Lydia Lunch Unapologetic, Unforgettable @ Strange Matter (09.24.18)

[Note: This is the third in a series of ‘Three Shows in Four Days.’ The second show is described here. The first show is described here.]

After attending shows out of town on Friday and Saturday, and resting on Sunday, I looked forward to Monday and a local show where I truly had no idea what to expect.

How did I end up going to see Lydia Lunch in concert? The answer to that question is easy: My friend Anne. I admit that my knowledge of Lydia Lunch’s discography was minimal at best. I had a friend who brought in her debut album (‘Queen of Siam’) when I was doing a Halloween show at a college radio station and asked me to play ‘Knives in the Drain’, which I did, but it didn’t really resonate at that time (which I will simply say was a long time ago).

Fast forward to Fall 2017. Lydia Lunch played RVA in October. I seriously considered buying a ticket, but did not. Even though that show saw Lydia open for another band (which, after seeing her perform, I can’t imagine her opening for anyone), I promised myself that if Lydia returned to RVA, opener or headliner, I was not going to miss it. I also discovered a lot of her back catalog on Spotify, beginning late last year, so whenever the next show happened, I wasn’t going in totally clueless.

In July, I saw where a show was scheduled at Strange Matter and Lydia Lunch was the headliner. I bought a ticket without even realizing it was going to be on a Monday, and without seeing that their were not one, not two, but three opening bands!

So, on a rainy Monday night, I made my way to Strange Matter. I walked in while the first band was still sound checking…and saw a room full of people who looked just like my friend Anne. So I found a seat at the bar and waited for ‘the real Anne Soffee’ to find me.

‘I’m in a room full of your doppelgängers! They all look just like you!’ I said as she asked me my thoughts on this.

‘Well, that’s because we’re all trying to look like Lydia.’ she laughed.

I sat at the bar drinking Guinness and making friends while the openers played. After the third (and in my opinion, the best) opener finished and began to move their gear offstage, I turned to my left to see none other than the evening’s headliner standing beside me, in all of her Goth Glory.

‘Hello! Thanks for coming back to Richmond!’ I said as she waited for the bartender to bring her a white wine.

She laughed, her voice sounding like a wonderful hybrid of Tom Waits and Kathleen Turner.

‘I fucking love this strange city. I’m thinking…I’m thinking of coming back soon!’

We chatted a bit about the opening acts, which, as I suspected, she had no hand in selecting. The bartender returned with her white wine and in one motion she took the large glass with her left hand and offered me her right hand to shake.

‘Show the openers how it’s done,’ I offered as she turned toward the stage.

‘Fuck yeah!’ she half yelled and half laughed.

Photo by Anne Soffee

At some point in the 70s, probably while she was in the band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks or soon after they disbanded, Lydia Lunch was christened ‘The Queen of No Wave’, and she has had projects that were ‘Noise Art’ and not what you would call melodic. The irony of the evening was that it seemed the three openers were tying to ‘out noise’ The Queen of No Wave, but when Lydia and her band RETROVIRUS took the stage, they had two immediate things that the openers were missing: Melodies and choruses. While it was not ‘pop’ or anything hook-laden, the songs were recognizable and unlike anything I had heard over the previous two hours.

And, in a word, it was wonderful.

Lydia and her band did in fact show everyone how it’s done, and for seventy minutes, everyone forgot it was past midnight on a weeknight and no one cared that the morning alarm clock was waiting to go off sooner than humanly acceptable.

I only have a partial setlist based on previous set lists I’ve read and the titles Lydia introduced from the stage. Here’s what I recall in no particular order:

Snakepit Breakdown

Love Split With Blood

3X3

Mechanical Flattery

Gospel Singer

Afraid of Your Company

Something Witchy In The Air Tonight

Call it No Wave, Post Punk, Goth Blues, Noise Rock…the one thing I did not expect was that it was fun!

Special thanks to Anne. Because of her numerous posts about Lydia over the last year, my interest was piqued to attend a show, when everything including the weather provided a legitimate excuse to stay home on my couch. Thank goodness I didn’t. Mondays spent with a legend are much more fun.

Post show autograph

Lydia Lunch is a rock star. If you were there, then you know. If you are one of the uninitiated, consider this your engraved invitation. Lydia will be back at some point in 2019. Believe me when I say you do not want to miss it. Whether she’s the opener doing a twenty-minute spoken word performance, or the headliner delivering a full set with a rock band, Lydia Lunch is a unique artist, writer and performer unlike anyone else, despite the dozen or so doppelgängers in attendance Monday night.

