Also, just to let you know, I’m working on the traditional annual movie review post, but it probably won’t go live until mid-month, since two of the better-reviewed films of 2012, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and Michael Haneke’s Amour, don’t arrive here in the Beltway Styx until 1/11. That also gives me another week to plug a few other holes via Netflix, like last night’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (dopey, but not nearly as terribad as I feared) and The Deep Blue Sea (a definite list contender).
In any event, happy 2013 everyone. Since we’ve made it through the Mayan gauntlet and are already living in The Future, it’s all extra time from here on out. Let’s make the most of it! Onward and upward.
Notify your next-of-kin: This wheel will explode! Elvis Costello and the Imposter’s Spinning Wheel Tour was in the area this week, and I got the chance to catch my third Elvis show. Here’s the setlist, as half-determined by random spins of Elvis’s big carnival wheel:
I Hope You’re Happy Now | Heart Of The City | Mystery Dance | Uncomplicated | Radio Radio | Spin 1: Pump It Up/Busted | Spin 2: Alison | Spin 3: This Year’s Girl/Party Girl/Girl | Spin 5: Everyday I Write The Book | Spin 4: The Spell That You Cast/Indoor Fireworks/Brilliant Mistake/National Ransom | Spin 6: Roxanne/I Want You | Spin 7: And Your Bird Can Sing | (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea | Beyond Belief | Waiting for the End of the World | Spin 8: So Like Candy | Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood
Encore 1 (acoustic): A Slow Drag With Josephine | Jimmie Standing in the Rain | Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
Encore 2: Spin 9: Greenshirt/(Angels Want to Wear My) Red Shoes/Purple Rain | Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind? | What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?
So, as you can see, over thirty songs in there, and Elvis was in his usual top form. I could see “the wheel of songs” being more fun in theory than in practice, if luck hadn’t been such a lady to those of us at Wolf Trap — Granted no “Almost Blue,” “Man Out of Time,” or “Shipbuilding,” but any night you hear Elvis sing “Beyond Belief, “Indoor Fireworks,” “Alison,” “So Like Candy,” and especially “I Want You” (chosen by a contestant on a pick-any-song-you-want joker spin, and bless her for it) is a good night. If the wheel rolls ’round your way, definitely think about going. (Pic via here.)
What better way to celebrate eleven years of GitM than a ninth cuppa Bob (and my first in three years)? (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) The freewheeling Bob Dylan continued his never-ending tour Saturday night at George Washington University, and while the haters are hatin’, I knew what I was getting into — Dylan croaking his way through rockabilly versions of his classics — and had a grand ole time. Here’s the setlist:
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 | Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power) | Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues | Just Like A Woman | Rollin’ And Tumblin’ | Tryin’ To Get To Heaven | Summer Days | Desolation Row | High Water (For Charley Patton) | Simple Twist Of Fate | Highway 61 Revisited | Ain’t Talkin’ | Thunder On The Mountain | Ballad Of A Thin Man
So, if you’re keeping score, that’s a full five tracks from 1965′s Highway 61 Revisited. For me, the highlights of the evening were Ballad of a Thin Man, from that album, and especially Senor, from 1978′s Street Legal — one of my top 10 favorite Dylan songs (and one I missed during Bob’s 2005 Beacon stand.)
As far as the new stuff goes, I’d rather have heard any other Time Out of Mind track over “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven” (well, except “Make You Feel My Love“), and “Ain’t Talkin’,’” off of 2006′s Modern Times sounds to me like Dylan trying a bit too hard to be Dylanesque. That being said, “High Water (for Charley Patton)“, off of 2001′s “Love and Theft (is that album really a decade old now?) sounded as lean, mean, and vital as I’d ever heard it. It’s rough out there, high water everywhere…but it’s good to know Bob’s still keep on keepin’ on regardless.
