Thursday, September 14, 2017

Patti Smith at Rumsey Playfield

Born in Chicago, Illinois, then raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and various towns across the river in New Jersey, a young Patti Smith fantasized about living in New York City and finding her true identity. At age 21 in 1967, she finally relocated to Manhattan, where she entered the world of the arts in part through her lover, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. In 1969 she went to Paris with her sister and started busking and doing performance art. Upon Smith's return to Manhattan, she joined the St. Mark's Poetry Project and spent the early 1970s painting, writing, and performing in underground theater while frequented the new punk rock clubs. Smith also wrote rock journalism pieces, some of which were published in Rolling Stone and Creem. By 1974, Smith gravitated from poetry readings to rock music, initially with guitarist Lenny Kaye, and later with a full band. Though an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement, Smith married Fred Smith, former guitarist of the MC5, and spent most of the 1980s in semi-retirement from music, raising her family in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Upon her husband's death in 1994, she moved back to New York and its music scene. Smith's 11th and most recent studio album, Banga, was released in 2012.

In recent years, Patti Smith has been performing frequently in the New York area, including this week's appearances on a late night talk show and at Radio City Music Hall after a film premiere. Unlike those unpublicized performances, her concert tonight at CityPark's Summerstage in Central Park was a ticketed event that paid tribute to her late husband, who would have turned 69 today. Backed by Kaye, bassist Tony Shanahan, drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, guitarist Andy York, and Smith's two children, guitarist Jackson Smith and keyboardist Jesse Paris Smith, Patti Smith performed many of the songs that she routinely performs, but also recited poetry and shared reflections of how these songs were influenced by her time with her late husband. "Most of these songs I wrote for Fred, with Fred or about Fred," she told the audience. She also memorialized other late artists: "Dancing Barefoot" to Amy Winehouse, who would have turned 34 on Thursday; "Peaceable Kingdom," to Hüsker Dü's Grant Hart, who passed away earlier in the day; "Pissing in a River" to writer Sam Shepard, who died in July 2017. The set was almost entirely comprised of her slower and softer songs, although she concluded with blasting versions of Neil Young's "Rocking in a Free World" and her own "People Have the Power," on which R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe joined on backing vocals. The concert pivoted on the tame and somber side of Patti Smith, and it was moving.

Patti Smith and her children will perform at Pathway to Paris: Concert to Fight Climate Change benefit concert at Carnegie Hall on November 5.

Visit Patti Smith at www.pattismith.net.

Setlist
  1. People Have the Power (spoken)
  2. Wing (with Tony Shanahan, Jackson Smith, Jesse Smith, and Rebecca Foon only)
  3. Frederick (Patti Smith Group cover)
  4. Gone Again (with Rebecca Foon)
  5. Ghost Dance (Patti Smith Group cover)
  6. Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith Group cover)
  7. Mothers of the Disappeared (U2 cover)
  8. Tarkovsky (The Second Stop Is Jupiter)
  9. Peaceable Kingdom / People Have the Power
  10. Looking for You (I Was)
  11. Summer Cannibals
  12. Pissing in a River (Patti Smith Group cover)
  13. Because the Night (Patti Smith Group cover)
  14. Land (>) Rock n Roll Nigger (Patti Smith Group cover)

Encore:
  1. Rockin' in the Free World (Neil Young cover)
  2. Happy Birthday to You (Mildred J. Hill & Patty Hill cover) (with Michael Stipe)
  3. People Have the Power (with Michael Stipe)


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Overkill at the Gramercy Theatre

Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth
Overkill was among the first thrash metal bands, pre-dating Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer and most other thrash bands by at least one year. Formed in 1980 from the ashes of a New Jersey punk band called the Lubricunts, Overkill started playing punk and metal covers on the Jersey club circuit before writing original songs and playing L'Amours. Overkill has gone through at least 16 line-up changes, leaving bassist D. D. Verni and lead vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth as the only constant members. Overkill's current lineup also includes lead guitarist Dave Linsk, rhythm guitarist Derek "The Skull" Tailer and drummer Jason Bittner. Overkill has sold over 625,000 albums in the U.S., and over 16 million records worldwide. The band's 18th studio album, The Grinding Wheel, was released on February 10, 2017.

