Sunday, March 19, 2017

Wilco at the Beacon Theatre

Jeff Tweedy
Jeff Tweedy began playing guitar when he was 12, after a bicycle accident caused him to recover at home in Belleville, Illinois. Two years later, he befriended schoolmate Jay Farrar. In the early 1980s,they played together in a rockabilly band called the Plebes, which became the Primitives in 1984, and evolved into the alternative country band Uncle Tupelo in 1986. Conflicts peaked between Tweedy and Farrar after Uncle Tupelo's fourth studio album, and so in 1994 Ferrar left to form Son Volt and Tweedy gathered the remaining band members and formed Wilco, named after the military and commercial aviation radio voice abbreviation for "will comply." Wilco changed personnel several times, but since 2004 has consisted of original members Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt, along with guitarist Nels Cline, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, keyboard player Mikael Jorgensen, and drummer Glenn Kotche. Wilco released its 10th studio album, Schmilco, on September 9, 2016.

Wilco announced four concerts at the Beacon Theatre, and each show was assigned a distinct set list. Amidst forest scenery onstage, the stage lighting often reflected the mood of the song, from very dark and shadowy to a lighter, tentatively hopeful view. Opening the set with "Normal American Kids" and "If I Ever Was a Child," Wilco exhibited its proficiency in folk country roots, but the center of the show seemed to dwell in pop tunes and the end leaned more towards a driving rock that was radically different from where the set began. The final encore, "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" even started with a random cacophony and featured several grungy guitar leads. It takes a fairly open rocker to absorb and appreciate Wilco's eccentricity, such that even the biggest fans may find the entire set challenging, but Wilco performed these diverse sounds well, and Tweedy's vocals proved to be the thread that held it all together.

Visit Wilco at www.wilcoworld.net.

Setlist:
  1. Normal American Kids
  2. If I Ever Was a Child
  3. Cry All Day
  4. Radio Cure
  5. Company in My Back
  6. The Joke Explained
  7. Misunderstood
  8. Someone to Lose
  9. Shouldn't Be Ashamed
  10. At Least That's What You Said
  11. Reservations
  12. Impossible Germany
  13. California Stars (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)
  14. We Aren't the World (Safety Girl)
  15. Forget the Flowers
  16. Jesus, Etc.
  17. Locator
  18. Dawned on Me
  19. Theologians
  20. I'm the Man Who Loves You
  21. Hummingbird
  22. The Late Greats

Encore:
  1. Random Name Generator
  2. Red-Eyed and Blue
  3. I Got You (At the End of the Century)
  4. Outtasite (Outta Mind)

Encore 2:

  1. Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tibet House US 30th Anniversary Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall

Patti Smith, Sufjan Stevens, Iggy Pop, New Order, Ben Harper, Alabama Shakes, Laurie Anderson and other artists headlined the Tibet House US 30th Anniversary Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall on March 16, 2017. Not only was the high profile event a fundraiser for the not-for-profit organization, but the 140-minute concert also celebrated co-founder Philip Glass' 80th birthday.

Composer Philip Glass, actor Richard Gere, and professor Robert Thurman founded Tibet House U.S. in New York City in 1987 at the request of the 14th Dalai Lama. Annual all-star benefit concerts at Carnegie Hall have rallied attention and funds for the organization, which is dedicated to celebrating and preserving Tibetan civilization and culture.

Tibetan monks opened the evening with a chant. Thurman opened the dialogue by wishing Glass a happy birthday and reminded the audience that through this effort, the audience was supporting the Tibetan resistance against China. Several of the performers also peppered political messages throughout the evening. In addition to the monks' chant, Tenzin Choeygal and Jesse Paris Smith introduced Tibetan culture with a composition from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The evening's performances featured several other collaborations, with Philip Glass playing the piano with several artists, Iggy Pop teaming with New Order, the Patti Smith band backing Sufjan Stevens for a a reworded version of "The Star Spangled Banner," and most of the performers joining Patti Smith for the finale. The show also included next generation artists; Glass’ son Zack accompanied himself on acoustic guitar for a song, Ben Harper sang with his teenage daughter Harris, and Patti Smith’s two children, Jesse and Jackson, also performed.

