Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Rising turns 10

I still remember walking into the record store and purchasing the special edition version. I listened to it everyday for the next two and a half years. What a masterpiece.

Here's a rare official video of The Rising [link]. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Heart & Soul

A tour premiere in Gothenburg, night 1. Full of heart. Full of soul. Jakey, you've made your uncle proud yet again. The next night (28 July), Jungleland was finally performed.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

further Wrecking Ball Tour dates

London Olympics opening ceremony tonight, around the same time Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band are breaking the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg (they actually did in 1985). The remaining dates for this year are up.

October 19 - Ottawa, ON - Scotiabank Place
October 21 - Hamilton, ON - Copps Coliseum
October 23 - Charlottesville, VA - John Paul Jones Arena
October 25 - Hartford, CT - XL Center
October 27 - Pittsburgh, PA - CONSOL Energy Center
November 1 - State College, PA - Bryce Jordan Center
November 3 - Louisville, KY - KFC Yum! Center
November 11 - St. Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center
November 12 - St. Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center
November 15 - Omaha, NE - CenturyLink Arena
November 17 - Kansas City, MO - Sprint Center
November 19 - Denver, CO - Pepsi Center
November 26 - Vancouver, BC - Rogers Arena
November 28 - Portland, OR - The Rose Garden
November 30 - Oakland, CA - Oracle Arena
December 4 - Anaheim, CA - Honda Center
December 6 - Glendale, AZ - Jobing.com Arena

There's no confirmed news yet that the tour will be extending into next year, but plenty of rumors have come out of Australia (Mar '13), South America and Europe (in the summer). So it's only a matter of time before we get something official.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


My best attempt at a succinct review: The Gaslight Anthem's first album on a major record label (Mercury) is a triumph. Handwritten immediately met my expectations upon first listen. Musically it's not vastly different from their signature blue-collar heartland punk rock sound of The '59 Sound and American Slang, but there are quite a few curve-balls thrown in to keep things interesting. This music is made for the live stage. The freshness has far from worn off, and if there's one thing that keeps me coming back over and over again, it's Brian Fallon's songwriting. Simply incredible. He's put some of his most personal stuff down -- I loved what he did with the Horrible Crowes Elsie last year, but these new lyrics blow it miles out of the water. There's a lot of breaking down of walls between him and his demons. 

1. 45
It sets the tone of the album just right. A mission statement. A very 'mainstream rock' sound; and one that harks back to the ferocity of the more edgy songs off their debut, Sink Or Swim. It's always awesome when there's a lyrical marriage of music records and human relationships.

2. Handwritten
One of the best songs Gaslight has ever done. Period. I've never heard Brian sound so 'old' and 'worn out' before; I love it. It's like he's aged ten years or something. Emotionally this song just kills me every time I listen. And the music video brings it right home -- I never thought it could be interpreted that way. Wanna hear the best "ooohhhh" chants in a Gaslight song? It's right here.
"I’m in love with the way you're in love with the night/ And it travels from heart to limb to pen" What a line.

3. Here Comes My Man
You could say it's nothing like what they've done previously. Motown-inspired instrumentation, driven by a Rickenbacker. There's a Phil Spector-cum-garage rock quality to it. Gaslight songs have always been very 'manly', but for the first time, Brian sings from the perspective of a heartbroken female. It's not that big of a deal right, singing for the opposite sex. But here, Brian manages to pulls it off perfectly. There's so much soul in his voice. Great outtro to boot.
Never mind what you think, never mind what you like/
I'll take it out to the streets for somebody else to admire

4. Mulholland Drive
Another amazing one. Brian is apparently a fan of the movie of the same name. This probably has nothing to do with the David Lynch classic, but I can't help but think of the two female leads. I think it features the longest guitar solo so far by Alex Rosamilia, who has improved tremendously since American Slang. He's kinda got his own unique style now.

5. Keepsake
By now it's pretty obvious which direction the band is heading towards. Everything is bigger, more arena-rock, more catchy. But the music still retains that 'down to earth' quality. Brian sings about the absence of his father during his childhood years. No matter how much you can't relate to the lyrics, the song's never impersonal. He writes and sings as if you lived and breathed those words.

6. Too Much Blood
I'd say the direct influence of this is Chris Cornell. The centerpiece of the album. It's five minutes long! I like that the chorus is more subdued than the verses. I can't say enough good things about Brian's vocals. He sends chills down my spine, in a good way. It's almost palpable. He's coming from a place where we've all been before at some point in our lives.

