Category Archives: excellence

Bruce Bowl I

I was hours behind the curve when the Man called Feedom pointed me towards this bulletin this morning, reacting to the announcement that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will play the Super Bowl Halftime Show in February. (A few hours later, E Street Band guitar man, “Yankee Stadium” composer, and local hero Nils Lofgren announced he will undergo double hip-replacement surgery tomorrow.)

Anyway, let the setlist-handicapping commence!

Bruce has a history of throwing curveballs in at high-profile appearances with limited stage time. The Sept. 2, 1995 concert celebrating the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland was one of only a handful of times when he performed with the E Street Band between 1989 and 1998, and he threw “Darkness on the Edge of Town” in his short set. When he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame himself in 1999 (Bono gave him an induction speech for the ages; Bruce returned the favor when U2 were inducted in 2005), he and the ESB played “The Promised Land,” “Backstreets,” “Tenth Ave. Freeze-Out,” and, er, “In the Midnight Hour” with Wilson Pickett, who looked younger at 58 then than Bruce looks at, well, 59 now.

For the Super Bowl, my best guess is he’ll do career-shortest versions of:

Tenth Ave. Freeze-Out
The Rising
The Promised Land (if Obama wins) or Darkness on the Edge of Town (if it’s McCain)
Born to Run
American Land (snippet)

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.

Media Mix V: The Final Frontier

wacoslivepromo.jpg

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.

Merry Christmas, Friends! Time to kick it weird-school.

santas-got-a-big-olde-bag-front.jpgHo ho ho, music lovers! Santa’s Got a Big Olde Bag, my 2007 Christmas compilation, is now yours for the asking.   And you need these sounds in your yule-life.

But don’t take my word for it! J. Freedom du Lac, esteemed Washington Post pop music critic, had this to say in the Dec. 18 edition of his wildly popular and influential “Freedom Rock” webchat:

Richmond, Va.: Hey, J. Free — what is your favorite Christmas record? One of my friends made me a mix CD this year, and I can’t get enough of Ben Folds’ “Bizarre Christmas Incident.” That song doesn’t get played on 24/7 Xmas radio.

J. Freedom du Lac: My new favorite? “Santa’s Got a Big Olde Bag: Yuletide Times Eclectic and Inexplicable,” compiled/curated by our very own Chris Klimek. He gave me a copy last night, at the Aimee Mann show. (You know, the one Michael Chertoff also attended. Who knew he was a Nelly McKay fan?!)The album is a wild, wild ride: It opens with audio from “Die Hard” (you know, where the limo driver is listening to “Christmas in Hollis”), then goes to the Bellrays/”Santa’s Got a Big Old Bag,” then Sufjan’s “Ding Dong! Death! (May Be Your Santa Claus),” then Marah’s “New York Is A Christmas Kind of Town” and (this is ripe) Arnold Schwarzenegger doing a workout video over “Warming Up” by Gladys and the Pips! LOL. And on and on it goes. Great stuff. You should sign up for Klimek’s CD-of-the-Year club.

There you have it, Friends — a ringing endorsement from a bona-fide expert.

Liner notes below!

VERILY, a manifesto.We all have our favorite versions of the traditional Christmas warhorses. Actually, recent research suggests that many listeners hate, hate these fucking things. I yield to no man in my abiding affection for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s 1975 performance of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” recorded live at C. W. Post College, and I only just came across a marvelous 1978 version of Keith Richards doing Chuck Berry’s “Run Run Rudolph” – it was released as single back then, Keef’s first. Then it went out of print.

No matter; you’ll find neither of them here. Tracks like that aren’t what this compilation is about. No, gentle listener! Here we turn our rapacious gaze mainly, albeit not exclusively, to seasonal melodies, films and ephemera that have not stood the proverbial test of time. Some of them haven’t been around long enough to take the test; some are too obscure even to have been summoned to the testing site; a few may have taken the test and flunked. All are glorious and honorable. Even Jingle All the Way, which puzzingly is remembered as an epic, cautionary failure, but which I submit to you is not even among the five worst films released in 1996. Freed from its distracting visuals, the film’s audio, tastefully excerpted here, reveals a surprising profundity and even grace.

2.5 TRACKS FOR EACH OF THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS! YOU CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO LISTEN!

Four Words About Sound Quality: All over the map. Much of this material I took from CD, manipulated in Apple Lossless Audio Format, and compressed only once, so it ought to sound stellar. Then there’s the stuff that was digitized from an ancient vinyl saucer and probably compressed two or three times before I got my hands on it. And plenty of stuff in between. I trust you will share my judgment that the content of the muddy-sounding tracks fairly demands their inclusion here, and forgive the pops, tics, crackle, and hiss. That’s the sound of authenticity you hear, Kids. – Mgmt.