Setlist:
  1. Monks, Chant
  2. Laurie Anderson, "Don't Go Back to Sea"
  3. Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson & the Scorchio Quartet, "Etude no.10"
  4. Zack Glass, "Southern Skies"
  5. Alabama Shakes, "Gimme All Your Love"
  6. Alabama Shakes & Philip Glass, "Over My Head"
  7. Alabama Shakes, Philip Glass & the Scorchio Quartet, "Sound & Color"
  8. Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith & the Scorchio Quartet, "Elemental Prayer"
  9. Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith & the Scorchio Quartet, "Snow Lion"
  10. Ben Harper, "Paris Sunrise #7 > Lifeline"
  11. Ben Harper & the Scorchio Quartet, "Everything"
  12. Iggy Pop, New Order & the Scorchio Quartet, "Stray Dog" (New Order cover)
  13. Iggy Pop, New Order & the Scorchio Quartet, "Shades" (Iggy Pop cover)
  14. Iggy Pop, New Order & the Scorchio Quartet, "She's Lost Control" (Joy Division cover)
  15. Sufjan Stevens, the Patti Smith Band & the Scorchio Quartet, "The Star-Spangled Banner" (John Stafford Smith cover)
  16. Sufjan Stevens, "Happy Birthday Song"
  17. Patti Smith, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (Bob Dylan cover)
  18. Patti Smith, "Citizen Ship" (Patti Smith Group song)
  19. Patti Smith & ensemble, "People Have the Power"

Philip Glass
Laurie Anderson
Zach Glass
Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes
Ben Harper and his daughter Harris
Iggy Pop
Sufjan Stevens
Patti Smith & the monks
Iggy Pop, Bernard Sumner of New Order & Patti Smith

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Art Garfunkel at City Winery

In Forest Hills, Queens, Art Garfunkel discovered his love for singing in the first grade, enjoying the echo from the stairwell tiles as he sang "Unchained Melody" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" a cappella. Later, his father bought him a wire recorder and the young Garfunkel spent his afternoons singing, recording, and playing back his vocals so he could listen for flaws and improve. Garfunkel met his future singing partner, Paul Simon, in the sixth grade, when they were both cast in a school play. Between 1956 and 1962, the two performed together as Tom & Jerry, occasionally performing at school dances, but achieved initial success as Simon & Garfunkel when "The Sounds of Silence" went to number one on the Billboard pop charts. The duo split and reunited many times, won Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Garfunkel's solo career has been intermittent as he has struggled with depression and vocal cord paresis, rendering him unable to sing. He also acted in eight films from 1970's Catch-22 to 2010's The Rebound. His 12th and most recent solo album is 2007's Some Enchanted Evening.

Art Garfunkel headlined two nights at City Winery, and he used the small venue to get candid with his audience. He sang Simon & Garfunkel hits and deep cuts from his solo albums, read prose from his memoirs and spoke about his personal and musical journeys. Accompanied by acoustic guitarist Tab Laven and keyboardist Dave Mackay, Garfunkel's restored tenor and countertenor were crisp, clear and resonant. In Simon & Garfunkel's harmonies, Garfunkel normally sang the higher parts, and that is where he stayed most of the evening, softly singing light and airy melodies that were soothing and safe, very much like lullabies. He sang many of the duo's gentler hits from the 1960s, most of which were written by his former co-vocalist. Garfunkel sang solemn one-man versions of "The Sounds of Silence", "Homeward Bound", "The Boxer", "Scarborough Fair", and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." The evening was sweet, but probably could have engaged the audience deeper had it been balanced with a harder-edged interlude of "Mrs. Robinson" and "I Am a Rock."

