Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday's Earful: Bob Dylan @ The United Palace

By: David Schultz

Arguably one of America’s most enigmatic performers, Bob Dylan has puzzled, provoked, instigated, mystified and amazed audiences over his storied career. Since embarking on his Neverending Tour about a decade ago, Dylan has once again transformed himself, this time into a venerable and dependable live act. To boot, regardless of complaints as to his originality, he’s rediscovered his knack for songwriting, producing some of his finest work, including his recently released Together Through Life. Amidst this late-career renaissance, Dylan brought his roadshow to New York City for three mid November shows at the gilded United Palace. Focusing primarily on his later releases, Dylan thankfully steered away from the bizarre Yuletide offerings on his latest Christmas In The Heart.

Like any artist who’s been active since the Sixties, Dylan has a sizable back catalog and a fan base eager to relive bygone days with trips down memory lane. What sets Dylan apart is the historical significance of many of his prior efforts; “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Hurricane,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall” and dozens of others resonate with a poetic radicalism and eloquent defiance that remains emblematic of a generation yet transcends the decades. That sense of importance, while not entirely lost on the inscrutable icon, seems to hold entirely none of his interest. On the second night of the run, “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Ballad Of A Thin Man” retained fleeting references to their familiar versions; Dylan going beyond a tweak or two and simply just crafting new arrangements in line with the tone and style he currently fancies. As Dylan’s vocal delivery leaves much to be desired in the way of intelligibility, his version of “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” needed time to develop before it became clear what he was singing.

Inconsequentially, the border town feel of Together Through Life material didn’t quite translate on to the stage. However, Charlie Sexton’s guitar work provided more than an adequate substitute. Along with Larry Campbell, Sexton helped engineer Dylan’s renaissance as a potent live performer in the late Nineties and his return has energized Dylan. With Sexton back in the fold, Dylan has a potent foil to play off on. Dylan doesn’t parry or joust with Sexton as much as he steps back to allow the guitarist to interject a bluesy riff or a unique interpretation. Known for his tightfisted control of his stage, Dylan hasn’t quite given Sexton free reign but he seems to have more freedom to move around the kingdom.

Where Dylan could once enlighten and enliven a crowd with a guitar, arthritis has left him with the ability to comfortably play only a song or two each night. Early in the show, Dylan played electric guitar on “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Man In The Long Black Coat” but for the most part remained primarily behind his keyboards or stood center stage at the mic, looking slightly awkward without an instrument. The changes brought on by age or temperament are all now part of the show. Much of the excitement comes from being in the same room as Dylan and marveling at his acumen and longevity. His voice may be buried in the mix yet the music is vibrant and remarkably effective. Disdainful as he may be of the burden of pleasing a crowd, he continues to do so. His traditional encores of “Like A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower” no longer retain their acerbic political bite, yet they remain timeless and ultimately still as relevant as the man who sings the songs.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Decemberists Tour; Michael Jackson wins, Adam Lambert shocks and Britney Spears proposes?

The Decemberists are currently featured on Current TV's "Embedded" - which if you haven't seen yet is a great show on an equally cool network. The show has some exclusive rehearsal and live footage along with interview clips from the band. Check it out here and for those "down under" you can buy Decemberists tickets for their January Australian tour dates here.

Adam Lambert though may have stolen Michael Jackson's four award thunder from the American Music Awards with his "man on man" kiss. The former American Idol runner up has the morality police up in arms over his "offensive" behavior and the complaints are rolling in to ABC. Same sex kisses are nothing new to awards shows as we all remember the famous liplock and tounge swap between Madonna and Britney Spears. Speaking of...

Britney Spears has been rumored to be dating agent Jason Trawick and now the story takes a new twist. The Herald Sun is "reporting" that Britney asked Jason to marry her but he turned down the proposal to be Mr. Spears number three. Who knows if this is true but it has been awhile since Britney has been flashing photogs around Hollywood so maybe she was trying to settle down. Oh well, if he did turn her down, maybe we'll see more Britney Sprears threesome videos!

Scott Stapp Revisits Kid Rock Sex Tape

Scott Stapp channelled his inner Bill Clinton recently by telling Spin magazine there was no "sex" on the sex tape featuring some young ladies visiting the Kid Rock tour bus. Of course, like the former President, Mr. Stapp apparently doesn't count blow jobs as sex (which may or may not be happening on the tape).

Besides putting his own spin on what (or who) really went down on the Kid Rock sex tape, Stapp revealed something new to me about Creed. He told Spin the tape was made back in 1999 down in Florida when Creed was playing with Metallica. Regardless of whether Stapp did or did not get oral sex on the tape, the real scandal to me is not the sex tape but the fact that Metallica let Creed open for them!

Jay Nash Tops iTunes Singer Songwriter Charts

Jay Nash joined forces with Matt Duke and Tony Luka for an EP called "TFDI" and the collaboration has paid off. Today "TFDI" sits a top the iTunes Singer Songwriter charts. The four song EP features a nice cover of The Band's "The Weight" and may represent a new promotional model for indie artists. By drawing on the fan base of multiple artists the release may spur more sales than a solo effort. Of course, individual releases get publicity too from the collaboration's success.

