Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crowded House at Humphrey’s by the Bay in San Diego

It wasn’t a good night for us tonight. In fact, the review of the 2 hour plus Crowded House show will not really be a review... Just a story.
We came down to San Diego to celebrate our anniversary. We both love Crowded House and Humphrey’s is a wonderful place to see a concert. The venue is small, the sound is good and... If you buy a hotel room you get dinner and front row seats. It is a bit of an expense, but you are staying in San Diego during peak season so it is reasonable.
Now Maria recently had shoulder surgery. Her shoulder continues to cause her pain and just touching it will send her into tears. With a seated show, and in the front row, we thought we were safe. Neil and company hit the stage and for the first hour we were having a great time. Granted there were a few fans in the front who had too much to drink, but they rarely got in our way. There was this one girl who kept coming up to the front of the stage from her seat a few rows back. Security kept sending her back until Neil interceded. Once she was allowed up front, everyone rushed the stage. Maria couldn’t stand because getting her shoulder bumped would have caused her excruciating pain. And I needed to stay in my chair to protect her as best as I could. And so, for the next hour, the band played on. We could hear them but could no longer see them. We couldn’t even leave because there was no way she could walk through the crowd without someone hitting her shoulder.
I don’t blame Neil. It is part of rock and roll. But, it was still his fault.
I’m sure I’ll see Crowded House again, but I’ll always have this bad taste in my mouth from a ruined evening.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

John Hiatt at the Coach House 2010



Last Thursday I saw John Hiatt for the umpteenth time and it never gets old. He always gives his best. He always puts on a great show. He always mixes old and new music. He throws in a few jokes and makes us laugh. And... he sings with the spirit of one who has lived his life. I never realized how good a singer he was until I heard some back to back songs with John and then a cover version. The emotion coming from within just can’t be beat.
Still, there are subtle differences from tour to tour. There was no keyboard on stage for the first time that I can remember (although I may have missed the last tour). Normally he would move to the keyboards to sing his ballads. Instead he didn’t do many and when he did, they were done on his acoustic guitar. Backed by a solid three piece band featuring Doug Lancio on guitar (has worked a lot with Patty Griffin), this version of John Hiatt rocked the house. I haven’t seen John rock this hard in some time. And the crowd loved it.
Speaking of crowds, we love going to the Coach House. For the Hiatt show, we were seated across from a couple who had seen John many times. We started trading stories of many of the bands we both loved and how we were probably at some of the same shows. Suddenly this Irish woman (Bernie) to the left of me, taps me on the shoulder and the next thing I know we (her husband Peter has now joined in) are talking about even more bands and definitely seeing the same shows (they were at Shawn Colvin the week before). In fact, we plan on seeing them on Sunday since we are both not only seeing Crowded House in San Diego, but we are both in the front section and we are both having dinner at the Humphrey's restaurant. Did I mention that I love going to the Coach House?
Over the 2 hours, John performed many of our favorites and several songs from his new CD, “The Open Road”; one of his best CDs in years. The live versions of these songs were even more rockin then on the CD and blended nicely with his classic rockers.
Overall we had a great time and after being disappointed with “Same Old Man”, I am once again a rabid John Hiatt fan. Don’t miss him when he comes to your town.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Joan Armatrading in Long Beach