–Barry

Steven Page & Wesley Stace at Rams Head: A ‘Dream Show’ (09.22.18)

[Note: This is the second in a series of ‘Three Shows in Four Days.” The first show is described here.]

Prologue:

When Elton John tickets went on sale for two shows in Washington, DC in February, my friend Meg and I immediately agreed that the Friday, September 21st show was best, so we bought tickets for that night. At some point in June, it was announced that Steven Page was going to tour the US, and a show was announced for The Tin Pan in Richmond. I was very excited to read this, until I discovered the date for that Richmond show was (you guessed it) Friday September 21st. For a day, I was bummed that one of my favorite artists was going to play one of my favorite music venues, and I was going to miss it. After a day, I checked Page’s tour itinerary and found that he was playing Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland on the following day. And, the bonus was that, unlike the Richmond show, the Maryland show listed Wesley Stace (AKA John Wesley Harding) as the opening act. I immediately bought a ticket, even though at the time of purchase, I did not know a) How I was going to get to Maryland, b) Where I was going to stay or c) How I was going to get back to Richmond. None of that mattered at that moment. I figured things would work themselves out.

Meg was kind enough to drop me off at my friend Kurt’s apartment in Northern Virginia after the Elton John show, so thanks to the both of them (and Kurt’s wife Valeria), I had accommodations for the evening, plus Kurt had bought a ticket to the show, so we would travel to Annapolis together. Things worked themselves out, as I had hoped, and the stars were aligned for what would in fact be a ‘dream show’ for me.

Show Review:

‘Most people think matinees are weird, but The Beatles used to do them regularly. For me…it’s just weird.’ – Wesley Stace

With that opening line, said while tuning his guitar, Wesley Stace began the afternoon’s proceedings. This was a 1:00pm matinee show, and it seemed no one affiliated with the show had any idea why it was scheduled in the afternoon instead of the usual 8:00pm.

Now, I must provide a bit of history. I have been a fan of Wesley Stace, who at the start of his career worked under the moniker John Wesley Harding, ever since I heard a song of his on a mix tape that a mutual friend made for Kurt in 1993. I was in Kurt’s car the first time I heard ‘July 13, 1985’ and, from that moment twenty-five years ago, I was a fan. I went out the next week and bought the CD that had ‘July 13, 1985’ (‘It Happened One Night’), and from that point on tried to stay up to date on his releases.

I really really like Steven Page…but I attended this show primarily for the opener. I had been waiting 25+ years to see him in concert, and, as expected, he did not disappoint.

‘The last time Steven and I toured together was in 1992, when Barenaked Ladies were an unknown band…and they were my opening act. So, I figured I would play songs from 1992 today,’ – Wesley Stace

The first song of the afternoon was a cover (Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’), followed by other favorites of mine (‘The Person You Are’; ‘The Truth’). Next, the time-travel was put on hold to play a re-written, politically-tinged lyric to ‘My Favorite Things’ re-titled ‘My Least Favorite Things.’

Then the moment became truly surreal.

After checking his phone to see what time it was (he set a hard stop of 1:30 so he could then drive home to Philadelphia to see his son’s 4pm soccer game. ‘Totally doable,’ he quipped.), Stace began to talk about the next song.

“This song is me making fun of something that happened in 1985…’

I thought to myself, ‘No! He never plays this! He’s said repeatedly on Twitter he’s forgotten it. He’s not gonna play that song, is he?!’

Now, Kurt and I both had tickets to this show, but the venue was one that had reserved seats at tables, so while we both attended the same show, we did not see the show together, and it was obvious that almost everyone else around me had no idea who Wesley Stace was, or what was about to happen.

To be able to witness Stace performing ‘July 13, 1985,’ a song I would never have dreamed to hear live, that was a truly wonderful and surreal moment. Stace even tacked on a different ending from the recording that I have heard for the last 25 years. Hearing that song live will rank as one of my all-time ‘Glad I Was There’ moments.

“There’s a reason songs like that are stored away and forgotten for decades,’ said Stace while preparing to play his last song. ‘My twelve year-old daughter is here today. She has no idea what that song’s about, but it does confirm that her father has used drugs.’

Wesley Stace’s Set List:

Like A Prayer

The Person You Are

The Truth

My Least Favorite Things

July 13, 1985 (The Live Aid Song, as noted by the artist on Twitter)

The Devil In Me

There was all of that surreal nostalgia, and I still had a set from Steven Page to look forward to!

Kurt, Valeria and I had the pleasure of seeing Steven Page with The Art of Time Ensemble in February at The University of Richmond. That set however consisted primarily of songs that meant a lot to Steven, and were songs mostly by other artists. It was great to hear Page take a turn on a Leonard Cohen vocal and sing Radiohead. As great as that was, I was really looking forward to seeing Page sing some of his own songs.

The band is officially called ‘The Steven Page Trio’ and includes Chris Northey on guitar and Kevin Fox on cello. The set opened with ‘There’s A Melody II’, a track from Page’s 2016 solo effort “Heal  Thyself Pt. 1: Instinct” and then seamlessly the song segued into the BNL classic ‘Jane’, assuring me that we were going to hear some of the old songs even though Page just dropped a new album earlier this month (“Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt II”).

BNL made news in March when the current lineup reunited with Page, who’s been doing his own thing since early 2009, to mark their induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Even before the last note of “If I Had $1000000″ had stopped ringing, there was talk of a ‘BNL Reunion Tour.” That may or may not happen next year. As I watched a confident Page sing his songs, I thought to myself, ‘As great as a reunion would be, he doesn’t need it, and at least outwardly seems totally sure of himself as the sole focus of attention.’

Along with the ‘classic’ tunes, Page also performed the lead single from his new album, the politically-toned ‘White Noise,’ which contains lyrics like this:

Apparently, to fix your nation

You’ve got to run it like a corporation

The kind you don’t mind burning to the ground

I’ve had to learn to bite my tongue

Or they’ll send me back where I came from

I’ll tell you as an immigrant and a Jew

I’d be more than glad to replace you”

Here’s Steven Page’s set list, from setlist.fm:

There’s A Melody II

Jane

Manchild

A New Shore

White Noise

I Live With It Every Day

War On Drugs

The Feelgood Strum (improv)

Linda Ronstadt in the 70s

It’s All Been Done

Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel

Gravity

I Can See My House From Here

What a Good Boy

The Old Apartment

Brian Wilson

(encore)

The Chorus Girl

Call And Answer

The true icing on top of the cake was the fact that Page sang the chorus to ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ not once but twice! The first was during the improv piece ‘The Feelgood Strum,’ where the trio sang lyrics to many classic songs over the same chord progression. ‘My Girl’ was featured and the KISS ‘Klassik’ was played before segueing into ‘Linda Ronstadt in the 70s.” He played the chorus of ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ again as a slow piano ballad during the intro to ‘Call And Answer.’ Those moments, along with hearing ‘July 13, 1985’ served as proof that I was supposed to be at this specific show. I don’t know if Wesley will play ‘The Live Aid Song’ again soon, or if Steven will be moved to play a portion of ‘The Rock And Roll National Anthem’, but I was ecstatic to be able to witness both of those things on Saturday.

Thanks once again to Meg for getting me to my second destination, and special thanks to Valeria for ‘holding down the fort’ Saturday so that Kurt and I could go have fun. That I got to share this show and hear ‘July 13, 1985’ with Kurt, that was a very ‘full circle’ moment.

You don’t get those too often in life, so it’s important to take note when they happen.

Thank you very much for reading.

(PS: Wesley confirmed via Twitter that his son’s soccer team tied 1-1.)

–Barry

Elton Bids Farewell (Washington, DC 09.21.18)

It’s very tough for some artists to say ‘Goodbye’ and mean it. Speaking as a KISS fan who saw the band’s ‘Farewell Tour’ eighteen years ago, only to have an incarnation of the band continue onward toward their just announced ‘End of the Road’ tour, I am well aware that the ‘Farewell’ moniker can be nothing more than a money-grabbing gambit. With Elton, though, it was evident that he meant this worldwide tour to be the last one. He plans to be on the road for the next three years, so it will be a long goodbye, but I don’t think anyone will mind that. Friday night (09.21.18) he played the first of two sold out nights at Washington, DC’s Capital One Arena, and I was lucky enough to be there.

Regarding the set list, as a longtime fan, I would love for Elton to do a show that was predominetly deep cuts and album tracks that you don’t hear on the radio. As much as I would love for that ‘dream show’ to be a reality, when your catalog includes easily ten songs that are not only ‘hits’ but are part of the world’s collective consciousness, that makes for a long list of songs that ‘have to be played,’ leaving little room for surprises.

Even so, the hits and the songs we all know, they’re pretty amazing.

Case in point: Elton opened the show with ‘Bennie And The Jets’, a song I have worn out and grown tired of hearing when playing the ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ album. But, in a live setting, with a charged up crowd and an energized Elton, the opener crackled with a ferocity that was proof the evening was going to be something special.

Without question, the best part of the show, apart from Elton himself, was having the pleasure of watching percussionist Ray Cooper live on stage. As backing musicians go, he’s a star in his own right and, as Elton said from the stage, Cooper has played with ‘everybody who is anybody’ on record and on tour. Every moment Cooper was on stage, he was a joy to watch.

Elton said early on that the songs being played on this tour are songs that mean a lot to him. As productions go, almost every song has an accompanying video montage or film, Sometimes the film is a great additon (‘Border Song’; ‘Candle in the Wind’) and other times it’s downright distracting (‘Tiny Dancer’). Since the show is timed almost to the second, I think the set list is pretty much set in stone, at least until they have a break and some time to add some new production elements. Here is the set list:

SET ONE:

Bennie and the Jets

All the Girls Love Alice

I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues

Border Song

(Elton solo)

Tiny Dancer

Philadelphia Freedom

Indian Sunset

(Elton and Ray Cooper only)

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)

Take Me to the Pilot

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Levon

(with ‘Day Tripper’ by The Beatles snippet)

Candle in the Wind

(Elton solo)

SET TWO:

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding

Burn Down the Mission

Believe

Daniel

Sad Songs (Say So Much)

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

The Bitch Is Back

I’m Still Standing

Crocodile Rock

Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Encore:

Your Song

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Quite simply, if you’re a longtime fan who has seen Elton before, or if you’ve thought about attending an Elton John show but haven’t yet, when this tour hits your area…GO!! Elton probably will play the occasional benefit show, and maybe another Vegas residency will be in the cards, but otherwise, this tour will serve as a chance for Elton to thank his fans, and in turn for the fans to think Elton. It makes for a very special evening that you won’t want to miss.

Thank you to my concert buddy, Meg for sharing this show with me. We don’t hang out as often as we should, but when we do, it’s for ‘bucket list’ shows (Dolly, Stevie, Springsteen, and now Elton).

And thank YOU, as always, for reading.

–Barry

Lou Barlow Plays Among The Vespas

How do you write down your thoughts on something that you didn’t realize you had been waiting to witness for almost twenty-five years? I’m still not sure, but I will attempt to do just that. First though, a bit of history.

At some point in the mid-90s, I was introduced to the music of Sebadoh by way of a mix tape from my friend Jenne. The song was ‘Rebound’, and while I was not really a fan of ‘lo-fi’ recordings, lead singer and songwriter Lou Barlow’s lyrics hit me like a bullet. I remember soon after hearing that first mix tape, a trip to Sam Goody at our local mall where I went with the express purpose of buying a CD EP that had acoustic versions of ‘Rebound’ and ‘Magnet’s Coil’, although I did not voice this out loud to my friends (at least I don’t think I did). Sam Goody had only one copy (in hindsight it’s remarkable they even had one copy) and one of my friends claimed it before I got there. That friend made sure that all of the acoustic tracks from that EP were included on the next mix I got from them.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, I saw Sebadoh three times in concert. Each time was very memorable (especially a 2004 show at The Khybr in Philadelphia). Each show, while memorable, never included ‘Magnet’s Coil’ in the set. I wasn’t disappointed, because those shows still rocked, but I kept hoping with each successive show that ‘maybe this time’ would be the night when I would hear a live take of ‘Magnet’s Coil.’

Fast-forward to March 2018 when Patrick posted on Facebook that he had just acquired tickets to see a solo acoustic show by Lou Barlow in Philadelphia. I had no idea Lou was touring so, after reading Patrick’s post, I saw that Lou had a Facebook page and there was a list of tour dates. Two nights after the April 9 Philly show, Lou was going to play in Richmond! I had never heard of the listed venue, but even without knowing anything else about the show, I immediately bought a ticket.

About the venue: This show was booked at ‘MOTO RICHMOND’ which is in fact a scooter store, so the backdrop for the performer was a line of Vespas along with many motorcycle/scooter accessories and lights. I can’t say enough about how great the staff were. They made sure I had a chair, although I was more than prepared to stand for the entire show. When I walked into the performance area, it wasn’t very crowded. Thankfully a few minutes before show time when I looked behind me, the room had filled to probably seventy people.

Mic? Check. Guitars? Check. Vespas???

As pre-show music blared from the PA system, Lou nonchalantly walked out dragging a suitcase of merchandise. He stowed that behind a counter at the front of the venue, then he began to set up his three guitars. By ‘set up’ I mean he took them out of their cases and leaned them against a hardback chair in a way that if someone had sneezed, they would have fallen.

‘Doesn’t he have ‘people’ to handle the merch? Doesn’t he have stands for his guitars?’ I asked myself in humorous amazement.

Just past 8:00pm Lou sat down on a stool and asked everyone else to sit down. ‘I would stand up, but you’re still not going to be able to see me unless everyone sits down.’ Since this place was a store and not built for live music, the performance area was all on one level so having everyone seated was the only way for anyone not up in the front to see the show.

After tuning his guitar, Lou surprised us by opening with ‘Cold As Ice’ by Foreigner. He followed that with a verse and a chorus of Bryan Adams’ ‘Run To You’ before he messed up, stopped abruptly and announced, ‘Okay, now I’ll play some of my songs.’

Then he started playing the intro to ‘Magnet’s Coil,’ an intro to a song I have listened to thousands of times over the last twenty-plus years.

From that point forward, the rest of the evening is a wonderful, nostalgic blur. I remember snippets of moments, and I remember telling myself ‘Don’t lose it, keep it together!’ As each song washed over me, I was filled with memories of friends that I haven’t seen in too long, hours spent talking and playing cards while these songs played in the background. Memories came fast and sharp: The night I quoted a verse from ‘Rebound’ at a Waffle House during a discussion about dating; the morning where a friend left the lyrics to ‘Magnet’s Coil’ written in ink on four sheets of folded paper in my mailbox, and the time a friend gifted me three mix CDs of Sebadoh music. As I remembered all of this and tried to take in the actual show, it all became the aforementioned wonderful, nostalgic blur as the forty-something year old me melted away to reveal the twenty-something year old me. And I was okay with that.

Here is a partial setlist from the website setlist.fm with a few additions based on my blurry memory:

April 11; MOTO Richmond

Cold As Ice

Run To You

Magnet’s Coil

Imagination Blind

Rebound

Not a Friend

Repeat

Love Intervene

Skull

Too Pure

Wave

Natural One

Ballad of Daykitty

Back to your Heart

Vampire

Brand New Love

This show had everything I could’ve asked for: An attentive audience (minus the intoxicated guy who kept asking Lou to play songs he didn’t write), Lou telling many stories about songs (especially a detailed explanation on how ‘Ballad of Daykitty’ was written) and, as the partial setlist shows, the songs that I wanted to hear, that I didn’t realize I had been waiting to hear, the songs that I needed to hear. The only thing that could’ve improved the evening was to have seen it with those friends who made me a Sebadoh fan in the first place. While that didn’t happen, I did see this show with a friend, Christi, who attended even though she had not heard a note of Sebadoh music until the ride to the show (she did know Dinosaur Jr. though and I had completely forgotten to mention that Lou was the bassist in that band when talking to her about the show). By the time the evening was over and we were walking back to the car, Christi announced that she ‘would definitely see Lou again if he returned.’ So, like my friends made me a fan in the 90s, I’ll take credit for making Christi a fan.

In closing, a quick sincere thank you to Jenne, Jesi, Patrick, Tony and Kurt for exposing me to the music of Lou Barlow and Sebadoh, and for being among those who ‘get’ why this guy is so great. You were thought of fondly on this night. Thanks to Kati for taking a friend’s advice and coming to the show literally minutes before Lou started. And special thanks to Christi for being there to share a show that I think I can safely say neither one of us will ever forget.

Thank you for reading (indulging) my attempt to describe an evening that left some sobbing, and left me truly speechless. But again, perhaps Lou sums it up best:

‘If there’s a right thing to say

I’m sure I missed it by a mile.’