Jay Nash is not new to teaming up with fellow artists. He's collaborated with chart topper Sara Bareilles in the past and he brought long time show partner Garrison Starr to play with him on his Sun Studio Sessions appearance:

A full half hour version of Jay's Sun Studio Session will air this January on PBS and public tv stations (check local listings) across the country. Meanwhile you can check out more Jay Nash songs and tour dates here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekly Earful: The Eighties Almost Killed Them

By: David Schultz

The Eighties proved to be an awkward era. Not only did it give us the Safety dance, purple rain, luftballons, the moonwalk, Wang Chung and Terence Trent D’Arby, it’s the decade that gave us the phrase “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto.” In addition to cringeworthy fashion statements like suits with pastel-colored T-shirts and teased, feathered hair for both men and women, the Eighties brought us into the computer age. In the arcades, we played Pac-Man and Missile Command and at home, we slowly converted our record collections to compact disc.

The emergence of MTV, which stressed an artist’s appearance as much as their talent, the widespread incorporation of synthesized and computer generated music and the initial growth of rap drove many established and iconic acts from the Sixties and Seventies into an identity crisis as they tried to keep up with the changing times. The Eighties may have served as the birthing ground for U2, R.E.M. and The Replacements but it also marked the time that the careers of many artists from the Woodstock generation went into a tailspin.

Since Oliver Stone has decided to bring Gordon Gekko, the decade’s archetype of amoral greed, into the modern day with Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, it’s probably not a bad time to look back at the Eighties and see how it nearly dimmed some of the rock era’s brightest lights.

By the Eighties, Clapton’s storied reputation as a blues-rock demigod had started to diminish as he battled drug and alcohol addiction. Where Slow Hand once dallied in the studio with the likes of Duane Allman, Steve Winwood and George Harrison, the Eighties saw him palling around with Phil Collins and releasing slickly produced albums like Behind The Sun and August. At his 80s nadir, Clapton found himself in heavy rotation on MTV with “It’s In The Way That You Use It,” his tie-in with The Color Of Money, and in Michelob commercials with his re-recorded version of “After Midnight.” Capitalizing on everyone’s need to replace their LPs with CDs, many artists had their greatest hits combined into comprehensive multi-disc box sets. Clapton’s Crossroads, which covered all aspects of his career, created the blueprint for such collections and reawakened interest in the master bluesman. Trading in the T-shirt and jeans that had become his stage wear in favor of dapper suits, Clapton stopped dabbling in 80s-style superficial blues-rock and once again found his muse.

Defying all logic, the Grateful Dead had a run of success on MTV. In 1987, The venerable jamband titans released In The Dark, easily their most accessible album and, in line with the times, made . . . shudder . . . a music video for its lead single “Touch Of Grey.” In between Peter Gabriel and Dire Straits videos, the shaggy manes of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir played interchangeably with animatronic skeletons while Deadheads watched on with bemused horror. In line with the chorus of “Touch Of Grey,” the Dead survived the Eighties by persevering and simply outlasting the nonsense until it came full circle. Whatever fair-weather fans they attracted through their MTV exposure quickly fell to the wayside as the Dead remained on the road, paving the way for the modern jamband scene to flourish. Always a mighty live draw, the Dead toured regularly up until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. By that point, the brain cells in which Deadheads stored their memories of the Dead’s brief 80s flirtation with mainstream popularity had long been killed.

With classics like “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Street Hassle” a distant memory, the former leader of the Velvet Underground spent most of the Eighties churning out albums like Legendary Hearts and Mistrial, filled with formulaic, barely inspired three chord rock songs. Never the most harmonious singer, Reed got in into his head that he should be acknowledged as one of the originators of the burgeoning rap scene, insinuating as much on “The Original Wrapper.” At the end of the decade, Reed turned his razor-sharp intellect on two subjects on which no one would doubt his expertise, New York City and Andy Warhol. With the release of New York in 1989 and his collaboration the next year with John Cale on Songs For Drella, a eulogy for Warhol, their former mentor and patron, Reed found relevant topics to apply his blunt, streetwise poetry to, reemerging as one of America’s most prolific and outspoken songwriters. Like he had for the decades before, he continued to sort-of rap most of his lyrics but once Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch released “Wildside,” Reed seemed to lose all interest in drawing comparisons between himself and the world of hip hop.

Next to ZZ Top, there was no more unlikely MTV superstar than Phil Collins. Looking more lecherous old man than video icon, Collins worked ahead of the curve; his slick videos for “Sussudio” “Take Me Home” and “In The Air Tonight” defining the early 80s Miami Vice influenced video era. As a solo star, this was fine. However, as the de facto leader of Genesis, one of the titans of progressive rock, this influence resulted in the band that created The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway being represented by Spitting Image puppets on “Land Of Confusion” and hawking Michelob beer with “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight.” Unlike many of the other artists on this list, the Eighties didn’t almost kill Genesis, they put the band six feet under. After the unbearable We Can’t Dance, the band went dormant with Collins officially leaving in 1996, relegating them to a cult status amongst those who would flock in droves to see a reunion with Peter Gabriel. However, like all bands from the Seventies, there is always one word that generates gobs of cash: reunion. The 2007 Genesis reunion tour touched on their forgettable 80s success but wisely kept things focused on their pre-80s majesty.

David Bowie's descent into Eighties inanity didn’t take place during that decade – although some would be pressed to call shenanigans on “Blue Jean,” “China Doll” and his mincing prance with Mick Jagger on “Dancing In The Streets.” Rather, in 1997, Bowie engaged in the type of Wall Street chicanery that made Michael Milken the poster boy for Wall Street greed: junk bonds. Coming up with the novel idea of selling securities backed by royalties on his pre-1990 recordings, Bowie Bonds were initially greeted with optimism and an A3 rating. Coupling Bowie’s retirement from the stage with the digital revolution and its crippling effect on music sales in any medium, the lack of a sustainable interest in Bowie’s back catalog has resulted in the Bowie Bonds being continuously downgraded, reaching a level just a touch above junk bond status.

