Category Archives: Shows

Liz Phair

I somehow heard Liz Phair was touring, which was pretty incredible. But, even more incredible was that she was playing her entire "Exile In Guyville" album on the tour - 30th anniversary. This is a Big Deal.

She wasn't coming anywhere near Raleigh, so there was going to be travel involved. And since you can't fly anywhere from Raleigh without going through Atlanta first, Atlanta was the obvious choice to see her. Plus, it's only an hour flight.

So...

As advertised , she played all of Exile, in order. It was all very faithful to the originals, though some of the songs got slightly beefier arrangements because she had a full band with her.

It was surreal

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, seeing her do that surreal album.

After that, she played a four-song encore of songs from her other albums ("Supernova", "Polyester Bride", etc).

She sounded great. And I don't think she stopped smiling the whole time.

She's another one I never thought I'd ever get a chance to see - Sunny Day Real Estate, Peter Gabriel, Liz Phair?! Keep em coming.

Peter Gabriel, Ball Arena, Denver

Last spring, I learned that Peter Gabriel was on tour in Europe. And I guess I assumed we'd already missed him in the US because we're in a part of the country where people like him always skip - they do NYC, DC and then jump to Atlanta or FL. But, he was in Europe! And so my wife and I got the crazy idea that we would do a spontaneous trip to Europe just to see him in some cool city like Amsterdam or Madrid or Berlin. But, those shows were all either sold out or ridiculously expensive. And there are no direct flights from Raleigh to any of them anyway so getting there would take 12 hours, and cost a fortune

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, and what about hotels, etc., etc..

But while digging around, we learned that he was coming to the US! Everything on the east coast was already sold out. But Denver wasn't! And there were still decent tickets available. And, my wife has friends and family in the Denver area (including a diehard Gabriel fan we could go with), and there are mountains! So, Denver.

Show was scheduled to start at 8:00PM. While we waited, a screen showed a movie of a man drawing hands on a giant clock face. Every minute, he redrew them.

Show started with Gabriel strolling out onstage by himself, speaking through a headset mic. He talked about time, the birth of earth, the creation of life, water, etc.. Eventually, he sat down near a campfire on stage (which you can see below the clock face, above) and started "Washing Of The Water" (from Us) with a small keyboard on his lap. Bassist Tony Levin, who has been with him from the start, joined him. Then the rest of the band came out for another song ("Growing Up" from Up), taking their places around the fire. Introductions, etc.. After that, they took their normal places on stage and played some new songs I didn't know from his new album which isn't out yet. He did "Digging In The Dirt", three more new songs, and closed out the first set with "Sledgehammer", which blew the place up.

He talked a lot about human rights, environmental issues, justice, etc, but his delivery is so gentle and modest that he never came across as preachy, to me. Given his age, he comes across as a kind and wise professor. He's 73 now. But he can still sing, and he can still perform. He can still get to those high notes when he wants to and his voice still has that remarkable plaintive scratchy quality.

Second set had three more from So: "Don't Give Up", "Red Rain", "Big Time". It was the first of these that really got me. On the album, it was a duet with Kate Bush, so Ayanna Witter, who sang it this tour, had some big shoes to fill; and she absolutely did. It was one of those situations (which I'm having more and more of lately) where I hear a song I've known for years, decades, to which I know all the words and all the sounds, and somehow I find myself understanding it for the first time - the words make sense in a way they hadn't before and the music feels fresher because of it. Odd. Wonderful.

"Red Rain" was beautiful. "Big Time" was fun - he marched around the stage pumping his fist to the beat.

I believe he played all of his new record. It's good. I'll buy it when it comes out. But his first five albums (the four self-titled and then So) will always be my favorites.

The lighting and stage effects were unreal. At one point a transparent stage-width screen came down across the front, a light from behind him cast Gabriel's shadow on the leftmost part of it, while live, but slightly-ever-more delayed, copies of than shadow were projected across the rest - visual echo. Then he started drawing swirls and hearts on the screen in real time with some kind of stick. Every so often he'd give the stick a little flick and the drawings would explode and dissolve outward. Surreal.

Closed out the set with "Solsbury Hill", a song that I've heard so many times that it's amazing I still find it marvelous. It's in 7 and he starts singing each line on 5. It shouldn't sound as effortless as it does. But it just sounds perfect. Seeing him do it live was glorious. They let the crowd handle the "Boom, boom, boom"s. And it was the oldest song he played (first album, second song).

