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River and Atoms.

When not sitting ringside while the GOP devours its own tail, the ladyfriend and I have been continuing to take in concerts around the area. Of late:

Okkervil River at 9:30 Club: It Was My Season | On a Balcony | Black | For Real | Rider | Pink-Slips | John Allyn Smith Sails | Stay Young | Lido Pier Suicide Car | The Valley | Red | Kansas City | Where the Spirit Left Us | Down Down The Deep River | Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe | Lost Coastlines

Encore: Walking Without Frankie | A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene | Unless It’s Kicks

I wasn’t familiar with these guys at all before the show — Apparently, they’ve been at it for fifteen years — but they seemed to be a pretty solid alt-rock outfit out of Austin. The songs that had the biggest impression on me, live at least, were The Valley (“Fallen in the valley of the rock and roll dead!”) and “Lost Coastlines” (buoyed by some very Morrissey-ish crooning by (iirc) the bassist.)

Atoms for Peace at Patriot Center: Before Your Very Eyes | Default | The Clock | Ingenue | Stuck Together Pieces | Unless | And It Rained All Night | Harrowdown Hill | Dropped | Cymbal Rush

Encore: The Eraser | Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses | Rabbit in Your Headlights | Paperbag Writer | Amok.
Encore 2: Atoms for Peace | Black Swan

Nor, being a movie more than a music guy, was I aware that Thom Yorke and Flea were taking time away from their respective SuperGroups to make Afrobeat albums as Atoms for Peace. Hard to pick a distinctive best moment from this show — Most of the songs ran together here (in a good way, if you enjoy more beat-intensive variations on that distinctive Yorke-shire croon.)

That being said, after watching Flea (Age 50) hop around like a madman half his age throughout this show — in the same week that Sandra Bullock (Age 49) braved the vicissitudes of Zero-G Ripley-style in Gravity, it sure seems like 50 is the new 30 these days. And that puts me solidly in my 20’s – Woot.

Heard that Hoot Owl Singing.

The Roots on New Years’ Eve notwithstanding, I’ve been derelict about posting on live entertainment I’ve seen this year, like Louis CK in Baltimore, The Motherf**ker with the Hat at Studio Theater, The Last Five Years in Shirlington, Dean Fields in Arlington and The Postal Service at Merriweather Post.

All that being said, since there’s an especially clear precedent here — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 — I shouldn’t neglect to mention I caught my tenth Dylan show two weeks ago, as part of the Americana Music Festival (with Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket, and Wilco). Here’s the setlist:

Things Have Changed | Love Sick | High Water (For Charley Patton) | Soon After Midnight | Early Roman Kings | Tangled Up In Blue | Duquesne Whistle | She Belongs To Me | Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ | A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall | Blind Willie McTell | Simple Twist Of Fate | Thunder On The Mountain | All Along The Watchtower | Ballad Of A Thin Man

Perhaps it’s because the setlists are fluctuating less this tour, or he’s playing a shorter set, or he’s just inspired by the bands he’s touring with, but this was actually the best I’ve heard Bob sound in awhile. He seemed animated and his voice, while always gravelly these days, sounded more mellifluous than it’s been in many a moon. “Things Have Changed” and “Ballad of a Thin Man” are always favorites, but the highlight for me this time around was finally catching Blind Willie McTell live — You can see it as well above, thanks to Joanna’s Visions.

Also, due to the vagaries of having a job and all that — the festival started at 4:30pm over in Columbia, MD — we missed Ryan Bingham’s set and all but the last song of My Morning Jacket, but here was the evening for the Wilco-inclined (who were also very good):

Ashes of American Flags | Bull Black Nova | Blood of the Lamb | Christ for President | I Am Trying to Break Your Heart | Art of Almost | Jesus, Etc. | Can’t Stand It | Born Alone | Passenger Side | I Got You (At the End of the Century) | Heavy Metal Drummer | I’m the Man Who Loves You | Dawned on Me | A Shot in the Arm | The Lonely 1


A very Happy New Year to you and yours. (FWIW, in keeping with a resolution to get out more now that the old dissertation is tagged and bagged — defense date, January 18th — I spent a fine New Years Eve-ning with The Roots in Silver Spring.)

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.

The Biggest Wheel of Industry.

Grabbing a microphone and cane while donning a black top hat, the evening’s ringleader, Napoleon Dynamite, announces to the audience: ‘We’ll perform songs about love! Songs about sex! Songs about death and songs about dancing! But not necessarily in that order.’

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.)

Tales of Yankee Power.

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

Encore: Jolene | Like A Rolling Stone

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.

A Well-Respected Man.

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

Set Two: Stand-Up Comic | Things Are Gonna Change (The Morning After) | A Long Way from Home | The Getaway (Lonesome Train) | Tired of Waiting for You | Set Me Free | All Day and All of the Night

Encore: You Really Got Me | Lola

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.)

The Sinners Inside.

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

1st Encore: Somebody (A Question of Lust) / Just Can’t Get Enough / Everything Counts

2nd Encore Never Let Me Down Again / Goodnight Lovers

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.)

Lovely 2 C U.

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.)

Ladies and Gentlemen…

Bob at the Beacon, Night 3 (for me) [Monday/Tuesday]:

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

Encore: Po’ Boy / All Along The Watchtower

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.)

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