When a band that’s made their career on English blues, sprawling progressive rock suites and flute-based epics becomes fascinated with the synthesizer, nothing good could result. In the case of Jethro Tull, nothing good did result. Instead of flirting with Bach compositions and mandolin solos from a prior century, Ian Anderson attempted to give the band a new wavish Eighties feel on albums like A, Under Wraps and their most Spinal Tappish effort, Broadsword And The Beast by including electric violins and decidedly non-rustic synthesizers. The extreme divergence from medieval acoustics and progressive rock digressions alienated all but the most loyal of fans. Tull came to its senses by the end of the decade but at that point it’s unclear if anyone was still paying attention. It surely baffled everyone when they won the inaugural Grammy for Best Hard Rock Album for the mostly acoustic Crest Of The Knave.

This is the band from the Seventies that proves to be the exception to the rule. Already in trouble at the start of the decade, the band was on the steep path to nostalgia tours and obscurity when Run DMC helped resurrect Aerosmith’s career with rock and rap music’s original mash-up, “Walk This Way.” Being associated with the groundbreaking rap trio and the emerging genre of music hardly hurt Aerosmith, nor did it do Run DMC any harm to get the rub from one of the hardest rocking bands of the previous decade. In the era before gangsta rap and Kanye West egos, a classic rock act reaching across the aisle in this fashion seemed more revolutionary than conciliatory or opportunistic. Once the singles from Permanent Vacation started to make their way into heavy rotation on MTV, Aerosmith became one of the first bands that actually was saved by the Eighties.

As if the success of Buffalo Springfield was an albatross hanging around his neck, Neil Young found himself a Vocoder and a synthesizer and let the world know what “Mr. Soul” would have sounded like if it had been recorded by robots. Embracing the new technology a bit too eagerly, Young released Trans, an album chock full of Eighties-style robotics and unlike anything Young had ever done before. Geffen Records, who released Trans, hated it so much, they skipped constructive criticism and sued him for making it. Young’s dabbling in computer rock was thankfully short lived but it sent him into a downward creative spiral and he spent the decade making the weakest music of his career, getting banned from MTV in the process for glibly mocking the network and its advertisers. Fortunately, the first Bush era awakened the rocker; when Young released Freedom and the incendiary “Rockin’ In The Free World,” the past decade faded blissfully into the ether and Young took his rightful spot as the flannel clad Godfather of Grunge.

The world’s loudest band presciently sat out the decade, saving the world from finding out what other synthesized epics Pete Townshend had in mind when he wrote “Eminence Front.” Instead, we got sappy fluff like “After The Fire” from Daltrey’s Under The Raging Moon and Townshend succumbing to the urge to rap on “Face The Face” and to the need to adapt The Iron Giant into a misfire of a concept album. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Tommy, The Who reunited and embarked on the first of many, many reunion tours. Always a reliable draw, Townshend, Daltrey and, until his death in 2002, bassist John Entwistle, kept The Who’s legacy alive, waiting until the oughts to put out any new material bearing The Who’s mighty trademark. Daltrey’s voice may have lost its once-mighty power and Townshend battled tinnitus, but once they launch into “Won’t Get Fooled Again” or “Baba O’Riley,” people don’t seem to care, mainly cause Townshend remains one of the best guitarists alive.

In the Eighties, ZZ Top performed the nearly impossible task of transforming themselves from a gruff, rough-and-tumble Southern-rock trio into neo-lecherous, bearded purveyors of synthesized blues. It’s hard to begrudge them the success they found by reinventing themselves as it resuscitated their flagging career . . . but at what cost? Nowadays, when ZZ Top enters the conversation, it’s impossible to extricate the images of the three of them mysteriously appearing with a bevy of hot, leggy women to offer up the keys of their cherry red vintage Ford to some deserving soul. Beguiled by the synths, ZZ Top turned the blues into a cartoon wonderland, stripping the music’s back door man ethic of every ounce of its menace.

Happy Thanksgiving. The daily Earfuls will return after the holiday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Velvet Underground Reunion (sort of); BuzzUniverse

By: David Schultz

Given the bad blood that runs through the veins of the surviving members of the Velvet Underground when it comes to playing together, the December 8 gathering of Lou Reed, Doug Yule and Maureen Tucker at the New York Public Library will likely be the closest we ever get to a VU reunion. The three will participate in a round table of sorts with Rolling Stone's David Fricke to discuss the band and most likely The Velvet Underground: New York Art, a collection of Andy Warhol photographs, posters and album covers, Lou Reed handwritten lyrics and assorted memorabilia from the band's heyday. After spending the day at Strawberry Fields remembering Lennon, you should be able to get to the Celeste Bartos Forum in the library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building by the 7:00 p.m. starting time. General admission tickets are $25 with $15 tickets available for library donors, students and seniors (which probably includes anyone who saw the original band play live).

BUZZUNIVERSE'S GREG McLOUGHLIN HAS WRITTEN a very nice story for about reconnecting with his first bass teacher. Kendall Buchanan. It's like Daniel-San finding out Mr. Miyagi still has it . . . and can still rock the bass. I was on the boat when Buchanan sat in with BuzzU during "In The Sun" and McLoughlin's not understating the fact when he describes how Buchanan killed it. It's well worth reading.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: U-Melt To Release Perfect World

U-Melt Signs With Harmonized Records
New Album Perfect World To Be Released Nationally on February 23, 2010

Brilliantly capturing U-Melt’s amazing ability to shatter musical boundaries and transcend genre classification, Perfect World, U-Melt’s eagerly anticipated third studio album will soon be released on Harmonized Records. Recorded in their home base of Brooklyn, New York within the confines of their self-constructed studio, Perfect World will capture your imagination and commune with the existential part of your soul that responds to mind-expanding music played by a band whose creativity knows no limits.

Consisting of 10 road tested tracks, the carefully crafted music and philosophical lyrics of Perfect World shows off U-Melt’s inimitable skill in its finest form. It is a rare band indeed that can navigate the intricate twists and progressive rock turns of “Panacea," "Question Matters" and “Elysian Fields,” offer up the eminently danceable riffs of “Pura Vida” and “Clear Light” and gorgeously imbue the title track with a warily optimistic idealism. With a national release date of February 23, 2010, the inescapable rock and roll energy and dance grooves of U-Melt's Perfect World will move your psyche as well as your feet.

In February of 2010, U-Melt will kick off their “Perfect World Tour” which will carry the band across the nation and bring them to a city and venue near you. Dates, places and times will be forthcoming on

In the meantime, U-Melt will perform their final show of 2009 on December 4th at Sullivan Hall in New York City. The show is a late night Post Phish show following Phish's final night at Madison Square Garden.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Rose Hill Drive

By: David Schultz

Usually it takes a couple decades before a band ends up in some version of someone's "Where Are They Now" column. Nowadays, when an act can be hyped up and inspire a backlash within a six month cycle, it's a less a "Where Are They Now?" and more of a "What Are They Up To?" Just three years ago, Pete Townshend became enamored with Colorado's Rose Hill Drive and on the heels of a spectacular sprawling self-titled debut album, Rolling Stone tabbed the hard rocking power trio as one of their bands to watch in 2007. They toured behind Moon Is The New Earth in 2008 and then . . .

Your guess is as good as mine on this one. With the exception of a mid-summer post to tout a song on Guitar Hero 5, their Web site and Myspace page seem frozen at the end of 08 and Leftover Salmon will be playing the Boulder Theater, the band's usual New Year's Eve haunt, at this year's end. Can anyone verify Rose Hill Drive's whereabouts? Did they get mauled by one of those mountain lions that periodically act up in the Rocky Mountains? If there's anyone out there that has an answer, let us all know.

WHILE WAITING FOR ROSE HILL DRIVE to reemerge, you can check out our interview from 2007 with drummer Nathan Barnes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday's Earful: The Who; Wilco

By: David Schultz

Since making an appearance at Super Bowl XXXVIII, much has been said, written and debated about Janet Jackson's right breast. In the five years since Jackson flashed America, fines have been levied, speech and expression censored and decisions rendered by all sorts of judicial bodies, including the Supreme Court. Most devastating, the whole episode torpedoed Justin Timberlake's career. Poor Justin had to abandon his dreams of being a throwaway pop star and settle for the life of a credible multi-talented, legitimately funny, widely recognized superstar.

If anything good has come from the incident - besides making "wardrobe malfunction" a candidate for the O.E.D. - the Super Bowl half time shows have become showcases for rock and roll's biggest names. With The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen all having taken their turn as midgame entertainment, it's time for The Who to take the field. Personally, I think HDTV will be the proper format to properly appreciate the disdainful expression on Pete Townshend's face as he vents his disgust over the audience hired to mob the stage and wildly overreact to everything The Who does. Forget Nipplegate; we could have Cranky Old Man Gate on our hands.

TONIGHT, WELL THIS AFTERNOON IF YOU ARE IN THE USA, Wilco will be Webcasting their show from The Paradiso in Amsterdam. Showtime is 8:45 p.m. Netherlands time which makes it a matinee here in America (2:45 p.m. EST)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday's Earful: Leroy Justice @ Hidden Track

By: David Schultz

Rather than read my words this fine Friday, I'm going to suggest you go over to Hidden Track where Ryan Dembinsky has a great interview with Jason Gallagher of Leroy Justice. So put on The Loho Sessions, check out Ryan's interview and enjoy the weekend.

This will also start an Earful rule: if you mention me during an interview or within an article, I'm going to link to you. (Thanks for the kind words).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Willy Porter @ Joe's Pub

By: David Schultz

A Segovia with the wit of Phil Ochs, Wisconsin singer-songwriter and guitarist nonpareil Willy Porter can do things with an acoustic guitar that seem impossible until you see him play. When he gets going, his dexterity defies physics. Like Tom Morello and Vernon Reid, the guitar just seems to bend to his will and serves as an extension of his body and soul as opposed to a simple musical instrument. This past Tuesday, Porter returned to Joe’s Pub in New York City with a full band in tow. As part of a five piece that included longtime drummer Dave Schoepke, Porter offered an early evening set that featured many of the new songs from his recently released How To Rob A Bank. Playing with a full band, Porter focused less on the guitar gymnastics that feature predominantly in his purely solo shows and more on full bodied renditions of songs both new and old. The fact that he had Ryan Peterson, a young guitarist that can hold his own, added a nice dimension to the set and, at times, made Porter one of the most skilled rhythm guitarists to fill the role.

With his songwriting, Porter usually focuses his insight inwards, celebrating the small joys of life. Where Dylan and Pete Seeger honed in on the complexities of the world, Porter, a child of the Midwest, can give you a cerebral take on the joys to be found in his own backyard. He doesn’t shy away from political topics but approaches them with a sense of humor, much in the same way The Smothers Brothers might tackle a touchy subject. On “How To Rob A Bank,” he offers a whimsically skewed grass roots response to corporate greed and a less dangerous solution to pulling a heist with masks and guns. Porter imbued “Colored Lights” with his customary easygoing feel and matched the hard-edged blues of “Hard Place” to the embittered character at the center of the song.

