All posts filed under: Live Music

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CONCERT REVIEW: U2, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, July 6, 2015

For a group that once loudly and proudly proclaimed that they were reapplying for the job of best band in the world, U2 have faced their share of humbling challenges in recent months: a widely panned deal with Apple that confused and angered iTunes users, a new album released to decidedly mixed reviews (sorry, Rolling Stone!), a bicycle accident that required major surgery and hampered the album’s launch, and a tour that got off to a rather unsteady start. In some ways, the backlash against Songs of Innocence‘s release has been so strong to now merit its own backlash—and may have helped to turn into unlikely underdogs a band that can claim to have sold more than 98 percent of all tickets to 68 arena dates through the end of 2015. While U2’s power as a live draw seems largely undiminished, they went through great pains in the lead-up to the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour to emphasize that they had no intention of settling comfortably into a rock middle age of filling arenas to play crowd-pleasing-but-rote greatest-hits sets that would include …

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Welcome To Pittsburgh #5: Night Vapor/T-Tops/Gangwish – Gooski’s, 5/30/15

Is it smoky in here or is it just me? [Rubs tears from bloodshot-red eyes; guy next to me passes out from lack of oxygen.] No, it’s definitely goddamn smoky in here. So, so, so, take off your momma-made sweater and your Velcro-strap sneakers and bark hello to the neighborhood of fucking make-believe! This is the fifth installment of Welcome To Pittsburgh … Now Go Home, friends, and tonight we’re reporting from the front lines of the dive bar scene, the legendary Gooski’s, where the drinks are cheap, the music’s loud, and the smoke (of both the tobacco and marijuana variety) is thick and welcoming and loverly. Somebody must’ve forgot to tell guitarist/vocalist/man-about-town Patrick Waters and, um, just about everybody else in Polish Hill that T-Tops weren’t headlining this dual record-release shindig – the band was second on a three-act bill – because they goddamned owned Saturday night. The crowd was thickest and loudest for them. The walls and floors shook the most when they played. The set was impeccable; not a note was out of place. …

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CONCERT REVIEW: The Who – Tuesday, May 26th, 2015, Barclays Center, Brooklyn NY

I’m not going to write this as a critic – there are plenty of pundits out there, I’m sure, who will write reviews of Tuesday night’s Who concert to slam Pete and Roger for playing these songs at the ripe old age of 70.  But – so fucking what?  I’m 50 and this was my (belated) birthday present to myself.  If this is the last time Townshend and Daltrey are going out under the moniker of “The Who” – and it’s the band’s 50th anniversary as well – then I’m going to see them once more. See, The Who are far more than a band to me.  Make no mistake; this is not the musings of a fan or a wordsmith – I have loved this band for most of my life.  Where The Beatles will always have my heart and Big Star will always have my soul, The Who have always had my mind and my imagination.  It is directly because of them, their music and of Pete Townshend, that my life took the …

(Exclusive Coverage) Prince performs onstage during his "HitnRun" tour at Sony Centre For Performing Arts on May 19, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.

CONCERT REVIEW: Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL, Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, ON, May 19, 2015 (11:00PM show)

Well, he owed Toronto this much! No, Prince Rogers Nelson does not really owe anything to anyone, of course, but after speculation and confusion over two rumoured shows at Massey Hall last November that never happened and sent hundreds of disgruntled fans home after waiting in the rain for hours, there was an almost palpable feeling of anticipation and excitement as more than 3,000 concertgoers filled the Sony Centre on Tuesday for Prince’s second sellout show of the night, perhaps sensing that the singer would try to make up for that disappointment. Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL (which includes Toronto’s Donna Grantis on guitar) took the stage shortly after 11:30pm, opening with an 8-minute “reloaded” version of “Let’s Go Crazy” that included some heavy blues riffing and a nod to the Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein”. While his powerful trio of backing singers and the audience did the heavy lifting on vocals during “Raspberry Beret” and “U Got the Look”, Prince seemed happy to let his fingers do most of the talking, coyly asking, “Can I play my guitar?” during the …

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Live Review: Lloyd Cole, One Lucky Guitar, March 21, 2015

