Monday, September 13, 2010

Neil Finn at Largo

This was our makeup show. Neil, the gentleman that he is, put us on the list for Sunday night’s show after the problems we had at the Crowded House concert in San Diego. And what a great way to say I’m sorry. Both shows (Saturday and Sunday) were sold out and with the room only seating about 220 people you can imagine how tough it was to get a ticket.
I have seen Neil with a band, with his brother Tim and with Crowded House. This was my first solo (although he wasn’t alone all night) show. What a treat it was to just see him. But, Neil is Neil. If you’ve seen him perform, you know, it really doesn’t matter who is around him. He is up there putting on a show and having lots of fun. The first hour or so of the set was dedicated to rarities; songs he hasn’t sung in years. Not owning everything Neil, I’m not sure I recognized a single song. But it didn’t matter. He is such a talented songwriter, all of the songs were instantly enjoyable.
The show kicked into a higher gear when he brought out Jon Brion to accompany him. Jon is himself pretty amazing. Bouncing between piano and guitar he played some fantastic licks throughout the evening. Taking it up a notch, Neil brought out Grant-Lee Phillips. I’m not sure which was the bigger highlight for me, Grant-Lee singing harmonies on “Only Talking Sense” or trading lead vocals on “Four Seasons in One Day”. Neil also brought out Sebastian Steinberg on upright bass and a drummer who’s name I missed.
Maybe the biggest surprise that evening was the computer. Given that Largo is so anti electronics (phones/cameras/etc.) I was shocked that they actually had an Internet connection. Next thing we know, Neil is calling Tim on Skype and after chatting for awhile, Tim and friends in NZ were performing with Neil and friends in L.A. It was pretty amazing and worked really well.
The evening pretty much ended with covers. First the Talking Heads classic, “Road to Nowhere” and coming back for their encore with David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”.
And I can't end this without talking about some of the funny moments. The sound guy, Jesse, had to come down from the balcony to adjust the microphone so that Neil wasn’t playing his mandolin, uhmmm, between his legs (that turned into a very funny moment as I’m sure you can imagine). Grant-Lee bopped onto stage and when asked if he knew the song they were about to play, said, “No” and then bopped off again. He also showed his willingness to serve Neil, dropping to his knees to sing into the guitar mic when it appeared there wasn’t a microphone for him. It was that kind of evening. One I’ll remember for a long time.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

New Music for September 2010

Yes, I’m a big Sam Phillips fan. I’ve seen her over a dozen
times during the last 6 years and had many conversations with her and her band members. When it comes to talking about her music on this blog it definitely overshadows the other reviews. For those of you who don’t think that’s right, I’m sorry. I just love talking about Sam. And so, first up, Sam.

Sam Phillips - Days of the One Night Stands (2010)
This is the last EP in Sam’s Long Play Project (there is a final digital CD coming in October or November). It is hard to believe a year has passed since Sam announced this at her show in Santa Monica. The output of music this year is by far the most we have ever seen from Sam. This final EP is a group of covers. She opens with a “late night” version of the Monkees (actually Boyce and Hart wrote this) “...Stepping Stone” with a cool guitar solo from Eric. “Lying” is a Sam Phillips cover (yes she covers herself twice on this CD) with maybe the most vibrant, rock and roll solo on a SP song since the 90’s. Eric’s blistering violin solo takes this beautiful version of “Lying” to new heights. I have been waiting for a recorded version of “Green Grass”, a song originally written and recorded by Tom Waits, for five years now. Sam’s version is breathtaking, and the studio version is even better than the live versions I’ve seen over the years. Sam donated “Where is Love Now” to Jimmy Dale Gilmore and has finally done her own version of it. This version so overwhelms Jimmy’s I’m considering deleting his mp3 from my collection (just joking, but it is that good). And finally, Sam covers an old 30’s song, “Undecided”, from Django Reinhardt, turning it into a Sam Phillips song. What a wonderful collection of songs. And as this project rolls to an end, one can’t help think how Sam seems to have covered all of the areas that we have been craving over the years. She did this without compromise; one of the few true artists recording today. Thank you Sam for everything. If you haven’t signed up for The Long Play, you still can.

Last month I added a bunch of music to the station and didn’t have time to write, so briefly...

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Mojo (2010)
This is a live in the studio type CD and although on first listen you might now find the “hit”, just keep listening. It is worth the wait.
Squeeze - Spot the Difference (2010)
This is a money thing, but we all get the benefit. Squeeze has gotten back together to re-record their hits so that they will get performance royalties when they are used for movies. You can’t blame them in this time of lower incomes for performers. They decided to make the songs spot on the same as the originals, even digging up old equipment to get the right sound (hence the title “Spot the Difference”). It is always fun to listen to Squeeze, so... enjoy.
The Innocence Mission - My Room in the Trees (2010)
They have barely changed over the last 15 years or so, and that’s a good thing. There are some surprises in this CD, but mostly it is Karen’s beautiful voice with the flowing innocence of the mission backing it up. Pure beauty.
Crowded House - Intriguer (2010)
They have yet to release a bad CD. The highlight here is a wonderful song called “Amsterdam”; worth the price of admission. It may not be their best, but it is better than almost everything else out there.
Flogging Molly - Live at the Greek (2010)
From a show recorded last year at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, this IS Flogging Molly. No studio CD can capture the raw craziness of their live shows. These are two CDs that will make you want to order a glass of Guinness.
Walt Cronin - California - I Gotta Run (2010)
On his third release Walt continues his folk/Americana singing/songwriting. A storyteller like Kris Kristoffersen, this is an album about being on the road and pursuing dreams. Nice job. http://www.thegousters.com/
Handful of Luvin’ - Life Inbetween (2010)
I really am having trouble describing this band. Is it modern rock? Or is it country? Is that a violin player or a fiddle player (there is a difference)? Whatever it is, it works and they have delivered one of the more original CDs of the year. Do check them out at http://www.handfulofluvin.com/fr_introduction.cfm .
Gaslight Anthem - American Slang (2010)
Think a rocking Jesse Malin and you have a good idea what this excellent CD sounds a bit like. Worth checking out, especially since it has The Boss’ seal of approval on it. :-)
John Mellencamp - No Better Than This (2010)
Using a tape recorder, a single mic and the brilliance of T-Bone Burnett, John channels his inner John Prine (or is it Bob Dylan as many like to say). This CD is not for everyone, but if you like your singers with good words and light production, with a low-res feel and an Americana spirit, then this CD is for you.
Peter Case - Wig (2010)
Peter Case is rockin’ again and this quickly recorded roots rock/Americana CD shows why Peter Case has been an important part of the musical landscape since he first appeared 30 plus years ago. This is a Yep Roc records release; always a good sign that you’re going to hear some great music.
Pernice Brothers - goodbye, killer (2010)
Do you know who the Pernice Brothers are? You should. One of the finest pop rock bands around, they combine great lyrics with catchy tunes. Isn’t that why we love rock and roll?

Music Hall Link - Cowboy Junkies 4-1-1996 listen