In between songs while he gets his guitar in tune, he shares little bits and pieces of himself in a stream of consciousness style. Somewhere between stand-up comedy and Garrison Keillor, Porter opens a small window into his mind and bridges the gap between himself, his music and the audience. It’s a bit of a necessity. More than anyone I can recall, Porter’s amiable and affable personality seems to invite a weird type of audience participation with people just shouting out questions and comments as if it’s a showcase on The Price Is Right. On this night, we learned of Porter's repeated brushes with death (or at least calamity) and a hilarious tale about a gig in South Carolina that involved a slightly inept college-age concert promoter.

Porter is more than just a witty guitar genius and he’s at his best when he’s singing about the sweet joys of life. It brings out a perfect quality in his guitar playing and adds a beautifully emotional depth to his work. Embodying the best that Porter has within him, Porter ended his set with “Barefoot Reel,” singing tenderly about the joys of seeing his sweetheart dance before closing with a bluegrass romp and a final reminder that on guitar, Porter has few equals.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: My Morning Jacket; Aerosmith; Sesame Street;

By: David Schultz

If the photo to the left didn't make it clear, My Morning Jacket will appear on FOX's American Dad, Seth MacFarlane's unfunny version of Family Guy. This has the potential to supplant the Goth kids channelling Ian McKellen's defiance of the Balrog to the strains of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" as the show's defining moment. On the November 22 episode, Stan (the American Dad) becomes an MMJ groupie. It may borrow from The Simpsons finest plot device - Homer becoming obsessed with anything - but it has Jim James, so you have to give it the benefit of the doubt.

DEBUNKING THE AEROSMITH BREAKUP RUMORS, there are now stories that they will move on without Steven Tyler. Just as the decade ends, we have a new entry into dumbest idea of the decade. Maybe if we all send the other four guys in the band a nickel each, they'll forego the blatant money grab and not muddy up the Aerosmith name any more than they did with that Armageddon theme.

SESAME STREET TURNS 40 and Rolling Stone put together 40 of the best clips that involve rock stars instructing youth instead of corrupting it. Some of the clips are pretty surreal: little kids thrashing about to Stevie Wonder playing "Superstition"; Michael Stipe singing "Furry Happy Monsters" with Kate Pierson and other Muppets; B.B. King howling the blues over the Letter B; Little Richard using "Rubber Duckie" to teach kids about Tubby Time and Winger can rejoice, Tito Puente gets props and Sesame Street has been listening to him the whole time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Licorice; Dave Lott and Rebecca Hart

By: David Schultz

Licorice's Dave Lott and Rebecca Hart's Rebecca Hart, two of Earvolution's favorites will be playing a combined acoustic set this Thursday night at New York City's Ace of Clubs on 9 Great Jones Street. Playing as The Tiny Ambivalents, the set, which starts at 7:30 p.m., should see Lott and Hart playing solo as well as together - so it'll kind of be like a little Donnie and Marie thing, but hipper. No stranger to acoustic mayhem, Lott and Sabriena Stone used to take up residence at the now-defunct Baggot Inn as the 7-11 Project but this will mark Lott's first solo appearance.

Continuing a run of firsts, Licorice will play their first ever acoustic set on December 11th as part of BuzzUniverse's 2nd annual Jingle Jam, also at the Ace of Clubs. Besides having the best cookies in the Tri-State area, last year's Xmas party featured two sets from BuzzU, the Jersey-based eclectic collective, as well as ones from Leroy Justice and Free Grass Union. It should be a fun event to kick off the Yuletide season.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Monday's Earful: Bruce Springsteen @ Madison Square Garden

By: David Schultz

Tell me if this sounds familiar. A young East Coast singer-songwriter releases a splendid debut album that draws a fair modicum of attention. Backed by a stellar band, he draws raves for his live performances and has critics salivating over his brilliance. They herald our hero as the voice of his generation and offer grand proclamations on his future potential. He releases his second album and despite being well-reviewed, it gets roundly ignored in the marketplace . . . and then people start falling off the bandwagon. This more-than-twice-told tale could be about any of the bands that the Internet wags will hype to the moon only to retreat when success doesn’t come right away.

As hard as it is to believe, it's also the story of Bruce Springsteen circa 1973 upon the release of The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. If the Internet were around back then, bloggers would be falling all over themselves to gush evocatively about Springsteen’s observational character studies, revel in his streetwise romanticism and marvel at his ability to poetically conjure up the raw emotions of being young and eager to begin life. Instead of proclaiming him the new Dylan, those with an eerie sense of prescience would proclaim Asbury Park’s favorite son the original Hold Steady (which would surely baffle those listening to their 8-tracks with gigantic headphones). The failure of E Street Shuffle to find a widespread audience gave people pause about Springsteen’s rock and roll future. With Born To Run two years off, no one would have thought back then that thirty-five years later we will look back on this and it will all seem funny.

For the first of two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden, Springsteen looked back to an era when he wasn’t one of the biggest superstars in the world, playing The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle in its entirety. Recreating the heady swirl of the days when he used to pack rabid crowds into The Bottom Line, Springsteen and The E Street Band handled the twists and turns of their second album as if they’d recorded it this year. Best evidenced on “The E Street Shuffle” and an extended take on “Kitty’s Back,” the music sparkled with the give and take that has generally faded from the forefront of Springsteen’s songwriting in the years following Born In The USA, a casualty of moving from the clubs onto stadium stages. The subtleties of “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” and “New York City Serenade” weren’t lost at the Garden. With the exception of “Rosalita,” the songs from E Street Shuffle make rare appearances on Springsteen’s set lists and the MSG audience clearly appreciated the event for the watershed evening it was designed to be, enjoying hearing the sagas about Spanish Johnny and Sandy one more time.

