Sunday, May 29, 2011

RS Interview with Eddie Vedder

"I don't want to jinx it," Eddie Vedder says from a Los Angeles studio, taking a break from recording Pearl Jam's 10th studio album, which is coming together faster than the band expected. "But it's on!" At the same time, he's preparing to release Ukulele Songs, a delicate solo LP played almost exclusively on the title instrument. "There's one song with a cello," he says. "I let that one in under the four-string rule."After hitting the road behind the album in June, Vedder has big plans to celebrate Pearl Jam's 20th birthday, including a band-curated concert in Wisconsin over Labor Day weekend and a Cameron Crowe documentary about the group's history that will premiere this fall.

Why a solo record now?

The ukulele thing started as a writing exercise that I thought would be kept to myself. I've been kind of collecting songs over the past 10 years, and it wasn't till the last few that I thought of maybe putting this stuff in an album. It's not really my solo record - it's the uke's solo record. I was just there to guide it.

What made you want to focus on that one instrument?
I just wanted it to be the one sound. At first it was kind of a joke, and then it became a little bit of a challenge, a puzzle, to see if I could create 11 or 12 songs with just a ukulele. It's like painting with one color. You can really appreciate the subtleties and changes in tone.

The most memorable rock ukulele song is probably the Who's Blue Red and Grey, which you've covered.
Yeah, hearing that song when I was maybe 12 legitimized the instrument - it was just a beautiful piece of music.

Did that inspire you to play uke on Pearl Jam's Soon Forget in 2000?
The open chords are unabashedly Blue Red and Grey. After that, I felt like I almost had to make a whole 'nother batch of songs to make up for the fact that that one was 30 seconds of plagiarizing [laughs]. I thank Pete [Townshend] profusely, but I should probably send him some dough, or a nice ukulele. I think I owe it to him at this point.

You and Chan Marshall [a.k.a. Cat Power] duet on the standard Tonight You Belong To Me on the album. Did you first encounter that in The Jerk?
Didn't we all? Man, there's something about that song that just stuck with me. When I was singing on Chan's [2003 LP] You Are Free, late one night I asked if she would record something that I was working on, so we did that one. Later, my mom said that she and my dad used to sing that to each other before I was born, specifically on a trip through Seattle.

That's a little spooky.
Yeah - in a good way. It's a good ghost.

You're about to start a solo tour this summer. Do you get nervous facing a crowd by yourself?
It makes you really appreciate being in a group and just being able to ride with no hands every once in a while. Playing with the band is like being at a party and talking really loud - the solo shows are like when you find a quiet back corner to have a deeper conversation.

You've pulled out James Taylor covers at those shows.
I was always impressed by the amount of sound he could get out of a guitar, and the melodic lines he was drawing, like a surfer on a wave, were something to aspire to. At the same time I was listening to the Sex Pistols and the Clash, I'd still listen to James Taylor, or Rickie Lee Jones or Tom Waits.

Did you hide that side from your punk-rock friends?
Oh, I didn't give a shit at all. Punk rock is saying what you want and not giving a fuck.

There's a lot of Nineties nostalgia going around - with Pearl Jam's anniversary, are you feeling it yourself?
I feel like we have to keep our eyes on the road. Being nostalgic is like taking an offramp and getting a sandwich - and then you get back on the highway. I don't want to be spending the rest of my life at the gas station.

Is that why the band is back in the studio already?
Good call, that's exactly it. That and nothing else.

Are your kids into your music yet?
They are, and it's amazing what they pick up, like, "Is this the live version?" We've kept them away from Disney pop, but there's one other artist that they really, really like. All I can say is, it's hysterical watching a two-year-old singing "Let's go all the way tonight/No regrets, just love" [laughs].

