Category Archives: aging

Live Last Night: The Pretenders

NME Music journalist turned Pretender-in-Chief Chrissie Hynde.

Reviewed for Post Rock.

No “My City was Gone.” Tainted by association with Rush Limbaugh, I guess.

Pretenders at the 9:30 Club, Monday, February 2, 2009

The Setlist

01 Boots of Chinese Plastic
02 Don’t Cut Your Hair
03 Talk of the Town
04 Message of Love
05 The Nothing Maker
06 Love’s a Mystery
07 Back on the Chain Gang
08 Rosalee
09 The Last Ride
10 Tequila
11 Stop Your Sobbing (Ray Davies)
12 My Baby
13 Don’t Get Me Wrong
14 Thumbelina
15 Brass in Pocket
16 Bad Boys Get Spanked
17 Tattooed Love Boys
18 Break Up the Concrete


19 Kid
20 Precious

    ENCORE 2:

21 The Wait
22 Up the Neck

The Band

James Walbourne – lead guitar

Nick Wilkinson – bass

Eric Heywood – pedal steel

Martin Chambers – drums

Chrissie Hynde – vocals, rhythm guitar

Chorus as Punchline


My John Eddie (who?) review is my first since the Paper of Record scaled back its music coverage in the paper-paper, and against expectations, it’s in the paper-paper. But much easier to find here.

Nick Cave Shares His ‘Stache as the 9:30

I got home from the first of mustache-on-a-wire Nick Cave’s two performances at the 9:30 Club this week to find an e-mail message from a publicist at his label saying the interview we’d booked for the following morning was canceled. (I felt only a little better when I heard he’d canceled on Post Rock‘s David Malitz, too.) The show had put me in a good mood that even that unwelcome news couldn’t spoil. In 250 words or, well, slightly more:

Nick Cave, the Australian punk-turned-literary death-rocker, is among the greatest frontmen in rock and roll. Hyperbole? Nope, check the math: You add the feral swagger of Iggy Pop to the cabaret poise of David Bowie, then factor in the shameless mustache of — that guy from Gogol Bordello, maybe? What about that mustache?

Doubtless it’s important: In his clean-shaven incarnation, Cave was writing tender piano ballads like “Love Letter” and “Into My Arms,” the only two opportunities to relax in his otherwise amphetamine-paced 18-song exorcism at the 9:30 Club Sunday night. But the Primary Source Document of the ‘Stache Era is this year’s Dig!!! Lazurus Dig!!!, one of those rare records that broadens a long-lived artist’s cult while alienating none of the true believers. But mostly, the disc justifies its six titular exclamation point by just rocking like hell — or so you thought, until you heard the seven-piece incarnation of the Bad Seeds up the ante on the songs for the stage, detonating them with sternum-rattling force.

Cave slunk onstage to the doomsday churn of “Night of the Lotus Eaters,” chanting the tracks’s refrain (“Get ready to shield yourself!”) and discarding the verses entirely. A gaunt spectre in gray pinstripes, he strapped on a guitar as the band slammed into Dig!!!’s title track, and the show was off like a cannonball. A string of lightbulbs framed the stage like a dressing-room mirror, emphasizing the theatrical-beyond-any-concern-of-parody nature of Cave’s preening, pointing, hand-squeezing stage manner. He even signed books for fans between songs.

The sold-out crowd welcomed vigorous concert staples like “The Weeping Song” and “Deanna” with fond expectation, and “The Mercy Seat” — already a key track in Cave’s thick songbook when his hero, Johnny Cash, covered it, pushing its stock even higher — was an apocalyptic showstopper, driven by the electric squall of Warren Ellis’s violin.

“It ain’t that great,” Cave demurred when a fan shouted for him to remove his clothes. But we’ll take 110 minutes of his soul over a flash of skin anytime.

A version of this review appears in today’s paper of Record.

NIGHT TWO was marginally less awesome, but still one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year. I’m not sure why Cave couldn’t get through “God Is in the House,” which he stopped and started three times before finally abandoning the tune to reprise “Love Letter” from the prior night. Or why he announced — but did not play — “The Ship Song” during the encore portion of the set both nights. But I was plenty grateful for what we got.