For that song, the rhythm guitar player used the same guitar as one my father just gave me (Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster), which made it seem even more real.

The band was great, of course.

First encore was "In Your Eyes". You can probably imagine how an arena full of Peter Gabriel fans would handle hearing that one.

And then the last song was, as I've heard it always is, "Biko". It's a gut-punch of a song on record. And live, it's twice as hard. It's also the only song he did that has that weird, twitchy, experimental Gabriel sound of the late 70s. This and "Solsbury Hill" were the only songs pre-So.

As the band plays the end of the song, he says "... what happens next is up to you" and walks off stage. One by one the musicians leave

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, drummer last, while the crowd sings the "Woah woah woah"s from the end of the song. The lights come up while the crowd is still singing.

Remain in Light

Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison, and the guest guitarist on that album, Adrian Belew, are on the road with a tour highlighting the Heads' awesome 1980 album, Remain In Light. It's an eleven member band, seven of whom are themselves the band Cool, Cool, Cool. The others are Harrison, Belew, longtime Belew collaborationist bassist Julie Slick, and percussionist Yahuba Garcia-Torres.

I wasn't sure what to expect - were they going to just walk out and play the whole album? Would they throw some other stuff in? What about the fact that the last three of the eight songs are very slow, atmospheric things (co-producer Brian Eno's influence is strong), and one of them is about a middle eastern terrorist blowing up westerners with his homemade bombs ? [1980 was a different time]

They solved that problem by playing only the first five songs from Remain In Light, with a bunch of Talking Heads' classics (Psycho Killer, Slippery People, Take Me To The River, etc), a Jerry Harrison solo tune (Rev It Up), and Thela Hun Ginjeet from Belew-era King Crimson, mixed-in. On the Heads' songs, Belew, Harrison, the baritone saxophone player, and the two female singers all took turns doing lead vocals.

It was nice to see Jerry Harrison. Probably the only time I'll see a Head. And the rest of the band was sizzling. But honestly, the two women singers kinda stole the show. They were so good, and those Heads songs have such great backing/counterpoint parts. If you've ever seen the Stop Making Sense movie, you probably noticed how important the two female singers are.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyDb4szpWmc

Good show. Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade was the headliner that night, but we weren't up for it.

They're playing in Asheville tonight, and I was tempted to drive out there to catch it, but the show is sold out. Oh well.

Sunny Day Real Estate

At the Orange Peel in Asheville NC.

A show I never thought would happen. Not only did they postpone it after the singer's voice went out, two weeks ago, they have pretty much been on hiatus for the last dozen years or so. I've heard interviews where members loathed other members. Two of the original members went on to play with the Foo Fighters for a while. there were solo records. Seemed like SDRE was done.

But, things came together and three of the original four members, with two new members, went on tour.

SDRE's first album takes me right back to a very specific place and time. When I hear it I almost feel like they only existed in the mid 90s, in my green Hynudai Excel, sitting in Mt Hope cemetery, on Sunday afternoons, Rochester NY. Being 24. The other albums are all very good. But that first album ... it's golden.

Show was originally scheduled for two weeks ago, so Mrs and I planned a whole vacation around it. Asheville is a fun town and friends of ours own a BnB there. So, we did it up right. And the day of the show, last day of our trip, we got an email that the singer had lost his voice so they had to reschedule.

Two weeks later, another road trip and another night at the BnB, it all worked out. Mrs skipped. Like most people, she'd never heard of them and wasn't up for the four hour drive then standing for four hours in one spot, in a loud crowded club, listening to music she didn't know.

They've only put out one new song in the last 14 years, so everything they played was a classic. Loud as hell. Tight. And they seemed very appreciative of the fact that so many people came out to see them. Which was nice.

The Appleseed Cast opened. I'd never heard them and happily, they were amazing- noisy in a great way.

Cathedral Bells opened for them. They were fun.

So, all in all it was worth the 500 miles.

Spoon

Our first show since the Before Time was Spoon, at a nifty little 1,200 seat outdoor amphitheater in Wilmington NC.

They were pretty great, much more interesting than the last time I saw them. Being right up front instead of all the way in the back probably helped. But they seemed more into it, too.

They have ten albums out now, so I wasn't expecting many songs from their older records. But, as with the 2008 show, I was a bit bummed that they played nothing from Girls Can Tell (their third) - or from anything before it. And only two from Kill The Moonlight (their fourth). Oh well. What they picked from the other six albums was all good, though.