Overkill is headlining the current Metal Alliance Tour, bringing thrash metal back to the Gramercy Theatre tonight. Ten of the band's 15 songs dated back to the late 1980s, while a handful originated in this decade. Over the years, the band shifted its sound a bit to the left and the right and back to start, so fittingly the performance was focused on thrash metal, but with inclinations toward 1970s hardcore punk, class metal and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Even a casual listener could have detected easily the influences of the Ramones, Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. The consistency was executed in that the concert's fast and aggressive base locked into melodies while ripping into hard-driving riffs and rhythms. These diverse yet interlocking features made Overkill's concert still interesting even after 37 years of thrash.

Visit Overkill at www.wreckingcrew.com.

Setlist
  1. Mean, Green, Killing Machine
  2. Rotten to the Core
  3. Electric Rattlesnake
  4. Hello From the Gutter
  5. In Union We Stand
  6. Goddamn Trouble
  7. Wrecking Crew
  8. I Hate
  9. Shine On
  10. Electro-Violence
  11. Ironbound
  12. Thanx for Nothin'
Encore:
  1. Horrorscope
  2. Elimination
  3. F* You (The Subhumans cover)


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Prophets of Rage at the Apollo Theater

Left to right, Chuck D, B-Real, Tom Morello
Rage against the Machine split in 2000, when vocalist Zack de la Rocha went into reclusion, and the remaining three members, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk, formed Audioslave with Soundgarden's Chris Connell. Audioslave's split coincided with Rage against the Machine reuniting for a festival tour in 2017. Since then, both Rage against the Machine and Audioslave remained dormant. In 2015, RATM guitarist Tom Morello invited Commerford and Wilk to join him in forming a new rap/rock supergroup with two members of Public Enemy (rapper Chuck D and DJ Lord), and rapper B-Real of Cypress Hill. The band would be named Prophets of Rage after a Public Enemy song. In 2016, Prophets of Rage released an EP and dedicated six months to a "Make America Rage Again Tour," which included performances at a pair of guerilla protest rallies near the Republican National Convention. This was followed by a 2017 "Make the World Rage Again" tour and a self-titled debut album to be released on September 15, 2017.

Headlining tonight at the Apollo Theater three days before the new album release, Prophets of Rage performed several new songs, but the set was heavily loaded with the band members' catalogues. All total, Prophets of Rage reinterpreted eight Rage against the Machine songs, one Audioslave, two Public Enemy, and two Cypress Hill songs, and introduced four new collaborations. The rappers left the stage for the musicians' tribute to the late Chris Connell, inviting the audience to provide the vocals to "Like a Stone." Morello walked off stage for a while as the rappers performed a medley of some of their greatest hits. Prophets of Rage revamped the familiar songs, with Chuck D rapping what Sen Dog rapped in Cypress Hill and B-Real rapping what Flavor Flav rapped in Public Enemy, for instance, and both Chuck D and B-Real covering what de la Rocha did in Rage against the Machine. The unifying factors gluing the set were that all the players retained the propulsive intensity, boldness, integrity and urgency of their earlier associations. Morello's furious guitar chops, the cutting rhythm section, and the scratching at the turntables became the perfect foil for Chuck D and B Real switching lead and hype man duties. As Morello has said in interviews, these were "dangerous song for dangerous times."

Visit Prophets of Rage at www.prophetsofrage.com.

Setlist
  1. Prophets of Rage (Public Enemy cover)
  2. Unfuck The World
  3. Testify (Rage Against the Machine cover)
  4. Take the Power Back (Rage Against the Machine cover)
  5. Living on the 110
  6. Hail to the Chief
  7. Guerrilla Radio (Rage Against the Machine cover)
  8. (Rock) Superstar (Cypress Hill cover)
  9. Fight the Power (Public Enemy cover)
  10. Medley: Hand on the Pump (Cypress Hill cover) / Can't Truss It (Public Enemy cover)/ Insane in the Brain (Cypress Hill cover)/ Bring the Noise (Anthrax & Public Enemy cover)/ I Ain't Goin' Out Like That (Cypress Hill cover)/ Welcome to the Terrordome (Public Enemy cover)/ Jump Around (House of Pain cover)
  11. Sleep Now in the Fire (Rage Against the Machine cover)
  12. Like a Stone (Audioslave cover) (instrumental)
  13. Radical Eyes
  14. Know Your Enemy (Rage Against the Machine cover)
  15. Strength in Numbers
  16. Bullet in the Head (Rage Against the Machine cover)
  17. How I Could Just Kill a Man (Cypress Hill cover)
  18. Bulls on Parade (Rage Against the Machine cover)
  19. Killing in the Name (Rage Against the Machine cover)


Monday, September 11, 2017

Orphaned Land at the Gramercy Theatre

Kobi Farhi
Kobi Farhi was born in the ancient port city of Jaffa, Israel, amidst a heterogeneous population of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. As a youth, Farhi discovered oriental and world music through his family, and also a love for heavy metal music through his friends. With his high school friends in 1991, Farhi formed Resurrection, a band that injected metal into Israeli and Arabic sounds. In 1992, the band became Orphaned Land. The band has retained two of the founding members, Kobi Farhi (vocals) and Uri Zelcha (bass). They are joined by Matan Shmuely (drums), Chen Balbus (guitar/keyboard), and Idan Amsalem (guitars/bouzouki). Orphaned Land's fifth and most recent album is 2013's All Is One; the band has scheduled its sixth album, Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, for release on January 26, 2018.

Can heavy metal be a vehicle through which peace is sought? Farhi's lyrics promote a message of peace and unity, particularly between the three main Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity). At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Orphaned Land's first New York concert in seven years, Farhi went as far as asking if there were any Arab Muslims in the audience and then asked them their country of origin, welcoming them into this vision for global peace on the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. With upbeat messages and uptempo rhythms, the band tore into "Ocean Land", "The Simple Man", "All Is One" and other hard-edged songs led by Farhi's alternating smooth and harsh vocals. Halfway through the performance, Orphaned Land was joined by Shlomit Levi, an Israeli singer of Yemenite culture, who added wordless vocal melodies to several songs. This metal was a celebration of the good, as the band rocked with a celestial element of peace and hope.

Visit Orphaned Land at www.orphaned-land.com.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

GBH at the Gramercy Theatre

Colin Abrahall
Named after the British legal term "grievous bodily harm," Charged GBH formed in 1978 in Birmingham, England. GBH was a pioneer among the English street punk movement, often nicknamed "UK82." Vocalist Colin Abrahall and guitarist Colin "Jock" Blyth were in the original band, and Ross Lomas replaced the original bassist early on. The band renamed itself GBH in 1984. Over the years, the band went through several drummers, with current drummer Scott Preece joining in 1994. The band will release its 12th studio album, Momentum, on November 17, 2017.

While other UK82 bands modified their sound or disappeared, GBH has remained true to its original sound for nearly four decades. If anything, the music has been refined so that the 1980s punk snarl and aggressive beats are clearer and stronger. At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, the simple guitar-bass-drums backdrop to Abrahall's vocals was a crisp and bombastic wall of sound, thrusting like a locomotive with hardly room for a heartbeat between songs. Power chords drove the headbanging, and the explosive speed brought on whiplash. GBH displayed something rather unique in contemporary music, in that few bands still play punk rock this purely and primitively.

Visit GBH at www.gbhuk.com.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

P.O.D. at the Gramercy Theatre

Sonny Sandoval
Guitarist Marcos Curiel and drummer Wuv Bernardo began jamming together in 1991 in San Diego, California, calling themselves Eschatos. In 1992, they recruited Bernardo's cousin, Sonny Sandoval, on vocals, and changed the band's name to P.O.D. (Payable on Death). Bassist Traa Daniels joined the band in 1994. Embracing rapcore, nu metal, and alternative hard rock, P.O.D. sold more than 12 million records. The band's ninth and most recent studio album is 2015's The Awakening; P.O.D. will release a new song as a stand-alone single, "Soundboy Killa," tomorrow, September 8, 2017.

Headlining at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, P.O.D. performed 10 songs from their peak period around the turn of the century, along with six later songs. Although the band did not perform "Goodbye for Now" and a few other radio hits, the set list was largely comprised of familiar songs. Fortunately, the songs were played for the present, not the past, and were filled with dynamic power and energy. From rapcore and nu metal to punk and reggae-infused alternative metal, Sandoval's singing and rapping and Curiel's stinging guitar leads kept the momentum soaring and rallying. Although songs like "West Coast Rock Steady" were playful hip-hop odes to the band's San Diego roots, other songs went deeper, like "Youth of the Nation," which was inspired in part by recent school shootings, "Murdered Love," which expressed a mixture of hope and unease while questioning the cruelty of humankind, and the softer "Beautiful" contemplated the afterlife. The performance rocked with an undercurrent of thoughtful integrity.