The last of three nights of music (or 5 out of 10 nights) came to an end last night with a bang. Saturday night I watched one of the great female acoustic guitar players in Shawn Colvin. Tonight we got to watch one of the best female electric guitar players. Over the last few years Joan Armatrading has decided to take on all of the electric guitar parts, including the solos, and she has proved that she knows how to handle an axe. This is probably why she has resurrected “Tall in the Saddle” in her live shows. With the potent guitar solo during the slow part of the song, which she nailed, it fit well with her more current offerings. Joan played plenty of songs from her current CD, “This Charming Life” (her most pop CD since the early 80’s) and her blues CD from a year ago, “Into the Blues”. Both CDs feature plenty of electric guitar solos and Joan handled them like she’s been a guitar God for years. So there are three sides to Joan at her shows: the early years with songs like “Love and Affection”, the early 80’s with songs like “Me Myself I” and now the new stuff with lots of guitar (these songs are actually similar to the early years material). Missing, of course, are the late 80s and 90s which is fine with me. The first two areas receive long and often standing ovations after almost every song. The newer songs are applauded but not with the enthusiasm of her older material. The middle section of the show, which contained most of her newer work, with extended guitar solos, seemed to slow the pace of the show. But then she would throw in a nugget and the place would explode. This isn’t to say that her newer material isn’t good, just maybe not as emotionally relevant to the crowd as that older material.
Joan did turn one new song into an immediate classic. On her new CD is a song called “Best Dress On”. She has started a contest to see how long the audience can repeat the chorus (“Hey hey, look at you now. Look at you now with your best dress on”) after the song ends. The crowd sings it twice, then the band joins in then leaves it to the crowd (and back and forth until it somehow ends). I don’t think the audience got it at first because when the song ended, it ended with no one singing. So, Joan told us we weren’t even in the top 10. Suddenly a group of people in the audience started singing it and before we knew it we had defeated Denver (the current leader). Of course, this whole thing is set up to allow the last show on the tour be the winner. But they are going to have to work pretty darn hard because the count is up to 22 times right now and there are another 5 shows on the tour. The show ended with her classics, “Willow” and “Drop the Pilot”. It was a perfect evening with one of the truly great performers in rock. Too bad only about half of the Terrace Theater was filled for this amazing woman and her band.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

A Great Triple Header at the Coach House

I’ve been to the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano many many many... many times. Last night may have been one of the best all round shows I’ve seen there. All three acts put on great shows and I came home with a bunch of CDs to listen to. What was truly amazing was that the audience was there to listen. I’ve never seen a crowd at the Coach House so respectful for all three acts. It was almost like they were all headliners. Shawn Colvin was the real headliner, but we will start at the beginning.
Tracy Niles is a young energetic local talent who has that certain flair onstage. She is having fun and you could see she was enjoying the evening as much as we were. Her style is very singer/songwriter, but there is a certain jazz sensibility that shows up in her songwriting and singing style. And then, in mid song, as she sings about smoke, you hear the chords to “Smoke on the Water” and you know this girl is well rounded musically. Accompanied by her bass player, she wowed the audience and received the type of applause normally reserved for the main act. I can’t wait to hear more from her. You can check her out at tracyniles.com .
Sasha Evens was next on the bill and sitting behind a keyboard, accompanied by a violinist, Sasha seemed to be having even more fun than Tracy. Her songs were... Hmmm... Think Juno soundtrack.. or maybe Jenny Lewis. The overall feel was a young Natalie Merchant (although she is already a better keyboard player and has a much lighter approach to music). The songs are very personal but can be humorous. In one song, she sings a cappella about the guy who wants back in, “‘cause your number 36 on the list and I’m calling number 12 next”. (check out the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5yDM0TRUzc ) For someone who hasn’t been playing long and who may have been performing her first live show in front of a paying audience, she was fairly confident and relaxed on stage. The interplay between her and her violinist was beautiful. I see a big future for this young lady. There are some videos of her here: http://www.thebellalifeblog.com/2010/07/29/sasha-evans/ and you can go directly to her here: http://www.myspace.com/sashamoon
You never know what Shawn Colvin will be like on any given night, and that is part of the fun in seeing her live. She is easily the finest female guitar player in the singer/songwriter category and honestly, I’ve only seen a handful of men who can compete. Her ear is so good, she can, and often does, tune her guitar mid song, without missing a note. She has a beautiful voice and has, over the years, written some great songs. Sometimes her shows can be a bit sloppy. Again, that is part of the fun. She is honest about it and will not think twice about playing a song she may not remember and has no problem stopping and asking help from the audience. That was the show we got last night. Pulling out “I Want it Back”, something she hasn’t done in years, she had to stop several times because she couldn’t remember the lyrics. But it is always a lot of fun when this happens. In fact, right off the bat she forgot her capo and someone from the Coach House lent her one. Then she found hers but played with the borrowed one saying, “If I “F” it up it will be this borrowed capo’s fault”. (Uhmm, yeah, she said the whole word by the way). Shawn brought out Kate Markowitz to sing harmony on a handful of songs. I believe she has done this before. Their voices sound so good together. As for her storytelling, we got an old story that I had never heard, about her being the grand prize in a Gallo Wine contest. She had us in stitches, as always. Her encore included two Beatles songs, during which one of the funnier moments of the night occurred. As she was playing “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”. Someone yelled out, “Not in California”. Very funny and timely. Overall it was a fun show by one of the most talented women performing today.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Kristy Hanson in Noho