Great band. Great show. Hope I don't get COVID.

I didn't take this video, but I'm in it.

Sad Sad Sad

RIP Charlie Watts.

Here are the Stones in late September 1989, Syracuse NY. A bunch of us from my dorm floor made the trip from Rochester to Syracuse to see this. We were as far away from that stage as the arena would allow.

There's an album called Steel Wheels Live, recorded a few weeks later on this tour, that is really great (hat-tip M-Lo).

Robyn Hitchcock

... at the Carrboro Arts Center.

Another solo acoustic show. As always, he played Glass Hotel, Queen Elvis and One Long Pair Of Eyes. He also played some stuff I'd never heard him play before: Wax Doll, Flesh Cartoons, Dylan's She Belongs To Me and a set of songs on piano which included Flavour Of Night and The Man Who Invented Himself. So, success.

It was, I think, the eleventh time I've seen him. And he still sounds great.

Local singer Django Haskins opened. He was very good.

Bauhaus / 2

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Saw half of Bauhaus at the Cat's Cradle last night. Billed as Peter Murphy celebrating 40 years of Bauhaus, it was Peter and bassist David J with two (very capable) guys handling drums and guitar. While I would have loved to see the brilliant original Bauhaus guitarist Daniel Ash, I'll take what I can get.


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First half of the set was the entire first album - Double Dare, Stigmata, St Vitus, Flat Field, etc.. Second half was everything else: Bela, Ziggy, Telegram Sam, etc. - everything I could hope for.


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Peter Murphy has a cold and was a little raspy, but he is still utterly charismatic. No longer young enough to writhe around shirtless, he loomed and lorded over the stage. And David J held a stoic expression the whole time, while totally kicking ass with his fuzzed and furious fretless bass. As sometimes happens, it was one of those shows where seeing those songs played live showed just how much is going on in those songs, and how unique and inventive those guys were to come up with it in the first place. An amazing band, even with two subs (who I think were from Peter Murphy's band) filling in.


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Weirdest part, though, was watching very cool Peter Murphy play the very uncool melodica for three songs.

First opening band was Desert Mountain Tribe, who did a kind of motoric trancey three piece thing that felt like the next iteration of The Doors / Stooges / Cult. Good sound, we'll done.


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Second opener was Vinsantos, a drag queen, who did a cabaret style set of witty and melancholy tunes - just her and her piano. Really fun.

Four hours is a long time to stand in one spot.

Parquet Courts

Last summer, while he was down in NC for a visit, I played some Parquet Courts for my dad, and he was immediately hooked. So, when they announced a December show in NYC, he floated the idea that he, my brother and I should all go to see them. So, that's what we all did.

My brother already lives there, and he generously put us up, and put up with us drunken tourists, for two nights. Dad lives upstate and drove down to meet us.

We missed the opening band - Sun Ra Archestra - since we didn't think an NYC show would actually start at 8. But it did. We go to see them walk off, though.

PQ were exactly what I was hoping for. They were energetic and tight when they needed to be, but perfectly sloppy otherwise. Set list was great, if short: lots of stuff from their fantastic new album, and good stuff from the others. No "Stoned And Starving", however.

Mrs and I were mightily impressed by the bass player. I rarely listen to bass players on records (mostly because my ear buds do a crappy job with bass frequencies). But live, his contributions stood out. And I began to suspect that he might be the key to their sound.

I also had had too many vodka-tonics.

Psychedelic Furs

We saw the Psychedelic Furs in Carrboro, last night. And they were great!

Mrs was a fan in high school, while I only knew them from their hits - five songs, I counted them off before the show started: Pretty In Pink, Love My Way, etc.. And of course they played all of those. The surprise was the other dozen songs in their set, which ranged from melodic goth in the Siouxsie/Cure vein, to Bauhaus-y drone stuff, to angry rocking things that one could mistake for PiL - though Richard Butler's rough baritone (which still sounds great) could never be confused with Johnny Lydon's bratty sneer. But, they were uniformly good. Good enough that I just might have to go buy an album or two.

I had seen them before, back in 89, at the RIT hockey rink. I remember liking them then, too. But that's all I remember. It was college, I was probably drunk.

Liz Brasher opened. She, and her band, did a fine set of fine bluesy tunes. If you like Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, etc., they're right up your alley.