The Setlist – Sunday, October 5, 2008

01 Night of the Lotus Eaters
02 Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
03 Tupelo
04 The Weeping Song
05 Red Right Hand
06 Midnight Man
07 Love Letter
08 Hold on to Yourself
09 Moonland
10 The Mercy Seat
11 Deanna
12 Hard on for Love
13 We Call Upon the Author
14 Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry


15 Into My Arms
16 Get Ready for Love
17 The Lyre of Orpheus
18 Stagger Lee

The Setlist – Monday, October 6, 2008

01 Hold on to Yourself
02 Dig!!! Lazurus Dig!!!
03 Tupelo
04 The Weeping Song
05 Red Right Hand
06 Midnight Man
07 God Is in the House* (aborted) / Love Letter
08 Today’s Lesson*
09 The Mercy Seat
10 Moonland
11 Deanna
12 Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry
13 More News from Nowhere*


14 Your Funeral, My Trial*
15 Jesus of the Moon*
16 Get Ready for Love
17 Stagger Lee

*not performed the prior night

Another Reason to Love Guillermo del Toro

I didn’t love Hellboy, the movie, as much as I feel like I should have, or as much as I love Mike Mignola’s source material. But the advance word on Hellboy II: The Golden Army, has me fairly drooling. Not as much as The Dark Knight, due for release the following week (!), but still. Del Toro and Chris Nolan can count on my $10 and then some. Actually, Nolan will get more:  I’m going to have to check out The Dark Knight in IMAX, since Nolan apparently shot four scenes in IMAX.

These kinds of films were defining events of my adolescent summers. They offer diminishing returns in adulthood, but I still get excited about ’em. Obviously.

The B-52s at the 9:30: Everybody’s Fruggin’!

The B-52s’ mostly groove-tastic new album Funplex, is their first since 1992 (discounting compilations). They’ve never gone away, really — there’s been market enough for the kitch-krazed Athens, GA superfreaks to keep showing up and flogging “Rock Lobster” and “Love Shack” since then, and they probably could have kept right on doing that until the mothership returned to carry frontman/mascot Fred Schneider back to his home planet.

Though you’d hardly know it from their meaty, beady, big and bouncy 85-minute performance, the 52s’ packed-to-the-gills Saturday-night 9:30 Club gig marked the eve of singer Kate Pierson’s 60th birthday. But however suspicious the neon-redness of her hair, Pierson walked like an Egyptian and sang like siren all night, playing the World’s Coolest Grandma to Schneider’s Creepy Neighbor. (He claimed at one point to have 18 G-spots — a win for him; hard-to-delete mental imagery for us.) Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s high harmonies shined on the Schneider-less numbers “Roam” and the new “Juliet of the Spirits”; on the 50s sci-fi prologue of “Planet Claire,” Pierson wailed the organ part without a crack. Tres cool!

Nearly half the 16 tunes were from Funplex, built by guitarist/musical director Keith Strickland around a slight update to the 52s’ venerable formula: Pierson and Wilson’s girl-group chemistry, Schneider’s staccato interjections about robots, outer space, and, er, the “spandex spiral vortex,” plus rumbly grooves tricked out with eletronica beats circa 1996 or so. Whatevs; it works. Dance music sounds so, so much better when performed live by an actual band of flesh, blood, and several cubic yards of eyeliner. The airtight rhythm section of Tracy Wormworth (bass) and Sterling Campbell (drums) laid down a fat-bottomed groove for the four surviving original 52s (plus keyboardist Paul Gordon) to soar over. The presence of conspicuous number of audience members in drag helped the atmosphere of bacchanal, too. Everybody’s fruggin’!

The line “Let’s keep this party goin’ all night long / Things are getting’ dirty down in Washington!” was not a regionally-adapted bit of crowd-baiting; but in fact the actual lyric to the closing number on Funplex. Since it proved true beyond a doubt, one has to wonder what else Schneider wasn’t lying about. “Space-love in zero gravity”? The 18 G spots? Ow! My consciousness is expanding!