Big doings in our lively little village: Friday night, I caught one of rock’s greatest and most influential ironists, the inimitable Ray Davies of the Kinks, in town for a weekend stand at Irving Plaza. A spirited and well-preserved 61 (Having gone to so many Dylan shows, where Bob has settled into a late-period rasp behind the keyboards, I’m always surprised to remember that time has been kinder to many of Dylan’s contemporaries), Davies offered up two sets of rollicking good ditties ranging all the way back to 1964′s seminal breakthrough “You Really Got Me.” Here’s the setlist:
Set One: I’m Not Like Everyone Else | Where Have All The Good Times Gone | Till the End of the Day | After the Fall | 20th Century Man | Oklahoma U.S.A. | Village Green | Picture Book | Animal Farm | Johnny Thunder | Sunny Afternoon | Dead End Street | Apeman | Next Door Neighbor | Creatures of Little Faith | Over My Head | The Tourist | Low Budget
All in all, a very fun evening. Looking quite a bit like Jonathan Pryce these days (particularly in his Miss Saigon period), Davies enlivened the older-leaning, fan-heavy crowd with mid-song banter and fraternally condescending anecdotes about his Kinks companion and younger brother Dave. (“He’s still a big kid, really.”) To be honest, I’d would’ve preferred to hear less of the early Brit-Pop standards and more of Davies’ grimly funny ballads of class and character. (For example, “Shangri-La“, “A Well-Respected Man“, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion“, “Celluloid Heroes“, or “Waterloo Sunset“) But, with a back catalog as long and rich as Davies’ (and a new album to promote), there are always going to be songs you don’t get to hear on a given night. (And besides, the one-two punch of “Sunny Afternoon” and “Dead End Street” was a nice, wry combo of essential Davies.)
Big concert week in these parts: After Goldfrapp on Monday, the inimitable Depeche Mode held their Garden stand. (A happy confluence: I’ve seen DM several times over the past fifteen years, but never right under the Knicks championship banners.) The openers this time ’round were The Bravery, a spirited New York outfit who are basically a synth-friendlier version of Franz Ferdinand or The Strokes. They played most of the songs off their solid first album, including “Public Service Announcement,” “Fearless,” “An Honest Mistake,” “Give In,” and (my personal fave) “Tyrant.” Then, the main act:
The Setlist: A Pain That I’m Used To / John the Revelator / A Question of Time / Policy of Truth / Precious / Walking In My Shoes / Suffer Well / Damaged People (Macro) / Home / I Want It All / The Sinner In Me / I Feel You / Behind The Wheel / World In My Eyes / Personal Jesus / Enjoy The Silence
So, as you can see, their new album — Playing the Angel — was featured heavily in the first half of the show. While I like Angel a good deal, and DM’s anti-Dubya screed “John the Revelator” has the makings to be a stadium-shaking call-and-response showstopper akin to “Personal Jesus” and “NLMDA,” I’d say some of the album’s best songs haven’t yet found their legs live. “Precious” is their best single since “Enjoy the Silence,” IMHO, but it sounded a bit washed-out at MSG (perhaps partly because Martin plays the keyboard hook on guitar. “The Sinner in Me” had a similar problem — that inexorable stalker-beat that drives the track should’ve been much, much louder.) And “I Want it All” never really gets going, particularly coming as it does after “Home,” which is Martin at his most saccharine. (Frankly, I would have taken pretty much any other Mart-track in the catalogue over it.)
But, right around halftime, with the surprisingly good version of “I Feel You,” the show turned into a hit parade, with the band pulling out all the stops to get the crowd — who, like me, are getting a mite long in the tooth these days — up and dancing. “Personal Jesus” (with Pump Mix), “Enjoy the Silence,” “NLMDA” (with Aggro), “Everything Counts”…heck, they even dusted off “Just Can’t Get Enough.” Ok, sure, it’d have been nice to hear some obscure gem like “Get the Balance Right,” “Monument,” or “Ice Machine,” but the hits are hits for a reason, and all of ‘em have been honed over years of live play into remarkable feats of showmanship. (My own geek-out moment was at the double-beat start of “Behind the Wheel” — I’d looked at the setlists before going, but had completely forgotten that it was in there.)