Visit Art Garfunkel at www.artgarfunkel.com.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Beth Hart at the Town Hall

Born in Pasadena, California, Beth Hart started performing her music in Hollywood clubs at age 15, until she discovered the South Central chitlin circuit, where the clubs held performance competitions for cash prizes. By age 19, she held a steady job at a club where she was the only white singer in the club's history. In 1993, Hart had her first national exposure as she rose to win the Female Vocalist competition on television's Star Search. Subsequently, she teamed with Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Beck and Slash, and sang the lead role in Love, Janis, an off-Broadway musical based on Janis Joplin's letters home to her sister. Her greatest exposure, however, came when former president Barak Obama and his wife Michelle gave Hart a standing ovation when she sang Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" at a 2012 tribute to Buddy Guy at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Hart released her ninth and most recent studio album, Fire on the Floor, on February 3, 2017.

Originally scheduled for mid-February but postponed for medical reasons, Beth Hart once again rose triumphant at the Town Hall tonight. Like the old cliché that says that "you have to suffer if you want to sing the blues," this blues singer spoke to her audience between songs about how she has dealt with bipolarity, substance abuse, eating disorders and several stints in rehabs and psych wards. Backed by guitarist Jon Nichols, bassist Bob Marinelli, drummer Bill Ransom, Hart sang sultry, burnt-honey blues vocals and played jazzy piano melodies when she was not dancing to her more rocking songs or playing acoustic guitar to more sensitive songs. Armed with many originals and a few covers, Hart's passionate vocals brought the blues to rock ‘n’ roll, torch songs and singer-songwriter fare, and also touched lightly on jazz, gospel, and soul. Hart cultivated these ageless music traditions that typically appeal to older audiences, spun them on a new axis, and produced a tasteful performance.

Visit Beth Hart at www.bethhart.com.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Jesse Malin at Berlin

Jesse Malin has devoted nearly three-quarters of his life to rock and roll. Raised in Whitestone, New York, Malin first entered the East Village music scene at age 12, attending the all-ages hardcore punk shows at CBGB's and becoming the vocalist for a hardcore band, Heart Attack. After the band split in 1984, Malin sang with a string of projects while working as a gas station attendant, a health food store clerk and a "man with a van." From 1991 to 1999, Malin tasted nominal success with the glam-punk band D Generation. Malin then sang in several short-lived bands, then went solo in 2001. Malin's most recent albums, New York Before the War and Outsiders, both were released in 2015. Committed to the community where he found his musical calling, Malin is a partner in the Bowery Electric music venue and the Niagara bar in the East Village.

Jesse Malin headlined two nights at Berlin, a rock club he helped launch in 2015. Normally a high-energy performer that makes full use of larger stages, Malin was unable to restrain himself to the venue's small stage and super-bright, super-red lighting; he ventured through the crowded floor space to the other side of the room and stood on top of the bar for a couple of songs. Between songs, Malin spoke about matters close to his heart, and his songs were equally confessional. The music was all about what happens when gut feelings are empowered by rock and roll and vice versa. Malin's performance was a driving expression of the meaning he has found in life, and it was honest and pure. It was no wonder why he sang virtually the entire set with his eyes closed, hugging the microphone stand as if it was his most loyal friend.

Visit Jesse Malin at www.jessemalin.com.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Love Rocks NYC at the Beacon Theatre

Dozens of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and Grammy Award  winners contributed their talents live when John Varvatos and Greg Williamson presented Love Rocks NYC at the Beacon Theatre on March 9. Sub-billed as A Change Is Gonna Come: Celebrating Songs of Peace, Love and Hope, the all-star concert benefitted God's Love We Deliver. At the concert, the sponsors proposed that this benefit concert would become an annual series.

