Sex Pistols on Ferguson

The performance was as great as the previous night’s gig was lame. Due in large part, no doubt, to the friendlier environment. Lydon is no Leno fan either, apparently, as he revealed in a fun interview alongside a flu-ridden Steve Jones. The band looked good (even Glenn), Lydon was appropriately ridiculous, and fat is the new slim.

Sex Pistols on Leno

Managed to sit through the last 30 minutes of Leno, a personal record, to catch the Pistols. Apparently, the band is back promo-ing their appearance on the latest edition of “Guitar Hero” a video game for kids who would rather not practice pentatonic scales. They ran through “Anarchy in the UK”. Jones flubbed his solo, Lydon couldn’t remember when to interject “In the City!”, so did it three times just to be safe. Cook was fine, and the big news is, Glenn Matlock–the Brian Jones of the Sex Pistols– is back on bass. Matlock, you may recall, always cringed at the forced rhyme of “anti-Christ” and anarchist”. Then again, he washed his feet excessively, so we’re none of us perfect. Lydon did ask “when are we getting out of Iraq?” but was otherwise tame. He had none of the sneering misanthropy evinced in, say, the interview he did way back when with the recently late Tom Snyder. God knows Leno deserves to be on the  receiving end of that sneer more than Snyder ever did.

Lightning Struck Itself: Television at SummerStage

Strange to have been so excited about seeing a band so notoriously aloof and disconnected from their audience. But the truth is, the disconnection is all surface, not quite masking the real connection, through the music. Carnegie Hall might have been a more appropriate venue. When a chamber group is playing, no one remarks how the band tends to look off in the distance while playing, or how they don’t shout slogans at the audience between songs (“Hey Amsterdam! Yeah — I always heard that Concertgebouw audiences are the best chamber audiences in the world!”). Tom Verlaine crouched down, hiding himself behind his stage monitor, to tune his guitar after every song. He was switching between standard and drop D tunings fairly often, so this wasn’t entirely artifice, but still, this is a man who clearly does not revel in being on stage. At 57, he seems to have finally grown into himself. His attitude must have seemed a little bizarre when he was in his twenties, but now he has a David-Carradine-like stature. The set was not craven pandering, either. Long, jammy tunes, including some newer stuff, leaving off some of the great songs of Marquee Moon–no “See No Evil”, “Friction” or “Elevation”. And the finale, their legendary debut album title track, was awesome, especially the moments after the climax where Verlaine veered off into an improvised ending, leaving his bandmates completely bewildered (I was at the front and saw the look of terror of Fred Smith and Billy Ficca’s faces). Patti Smith, off to the side of the stage smiled approvingly.

Television concerts are, these days, rare events. They have been playing together once a year or so for the last few years. This concert, however, was to hold a special significance: the last Television show ever. So wrote Richard Lloyd on his web site:

After the possible Summer stage show in New York City on June 16, which is to be announced by the city of New York on May 15, Richard Lloyd will, after 34 years, be amicably severing all ties with the band Television, in order that he may concentrate his magnetic force and supernatural energies upon his own career in support of his forthcoming record, due out in the fall[…] To the fans of Television, from the very first show at the townhouse Theatre on March 4, 1974 till the hopeful last show here in New York at the Summer stage — which by the way, is a free show, thank you for your support over these many years. I hope to see you follow both my own and the other members of the band in their own solo efforts for many more years to come.

But it was not to be. Lloyd has recently been in intensive care with pneumonia, is still in hospital and could not make the concert. Do we get a do-over?

Opening for Television were Dragons of Zynth (crazy) and Apples in Stereo (ba-hor-rah-hing).

Lines of the Millennium

From someone who didn’t live to see it:

We got have peace
To keep the world alive
And war to cease.

We got to have joy,
True in our hearts
With strength we can’t destroy.

People please hear us
Through our voice the world knows
There’s no choice.

We’re begging save the children
The little ones
Who just don’t understand
Give them a chance
To breed their young
And help purify the land

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There’s no choice.

And the people in the neighbourhood,
Who would if they only could,
Meet and shake the other’s hand,
Work together for the good of the land.
Give us all an equal chance,
It could be such a sweet romance.

And the soldiers who are dead and gone,
If only we could bring back one,
He’d say “We’ve got to have peace”
To keep the world alive
And war to cease

We got to have joy
True in our hearts
With strength we can’t destroy

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There’s no choice

And the people in the neighbourhood
Who would if they only could
Meet and shake the other’s hand
Work together for the good of the land
Give us all an equal chance
It could be such a sweet romance

And the soldiers who are dead and gone
If only we could bring back one
He’d say “We’ve got to have peace”
Aah – hah, we got to have peace. Let Let the world know it
Peace, peace, peace
Aah – hah, we got to have peace

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There’s no choice

Save the children
Save the children
Save the children

And the people in the neighbourhood
Who would if they only could
Meet and shake the other’s hand
Work together for the good of the land
Give us all an equal chance
It could be such a sweet romance

And the soldiers who are dead and gone
If only we could bring back one
He’d say “We’ve got to have peace”
Lo – rd, we got to have peace

Let the people say it
Peace peace peace

Thank you, Curtis.

New DAWg

Spent the day putting my new Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), Cubase 4, through its paces and you can hear the results yourself. Only took a few hours to get the audio set up to match my studio and learn the basics of looping, audio tracks, MIDI tracks, mix automation, inserts, sends, mixdown, the whole works. I have to say I’m pretty impressed, which is good considering it costs same as a couple of nights at the St. Regis. It should be pretty clear where I pilfered the chord progression, but for bonus points can you name the drum loop?

Do you think it needs more guitar?

ex tenebris

Emerging from what must be one of the all-time longest work jags, maybe two months non-stop. There is one track destined to become a classic on “The Weirdness”, the new Stooges record that completely sums it up: “I’m fried”. Good record all around – could be looser, grittier. But what a huge disappointment “A Weekend in the City”, the new Bloc Party album is! The vocals are all intimate and close miked. The microphone is not this guy’s friend. He sounds much better standing back a few feet and shrieking the way he did throughout Silent Alarm. The songs are all mid tempo, with silly arpeggio riffs that beg to be taken seriously. Just sad. I couldn’t sit through the whole album. Instead, I put “Show Your Bones” back on. I cannot get enough of this record. Yeah Yeah Yeah!

In which I go to Best Buy and get a bunch of CDs

Stones: Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out; Sticky Fingers; Exile on Main Street; Black and Blue. I’m filling out the Mick Taylor period here. Now have pretty much everything I need, Stones-wise. Although I do still pine occasionally for the octagonal “Through the Past Darkly” that I bought in the Village on my very first trip to NYC. I’m still not sure how I feel about Tyalor’s playing. Despite his oft-mentioned Bluesbreakers pedigree, his solos tend to be noodly and scalar. If I want to hear that, I can just pick up my own damn axe.

RATM: Rage Against the Machine; Evil Empire; The Battle of Los Angeles; Renegades; Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium. That’s right–all of ‘em all at once. I did that with the Police, bought all their CDs from Amazon. I got an email back saying “Dear Corporate or Library Buyer, we noticed…” Saving stuff is great. I always knew that I would love these guys. And I do. Love. These guys… Tom Morello is a very creative player, but see below. WAKE UP!!!

Hendrix: Band of Gypsies. Can you think of a better way to ring in the new year 1970? Jimi Hendrix live at the Fillmore East. Listening to Tom Morello, I think, “cool, he’s using a ring modulator–that’s creative.” Then I put on Band of Gypsies and Jimi’s first solo is ring modulated. In case you’re wondering, btw, Jimi really is that good. Players as diverse as Morello and Stevie Ray Vaughan can cop mere aspects of style, with plenty left over for the rest of us to steal.

Faces: A Nod is as Good as a Wink…. Because I’m into that whole Jeff Beck -> Rod Stewart -> Ron Wood -> Stones thing.

Queen: A Day at the Races. Because I’m a huge Marx Brothers fan.

Stevie Winwood: The Best of, The Millennium Collection. I’m not a fan of retrospective collections, but I need me some Stevie.

CSNY: So Far. Same as above.

Jeff Beck: Wired; Beck’s Guitar Shop. Uhm, it’s Jeff Beck. I don’t have to defend anything here.

Echo and the Bunnymen: Porcupine; Ocean Rain. Because I’ve been enjoying “Crocodiles” since picking it up in an Atlanta Borders two summers ago.

Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian: Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian. Because everyone needs a little Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian.

The Who: Who Are You. How did I not have this already? Although, I must admit that I’m rather down on them at this point. I think it’s rather sad that “they” are touring again.

Bachman – Turner Overdrive: The Anthology. Because it’s the kind of thing that Will would get.

Gentle Giant: Free Hand. Wow. What a record.

Credit remaining on my Best Buy gift card: $20. Why the hell else do you think I was buying CDs at Best Buy?

Harlem Saturday Night

In “I’m Waiting for the Man”, Lou Reed heads up to Lexington and 125 with 26 dollars in his hand. Our night begins a few blocks over, getting a fix that only cost us 20 bucks. I can’t remember which jazz great it was who said of heroin: “if God made anything better, he kept it to himself.” Pshaw! He made something way better: Roti. Good Trinidadian Roti is not easy to come by in New York. We used to head over to Gloria’s West Indian food, deep in the heart of Brooklyn, to get our fix. Travel time on the subway, about an hour each way. Might as well just fly to Port of Spain. Well, now we know there’s no need for that, because Harlem has a great alternative: Roti Plus. For our inaugural visit, we stuck to the basics, chana roti and ginger beer. We asked for some doubles as well, but as everywhere, you have to get in early to get the doubles (which are traditionally a breakfast food). The roti skins were fresh and soft, with plenty of that great split-pea flour in between the layers. The potato and chana curry inside was also good, with just the right amount of pepper sauce. And without the oiliness that sometimes afflicts roti, it weighs in on the healthy side. I’m already thinking about the curried fish I’m going to have on our next visit.

