Saturday, September 7, 2019

Morrissey at the Forest Hills Stadium, Queens

Steven Patrick Morrissey, better known by his singular stage name of Morrissey, was born in Davyhulme, England, and spent his childhood in nearby Manchester. He worked as a clerk for the civil service and then the tax collection agency, as a salesperson in a record store, and as a porter in a hospital. In the early 1970s, his passion for music led to him forming a British fan club for the New York Dolls. In 1977, he fronted the unsuccessful punk rock band the Nosebleeds, followed by Slaughter & the Dogs. In the early 1980s, he moved into music journalism and authored several books on music and film. He finally found economic security when he and Johnny Marr formed the Smiths in 1982. After four popular albums, mounting personal differences between Morrissey and Marr erupted and ultimately ended the Smiths in 1987. Morrisey launched a solo career in 1988, initially enjoying far more success in Great Britain than in America. Relocating to Los Angeles, California, he took a musical hiatus in 1998 and resumed recording and touring in 2003. Morrissey released his 12th and most recent album, a collection of cover songs called California Son, on May 24, 2019.

Morrissey often makes headlines with controversial and highly opinionated statements. Recent quotes that many interpreted as anti-immigrant caused waves on the internet, with rock fans campaigning for a boycott of his tour. Nevertheless, four months after his week-long concert series at a Broadway theater, Morrissey co-headlined with Interpol at Forest Hills Stadium to a substantial audience. Accompanied by guitarists Boz Boorer  and Jesse Tobias, keyboardist Gustavo Manzur, bassist Mando Lopez, and drummer Matt Walker, Morrissey performed 15 songs from his solo work, two Smiths songs, and five cover songs written decades ago. The set opened with "You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side," reportedly performed live for the first time since 2007. Rather than sing with a Manchester accent, Morrissey articulated so clearly that hardly a lyric was lost. He crooned and brooded with his rich baritone voice, singing lyrics that frequently were dark and bleak while searching for peace and clarity. The up-tempo and mid-tempo songs were fine, but his choice of covers was puzzling. Laura Nyro? Melanie? Gary Puckett & the Union Gap? Where was he going with these sappy 1960s tunes? The music was fine when it rocked but too much of the show seemed to become a lounge act. Hopefully Morrissey will reinvent himself and forego these cabaret elements.

Setlist:
  1. You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side
  2. Alma Matters
  3. Hairdresser on Fire
  4. I Wish You Lonely
  5. Satan Rejected My Soul
  6. Morning Starship (Jobriath cover)
  7. Wedding Bell Blues (Laura Nyro cover)
  8. Lady Willpower (Gary Puckett & the Union Gap cover)
  9. I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris
  10. If You Don't Like Me, Don't Look at Me
  11. Munich Air Disaster 1958
  12. Seasick, Yet Still Docked
  13. Why Don't You Find Out for Yourself
  14. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore (The Smiths song)
  15. Never Again Will I Be a Twin
  16. Back on the Chain Gang (The Pretenders cover)
  17. The Bullfighter Dies
  18. Jack the Ripper
  19. Some Say (I Got Devil) (Melanie cover)
  20. Irish Blood, English Heart
Encore:
  1. Everyday Is Like Sunday
  2. How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths song)

Friday, September 6, 2019

CRX at Mercury Lounge

Nicholas Valensi was born in New York City, where at age five he began learning to play his father's guitars. As a teenager he and a few schoolmates formed a band that in 1998 would become the arena-headlining Strokes. Valensi also worked as a songwriter and session guitarist with Sia, Blondie, Regina Spektor, Kate Pierson and others. In 2013 in Los Angeles, California, Valensi founded a side-project, CRX, for which he is the singer, songwriter, lead guitarist and rhythm guitarist. CRX also includes Darian Zahedi (guitar, backing vocals), Jon Safley (bass) and Ralph Alexander (drums). The band released its second and most recent album, Peek, on August 23, 2019