Lloyd Cole is the type of songwriter who incites travel, perhaps because he himself is nomadic and restless–a musical omnivore who’s traversed sparse folk, Velvet Underground-esque rock, electronica and dour jangle-pop (to name a few) during his three-decade career. And so when my husband and I found ourselves taking an unexpected Saturday trip to Ann Arbor, it felt oddly perfect to detour south and see Cole play a solo acoustic set in an unorthodox, BYOB space in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a mere two-and-change hours away. We hopped on the freeway, squinting through early-spring sunshine that made even the barren, browned farmland seem verdant. After a quick liquor store stop — pint of Guinness, $3.41 after tax–we reached the outskirts of Fort Wayne’s downtown. Our destination was an intrinsically Midwest mixed-use countercultural oasis: a sturdy building where a yoga studio, an alt-weekly and the marketing firm One Lucky Guitar share office space. Cole was to play in the latter company’s cozy, brick-walled back room, The B-Side, which was adorned by a velvet painting of headband-wearin’ Bruce Springsteen circa …

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CONCERT REVIEW: Ryan Adams, Massey Hall, Toronto, ON, November 12, 2014

Nearly a decade removed from Ryan Adams’s most prolific year, when he released three full-lengths over seven months (while leaving countless other recordings in the vaults), it can often seem a bit too easy to take the Jacksonville, N.C. singer for granted. After all, Adams has not exactly shied away from the spotlight: he released several albums with the now-defunct Cardinals and on his own to varying acclaim, as well as a sci-fi tribute to Québec metal legends Voivod, a vinyl box of fifteen live LPs and several volumes in a series of 7-inch releases on his own PAX-AM label, and has become an in-demand producer for everyone from Fall Out Boy to Jenny Lewis. Nevertheless, Adams’s 2014 self-titled LP, which features glossy production and a reinvigorated forty-year-old singer performing some of his strongest and most direct material in years, seems to have brought renewed interest in the one-time alt-country enfant terrible. From the snarling, trebly opening chords of “Gimme Something Good”, it was clear that the Ryan Adams who stepped on the storied stage of a sold-out Massey Hall on …

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HAPPENING RIGHT NOW: An Interview With Cyndi Dawson of The Cynz

A few months ago, I reviewed a new E.P. release by a local  (New Jersey) band, The Cynz.  They have that driving, frenetic garage-y sound that reminds me of the earliest punk days in New York and a highly charismatic and entertaining front person in singer Cyndi Dawson.  2014 has been quite a year for The Cynz, in that they released the E.P., Five Mortal Cynz; they have a new “single” release currently available, “Mean Girls”; they’ve been playing all over the New York area and now, on October 16th, they’re slated to be the opening band for the legendary and newly-reformed Blues Magoos (yes, the “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet” Blues Magoos).  Quite a moment of distinction for this band, who are currently made up of Cyndi Dawson on vocals, Henry Seiz on guitars, Anne Husick (another alumni from Band Of Susans) and drummer Bob Stockl. I sat down to talk for a few minutes with the energetic and always-inspired Ms. Dawson; she’s interesting, passionate and down-to-earth and that combination seems to propel her …

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CONCERT REVIEW: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Beacon Theater, New York, NY, July 11, 2014

I had my appetite whetted for this show.  I love Crosby, Stills and Nash (and prefer them in this configuration – sans Neil Young).  And even though they’re older than the fellows who gave us “Marrakesh Express”, “Wooden Ships” and (of course) “Suite:  Judy Blue Eyes”, I expected not too much difference in the vocal blend.  Masters of harmony, albeit just a slight bit more worn from the years of…  well, the years. That isn’t what I or the audience got.  Clearly from the opening number, “Carry On”, someone’s voice was going horribly off key, especially on the “carry on – love is coming to us all” line.  At first, I thought it was David Crosby but then quickly realized it was Stephen Stills – and this was to be the pattern of the evening.  I will say, first and foremost, I don’t know if he’d been ill or his voice gave out after doing several nights at the Beacon – it could have been simply that this show was the “bad” one but Stills’ …

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CONCERT REVIEW: Neil Finn, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, ON, April 5, 2014.