-courtesy of Rolling Stone Magazine

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How To Become Clairvoyant

Bear this in mind: Robbie Robertson is a musical genius. His latest album and first in over a decade is music beyond my wildest dreams. Forget the fact that he can't sing very well; he's not trying to serenade listeners with his husky voice; he sings with authentic feeling. How To Become Clairvoyant is just one hell of an album, and what an awesome title it is. Here he brings some famous friends along for the ride. Old buddy Eric Clapton sings and plays on most of the songs. He co-wrote two, Fear Of Falling (also featuring Steve Winwood on organ) and Won't Be Back, which not surprisingly fits nicely on some of his late career solo albums. He plays a splendid restrained acoustic solo on the instrumental Madame X, backed by a soundscape courtesy of Mr. Trent Reznor. The record's polished production helps to bring the more dark undertones of the music.

Meanwhile, Axman is a wonderful tribute to some of the underrated but influential legends of the guitar (such as Stevie Ray Vaughn and Link Wray and Albert King), enlisting the help of Tom Morello. Robbie hasn't lost that uncanny ability to write songs with such ambiguity that everyone can personally relate to, like in the superb title track; that's real heavy stuff. He's a fine storyteller. The simple and soulful When The Night Was Young (with some cool female background vocals) is easily one of the best songs to come out this year, and could be interpreted as Robbie's experiences during the early days with the then Hawks. This is an album that takes its time, draws you in, makes you ponder long after you've listened. It's so good it's scary. It's an instant classic, with not a single weak track on it. If I could, I would recommend everyone to listen to it. Robbie Robertson's heart and soul is definitely in the right place. God bless him.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Let There Be Rock

Ever wanted to see the craziest audience in the world? Just watch AC/DC's latest concert film, Live At River Plate, in Argentina . The show was filmed over a three-night stand in Buenos Aires in 2009, part of the band's massive Black Ice world tour. It's mindblowing to see just how fucking nuts the South American fans are. Watching a huge sea of jumping people during Highway To Hell is rather hair-raising. On a side note, I always find it funny when people (at least those I've talked to before) use the term 'moshing' very loosely; GA doesn't necessarily mean you get people moshing. It seems at times the whole floor of the stadium was one gigantic mosh pit. Gotta love those glow-in-the-dark devil horns.

As for the music, well, it's AC/DC, so you can't really expect any surprises. Angus Young still does that little striptease halfway through the show. While the songs may sound a bit similar after a while, it's definitely something else to hear them played in a live setting. And like a Springsteen or U2 concert, the live experience can never be replicated on blu-ray. I'm still knocking myself for not seeing the band at Wembley in June two years ago (I went for Dave Matthews Band that night instead). But the next time they tour, I'll be sure to travel down to their home country.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Give Till It's Gone

This is only the second Ben Harper album I own (first being White Lies For Dark Times), but I've heard a couple of his solo stuff and his previous outings with the Innocent Criminals. I like that he doesn't confine himself to one genre, always mixing in all kinds of musical styles on his records, and excelling in all areas. This latest one is no different. Recorded in Jackson Browne's studio, this could be considered a Relentless7 record (same band from 2009), though it's marketed as a solo effort. Seen Ben live twice so far, and he's a killer slide guitarist.

The album opens with mellow rocker, Don't Give Up On Me Now, that reminds me of something from Tom Petty & The Hearbreakers' Echo. And it closes with some real badass shit. Some of the songs here sound like he's still thinking about his divorce from actress Laura Dern. The man has a knack for putting some country and R&B flavors into the songs, as evident in Feel Love and Waiting On A Sign. And for some sexy southern blues, you got a number called Dirty Little Lover. The feel-good Rock N' Roll Is Free was made for the radio, and according to Ben, he was inspired to write it after watching Neil Young perform Rockin' In The Free World at Hyde Park! How cool is that?