All in all, a grand show. Ok, Dave Gahan probably still overdoes the sing-along thing (particularly this far into the tour), but, on the flip side, he seemed happy, healthy, and energetic. I caught ‘em on the back half of the Devotional tour in ’94, and Dave was on auto-destruct, flubbing songs and boozing with abandon. Now, though, DM look to be in top form and in bright spirits…well, as bright as their spirits get.
Oh, one more thing: lose the “giant orb of gloom,” as the NY Post dubbed it. Over on the left side of the stage, the band had a big ball looking almost exactly like ET’s mothership, which flashed words — “guilt” “dissipate,” “suffering” — appropriate to a given song. Other than the timer on “AQOT” and the stock ticker on “Everything Counts,” it was almost inevitably goofy. At best, it shows somebody backstage has a thesaurus; at worst, it’s self-parody. (And, truth be told, the its/it’s grammatical error during “The Sinner in Me” was driving me nuts.)
As a nightcap to Kong (who, as it turns out, was sitting outside the venue) yesterday evening, I caught Goldfrapp for their only US performance (although they’re rumored to be touring here in 2006) at the surprisingly spacious new Nokia Theatre in Times Square (it used to be a mega-sized theater…I saw Titanic there back in the day.) All in all, an excellent show — Allison’s voice sounded studio-perfect and their sultry electrobeat bounce really filled the room:
The (Supernature-heavy) Setlist: Train / Tiptoe / Koko / Slide In / Number 1 / U Never Know / Lovely Head / Fly Me Away / Satin Chic / Beautiful / Ride A White Horse (a particular highlight) / Ooh La La
Encore: Strict Machine / Black Cherry
The stage show (if you don’t count the Jesus lookalike playing synth-violin) basically involved two dancers writhing in various costumes: as bikini-clad werewolves in “Train” (“Wolflady sucks my brain“), glittering horses in “Ride the White Horse,” spidery green winged-things for “Strict Machine,” and so on. Meanwhile, the comparatively demure Ms. Goldfrapp, looking a bit like Debbie Harry in a dark pantsuit, held court at center stage, and she sounded amazing. (Damiella/Dream Out Loud has posted some pics. If you invert the angle and add a few more heads, you basically get the show from my perspective on the right side of the room, where I’d fallen in with fellow bloggers Chris/Do You Feel Loved and Matt/Fluxblog.) At any rate, if they come to your town, check ‘em out (and preferably in a spacious venue like the Nokia Theatre — you’ll want room to bop and dance.)
Maggie’s Farm / To Ramona / Cry A While / Bye And Bye / Ballad Of Hollis Brown / If You See Her, Say Hello / Lenny Bruce / Honest With Me / The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll / High Water (For Charley Patton) / I Shall Be Released / Highway 61 Revisited
In all honesty, I think this was my least favorite setlist of the three shows (that missed Wednesday gig still haunts me.) Although I did get to hear my favorite song on Love & Theft this time around — “Cry A While” — I generally prefer the Time Out of Mind cuts when it comes to the new stuff. Still, the show wasn’t a bad one by any means, and while my own personal highlights came early in “Maggie’s Farm” and “If you See Her, Say Hello,” it was also nice to hear “Hollis,” “Hattie,” and “I Shall Be Released.” (And even after two previous shows, nine of tonight’s 14 songs were new to me during this Beacon stand.)
So, that wraps up this leg of the Never-Ending Tour…Next up for Dylan: A ball park summer swing with Willie Nelson, which unfortunately won’t be making it to the city. Catch it if you can. (And by the way, if you ever hit up the Beacon for a summer show, dress light. It’s a great venue in terms of acoustics and view, but the air flow in there leaves something to be desired.)
Night #2 of Bob’s Beacon Stand:
Tombstone Blues / Love Minus Zero/No Limit / Lonesome Day Blues / This Wheel’s on Fire / Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum / John Brown / Under the Red Sky (Listen here) / Highway 61 Revisited / Bye and Bye / Shooting Star (Listen here) / Honest With Me / Masters of War
So, only two repeats from last night (Highway 61, Watchtower) in a 14-song setlist…that’s not bad at all. Tonight’s choices were more esoteric than Monday’s show, with “This Wheel’s on Fire” and “John Brown” the main standouts in the middle going. “Masters of War” has been given a spooky and even somewhat jarring update — as my friend Jeremy noted, it’s not exactly the type of song you expect to rock out to. And, while I don’t think I was as moved in this show as I was by “Visions of Johanna” or “Desolation Row” the night before (the stifling heat in the upper deck cheap seats didn’t help), any evening in which you hear the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan perform “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” has to go down as a good one.