Going all the way back his days in Split Enz, Neil Finn has always found a welcoming audience in Canada (that group’s True Colours was a Top Ten hit here and Time and Tide reached No. 4), and last Saturday in Toronto was no exception. Armed with an embarrassment of riches of pop masterpieces as well as an excellent new album–the sonically daring, Dave Fridmann-produced Dizzy Heights–Finn quickly set the stage for a night that spanned all major phases of his career and could easily have doubled as a masterclass in songwriting. Backed by a skillful six-piece band, Finn opened with two Dizzy Heights songs and moved back and forth throughout his back catalog over the next two-and-a-half hours, even making room in the setlist for unjustly overlooked gems from the Finn Brothers (“Only Making Sense”, the opening track from 1995’s Finn) and Pajama Club (the stormy psychedelia of “From A Friend to A Friend”) projects. Live, the songs from Dizzy Heights gained a new immediacy and blended surprisingly seamlessly with the nervous, angular pop of Split …

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LIVE REVIEW: Michael Nesmith at City Winery, New York, NY, Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Being that we (us, being Allison Johnelle Boron and Rob Ross, respectively, both of Popdose) were at City Winery in New York on Sunday night (March 16th) to see the incomparable Michael Nesmith, we decided to compare notes on Mr. Nesmith’s performance. Having seen him last year at New York’s Town Hall, there are a great many similarities in the show – many of the same songs/song cycles and vignettes, which have been dubbed this year the “Movies Of The Mind” tour. But there were some marked differences with Sunday night’s show which was, first and foremost, in a much more intimate setting. If you don’t know, what Michael Nesmith does is paint a word picture for each series of songs, settings that are visual; in another time and place and each touches an emotional range, thereby setting up the tryptichs or duos of songs performed. RR: The descriptions or setting up of the songs seemed to rub a lot of people I know who saw last year’s show the wrong way. I enjoyed it, …

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LIVE REVIEW: Richard Barone w/ Nick Celeste, Mexicali Live, Teaneck, NJ, March 8th, 2014

At this point, I think I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve seen Richard Barone and Nick Celeste perform; that’s how much I enjoy seeing/hearing them.  They never fail to put on a great show; their harmonies are silky smooth and it is always a joy.  So last night was a trek to a new venue to visit, Mexicali Live, in Teaneck, New Jersey.  A not-bad drive got us there in time for our 6 p.m. dinner reservation – yes, this was dinner and a show.  In a rare instance, since this was a Saturday night out, a round of beers was in order and the conversation flowed as we waited for Mexican food and music – to which it has to be said, the iPod that was playing the background music needed someone to control it as the repetition of the “shuffle” mode was evident that someone only seems to listen to Queen, Annie Lennox and U2 (!).  The food was decent; the beer was cold and the show began with a band …

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LIVE: Booker T. at City Winery (with Aaron Lee Tasjan), City Winery, New York City, February 18th, 2014

It isn’t often you get to see a true musical giant up so close and personal.  Seeing Booker T. Jones, the man whose name is (to me) most synonymous with “Stax”, in a venue like New York’s City Winery,  is a rare treat.  This man, who was the driving force behind Stax’ house band, The M.G.’s, has been doing his thing non-stop with the birth of the label in 1960 and here is is, going as strong as ever – with a current album, Sound The Alarm and this tour.  Seated comfortably about six chairs from the stage, I knew we were in for a good show. Opening up was an acoustic guitarist/singer/songwriter, Aaron Lee Tasjan.  I was very pleased by his set – wry lyrics which, to me, make fun of hipsters and general modern-world superficiality.  With songs like “Junk Food and Drugs” and “Everything I Have Is Broken”, he does a fine job of catching your ear and holding your attention.  Even more eye-opening was his guitar playing – a Hendrix-like number of …

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CONCERT REVIEW: Paramore, The Self-Titled Tour, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, November 20, 2013

Few bands have recovered from the kind of turmoil that engulfed Paramore following the release of its third album, the excellent Brand New Eyes, and led to an acrimonious split with founding members Josh and Zac Farro, accusations of being a record label creation and an air-clearing MTV special–singer Hayley Williams even conceded from the stage Wednesday night that the band is “a bit of a soap opera.” And yet, Paramore didn’t just survive–Williams, bassist Jeremy Davis and guitarist Taylor York have thrived, producing some of their best music in 2013 on a sprawling, genre-hopping self-titled LP that includes the Go-Go’s-worthy single-of-the-year candidate “Still Into You“. In this context, it was no surprise that the Toronto stop of the Self-Titled Tour took on an unusually celebratory feel, complete with plenty of singalongs, a youth choir from the Etobicoke School of the Arts on “It Ain’t Fun” and a show-closing shower of balloons and confetti. Opener “Grow Up”, perhaps a thinly veiled kiss-off to former bandmates, set the tone for the night as the trio, joined …

