I’ve got a piece on Slate today arguing that the element that makes Springsteen on Broadway—which I saw on February 28, the night after I saw Hello, Dolly!—worth the difficulty and expense of getting tickets is quiet. You can read that here, and it is my fond hope that you shall.
And in the spirit of Bruce Springsteen having written more worthy songs for Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River and Born in the U.S.A. than he could possibly use at the time, but contrary to the spirit of him waiting 15-30 years before releasing all those unused songs, which I as a diehard am legally required to claim were better than the ones he put on the albums which by the way is true in many cases… here’s a deleted scene from that piece, wherein I expand upon my 20-show record as a Bruce Springsteen fan:
As someone whose Bruce fandom had bloomed improbably in the mid-90s, when—an Academy Award for Best Original Song notwithstanding—his stock was as low as it’s been in my lifetime, I’d never imagined I would have so many chances to see him. But he called the E Street Band back together in 1999 and kept them together, even once its founding members started dying. (Organist Danny Federici succumbed to cancer in 2008; saxophonist Clarence “Big Man” Clemons died from complications following a stroke in 2011. Both men had been in Springsteen’s band since 1972. )
Last Thursday, I attended the seventh of U2’s eight concerts at Madison Square Garden, which concluded their U.S. tour. It was my 18th U2 concert since 1997. Here are my notes, assembled in mostly chronological order, which is the most boring possible method of review-writing. Let’s go!
1. Bono took the stage by himself, at the opposite end of the arena from the band. Most of the folks surrounding the B-stage on the floor where we were (though it’s called the E-stage now, being that this is the annoying capitalized iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour) were staring at one of house-right floor entrances to the arena, smart phones at the ready, from the moment Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” started playing on the P.A.
I don’t like that he enters on his own. It contradicts the “just the four of us” narrative U2 have always fostered, and it’s worth fostering. What other band has stayed intact with its original lineup for just a year or two shy of four decades?
2. My fellow superfans were really nice. We were in the G.A. line ahead of a guy named Bob Springsteen, of the Arkansas Springsteens — he showed me his I.D., unbidden. He was at the show with a pal on this evening but returning with his wife and young daughters, he said, the following night.
So Bob Springsteen was in the house the night Bruce Springsteen joined U2 on stage. (I was not.) I’d been reading rumors of a Bruuuuuce appearance on fan sites for a week, and I figured, accurately, that if he showed up he would join in on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which he played with U2 after inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 10 years ago. (He was returning the favor. Bono gave Bruce’s induction speech in 1998.) He also played it with U2 at the 25th anniversary concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. So a not-especially-surprising surprise. Continue reading
Posted in music, U2
Tagged Andy Weir, Bruce Springsteen, concerts, fandom, Greg Kot, HAMILTON, Jessica Chastain, Kevin Pang, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lou Reed, Madison Square Garden, New York, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Rolling Stone, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, U2, Will Dana
Elvis Costello at Linser Auditorium, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. Photo; Francis Chung.
Has it really been more than two years since I last saw Elvis Costello play and felt compelled to write footnotes, basically, on all the curiosities in the set? The calendar does not lie. I’ve seen Costello perform probably 20 times since 1999, but I’d never seen him do a headlining solo set, as he did Friday night at Lisner Auditorium.
Because no one demanded it, I posted some notes over at DCist, where it’s been so long that I don’t even have my own login anymore. The post features great photos by Francis Chung, who took the one above. For an overview of the concert, the great and good Dave McKenna captured it well in his Washington Post review.
My review of Sufjan Stevens’ “Christmess Sing-a-Long” — or to use its full, formal designation, the Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice — at the 9:30 Club Saturday night appears in today’s Washington Post. Continue reading
It’s a death trap! It’s a suicide rap! And so on.
My love of Bruce Springsteen is not exactly news. It may no longer even qualify as infotainment. He played the single best concert I’ve ever seen anyone play, out of hundreds of bands and artists. (This is merely a partial list.) There is nothing remotely controversial about the assertion he is the greatest live performer in the history of rock and roll.
I wrote all of this down three years ago, after I saw him play his penultimate show of 2009, in Baltimore’s appealingly small and out-of-date sports area, the end of a busy two-year tour wherein he also made one of his worst albums. Basking in the glow of that remarkable show in the days afterward, I knew if I were never to see Springsteen and the E Street band play again, I’d be fine with that.
I had a Born in the U.S.A. on cassette when I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until college that I became a hardcore Springsteen fan. His Live 1975-85 album (three discs, because I got it in the CD era) and his solo acoustic, recorded-in-his-bedroom Nebraska album were the documents most directly responsible for my conversion. At the time I was discovering this music, Springsteen hadn’t toured with the E Street Band in seven years. Another four would pass before they’d announced they were reuniting.
Those reunion shows in 1999 and 2000 were remarkable. I saw five concerts on that tour. They were different from the shows Bruce and the band had played in the 70s and 80s, the ones I had heard only on cherished (and in the pre-broadband era, expensive) bootlegs. There was no intermission. Bruce’s meandering, easily parodied, improvised on-stage stories were gone, replaced by a gospel preacher schtick. The shows tended to be about two-and-a-half hours long — a generous amount of stage time from anyone but Springsteen, who had regularly broken the three-hour mark all through his twenties and thirties.
His twenties and his thirties. Continue reading
We bought a smoke machine.
My first DCist post of 2012 is a review of a very fine show by the very fine Canadian stadium-rockers-in-waiting Metric.
Three out of five original Beach Boys are still kicking.
of Friday’s night’s Beach Boys concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion is in today’s Washington Post. I thought it was odd that the 14-piece band played along to the recorded vocal track of Dennis Wilson (d. 1983) singing “Forever” and then to a recording of Carl Wilson (d. 1998) singing “God Only Knows,” but the fact that “Heroes and Villains” made the setlist inclines me to forgive them anything. Continue reading
"44 years of performing experience! 30 years of psychiatric evaluation!" Photo by Erica Bruce.
Last Thursday, I road-tripped up to Philadelphia for what I think was my 15th Bruce Springsteen concert (but only my 14th with the pants-droppin’, heart-stoppin’, Earth-shakin’, booty-quakin,’ love-makin’, Viagara-takin’ etc., etc. E Street Band) since 1999. Three nights later, I saw my 16th (15th) here in DC at the Verizon Center.
For the City Paper, I wrote up some thoughts on the DC show, which differed significantly from the Philly one as you can see from the handy setlist table I have prepared below. Clip it out of your iPad’s retina display and post in your cubicle as a source of hourly inspiration! Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Ben Stiller, Bruce Springsteen, concerts, Fred Armisen, music, Saturday Night Live, setlists, Steven Van Zandt, The E Street Band, The Sopranos, Verizon Center, Washington City Paper
“I’ll be your substitute teacher for the remainder of the concert,” preened 57-year-old David Lee Roth last night, midway through Van Halen’s wry, spry two-hour gig at a sold-out Verizon Center. He was freestyling a new spoken interlude, as is his wont, to a resistence-is-futile Van Halen classic that already featured plenty of chitchat, “Hot for Teacher.”
Substitute? Puh-shaw! He’s the real guy!
This wasn’t Van Halen’s first tour with their cocksure original singer since they kicked him out of the band in the mid-eighties. Roth and the trio of Van Halens — guitar god Eddie, drummer Alex, and 21-year-old spawn-of-Eddie Wolfgang on the bass — made up and made a killing on the road in ‘07 and ‘08.
This time, Eddie kept his shirt on and instead flogged A Different Kind of Truth, the group’s first new album together since 1984 in 1984, approximately 125 Earth-years ago. Performed at detail-eradicating volume, the handful of new songs sounded enough like the circa 1978-84 warhorses dominating the set that no one seemed to notice. Roth’s attempt to get the mostly age-40-and-up crowd to sing “Tah! Too! Tah! Too!” during a new jam entitled, uh, “Tattoo” flamed out a lot faster than his post-Halen solo career did, though. Continue reading
Bruce Springsteen announced U.S. tour dates this morning. He’ll be here in DC on April Fool’s Day. So I’ll just get this over with: Bruuuuuuuce!
Thank you. And now, let us proceed.
When The Boss announced the title and release date of his forthcoming album Wrecking Ball last week, I just couldn’t see past its abysmal cover, an area in which he has been a career offender. I noted that Wrecking Ball is also the title of a very fine Emmylou Harris album from 1995. Dana Stevens, Slate’s superb film critic, noticed that too.
(When I was on the Filmspotting podcast the week after Stevens, I tried to say how much I admire her writing and how honored I was to follow her on the show, but it came out wrong. I apologize for that, Ma’am.)
Anyway, we exchanged a few Tweets about that title. “Title re-use doesn’t infringe copyright, but it’s crass,” Stevens wrote. I pointed out that Emmylou got the title from Neil Young, whose song “Wrecking Ball” (from his 1989 album Freedom) Emmylou covered on her album Wrecking Ball. Got all that?
“If Bruce covers the Neil Young song on this record, then the nab is vindicated,” Stevens concluded. Continue reading
I covered the first of Beirut’s two-night, tour-ending stand at 9:30 Club last night for the Washington Post. Read all about it in the paper-paper version, or see the version on Click Track for a few more of Josh Sisk’s fine photos from the show.
Elvis Costello and the Spectacular Spinning Songbook at the Warner Theatre last night.
Surely you know all about Elvis Costello‘s fantastical, angle-free song-selecting device. I wrote about some of the lesser-known jams it chose for him to play at Warner Theatre last night.
In 2008, I wrote about Elvis’s first Warner Theatre gig in 1978. (I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard it.)
Gillian Welch posted her Strathmore setlist on her Twitter feed this morning.
Ain’t never heard a horse sing no song.
I reviewed Gillian Welch and David Rawlings‘s concert at the Music Hall at Strathmore last night for the Washington Post. It was great. It was better than that. There wasn’t a bum note all night. Continue reading
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.
Also, I went to a Michael Buble concert this week. I thought it was good, even if a few people who read my review thought I was raining on the guy just because I don’t think much of most of his original songs. But I like him just fine when he’s singing standards, and as a live performer — a guy who is fully present when he’s on stage; whose mildly blue (turquoise?) quips and dance steps don’t seem rehearsed to death, and who’ll draw out a tween-song interlude to five minutes as long as the jokes don’t dry up — I really do think he’s aces. “The American media thinks that because I wear a suit and sing romantic songs that this is some Sex and the City 3 shit,” he told us. “I’m here to change that perception.” The first time I saw him play, three years ago, he did exactly that. Ring a ding ding!
When you fling a bra into the abyss, the abyss flings it back at you.
…where, ah, “the abyss” is the possibly-biggest-selling, certainly-biggest-sounding band in indie rock. Specifically, Arcade Fire. More specifically, Régine Chassagne, singer and co-songwriter and spouse of frontman Win Butler, who, late in Arcade Fire’s ecstatic 95-minute concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night, briefly abandoned her post behind the piano to toss that ladies’ garmet (which might actually have been a halter top; it was hard to see) back to its owner. This isn’t 1987 and we’re not Poison, her revolted glare seemed to scold.
Of course, it could very well have been circa-1987 U2, what with the urgent vastness of the music; the related sense of a big, important band grown huge and courting self-importance; and also the lack of any detectable awareness of sex– which is kind of weird, given how driving and propulsive Arcade Fire’s most arresting music is. On a tune like “Rebellion (Lies)”, the dizzying set-closer that invited the bra-throw, all eight musicians on stage were basically playing percussion, and almost all of them were shouting the lyrics whether they had microphones or not. Continue reading
(Two-thirds of) The New Pornographers. From Canada!