7. Howl
Two-minute fist pumper. It's something very familiar coming from them, lyrically and musically, but it's still surprisingly refreshing. The line, "And I love the country movement in the way your dress would wave, from your hips on down, like electric through the ground" is so, so good.

8. Biloxi Parish
If I'm not wrong, they debuted this song live at least one year ago. It's a little different, a little on the bluesy side. Again, another big huge chorus. By this point in the record, the music has not let up one bit. It's still incredibly consistent.

9. Desire
Involves a subject matter that every man and woman has dealt with before. Insanely catchy and melodic, like every song here so far. It reminds me of Casanova Baby, but minus the Springsteen-type lyrical references. I'm glad he's gone away from all that now.

10. Mae
One big difference between this new album and their earlier stuff is notice how now Brian doesn't mention any girls' names, nor does he make reference to classic 50s teenage and rock & roll imagery. There's a little bit of that here. And like the title track, it's one of the best ones they've ever done. It's stunning. It's very U2-esque in nature, with some nice Edge echo-drenched guitar in the chorus. Unfortunately it reminds me of what Coldplay likes to do; except Gaslight does it much better than that sissy British group.

11. National Anthem
Maybe this is becoming like a tradition of sorts; closing the record with something soft. It's up there with The Navesink Banks. "I'll never forget you, my American love" -- who sings this kind of stuff nowadays? I always love it when Brian mentions America in any song.

The souped-up production by Brendan O'Brien brings out the best in the rhythm section. Alex Levine and my current favorite drummer, Benny Horowitz have never sounded better. Handwritten is the turning point in the band's career, and they already have three strong albums previously under their belt. I would like to see them get more noticed now. But I hope they keep on maintaining their integrity and not sell themselves out in the near future. Honestly I could see them continuing down the path that Pearl Jam went back in the mid '90s. Handwritten is a lifesaver. It's the album I've been waiting for my whole life.


P.S. The bonus tracks from the deluxe edition (not really digging the alternate 'white' cover) include two covers; Nirvana's Silver and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' You Got Lucky. For the former, Brian's voice literally becomes Kurt Cobain's; it's almost exactly the same it's scary. The latter is more garage than the one from '82, more focused on the guitars than the synthesizer. The original bonus track is Blue Dahlia, which is probably the most unconventional tune, by Gaslight's standards. But it's very catchy, despite all the weird chord changes.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bruce Springsteen at Sixty-Two

photograph by Jo Lopez; Manchester, UK (22 June, 2012)

What's all the fuss about this guy they call the Boss? This new, informative essay (15,000+ words) from The New Yorker [link] will serve to explain it. I can only dream about writing about a subject I so admire this well, and it's pieces like this, one of the best ever written, that clearly reiterates why I fucking love the man. There are a couple 'new' facts that have not previously surfaced in other books and articles. Take this as a precursor to the upcoming, supposedly definitive biography about Bruce, released in November [link].

New Yorker podcast discussing Bruce [link]
The stories behind the photographs [link]
Rolling Stone interview with Stevie [link]
Charlie Rose interview with David Remnick, writer of the New Yorker feature [link]

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Stone Roses

Fans are considered very lucky to be able to catch the Stone Roses reunion gigs here in Singapore and other parts of Asia. They sold out wherever they played in Europe recently, including their three-night hometown stand in Manchester for over a hundred thousand people. Here it's different. They're pretty much unheard of around these parts. Tonight, the Indoor Stadium (unfortunately the only mid/large sized arena here, and with lousy acoustics) was less than half filled. The gig itself wasn't too bad, though I still can't fully appreciate their music. Obviously the only songs they played were from their only two albums. I actually enjoyed the instrumentals more than I did the singing -- Ian Brown is a terrible vocalist live. But he does make the effort to engage the crowd, unlike another singer from Manchester who dons the exact same hairstyle as Brown. The rhythm section of guitarist John Squire, bassist Gary Mounfield and drummer Alan Wren were just killing it the entire show. There were plenty of long jams throughout and what a treat it was to watch them play off each other. There was no encore, but at the end, it was nice to see the band hug one another, big smiles all around. Let's hope they're in this for the long haul.

Next up is the legendary Beach Boys exactly a month from now!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Every word handwritten

The first Gaslight song which immediately brought me to tears.
An interesting interview with the director and Benny Horowitz reveals more. [link]

Our friends at NPR Music has the entire album up for listening! [link]


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hyde Park 'fiasco'

If only this year's Hard Rock Calling festival were in June, then I would've attended. I had tremendous fun there three years ago. The news about Springsteen's headlining slot last night has spread like wildfire through the music world within the last 12 hours. Paul McCartney made a special guest appearance, performing I Saw Her Standing There and Twist And Shout. Apart from his headlining gig two years ago, this was the second time Macca has made a surprise appearance on the Hyde Park stage, the first being with Neil Young during A Day In The Life (I was there and I thought I was in heaven). Unfortunately, the organizers literally pulled the plug and off went the sound right at the end of Twist And Shout, just as Bruce did his usual routine of reintroducing the E Street Band. They didn't even get a chance to do Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out!

According to many reports from fansites, Backstreets, Greasy Lake and Stone Pony London, the volume level throughout the show was too low. Ok, so it's a park right in the center of London and surrounded by residences, but still. And the heavy downpour probably didn't make things any better. I'm sure it was a great gig nonetheless -- if there's one thing I realized from Sunderland and especially Manchester, it's that Bruce and the band always put in ten times the effort when it's raining. And opening the show with Thunder Road with Roy on piano just like Hammersmith 1975; how cool could that be?

Watching the fan video [link], the joyfulness of the band getting the rare opportunity to perform with a legend, but then towards the end the cut-off sound resulting in Bruce singing a few lines of Goodnight Irene unplugged; that was just sad and insulting to the audience and to the band. Live Nation issued an official statement on Facebook saying they had to stick to the strict curfew, for the interest of public health and safety. Yeah, like playing for ten extra minutes would severely compromise people's health and safety. Jeez. I'll bet this will be the last time they'll ever play Hard Rock Calling.

Here's what Little Steven had to say/tweet:
UPDATE #1: A few hours later after Stevie's rant, he tweets again, this time kissing the asses of Live Nation and Hard Rock by saying they are 'cool'. Contrary to initial reports, it was actually them, not the police, that pulled the plug. By the way, Hard Rock is one of the main sponsors of his awesome Underground Garage radio program. 

UPDATE #2: Stevie apologizes. [link]

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Woody Guthrie turns 100 years old today. It was through the folk songs of Dylan and Springsteen and Steve Earle that made me go back to the roots. I'm no expert on the man and his music, but definitely a good way to start would be to read the acclaimed biography by Joe Klein, Woody Guthrie: A Life, and Woody's own writings about his early travels throughout America, Bound For Glory. The latest news is that his unpublished novel is finally gonna see the light of day next year [link]. As for the music, there are tons of compilations out there. The recommended ones are the multiple-disc sets -- Library Of Congress Recordings, The Asch Recordings, and Some Folk, which I own. To commemorate this historic occasion, there's even a brand new set titled Woody At 100 [link]. He was one of the earliest pioneers of folk music, which in turn would influence the birth of the Americana genre, music embracing the magnificent and troubled spirit and history of the United States. He has a vast repertoire (perhaps the most prolific songwriter ever), much of which consisted of protest tunes; he always sang for that 99%. 

There are artists who have followed his musical footsteps, picking up from where he left off by putting fresh melodies to his unrecorded lyrics -- Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg & Wilco, and the most recent New Multitudes, by Jay Farrar, Anders Parker, Will Johnson & Yim Yames. Today there are few willing to challenge the status quo, the way Woody (and Pete Seeger) did back in his prime. The best example is Tom Morello, aka The Nightwatchman, who does it in a much more radical manner, but still carrying on Woody's legacy. Personally, the spirit and idea of protest is too far-fetched, and perhaps even looked down upon in my own establishment, but God bless someone like Tom who continues to fight for the downtrodden in his country and question authority in areas that need questioning.

Relevant links:

- Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration Website

- Official Woody Guthrie Website

- Guardian UK: Woody's Legacy

- Folk Alley's Woody Guthrie Centennial Mix

- NPR: At 100, Woody Guthrie Still Resonates 

- No Depression: What Woody Did

- LA Times: Woody At 100

- The Atlantic: Why Woody Guthrie Endures

- Washington Post: Woody Guthrie At 100: American Struggles & Dreams

- NY Times: Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Novel

- John Mellencamp's poetic tribute to Woody

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Live At The Tokyo Dome

Perfect timing. This week, today in fact, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the world's greatest rock & roll band (of their very first gig at London's Marquee Club), and apart from the special hardcover photobook [link] to mark the occasion, there are also two new, exciting live releases. The first is a DVD/CD package of Muddy Waters and the Stones live in Chicago, 1981 [link]. I'll cover it at a later date once I get my hands on it. Then there's the fourth show in the awesome ongoing official bootleg series, Tokyo 1990 [link]. Taken from the Steel Wheels tour, which was also the last tour for Bill Wyman, before he left the band. Rumor has it there will be two more shows in this series.