Mercury Lounge can claim to have been the club that launched the Strokes to success, and Valensi tonight brought the program back to the start button by bringing his new band to that same stage as part of the venue's 25th anniversary slate of artists. The performance started a little after midnight, prompting Valensi several times to thank the fans for staying out late and noting that many old friends and even some parents of the band members were in the audience. CRX performed a set that mostly debuted live the songs from the band's new album, fleshing them out with the addition of touring keyboardist Brad Oberhofer. As Valensi sang, the Strokes' familiar formula of raging garage rock surfaced on most of the songs, while other songs showcased a calmer singer-songwriter-with-a-smoking-guitar. Angular guitar leads and riffs kept the music very indie and even somewhat experimental. CRX may not turn out to be the band that will make Valensi a star in his own right, but it is going to draw a considerable audience because if its unique indie twist on garage rock.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Raconteurs at the Hammerstein Ballroom

Jack White
Two vocalists/guitarists, Jack White and Brendan Benson, were inspired by a song they wrote while jamming in Detroit, Michigan. This led to them forming the Raconteurs in 2005 with bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler, both of a band called the Greenhornes. The Raconteurs recorded and toured in 2006 and 2008, but then, as all the members engaged in other projects, the band remained dormant for about 10 years. The Raconteurs released a third album, Help Us Stranger, on June 21, 2019. The band currently is based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Thanks in part to Jack White's marquee name, the Raconteurs headlined two nights at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Fans may have been surprised to learn upon arrival that they had to lock their cell phones in pouches until the end of the concert. The Raconteurs demanded full attention and achieved it. With the addition of touring multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and the Dead Weather, the Raconteurs performed a set featuring eight songs from the current album and five songs from each of the earlier two albums. White and Benson shared lead vocals fairly evenly, but many of the songs pivoted on bursts of coarse guitar leads and crunching riffs that sometimes were louder than the vocals. Guitars dominated, and vocal melodies followed closely behind, insuring that this was more than a head banging experience. As such, the cohesion of the pounding music and the occasionally loose in-the-moment guitar jams made the show very alive. Maybe the cell phone embargo was a good idea, because the concert was far more exciting than anything on our cell phones.

Setlist:
  1. Bored and Razed
  2. Level
  3. Old Enough
  4. Help Me Stranger
  5. Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying)
  6. Don't Bother Me
  7. Live a Lie
  8. You Don't Understand Me
  9. Hands
  10. Only Child
  11. Broken Boy Soldier (with a snippet of Them's "Gloria" before the final verse)
  12. Top Yourself
  13. Blue Veins
Encore:
  1. Consoler of the Lonely
  2. Sunday Driver
  3. Now That You're Gone
  4. Carolina Drama
  5. Steady, as She Goes

Monday, September 2, 2019

Ellis Dyson & the Shambles at Mercury Lounge

At age 18 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Ellis Dyson started listening to jazz swing and Appalachian folk music. Inspired by the unique banjo picking of Kentucky coal miner Roscoe Holcomb, Dyson began playing old-time banjo. Dyson found a like-minded college student when he met saxophonist and clarinet player Danny Abrams, and in 2013 the duo began playing as a saxophone and banjo duo. Now working as a quintet, Ellis Dyson & the Shambles continues to play old-time Americana music. The band currently consists of Dyson, Abrams, acoustic guitarist Eli Wittmann, bassist Butler Knowles, and trombonist Danny Grewen. On April 5, 2019, the quintet released its third album, Greetings from Shambylvania, a musical collection featuring whimsical vignettes from the fictional town of Shambylvania.

