Saturday, May 28, 2011

Elvis Costello and the Imposters at the Wiltern May 11, 2011

I missed it 25 years ago and was not about to miss it again. Sure, this is just for fun. It isn’t going to be a great Elvis show. And the pacing... How was one of the best at pacing shows going to pace a show he had no complete control of? Now, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me back up a bit. 25 years ago, Elvis toured with his Song Wheel. On the huge wheel were 40 or so songs that audience members were brought up on stage to spin. So, the show was guaranteed to be a unique experience every night. What I didn’t realize was that Elvis had plans to do a bit of cheating.

There was no opening act on this night. As we sat down at our seats we could see the big wheel on one side of the stage and a portable bar with stools and go-go dancer cage on the other. The band came out rockin’, opening with “I Hope You’re Happy Now”, “Tear Off Your Own Head”, “Mystery Dance” and “Radio Radio”. Elvis then put on his top hat (literally) and the fun began. Audience members spun the wheel and we heard songs like, “Every Day I Write the Book” and “Brilliant Mistake”. There was a go-go dancer on some of the songs and the audience members got a drink and were able to sit at the bar for a song or two. But, there was an opening for Elvis. Whenever someone hit one of the purple spots on the wheel, it was a preplanned set for Elvis, the longest of which was a “Time” set in which he performed: “Clowntime is over”, “Strict Time”, “Next Time ‘Round”, “Out of Time” (the old Rolling Stones classic) and “Man Out of Time”. Sometimes he would ask contestants what they wanted to hear and a couple of them said, “I Want You”. After the second time, Elvis re-spun the wheel to make it happen. It was, as always, one of the highlights of the night; so angry and obsessive. In concert it becomes so dark and dirty. You feel like you need a shower when he is done.

As it turned out, Elvis was able to somewhat control the pacing with the extended sets. Two and a half hours in and on his fourth encore, Elvis and the band finished up with Nick Lowe’s “Peace Love and Understanding”. It was a fun evening with unique covers, Elvis clowning around and everyone pretty much having a grand old time. For a peak at the set list, you can go here:

Sunday, May 08, 2011

New Music April & May 2011

Lots of new music added to The Promise lately and not a lot of time to talk about it...

I’ve been playing Afferent Cue for... It seems like years. Their new EP is called “Drinking with Hemingway” and I’ve got to tell you, this is miles away from the demos they sent me so long ago. There isn’t a weak song among the four tracks, the production is excellent and... and... it just sounds great. If you close your eyes, you can hear a little Natalie Merchant, some Indigo Girls and maybe some Shelby Lynne. But Bill and Starr have their own style that transcends the “copy cat artist” label. Probably my favorite track is “Louisiana” a song about an aging parent. It is beautiful and sad and moving; everything you hope for from a song. You can find them on Facebook, Myspace and .
Willie Nile’s latest, “The Innocent Ones” from 2010 may be his best. Another great piece of work from an under acknowledged performer.
Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social have a 2011 release called “Love it to Life” and it is a rockin’ group of tunes. Highly recommended.
Fitz & the Tantrums, “Pickin’ up the Pieces” from last year is a classic. Had I heard it in 2010 it would have been in my top 5. A cross between blue eyed soul and 80’s pop. Great songs and loads of energy.
You are going to have to see Hamell on Trial in concert to get the “Best of” CD. It is hand made with no real packaging; and it doesn’t matter. Part humorist, part punk rocker with an acoustic guitar, Ed Hamell serves up a social piece of pie that will make you laugh and think.
The Civil Wars are another Boy/Girl band. And like so many others, they have pooled their talents and created a strong CD, “Barton Hollow”. Not really folk. Definetely not Country. It is just good music.
Abigail Washburn plays banjo, but “City of Refuge” isn’t a bluegrass album. It is a blend of many styles and the results are at times incredibly beautiful. If you love cross genre CDs, head over and pick this one up right now.
I’ve never seen Todd Snider Live and after hearing “Todd Snider Live - The Storyteller”, I cannot wait. He is funny and socially relevant, telling his tales of mushrooms and football and getting beat up in school. His in-between talks are as much fun as the songs themselves.
Baseball season is well underway and time for another batch of songs from “The Baseball Project”. This one, titled “Volume 2: High and Inside” continues with the tales, both touching and outlandish, about baseball. The band includes Peter Buck and Steve Wynn. If you love baseball songs, how can you not love this.
Each time I go to Austin I try and fit in a Matt the Electrician concert, and always fail to see him. Now that I have heard his “Is Alive” CD, I will try even harder next year. Wonderful songs with great players. Sort of a folky, banjo-y, Scrappy kind of album.
Drive-By Truckers have a new CD called “Go-Go Boots” and they continue to tell their small town stories. Another solid CD.
Joan Armatrading’s new CD, “Live at the Royal Albert Hall” is her best live CD in 30 years. Joan, for the first time, really shows us how good a guitar player she is. But this isn’t just a guitar album as most of the hits are included. Nicely recorded, with her best live arrangements since she stripped down the size of the band. Required for all Joan fans.

James McMurtry at McCabes April 30th

I guess it is getting redundant when I apologize for running late updating this blog. So, I’ll stop apologizing. And with that being said...

Last weekend we had the pleasure of seeing James McMurtry and Sean Rowe at McCabe’s in Santa Monica. It was a sell out and I was excited because I’ve never seen James McMurtry without his band. Sean Rowe opened for him, doing a typical (for McCabe’s) short set of about 4 songs. He has the deep voice of a Greg Brown and some exceptional songwriting skills. I just started to listen to his latest CD and it sure sounds like it is going to be a favorite of mine. He had an interesting presence on stage. A bit crazy. A bit scary. And then he’d talk to us and was so mellow. But when he would play his guitar and sing, he put his entire body into it. I can’t wait to hear more from him.

James was as good solo as he is with his band. His songwriting is so good, you sometimes forget that he is an exceptional guitar player. He isn’t too talkative on stage, but he was a bit more so this night. Still he would apologize for talking to us while tuning. For all his talent, he comes off as a humble man. The night’s music was very much about the common man. Songs like “Ruby and Carlos” make you want to cry. “Can’t Make it Here Anymore” is fast becoming a classic. As always, one of the highlights was “Choctaw Bingo”. He appeared a bit disappointed that the crowd didn’t get up and dance. And of course, there were no Continental Club go go dancers to add to the fun. But man he just rocked the place with only an acoustic guitar. And then there is that guitar playing. He never spends a lot of time showing off. He just makes it seem so easy and it fits so well. He gave us over an hour and a half of music and we wanted so much more.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen