Friday, October 30, 2009

Rock of Ages - Part II (Born to Run)

10/13/09 – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band open a four night stand as they play The Spectrum one last time… or four last times. Nostalgia has a way of refocusing the lens of time so that if we squint hard enough that a sports arena that housed its share of bad basketball teams, who-cares hockey teams, mutant circuses, pound-of-flesh-taking Disney extravaganzas and dinosaur rock bands somehow gets remembered as a quaint little showcase. Now we shut the old girl down and every gig becomes a must-see last gig. The good news is Springsteen rarely fails to deliver (I’m willing to forget the acoustic shows and the by-numbers Human Touch/Lucky Town tour if you are).

If you’re fortunate enough to have seen this tour (or at least don't live in Kansas City), I hope you saw a Born to Run show. From the mournful, opening call of “Thunder Road’s" harmonica and piano through the final, wounded howl of “Jungleland”, seeing Springsteen’s 1975 masterpiece start to finish was goose bump city. Yeah, the diehards were soiling themselves over rarities like “Seaside Bar Song”, “The Fever” or “This Hard Land”, but only because they were rare, not because they cold hold a candle to songs like “She’s The One”, “Backstreets”, “Meeting Across The River” (itself a bit of a rarity) or the twin titans of the title track and “Thunder Road”. Born To Run is the greatest American rock and roll record ever made and seeing Springsteen and the band tear through it was exhilarating and life-affirming, but also sadly beautiful.

And that’s because it really feels like this is the last tour for this configuration of the E Street Band. And this is the way to go out – not at their peak (nothing will top the legendary shows from the E Street Band’s first decade), but a still dynamic brotherhood who on their best nights can still summon the essence of rock and roll. The reason that believers still swear by Springsteen’s live show are the small moments that demonstrate that rock and roll should, at its core, be about fun. Think about that simple concept – FUN. (Ed. Note: It makes me wanna smack Jay Farrar). The local flavor inserted into the new “Wrecking Ball” (“cheesesteaks are as big as airplanes”), the request granting (a “Can I Sing” poster gets a little schoolgirl a show-stopping duet on “Waiting on a Sunny Day that also includes a kiss), another delirious little girl being twirled during “Dancing in The Dark”, the garage stomp of “Little Bit O Soul” complete with po-face mugging about his AARP cover appearance, are all topped off with the greatest of encore songs, “Rosalita”.

If this is indeed the last full blown E Street tour, as I’m positive we’ll see Springsteen down the road, I’ll just say:

“Well if you do you'll know I'm thinking of you and all the miles in between
And I'm just calling one last time not to change your mind
But just to say I miss you baby, good luck goodbye”
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - "Thunder Road" (12/28/75 - Tower Theater)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rock of Ages - Part I (Long Live Rock!)

The next time someone tells you rock and roll is dead and cites Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers or Kanye West as proof, just tell them a) they’re wrong and b) Taylor, the JoBros and Kanye are the bomb. Now if they tell you that there’s no good current music and cite Britney Spears, Animal Collective and Jason Mraz as proof, just say a) I’m feelin’ ya, bro and b) you’re still wrong.

Because in 3 days this month, I experienced 5 shows that cleared away the cobwebs, got the blood pumping and proved that J-Roll’s double may not have been the most earth-shaking, head-snapping, jaw-dropping, chest-thumping moment this October. (OK, that might be a lie – while music rarely breaks your heart like your favorite sports team, moments like J-Roll’s gapper are timeless, unforgettable and able to unite a city that can usually only agree that there’s nothing that we can all agree on.).

So stay tuned and bear witness to the fervor and soul of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Lucero, the Avett Brothers, Lucero and Gaslight Anthem. That’s a murderer’s row of passionate rock and roll bands.

As a teaser, here’s two of my favorite songs of the year. My buddy Allen calls “Sounds of The City” the song of the year and god damn if “I And Love And You” doesn’t get me every single time.

Lucero - "Sounds of The City"

Avett Brothers - "I And Love And You"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Literary Kicks

Shocking, I know, but I'm known to read a book from time to time. Here's my interview with Sarah Vowell about her book The Wordy Shipmates.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Lowe Life

Here's my interview of Nick Lowe, in the new edition of the Providence Phoenix.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Take Six

In preparing for an interview I conducted this week (details to come), I found myself immersed in the late seventies and deeply satisfied. It made me think about discrete eras in music, and which would be my favorite. Not best. Not most important. Just favorite. As in, if I were permitted only to listen to music released in a particular five-year window, what five years would I choose? And then because this is my own meaningless exercise – and because I was stuck – I expanded it to six years.

And what span did I pick?

1977 through 1982.

Lots of folks will think that I’m exactly ten years too late, and it’s hard to argue with a stretch bookended by Sgt. Pepper’s and Exile on Main Street. I love those records. But no other period hits me where I live quite like punk’s onslaught and afterglow. What does that period get you? Elvis Costello’s first six (six!) albums for starters, each a classic or nearly so. Talking Heads’ first four albums. The Clash’s entire catalog! Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River and Nebraska. Some Girls and Tattoo You. “Teenage Kicks,” “Another Girl, Another Planet” and “Starry Eyes.” Jesus of Cool and Seconds of Pleasure. The Specials, the Feelies, the English Beat. Leave Home, Road to Ruin and Rocket to Russia. Exodus, Kaya and Uprising. Dirty Mind and Marquee Moon. Never Mind the Bollocks and Rumours. XTC and Squeeze. Squeezing Out Sparks and Rust Never Sleeps. In Color and Back in Black. Trans-Europe Express and Juju Music. The Cars, Excitable Boy, Parallel Lines. Pere Ubu’s original avant garage records and Roxy Music’s elegant rebirth. One Nation Under a Groove and Off the Wall. Damn the Torpedoes and Tusk. The first two albums by the Pretenders, X and the dB’s. Making Movies and Double Fantasy. Shoot Out the Lights. Marshall Crenshaw’s transcendent debut.

That barely scratches the surface, and it forms the backbone of my musical being. I get a little thrill just looking at the words on the page, and some regret that I don’t listen enough. If you put those six years on a loop, would the shine ever wear off? I really don’t think so.

What are your six years? Leave a comment.