Visit P.O.D. at www.payableondeath.com.

Setlist
  1. The Messenjah
  2. Ridiculous
  3. Boom
  4. Rock the Party (Off the Hook)
  5. Murdered Love
  6. Revolucion
  7. Soundboy Killa
  8. Set It Off
  9. Youth of the Nation
  10. West Coast Rock Steady (with Sen Dog)
  11. Beautiful
  12. Condescending
  13. Southtown
  14. On Fire
  15. Satellite
  16. Without Jah, Nothin'
  17. Alive

Gogol Bordello at Neuehouse Madison Square

Yevheniy Nikolayev-Simonov was born in Boyarka, Ukraine, where his Russian father played guitar in one of Ukraine's first rock bands, Meridian. When he was 14, he and his father made his first guitar of plywood, his first distortion pedals out of radio parts, and his first drum set from large metal fish cans skinned with layers of adhesive tape. His first band in the Ukraine was Uksusnik (Vinegar Tap). Descendants of gypsies called the Servo Roma, his family fled its hometown after hearing of the Chernobyl meltdown. Through Poland, Hungary, Austria and Italy, the family arrived in Vermont in 1992 as political refugees. While in Vermont, he formed the punk band the Fags. He later moved to New York and took on his mother's German maiden name and became Eugene Hütz. He formed a gypsy punk band called Hutz & the Bela Bartoks, which evolved into Gogol Bordello by 1999. Gogol Bordello will release its seventh studio album, Seekers and Finders, on September 25, 2017.

Neuehouse Madison Square normally rents upscale communal office space, but the street floor also occasionally doubles as a private event space. Last night Neuehouse Madison Square staged an invitation-only dialogue between Eugene Hütz and Casey Spooner, formerly of Fischerspooner. This brief conversation was followed by an acoustic performance by six members of Gogol Bordello, performing a mini-set of three new songs and three re-imagined older songs. While the performance started out with most of the musicians sitting on stools, this proved to be too confining for Hütz, who began moving around the space and finally climbed atop his stool. Even acoustic, Gogol Bordello's lively blend of garage rock, gypsy jazz and eastern European folk influences, spotlighting violin and accordion leads, was sparkling and energizing. Perhaps Gogol Bordello can try introducing a similar acoustic mini-set on the band's tour.

Visit Gogol Bordello at www.gogolbordello.com.

Setlist
  1. Walking on the Burning Coal
  2. Saboteur Blues
  3. My Companjera
  4. Seekers and Finders
  5. Wonderlust King
  6. Sun Is on My Side

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Venom Inc. at the Gramercy Theatre

Demolition Man & Mantas
Formed in 1979 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Venom became one of the darkest bands in thrash and speed metal. The band has split and reformed several times, and presently consists of one original member, bassist/vocalist Conrad "Cronos" Lant. In 2010, original Venom guitarist Jeffrey "Mantas" Dunn teamed with later Venom bassist Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan to form a band called Prime Evil , later changed to M:PIRE of EVIL.  In 2015, Demolition Man contacted original Venom drummer Anthony "Abaddon" Bray about playing some Venom songs with M:PIRE of EVIL at a festival; the three musicians had played together in Venom from 1989 to 1992, but Mantas and Abaddon had not spoken in two decades. They wound up becoming  Venom Inc., initially to revive the older Venom catalog.  Venom Inc. eventually wrote new music and released a debut album, Avé, on August 11, 2017.

Headlining tonight at the Gramercy Theatre, Venom Inc. performed 12 Venom songs and four Venom Inc. songs. That seemed to be the right balance for a band that was banking largely on retrospective. Mantas, Demolition Man and Abaddon worked well as a power trio, with Mantas playing loads of lead riffs and power chords to the rhythm section's very heavy pummeling and Demolition Man's coarse vocals. Curiously, while Venom may have been a noisy band 30 years ago, Venom Inc. sounded relatively clean by today's extreme metal barometer. Perhaps the only element that sounded dated was the lyrical emphasis on the occult; while a metal fan can rightly object that this theme has been done in excess, the metal fan also might remember that these were the musicians that initially exploited that trend.

