Sunday, November 25, 2012

Celebration Day

There have been so many band reunions over the years, but obviously none as big and significant as this one, even if it was just a one-off thing. The sheer monstrosity of this event can't be understated. Year 2007 -- 20 million people around the world trying their luck to get into the 18,000-capacity O2 Arena in London. It was Led Zeppelin's first proper full-length gig since 1979. The pressure on the band to deliver was immense, and man, did they deliver -- if this document is how the band would want fans to remember them, then they have succeeded in maintaining their legacy, leaving with their head held high, no regrets.

When the lights in the arena go out, an old 70s newsreel plays on the big screen behind the stage, in a way introducing the band members. And what better way to kick things off than for Led Zeppelin to do their first song off their first album. The signature opening to Good Times Bad Times was earth shattering. The heavens split, and history was made at that point. The band was on fire, at the top of their game. There were smiles all around, so many interaction and facial exchanges between the band members. You can tell they were genuinely happy to be there. It makes us feel extremely good too. Black Dog is one of those songs that show the ingeniousness of the band's craft and creativeness in taking the blues somewhere new. Here it was played noticeably at least one key lower, so that Robert Plant could sing. He can't hit the high notes anymore, so there are quite a few songs that evening that were played in that respect. But his voice aged like fine wine. Jimmy Page's still a undeniably great guitarist. His playing on Black Dog isn't perfect, but the soul isn't lost. The magic is still there.

Only 16 songs were played, and every performance could be considered a highlight, with even a few considered definitive. In My Time Of Dying was when things started kicking into extreme high gear. The band was locked in, tight as shit. It was a joy to watch, especially Page. I got so sucked in by the music that I didn't mind those quick cuts and frequent 8mm camera shots in the video editing. For Your Life can be considered definitive, because it was the first time they played it live! It's astounding how such a great song wasn't performed back in their heyday. The next half hour is my favorite portion of the show. From Trampled Under Foot to an AMAZING Nobody's Fault But Mine (with Plant playing a mean harp solo), and then to an extended No Quarter, followed by Since I've Been Loving You. WOW. Too good for any words to describe. Just go watch it. John Paul Jones is bloody great, the most consistent player of the night in fact.

Dazed And Confused, another gem any Led Zep show wouldn't be complete without. As expected, the bow got the biggest cheers. Unfortunately, Stairway To Heaven, perhaps the most recognizable tune to even the non-fan, wasn't what I was expecting. Far from the best version I've heard, it looked and sounded to me like the band was a bit hesitant on playing it. May I say it was somewhat uninspiring. Maybe it could be because it was tuned down lower. But for many in attendance, that song was probably the sole purpose what got them there that night. The Song Remains The Same, the original studio version a marvelous showcase of guitar wizardry sounds very different here. It's more stripped bare, but again, Page makes do with what he has and goes for the killing. Misty Mountain Hop is a kinda weird tune by Led Zep standards, one which I've grown to love after hearing it in Almost Famous. It far surpasses the album take here.

Kashmir ends the main set. Wise choice indeed. Plant's shriek during the breakdown sends chills down my spine. I think it's still their greatest song ever, and the minute-long crescendo at the finale is one of the best moments from the film. The band didn't relegate to playing a greatest hits-type setlist. In fact if you wanna be technical, more than half the songs performed weren't originally released as singles. One more thing I gotta mention is regarding Jason Bonham. The spirit of his father was beside him all through the two hours. Plenty of face-time was given to him. Those drum solos, particularly finishing off Black Dog, Whole Lotta Love and Rock And Roll...WOW. I love the final part where the three guys gather close in front of Bonham's kit as he goes crazy with the solo. Goes to show you don't need a fanciful kit to display some insane drumming. He's actually the main reason why I can re-watch this countless times.

Sound mix is excellent for the most part, definitely better heard on the blu-ray than on the cd. Audience noise is leveled just right. The bonus dvd includes footage of the band going through a full dress rehearsal (from start to finish) at Shepperton Studios. It's just that the single camera is placed at the soundboard, some distance away from the action. The plus side is you get to see the whole giant projection screen. And the sound quality (a rare uncompressed LPCM 2.0) is pretty magnificent. So it's worth watching again and again. I'll even go so far as to say several of the songs performed during the rehearsal were better than the actual concert.