Who was it who said that 90 percent of success in life is showing up? Was that Woody Guthrie? Allen Ginsberg? Vince Lombardi? Brian Eno? T-Pain? It was somebody smart, and he or she was almost certainly discussing a concert by The New Pornographers, Canada’s pop musical Justice League whose legend far eclipses that of any of its individual superheroes (with the eternal exception of the exceptional alt-country chanteuse Neko Case). When the group can field its complete nine-strong roster — a feat they haven’t always managed when playing Our Nation’s Capitol — the results are seldom less then splendid. Continue reading
So there was Conan at DAR Constitution Hall last night, dressed in what he said was Eddie Murphy’s catsuit from Raw, possibly signaling his awareness of the perils that await the comic who lets his moment of cultural primacy go to his head. Raw came out in 1988. Eddie Murphy’s last good movie was, I think, Boomerang, from 1992.
Conan is even rocking Eddie’s odd pose from Raw in the first photo there. My phone is to a real camera what I am to a real photographer, but I figured you’d want to see these anyway on your way over to checking out the City Paper’s Arts Desk debrief of the DC stop on Conan’s almost-done Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour. (SPOILER: It was good, but not great, but we liked it anyway.)
This discussion, which I failed to grasp was being “recorded” and would be presented to you, the reader, with minimal editing, stars Benjamin R. Freed and CP arts editor Jonathan L. Fischer and one Christopher T. Klimek, whom I suspect may have been drunk for at least part of it. It’s choppy and discursive and long-winded and confusing, but that’s all part of the choppy, discursive, long-winded fun. Continue reading
So Elvis Costello is playing in town tonight. I am a fan. I admire a lot of things about Elvis besides the fact that he’s written hundreds of songs, a very high percentage of which I find listenable, dozens I think are pretty great, and at least a handful I don’t know how I lived without. (Not ’til I was 22 did a pal give me a copy of the The Very Best of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, if you can believe.)
Admittedly, my can’t-live-without E.C. playlist does not include anything from, say, the album he made with Anne Sofie von Otter, or the one he made with Burt Bacharach. But I commend his adventurousness and versatility, and especially his work ethic: He’s always giving songs away, interviewing Lou Reed or Bruce Springsteen or Bill Clinton on premium cable, singing on other people’s records, teaching himself musical notation 20 years into his career, composing a ballet, making unaccountable cameos in movies like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, writing an opera, and here and there tossing off another perfectly nasty rock song like it’s nothing. Dude always has four projects cooking and and nine more on the back burner, and he seems to pay for his collection of funny hats by flying around playing concerts that seldom repeat a setlist and regularly clock in around two-and-a-half hours. So: Respect.
Of course, Elvis’s productivity and idiomatic wanderlust are the selfsame qualities that can make him seem like an annoying magpie, especially to listeners who only want to hear him spit venom about Liv Tyler’s mom while keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas open up the throttle. Continue reading
“There’s something about the authoritative wrong note that I’ve always really liked,” opined John Mayer at the Verizon Center Saturday night.
You think? Ever since his racy, racially inflammatory musings in a Playboy interview* hit the web, Mayer — the 32-year-old, six-foot-plus, sensitive balladeer and guitar lothario who once took home a Grammy for a song called “Your Body Is a Wonderland” — has been in a defensive crouch. For his 3.1 million Twitter followers, the rest has been (mostly) silence since 2:26 p.m. on Feb. 10, when he fretted, “They don’t make rehab centers for being an a-hole.”
That night, he nearly broke down on stage in Nashville, fumbling through two minutes, 50 seconds of awkward, apparently heartfelt apology for saying — well, he said plenty. Let it suffice that the interview begged the question of why megaselling albums like 2006’s Continuum and last year’s Battle Studies are such stubbornly
milquetoast insipid affairs when their singularly self-aware author seems to have at least a boxed set’s worth of early-Prince freakitude inside him. Continue reading