Visit Venom Inc. at www.venom-inc.com.

Setlist
  1. Ave Satanas
  2. Welcome to Hell (Venom cover)
  3. Metal We Bleed
  4. Die Hard (Venom cover)
  5. Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil) (Venom cover)
  6. Warhead (Venom cover)
  7. Blackened Are the Priests (Venom cover)
  8. Carnivorous (Venom cover)
  9. Dein Fleisch
  10. Don't Burn the Witch (Venom cover)
  11. Leave Me in Hell (Venom cover)
  12. War
  13. Black Metal (Venom cover)
  14. Countess Bathory (Venom cover)
Encore:
  1. Sons of Satan (Venom cover)
  2. Witching Hour (Venom cover)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dale Watson at Hill Country Barbecue Market

Dale Watson was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in poverty outside of Pasadena, Texas. Watson began writing his own songs at age 12, making his first recording two years later. Soon after, Watson became an emancipated minor; by day he went to school and by night he played local Houston clubs and honky-tonks with his brother Jim in an aggregation called the Classic Country Band. In 1988, he moved to Los Angeles, California, and joined the house band at an alt-country venue. In 1992, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, writing songs for a publishing company. His career as a solo artist began when Watson relocated to Austin, Texas, where he formed a backing band called the Lone Stars and recorded his first album in 1995. Watson went on hiatus after his girlfriend died in 2004, relocating again to be near his daughters in Baltimore, Maryland. Watson returned to Austin in 2006 and resumed playing regular gigs. His 25th and most recent album, Under the Influence, was released on September 30, 2016.

Dale Watson brands his music Ameripolitan, and tonight at Hill Country Barbecue Market, this music spoke for itself. Perhaps Ameripolitan is more of a statement than a genre, as the music sounded very much like outlaw country music, stripping away the Nashville glitz and honing onto roots country blues. With integrity uncompromised, Watson played authentic country music, even throwing subtle jabs at contemporary country stars who are not so country. While his baritone resonated well and the Lone Stars (Don Pawlak on pedal steel, Chris Crepps  on upright bass, and Mike Bernal on drums) backed him finely, his repertoire consisted of typical country fare: humorous plays on words; name drops on the outlaw pioneers; songs about drinking alcohol. For much of the show, Watson fielded requests from the fans and had the audience singing along to "I Lie When I Drink" and other signature songs. It was an enjoyable performance, but not a country music shape shifter.

Visit Dale Watson at www.DaleWatson.com.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Afropunk Music Festival, Day Two

James Spooner's 2003 documentary, Afro-Punk, introduced to a wider audience a subculture of black youth who were gravitating to the largely-white punk scene. The community grew vastly and quickly, such that it became possible in 2005 to stage the first Afropunk Music Festival in Brooklyn, New York. Spooner and Matthew Morgan teamed on the annual event until Spooner left in 2008 production.

Afropunk Brooklyn returned to Commodore Barry Park on August 26-17, 2017, and again attracted some 60,000 attendees. Musicians, vocalists, rappers and poets performed on five stages. Sections of the fields were dedicated to kiosks for artists, vendors and community activists.

Originally, Afropunk lineups consisted largely of underground and alternative music artists. As the Brooklyn event has grown, it has increasingly included more mainstream artists. This year's headliners included Solange, Raphael Saadiq, Gary Clark, Jr., Sza, and Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals. Most of the punk bands this year were relegated to a smaller stage a block away in the Golconda Playground.

Brooklyn's AfroPunk Festival increasingly has become more than music. The event is also is a showcase for local visual arts, crafts and food. This year, the festival also included a skate park and competition. Style, fashion, and expression were everywhere.

Admission to AfroPunk Brooklyn was free for many years, with entry fees of $40 to 50 beginning only in 2015. Participants were able to earn free admission through volunteer work either in their communities or at the festival. Comparatively, other music festivals in New York typically cost more than $100 for daily admission.

AfroPunk continues to grow. The AfroPunk Music Festival is now international. Annual festivals are held in Atlanta, Georgia; Paris, France; London, England; and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Son Little
Unlocking the Truth
Rebelmatic
Junior Astronomers
Sango
Proteje
Keith Abstract
Michael Kiwanuka
Dizzie Rascal
Nao
Staceyann Chin
Gary Clark, Jr.
Anderson .Paak
Spike Lee
Raphael Saadiq