With happy roti chemicals coursing through our veins, we headed over to Lenox & 125th for our destination: the storied Lenox Lounge. What a gem. The cool art deco facade gets your hopes up, and the club inside does not disappoint. Once inside, you pass through the bar. Signs on the tables ask patrons not to take pictures, and for good reason–it’s like a movie set. We’re there for the early show, so the room is not exactly hopping, but what a classic. After taking in that scene for a while, we head to our little wrap-around booth in the Zebra Room. Sitting under a poster of Billie Holiday, the singer most associated with the club, it’s easy to drift into a reverie, dreaming of all the great performances that have taken place in that little room. But tonight we are there to see the Houston Person Quartet. Person sets down his Starbucks and leads the band through a set of post-bop, soul-jazz and ballads. These guys are the real deal. Person has tremendous economy of motion, and when he breaks into sixteenth-note bop riffs, he’s barely moving at all. Drummer Chip White swings, with an aggressive, loud sound. I’m listening to Chip’s album Music and Lyrics right now. Nice–I’ll be checking him out again, I’m sure. I was also very impressed by Swedish bassist Per-Ola Gadd. This place is special and will definitely enter the repertoire, but next time, we’ll make the late set to cut down on the squares…

Post post post punk

From the “India!” Department:

The power of John Hughes’ de-coolifying ray was something to be reckoned with. He trained it on a Scottish, Velvets-influenced rock group, founded in 77. And he trained it on an English, Velvets-influenced rock group, founded in 77. Ok, perhaps in the case of Simple Minds, the lads had already strayed from the rough guitar-based early songs like “Chelsea Girl” and towards this while New Romantic thing by the time of “New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84”, a more commercial, but still nicely turned out record. With a Herbie Hancock guest appearance, no less (remember, this is Rockit-era Hancock). None of this was crime enough for Simple Minds to earn the fate of forever henceforth being “that band from The Breakfast Club”.

In the case of the Psychedelic Furs, the punishment is even more out of line with the crime. Especially when you think of that first album. If I wanted to give someone an idea of what post-punk sounds like, I might play “India” for them–a perfect example of the genre and my first and still favorite Furs tune. Just listening to Richard Butler’s rasp gives you the vicarious thrill of smoking a pack of Marlboros. What are the dangers of second-hand voice?

Whatever cool that had been left was threatened severely by the Venue where we caught the Furs the other night: B.B. King’s. The billing had mentioned dance floor/standing room with seating at the sides. But when we got there, it was all seating, with SR at the bar. This format works, it really does, for Jazz, and for Standup Comedy. But for rock? There’s a definite feeling of “Jamie Farr as Willie Loman” at the airport dinner theatre. But the seats were good, the site lines were good, and we were right behind the console, so we were constantly checking the set list to see what was coming up.

Seated with us were some very nice, friendly, chatty masters of the universe. They work at the Wall Street company that just posted the largest profits in Street history. Given that they were probably both pre-occupied with that ultimate bonus-time dilemma–yellow or red?–it was a fun, racous table.

And the set was fun, but honestly, much more like a bunch of friends getting together for a jam than a real gig. Two numbers had false starts–including “Love my Way”! The band was loose and ragged. The couple of tunes they played off Mirror Moves suffered the most. It didn’t help that the band was constantly running to the side of the stage to yell nasty things at the stage mixer. John Aston’s guitar sound was–not nice. And not nice at 100 Watts is not nice. The keyboard player alternated between two facial expressions: “oh my God, my entire rig is broken,” and, “ah good, there it is… oh no it’s not!”

But all of this hardly mattered, it was such fun. Butler spins like a top, strikes humorous attitudes, and has a whole system of semaphore that he uses to illustrate the lyrics. There’s the koo-koo-head-spinning-finger for anything that involves thought, the mind, etc. There’s the jerk-off-wrist, which accompanies things that are dull, a waste of time. His voice is still there, and he’s still got it in spades.

John Hughes be damned.

whither funky?

From the “take-it-down-to-the-bridge” department:

As the New Yorker informs us every week, “Musicians and night-club proprietors lead complicated lives; it’s desirable to call ahead to confirm engagements.” Looking at BB King’s website, it seems Eartha Kitt will do the New Year’s Eve show instead. (And if your eyesight is really good, you can see who we’re catching tonight at BB’s.)