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CONCERT REVIEW: The Eagles, “The History Of The Eagles”, Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, Saturday, November 9th, 2013

There’s nothing more pleasing – especially in a day and age where concert ticket prices are criminally high – than to get your money’s worth and then some from a band whose music is meant to equal “a good time”.  That was the case with seeing The Eagles this past Saturday  at Madison Square Garden on the second New York night of their “History Of The Eagles” tour.  It certainly lived up to its name – clips from the documentary complimented some of the segments of the show; going through each one of their albums – and every one of their hits (which is an important thing) and most of all, bringing back original lead guitarist Bernie Leadon gave the occasion a definite sense of completeness.  Three hours – only halted by a 15 minute intermission – and it was all there:  rich, soaring harmonies; non-irritating banter with the audience and at times, guitar solos that left me with a dropped jaw (courtesy of Joe Walsh’s fretboard mastery). Amongst the high points – of which …

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LIVE REVIEW: The Bongos, The Living Room, New York City, Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Seeing The Bongos live is always a joyful event.  But last night was the first time I had the chance to see them on the heels of a new album in over 27 years.  It was also the first night of the CMJ Music Festival, so it was like a step into the Wayback Machine.  The intimacy of The Living Room, on New York’s Ludlow Street, was a perfect atmosphere for the band to present some of the songs from the recently-released Phantom Train album, of which copies were available at the show.  Having the chance to be seated up close to the stage made the evening just that little bit sweeter, as well as seeing many dear friends, old and new, and having the chance to talk and catch up – a night of celebration, really. The Bongos came out to rapturous applause with the now-familiar introduction, “Hi, we’re The Bongos from Hoboken, New Jersey” and launched into a sonic-attack version of “In The Congo” and transitioned over to a slowed-down but intense rendition …

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Concert Review: Chris Nĕptūn at the Blue Room, Secaucus, NJ

Or should I say Blūĕ Room? Headlining a benefit for the family of venue friend and local business owner, Silvio Dibello, local singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Chris Nĕptūn and his backing band served up a memorable mix of pop, electronica, rock, and even some musical theatre undertones. Regardless of the small space, the band expanded the room into an arena. From the carefully-placed banter native to seasoned vets with meticulous sets (choreographed audience clapping, singalong participation, and, yes, even a few “Hello, Secausus!” greetings) to the seemingly improvised vocals, Nĕptūn worked it. The concert served as a promotional appearance for Nĕptūn’s new EP, Shūt 4 the Mūn, which audience members could purchase ahead of its digital release date (slated for October 2013). In addition to handling lead vocals, Nĕptūn wielded a guitar; he also counts drums, piano and trumpet in his musical repertoire. It’s worth noting that on recordings, it’s Nĕptūn covering all parts, which is quite a feat considering how much production seemingly goes into creating such complex, lush arrangements. Though the club was packed for other acts on the bill, it was …

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Inside the Art of Outside Lands

Outside Lands came and went last weekend, blowing in and out of the Golden Gate Park with the signature stomp, rock, and dazzle that’s it’s become equanimous with since Another Planet first unleashed it upon San Francisco six summers ago. This year, the dazzle was bigger and brighter than ever, the rock louder, the stomp harder, and widespread and whimsical art lavished the weekend with a warmth and brightness that superseded the grey skies.

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High Sierra Highlights: Top 10 of 2013

High Sierra Music Festival is easily one of the happiest places on earth. People return year after year (after year). They bring their kids. They fill up inflatable pools. They make signs that light up and camp with dozens of friends and family who fly in from all over the country. They stay up all night and then all day and then all night again. It’s a hard party to deny, and High Sierra has cultivated a magic over the years that instantly binds people to the experience.

