Category Archives: DCist

Now Witness the Firepower of This Fully Armed and Operational Battle Station!: U2 Takes Baltimore Like the Muppets and Leonard Cohen (Separately) Took Manhattan

Why yes, I am fairly pleased with this hed for my DCist review of U2′s visit to Baltimore last night on their stadium-straddling 360 Tour. I can talk your damn ear off about this band, which you know if you’ve known me longer than ten minutes. Now it can be told: U2′s most famous member, whom I had more class than to refer to as “the world’s tallest short person” in my review, is responsible for the title of this very blog.

My confederate Kyle Gustafson did not take the photo above, but he did shoot many excellent photographs at the concert, which I encourage you to enjoy as part of the review or on his own site.

Escape Verbosity: The Decemberists at Merriweather Post Pavilion, reviewed

My review of that Decemberists concert the other night was my first DCist piece in nine months!

The most devout among you might conceivably care that I reviewed two prior Decemberists concerts, from March 2007 and June 2009, both for the Washington Post.

Patterson Hood, waiting for a Happy Ending

That’s not KISS, it’s the great and good Drive-By Truckers, having a little fun last Halloween. My interview with frontman Patterson Hood about The Secret to a Happy Ending, the new DBT doc by Maryland filmmaker Barr Weisman that will have its world premiere Sunday at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre, went up over at DCist yesterday. Patterson and I spoke on Jan. 29 of this year, as the film was supposed to debut three weeks ago, but it snowed a little.

As always, Patterson was a delight to speak with, giving up more good material than I could possibly use at one time. I’ve heard The Big To-Do, the Truckers album due on March 16, and it’s predictably superior. (Sample cut “This Fucking Job” is representative.) As ever, Mike Cooley’s songs have emerged as my early favorites.

Cate Blanchett DuBois’s Streetcar

There’s a huge star at the center of the Sydney Theatre Company’s much-hyped, Liv Ullman-directed, wholly satisfying new staging of A Streetcar Named Desire, which sold out its Kennedy Center run before the curtain rose on the first preview. I speak, of course, of the dramatist Tennessee Williams.

That’s no slight on Cate Blanchett, who fronts, fights, twirls and finally, crawls her way through a towering, plaintive gut-punch of a performance as Blanche DuBois, the cracked Southern belle at the center of Williams’s oft-revived 1947 Pulitzer-winning war of wills. (She’s also Sydney Theatre’s co-artistic director, with her husband.) Though famous for film roles from Queen Elizabeth to Katherine Hepburn to Bob Dylan, the 40-year-old Blanchett’s almost-as-eclectic stage resume reaches back to the early 90s. Here she proves again that the authority and vulnerability she intimates onscreen is no camera trick. Continue reading

Shut Up and Swing: (The Top Half of) Travis at Jammin’ Java

Fran Healy and Andy Dunlop

More than ever on the concert circuit, nostalgia is the move. With everyone from Liz Phair to Public Enemy to The Pixies (and those are just the P’s) devoting gigs and sometimes entire tours to reviving their seminal albums in sequence, lots of long-lived performers — particularly those strugging to get even their cult to embrace their new music — have glommed to the trend.

Travis are in a reflective mood, too, but they’re taking a different route. Founded in Glasgow in the early 1990s, they were one of the better U.K. trad-rock outfits to arise in Oasis’s mid-90s wake. They’re hardly commercial rivals (or contemporaries) of classic-album-revivalists Bruce Springsteen or The Pixies, but they’ve more hummable, singalong-enabled tunes to their credit than you probably remember, if you remember them at all. Continue reading

The View from the Future with Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia, dressed for success.

Mike Birbiglia, dressed for success.

Mike Birbiglia remembers when the room was a lot smaller. He’s headlining Saturday night at the Warner Theatre, where he’ll tell some stories he’s considering for inclusion in his next one-man show. But he cut his teeth at the DC Improv in the late 90s, while a student at Georgetown University. By the time he was 25, he’d done the The Late Show with David Letterman and had his first album and Comedy Central special.

Birbiglia’s act grew more distinct and involving a couple of years ago, when he began to segue from traditional stand-up into more personal storytelling. Continue reading

Talking Male Fragility Blues with Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby photographed by Sigrid Estrada

Few writers have managed to pin the millennial male ego under glass the way Nick Hornby has. In his comic novels High Fidelity, About a Boy, and the new Juliet, Naked, among others, Hornby picks apart our vanity and insecurity in ways that are as scary as they are entertaining. He’s also written loads of great nonfiction about his love of soccer, literature, and pop music.
Continue reading

U2 360 at FedEx Field: Faraway, So Close!

U2 get anthemic.  Photo by Martin Locraft.

U2 get anthemic. Photo by Martin Locraft.

And that’s just about gonna do it for writing about U2 this year, I think. My review of last night’s U2 360 gig at FedEx Field is up on DCist, with photos by Martin Locraft. Tough love = real love, y’alls.

And I gotta give it up to the Post’s Chris Richards for penning a funny and insightful notice on deadline last night.

Bigger than the Sound: Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the 9:30

Karen O at the 9:30 Club, 9.25.09

Karen O at the 9:30 Club, 9.25.09

DCist has my review of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Friday-night 9:30 gig, but the real attraction is the phantasmagorical photography of The Artist Formely (?) Known as Information Leafblower, Mr. Kyle Gustafson, who shot the hell out of the show like he always does.