–‘Too Pure

–Barry

Foo Fighters Rock RVA

For the last ten years at least, perhaps longer, I have heard many very smart people who work in the music business proclaim with certainty that ‘Rock Music Is Dead!’ It had been replaced by ultra-slick, auto-tuned productions that strived for perfection, but in that pursuit had lost its soul.

‘Rock is dead. The passion is gone. It will never be the same.’

Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters obviously never got the message because, on Saturday night they offered a three-hour set of blistering hard rock as testament that Rock and Roll is Alive and Well!

It was something quite wonderful to behold.

Photo by author

Supporting their latest effort, ‘Concrete and Gold’, which was represented well in the evening’s set list, the band took the nearly sold out Richmond Coliseum crowd on a trip through the band’s 20+ year career, playing some songs that had not been played live in a very long time, along with the ones you expect to hear, and even a few that even surprised Dave and the band.

 

‘I say tonight we play songs from every album…so there ain’t much time for talkin’,’ Dave announced to the crowd three songs in. In fact, the songs didn’t stop and Dave didn’t say ‘Hi’ to the audience until they were done playing ten straight songs, almost nonstop. This was my first Foo Fighters show, so while I had seen Dave interviewed and seen some performances on television, I did not know that he basically turns into Animal from the Muppets on stage; a frantic head banging, hair flying maniac.

The featured songs from the new record translate to the stage well, especially ‘Run’ and ‘The Sky Is a Neighborhood’, the latter of which heavily features a trio of female lead singers, brought along on tour to add harmony vocals. I am happy to see on subsequent shows that most of the new material is still being played, although the title track, which was part of an epic 45 minute encore, as of this writing, has not been played since making its live debut Saturday.

Photo courtesy of Brian Hall

Another moment that appears to be a ‘Richmond Exclusive’, since we were the first arena stop on the tour, is drummer Taylor Hawkins’ lead vocal spotlight on a cover of Queen’s ‘I’m In Love With My Car.’ Dave asked the crowd if they liked the song being part of the show, saying they added it since the song inspired Hawkins to be a drummer and a singer. It was a neat moment, but with such a large catalog, I am sure most fans would have rather heard another deep cut from the Foos as opposed to a cover.

After the band left the stage the first time, we all knew they were coming back for an encore. There was a camera backstage that showed Dave urging the crowd to get louder and putting up one finger as if to ask ‘You wanna hear one more?’ Then he put up two, then three and eventually five fingers before finally taking the stage again to play what would indeed be an unforgettable encore.

When the Foo Fighters first hit the scene in the mid-nineties, I liked them, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I liked their songs when I heard them on the radio or when I saw a video on MTV (Although I did get sick of ‘Big Me’ when it seemed to be coming out of every radio speaker), but I didn’t own any records by them. Then I saw the documentary ‘Sound City’ in which Dave chronicles the history of the infamous LA recording studio, and soon after I saw that, I watched the HBO series ‘Sonic Highways’, which featured the band visiting eight US cities and writing and recording a song in each city. It was after that series concluded that I immediately bought the ‘Sonic Highways’ record and made it a point that, the next time Foo Fighters were anywhere close, I would check them out.

I mention all of this because, even though I have delved into the back catalog of the band, ‘Sonic Highways’ remains my favorite and, while I did not expect to hear a majority of that record on Saturday, I was ecstatic to hear two songs specifically. ‘Something From Nothing’, which kicks off the ‘Sonic Highways’ record was featured early in the set (and that song was when I took my glasses off, stowed them away in my pocket and decided to headbang like I was eighteen again, at least for a few songs).

 

As headbanging almost always is for me, it was a very cathartic moment.

 

Later, in the midst of that long encore, after already playing four songs and blowing past the 11:30pm noise ordinance curfew, there was a pause on stage and then Dave said, ‘Watch this! I’m gonna surprise the band!’ He then tore into the opening riff to ‘Congregation’ which is, without question my favorite song from the ‘Sonic Highways’ project, and it may be my favorite song by the band, period. The band quickly joined in, and we were off on one of my favorite concert moments in a very long time. 