As far as concert films go, Celebration Day is right up there with The Last Waltz -- it transcends rock & roll music. And remember the message at the start of The Last Waltz? "This film should be played LOUD."


Friday, November 23, 2012


It's better than Uno. But for all its stripped-down, '60s inspired garage rock styling, it's a decent-at-best album. Nothing to shout about. I'm just a casual fan, but I long for the days of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown (and I hope that the final, upcoming Tre, will be able to deliver some of those anthemic vibes). I must say that the song, Nightlife, is probably the worst Green Day song ever. It's so fucking plain awful it would've fit nicely on a Black Eyed Peas or Maroon 5 album. Combining the best of Uno and Dos would surely make one hell of a record. Anyway, I hope Billie Joe Armstrong gets out of rehab soon.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Light The Fuse

I remember around this time last November, we got the debut of the official bootleg series, The Brussels Affair, still the best of the lot. Man, has it been a year already? This fifth show is taken from the Stones' most recent tour, or rather, before it officially began (though personally I would've preferred something from the very early Brian Jones-era). The songs sound very different from when the band performs them in a big arena or stadium. Different arrangements, different vibes, different chemistry. It's cool to hear this stuff in a tiny club setting. Besides, the rawness and looseness are more apparent here. 19th Nervous Breakdown is slowed down a lot; not sure if I like this version. Dead Flowers sounds great. The Otis Redding and Bob Marley covers kick ass too.
  1. Rough Justice
  2. Live With Me
  3. 19th Nervous Breakdown
  4. She's So Cold
  5. Dead Flowers
  6. Back Of My Hand
  7. Ain't Too Proud to Beg
  8. Band Introductions
  9. Infamy
  10. Oh No, Not You Again
  11. Get Up, Stand Up
  12. Mr. Pitiful
  13. Tumbling Dice
  14. Brown Sugar
  15. Jumping Jack Flash

Monday, November 12, 2012


Long may you run, Uncle Neil.

P.S. Pre-sales for the Neil Young & Crazy Horse March 2013 tour down under start this Wednesday, public sales next Monday [link].

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Springsteen & I

is a call out to YOU, the fans, to make a film about Bruce and what he means to you. We want your most personal insights, abstractions and reflections on how Bruce Springsteen and his music has affected your life. Springsteen & I is an open invitation to people all over the world to share stories that celebrate one of the greatest storytellers of our generation. 

Now, this is interesting. Not sure how this will turn out next year, but it's a dream come true, being able to do something creative about my favorite subject. What better way than to express it in film? Just started on the new Bruce biography, so maybe that will help inspire a little. 


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - 2013 Australia/New Zealand Tour

It has just been made official! I happened to be listening to Driftin' Back when I first read about this. Sorry Patti Smith, looks like I won't be going to Japan next year.

Mar 2, 2013 - Perth Arena, Perth
Mar 5, 2013 - Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Mar 7, 2013 - Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane
Mar 9, 2013 - A Day On The Green - Bimbadgen Winery, Hunter Valley
Mar 10, 2013 - Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney
Mar 15, 2013 - Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Mar 16, 2013 - A Day On The Green - The Hill Winery, Geelong
Mar 19, 2013 - TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
Mar 21, 2013 - Vector Arena, Auckland


Meanwhile, we're still waiting for the Springsteen dates down under, which according to rumors, is supposed to occur around the same time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

This train carries saints and sinners...

