Monthly Archives: May 2008

As the Crow Flies

This would be the second Sheryl Crow concert I’ve reviewed for the Paper of Record.

She closed the show I wrote about in September 2006 with Led Zep’s “Rock and Roll”; the other night, it was Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” Always a worthy 70s rock warhorse, I guess.

Next month, I’m covering Iron Maiden — the first band I ever saw play, y’alls! It’s their Somewhere Back in Time best-of-the-80s tour, so it’s the stuff I’ll remember from sixth grade. Four days later, I’m covering Emmylou Harris. I hereby nominate myself for the Declan P. MacManus Diversity in Musical Styles Award.

The Setlist

01 God Bless This Mess
02 Shine Over Babylon
03 Love Is Free
04 A Change Would Do You Good
05 Leaving Las Vegas
06 I Can’t Cry Anymore
07 The First Cut Is the Deepest (Cat Stevens)
08 My Favorite Mistake
09 Gasoline – Gimme Shelter
10 Real Gone
11 Motivation
12 Detours
13 Drunk With the Thought of You
14 Strong Enough
15 Out of Our Heads
16 If It Makes You Happy
17 Soak Up the Sun
18 Every Day Is a Winding Road
Encore
19 All I Wanna Do
20 Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder)

Los Angeles, Detroit, Cairo, Rome

Suzanne Bertish and Andrew Long as the titular star-crossed lovers in Antony and Cleopatra. Photo by Carol Pratt.

Either because I am remarkably prolific or because I am distressingly lazy, my reviews of the Shakespeare Theatre’s Antony and Cleopatra and of the X/Detroit Cobras double-bill at the 9:30 Club last Wednesday ended up on DCist the same day. The Friday preceeding Memorial Day weekend, in fact. Given that I posted them both after lunchtime, I’m confident that tens and tens of people read both trenchant works of art criticism.

Happy Memorial Day, everybody.

X: Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, Jon Doe, and D.J. Bonebrake, pictured sometime well in advance of their current 31st anniversary tour.

His Reality Needs Imagination Like a Bulb Needs a Socket: Waits on Waits

Having had the opportunity in recent months to interview (with varying degrees of success) more and more musicians, artists, and other persons of note (some of whom are world-class interviewers in their own right), I find myself increasingly appreciative of the interviewer’s art. Getting people to relax and talk about themselves is not as easy as Terry Gross makes it sound, people! That’s why today I am particularly in awe of one journalist’s uncanny ability to get inside the mind of his subject in a way that uncovers something of the man’s creative instinct while leaving his mystique undimmed.

Ladies and germs, I give you Tom Waits’s interview with Tom Waits.

I only wish he would have asked himself why his Glitter and Doom Tour is currently scheduled to come no closer to Our Nation’s Capitol than Atlanta. Boo! Hiss!

Sonic Doom: Bell X1 at Ram’s Head Onstage


“We don’t know how rock to get,” confessed Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan at Ram’s Head Onstage in Annapolis Saturday night. He was talking about the awkwardness of turning it up to 11 in an all-seated supper club (“We don’t have shows like this back home in Ireland”), but his band has bigger problems: It you haven’t got the songs, then your chops are worth about as much as a Johnny Buckland guitar solo. (I just had to look up the Coldplay guitarist’s name to complete that sentence, so there you have it.)

Bell X1 is what remained of Irish indie-rock outfit Juniper after Damien Rice left for a solo career, so no surprise that Rice is one of the many purveyors of the atmospheric balladry Bell X1 tries very hard to emulate. Their genteel, out-of-focus soft rock — imported to the States when “Eve, the Apple of My Eye,” ha-ha, got picked up by “The O.C.” a few years back — sounds like a diluted Coldplay, itself a soggy imitation of better bands, like that other Irish rock band named after a famous Cold War aircraft. (Give yourselves another point for originality, Bell X1! Maybe that’s why you called your album Flock.) But the biggest flaw of Bell X1’s white-glove sound is that it allows you to hear the lyrics — the one about the angel and the devil playing poker in the Garden of Eden, for example (“I’ll See Your Heart and Raise You Mine”), or the one about how you have the most beautiful face, and we’re all floating in space. Surprisingly, there have been a handful of decent pop songs written about Writer’s Block; Bell X1’s “My Firstborn for a Song” is not among them. Somebody get Glen Ballard on the phone!

No wonder that for most of their 70-minute main set, even the band seemed bored. For Shame: Noonan, the former drummer who inherited lead vocal duties when Rice left, is a capable and charismatic singer. With a good song to sell — the Talking Heads’ “Heaven,” for example, performed during the encore — he’s plenty watchable.

Bell X1 closed with their best shot, “Flame,” which boasts funky “Miss You”-by-way of Scissor Sisters-flavored guitar part and a snaky bassline that immediately hooks you. The buzz lasted all the way until the chorus, when the five grown onstage squinted to sing in unison about how they want to “toast marshmallows on a cold, dark night.”

Honestly. Some bands just won’t help themselves.

Bell X1 play the 9:30 Club with opener Brooke Waggoner on Tuesday, June 3rd. A shorter version of this review appears in today’s Paper of Record.

Media Mix: America’s Sweetheart Edition

Reviewed today in Media Mix: Dan Zanes self-described “pro-immigration” album for kids and Scarlett Johansson’s full-length tribute to Tom Waits — because you demanded it, America!

With Great Power . . .

Detail from Steve Ditko\'s original artwork for Amazing Fantasy No. 15, August 1962

Went down to the Library of Congress today to look at Steve Ditko’s original artwork from Amazing Fantasy No. 15 — which y’all know was the first appearance of Spider-Man, right?

Awesome. The original artwork — donated anonymously to the LoC about a month ago. For Spider-Man and the three other stories, also penned by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko, that comprised the issue. It would take seven months after the publication of this, final issue of Amazing Fantasty (nee Amazing Adult Fantasy) for Spidey to get his own title. Forty-six years later, he’s still going strong.

I’ll have a story about it in the paper next weekend.

Better Half Called Sinuous, Otherworldy in the Washington Times

Milady sees the future in Constellation Theatre Company’s current production of Aeschylus’ The Oresteia. Washington Times theatre critic Jayne Blanchard says she “provides chills . . . as the sinuous and otherworldly oracle Cassandra.”

Way to bring those chills, Baby. Respect!