The biggest and nicest surprise here though is Ringo Starr playing drums on two songs, the Beatle-esque Revolver-era Spilling Faith. That five second intro fill alone proves the Englishman still has the chops in him. Then it goes into the next song, a long psychedelic impromptu jam session; it obviously sounds like the band was having too much fun to stop, and they let it carry on for almost six minutes before you hear Ringo making some funny remark. I was just thinking about the concept of the album, which is sadly becoming more of a lost art today. It doesn't necessarily have to flow in a certain way (in a Pink Floydian kinda way) for it to work. It just needs to be chalked full of really good songs. Give Till It's Gone is one example of that.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the poet laureate of rock & roll.

The voice of the promise of the '60s counterculture.

The guy who forced folk into bed with rock.

Who donned makeup in the '70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse.

Who emerged to find Jesus.

Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s.

Ladies and gentlemen - Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rome... an album conceived and put together by American producer extraordinaire, Brian Burton (more commonly known as Danger Mouse), and Italian composer, Daniele Luppi, and took a period of five years to complete

...contains all original songs, but it is clearly inspired by and pays homage to the classic Italian film music by composers such as Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovaioli, Pierro Piccoli and Alessandro Alessandroni. Hence the album title.

...was recorded in the capital's Forum Studios, originally founded by Ennio Morricone, and it was only appropriate the producers use (hard to find) vintage recording equipment and record the music live to tape, like it was done in the '60s and '70s, without any fancy computerized bells and whistles.

...acts almost like a soundtrack to an imaginary movie, as such, it brings out the filmmaker in all of us. surprisingly short for an album of this magnitude (only 35 mins), but listen to it and you'll know why -- the producers knew exactly what they wanted and the result is an incredibly tight and concise record; every second counts.

...has a modernly retro sound and boasts a slick production, with hauntingly gorgeous orchestral arrangements and whatnot, and I must also stress, one of THE MOST remarkable sounding bass and drums you'll ever hear on any album. best way appreciated when listened to in one sitting, with the correct medium being CD (with a good hi-fi and played loud) or even better, vinyl.

...flows perfectly; the sequencing of the songs is pretty much flawless.

...can be described as sublime, a word not to be used lightly.

...reunites some of the old musicians who used to play on the classic film scores (like Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and Once Upon A Time In The West), including the legendary choir known as The I Cantori Moderni, and of course, soprano Edda Dell'Orso, who sings on the opening track.

...features Jack White and Norah Jones contributing vocals on three songs each, Jack (who wrote his own lyrics) effortlessly crooning his way through, and Norah singing in her most seductive voice yet. so far the best album of 2011.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

another "new" discovery

The reissue of Tomorrow The Green Grass by this '90s alt-country rock band known as The Jayhawks is another one of those impulse-but-totally-worth-it purchases I recently made. I'll probably take a few months to unravel the rest of their catalog. Right now, I'm totally soaking up this fantastic American record.


UPDATE: This just in; their latest album, titled Mockingbird Time, hits the shelves on September 20.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shipping Up To Boston

The Dropkick Murphys and Bruce Springsteen on St. Paddy's Day. Enough said.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rolling Stone's 'Choose The Cover' Contest

And then there were two. Both of these talented artists have a rapidly growing fanbase, but it seems like Lelia Broussard is the more popular one at the moment. For the sake of rock & roll, spread the word and choose The Sheepdogs!

Move Like This

It's like The Cars never went on a 24-year hiatus. Their latest album has the band (minus late singer/bassist Benjamin Orr) picking up from where they left off. You can put it side by side with albums like Candy-O and their debut. I got into the game very late, only taking notice of the band after watching Fast Times At Ridgemont High (you know what scene I’m talking about!), but good thing I did cause I wouldn’t have appreciated them say even five years ago. Most of the songs on Move Like This boast a fine blending of Elliot Easton’s crunchy guitars and Greg Hawkes’s keyboards, to create that new wave power pop long-time fans are familiar with, but this time with a more modern production. And then the occasional hand-clap, like in the super-catchy Sad Song. The ballad, Soon sounds very much like their old hit, Drive. Another standout is Free; with Whip It-like guitar playing. Ric Ocasek sounds more or less the same, still as kooky as before, and he hasn’t lost his songwriting chops. Lesson to learn: Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Outside The Wall