Ellis Dyson & the Shambles brought to Mercury Lounge tonight a musical sound that relatively few 21st century musicians explore. With a tremendous debt to Prohibition Era music, these five ardent students of swing, ragtime, dixieland, jump blues, gypsy jazz, and other old-time foot-stomping sounds took the audience for a lively trip to a bygone period of party music. Mixing new songs and cover songs. the band preserved a nearly lost form of American music and also added to its canon. Using almost all acoustic instrumentation, the band took front-porch music to hootin' and hollerin' levels. Using the structures of early New Orleans jazz to Piedmont murder ballads, the lyrics advanced the tradition of storytelling through songwriting, painting colorful characters, situations, and panoramas through agile musicianship and showmanship.  Ellis Dyson & the Shambles is a band on a mission to preserve early forms of American music, and more than likely will gather a growing legion of admirers to further this enterprise.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Vice featuring Cory Glover at the Bitter End

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Corey Glover was an aspiring actor when guitarist Vernon Reid recruited him into Living Colour in 1985, reportedly after hearing Glover sing "Happy Birthday" at a friend's party. Living Colour found immediate success with the release of its debut album, Vivid, in 1988. The album was certified platinum in 1989 and again five years later. The album's single, "Cult of Personality," won the 1989 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance and the band was named Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards. Living Colour split in 1995, and Glover started a solo career, toured in the funk bands Galactic and Soul Rebels Brass Band, hosted various shows on VH1, played the role of Judas Iscariot in a touring company of Jesus Christ Superstar, recorded with the band Ultraphonix, and formed the band Vice. Vice consists of Glover, guitarist Mike Ciro, bassist Booker King, and drummer Nat Townsley.

Vice returned to the Bitter End tonight, this time with the addition of keyboardist Benny Harrison, and cranked out an assortment of hard rock, pop, and rhythm and blues songs. The first song was a raging rocker, and at the end Glover assured the audience that this music was designed to be played loud. The band quickly moved to lighter fare, however, and demonstrated how these well-seasoned session players were capable of playing most any genre of music. Vice was tailored to be an all-embracing vehicle for Glover's extensive musical interests, so each song seemed to push him in a slightly different direction. In the end, Glover proved to be an outstanding vocalist, ready to enhance rock, soul and blues songs with a rich, husky voice. "Cult of Personality," the set's closer, brought the set back full circle to where Glover's music career started. It would have been interesting if he had sung "Happy Birthday" as well.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

MC50 at le Poisson Rouge

As a youth in the 1960s, guitarist Wayne Kramer formed the Bounty Hunters in the basement of Kramer's mother's basement in Detroit, Michigan. After some personnel changes, the band in 1965 became the hard rocking MC5, an abbreviation for Motor City Five. Based on its high energy shows and controversial politics, MC5 landed on the cover of Rolling Stone even before the release of the band's 1969 debut album. The band split in 1972 and Kramer began a two-year prison sentence in 1975 for drug offenses. After his parole, Kramer moved to New York City and worked as a carpenter for several years. In 1979 he played with Johnny Thunders in the band Gang War and also in Was (Not Was), and in 1980 he played with Fats Deacon and the Dumbwaiters. Kramer launched a solo career in 1994. Kramer briefly reformed various versions of MC5 until he stabilized a lineup from 2005 to 2012 with Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators as vocalist. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of MC5's debut album, Kramer assembled MC50 for tours in 2018 and 2019; MC50 consists of Kramer, vocalist Marcus Durant of Zen Guerrilla, guitarist Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, bassist Billy Gould of Faith No More, and drummer Brendan Canty of Fugazi.

MC50 performed all eight songs from MC5's debut album tonight at le Poisson Rouge, though not in album order, plus seven tracks from the band's other two albums. Thanks to the all-star musicians, nothing could go wrong, even though all of Kramer's band mates were young children when the albums were released. In true MC5 proto-punk tradition, MC50's performance for the most part was fast, loud and intense. Kramer dominated the band, with a few lead vocals and numerous extended guitar solos. Durant sang soulfully, pouring his angst-filled vocals especially into the few slower, blues-inspired moments. MC50's hard-edged guitar rock was hearty, muscular, and angry. With no new music to promote, MC50 enacted a slice of music history, offering a half-century look-back into the root elements of yesterday and today's garage rock, hard rock, blues rock, and psychedelic rock.

