Monthly Archives: March 2008

Rave On!

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Sarin Foo and Sun Rose Wagner, reviewed in today’s Paper of Record.

I interviewed one of my heroes today.  That’s never happened before.  Watch this space for details!

Leon . . . Live?

leon.pngStoried session man Leon Russell turns in a perfunctory performance at the State.  Also, the B-52s’ first album in 16 years, and the Waco Bros. long-overdue first live set, reviewed yesterday in Media Mix

Media Mix V: The Final Frontier

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IN THIS ISSUE: My pithy assessments of the B-52s first album of new material since 1992, plus the Waco Bros.’s long-overdue live album.  Wish they’d come play ’round these parts.

Hurry Up and Kill Yourself Already: Solas Nua’s Portia Coughlin

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We know just how she feels: Linda Murray is just asking for chronic back pain in Portia Coughlin.

It’s no fun reviewing a show created by people you like and respect unfavorably. (And there’s a bit of it going ’round lately, seems like.) But this is The Job.

Also on DCist this week, my first Weekly Music Agenda.

This would be why Jill Scott recorded a live album at Constitution Hall in 2001, I’m guessing.

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Most R&B divas equate sexual confidence with self-empowerment; few do it as persuasively as Philadelphia’s Jill Scott. The Grammy winner’s sultry, synth-tinged grooves tell of endurance in life and exuberance in the boudoir. Or is it the other way ‘round?

Tuesday evening, at the dizzying opener of a four-night stand at Constitution Hall, it was hard to tell. Scott spoke repeatedly of her divorce, but tunes like “Crown Royal” and “Come See Me” from 2007’s The Real Thing album suggest singledom isn’t treating her too badly. In the hands of her airtight 10-piece band, both became epics of prurience. Note to the abstinence-only crowd: Never, ever go to a Jill Scott gig.

The 2.5-hour show offered multiple, er, climaxes. The defiant “Hate on Me” got the last of the crowd out of their seats, waving their hands overhead. Then local legend Chuck Brown dropped by, prompting Scott’s two drummers to launch into a go-go beat while he riffed on the Ellington/Mills standard “It Don’t Mean a Thing.” Scott grooved along, smiling like she was just a lucky fan pulled from the crowd to dance on his stage.

In fact, she’s as natural and authoritative a soul songstress as any of her generation. Perhaps because Scott performed poetry before venturing into music, she has an approachable, conversational quality (patter: abundant, hilarious, largely unprintable in a family newspaper) that gives her mighty pipes all the more impact when she decides to let loose.
The show featured that rarest of treasures, the Truly Spontaneous Encore. As the spent crowd pulled on their coats, Scott reappeared to share a piece she’d said she scribbled on a hotel notepad only that day. “You seem to have a mystery of me,” she began, “And I am here to broach it.” But Scott’s mystique remained, despite the candor with which she sang, and spoke, of past jobs, relationships, and struggles. And despite the mid-show “pinky toe” rap that summoned two stagehands to replace Scott’s gold spike heels with gold flip-flops.

That’s one down-to Earth-diva, even if her show was out of this world.

A shorter version of this review appears in Thursday’s Paper of Record.

Thoughts on Our Final Wire Intercept

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We’ll Not See Their Like Again: Freamon, Bunk, and McNulty say their goodbyes.

My girlfriend and I have spent about 3.5% of 2008 watching The Wire. Starting around new year, we voraciously consumed all 60 episodes. We watching the big finale last night, the evening of the 71st day of the year. So out of 1,704 hours of Double-Aught-Eight, we’ve spent 60 of ’em, give or take, in front of the tube. If you’ve ever seen this show, you’ll have no trouble understanding why: It sucks you in. And it’s so smart and honest and fully-realized, you don’t feel the least bit bad about allowing it to suck you in the way you do with, say, LOST or 24.

And now it’s all over. SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t already watched the finale, etc., etc.

You had us a little scared for a while there, David Simon. What with only 10 episodes in this final season (the result of HBO brass telling you to “do more with less,” as the Baltimore Police and the Baltimore Sun staff are both repeatedly to do?), your plotting sometimes seemed hasty in a way it rarely had before. The final episode of any Wire season always features a kind of accelerated, jump-cut storytelling that’s the stock-in-trade of formulaic procedurals like the deathless Law & Order: Whatever the Fuck, and your final, 50%-extra-length episode was no exception. I know you would have loved to have shown us the conversation where the Sun brass demotes Gus Haynes to copy editor, for example. Still, though, you managed to pull it all together in satisfying, credible fashion. Cheers.

Who knew you could be such a softie? I mean, sure, Marlo gets away with everything, but still: Michael becomes Omar. Sydnor become McNulty. Daniels becomes Matlock. Herc becomes Michael Clayton.

I was sort of expecting a Sopranos non-ending redux, but then again, this sort of symmetry has always been part of the show. Overall, most satisfying.

Irish Song of the Damned

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A recent-ish (and Shane-less? Is that him, supine in the foreground at left? I can’t tell.) photo of the Pogues.

So. Spent the last two nights at the 9:30 seeing the Pogues for the first and second time. Hardly the debauched evening I might have expected if I’d seen them 20 years ago, but they sounded great.

I was on company time the first show (Paper of Record review here), when I spied Baltimore Sun newsman-turned-Homicide author-turned-creator of The Wire, David Simon, walking up to the VIP balcony. I waited around to try to talk to him after the show, but was told the balcony was closed for a private function.

Simon’s presence at a Pogues show on Sunday evening was ironic because the final episode The Wire had begun airing on HBO about 15 minutes before the Pogues took the stage, and because the Pogues’ music has been featured prominently in several episodes of the billiant HBO series. “Metropolitan” has scored at least one of Det. Jimmy McNulty’s  (Dominc West) adventures in drunk driving, but more to the point, there’s a tradition on the show — one that presumably, given Simon’s insistence on authenticity even in the most minute details, has its origins in the actual practice of the Baltimore Police Department — that when a cop dies, his brothers in arms lay him out on a pool table, eulogize him, and then sing the Pogues’s “The Body of an American” over him.

Sunday night, the Pogues played “Body” 12th in their set of 26 songs, I think. I turned around to try to catch a glimpse of Simon’s face but couldn’t see him just then.

Anyway, Paper of Record pop critic J. Freedom du Lac blogged about my sighting, and The Reliable Source picked it up today.

I still wish I could have spoken to Simon. I’ve got lots of things I’d like to ask him, about journalism and music and filmmaking and The Wire, but if I only had a second I’d thank him for creating what I’m hardly the first to call the most sophisticated and truthful show probably in the history of television. One of the funniest and most moving, too.