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

The B-52s at the 9:30 Club, Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Setlist

01 Pump

02 Mesopotamia

03 Private Idaho

04 Ultraviolet

05 Strobe Light

06 Party Out of Bounds

07 Juliet of the Spirits

08 Roam

09 Funplex

10 Hot Corner

11 Channel Z

12 Keep This Party Going

13 Love Shack


14 Planet Claire

15 Love in the Year 3000

16 Rock Lobster

The Band

Keith Strickland – lead guitar

Tracy Wormworth – bass

Paul Gordon – keyboards, guitar

Sterling Campbell – drums

Cindy Wilson – vocals, bongos

Kate Pierson – vocals

Fred Schneider – vocals, xylophone, tin whistle, mascot

Lou Reed vs. the 9:30 Club

Lou Reed called his most famous live album “Rock and Roll Animal,” but the title was kind of a joke even then, in 1974. The unofficial poet laureate of New York City is one of the least-pandering rockers ever, and his complete absorption in the music gives him a paradoxical charm: Like all icons of existential cool, he seems truly not to give semi-consensual anonymous back-alley fuck whether you like him or not.

Take Tuesday night’s powerful but frustratingly brief show at the 9:30 Club. The majority of the mere dozen songs performed were mid-80s-and-later album cuts, with only “Sweet Jane” (disposed of early in the set) and “Perfect Day” among Reed’s “hits.” He might have rolled his eyes introducing the Velvet Underground curio “I’m Sticking with You” (“This was in ‘Juno,’ that’s why we’re doing it”) but you just never know with this guy. Reed’s signature speak-singing, as distinct and authoritative as Johnny Cash’s, sometimes seems to veil everything in a protective layer of sarcasm.

Increasingly as he’s aged, Reed, 66, has used this vocal armor to get away with naked, frank introspection that would sound insufferably weak in anybody else’s mouth. (‘Naked’ is not just a metaphor here — few songwriters have addressed sex as Reed has, viscerally but with more revulsion than prurience.) The sole new song he performed, but didn’t identify, was like this, with its refrain, “the power of the heart.” But his tough-guy delivery also makes him out-loud funny sometimes, as in the well-chosen opener, “Mad.” (“I know I shouldn’t have had someone else in our bed, but I was so tired / Who would think you’d find a bobby pin?”)

The sold-out crowd followed Reed through his back pages without hesitation, though it was probably the incendiary chemistry of the band — featuring lead guitarist Steve Hunter, reunited with Reed from the 1973 “Berlin” album, along with longtime members Mike Rathke, Tony “Thunder” Smith, and Rob Wasserman — on numbers like “Ecstacy” and “Video Violence” that moved them. Reed rescued two from his fascinatingly clunky The Raven, adapted from/inspired by Poe: “I Wanna Know” felt unintentionally comic with drummer Tony “Thunder” Smith filling in for the Blind Boys of Alabama (not a task to be wished upon anyone), but “Guardian Angel” had the wrecked beauty of Reed’s best material.

The main-set finale was an apocalyptic “Magic and Loss,” Reed’s title cut from an album that chronicles two of his friends’ slow deaths from cancer. (Rock on, Washington DC!) “There’s a bit magic in everything,” goes one lyric, “then some loss to even things out.” That sounds about right.

A slightly shorter version of this review appears in today’s Paper of Record.
NPR recorded this show for webcast pending Lou’s approval; they’re still waiting on that as of yesterday. Check their blog for some amusing stuff about how Lou kept them scrambling to find the right gear to capture the show to his exacting specifications.

Lou Reed at the 9:30 Club, Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Setlist

01 Mad

02 Sweet Jane

03 I’m Set Free

04 Ecstasy

05 I’m Sticking with You

06 [new one w/ some refrain about “the power of the heart,” Lou said it was new but didn’t give a title]

07 I Wanna Know (The Pit and the Pendulum)

08 Halloween Parade

09 Video Violence

10 Guardian Angel

11 Magic and Loss (The Summation)


12 Perfect Day

The Band

Steve Hunter – lead guitar

Mike Rathke – guitar

Rob Wasserman – upright bass

Kevin Hearn – keyboards, vocals

Tony “Thunder” Smith – percussion, vocals

Seth Calhoun – “live electronics”

Lou – lead vocals, guitar

UPDATE: Excepted from the April 29 edition of WashPo pop critic J. Freedom du Lac’s “Freedom Rock” webchat:

