Friday, September 29, 2006

Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere

"Let’s pretend we just went off stage and we had our oxygen, our transfusions, our coke and brandy like rock stars do…or did."
Pete Townshend, 25 Sept 06

Near the end of Monday night’s Who concert in Chicago, Pete concluded the band introduction with “the remains of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey.” This after a winded Daltrey briefly left the stage, leaving Pete to carry on with My Generation. A sign of the times? Surely the dynamic duo has lost a bit of energy since their glory days over 30 years ago, but don’t count them out just yet. Daltrey bounced back to deliver a knockout Tommy medley encore, and Pete throughout the show displayed a startling amount of energy. At 61, there’s no one else I’d rather see play the guitar. I must confess that after the 25th anniversary tour in 1989, with Pete playing in a glass booth because of his so called hearing loss, I never dreamed I’d be seeing him back on stage 17 years later. One this night, the Stratocaster roared once again, in front of a wall of Fender amps. Hearing loss be dammed.

The set list consisted of the predictable classics, split by a rushed sampling of the material from the forthcoming album Endless Wire (available in the EP Wire and Glass). Pete almost apologetically introduced the new music, telling the crowd “this is the part that might get tricky for you.” I remember he did this in 1993 on his solo Psychoderelict tour, coaxing the audience into patiently listening to the new material before heading back into familiar waters. Perhaps the advance release of the record to the American audience would make this easier, as it’s always more challenging to hear unknown music live. The new music sounded good, with the Quadrophenia-like Fragments and the acoustic duo numbers Man in A Purple Dress and Tea and Theatre particularly standing out.

Pete and Roger were accompanied by Pino Palladino on bass, Rabbit Bundrick on keyboards and Pete’s brother Simon on backing guitar, all in the background. Their presence was all but forgotten as the focus was rightly directed at our heroes (I think I only looked at Pino once, during the bass solo runs in My Generation. He’s good, but he’s not the Ox.) Zak Starkey however is a force to be reckoned with, and I love it that he’s become the Who’s drummer.

The highlights for me included Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, a Mod anthem celebrating the swagger of youth. Backed by images of the Mods, Pete and Roger kicked it in gear, and after 42 years, they can still sing this song and not look ridiculous. Roger’s brief interlude turned into a rare lead vocal performance of My Generation by Pete, who turned it into a bluesy romp at one point, splicing in the rarity Cry If You Want from It’s Hard, and bellowing “this is my generation, baby” at the end. Priceless. Believe it or not, it still is Pete’s generation. Go see these guys while you still can.

Set List: I Can't Explain, The Seeker, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Fragments, Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Real Good Looking Boy, Sound Round, Pick Up The Peace, Endless Wire, We Got A Hit, They Made My Dream Come True, Mirror Door, Baba O'Riley, Eminence Front, Man In A Purple Dress, Mike Post Theme, You Better You Bet, My Generation, Cry If You Want, Won't Get Fooled Again, Pinball Wizard, Amazing Journey, Sparks, See Me Feel Me, Tea And Theatre

Listen: Tea and Theatre

Buy: Wire and Glass

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Broadband killed the radio star

By now you’ve noticed the proliferation of internet radio and on-line playlist experiments here at wild mercury. I’ve realized that I almost never listen to music on the radio anymore. In the car it’s the ipod or occasionally sportstalk. At home it’s the ipod. At work, where I’m able to listen while I noodle away at my desk, it’s music via the internet, and this is where the action is. Here are some reviews of the current sites I’ve been using:

Radio Paradise is by far the best station I’ve found. It’s totally listener supported, with a variety of listening options based on your setup. It seems to work well with Winamp. The selection of music is varied and high quality, and to be honest it’s where I’ve discovered most of the new artists that have caught my ear. It also has active listener community with forums and other nice interactive features. You can listen for free, but I like it so much I’ve pledged a few bucks each month. Like most sites, you can directly link to itunes or Amazon to purchase what you like.

Pandora: I wrote about this one a few months ago. Create your own stations based on musical genes. Pick a few songs and Pandora will build a station around them, picking similar artists and songs. After a few months, I’m finding I delete at least half of what they suggest, and it repeats songs too often, but the concept is great and it’s worth exploring. Free.

Finetune: I just found this playlist site and it’s a really good one. It’s still in the ‘beta’ stage (meaning there are some bugs to work out), but the song selection is great, and you can listen to other members playlists. Another great way to introduce yourself to some new music. Also Free. Check out my first playlist, Songs for September, which should also appear in the sidebar.

If you spend a lot of time at the computer, you will enjoy all these sites.


WHO News: This may be another reason to invest in satellite radio. The Who Channel will debut on Sirius, containing concert webcasts, backstage banter from Pete and unreleased archival material.

