bring It On, is where the soul influences come in. You can hear it in the background vocals. There's a very nice 'loose' structure to the whole song, where the first chorus comes in so fast before you know it, and the music keeps getting better and better.

And then there's The Diamond Church Street Choir, a bonafide Gaslight Anthem classic. The 60's doo-wop, finger snapping, Dion/Valli influences is something you just don't expect to hear in a modern rock song, but this one is just so fucking cool.

Orphans has the same chord progression as The Patient Ferris Wheel. And coincidentally the words start off with "Goodbye circus wheel...." Sometimes, it's those 'little' sounds you hear that makes the song special. In this case, it's the guitars during the second portions of the verses -- there's just some mystical quality about it. The next song, Boxer, starts out very unexpectedly -- a short weird rap from Brian. It's an uplifting number paying tribute to all those who've taken shit from others and end up rising above everyone else.

I think most fans will agree that Old Haunts is a cut above the rest of the songs here. Pay attention to those beautiful guitar melodies in the background. The verse is just simply mindblowing. The chorus is just reeked with emotion and I think it perfectly sums up the theme of the whole album:

So don't sing me your songs about the good times Those days are gone and you should just let them go And God help the man who says If you'd have known me when Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts

The final tune, We Did It When We Were Young, and also the longest track at over 4mins, is a bold but interesting way to end off the record; very mellow verse, but powerful chorus. The song has two different pitches of Brian's singing in unison. Again, who cares if he can't sing well?

Overall, American Slang, though not quite as good as The '59 Sound, is still a very solid effort from the Jersey boys, and I won't be surprised if this becomes the best rock album of the year on many top-ten lists. I like that the album has only ten songs. I also like that the album is short. It's not easy making one with no fillers at all. In today's music scene, the concept of the album is slowly loosing its meaning, unlike the 60s and 70s. I always think it's important to identify bands and artists by their albums, rather than their individual songs. Unfortunately, lotta up and coming bands are recognized only by their hit songs played on commercial radio. And the fact that more people rather buy single songs than full albums doesn't help either. I'm glad to say that The Gaslight Anthem have become one of those bands which have stuck with this idea of the album. Like a band such as Pearl Jam, they won't compromise their musical integrity for commercial success. I'm already geared up for their next release and I hope they move even further away from their comfort zone. I have seen the future of Rock & Roll and.......

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mojo - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

America's truest Rock & Roll band finally makes a comeback, making their first album in eight years (since 2002's The Last DJ). Initially the big question we've been asking ourselves is could they make another great record, having not done anything new in such a long time? The answer my friend, is YES, and boy do they do it in style. Enter Mojo, the Heartbreakers' loosest album to date, and their best since 1991's Into The Great Wide Open. This album captures the band at the absolute top of their game, in terms of musicianship. It is unlike anything they've ever done before. Tom Petty said he wanted to present the band as it was in the studio with very little overdubbing, and without any after-tweaking or auto-tuning or any of that production shit. He has done the right thing. Think Polaroid.

Mojo is a very blues-sounding name. And you'll hear plenty of intense blues on Mojo, and a good mix of light-hearted rock & roll tunes like Candy, Running Man's Bible and High In The Morning. Most of the stuff sound familiar, yet fresh at the same time. The record opens with Jefferson Jericho Blues, with Mike Campbell's guitar and Scott Thurston's harmonica playing in perfect sync. There's a very 'live' feel to it, like it's been done in just one take (maybe those Mudcrutch sessions a few years ago paid off!). And that goes the same for most of the other fourteen songs here. Yes, there are lots of songs, but they are all sequenced in a particular order for more emotional impact, and not only that, the transitions from song to song are incredibly seamless. First Flash Of Freedom moves into some psychedelic 'jam-band' territory where the music evokes the Grateful Dead. I love Mike's solo here, with Benmont Tench's ever-trusty keyboards propelling the music forward. There's one part where the band stops playing and you just hear the guitar, and then everything comes in together. It's just so damn bad.