Spanning rock, pop, blues and soul, the nearly four-hour concert included performances by Joe Walsh, Jackson Browne, Michael McDonald, Gary Clark Jr., Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Dr. John, Warren Haynes, Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, CeCe Winans, Keb’ Mo, Marc Cohn, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Sam Moore, William Bell, Joan Osborne, Amy Helm, Jackie Greene, Marcus King, and many more. The house band featured Will Lee as musical director, Paul Shaffer, Steve Gadd, Shawn Pelton, Eric Krasno, Larry Campbell,  Jeff Young, and many others. Bill Murray was the master of ceremonies for part of the evening.

God's Love We Deliver is a not-for-profit agency that provides meals and nutrition counseling for homebound New Yorkers. Begun as an HIV/AIDS service organization in 1985, the volunteer-driven staff now annually cooks and home-delivers more than 1.6 million meals to New Yorkers living with 200 different diagnoses.

Visit Love Rocks NYC at www.loverocksnyc.com.

Setlist
  1. Bruce Willis, "Tenth Avenue Tango"
  2. Amy Helm and Jackie Greene, "Yes We Can Can"
  3. Mavis Staples and Amy Helm, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"
  4. Mavis Staples, "I’ll Take You There"
  5. Keb Mo, "In My Life"
  6. Keb Mo, Tash Neal and Billy Gibbons, "The Thrill is Gone"
  7. Anthony Hamilton and Catherine Russell, "Night Time Is the Right Time"
  8. CeCe Winans, "Hey Devil"
  9. Gary Clark Jr. and William Bell, "Born Under a Bad Sign"
  10. Warren Haynes, "Soulshine"
  11. Warren Haynes, Marcus King and Bruce Willis, "Bring It On Home"
  12. Marc Cohn, "Crazy Love"
  13. Patty Smythe and John McEnroe, "Whole Lotta Love"
  14. Michael McDonald and Catherine Russell, "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough"
  15. Sam Moore, "Ain't That Good News"
  16. Sam Moore, Joe Walsh and Bruce Willis, "Soul Man"
  17. Lisa Fischer, "Gimme Shelter"
  18. Gary Clark Jr. and band, "The Healing"
  19. Gary Clark Jr. and band, "When My Train Pulls In"
  20. Jackson Browne, "Runnin’ on Empty"
  21. Jackson Browne, Michael McDonald and Blind Boys of Alabama, "I Shall Be Released"
  22. Blind Boys of Alabama and Aaron Neville, "People Get Ready"
  23. Aaron Neville, "A Change Is Gonna Come"
  24. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, "Loving You is Sweeter"
  25. Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, "Space Captain"
  26. Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Sam Moore and Jackie Greene, "Lovelight"
  27. Will Lee and Billy Gibbons, "Get Out of My Life Woman"
  28. Billy Gibbons, "La Grange"
  29. Joe Walsh, "Life’s Been Good"
  30. Dr. John, "Such a Night"
  31. Ensemble, "With a Little Help From My Friends" 

Bruce Willis
Amy Helm and Jackie Greene

Mavis Staples

Billy Gibbons, Keb Mo' and Tash Neal
Anthony Hamilton and Catherine Russell

Cece Winans

Will Lee, Gary Clark Jr. and William Bell
Bruce Willis, Warren Haynes and Marcus King

Marc Cohn

Patty Smythe and John McEnroe

Michael McDonald and Catherone Russell

Joe Walsh, Same Moore and Bruce Willis
Lisa Fischer

Jackson Browne
The Blind Boys of Alabama, Jackson Browne and Michael McDonald

Aaron Neville

Derek Trucks, Will Lee, Susan Tedeschi and Warren Haynes

Butch Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Jackie Greene and Sam Moore

Billy Gibbons and Will Lee

Joe Walsh

Dr. John

Bill Murray
Joan Osborne







Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Amaranthe at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall

Olof Mörck played guitar in several bands renowned in the metal scene in his native Gothenburg, Sweden. He was in Nightrage from 2006 to 2011, and has been in the power metal band Dragonland from 2000 to the present. Mörck co-founded Amaranthe, originally known as Avalanche, in 2008, and this band seems to be the one to reach international audiences. Amaranthe is a power metal band that features three vocalists, each presenting a different vocal style. After several personnel changes, the band presently consists of Mörck, vocalists Elize Ryd and Henrik Englund Wilhemsson, bassist Johan Andreassen and drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen. Amaranthe's fourth album, Maximalism, was released on October 21st, 2016

In late 2015, vocalist/co-founder Joacim "Jake E" Lundberg did not tour with Amaranthe and Chris Adam Hedman Sörbye of Swedish rock band Smash into Pieces substituted. Lundberg permanently left Amaranthe last month as the band was launching a North American tour; as Smash into Pieces was an opening act on the tour, Hedman Sörbye substituted again. Tonight at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall, Ryd provided the female vocals, Englund Wilhemsson covered the death metal growls and Hedman Sörbye pocketed the clean male vocals. The three vocalists sang alternately and simultaneously, and accompanied by searing guitar and lush, symphonic electronics, the eclectic mix made for a widest possible scope of power metal. Ryd's angelic vocals particularly commanded attention as she climbed higher and higher ranges while melodic pop melodies rode above harsh screamo metal and techno-influenced hard rock. Unlike common death metal, however, the lyrics brimmed with positive outlooks even amidst the growls, heavy riffs and metalcore-like breakdowns. This sound is commercially viable, and may prove to be groundbreaking as modern metal gets shinier and shinier.

Visit Amaranthe at www.amaranthe.se.

Setlist:
  1. Maximize
  2. Boomerang
  3. Hunger
  4. Invincible
  5. 1.000.000 Lightyears
  6. Trinity
  7. True
  8. Fury
  9. Endlessly
  10. On the Rocks
  11. Drum Solo
  12. Automatic
  13. The Nexus
  14. Amaranthine
  15. Call Out My Name

Encore:
  1. Digital World
  2. That Song
  3. Dynamite
  4. Drop Dead Cynical

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Mrs. Smith & the Rage at le Poisson Rouge

David Hanbury grew up in Needham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, and is a conservatory-trained actor. He first performed in theater with Ryan Landry’s Gold Dust Orphans in Boston and Provincetown. Landry put a gray wig on Hanbury and had Hanbury portray bizarre schoolmarms, nosy neighbors and other matronly characters in various stage comedies. Eventually, Hanbury developed the character of Mrs. Smith, a neurotic with a dysfunctional history and an ability to wail on electric guitar. Smith performed at the Guitar Gods Festival , and won the 2016 Shred for Your Life contest at Webster Hall. Hanbury now resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mrs. Smith's performance at le Poisson Rouge tonight, entitled While My Guitar Gently Shreiks, definitively was not female impersonation in the traditional sense, even though the shredder was a man in drag. While infused with elements of cabaret, character acting, and improvisational comedy, its axis spun on steaming guitar-based hard rock. Aided by several between-song videos that helped thread a loony story of Smith's grief and trauma, Smith and her band, the Rage, blazed through raw interpretations of songs by Jimi Hendrix, Prince and other classic rockers. While many cover bands perform a similar catalogue, Smith's solos were uniquely jaw-dropping, recalling the best of the guitar greats. Midway into the hour-long concert, Smith switched to acoustic guitar and similarly played with eye-rolling deftness. Throw in some outlandish tall tales of royalty, kidnappings and missing cats, and Mrs. Smith had an absurdly innovative vehicle to bring to audiences seeking the wild.