By now you've already read about it. A one-off Pink Floyd reunion, only their second time together in like 30 years. The good news is that The Wall tour is indeed going to extend until next year, so Australia here we come!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pearl Jam Twenty

First big news: PJ will host and headline Alpine Valley during the labor day weekend to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Supporting bands include Mudhoney, Queens Of The Stone Age and The Strokes. This will be followed by an extensive Canadian tour, their first since 2005.

Second big news (and the one that has me reeling with excitement):


Carved from over 1,200 hours of rarely and never-before-seen footage, plus 24 hours of recently shot interview and live footage, Pearl Jam Twenty is the definitive portrait of Pearl Jam as told by award-winning director and music journalist, Cameron Crowe.


Columbia Records/Sony Music will release the Pearl Jam Twenty soundtrack in conjunction with the film’s theatrical release. Cameron Crowe selected the track listing for the soundtrack -- making the album a true companion piece to the film.


Published by Simon & Schuster in the U.S. and Canada and Atlantic Books in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the Pearl Jam Twentybook is an aesthetically stunning, definitive chronicle of the band’s past two decades. The book was compiled and written by veteran music journalist and current "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" music booker, Jonathan Cohen, with Mark Wilkerson (author of “Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend”), designed by Pearl Jam in-house designer Regan Hagar (also the drummer for Brad and Satchel), with a foreword by Cameron Crowe.

More information on the Pearl Jam Twenty film, book and soundtrack will be announced in the coming weeks.

-courtesy of Ten Club

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Helplessless Blues

Fleet Foxes' sophomore effort, Helplessness Blues is a carefully but wonderfully crafted album that works on every level, and it’s much more musically rich than their self-titled debut. Lyrically, it’s more self-reflective. It isn't as immediately accessible as the first one, but with a bit of patience comes a rewarding listening experience. I applaud them for moving out of their comfort zone and experimenting a bit more. Robin Pecknold’s magical voice drenched in reverb throughout the record (except for the solo Blue Spotted Tail) conjures up dreamy landscapes in the songs, or in the case of the instrumental The Cascades, medieval. Again, expect gorgeous Beach Boys harmonies but don’t just listen to the band for this reason alone. There’s a lot more going on under those collective vocals. The acoustic guitars and percussion communicate particularly well with each other to create some exciting music. And then there are more new instruments to play with.

Several of the tunes here are broken up into mini-segments that sound different from one another. This is apparent in the new epic 8-minute The Shrine/An Augment, so much so it works exactly like a medley of songs; and that final part with the dissonant violin playing is just plain weird, something you would never expect from a folk band. Another one that has epic written all over it is the introspective title track, in my opinion Fleet Foxes’ best song yet. Starts out somber, but soon you’re swept up by the high-energy guitar strumming in the chorus. Strangely my favorite part is when during the third verse, the strumming is taken down a notch, going back to the way it was played at beginning of the song. It’s a simple technique I know, but somehow it’s just brilliantly done. But the whole song is just a force of nature. And where do you go halfway through? Totally change the time signature and melody, and then ending the song with a whisper instead of a loud bang. Very innovative. Speaking of which, they also manage to take what starts out like a simple piece of music in the Paul Simon inspired Sim Sala Bim and turn it upside down; by the end, you’re left wondering what just happened.

There’s also this song called Lorelai (they got some unconventional song titles on this album), which has the triplet do-ta-ta rhythm, and I’m hundred percent sure that the band lifted a huge page out of Dylan’s Fourth Time Around (from Blonde On Blonde) -- just listen to the almost intricate guitar playing and the way Robin sings the verses. There are other influences, mainly from the folk rock of the ‘70s, like CSNY (especially Graham Nash) in songs like Bedouin Dress and Bitter Dancer. Fleet Foxes are one of the few bands of their generation that have made a real album; and by that I mean an album with no fillers, an album that’s meant to be heard straight from start to finish. And by the end of it, you’re supposed to be emotionally drained, and the closer Grown Ocean makes you feel just that. We should be thankful for them for keeping the concept of the album alive.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

To my fans and followers...

Straight from the man himself, regarding the Chinese shows last month. Thank you very much, Bob. And take that, Maureen Dowd!

Allow me to clarify a couple of things about this so-called China controversy which has been going on for over a year. First of all, we were never denied permission to play in China. This was all drummed up by a Chinese promoter who was trying to get me to come there after playing Japan and Korea. My guess is that the guy printed up tickets and made promises to certain groups without any agreements being made. We had no intention of playing China at that time, and when it didn't happen most likely the promoter had to save face by issuing statements that the Chinese Ministry had refused permission for me to play there to get himself off the hook. If anybody had bothered to check with the Chinese authorities, it would have been clear that the Chinese authorities were unaware of the whole thing.

We did go there this year under a different promoter. According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true. If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any. The ex-pats were mostly in Hong Kong not Beijing. Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages. The Chinese press did tout me as a sixties icon, however, and posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The concert attendees probably wouldn't have known about any of those people. Regardless, they responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records. Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn't have known my early songs anyway.

As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.

Everybody knows by now that there's a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I'm encouraging anybody who's ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them.

-courtesy of

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Evolution of Bob Dylan

Rolling Stone has put the man on the cover, to commemorate his 70th birthday (24 May). One feature I particularly enjoyed reading; the different eras of Dylan, which I pretty much know already. Still it serves as a good guide for those just getting into his music. The one thing that has always annoyed me (and I've experienced this before) is the fact that many casual listeners always seem to perceive him as a protest singer-songwriter; they're still stuck in the '60s.

1960 - 1962: The Folk Revivalist
1962 - 1964: The Protest Singer
1965 - 1966: The Electric Years
1967 - 1973: The Reclusive Genius
1974 - 1978: The Traveling Years
1979 - 1981: The Born-Again Christian
1982 - 1987: The Mid-Life Crisis
1988 - 1996: The Start of the Neverending Tour
1997 - 2011: The Great Comeback

If you want the trippy version of this, watch Todd Haynes' biopic, I'm Not There.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The 2nd Coming of Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd and EMI just announced today the massive re-release of their entire studio catalog in a variety of formats; CD, DVD, blu-ray, digital and vinyl. Release date will be 26 September 2011. The biggest surprise here is the super-deluxe versions of their three classics: Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall (due Feb 2012). Time to start saving up!



Monday, May 9, 2011

Hot Sauce Committee Part Two

Damn, the new Beastie Boys album is one kind of awesome. I like to think of them as the AC/DC of rap music; they've never really followed any trends, always making their own unique brand of hip-hop. On this new record they've somewhat evolved, by not really evolving at all. It's still old-school, vintage Beasties; the minimalistic nature of the songs, usually focused on the bass and drums, accompanied by catchy-as-hell rhyming. And also the trio's voices, which usually goes through some funky effect filter. The opening three-punch of Make Some Noise, Nonstop Disco Powerpack and OK will knock your socks off. You have the punk song; here it's Lee Majors Come Again, very Blitzkrieg Bop-like. Then you have the instrumental (Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament), and also the weird half-a-minute tracks. BTW, see if you can catch some Subterranean Homesick Blues lines.

Adam "MCA" Yauch, as you know, suffered throat cancer, which put the group's activities to a long halt few years back. But now he's back and better than ever. He's always been my favorite of the three, I think probably because the way he sounds. There's a very nice flow to this record, in fact you can say that for most of their previous stuff. I rather listen to the whole thing from start to finish rather than pick individual songs. Weirdly enough, that's the best way to appreciate the Beastie Boys. Listening to Hot Sauce reminds me of why I got into them the first place.