The wanderings down memory lane weren’t limited to WI&EST. Springsteen opened with “Thundercrack,” an outtake from the sessions for his sophomore effort and during the stump-the-band segment, which has become a staple of his shows, he busted out the crowd-pleasing “Raise Your Hand” and “Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street” from Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ. Less of a rarity, the set also included “Prove It All Night,” a run through “Glory Days” dedicated to the New York Yankees, and, of course, a raging version of “Born To Run.”

Always a consummate showman, Springsteen relates to the audience unlike anyone else; even the stage stunts that might seem trite and clich├ęd seem fresh in his hands. During “Hungry Heart,” Springsteen made his way to a small platform amidst the general admission standees, stopping for a potentially misguided leap into the arms of some fans along the way. (From the quizzical look on his face, Springsteen seemed to question his own sanity as he was cradled by one of his fans). Taking a trust fall into the crowd, The Boss surfed the crowd as they passed him back up to the main stage. He coached a ten-year-old kid through some verses of “Waiting On A Sunny Day,” including the “Take it, Big Man” exhortation, and danced along the side of the stage with a Courtney Cox stand-in during “Dancing In The Dark.”

A week and a half ago, Springsteen anchored an All Star set at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concerts featuring appearances by John Fogerty, Sam Moore, Darlene Love, Tom Morello and Billy Joel. Tipping his hat to the night, Springsteen brought out Elvis Costello for a joyous romp through Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher,” recreating the finale from that night. Notwithstanding Bono, there’s no one more adept at grabbing a crowd and keeping them in their thrall for three hours. It’s such an ingrained axiom, it’s hard to believe there was a time when people entertained questions over whether Springsteen would last.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday's Earful: Leroy Justice @ The Bitter End

By: David Schultz

With Phish covering Exile On Main Street in Indio and Gov’t Mule and Jackie Greene touching on all sorts of Jagger/Richards goodness in Philadelphia, The Rolling Stones were clearly the Seventies go-to group this past Halloween. Going in a different direction, Leroy Justice looked to a tried and true favorite that unwittingly seems to reside in everyone’s record collection: The Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits. One of the more enigmatic rock stars from the Mid-Seventies, the Miller Band walked the line between true Seventies AOR and slick corporate classic rock, yet managed to endure while Poco and the Winter brothers remain obscurities.

At the legendary Bitter End in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Leroy Justice uncovered the rock pearls hidden within the Miller Band’s catalog, stripping away the superficial veneer that keeps the SMB from being revered and finding what makes their songs so durable. Clad in vintage Seventies wear, Justice offered a fun hour’s worth of covers with lead singer Jason Gallagher mining the fun to be found in “Take The Money And Run,” “Jungle Love” and the tick-tocks of “Fly Like An Eagle.”

Bustle In Your Hedgerow and RANA’s Scott Metzger found his way to the stage for the end of the Miller set and remained on for the second, trading licks with Justice’s own Brendan Cavanaugh on “Temporary Cure” and covers of The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” and Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.” Factor in a measured take on “Revolution’s Son” and a robust “Last 4 Ozs.” and you have the only thing in the venue wittier and more entertaining than the guy in the audience dressed as Burt Reynolds.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Thursday's Earful: U-Melt; Bruce Springsteen

By: David Schultz

Last week, Zac Lasher, Rob Salzer and Adam Bendy - 3/4 of U-Melt - offered a quiet little early evening acoustic set at New York City's Rockwood Music Hall, which long time readers will recall as the locale of Earvolution's first New York City showcase. I'd love to offer a lengthy dissertation on the set but due to the rigors of maintaining a day job, I only caught the tail end: the last half of "Folded" and the bawdy "Ballad Of Peniston." I can say that what I saw was pretty damn impressive. Playing on a stage slightly bigger than the piano, the stripped down setting let you really focus on how great each of these guys are. I only got a small taste, so I'm hoping there will be more Acousti-Melt in the future. In the meantime, U-Melt returns to Sullivan Hall on Friday night December 4 for a post-Phish after-hours gig.

AFTER ROCKING THE GARDEN AS part of the opening night of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's 25th Anniversary celebration, Bruce Springsteen returns this weekend for a pair of shows. As he did at Giants Stadium, he'll be playing an album in its entirety each night. Saturday night, he'll play The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle and Sunday night, he play The River.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Living Colour @ The HighLine Ballroom

By: David Schultz

On the night before Halloween, Metallica, Aretha Franklin, Jeff Beck and U2 held court at Madison Square Garden as part of the second night of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary celebration. Only a few blocks south, Living Colour, one of the truly great rock bands of our generation, reminded a sold-out crowd at New York City’s HighLine Ballroom that sometimes fate can be fickle. Boasting guitarist Vernon Reid, lead singer Corey Glover, drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Doug Wimbish, the wickedly talented New York band surely was skilled enough to earn the same esteem as the bands headlining MSG, the stars just never lined up properly. Whatever intangible quality impels a band into that stratosphere seemed to lose its momentum for Living Colour shortly after the success of “Cult Of Personality” and Time’s Up.

Accolades and awards may have escaped Living Colour . . . so far. They eluded other New York bands like The Ramones and The Velvet Underground until much later too. At the HighLine, Living Colour wound down a two month long U.S. tour with a show for their hometown fans. Over two hours, they intertwined material from their recently released The Chair In The Doorway with Vivid’s “Middle Man” and “Elvis Is Dead” (with a nice segue into The King’s “Hound Dog”), Time’s Up’s “Type” and “Love Rears Up Its Ugly Head” and Stain’s “Bi.”