The Congregation (Courtesy of Brian Hall)

To me, the song crystalizes how music can be at times as moving and as important as one’s religion or faith. I’ve always had a problem with ‘organized religion’, and some may find it offensive to compare such a secular activity to a religion, or use the word ‘faith’ when talking of music, but in my life, in some of my darkest hours, music has been the one thing that has kept me afloat and helped me see that, even when I was in seemingly insurmountable pain, I could get through it. 
Some lyrics:

Send in the congregation

Open your eyes, step in the light

A jukebox generation

Just as you were

And you need blind faith

No false hope

Do you have blind faith?

No false hope

Where is your blind faith?

No false hope

Open your eyes, open your eyes

Step into the light

Open your eyes, step into the light

I’m grateful they played ‘Congregation’, and I’m now aware that Richmond really did get a very special show. The following night, the encore was much shorter, and ‘Congregation’ has not been played. If this show ends up being the only show where it’s performed (along with probably Nashville, the city that inspired it), then I count myself lucky to have been there. 

Seeing the hordes of sweaty fans on the floor, sharing the experience of this show, it reminded me again that Rock is not dead, and, if you catch the right moment, you can even see Rock thrive in 2017.

The Foo Fighters rocked, and they rocked hard for three hours, and in doing so, they singlehandedly restored my faith in the power of Rock, and the power of music.

So, if they play anywhere close to where you live…GO! You won’t be sorry!

 

Setlist from setlist.fm

 

Run

I’ll Stick Around

Learn to Fly

The Pretender

The Sky Is a Neighborhood

Something From Nothing

Walk

Rope

(Extended outro; with drum solo at the end)

Sunday Rain

My Hero

These Days

Let It Die

(First time live since 4/ 3/12)

All My Life

Enough Space

White Limo

Arlandria

Times Like These

(Solo into full band)

Breakout

Make It Right

I’m in Love With My Car

(Queen cover) (Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals)

Skin and Bones

Jump / Fat Bottomed Girls

(Played during band intros)

Monkey Wrench

Best of You

[Encore]:

Dirty Water

This Is a Call

La Dee Da

Wheels

(First time in the US since 5/ 7/14)

Congregation

Concrete and Gold

(Live debut)

Everlong

 Thank you for reading

-Barry

Adam Ant Reminds Us ‘Ridicule Is Nothing To Be Scared Of’

Wednesday night (09.20), Adam Ant brought his ‘ANTHEMS’ Tour to The National, and as promised, the evening was a wonderful flashback to the 80’s and the early days of MTV. More than that, though, the night was a testament to a performer who has survived the height of 80’s success (and excess), battled mental illness, and come out the other side. Perhaps he was surprised to find his fans were waiting for him when he returned to the recording studio after a 17 year hiatus in 2013? Whatever the reason, this tour is a celebratory nod to the past, and it’s also undeniable proof that Ant (real name Stuart Goddard) still has ‘It’; that star quality charisma that demands you watch him (and only him) as he commands the stage. 


Wearing a cowboy hat in lieu of his trademark pirate garb, and clad head to toe in black leather, Ant opened the show with a song originally only available on the cassette version of 1980’s ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’, the punk-tinged ‘Beat My Guest’, played at such a fast tempo that it was almost a thrash number, daring a mosh pit to materialize. For the first twenty minutes, each song came without a break for a breath; ‘Vive Le Rock’, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, ‘Friend of Foe.’ It wasn’t until about the sixth or seventh song in the set when Ant stopped to say ‘Hello Richmond’ and acknowledge the crowd, mainly so everyone onstage and in attendance could catch their breath.

 

The biggest cheers of the night came when the two biggest US singles were featured toward the end of the set, ‘Strip’ and ‘Goody Two Shoes’, which were both MTV staples throughout the early 80’s, and a blistering version of ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’; but as the opening number proved, Ant isn’t adverse to throwing in a deep cut (‘Greta X; ‘B-Side Baby’) to keep things interesting for the longtime diehard fans.

 

As Goddard approaches his sixty-third birthday, he appears the happiest and healthiest of his entire career, which is a wonderful triumph. I admit that I bought a ticket to this show only because the tour was called ‘Anthems’ and I knew I would hear ‘the old songs,’ but after seeing Adam Ant in concert one time, I will see him next time and every time he’s nearby, even if the setlist is full of songs I don’t know. In this age of carbon copy bands, it was a pleasure to witness a pop pioneer proving he’s still at the top of his game, a bit older and a lot wiser.