Ch-check it out!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jerry Seinfeld - Personal Archives

One of America's most beloved comedians just opened up his vaults! Three clips from Seinfeld's performances will be put up on his new website everyday, but they'll only be available for 24 hours, before being replaced by three new ones, and so on. Lots of familiar material if you've followed the sitcom and read his books, but it's always a delight seeing him way back before the fame.


Friday, May 6, 2011

The Cover Of The Rolling Stone

If you're an avid reader, you'll know that for the past few months, there has been a contest allowing you to vote for your favorite up and coming band to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. It started with thousands of bands taking part, and it's now down to four vying for the ultimate prize, and also a contract with Atlantic Records. This is no American Idol; you'll actually find real talent here. I've listened to the songs of the remaining finalists and they all sound worthy of being in the final four. But I definitely know who I want on the cover of RS.

Enter The Sheepdogs, hailing from Saskatoon, SK. And yes, they are a shaggy bunch. The singer's vocals reminds me of Paul Rodgers of Free, and the music like The Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Guess Who, The Allman Brothers, CCR, and everything we love about southern boogie rock & roll. The music may be very familiar, but I think the world needs to hear this band. Besides, they represent the qualities RS (of the '60s and '70s) used to stand for. Let's bring back rock & roll into the mainstream. If you're not convinced after listening to their stuff, then you should get your head checked.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ukulele Songs / Water On The Road

Here's a good reason to pre-order from Ten Club:

100 + pages of music charts, lyrics, photos and ukulele tips, beautifully bound and printed on fine paper.
It costs a mere 30 bucks, and you get the CD too! Also, good to know the concert film is getting a blu-ray release.
The single and music video, Longing To Belong, is available on iTunes.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


U2 may be the only band that has as many haters as they have fans. Me, I've had a love-hate relationship with them (actually mainly Paul Hewson) for the past decade. But whatever it is, I've been a faithful subscriber to the official fanclub for over five years, all for the main purpose of getting pre-sale tickets to their shows. I finally took advantage of it last year when I secured good seats to the 360 shows in Perth. And then in March this year, I was given the opportunity to renew my annual membership. So what was the subscriber exclusive this time? A compilation CD of the band's past collaborations with other artists, almost half of which most hardcore fans already own. That was a good-enough sign for lots of us to voice our disappointments to management for not putting enough effort in coming up with something creative. I mean after all, we are paying 40 bucks to renew our membership, and this is all we get?

Personally I didn't need to have the Duals album (I already have The Wanderer, The Saints Are Coming, Miss Sarajevo, When Love Comes To Town and the Allen Ginsberg-penned Drunk Chicken/America from The Joshua Tree reissue). But I decided to renew just before my membership expired. The compilation opens with a new rendition of Where The Street Have No Name, accompanied by an outstanding African group, known as the Soweto Gospel Choir. Seems like it was recently recorded, cause it sounds exactly the way the band plays the song in concert now. The version of Miss Sarajevo here is longer; it has an extra instrumental break before Pavarotti sings, and an extended outro with more violins. Ok, so at least it's not a replica from the Passengers album.

Sunday Bloody Sunday is taken from the show in Auckland last November, the one that has Jay-Z free rapping some stuff about politics; it's surprisingly enjoyable, though I'm glad Bono didn't bring him out during the Perth shows. What's worse is the cheesy Haiti tribute, Stranded. One; Mary J. Blige is an amazing singer, but honestly I think she ruined the whole song when she sang with Bono. It would actually sound better if she just did her own version, without backing by U2. The high point here is Stuck In A Moment, with Mick Jagger (if you don't already own the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary Concerts on blu-ray/dvd, go buy it immediately). Another is the Celtic folk The Ballad Of Ronnie Drew featuring some Irish musicians I've never heard of. Other than the Green Day, Willie Nelson, B.B. King and Johnny Cash collaborations, the rest of the stuff is pretty average.

Duals definitely isn't the best thing the fanclub has released. The Medium, Rare & Remastered (alternate takes, outtakes and b-sides) they put out two years ago -- now that was quality stuff. But I'm not knocking myself in the head for paying the pricey renewal fee; I figured I'd still probably end up reading Willie's tour diary too. And besides, I'm confident there will be some surprises coming our way this year (the long-rumored new album?), and when that happens, the members will surely benefit the most.

UPDATE: The band dropped by Hansa Studio in Berlin a few days ago, to film 'something'. Could this be for the Achtung Baby 20th anniversary reissue?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Last Play At Shea

In the summer of 2008, Billy Joel had the honor of being the last artist to play Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, which previously hosted concerts by The Who, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, and of course The Beatles. The concert was a celebration of his musical roots as much as it was an emotional sendoff. Compiled over two nights, the setlist covers well his entire catalog. The sound of the band is robust and dynamic, audience noise not intrusive, but my only complaint is the guitars are mixed way too low. As for the video quality, it's near perfect (get blu-ray); good editing, though just a bit over the top with the close-up crowd shots. But it's nice there's plenty of interaction between the band members. There were cameras planted everywhere, and sometimes you get to see glimpses of the stage from the high balconies; pretty cool. Also those ariel shots from outside Shea are damn spectacular.
Billy's piano playing was in top-form, though I can't say that for his singing, but hey, that's rock & roll, right? Angry Young Man, perfect opener. At times he looked really in awe of the amazing sea of fans all the way up to the rafters. I enjoyed most of the performances, though my favorite are the not-so-obvious ones; Summer Highland Falls with that lovely piano intro, Zanzibar, the orchestra-driven The Ballad Of Billy The Kid. As for the hits; I dig the New Yorker's Miami 2017, Keeping The Faith, Captain Jack (one of his lyrically best tunes), We Didn't Start The Fire, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Only The Good Die Young (somehow it's more meaningful to me with all the Catholic references). Though I wished they included the other songs like Big Shot, A Matter Of Trust and An Innocent Man. One of the best moments comes during the Piano Man intro, where Billy suddenly launches into Take Me Out To The Ballgame; in which any concert at a ballpark wouldn't be complete without.

Then there were the guest appearances; homeboy Tony Bennett assisted Billy on New York State Of Mind, which seemed to elevate the whole performance into a new level of high. John Mayer soloing on This Is The Time was kinda lackluster I thought. Obviously the big one was Paul McCartney taking the reins on I Saw Her Standing There during the encore. I loved the crowd reaction as everyone went nuts when he walked onstage (watching this brought me back to that night at Hyde Park). Ironically the concert ends with Let It Be; it looked like Billy was more than happy to let Sir Paul finish it off. The bonus guest performances are equally awesome; Roger Daltrey doing his signature stuttering on My Generation, Steve Tyler on a surprisingly good rendition of Walk This Way, and my favorite, John Mellencamp (whom Billy also inducted into the Rock Hall) on Pink Houses. Here's hoping he goes back on tour with Elton John soon.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Vault

If you don't already know, Wolfgang's Vault is the single best live music collection in the online world. A few days ago they introduced the 'concert video' section, opening another treasure trove of undiscovered gems. There's lots of wonderful stuff there, if you have the patience. I was blown away watching The Who doing Sparks and Young Man Blues (Tanglewood 1970), and The Byrds doing an instrumental Eight Miles High. There's also footage of The Band's last show (aka The Last Waltz). We finally get to see the performances not in the film; like Joni doing Arcadian Driftwood, Neil on Four Strong Winds, and Dylan on Hazel & I Don't Believe You, and many other songs. The video quality is pretty poor, though it's interesting to watch it from another perspective. Go for the sound.