Category Archives: notoriety

Well, Since You Asked . . .

What did I think of Bruce?

I think you don’t try for subtlety at the Super Bowl. I think the Prince halftime show of two years ago is the only one I can remember ever being any good at all (although that one was really good). I think Bruce just carries his own gospel choir around with him everywhere he goes nowadays. I think he let Landau talk him into putting in that snippet of “Working on a Dream,” which sounds like a Born in the U.S.A. B-side to me, but not in a bad way.

All things considered, I thought Bruce was great. He generated more excitement in 12 minutes than Tom Petty has in his entire 96-year performing career. I mean, to play the Super Bowl and emerge with your dignity intact is no small thing. (I died a little when U2 did it in 2002. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bridgestone Nokia Clear Channel FedEx Nike Tribute to 9/11 Victims! Yeee-haaaaaaaawww!”)

Bottom line, I was not embarrassed to be a fan the way I usually am when an artist I admire plays the Super Bowl. And closing with “Glory Days” might’ve even been Bruce’s sly acknowledgment that with 60 just around the corner, even his expiration date could be looming. I never thought he played that song enough live anyway.

Well, yes, he was out of breath. Not sure what that was about. Just last August, I saw him play a three-hour, five-minute show with no apparent undue physical strain.

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Why Do You Talk? (Being a Short Conversation with Lou Reed.)

Tomorrow’s Paper of Record features my “Conversations” interview with the great Lou Reed. I’ll also be covering his 9:30 next week. I saw him play there in, I think, August of 1998, and it stands out in my memory as one of the ten or so most exciting concert experiences of my life. I remember that he opened with “Dorita,” that short instrumental prologue to the Magic & Loss album, then went straight into “Sweet Jane” from that. The first encore number was “I’ll Be Your Mirror.”

And that’s, um, pretty much all I remember about the setlist. But I was there with Mac and Shark, and a good time was had by all.

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.

It’s a Mann’s Mann’s Mann’s Mann’s World

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. . . but she still has to talk to me. Well, actually, no, she doesn’t. At all. But I asked her publicist very nicely, and she did.

She seems like a nice lady. Sings a little, too.

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.

“Welcome to the Andy Summers Show!”

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The King of Pain gets some impressive hang time in this band-approved publicity shot not from the Phone Booth show here in DC.

. . . howled Sting, ageless, serene, and in perfect (if lower) voice at Verizon Center Monday night, altering the original “So Lonely” lyric (“welcome to this one man show”) to salute the Police’s prodigious guitarist. Now a determined egalitarian, he did the same for percussionist Stewart Copeland on a subsequent verse.

Retired schoolteacher Gordon Sumner’s newfound magnanimity is the major difference between the Police circa nineteen-eighty-whenever and the Police v. 2007. Having made at least three albums as a solo artist that are arguably the equal of anything he did with his old band, Sting is willing, nay, eager to cede the spotlight to his two mates, granting the 64-year-old Summers, in particular, License to Shred in way he never did during the Reagan Era.

Fortunately, Summers is not just a brilliant axe man but a disciplined minimalist, never allowing the crunchy, angular fills he contributed to “When the World Is Running Down” or “Driven to Tears” more sonic real estate than necessary to achieve maximum sweetass yield. And while Sting did what little talking there was in the 100-minute show, Summers appeared to call the shots, bringing “De Do Do, De Da Da” to a halt with a two-handed “cut” sign just as it threatened to congeal into Christopher Cross territory.

Copeland, too, was agreeably unleashed, leaping between a drum kit and a sort of cage made of seemingly every device ever designed to make a melodic sound when struck with a blunt object, tossing his sticks (or mallets) over both shoulders every time he bolted between stations. He made “Wrapped Around Your Finger” a spooky tour-de-force. His bulging eyes framed by big glasses, a headband, and a headset mic, the Alexandria native needed only a dental retainer to complete the picture of a geek done good. But you couldn’t doubt the rock. You could, however, wonder why Sting kept inviting the audience to mess with his dense polyrhythms by clapping. Less passivity with your aggression, please, Mr. Sumner!

The setlist was a rewind of their headlining Virgin Festival appearance last August, Sting’s banter included, save for a welcome pair of additions from the earlier, crankier end of their catalogue, “Hole in My Life” and “Truth Hits Everybody.” Sting introduced the latter as “a song from our second album, from 1875.” King of Pain? King of self-deprecating laffs, more like!

Was it better than their enervated V-Fest set? Uh-huh. Do we say so because this one wasn’t preceded by a 10-hour stand-a-thon in skin-melting heat? Er, maybe.

A shorter version of this review appears in today’s Washington Post.

My Girlfriend Was a Jailhouse Witch!

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It’s true! Yesterday afternoon, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company brought their production of the Bard’s best and only occult-tinged Scottish tragedy, MacBeth, to the Patuxent Institution, an 800-inmate, maximum security prison in Jessup, MD. Miss Crooks plays Witch #2, barely visible in the background at left in the photo.

The Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun both ran stories today; I’ve linked to both. The Post’s coverage, in particular, looks great in today’s Metro section, with lots of big, bold photos. William Wan’s story isn’t too shabby, either.

It’s all a little reminicsent of “Act V,” Jack Hitt’s superb This American Life story from 2002 about a production of Hamlet at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center, rehearsed and staged by the inmates. Though I guess this is more like Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, or even better, Johnny Cash at San Quentin.

CSC is a solid company whose productions have been growing steadily in quality and ambition for several years now. The other venues on their current mini-tour of MacBeth have been tony private schools; here’s hoping the publicity from the prison show will help them get to perform in front of kids who don’t already have plenty of opportunities to experience Shakespeare.

Tickets for performances of CSC’s MacBeth at the Howard County Arts Center are available here.