Category Archives: Shows

Stevie Nicks & The Pretenders

We saw The Pretenders open for Stevie Nicks, last night. I was a little wary of seeing them, so long after their heyday – could they still play, could Chrissie Hynde still sing? Yes, and emphatically yes! She actually sounds as good as she ever has, and she seemed to be in good spirits. They played a few newer songs at the front of their set, and then went on to play most of their hits and great early songs. Their set was pretty long, for an opening band; but they could’ve played three times as long and I wouldn’t have minded.

I was pleased to see that their steel guitar player was using a Carr amp. They’re made in our little town of Pittsboro, NC. I’d have one, if I could justify the (considerable) expense.

The show was at our local 20,000-seat NHL stadium, so the sound was atrocious: huge drums, sizzling highs, and everything else smashed into a roaring and reverberating mid-range miasma.

I’m not really familiar with Stevie Nicks’ solo stuff other than the big radio hits, and she played all of those, and some Fleetwood Mac classics. But she also played a lot of stuff that was unreleased or forgotten or stuff that she wanted to improve on the original recording – a deep tracks set for true fans, I guess. So, I was lost for most of the set. Mrs knows Nicks’ solo records, but there were a few songs even she didn’t recognize. Helpfully, Nicks introduced nearly every song with a long story about how it came to be. She still sounded remarkably good, though.

Norah Jones

Saw Norah Jones this past Tuesday. She was exactly as you’d expect: very mellow and low-key, even on her more upbeat songs. But, she sounded great and the band was really good. Most importantly, they played everything I wanted to hear them play. So, success.

The encores were done acoustic, in front of a single microphone that might not have even been on – it certainly wasn’t doing much. Still, that was a nice way to hear “Creepin In” and “Sunrise”.

The band, less Jones, opened with a set of instrumentals.

We sat next to a bunch of drunk people, they were loud and annoying. And in front of us was a guy who was incredibly excited to see her – he was literally shaking with joy at times.

Just got Paul Simon tix! Sunday we go see the Pretenders & Stevie Nicks. Trying to talk myself into going to see Tortoise tomorrow night. Also have tix for : Duran Duran, Robyn Hitchcock, Adrian Belew, Silversun Pickups and Green Day. Next few months will be busy!

Norah Jones – Sunrise

Blonde Redhead


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Saw an old favorite, Blonde Redhead, at Duke this past weekend. I love their first three records, which are all pretty and noisy like a more-melodic Sonic Youth. On those early records, they were fairly minimalist: guitars, bass, drums, with vocals shared by the Japanese Kazu Makino and Italian Amedeo Pace. They sing in English, but their accents and distinctive (non-native?) phrasing give the songs an other-worldly vibe.

On this current tour, they’re playing their sixth record, Misery Is a Butterfly, start to finish. It’s a much mellower record than those early ones; songs are all slow, minor key, dream-like. And it’s much more lushly produced; instead of drums and angry dissonant guitars, there are strings and keyboards and drum machines. And so, to make this work live, they’re touring with a string quintet (ACME). It worked really well. Sounded great.

They played the full album as advertised, almost; they skipped my favorite song on the record, the last song, Equus. That’s the only song on the record that rocks very much. Instead, they played a few very new songs.

So, I’m glad I finally got to see them. But I wish I hadn’t skipped seeing them a decade ago.

Robyn Hitchcock, Eugene Mirman

Nine times. I’ve now seen him nine times. And six of the shows, like last night’s, were at the Cat’s Cradle.

This was a good set. He played a few of his standards (“My Wife And My Dead Wife”, “I’m Only You”, “Queen Elvis”) a few things I’ve never seen him do live before (“Linctus House”, “Balloon Man”, “52 Stations”) – plus a couple I’ve never heard ever but which sound like his more recent stuff, so I assume they’re new. Singer Emma Swift came out to help out on harmonies for his last three songs. So, very nice.


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He played for about 45 minutes. Then, comedian Eugene Mirman (‘Gene’ from ‘Bobs Burgers’) did a set.


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Very funny, and unusual – he did a bit where he asked his Amazon Echo silly questions.

And then they did about ten minutes together, talking, before Robyn closed with one more song.

Robyn submitted to doing pictures with fans, finally. Last time I asked for a picture, I got a polite No.

The Mavericks

Saw The Mavericks this past weekend. Today’s a friend’s birthday and she chose to have her party out on the lawn at the lovely NC Art Museum where they were playing. So we went!

I only knew them from one song they did on the great 1999 Gram Parsons tribute album, “Return of the Grievous Angel”. They did “Hot Burrito #1” on that:

The Mavericks "Hot Burrito #1" (September 19, 1999)

I’ve always liked the way they did that tune, but I never picked up anything else by them. So, this show was my first real taste of what they do. For marketing purposes, I guess they’re in the “country” category, but in reality they’re a mixture of old-style country swing, rockabilly, Tex-Mex and traditional Cuban music. They even have touches of ska here and there – I swear they were starting a cover of Madness’ “One Step Beyond” at one point, but it turned into something else. They did do a very pretty version of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” – under a bright full moon on a late-August night.

Tons of fun. A great live band.