Unfortunately, we missed Amos Lee this time around. As for Merle & the Strangers, I’d say their setlist was about 50-60% the same, although, Greatest Hits-wise, “Silver Wings” and “Okie from Muskogee” had been replaced by “The Bottle Let Me Down” and “Are the Good Times Really Over.” And, on both nights, Haggard has crooned a ditty called something like “Wish I Was Thirty Again,” which strikes a favorable chord in this corner.
At any rate, I’ll be missing the next two shows, but am greatly looking forward to the last stop of this tour, Saturday night at the Beacon. (Yea, I know three shows is kinda decadent, but tix went on sale the Tuesday morning after Hunter checked out, and it seemed to me then that it’s worth catching Dylan as many times as possible if given the opportunity. Two shows into this swing, I’m not regretting my decision at all.)
The Bob Dylan Show‘s freewheeling week in NYC began here last night at the Beacon Theatre, and it was a doozy. Bob’s got two opening acts this time around: First up was Amos Lee, a young guy who seemed pretty talented and exuded a sort of John Mayer/VH1-Storytellers vibe, and his three-piece band. Unfortunately, I arrived late and only caught the tail end of their set, but what I heard sounded pretty good.
Then came Merle Haggard and the Strangers, a well-traveled outfit (according to them, 40 years and running) with — as my friend Alex pointed out — the spitting image of Boris Yeltsin on the drums. Haggard & co. offered some old-school, easy-listening, toe-tappin’ country…I’m not a fan by any means, but I recognized some of the songs, including “Workin’ Man’s Blues,” “Okie from Muskogee,” and a cover of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable.” (Well, it’s Merle Haggard…I wasn’t expecting “London Calling.”) And, despite some stage banter that sounded like it’d been in the can for a really long while (replete with rim-shots), the Strangers offered up a decent hour of countrified ditties that made for a solid, if somewhat quietening, kick-off to the Dylan set.
Finally, at around 9:30 or so, the man of the hour. Dylan’s show hasn’t changed all that much in the past couple of years, but he’s honed further his crack team of back-up musicians, and the stage design — red velvet curtains, a starry backdrop — has a choice David Lynch surreality to it this time around. Here’s the setlist:
To Be Alone With You /
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight /
It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) /
Visions Of Johanna (listen here) /
Cold Irons Bound /
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again /
High Water (For Charley Patton) (Listen here) /
Summer Days /
Standing In The Doorway /
Highway 61 Revisited /
Aside from the occasional harp solo at center stage (during “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and “Desolation Row,” for example), Dylan spent the evening on the keys. His voice is not it what once was, obviously, but I generally get over that by the first song or so — In fact, on some cuts, like “It’s Alright, Ma” or “Watchtower,” I actually find Dylan’s current raspy, menacing delivery an improvement.
For me, last night’s highlights were “Visions of Johanna” and “Desolation Row,” both of which remain two of Dylan’s most transcendent wordscapes. And the Hendrix-esque closer “All Along the Watchtower,” while not really a surprise, just keeps getting better and better — Bob’s now added a very eerie echo-effect to the last couplet (“Outside in the distance / A wildcat did growl / Two riders were approaching / The wind began to howwwwll…“) I’m very much looking forward to seeing how he’ll top that tonight.
Call him King of the Mountain….via the newly reconstituted JJG, Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett (who suffered a fainting spell over the weekend) was recently elected to the Australian Parliament. I saw the Oils ten years ago during their WOMAD tour with Peter Gabriel, and Garrett was an electric presence, offering what is still far and away the best stage banter I’ve ever heard. (And, whatsmore, it wasn’t canned…I remember him riffing on their Letterman appearance only a few days earlier.) The people of Kingsford Smith are lucky — in this day and age, you could do a lot worse for an elected rep than Garrett.