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Live Music: The Zombies at Central Park SummerStage, New York City, 6/15/2013

Must resist making a corny pun… must resist. Oh, what the hell. It’s the “Time of the Season” – the summer season, of course – for Central Park’s favorite performance series, SummerStage. And what a way to officially kick off that proverbial season. The Zombies – containing original members keyboardist Rod Argent and lead vocalist Colin Blunstone – treated the exuberant audience to not only creative covers of Motown classics like “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted” and “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” the band’s signature hits – “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and the song that’s already been mentioned a dozen times in this paragraph – but also deeper cuts for the super fans. The Zombies’ cult classic album “Odessey and Oracle” was released in 1967; the band broke up immediately after, so the material was never performed live. Until now, that is. Argent and Blunstone navigated the baroque-cum-psychedelic pop masterpiece, ably backed by a troupe of talented musicians. Perhaps the pinnacle of the medley (“Care of Cell 44,” “A Rose for …

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Live Music: Ronnie Spector at City Winery, New York City, 5/6/2013

Ronnie Spector is more than her powerhouse voice, more than her tumultuous marriage to one of the most notorious producers-turned-accused-murderers of all time, and even more than the mile-high hairdos she popularized in the ‘60s. She is a portrait of resiliency and success in the most unlikely circumstances. Her recent two-night residency at City Winery in New York City was a reprise of her “Beyond the Beehive” performance last summer. The word “performance” may not capture the event exactly, however. Instead, the audience was treated to a multimedia inside look at Spector’s life, growing up in Spanish Harlem as a self-proclaimed “halfbreed,” awestruck by the Puerto Rican girls with their long cigarettes, high-slitted skirts and, oh yeah, hair teased to heaven. (Sound familiar?) An eclectic set list spanning every decade of Spector’s career was augmented with home movies, rare photos and performance footage of Spector, the Ronettes, and the famous folks that surrounded them. She recounted her rise to nearly overnight superstardom in the ‘60s, hobnobbing with the Beatles and Rolling Stones (including sharing the …

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Live Music: Alt-J at the Fillmore, San Francisco

Alt-J (so named for the neato triangle you can make using your keyboard—∆) headlined a sold-out show at the Fillmore the other night. The band got together in 2007 at Leeds University, but it wasn’t until 2012 that they released their first full-length. They presumably spent those years injecting elements of every genre they’ve ever been influenced by into the eclectic tapestry of their sound. An Awesome Wave is a beautiful, incongruent piece of work. It reflects tedious discipline and a vast array of influences, a collection of disparate pieces presented in a bizarre cacophony of noise and layers, strung through with instrumental interludes, startling vocals, and pretty keys. Even when they reached deep to meld together such jarring oddities like dirty bass to melodic folk, it works. The album flows. It doesn’t sound hollow or overly ambitious. The shit is totally catchy, all 14 songs through. 

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Live Music: Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang @ Terrapin Crossroads

Les Claypool is truly a singular artist. He’s transcended his various projects over the decades to become a sound, a style, a genre, all his own. When Primus was signed to a major label in the early ‘90s, getting radio play across America and making it to the ears of provincial teenagers everywhere, his slapping bass became the heartbeat of a movement—an irregular, irreverent, completely twisted testament to an instrument’s capabilities and a statement of nonconformity. Now that Primus is back together and he’s put the Frog Brigade aside, Claypool has apparently found the creative space and time to pursue something different—twang. Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang performed at last fall’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and at the time I assumed it was a special one-off set for the event. But he recently took the project on the road for a small series of shows, most recently of which was last night at Terrapin Crossroads, Phil Lesh’s newish venue in San Rafael.

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This Line is Disconnected: Caro Emerald @ The El Rey

Two quick points about last week’s Caro Emerald show at the El Rey here in Los Angeles. The first: it made me feel my age (37 years). The second: it was terrific. While the name Caro Emerald, particularly when framed by the plush ruby red drapings of the El Rey, invokes an impression of a Bolivian or Argentinian firebrand, the performer is actually Dutch, originally named Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw. And she’s a jazz singer. Caro was first introduced to the music world in 2009, and the following year had the biggest selling album in the Netherlands. This show was originally scheduled for November, but the entire tour – her first in the United States – was postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Although I was appropriately fueled for the evening with a cocktail called “Up All Night” obtained at the nearby Luna Park restaurant, I was actually quite pleased that there wasn’t an opening band and that Caro’s performance began promptly at 9 – I’ve got a cat that wakes me …