The Mavericks – In Austin – All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down

David Rawlings Machine

Last Friday night, the Dave Rawlings Machine announced a micro tour: just three stops, including one in the little nearby town of Saxapahaw. So Thursday or not, one’s gotta see Gil and Dave. We assume they were in the deep south last week and wanted to make some spending money on their trip north for this weekend’s Merlefest in west NC ? Regardless…

No John Paul Jones this time. They were just a four piece – Gil and Dave and Willie Watson and the bass player whose name I can never catch.

The Machine has released but one album (2009’s A Friend Of A Friend), so they’ve been playing those songs for quite a while. They always do a lot of standards and obscure covers, along with a few Gillian Welch-fronted songs and a couple that Willie Watson sang on, to keep things interesting.

Started at nearly ten and lasted just past midnight. Which makes for a miserable Friday AM. But here I am!

Here’s The Bells Of Harlem.

Matt Pond PA

We saw Matt Pond PA at Kings, in Raleigh last Friday. This tour is the 10th Anniversary tour for their “Several Arrows Later” album. So, they played that whole album, then finished up with a handful of songs from their upcoming album.

Fantastic show.

I’d been listening to that album in the past weeks, to study, kindof, for this show. And now I think I like it even more than I like “Last Light”. So, win. I was a bit worried that some of the more delicate bits might not do well in a live setting – and what would the songs be without the loving production, and would all the little melodic curlicues survive? So I got too close to the record, I guess. But the songs worked great, live. The cellist and the lead guitarist took care of filling in all the details and accents that make the records so nice. Matt Pond’s voice was great, and maybe a bit more aggressive than on the record. Everything was a little more muscular, actually. And watching them put it all together was awesome.


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Cello in a rock band? Hell yeah!

Young Buffalo opened. They’re melodic and energetic, with great vocal harmonies and a fondness for quick major-scale guitar figures. I could’ve sworn the two singer/guitarists were brothers. They look similar and their voices work together in the way that siblings’ voices often do. But, no, just friends. I liked them a lot. Will have to explore their records.

Cassandra Wilson

… at the Carolina Theatre.

Tomorrow, April 7th, would have been Billie Holiday’s 100th birthday. For that, Cassandra Wilson is releasing an album of her versions of some of Holiday’s standards. And in support of that record, she’s touring. So, we caught her in Durham. The show was delayed by 30 minutes because of the Duke game.

Wilson rarely does straight covers, and she likes unusual arrangements and eclectic players; so of the songs I knew, I could only recognize them by their lyrics. So it wasn’t a Billie Holiday tribute so much as Cassandra Wilson re-interpreting songs that Billie Holiday interpreted 60 or 70 years ago. Which was fine – I didn’t even know it was going to be a Billie Holiday thing until last week.

Her band was fun. The woodwind player played a lot of bass clarinet – something I don’t see very often; the guitarist (Kevin Breit) alternated between a miniature 6-string electric and an electric mandolin and put it all through a big mess of loops and modulators; the violinist often played with a wah pedal. The drummer, bassist and pianist kept things pretty straight, by comparison. And of course Wilson’s low rich voice was the star.

Somehow I managed to get front row, dead center, seats. So it was like sitting in the middle of the band. We could hear all their little mumblings and cues and chatter. Fun. The ‘no pictures’ policy meant I could only get a quick shot at the end:

Here Comes Your Rock God

I just bought tix to see Robert Plant. That happens all the time, I guess. This time, though… The Pixies are opening. And that’s a pairing I could never imagine ever happening, ever.

Erykah Badu

Saw Erykah Badu, in Durham, on Valentine’s Day.


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The show started pretty late because that crazy wind storm that beat up the east coast delayed her plane. They delayed the start by a half hour (and sent an email to tell us that) – which gave us more time to linger over dinner. After the opener, an announcer got on the stage and told us that her plane had landed, and again to tell us that she was in the car, and again that she was in the building. She probably didn’t start until 10:15 or so. And then the venue cut it off at 12:15 (turned on the house lights in the middle of a song). But she played a good set. Really, it was fantastic. She’s so engaging, and so cleva. Her band was great and she kept them on a short leash: starting and stopping them with flips of her hand, making them do tricks.

It was a seated show, so there was some drama when a woman in front of us wouldn’t sit down. Rows and rows of people yelling at her to sit, but she wouldn’t. And then she turned around and told us all to fuck off. That got things cookin. Then there were three visits from the usher, once with a policeman in tow. They eventually moved her up way up front, and everyone was happy after that.

Sound was good. The songs were a bit stripped down from what they were on the records, but that just left more room for her to shine.

I thought I had all her records, but I guess not, because it seemed like I didn’t know about half the songs. Still, she’s good enough at what she does that they were fun all anyway. And now I know there’s more Badu to purchase.

“Mali Music” opened. That’s the stage name for Kortney Jamaal Pollard (and his band, I guess). His stuff ranged from reggae-flavored rap to contemporary Christian to jazzy piano ballads. He’s a good pianist and has really nice singing voice, so I liked the piano stuff the best. Plus, being so simple, it sounded the best – given the traditional opening-band sound handicap. He was nominated for a couple of Grammys.