Earlier this year, Bruce said that he would not be campaigning for President Obama this coming election. He changed his mind few weeks ago when the E Street Band got back on the road. As of now, he has already performed at seven rallies for Obama, three of which took place just yesterday, on the eve of Election Day (and one of which also had Jay-Z performing, but not with Bruce). Apart from his usual No Surrender, The Promised Land, Thunder Road, and a new acoustic We Take Care Of Our Own, Bruce also brought back the stripped-down Land Of Hope And Dreams, which is just as emotional as the full-band versions (the E Street Band played it last week at the Hurricane Sandy benefit concert). The feeling I get from watching this is the exact same one as when I saw Bruce sing The Rising backed by a huge gospel choir at Obama's inauguration concert four years ago. Moved beyond words. Anyway, I've been following closely the elections these past few months, and based on what I've seen and read, I strongly believe that President Obama deserves to serve his country for another four more years. I hope to raise a toast to his victory tonight.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Psychedelic Pill

1. Driftin' Back
The longest song in Neil's repertoire, at a whopping 27 minutes. I turned up the volume before diving in, bracing myself for 'impact'. But there wasn't no sound of thunder. Instead it was the gentle strumming on the acoustic guitar. Before you know it, Crazy Horse gallops in, in all its ragged glory. It's a rough, bumpy ride; at times you can hear either drummer Ralph Molina or bassist Billy Talbot trying to keep up with the music. But that's the Horse will all know and love. Half the time Neil laments on how today's corporations and technology are destroying art, and longs for the old golden days when it wasn't about just the money. "When you hear my song now, you only hear 5% / You used to get it all." This could only mean one thing. Support and buy Pono when it comes out next year! The plain two-chord progression has a very calming effect though, and it gives me visions of euphoria. 

2. Psychedelic Pill
The extreme phasing stereo effects induce sonic psychedelia. Sign Of Love (2010) guitar riff paired with Fuckin' Up drum licks. It's actually pretty stunning. Good 'ol classic Horse in under four minutes. The bonus alternative mix has minus the studio trickery; it's definitely more listenable, but the essence of what the song is about is lost.

3. Ramada Inn
The next longest song on the album happens to be one of the Horse's absolute best tunes ever recorded. The more I listen to it, the shorter it feels. I wouldn't mind if the jam went on another ten more minutes. And just like Driftin' Back, it has all the elements of what makes Neil such a great improvisational and melodic guitar player; he plays really mean, focused solos here. Poncho, as usual, does what he does best. He's an average guitar player, but he somehow manages to support Neil in a mystical way in which only he can do. This is a perfectly crafted Crazy Horse song, in the beautiful spirit of Cortez The Killer.

4. Born In Ontario
I like when Neil sings about growing up, but unfortunately this one doesn't click with me. I'm not feeling the melody at all. The only thing I dig is the organ. 

5. Twisted Road
Another autobiographical tune. But compared to the previous one, this is so much better. A homage to Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Grateful Dead, done garage style. For the first time, Neil is penning all these songs without the influence of weed or alcohol (as mentioned in his book) -- he's doing a good job so far. And is it just me or does this have a bit of a Friend Of The Devil vibe?

6. She's Always Dancing
Same vein as Like A Hurricane, though not as epic. The awesome run of solos continues. It's still terrific despite the too-simplistic lyrics. I love it.

7. For Love Of Man
The most un-Crazy Horse song, originally written in the '80s. Slow, brooding and moving. It's obvious he's singing about his disabled son, Ben Young, also his spiritual guide, a term he occasionally uses in his book. Reminds me much of Western Hero, from Sleeps With Angels (1994), criminally underrated by the way.

8. Walk Like A Giant
Neil brings home the theme from Driftin' Back in the closing number, and has the band firing on all cylinders once again. Neil likes looking back a lot on this record, doesn't he? As a young man living through the '60s and '70s, he and his friends thought they could change and save the world. They felt invincible. But shit happened ("the weather changed and the white got stained"). The music ends on a devastating note, a continuous, near-painful bombardment of noise and feedback, resulting in nothing but broken dreams and promises.

Overall, Psychedelic Pill is close to flawless, no matter how flawed musically the Horse may be, or even despite the many similar riffs rehashed from past work. Neil's voice is still in top shape. By now, we should already know what to expect from the Horse....the long jams, the feedback, the occasional off-timings and off-keys, the unrelenting power, and the undying SOUL. Yet they never fail to surprise us. Neil has finally let them out of the barn; I mean you can REALLY smell them this time, unlike in Americana, released back in June. Kick-ass album title to boot -- it simply screams out: listen to me! It's their best since Ragged Glory. Crank the hell out of it.