Category Archives: Merriweather Post Pavilion

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.

Advertisements

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About R.E.M.’s Merriweather Show This Week

Mike Mills and Michael Stipe at Merriweather. Photo by Kyle Gustafson.
Your questions, answered here.

The sharp-eyed shooter Kyle Gustafson took the pictures. I attended with the WashPo‘s J. Freedom du Lac and the City Paper‘s Andrew Beaujon, whose own perspectives on the show can be found here and here, respectively.

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)

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.

Frontin’

eagles.jpg

It’s official: My review of the Eagles’ long-awaited (or long-in-the-making, anyway), startlingly craptacular double album is going on to the front of tomorrow’s Style section. It’s my first visit to that coveted bit of real estate, though I’m told the Wille Nelson, Merle Haggard, & Ray Price concert review from Merriweather last month came close.

Thanks for nothing, Don Henley. I already expected I might be in for a little hate mail when the piece saw print, but now . . .

But Do They Smoke Marijuana in Greensburg?

willie-nelson-merle-haggard.jpg

I’ll admit I was pretty pleased with this. I got to take my old man to the Willie, Merle & Ray Price (first-name notoriety eldudes him, I guess) show; got to rub elbows there with the Man Called Freedom; and I thought the review came out really well. (The Man Called Freedom agreed.) Plus, it got decent play when it ran in last Saturday’s Paper of Record.

On Tuesday, a Post editor forwarded me an e-mail that had come in from a reader in Greensburg, PA who challenged my account of the origin of “Okie from Muskogee” from the review. It was literally just one clause in one sentence of the piece:

“Mama Tried” was a predictable triumph, but even better was a brilliantly timed walk-on by Nelson during “Okie From Muskogee” — Haggard’s immortal reflection of his dad’s anti-hippie stance, and rather at odds with Nelson’s own biodiesel-powered, IRS-taunting lifestyle.

So it’s not I like was accusing Merle of having ripped off the bassline of “Under Pressure” or anything. Still, it was enough to get this know-it-all to write in with a contradictory, and completely unsourced, account of how Merle came to write “Okie” with Strangers drummer Eddie Burris, who shares Haggard’s songwriting credit:

“Okie’s” origins are well-documented. Haggard’s tour bus was
cruising through Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1969 when Eddie Burris, drummer for Haggard’s band the Strangers, remarked offhandedly, “I bet they don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.” Overhearing Burris’s remark, Haggard turned it into a song he viewed as no more than a tongue-in-cheek novelty (both men share composer credit). “Okie” nonetheless became a huge country hit, viewed by 1969’s equivalent of red-state America as a repudiation of the whole hippie counterculture though longtime, long-haired Haggard fans Jerry Garcia and Gram Parsons, seeing it as Haggard did, shrugged it off. Today, it’s a period piece.

The story must be “well-documented” indeed, since the letter’s author doesn’t bother to source it, which is pretty remarkable considering he intended this letter for publication. It gets better: It turns out the author of the letter is himself a journalist and historian who boasts (in a follow-up letter, after my editor had replied to his) that he’s been writing about music for a living since the seventies. In other words, somebody who really ought to know to cite his sources, especially when accusing another writer of not having done his research. (Admittedly, I didn’t cite a source for my account of “Okie” ‘s origin in the review, but that was due to the fact that I had a strict 15″ limit on my piece, which was, after all, a concert review, not an exploration of the influences on Hag’s songcraft.)

The guy ends his letter like this:

Concert reviewers needn’t have encyclopedic knowledge of the acts they evaluate, but it helps to have done some homework first. Klimek, unfortunately, did not.

Not much ambiguity there, huh? He doesn’t say, “The way I always heard the story is . . .” He doesn’t phrase his objection in a way that allows for the possibility that there could be more than one version of the story. He just goes straight for the jugular, stating matter-of-factly that I didn’t do my homework.

Anyway, two days after the letter came in, my editor at the Post asked me if I could back up my account of how “Okie” came to be. Since the great Drive-by Truckers song “The Three Great Alabama Icons” probably doesn’t count as a primary source, I sent my editor this Haggard profile by Brock Ruggles, published in 2002 in New Times Phoenix, wherein the Branded Man himself reveals all:

Most people did not realize (and some still don’t) that “Okie From Muskogee” was a social commentary that did not necessarily reflect Haggard’s personal worldview. “Ya know, I’m like an actor, and whatever role you see an actor in shouldn’t have anything to do with his own personality, but it does, of course,” he says. “That song typecasted me for a long time.

“‘Okie From Muskogee’ was written about my father, and it was my intention to try to see things from his viewpoint. Had he been alive at that time, I think he woulda said, ‘We’re happy with the way things are here in the middle of Oklahoma, and we’re really not wantin’ to get out in the street and bitch like the people in Frisco.’ The song was a contrast to what was going on, and there was nobody speaking up for [people like my dad], and I thought I’d jump out there and write a song for him.”

Bada-bing! Well, not entirely. It turns out Hag himself has told a lot of differerent stories about how and why he wrote “Okie from Muskogee” over the years, as mentioned in this 2004 L.A. Times profile by the great Bob Hilburn.

After my editor replied to the letter-writer (“It turns out Chris was correct”), the guy responded with a lot of bluster about how he knows Bob Hilburn, and how he’s interviewed many legends of country music in his three-decades-plus of writing on the topic, and actually says he’s glad he never got to interview Hag because the conflicting accounts of why he wrote probably his most famous song would drive the letter-writer crazy.

But he never apologized for having accused me of not doing my research.

Thanks for clarifying. With 32 years under my belt, I’m always learning
something new.

Maybe after 33 years, he’ll have learned that a false accusation warrants an apology. You think?

Never Young

Took my old man for a free consultation with the venerable firm of Nelson, Haggard, & Price Thursday night, courtesy of the Paper of Record. My review is here. Willie didn’t play “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond (Of Each Other),” but otherwise I couldn’t really have asked for more. Hag’s set was better, though.