Most remarkably, Corey Glover’s voice hasn’t weakened at all. Whether he’s a freak of nature or just reaping the benefits of his time with the touring company of Jesus Christ Superstar, the animated lead singer prowled the stage in a butcher’s apron, offering a captivating a capella intro to “Open Letter (To A Landlord)” and never wavering during the fevered vocals on songs like “The Chair,” “Go Away” and “Out Of My Mind.” Whether he’s tapping out the riff to “Behind The Sun,” cranking out the blues on “Bless Those,” making Motown seem easy on “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” or rousing the crowd with the solo of “Cult Of Personality,” Reid does things with his guitar that simply defy belief. Similarly, Calhoun’s drum solos remain wondrous, a blend of traditional drums and newfangled electronic innovation. Not to be left behind, Wimbish leapt off the stage and to show that no trickery was involved played bass with his teeth from amidst the crowd.

IF YOU REGULARLY READ MY ramblings here on the site, you're probably familiar with my feelings over Living Colour's recent return. At the end of the summer, I interviewed Corey Glover for Hidden Track magazine and made it to Brooklyn for a performance at their rehearsal studio where they debuted The Chair In The Doorway for friends and family. We reviewed the album as well.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary Concerts - Night 1

By: David Schultz

A visit to any Hall of Fame is usually akin to visiting a museum. The inductees enshrined, if they are still alive, are far past their prime and watching them practice their craft in the present day would be depressing. We like Old Timers’ Day because we can cheer our favorites one more time; we don’t cherish watching them exhibit severely diminished skills. Musicians are different: they generally get better with age. Gather the living members of the baseball Hall of Fame together and have them sign memorabilia and talk of the old days. Gather the living members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame together and you have the makings of a phenomenal night of music. If you’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, then you have the makings for two nights of legendary performances.

By all accounts, Thursday night’s show, the first of two historic nights captured for posterity by HBO, should have been an efficiently run four hour affair. In practice, six hours after the lights dimmed, the final notes of Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher” as played by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Billy Joel, John Fogerty, Sam Moore, Darlene Love, Tom Morello, Jackson Browne and Peter Wolf faded into the New York night, capping of a tireless night of classic rock.

With the exception of an opening welcome from Tom Hanks, there was very little exposition. If you didn’t know why the performers on the stage were important or why the songs they performed were relevant, you probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Before each set, a nicely produced video montage containing images and music from many of the Hall’s inductees provided context for the upcoming set. Crosby, Still & Nash represented the laid-back eloquence of West coast rock; Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel stood up for the suave legacy of New York pop songcraft; Stevie Wonder stepped up for Motown and Bruce Springsteen spoke for the populist singers who give voice to the working man, the next of kin in a family tree that includes Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.

As he was one of the few living stars from the 50s that could walk on stage under his own power and play without a band to cover him, 74-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis opened the night with a slightly shaky but fully engaging solo version of “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Goin’ On.” From there, the show used a blueprint that always made the Jammy Awards a memorable event: bring out a core band to anchor a set and let them work with a variety of guests.

Crosby, Stills & Nash opened with a run through “Woodstock,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Almost Cut My Hair” before bringing out Bonnie Raitt for “Love Has No Pride” and an acoustic version of The Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider.” Jackson Browne took lead on “The Pretender” and then James Taylor got the crowd swooning with “Mexico,” staying on for a romp through Stills’ “Love The One You’re With.” After tipping their hat to Buffalo Springfield, the mini No Nukes reunion concluded with “Teach Your Children.”

The ever nonplussed Paul Simon began his set with “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” and, were he playing before a younger crowd, would have had them all on their feet for “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard,” “You Can Call Me Al” an “Late In The Evening.” Dion emerged for a quick jaunt through “The Wanderer” and David Crosby and Graham Nash returned for an acoustic take on George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun.” Simon and his large band left the stage so Little Anthony & The Imperials could do a proper a capella version of “Two Kinds Of People” and when they returned, Art Garfunkel came with them. Kicking off a mini set with “The Sounds Of Silence,” the beloved duo inserted Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” into “Mrs. Robinson” and washed the Garden in nostalgia with “The Boxer.” When Simon stepped back and Garfunkel belted out the final verse of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” they delivered the first of the night’s multitude of spine tingling moments. After that, their “encore” of “Cecilia” proved slightly anticlimactic.

Stevie Wonder’s set began with a host of technical problems, leaving the energized legend to improvise while he waited for his microphone and keyboards to come online. Instead of opening with “Uptight,” as seemed to be the plan, Wonder offered a quick version of Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” before ripping into some vintage Little Stevie material complete with his inimitable harmonica. Smokey Robinson ambled forth for “The Tracks Of My Tears” and B.B. King brought the blues with “The Thrill Is Gone.” John Legend’s appearance was greeted with a skepticism that quickly dissipated once he launched into Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology).” Legend remained on stage for a bouncy run through Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” As the song progressed, Wonder seemed to lose his way, as if forgetting the words. When he reached up to wipe his eyes, it became clear he was emotionally choked up over the loss of his friend. His hokey attempt at a call-and-response chant that served to name check Jackson, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and quote Biblical verse can be forgiven, cause when he blazed through “Living For The City” and “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” Wonder reminded everyone that he was and can still be quite a badass when he wants to be. The finale of his set, which saw Sting sit in on a version of “Higher Ground,” that segued in and out of The Police's “Roxanne” and Jeff Beck bringing the night's first true burst of guitar virtuosity on "Superstition” was icing on the cake.

