Category Archives: Shows

Silversun Pickups & Third Eye Blind

Saw Silversun Pickups & Third Eye Blind Saturday night.

I know Third Eye Blind belongs to the group of bands that put out a bunch of inescapable alt-rock songs in the 90s: Third Eye Blind, 311, Three Doors Down, Seven Mary Three, Smashmouth, Sugar Ray, Sublime, Semisonic, etc.. But, until I looked it up just now, I couldn’t have named a single song they did. Turns out, Third Eye Blind was responsible for “Semi-charmed Life”.

Third Eye Blind – "Semi-Charmed Life" [Official Music Video]

Doo doo doo. Doo de doo doo.

Silversun Pickups, on the other hand, are nothing like that. They started out in the 00s, sounding like a slightly sunnier and less-angst-filled Smashing Pumpkins.

Silversun Pickups – Lazy Eye

But they’ve grown into their own sound, these days.

Silversun Pickups – Nightlight (Official Video)

They were fun, live. The singer/guitar player was having a lot of fun, and the drummer is a blast to watch – he has a crash cymbal way up over his right shoulder that he whacks with this great overhead left-hand smash. But, the guitar was inaudible about half the time: a big blow to a band that uses guitar like they do.

We left about five songs into Third Eye Blind.

No more shows this week. But next week: Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie!

Train, Paul Simon

What two things do Paul Simon and Train have in common?

A) We saw them both this week, separately, at outdoor concert venues.
B) They both played “Call Me Al”.

We got Train tickets from one of the guys in the band, a long-time friend of Mrs C’s. We also got to go backstage after the show and hang out with (some of) the band – drink their beer, eat their snacks, listen to rock star stories. Our seats were in the guests-of-the-band section, so we had the owner of a golf course where the band had spent their afternoon on one side. On the other side was … a guy in a hat. After the show we learned that he is a well-known guitar tech who current works for AC/DC and Aerosmith (among others). Ain’t we special. Train’s music is mostly not my cup of tea. Their first album was pretty good, but their recent stuff doesn’t really click with me. Still, they’re a good band and they put on a good show. They even played a fine version of Chris Cornell’s “Black Hole Sun”! So, it was a good time.

There was no backstage loafing with Paul Simon for us. But, we did get to see him play and that was plenty good enough. He’s surprisingly animated and fun to watch. His voice still has that fantastic tone, though he’s lost a bit of his range. But best of all, he has that amazing Paul Simon song catalog to choose from! He played a solid two hours but I’m sure he could have played another two hours without having to play a bad song. He didn’t play “Kodachrome” or “Slip Sliding Away” or “One Trick Pony” or “Mrs Robinson” or “Something So Right” or “Cecilia” or the other half of the “Graceland” album! And, this might be a first, but I would have even liked to hear more of his newer stuff – his recent two records are both very good! Very glad I got to see him.

Robyn Hitchcock

… at the Carrboro Arts Center.

Tenth time seeing him! First time was in March, 1997.

This set was mostly requests that he took on Facebook. So it was a lot of stuff I’d never heard him do live before: One Long Pair Of Eyes, The Ghost Ship, I Want To Destroy You, A Skull, A Suitcase…. And, he picked one of my suggestions: Luminous Rose. In addition, he played almost all of my favorites: Guilford, Glass Hotel, Briggs, etc.. If he had also played Chinese Bones, he would’ve completed my top five. He also played a lot of songs from his (very good) new record, which all sounded great done with just an acoustic guitar.

Local singer, Skylar Gudasz, opened with a set of excellent tunes – minimalist and intimate in the style of Cat Power or Joni Mitchell at her best. Worth checking out.

Three weeks till Paul Simon.

Adrian Belew

The Adrian Belew Power Trio stopped at the Cat’s Cradle last weekend, and we went to see them, as we always do. And he was good, as he always is. It was the usual blend of mind-bending instrumental math rock and poppy Beatlesque numbers, including an actual Beatles’ song (“Free As A Bird”), a bit of David Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging” (on which Belew originally played) and several King Crimson classics.

He was notably more active and lively this time around. Last time he was here, he spent a lot of time on his very fancy bouncy stool. Regardless, he always seems so dang happy to be playing – like he’s constantly surprised that he just made his guitar do that!

Our view of Belew was partially obscured by people. But we got a good view of bassist Julie Slick doing her stuff. And she’s fantastic at it.

So, a good time.

Duran Duran

Friday night, we saw Duran Duran in Wilmington NC. The show was literally in a large parking lot down by the river. It was on a nicely-sloped parking hillside, so there wasn’t a bad space in the lot. And even in such an unglamorous setting, the band is still slick and fun to watch. Don’t know how many people were there, but it felt like a pretty big crowd.

They played most of their old hits, of course.

Several times I found myself trying to figure out who was playing the music I was hearing. Something was playing the basic low bass stuff, somewhere, while John Taylor smiled and waved at the audience in between his signature slap-n-pop riffs. Probably the keyboard player? The drummer seemed to be playing along with drum machine/taped drum tracks. Pre-recorded vocal tracks backed-up the back-up singers. Once I started noticing the other stuff, I couldn’t help but watch Simon LeBon like hawk, to see if he was lip-syncing or not – I don’t think he was. His voice still sounds good.

They did a quick Bowie tribute as part of ‘Planet Earth’, which was nice.

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