So, in their first stop since Dubya Day, REM played the Garden last night. A good show, and they played my favorites from the new album (“Boy in the Well,” “High-Speed Train,” “The Outsiders”) But there was obviously a very strange and subdued vibe to the proceedings. Angela McCluskey, the opening act, struck an appropriately funereal tone with a swelling rendition of The The’s “Love is Stronger than Death.” And Stipe, for his part, seemed as staggered as most of the crowd, and barely spoke at all — (not that it much mattered…85% of the people there seemed to be waiting for “Losing My Religion” the whole time anyway.) All in all, I enjoyed last year’s stop more, but obviously those were happier times for both the band and the nation. Setlist below:
|1. It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine.)||[Just in case you haven't been keeping up with current events...]|
|2. Begin the Begin|
|3. So Fast, So Numb|
|5. Boy in the Well||“This song takes place in Tennessee.”|
|6. Welcome to the Occupation|
|8. Get Up!|
|9. High-Speed Train|
|10. Cuyahoga||“This song takes place in Ohio.” [BOO.]|
|11. Sweetness Follows|
|12. The One I Love|
|13. I Wanted to Be Wrong||“This is our State of the Union.”|
|14. Imitation of Life||“This was a #1 single in Japan.”|
|15. Final Straw|
|16. Losing My Religion||“I don’t know what to say tonight, so I’ve tried to say as little as I could and let the songs speak for themselves. There’s something about a well-constructed pop song…”|
|17. Walk Unafraid|
|18. Life and How to Live It|
|E1. What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?|
|E3. Leaving New York||“This song takes place in NYC.”|
|E4. Electrolite||“This song takes place in LA.”|
|E5. Permanent Vacation (w/ Steve Wynn)||“We’re REM, and this is what we do.”|
|E6. I’m Gonna DJ|
|E7. Man on the Moon||“This song belongs to you.”|
So R.E.M. came to town Saturday night and played probably the best show I’ve seen by Athens’ finest. (This is my fourth over the past decade.) First the setlist:
1. Finest Worksong
2. What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?
3. Driver 8
6. Fall On Me
8. Bad Day
9. The One I Love
10. World Leader Pretend
11. (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville
12. The Great Beyond
13. Country Feedback
14. Losing My Religion
15. Find The River
16. She Just Wants To Be
17. Walk Unafraid
18. Man On The Moon
19. Life And How To Live It
So all in all, a truly excellent show. There were other R.E.M. songs they’re playing on this tour that I’d have loved to hear (Exhuming McCarthy, Feeling Gravity’s Pull), but they played my two favorites (and my top two requests) — Fall on Me and Country Feedback — so I left happy. I was particularly impressed with Walk Unafraid and She Just Wants to Be, two songs off Up and Reveal respectively that really came into their own tonight, when Peter Buck chose them to show off his considerable guitar mojo. And the band wisely skipped some of their more saccharine moments — Everybody Hurts or Strange Currencies, for example — to showcase old hits (Rockville, Gardening) and political tone poems (Final Straw and World Leader Pretend, a special treat.) In sum, Stipe, Buck and Mills still got it, and I’m very much looking forward to their next swing through the area.
Hey y’all…busy weekend over here in these parts. Aside from a final orgy of TIME-reading to put an end to my summer research work, I also went to go check out the Creative Time fireworks show, where I spent most of the 4-and-some-odd minutes trying to prevent Berkeley from having a coronary (Lousy judgment on my part bringing him…I thought he might enjoy night in the Park, but he clearly thought he was back on Hill 243.) And I got to see St. Felix Station, my friend’s great bluegrass band over at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg (and was delighted to find said candy store has a weekly trivia night…booyah.)
This Modern Age plays Hipster Bingo at the Siren Music Festival on Coney Island. (Via Listen Missy.) I was there on Saturday too, and was kicking myself for not printing out a card. (I must say I also quite relished being at a beach and being well within the skin tone median – usually I’m the whitest guy for miles, but with indy rockers galore about I felt certifiably tan.) At any rate, the only acts I caught were Hot Hot Heat (interesting), The Datsuns (bleah), and Modest Mouse (ho hum) – I spent most of the time enjoying ancient amusement park technology and eating carny food. All in all, it was a beautiful day to enjoy a quintessential NYC summer attraction.
Bob Dylan’s second night at the Garden was as enjoyable as the first, with its own share of surprises. The bulk of the setlist remained the same – Although this time around Bob seemed a little more hopeful (with Forever Young and The Times They-Are-A Changin’ in the mix), he still made time for some Dylanesque zingers (such as One Too Many Mornings and You Ain’t Going Nowhere) To be honest, at the end of the show the little cynic inside my head was on the fence about whether going twice was justified…until the band closed the night with a special surprise. Bob said a few words about a friend who couldn’t be there tonight: “We were such good buddies, so I wanted to play this for him.” At which point they broke into The Beatles’ [George Harrison's] “Something.” It was a beautiful moment to cap another great night.
Caught the first of Bob Dylan’s two NYC shows last night, and as always it was a powerful experience. Dylan (who spent most of the night on piano) definitely had an agenda for the evening. For one, the war in Iraq weighed heavily on the early part of the set. A cover of Don Henley’s “End of the Innocence” (?!) at the 4-spot led into the always-excellent “Things Have Changed” (as in the The-Times-They-Are-NOT-A’-Changin’) and, after a surprisingly rockin’ version of the Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” (?!), Bob gave us the one-two punch of “Masters of War” (self-explanatory) and “It’s Alright Ma (I’m only Bleedin’)” (in which he yelled the line “And even the President of the United States must have to stand NAKED.”)
For another, Dylan spent an inordinate amount of time playing other peoples’ songs, with Neil Young (“Old Man“) and Warren Zevon (“Mutineer“) tunes at the back end of the set. Considering also that the encore was “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “All Along the Watchtower” – two songs noted for other peoples’ versions of them – and it seems like Bob felt like paying credit to his colleagues tonight.
All in all, a great show, with “Just Like a Woman” and “Shelter from the Storm” also deserving special attention (The really hardcore Dylan fans’ highlight seemed to be the second song, “Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread,” from The Basement Tapes…but to be honest, I didn’t recognize it until I saw the setlist.) The night also featured the following misheard exchange between me and my sister during a very loud “Drifter’s Escape:” Her (pointing at guy a few rows over dancing like crazy): “He’s jamming!” Me: “He’s from Yemen?” Ah well, I guess you had to be there. (Picture courtesy of Jim Lawhead.)
The Elvis Costello show at the Beacon the other evening was superb (set list here)…I was surprised how good he sounds live. I expected his voice to be a little more off, but he could hit all the notes and wavers from the studio versions. If I could pick three Elvis songs I had to hear, they’d be “Man Out of Time,” “Indoor Fireworks,” and – most importantly – “I Want You,” so I was not disappointed. (Yeah, “Alison,” “Beyond Belief,” or “Everyday I Write the Book” would’ve been cool too, but I’ll take what I can get.) The third encore in particular, the blue-lit, NIN-esque version of “I Want You” paired with “Almost Blue,” was truly a thing of beauty. As for Underworld the other night, I was underwhelmed…mostly by the venue, which was way too small and overbooked for a dance show. In fact, I’ve pretty much given up on the Hammerstein as a venue by this point. (More on the Underworld show in the comments of this post at Do You Feel Loved.) Did I mention that Elvis is King?
This appears to be the one week a year when I take advantage of living in NYC. A high school friend has procured me a ticket to see Underworld tonight at the Hammerstein, and then Tuesday I’m off to the Beacon to catch one of those acts on my must-see list for years, Elvis Costello and the Imposters. If the setlist is anything as ridiculous as Wednesday‘s, the show is going to be off the hook…Man Out of Time, Indoor Fireworks, Beyond Belief, Alison, Almost Blue, and I Want You?! Unbelievable.