 

Set list (courtesy of Setlist.fm)

Beat My Guest

Vive Le Rock

Dog Eat Dog

Apollo 9

Friend or Foe

Antmusic

Room at the Top

Desperate But Not Serious

Cartrouble

Zerox

Young Parisians

Prince Charming

Gotta Be a Sin

Puss ‘n Boots

Can’t Set Rules About Love

Christian D’or

Strip

Kings of the Wild Frontier

Greta X

B-Side Baby

Stand and Deliver

(Encore)

Goody Two Shoes

Lady/Fall In

Red Scab

Physical (You’re So)

 

–Barry

Alan Doyle Still Has A Smile On His Face (And Four Walls Around Him)

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Doyle play a very small local music venue. Who is Alan Doyle, you ask? He’s best known as one of the founding members of the band Great Big Sea, who tried their best to hit the big time in the US in the late 90s and early 2000’s after conquering their homeland of Canada a few years before. While they would play to stadium sized crowds in Canada, Great Big Sea (GBS) would play small theatres and clubs in America, where the crowds were smaller, but no less enthusiastic.

GBS is pure nostalgia for me. Their music marks a very specific time period in my life, and reminds me of very specific people. I honestly was not aware that GBS had officially split in 2013. When I heard that Alan Doyle was going to appear at Tin Pan, I knew I had to get a ticket to see what he’d been up to since I last saw him fifteen years ago.

Tin Pan is an interesting, intimate venue in the mold of Alexandria’s Birchmere. They offer dinner reservations with your ticket for preferred seating, and the music, not chatting is the most important thing.

 

After a funny, sardonic and brief opening set by Donavan Woods, Alan took the stage to sing a song a cappella, proving that his voice is still in top form,  then his band Beautiful Gypsies joined him and they started with ‘I Can’t Dance Without You’ from Alan’s latest solo effort, 2015’s ‘So Let’s Go.’ The mix was great, the house was packed and I was pleased to see Alan had not lost any of the gregariousness that made him my favorite member of GBS.

The sing-along started early when the band kicked into ‘When I’m Up’ and Alan demanded audience participation. It was around this time of the night when the crowd began buying Alan shots and doubles of Jameson Whiskey, which Alan never refused.

Here’s the set list, and then some thoughts:

Dream of Home (a cappella)

I Can’t Dance Without You

When I’m Up

Come Out With Me

My Day

Where the Nightingale Sings

Sea of No Cares

The Night Loves Us

Lukey

Forever Light Will Shine

I’ve Seen a Little

In The Morning (Guitarist Cory, solo)

Old Black Rum

Roll Me Bully Boys Row

Consequence Free

Testify

1,2,3,4 (featuring verses from ‘Tub Thumping’ and ‘You Can Call Me Al’)

[Encore]

Wave on Wave

Shine On

Ordinary Day

 

No matter the size of the stage, Alan is a showman, making sure that everyone in attendance has a good time. Even though we were seated at tables and the bar, dancers got up and waltzed, reeled and jigged. 

The biggest surprise for me was that, while with GBS, Alan would sing at least one ballad per album. His set Tuesday was more upbeat and, as such, none of the three pop ballads Alan sang (‘Fast As I Can’, ‘Boston and St. John’s’ and ‘Clearest Indication’) were highlighted. Not that I minded, I was just very surprised. 

Bonus: Murray Foster, formerly of Moxy Fruvous and mote recently the bassist for GBS is part of Alan’s band, as is former GBS drummer Kris MacFarlane. 

As the show ended, Alan implored fans to stick around for autographs and selfies. Instead of sitting behind his merchandise table, just outside the venue in an entrance hall, Alan took a seat at the bar and the fans queued up to get a pic, a signature and share stories. Props to Alan for taking time with everyone, including a ten year old girl who got a drumstick from Kris and the setlist. Alan autographed the setlist and got a picture. He also spoke for a bit with your dear author, whom he remembered from a meeting a very long time ago. 

If you’re like me and lost track of Great Big Sea and their members, Alan has two solo albums (“Boy on Bridge” from 2012 and the aforementioned “So Let’s Go” from 2015) and he’s also written a book. If Alan Doyle, the self-proclaimed ‘Prince of Newfoundland’ and his band of Beautiful Gypsies land in your town, go see him and say hello. It’s a good time, I promise. 


Thanks for reading. 

Barry