The sound quality is noticeably different from the first three releases. This show took place in a huge stadium, and the sound mix reflects that, though I feel the keyboards are a tad far back. But Bob Clearmountain, as usual, always does a bang-up job with the mixing. Besides the then new Steel Wheels songs, about half the setlist contains songs that have appeared frequently on Brussels '73, LA '75 and Hampton '81, but in the case of the Stones, it's never tiring listening to the same stuff over and over again, especially Midnight Rambler and Gimme Shelter and Sympathy. The band plays differently every time. Besides, this show had added horns and backup singers, including a certain Cindy Mizelle! And there's Bitch and 2000 Light Years too. It's all good, better than the Flashpoint live album. Wow, 50 years. That's just massive.
  1. Start Me Up
  2. Bitch
  3. Sad Sad Sad
  4. Harlem Shuffle
  5. Tumbling Dice
  6. Miss You
  7. Ruby Tuesday
  8. Almost Hear You Sigh
  9. Rock And A Hard Place
  10. Mixed Emotions
  11. Honky Tonk Women
  12. Midnight Rambler
  13. You Can't Always Get What You Want
  14. Can't Be Seen
  15. Happy
  16. Paint It Black
  17. 2000 Light Years From Home
  18. Sympathy For The Devil
  19. Gimme Shelter
  20. Band Introductions
  21. It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It)
  22. Brown Sugar
  23. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
  24. Jumping Jack Flash


P.S. A lengthy review of my first and only Stones show almost ten years ago [link].

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bruce's girls

Dancing in the dark with his own girl:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Independence Day

A tour premiere, debuted on the 4th Of July. Watch and weep.
Also I'm extremely jealous after looking at the setlists from both nights in Paris.

Bootleg Update:
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Royal Albert Hall, London (June 18) [link]
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Royal Albert Hall, London (June 20) [link]
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Stadium Of Light, Sunderland (June 21) [link]
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Etihad Stadium, Manchester (June 22) [link]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mike Campbell's Rickenbackers

My favorite guitar in the world. The sound of America. And there was plenty of that at The Royal Albert Hall two weeks ago!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Love Goes To Buildings On Fire

The title of Talking Heads' first single. Also the title of a non-fiction book, released late last year, by music critic Will Hermes. I finally got around to finishing it after not touching it for a few months. It's a great read, one that requires a bit of patience and lots of open-mindedness. It helps that he's a big Springsteen fan too. In summary, the book tells the story of the New York City music scene from 1973 to 1977. So not only you get the punk, rock & roll stuff like The Ramones, New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Blondie, Talking Heads, Lou Reed etc, you also find out about other genres like salsa, disco, dance, hip-hop, minimalist classical and loft jazz, all of which are given equal treatment in the book. The art that came out of this significant five-year period would influence most of what we listen to today. And Hermes also sets the context and backdrop of which this music came out of. He describes vividly what it was like to live in NYC back in the '70s. I think to say that it used to be a tough town would probably be an understatement. In between the lives of the artists, he covers murders, muggings, bombings, blackouts, rallies, and all the craziness that went down in the five boroughs. It's essential education into a period which is largely forgotten today, and not given enough credit for.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Manchester bootleg #1

The post-Bruce Springsteen concert depression hasn't fully gone away yet. Surprisingly I'm not 'suffering' as much as I did back in '09, after my first show. But the thing that hurts right now is knowing I'm not seeing the band (and John Fogerty and Tom Morello!) at Hyde Park again next weekend. Thankfully, the first bootleg version of the now legendary Manchester show (June 22nd) is already circulating online. Get it while its hot [link], together with other shows from the European tour. I've listened to it here and there, and the sound is pretty decent, taking into account the wind and rain. And there's minimal audience chatter. In other related news, Bruce has been named the 2013 MusiCares Person Of The Year [link]. He joins other legends like Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Bono and James Taylor who have been honored during the previous years. The ceremony takes place a few days before the Grammy Awards, and you can guarantee that Wrecking Ball will be in the running for quite a few categories, and quite possibly for Album Of The Year.