Visit Mrs. Smith at www.worldofsmith.com.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Split Squad at the Bowery Electric

Clem Burke, Keith Streng, Michael Giblin
Lead vocalist/bassist Michael Giblin (Cherry Twister, Parallax Project) and guitarist Eddie Muñoz (the Plimsouls, Magic Christian) worked together sporadically in the 1990s and rekindled their friendship in the mid-2000s during a SXSW Festival. In 2011, Giblin befriended drummer Clem Burke (Blondie, Magic Christian) and guitarist Keith Streng (the Fleshtones) when their bands played a few shows together, and Streng and Giblin started talking about forming a new band. Muñoz and Burke agreed to join. Giblin later recruited keyboardist Josh Kantor, who played with him in the Baseball Project and who is also the organist in Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox. Many of the musicians were baseball fans, and so they took on the name the Split Squad, derived from Major League Baseball's spring training practice of teams splitting into two squads so both can play a game against another team on the same day. The Split Squad's sole album, Now Hear This..., was available for sale at the band's concerts in 2013 and was officially released on January 21, 2014.

After a near-three year silence during which the musicians played in their other bands, and with a pending EP promised for the near future, the Split Squad reassembled for a brief tour that included the Bowery Electric tonight. Each member came from a strong power pop band, and together they augmented each other's strengths for a mature and professional performance. The Split Squad played hefty garage rock and roll with 1960s-styled pop vocals. While Giblin was the front man for most of the performance, the alternating guitar leads by Muñoz and Streng, along with Kantor's subtle keyboard runs and Burke's mighty powerful drumming, made for a fully-rounded straight-forward rock and roll band. The Split Squad performed most of its debut album and introduced at least two songs from its forthcoming EP, Giblin's "Stop Me (If You've Heard This One Before)" and Streng's "Showstopper." The real showstopper, however, was the Split Squad's encore cover of the Plimsouls' "A Million Miles Away." Although still a side band for some of the musicians, the Split Squad rivaled many concert performances by their original bands.

Visit the Split Squad at www.thesplitsquad.com.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

ZZ Top at the Beacon Theatre

As a child in Houston, Texas, Billy Gibbons listened to classical and country music. His musical trajectory was re-carved when he saw Elvis Presley perform on television, however, and he became transfixed by rock and roll. At age 13, he received an electric guitar and amplifier as Christmas presents, and a year later formed his first band, the Saints. In the mid-1960s, Gibbons joined a psychedelic rock group called the Coachmen, who became the Moving Sidewalks and released an album in 1968. The Moving Sidewalks folded in 1969, and Gibbons formed a blues-rock and boogie trio, ZZ Top. His original band mates left quickly, and Gibbons recruited bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard from a rival local band, American Blues. Over the past 48 years, this trio has recorded 15 studio albums, sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and gained induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. ZZ Top's most recent album, Tonite at Midnight: Live Greatest Hits from Around the World, was released on September 9, 2016.

With no new songs to promote tonight at the Beacon Theatre, ZZ Top played a solid set comprised of all of its best-known songs. "That Little Ol’ Band From Texas" was the same three guys playing the same three chords. Song after song, the band locked into a simple groove with Gibbons  starting with boogie riffs and launching into sizzling blues-based leads. Barrelhouse rhythms and muscular guitar leads synced well, even when Gibbons leaned on distortion effects. Meanwhile, the extended mid-song jams were bookended by Gibbons and Hill singing humorous lyrics, many laced with double entendres and innuendo, which were still amusing even after all these years. Visually, there was never a dull moment, as the sharp dressed bearded men synchronized suits and occasional choreography, and even brought out their white faux-fur-covered instruments for one song. The music was propulsive classic rock at its finest, and the band's visual gimmicks made the concert that much more fun.

Visit ZZ Top at www.zztop.com.

Setlist:
  1. Got Me Under Pressure
  2. Waitin' for the Bus
  3. Jesus Just Left Chicago
  4. Gimme All Your Lovin'
  5. Pincushion
  6. I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide
  7. I Gotsta Get Paid
  8. Foxy Lady (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
  9. Catfish Blues (Robert Petway cover)
  10. Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis cover)
  11. Cheap Sunglasses
  12. Chartreuse
  13. Sharp Dressed Man
  14. Legs

Encore:
  1. La Grange
  2. Tush

Encore 2:

  1. Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley cover)