No Reason To Cry is a country-sounding ballad reminiscent of the classic Wildflowers album. This is followed by another high point -- a blues-tinged I Should've Known It. Drummer Steve Ferrone and bassist Ron Blair play it pretty tight on this one. Again Mike shines here, providing some Led Zeppelin influenced riffs. U.S. 41 has Tom singing through a bullet mic, making him sound like a classic blues-man from way back, and has Mike doing some awesome slide guitar. The blues continue into Takin' My Time, paying homage to Muddy Waters' Hoochie Coochie Man. Then a surprise comes in Don't Pull Me Over -- the Heartbreakers finally doing a reggae song! And may I say Tom can pass off as a great reggae singer too. The album ends with a somewhat dark Southern mystical blues number, Good Enough.

If there's a MVP for this entire album, it has to be Mike Campbell. We all know how great a guitar player he is, but his solos have been rather restricted in the past few Heartbreakers' records. Here in Mojo, he's finally let out of his cage and is on fire, using his Sunburst Les Paul throughout the entire record. And let's not forget that he's also surrounded by the best musicians in the business. Now I'm just waiting for Tom to bring this tour out of the States and to the rest of the world, who've been dying to see him for the past twenty years!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pearl Jam Philly Boxset Review

Phinally Philly!!! Just when I was starting to worry, the boxset appeared in my mailbox. Eight months I've waited for these four legendary shows to be released on bootleg. Though I wasn't in attendance, I understand their importance and what they mean to the band. They had the highest honor of closing out one of the most historic concert venues in the country, and by doing so, they once again established themselves as the best rock band in the world today. Actually, make that best live band too. So don't call yourself a Pearl Jam fan unless you own these shows!

The packaging's design is nothing too flashy, which is good enough for me. I like that they put the 'lifespan' of the Philadelphia Spectrum (1967 - 2009) on the front cover. The back contains all the names of the PJ crew members. The disc cases are made outta cardboard, but surprisingly aren't that flimsy. A nice surprise here is the 'mystery gift', which turned out to be baseball-like cards of all the six band members. Very interesting the way the guys are described; kinda like sports heroes in a way. I also found out that Matt Cameron is the oldest member of the band (48), followed by Jeff Ament, who's 47. Seriously, Jeff looks like he's ten years younger!

Now for the setlist :) You can always trust PJ to mix up their shows a lot. But in this case, they took it the highest level, so much so that they ended up playing about 85-90% of their entire catalog over the four nights. That amounts up to over a 100 different songs, really obscure rarities and covers included. Most of these songs were only played once. A handful of them were played twice, mainly in alternation (nights 1&3 and 2&4) and less than a handful were played in every show (I believe it's The Fixer and Just Breathe). After listening through all the shows, which is over 10 hours in total, I thought of compiling a mix of my favorite songs from the four shows. I couldn't do it, simply because it was too overwhelming. Here are some of my personal highlights:

Night 1:
Faithfull (nice intro by Eddie). Immortality (always kick-ass). Rival. Ghost. All Those Yesterdays. Leash. Mankind (Stone Gossard singing!).

Night 2:
All Night. No Way (this is fucking killer). 1/2 Full. Down (featuring Mike Ness on vocals!). Grievance. Push Me, Pull Me (it actually works as a live song). The Real Me.

Night 3:
In My Tree (one of their best songs ever; I prefer this over the 05/06 version). Tremor Christ. Hold On (worth the entire box set just for this song, seriously). In Hiding. Deep. Cropduster. Off He Goes. Present Tense. Parting Ways. Breath (this one has nostalgia written all over it). Whipping. Crazy Mary (sick solos by Mike McCready and Boom Gaspar). Footsteps.

Night 4:
Why Go (great opener). You Are. Pilate. Rats. I Got Id (probably the best version I've heard). Glorified G. Out Of My Mind (one of the many WTF moments). Low Light. Speed Of Sound (much tighter effort than night 2). Jeremy. Whip It (this was a Halloween special, with the band dressing up in Devo outfits -- they nailed the song). Crown Of Thorns (another nostalgia fest). Satan's Bed. Yellow Ledbetter (show closer that ended with Mike shredding on the National Anthem).

The only thing I could've done without is Bugs. I know the crowd went crazy over it, but I think it's still the worst PJ song ever. But I guess it's one of those 'you had to be there' songs. Another one is Sweet Lew, with Jeff singing. I'm not too nuts bout that either. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the shows. There were numerous fuck-ups -- forgotten lyrics and band members missing their cues and playing the wrong notes. But that's ok, because it's all part of the PJ experience. I actually like that a band makes mistakes once in a while. Eddie's talking to the crowd in between songs was very cool and funny. It's nice that he mentioned Bruce on the first night (the E Street Band played the Spectrum the previous week, four shows also).