Read more about the Who Channel and see the track list for their upcoming CD

Set list for the North American tour opener in Philly, September 12: I Can't Explain, The Seeker, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Baba O'Riley, Behind Blue Eyes, Real Good Looking Boy, Sound Round, Pick Up The Peace, Unholy Trinity, Endless Wire, We Got A Hit, They Made My Dreams Come True, Mirror Door, Relay, You Better You Bet, Who Are You, Man In The Purple Dress, Black Widow Eyes, Fragments, My Generation, Cry If You Want, Won't Get Fooled Again, Substitute, Pinball Wizard, Amazing Journey, Sparks, See Me Feel Me, T And Theatre

11 songs I've never heard before. I'll be seeing them 9/25. Never been to a show where I was unfamilar with so much of the material. This should be interesting....


Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Elder Statesman

At the moment, we are immersed in All Things Dylan. Rock’s elder statesman is featured in dozens of magazines and newspapers, with critics gushing over his latest release, Modern Times. We have him on the “cover of the Rolling Stone” giving a great, candid interview, plugging iTunes and his music on our TVs, and a upcoming Broadway musical featuring his music. Did I mention Modern Times is the #1 album in the country, surpassing Jessica Simpson and Christina Aguilera, all with virtually no radio support? His last #1 was thirty years ago, before most of the acts on the charts today were born. Within the last year or so, we’ve also been treated to the Scorsese directed rock-doc, a best selling memoir, and a satellite radio show.

What does it mean when an artist of Dylan’s magnitude pervades so much of our culture? To me, it means we are extremely fortunate, and we should enjoy it while we can. The hard core Dylanophiles may wince at seeing Bob hawking Victoria’s Secret and iTunes, but Bob is not the mysterious enigma that he would have us believe. Dylan has never claimed indifference to commercial success and popularity, and I think his output would decrease or even cease if the public stopped paying attention. After four decades in the music business Dylan knows a bit about marketing, and he could easily be riding the oldies circuit into the sunset, playing Blowing in the Wind night after night in packed arenas. Instead, he’s out there in the trenches, playing smaller venues where he can be scrutinized up close by the most discerning fans in music. But, he’s got enough savvy to put Scarlet Johansson in the video, and tour with opening acts like Foo Fighters and the Raconteurs. He’s still trying to sell records and find new audiences, and what’s wrong with that?

So what about Modern Times? Every review I’ve read has been of the 5-star variety, and to the casual observer it probably appears that no music critic has the balls to post a negative review. The truth is, Modern Times is an amazing record. It’s a seamless blend of American music’s primordial soup; blues, folk, rock and roll, vaudeville, and Dylan’s own imitable style, done with such grace and aplomb that it never comes across as a cop-out. These are not lazy retreads of Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry; this is music that is entwined in Dylan’s musical DNA, and what comes out is so natural that with each listen it gets better. It feels honest; this is a 65-year old man making music, and it is somehow relates to our own lives as much as his own. The songs are mesmerizing, clocking in at 6-7 minutes in length, yet they are gone in an instant, and you want to hear them over again. Like his previous records, there is a underying sense of melancholy that runs throughout, but with bursts of venom interspersed.

Dylan's voice is an acquired taste. It always has been, but the growling rasp that surfaced years ago really took some time to accept. It has mellowed though, and over the last three albums he has found song structures and phrasing that suit his current voice. Bob's voice ranges from crooner to growling bluesman without skipping a beat. His voice is unbelieveably expressive and now as potent an instrument as his poetry. About the only downside to Modern Times is the sound, to which Dylan has already expressed his displeasure for in the Rolling Stone interview. This is music that should sound raw and alive, but instead it sounds flat and too polished.

Judge for yourself. Here's Bob crooning When the Deal Goes Down from the album. To hear the other gems on this record you'll need to go out and buy it. While you're at it, if you don’t own Time Out of Mind (1997) and Love and Theft (2001), go out and buy those too. And then, go see him on tour this fall, while you still can.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

New Wilco

Here are a couple of new tunes from Wilco, played live at the Pines Theater, July 16, 2006. As we patiently wait for the new studio album, these live recordings can at least give us a glimpse of what we might expect. These tunes are mellow; no shrieking feedback and deconstructive noise that trickle into some of their live performances. With the addition of experimental guitarist Nels Cline and multi instrumentalist Pat Sansone, the band is capable of a huge sonic and musical range. In Impossible Germany, the alt-country kings veer into almost Yes-like progressive territory. I also hear a some mid 70's jazzy Dead in there, too.

If you haven't been to a Wilco show, you are missing one of the best live bands around these days. These audience recordings don't fully convey the experience; go out and buy Kicking Televison and see what all the fuss is about. I had the good fortune of being at one of the shows that was recorded for this double live cd release, and I can honestly say it was one of the best shows I've ever seen.

You can get the whole Pines Theater show at rbally, a great music blog.

What Light

Impossible Germany

Happy Labor Day.



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