Setlist:
  1. Ramblin' Rose
  2. Kick Out the Jams
  3. Come Together
  4. Motor City Is Burning (John Lee Hooker cover)
  5. Tonight
  6. Gotta Keep Movin'
  7. Teenage Lust
  8. Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)
  9. Borderline
  10. I Want You Right Now
  11. Starship
  12. I Can Only Give You Everything (Them cover)
Encore:
  1. Call Me Animal
  2. Sister Anne
  3. Let Me Try
  4. Looking at You

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard at Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield

Seven musicians started off as a group of friends jamming together in 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. Lead vocalist Stu Mackenzie wanted to call the band Gizzard Gizzard. Another band member wanted Lizard King, the nickname of Jim Morrison of the Doors. They compromised with King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. The band consists of Stu Mackenzie (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, flute), Ambrose Kenny-Smith (vocals, harmonica, keyboards), Cook Craig (guitar, bass, vocals), Joey Walker (guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals), Lucas Skinner (bass, keyboards), Michael Cavanagh (drums, percussion), and Eric Moore (drums, percussion, management). The band is known for its energetic live shows and prolific recording output. In 2017, the band fulfilled a promise to release five studio albums within the year. The band released its 15th and most recent album, Infest the Rats' Nest, on August 16, 2019; it was the band's second album in 2019.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard is a puzzling band. The psychedelic rock band released a rather chill album in April, followed by a thrash metal album four months later. The band's performance tonight at SummerStage in Central Park featured a similarly diverse variety of sounds. Many songs seemed rather experimental, changing gears with the introduction of a new instrument or a change of rhythm before igniting into a burning furnace seemingly ready to explode. The band played no simple songs; the paradox was that even the lighter, poppier songs often evolved into a complex arrangement, with individual musicians offering something to throw a melody or a time signature off the main frame. The band's rallying moments, however, were in the boisterous, high energy stingers, with their thick grooves and dark bass lines generating mosh pits and crowd surfing. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard's set was expansive and eclectic, defying musical predictability but guaranteeing a raucous party spirit.

Setlist:
  1. Self-Immolate
  2. Perihelion
  3. The Great Chain of Being
  4. Plastic Boogie
  5. Inner Cell
  6. Loyalty
  7. Horology
  8. Boogieman Sam
  9. Evil Death Roll
  10. Digital Black
  11. Vomit Coffin
  12. Murder of the Universe
  13. This Thing
  14. The Bird Song
  15. Planet B
  16. Mars for the Rich
  17. Cyboogie
  18. Medley: Am I in Heaven? > Altered Beast > Rattlesnake > Boogieman Sam > Cellophane

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Orange Goblin at the Gramercy Theatre

Ben Ward
As a youth in London, England, Ben Ward was planning to study electrical engineering and be an engineer in the Royal Air Force. Instead he wound up making sandwiches at Wembley Arena. When he finished school, he played professional soccer for two years but then he discovered heavy metal, alcohol, and drugs, so football fell by the wayside. In 1995, he co-founded the band Our Haunted Kingdom, which became Orange Goblin, an underground favorite in the international stoner-rock and doom-metal genres. By 2002, the hard-rocking band incorporated more punk, blues, groove metal, space rock and other influences. Vocalist Ward, guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard, and drummer Chris Turner have played together since the beginning. After a four-year wait, Orange Goblin released its ninth and most recent studio album, The Wolf Bites Back, on June 15, 2018.

At six feet and five inches, Ward towered over his band mates on stage tonight at the Gramercy Theatre, but he did not overshadow them. Clearly, Ward was the focal point, as he leaned over the stage monitors, shook his waist-length hair, and growled at his audience. Meanwhile, the power trio behind him cranked and crushed driving riffs, sludgy grooves and greasy guitar leads. Orange Goblin's music recalled classic hard rock from the 1970s, yet bristling with a darker and more unrefined attack. The set offered 17 songs spanning more than 20 years of recordings, plus a cover of Motohead's "No Class." Due to Chris Turner's visa issues, veteran metal drummer Chad Walls (aka Captain Killdrums) was a last-minute replacement and did well after only one rehearsal. To call the performance stoner-rock or doom-metal would be unfairly limiting; this was hard and heavy head-banging rock and roll.