The Valley is not dead. A cool thing is happening in Noho (the arts district of North Hollywood). The first Thursday of the month is “Hear Noho” and several galleries and performance spots are opening their doors to up and coming artists. You purchase a ticket from any of the locations and then can go see any of the seven or eight shows that are going on that night.
I was there to see Kristy Hanson doing a rare acoustic set and was not disappointed. I’ve said many times that the true test of the quality of a song is to strip it down. If it survives, you’ve got a good song. When I first heard about this gig, Kristy seemed a bit apprehensive. She’s been working with a full band for awhile now and, at least online, seemed worried that we would not like her music without... all the guys behind her. Well, Kristy had nothing to worry about. With just Timothy Young backing her with a variety of banjos and guitars, Kristy performed a strong 45 minute set. In fact, stripping away the band seemed to help emphasize her beautiful voice and original melodies. The lyrics also seemed to stand out more. In fact, she seemed even more confident in front of the crowd than the last time I saw her (at the Hotel Cafe). I hope Kristy continues to perform acoustic shows. She is playing to her strength.

Monday, August 02, 2010

New Music and Taking Requests

Before I get to a small list of new music I’ve recently added to the the play list, I wanted to let you all know that I’m spinning the records (digital files actually... and I suppose and they don’t spin) live this week from about noon Pacific till I run out of time (somewhere between 2 and 3 PM). If you want to make requests, simply go to the station page, http://live365.com/stations/thepromiseradio , and at the bottom of the page where it says “Shout Out”, put your request in. Today was a battle with a horrible echo, but I’ve solved most of the echoing issue and look forward to talking music with you all.

Alejandro Escovedo - Street Songs of Love (2010)
Al has once again hooked up with Chuck Prophet to write the CD and allowed Tony Visconti to produce it and give it the big rock and roll sound. This may be better than his last and possibly as good, song for song, as anything he has done. Bruce Springsteen once again appears on one song, although it (“Faith”) isn’t the “single”. These are great songs with big hooks and even bigger guitars. If you love rock and roll, there is no reason to not have this in your collection.
Jimmy Webb - Just Across The River (2010)
One of the great American songwriters, Jimmy goes through a great catalog of standards that... well... that he wrote. It is always nice to hear the artist interpret his own songs. Jimmy has plenty of help, with everyone from Lucinda Williams to Billy Joel adding harmonies and singing duets. If you love the songs, you’ll love his take on them.
Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More (2010)
I heard one song on Siruis/XM’s The Loft and I was hooked. I can’t even remember which one because there are so many good songs on this CD. It is rootsy Americana funneled through the sensibilities of a group of guys from the other side of the pond. The big single right now is “Little Lion Man”, but listen to it all: I know you’ll like it. This should end up on my year end favorites.
Cyndi Lauper - Memphis Blues (2010)
Okay, this will be the last time I say or write this. If you don’t know by now, Cyndi has a big voice and can sing way way beyond her goofy hits of the 80’s. So, I wasn’t surprised when I saw this CD in the mail. She does a nice job of singing these blues standards with a tight band behind her. If you enjoy the blues you might want to give this a shot.