I wish the YYY’s were opening for U2 tomorrow night instead of Muse.

Firecracker, Firecracker: Yo La Tengo at the 9:30 Club

13-Yo-La-Tengo

Last night was my first time seeing Yo La Tengo, the second-most-famous musical institution out of Hoboken, NJ. Head over to DCist for the review, with photos by Francis Chung.

The Folger’s Radiant Arcadia: Sexy-Time for Your Brain

Arcadia---1809

Whaddaya mean I’m two years too late for a Borat joke?

This still from Aaron Posner’s brilliant new staging of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia at the Folger wouldn’t make me want to run out and see it, really. But I hope my DCist review will inspire you to do just that. Best thing I’ve seen on a stage in 2009, certainly, and probably going back a goodly while earlier than that. Run, don’t walk.

What, you want more? Okay. Review proper begins after the jump.
Continue reading

Morrissey at the Warner Theatre

Misery is his schtick

Misery is his schtick

A nice way to get acquainted with the Pope of Mope, I must say. Reviewed for DCist.

Morrissey at the Warnter Theatre, Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Setlist

01 This Charming Man
02 Billy Budd
03 Black Cloud
04 Let Me Kiss You
05 How Soon Is Now?
06 I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
07 How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?
08 Ask
09 Seasick, Yet Still Docked
10 Something Is Squeezing My Skull
11 Death of a Disco Dancer
12 You Say You Don’t Love Me
13 It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore
14 The Loop
15 Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself?
16 Best Friend on the Payroll
17 I Keep Mine Hidden
18 Sorry Doesn’t Help
19 The World Is Full of Crashing Bores
20 I’m Okay by Myself

ENCORE

21 First of the Gang to Die

A Failure Pile in a Sadness Bowl: My Interview with Patton Oswalt

patton-oswalt-blog

Hey, I interviewed Patton Oswalt, the greatest comic champion of our end-times!

Not my finest hour as an interloctuor, but a valuable lesson for me. I was glad to talk to him for DCist. Can’t wait to see him play Lisner this weekend.

THE VERY NEXT DAY: It seems I’m not the only person ever to have a less-than-satsifactory Oswalterview Experience. A consoling friend referred me today to audio of Patton’s appearance on the Seattle radio show Too Beautiful to Live last fall, as well as of host Luke Burbank’s after-action report the next day about why the segment was (in his perhaps too-harsh view) a bust.

Burbank is the radio reporter and essayist who contributed the great piece about the guy who mourned his wife by wearing a Superman costume in public to the “How to Win Friends and Influence People” episode of This American Life back in 2001. I had no idea he hosted his own show, but I’ll be listening now.

That a cat as smart as Burbank wasn’t able to get much out of Oswalt makes me feel better about my own performance, which I’ve been kind of bummed out about this week. But if you check out the audio from his Sept. 6 show, you’ll hear Burbank second-guessing his own interviewing chops over the air the same way I’ve been fretting about mine for half a week now.

Stevie, Live at the LoC: Sketches of a Life

Stevie Wonder-ful, as Tony Bennett likes to call him.

Stevie Wonder-ful, as Tony Bennett likes to call him.

So, what do you call watching the great Stevie Wonder perform a never-before-heard-in-public composition, 15 feet in front of you, for an audience of 400 people, with Herbie Hancock sitting in the row in front of yours? ‘Cos I call it Monday night.

Well, one of the better and more memorable Monday nights of my life, of course, yes. Read all about it!

Abe’s in Arms: The Heavens Are Hung in Black, review’d

As Lincoln, David Selby has the weight of the union on his bony shoulders in </i>The Heavens Are Hung in Black.<i>  Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Best. President. Ever. But other than that, Mr. Klimek, how did you like the play? A: Plenty!

“Under Lincoln’s Unblinking Eyes”: We Are One

2009_0118weareone08

U2 perform “Pride (In the Name of Love” at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday.  Photo by Martin Locraft.

Yeah, words largely fail me these last few days here in Our Nation’s Capitol.  Or more truthfully, my will to sit at home trying to think of the right words has failed me, because there’s been too much to do, see, and experience.

I covered the big We Are One all-star concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday for DCist.    But after watching our new president take the oath of office yesterday  (albeit via  Jumbotron), down on the National Mall with one to two million of my closest fellow citizens, that seems like no big deal now. 

Read all about it anyway!

How Theater Failed America

2009_0109_mike-daisey2-sept08-credit-kenneth-aaron

I reviewed Mike Daisey’s deeply personal indictment of the theatre for DCist.

“Frost/Nixon” at the Kennedy Center

frostnixon-030-photo-by-carol-rosegg

I’ve never been a big fan of Ron Howard’s films, though the word on his upcoming adaptation of Peter Morgan’s fine history play Frost/Nixon is that it’s good. If you can afford it, though, I heartily endorse the touring production of the play I reviewed for DCist. It’s at the Kennedy Center through Sunday night.

Marah at Jammin’ Java

marah_2
What a show. Reviewed for DCist.

Personal Is Political: A Conversation with Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins remembers when this used to be a good neighborhood. Photo by Ben Swinnerton.

Henry Rollins is a lousy songwriter and a mediocre poet, but as a clear-eyed, self-deprecating raconteur, he’s in a class by himself. He’s long been one of my heroes, and it was an honor to interview him for DCist.