Ok, now for the sound mix -- it's not that great, and it's not that bad either. But it's definitely one of the better ones from the 2009 tour, with London still being the top. The crowd noise doesn't get in the way of the music most of the time, unlike those from the 05/06 Gorge shows. Many people were saying the crowds on night 3 were the best, off the charts. I didn't get that feeling at all from listening to that show. What a pity. The instrument mix is more or less consistent throughout the four shows, with some annoying fluctuations in the guitar levels here and there. But I feel the bass is mixed too low (especially in the first show), and doesn't go well with the loud volume of the drums. And they should've turned up the keyboards more. Oh well. Now that this set will keep me company for the rest of the year at least, I guess I won't be getting the 2010 bootlegs. Peace.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Backstreets #88

It's been two whole years since the last issue of Backstreets came out. I was wondering during that time if my subscribing to four issues per year had been a waste. #88 finally arrived in the mail few weeks ago. And kudos to Chris and gang for doing an amazing job once again. The 07-09 tour reports were kept to a minimum thankfully (everything can be found on the website). It's good to know now they're gonna make the magazine complement the website, in that contents on the print are exclusive only and can't be found anywhere else. Makes more sense.

The main focus here is of course, Danny Federici. The editors managed to get hold and interview most of the members of The E Street Band and also close friends (minus Bruce and Steve). They opened up about their personal and musical relationships with Danny. Readers got a more detailed glimpse into his wonderful life and also a closer look into the very early history of the E Street Band. There was so much stuff I didn't know about the man until I read the interviews and eulogies. Like for example, he actually jammed with Jimi Hendrix with his first band onstage! And let's not forget the many times he would play pranks and piss off his band mates!

I liked how people like Roy, Nils, Garry and Max emphasized on his outstanding musical ability. After all, he was perhaps the most intuitive and natural musician on E Street. It amazes me how Danny was not able to read notes and chord progressions, but he just knew EXACTLY what to play during the song. His Hammond organ defined the E Street sound. It's a funny thing; during my first few years of listening to Bruce's records, I didn't really notice the organ sound as much as the piano. But now I know -- take away the organ (or sometimes accordion) and you realize how 'empty' the songs would sound (just listen to Backstreets, in which the band opened with in Tampa after his death). I guess that's the way Danny was. His organ playing had a way of slipping in and out of your ears. It's like something magical happening, on a subconscious level. And for that, he can never be replaced. Danny's passing marked the end of an era for the E Street Band.

This can't be said enough, but Charles Giordano did a fantastic job of filling in during the past two years on tour. He was amazing on the Seeger Sessions tour, and he was amazing ever since. For that, I'm looking forward to what he brings to the table for Bruce's future records.

Donate to the Danny Fund.

A look at MOJO

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The National

I've been listening to this band constantly since last week. I heard so many good things about them on BTX and 10c that I felt like I was the only one missing out on the action, so I got hold of 2007's Boxer and their latest, High Violet. The music didn't blow my mind initially, but before I knew it, I was sucked in. How do I classify The National (based on these two records)? I think they sound what many would generally consider as indie rock. It's alternative music for the discerning adult.

To me, the lyrics are meaningless as they are meaningful at the same time, kinda like in a Talking Heads sense. The singer Matt Berninger sings in a real deep baritone voice, which actually complements the kind of music the band makes; he gives the song more emotional weight.

Boxer is a wonderful record that requires some patience to fully appreciate. Lush beautiful arrangements are aplenty, and though most of the songs sound pretty mellow, they are also emotionally haunting and 'loud'. I was had at Mistaken For Strangers -- it's the most outstanding song I've heard in a very long time. One of the greatest albums of the decade for sure.

I find High Violet more depressing, with the occasional spoonful of dark humorous lyrics mixed in. The music here is sparsely melodic, and I love the bass and drumming on Anyone's Ghost, Little Faith, Lemonworld, Conversation 16. Meanwhile, Bloodbuzz Ohio is on its way to becoming the best song of 2010. And England is fucking musical heaven. Just listen to the horns on this one. Time for me to check out their first three albums!

P.S. Also check out their very unique cover of Springsteen's Mansion On The Hill on the Virginia EP.