Tag Archives: Baltimore

Now Witness the Firepower of This Fully Armed and Operational Battle Station!: U2 Takes Baltimore Like the Muppets and Leonard Cohen (Separately) Took Manhattan

Why yes, I am fairly pleased with this hed for my DCist review of U2’s visit to Baltimore last night on their stadium-straddling 360 Tour. I can talk your damn ear off about this band, which you know if you’ve known me longer than ten minutes. Now it can be told: U2’s most famous member, whom I had more class than to refer to as “the world’s tallest short person” in my review, is responsible for the title of this very blog.

My confederate Kyle Gustafson did not take the photo above, but he did shoot many excellent photographs at the concert, which I encourage you to enjoy as part of the review or on his own site.

Best. Concert. Ever. (Wherein, Upon Seeing Bruce Springsteen Perform for the 14th Time, I Surrender to Hyperbole)

By Thursday morning last week, I had made up my mind to give the show Bruce Springsteen played in Baltimore on Friday night a pass. My attempts to procure a ticket through honorable means had failed. The aftermarket bidding for general admission tickets to the arena floor, where my friends would be, had inflated beyond my rationally justifiable price range. I’d already seen the great man perform with the E Street Band twice in 2009; five times in the last 24 months. That’s enough Boss, surely.

Even before I was a semi-pro critic, I was skeptical of superlatives. To me, they always reduced criticism to mere marketing. I don’t even like the year-end lists nearly every professional critic is compelled to compile. So that’s why, after returning home in the small hours of Saturday morning having experienced a concert that left me elated like no rock show has in years, I hedged. “One of the three or five best gigs I’ve ever seen,” I wrote in a excited Facebook post before going to bed.

But after chewing the matter over in the cold, clear light of a couple of days, I’m prepared to go all in: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s first show in Baltimore since 1973 was the best concert I have ever attended, by The Boss or anyone else. Continue reading

Opeth in Baltimore

I’ve managed to enjoy myself at metal shows before. The first concert I ever attended was Iron Maiden with Anthrax opening, in 1991.

Swedish death-metalworkers Opeth traffic in epic, multi-part salvos of sound that combine end-of-days riffage with touchstones of proggy sophistication: Changing time signatures! Spanish guitar interludes! At Ram’s Head Live Sunday night, a healthy crowd was happy to forgive the soft stuff on account of the bodacious plentitude of shock-and-awe. Performing, said frontman Mikael Akerfeldt, the final date of their U.S. tour before they would fly home to Stockholm, the five horsemen seemed neither tired nor exhilarated, but rather utterly professional throughout their 110-minute prophecy of doom.

Akerfeldt’s stage banter was charming and friendly even when it was profane and, well, gross – as when he speculated as to the origins of a stain on the T-shirt he declared he’s played 25 shows in without washing. The singer/songwriter/guitarist is Opeth’s own W. Axl Rose, the sole member who has performed on every album in the group’s 13-year discography. (Opeth vets outnumber active-duty members two-to-one, though Akerfeldt is not yet 35. What is it with heavy metal bands, anyway? Their retention is worse than the Army’s.) Daring to slip a ballad into the set after half an hour without quarter, he pledged to sing “with 350 percent feeling, like Jon Bon Jovi.” The black-shirted (and sometimes shirtless) faithful clapped along during this and other delicate passages, presumably as a show of involvement rather than to sabotage these rhythmically varied interludes, though the effect was the same.

In the moat between the stage and the barriers on the floor, a pair of burly security guys got a good workout catching crowd surfers and sending them gently back to catch another wave. Akerfeldt was clearly moved by our enthusiasm. “I am going to let you touch my private parts,” he announced during the encore. Then, as promised, he gripped his guitar by the neck and extended it into the throng, letting the front row cop a nice, long feel. Party on, Baltimore

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

David Byrne at the Lyric Opera House, Baltimore, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

Hey, is there always this much dancing at the Lyric Opera House?

On Wednesday night, the beautiful old home of the Baltimore Opera Co. hosted Byrne’s second date of his sans-Eno tour behind Everything that Happens Will Happen Today, the superb new sci-fi country gospel album they’ve created via the Interwebs, working from opposite sides of the Atlantic. (It’s currently a download-only release; CDs to come later. Meanwhile, you can stream it in its entirety here.) It’s not every day, or even every decade, that a pair of probable geniuses like David Byrne and Brian Eno make a record together — in fact, it’s been 27 years. There was some overlap in their duties, but broadly speaking, Byrne wrote and sang the lyrics while Eno composed and performed the music.

Both Eno and Byrne can sometimes come off as remote eggheads, but Byrne’s staging of their album (plus material from the three classic Talking Heads albums Eno worked on, along with one from their influential 1981 experiment in pre-digital sampling, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts) was as ecstatic as a concert can be, with Byrne fronting an ensemble that included two drummers, three backup singers. Beginning with “I Zimbra,” the mercilessly polyrhythmic second number, a trio of dancers appeared, offering a visceral “sight-track” to the music more captivating than any bombastic laser show. Byrne was a sometimes a prop and sometimes a graceful participant in their choreography — dancer Steven Reker leapfrogged over Byrne’s head during while the latter scratched out a rare, fiery guitar solo on “Crosseyed and Painless.” The dancers weren’t just eye candy, either: A routine performed on office chairs during “Life Is Long,” for example, underscored the tune’s observations about the balance of joy and tedium woven into even the most prosperous of lives.

Now 56, Byrne is doing the most open-hearted singing of his career, and the acoustically pristine Lyric was an ideal venue for the rich, mature timbre of his voice as well as the rubbery groove of his ace band.

The crowd warmed to the new songs, which with their major keys and soaring choruses were communicative even if unfamiliar. But predictably, it was the Talking Heads classics that pulled everyone from their seats and into full, shameless, lights-off flail. When the still-striking “Once in a Lifetime” slid into the jagged paranoia of “Life During Wartime,” the building shook for reasons far happier than the urban guerilla combat the song so chillingly imagines.

At 95 minutes, the show could have been longer, and began a bit unsteadily, with Byrne walking onstage to deafening cheers — and then proceeding to gab about his memories of seeing Ravi Shankar and Rahsaan Roland Kirk play the Lyric for several minutes before he finally lit into “Strange Overtones,” the bounciest of the new songs. An hour an a half later, he gave us a heartbreaking take of the title track to send us home. His entrance may have felt a bit tentative, but the guy sure knows how to make an exit.

A shorter version of this review was published in the Sept. 19, 2008 Paper of Record. Also, Friend of Snake Oil Kyle Gustafson shot the show for Pitchfork with his usual apolomb.

David Byrne at the Lyric Opera House, Baltimore, Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Setlist

01 Strange Overtones*

02 I Zimbra

03 One Fine Day*

04 Help Me Somebody

05 Houses in Motion

06 My Big Nurse*

07 My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)

08 Heaven

09 Home*

10 The River*

11 Crosseyed and Painless

12 Life Is Long*

13 Once in a Lifetime

14 Life During Wartime

15 I Feel My Stuff*


16 Take Me to the River

17 The Great Curve


18 Everything that Happens Will Happen Today

*from Everything that Happens Will Happen Today

The Band

Lily Baldwin – dancing

Kaïssa Doumbè Moulongo – background vocals, dancing

Paul Frazier – bass

Redray Frazier – background vocals, dancing

Mark De Gli Antoni – keyboards

Graham Hawthorne – drums

Natalie Kuhn – dancing

Jenni Muldaur – background vocals, dancing

Mauro Refosco – percussion

Steven Reker – dancing

Byrne – voice, guitar, dancing