Mt. Pleasant, D.C.: Please, please tell Post writers and all the critics you know to stop using phrases like “the unofficial poet laureate of New York City” to describe Lou Reed, because he apparently reads these reviews, takes them to heart and then decides 75 minutes of rambling, mid-tempo pretense constitutes a good show. Sure “naked, frank introspection” is a good thing, but it’s not enough to make up for high school literary magazine-quality lyrics and a kind of ostentatious lack of enthusiasm from the guy. I disagree with your colleague Chris Klimek the words sounded “insufferably weak” even from the mouth of The Great Man. I mean, he’s a legend, he can do what he wants, and no one needs to hear “Walk on the Wild Side”� again. But a little energy and a little wit to balance the ballads would have made for a show that was actually worth watching.

J. Freedom du Lac: Duly noted — and possibly/probably something Chris will respond to if he’s reading in real-time, or something close to it.

Everybody knows (or should know) that rock’s real poet laureate of NYC is actually Patti Smith.

But I thought the show was pretty solid. Not great, but absolutely worth watching, even if he did half-arse his way through some of the material, “Sweet Jane” especially. Maybe he was just tired after his weekend wedding.

Ages of You: Santana at Merriweather

A rare appearance by both of Los Bros. Terp coupled with the celebratory presence of Jeff made our pilgrimage to a damp Merriweather Sunday evening worthwhile. Was that John McLaughlin who joined Santana briefly onstage during the encore? I couldn’t find a recent photo of McLaughlin to compare, and Santana didn’t introduce him. Whomever that guy was, he could play. Review explodes into furious critical action now!

This just in: Carlos Santana likes his job better than you like yours. Seems like, anyway, on the evidence of the 60-year-old guitar legend’s soulful 2.5-hour set at a frigid Merriweather Post Pavilion Sunday night. Also: Jam bands might not be inherently evil. What else could you call his ace 11-piece, three-percussionist-powered ensemble, effortlessly marrying spicy samba to gut-punch blues to chilled jazz to scorched-Earth rawk? This one jam band that knows how to kick them out.

The Artist Spiritually Known as Devadip took the stage in a red hoodie, the only visual cue distinguishing him from his dark-clothed fellows. He left most of the singing to Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay, but his volcanic fretwork left no doubt who was in charge . Still, his humility was refreshing, considering his career goes back to a showstopping set at Woodstock— and we don’t mean Woodstock ’94.

For “Soul Sacrifice,” video screens cross-cut close-ups of the real-time live performance with clips from “Woodstock” (the movie) of the then-unfamiliar band doing the same tune, 39 years earlier. The evergreen “Oye Como Va” had a visual accompaniment, too, of album covers and performance clips through the ages. With these exceptions, the beguilingly youthful guitarist had no time for nostalgia, cranking the hits from his career–rebooting 1999 “Supernatural” disc and after with as much fire as the Nixon-era warhorses.

And the set was a hit parade, bookended by 1969’s portentous “Jingo” and last year’s “Into the Night.” Between came “everything you wanna hear, Man, believe me,” in the words Santana used to chide a mellow-harshing boor who dared interrupt one of his agreeably loopy pontifications: “We are the architects of today,” Santana waxed, looking down at one of his arsenal of guitars. “We are the architects of a new dawn. In my mind’s eye, I see Barack Obama taking the day shift and Hilary Clinton taking the night shift.” Spoken like a man angling for a cabinet post — Shredmaster General? Fastest confirmation hearing ever.

— Chris Klimek

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

Irish Song of the Damned


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.

Media, Mix’d, Red’x with a Vengeance


Presidents of the United States of America founding frontman/songwriter Chris Ballew is in his 40s now and out to prove the joke is still funny. Dave Insley lives on the road but hangs his hat in Austin. Reviewed in today’s Paper of Record!

This Is More Difficult than It Looks.


Tougher on your hands, too. The photo above is from Hudson Beach, New York City, last weekend. The one below is from Santa Monica, Sept. 2003. Getting older, just so you know, does not make this any easier.

Still, I wish there were more of these things around.  There are only two in the country, apparently.  The ones I used to play on in Santa Monica are known locally as the “traveling rings,” while they’re “swing-a-rings” in NYC.