By the time Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band launched into “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” the clock approached midnight. If anyone was lagging, Springsteen had them on their feet and in the palm of his hand. With the exception of Bono, no one can immediately capture a live audience and keep them enthralled like The Boss. Even when playing a set consisting primarily of covers, it's still Springsteen and it's still unforgettable. Sam Moore fronted the band for “Hold On, I’m Coming” and “Soul Man,” John Fogerty held sway with “Proud Mary,” “Fortunate Son” and Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” and Darlene Love, a nominee for the Class of 2010, dazzled with “A Fine Fine Boy” and “Da Doo Ron Ron.” Despite all the star power of Springsteen’s set, Tom Morello stole the show. During “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” and The Clash’s “London Calling,” the Rage Against The Machine guitarist did things with his guitar that should have set off the smoke alarms. If HBO doesn’t include Morello’s pyrotechnics when they edit this together, they are doing everyone a disservice. Springsteen didn’t forget his own material, offering powerful versions of “Jungleland” and “Badlands," but for the most part, he seemed happy to be the ringleader of the revue.

Nearing 1:00 a.m., Springsteen seemed to leave enough time for “Born To Run” but there were other plans afoot. Informing the crowd of an impending New Jersey/Long Island summit, he brought out Billy Joel to the giddy delight of the still-amped audience. The two swapping verses on “You May Be Right,” “Only The Good Die Young” and “New York State Of Mind” would have been enough but Springsteen always has to take it that one step further, so of course, they traded verses on “Born To Run.”

Chuck Berry knew what he was talking about all those years ago, "Hail, Hail Rock & Roll!"

Monday, November 02, 2009

Monday's Earful: Lenny Kravitz @ Irving Plaza; Phish, Gov't Mule Cover The Rolling Stones

By: David Schultz

Twenty years ago, an uninspired and jaded Generation X pondered their future while staring at a bleak job market, the trickle down economics of Reagan era failing to bring about feelings of prosperity or any sense of hope in America’s youth. At the same time, a disenfranchised demographic moved their interest from the boy bands and formulaic pop that flourish during economic upswings to the flannel-draped hordes flooding out of the Pacific Northwest. Capturing the zeitgeist, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice & Chains and the rest of their brethren turned self-loathing, insecurity and good old-fashioned rage into grunge rock, possibly saving rock and roll in the process. In contrast to the moody cynicism of the grunge rockers, Lenny Kravitz unleashed Let Love Rule, a psychedelic-drenched, flower-power collection that espoused a message of peace, love and harmony, owing as much to the peacenik nature of the Beatles as it did to Jimi Hendrix’ incendiary interpretation of the blues.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Two decades later, we face a floundering economy, a job market sitting at its nadir and Lenny Kravitz’ eternally optimistic and live-affirming attitude is as necessary and gloriously anachronistic to the times as it was back then. To celebrate the milestone of his debut album’s release, Kravitz has devoted his set list to reviving healthy portions of Let Love Rule, still his finest effort. Last week, Kravitz (finally) finished up his five night New York City residency at The Fillmore at Irving Plaza. Originally scheduled to take place two weeks ago, Kravitz postponed the show, not wanting to turn in a subpar performance after his voice gave out on him.

Declaring the evening family night, Kravitz played with his daughter Zoe, who opened the show, perched atop one of the speakers along the side of the stage. Instead of playing Let Love Rule in its entirety, as has become the fashion, Kravitz used selected songs as a framework to resurrect the feeling and mood of the album. The steamroller guitar riffs of “Freedom Train” and “Mr. Cab Driver” remained tight and concise but on “Flower Child” and “Blues For Sister Someone,” Kravitz led the band through extended jams that flowed through organ leads and solos from the horn section. Stretching the songs out also let Kravitz show off his versatility, permitting him to show off the keyboards and jump behind the drum kit.

The free flow of the opening half of the show gave way to a run through Kravitz’ post-Let Love Rule greatest hits. More apropos for stadiums and amphitheaters, Kravitz’ proven arena-rockers like “Always On The Run” and “American Woman” blew the roof off The Fillmore and the ultra-funky elastic spring of the bass line of “Fly Away” got the tightly-packed throng to ignore the overcrowded dance floor. (When large acts come to Irving Plaza, the sound board and extra equipment take up to eight times as much room than that of the bands that usually play the venue; it hardly seems as if the venue adjust admission accordingly).

After an acoustic solo rendition of “Stillness Of Heart,” Kravitz closed the night with a lengthy version of “Let Love Rule,” urging the crowd to sing along until the message became ingrained in their psyche and fostering the communal spirit by jumping down from the stage to mingle with the masses. The Fillmore at Irving Plaza bears a fleeting, exceedingly corporate relationship to Bill Graham’s original venue. For five shows though, Kravitz’ heady vibe came closer to reconnecting with the ghosts of the Fillmore’s past than any number of posters and branding could ever accomplish.

HALLOWEEN 2009 WAS ALL ABOUT THE ROLLING STONES. After weeks of speculation, Phish chose to cover Exile On Main Street for Halloween at Festival 8 in Indio, California and Gov't Mule's first set on October 31 consisted solely of Stones classics. Even Mick Jagger himself took to the stage, albeit on Halloween eve, popping up on stage at Madison Square Garden during U2's Friday night set at the Rock & Roll Fame concerts to sing "Gimme Shelter" with Bono and The Black-Eyed Peas (Yes, that sentence is factually accurate).

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!