Setlist:
  1. Scorpionica
  2. The Filthy & the Few
  3. Sons of Salem
  4. Saruman's Wish
  5. Renegade
  6. The Fog
  7. The Wolf Bites Back
  8. Some You Win, Some You Lose
  9. Stand for Something
  10. Your World Will Hate This
  11. Blue Snow
  12. Cities of Frost
  13. No Class (Mot├Ârhead cover)
  14. They Come Back (Harvest of Skulls)
  15. The Devil's Whip
  16. Quincy the Pigboy
  17. Red Tide Rising

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Afropunk 2019 at Commodore Barry Jr. Park, Day Two


Afropunk started as a documentary in 2003 that chronicled the black experience in a mostly white punk rock movement. This led to the Afropunk Festival in 2005 and quickly mushroomed into an expansive music and cultural event that annually closes the summer for 60,000 participants in Brooklyn, New York. The festival has since expanded to become an international brand running events in five cities across four countries. Afropunk spotlights live music, film, fashion, food, art, crafts, and activism within the black community, and promotes zero tolerance for racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, fat-phobia, transphobia, and, an addition this year, Trumpism.

This year’s Afropunk Brooklyn festival, held at Commodore Barry Jr. Park on August 24 and 25, came with a new, positive theme, #AfropunkWeSeeYou, instead of the more resistance-counterculture marketing used in the past. Once again, live performances took place on four stages, and featured a wide range of music. FKA Twigs, Jill Scott, Kamasi Washington, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Santigold, Danny Brown, Death Grips, GoldLink, Lianne La Havas, Toro Y Moi, Nao, Tierra Whack, J.I.D, Rico Nasty, Ravyn Lenae, Leikeli47, Earthgang, Kari Faux, Junglepussy, and numerous djs performed from about noon to 10:30 p.m. each of the two days.
Rebelmatic
Fire from the Gods
Toro Y Moi
Burnt Sugar Archestra
Scarlxrd
BCUC
Lianne La Havas
Masego
Ho99o9
Santigold
Thandiswa
Danny Brown
Brittany Howard
Kamasi Washington
Death Grips
Sing Harlem
FKA Twigs



Saturday, August 24, 2019

Afropunk 2019 at Commodore Barry Jr. Park, Day One


Afropunk started as a documentary in 2003 that chronicled the black experience in a mostly white punk rock movement. This led to the Afropunk Festival in 2005 and quickly mushroomed into an expansive music and cultural event that annually closes the summer for 60,000 participants in Brooklyn, New York. The festival has since expanded to become an international brand running events in five cities across four countries. Afropunk spotlights live music, film, fashion, food, art, crafts, and activism within the black community, and promotes zero tolerance for racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, fat-phobia, transphobia, and, an addition this year, Trumpism.

This year’s Afropunk Brooklyn festival, held at Commodore Barry Jr. Park on August 24 and 25, came with a new, positive theme, #AfropunkWeSeeYou, instead of the more resistance-counterculture marketing used in the past. Once again, live performances took place on four stages, and featured a wide range of music. FKA Twigs, Jill Scott, Kamasi Washington, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Santigold, Danny Brown, Death Grips, GoldLink, Lianne La Havas, Toro Y Moi, Nao, Tierra Whack, J.I.D, Rico Nasty, Ravyn Lenae, Leikeli47, Earthgang, Kari Faux, Junglepussy, and numerous djs performed from about noon to 10:30 p.m. each of the two days.

Chika
Kelsey Lu
Anahata
Tank & the Bangas
Kari Faux
Rico Nasty
Red Arkade
Ravyn Lanae
Earthgang
Leikeli47
Gary Clark, Jr.
Tierra Whack
J.I.D
Leon Bridges


Nao
Goldlink
Jill Scott