Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dinosaur Jr. at Irving Plaza

J Mascis
While in high school in western Massachusetts in 1982, J Mascis and Lou Barlow played drums and guitar respectively in the hardcore punk band Deep Wound, but the band split in 1984. Mascis then enlisted Barlow, Deep Wound's vocalist and drummer Emmett "Murph" Murphy into an "ear-bleeding country" band called Mogo. After one concert, Mascis disbanded the group and a few days later invited Barlow and Murph to form a new trio, Dinosaur, with Mascis on guitar and vocals, Barlow on bass and vocals, and Murph on drums. Later renamed Dinosaur Jr., the trio succeeded in the alternative rock world but disbanded in 1997. The original lineup reformed in 2005, and the band's 11th and most recent album, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, was released on August 5, 2016.

On the first of two headlining nights at Irving Plaza tonight, Dinosaur Jr. was a cross between a classic power trio rock band and a noisy jam band. Mascis' trademark guitar sound was loud, fast, fluid and bordering distortion for most of the set. The rhythm section powered the songs recklessly behind him like the Who, usually providing fireworks rather than nuance. As usual, Mascis' drawling, melodic, country-flavored vocals stood in contrast to the unleashed chaos surrounding them. Mascis' extended guitar jams remained forefront, mystically commanding attention through inventive, squalling leads and effects-laden dissonance. Furthering the level of crash and burn, Dinosaur Jr. invited former Negative Approach frontman John Brannon to scream throughout "Don't." (Brannon's new band, Easy Action, opened the concert.) Yes, there is such a thing as good noise.

Visit Dinosaur Jr. at www.dinosaurjr.com.

Setlist:
  1. The Lung
  2. In a Jar
  3. Goin Down
  4. I Told Everyone /12
  5. Love Is...
  6. The Wagon
  7. Watch the Corners
  8. Tiny
  9. Feel the Pain
  10. Little Fury Things
  11. Knocked Around
  12. Start Choppin
  13. I Walk for Miles
  14. Freak Scene
  15. Gargoyle
  16. Encore:
  17. Out There
  18. Don't

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Brian Setzer Orchestra at the Hard Rock Café

Brian Setzer was born and raised in Massapequa, New York, and by 1979, had formed a rockabilly trio called the Tomcats that played locally but achieved little success. A year later, the trio changed its name to the Stray Cats, relocated to England, and had significant success that spilled back to the United States in 1982. The Stray Cats separated in 1984, but reunited briefly several times to record albums and mount tours. Meanwhile, Setzer became the lead guitarist for the touring version of Robert Plant's band, the Honeydrippers, in 1985 and 1986, until Setzer launched a solo career. In 1990, however, Setzer once again resurrected an older and nearly forgotten form of American music, jump music, when he formed a swing revival band, the 17-member Brian Setzer Orchestra, the first ever big band to be led by guitar. Setzer's efforts have sold 13 million records and the Brian Setzer Orchestra has won three Grammy Awards. Setzer was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2015, but he now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Brian Setzer Orchestra brought its "Christmas Rocks!" tour tonight to the Hard Rock Café for an invitation-only concert for SiriusXM listeners. On a stage with two Christmas trees, gift-wrapped boxes and many lights, Setzer's 19-piece orchestra performed rockabilly, swing, jive, boogie woogie, jazz and Christmas songs for nearly two hours. Initially wearing a leopard-print shirt and shoes and slinging a leopard-print guitar, Setzer played before 13 horns (four trumpets, four trombones and five saxophones), a piano, upright bass, drums and two backing vocalists. The band played tightly and smoothly, with Setzer allowing the musicians opportunities for solos before concluding with crisp endings. Setzer's original tunes intermingled with traditional fare, all given innovative, classy arrangements. Midway through the set, the horns took a break and Setzer performed several songs in stripped-down form, including a solo version of "The Christmas Song." Although less than half the songs were Christmas fare, Setzer rang up the holiday hoopla for the end of the set. Setzer and the orchestra performed a brief but danceable rendition of Tchaikovsky’s "The Nutcracker Suite." The closing swing version of "Jingle Bells" included Santa Claus throwing candy canes into the audience and then two cannons showering "snow" confetti over the dance floor. The festive extras enhanced the fine performance for an evening of holiday joy.

The "Christmas Rocks" concert will air Friday, December 9, at 8:00 pm ET on Outlaw Country, channel 60, and through the SiriusXM App on smartphones and other connected devices, as well as online at SiriusXM. Highlights from the concert will air on SiriusXM’s Holly, channel 13.

Visit Brian Setzer at www.briansetzer.com.

Setlist:
  1. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee cover)
  2. Hoodoo Voodoo Doll
  3. Stray Cat Strut (Stray Cats cover)
  4. Boogie Woogie Santa (Mabel Scott cover)
  5. Gene and Eddie (Stray Cats cover)
  6. Here Comes Santa Claus (Gene Autry cover)
  7. Sleepwalk(Santo & Johnny cover)
  8. Angels Heard On High
  9. The Dirty Boogie
  10. Jump Jive and Wail (Louis Prima cover)
  11. Let There Be Rock (AC/DC cover)
  12. The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole cover) (Brian Setzer solo)
  13. Mystery Chain (Little Junior’s Blue Flames cover)
  14. Put Your Cat Clothes On (Carl Perkins cover)
  15. Fishnet Stockings (Stray Cats cover)
  16. Rockabilly Rudolph
  17. Rock This Town (Stray Cats cover)
  18. Encore: The Nutcracker Suite (Pyotr IIyich Tchaikovsky cover)
  19. Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpont cover)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Trinity at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Left to right, Blaze Bayley, Geoff Tate and Tim "Ripper" Owens
Trinity is a trio of heavy metal singers. Geoff Tate was in Queensryche during its glory years, Tim “Ripper” Owens replaced Rob Halford in Judas Priest from 1996 to 2002, and Blaze Bayley replaced Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden from 1994 to 1999. Tate's current band, Operation: Mindcrime, was recording an album and Tate invited Owens and Bayley to sing on a song, "Taking on the World." The three were shooting a video for the song in Tate's hometown of Monroe, Washington. What was at that time planned to be the beginning of an Operation: Mindcrime tour turned into Trinity, a 10-night northeast tour where the three vocalists would sing pivotal songs from their careers backed by Operation: Mindcrime.

The brief tour closed tonight with a headlining engagement at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill. The two-hour concert began with the three vocalists singing together on the song that brought them together, "Taking on the World," from Resurrection, the second album in a concept trilogy from Tate's Operation: Mindcrime project. For the bulk of the show, however, the vocalists rotated time on the stage without the others. Tate sang two Queensryche songs, Bayley sang two Maiden songs, Owens sang his namesake Priest song, "The Ripper" and then a song from his more recent band, Beyond Fear. The three vocalists then rotated again for three songs apiece before the three reunited onstage together for a cover of Maiden's "Wrathchild" and later, a finale encore of Priest's "Living after Midnight." The band did much of the heavy lifting, providing strong backup to the three vocalists, who also performed to their strengths. In the end, however, just as Owens began his music career in a Priest tribute band, no one attempted to break new ground beyond the opening song but instead made for a unique retrospectives band.

Setlist:
1.       Taking on the World (Tate, Bayley, and Owens on vocals)
2.       Empire (Queensrÿche song) (Tate on vocals)
3.       I Don't Believe in Love (Queensrÿche song) (Tate on vocals)
4.       Run to the Hills (Iron Maiden cover) (Bayley on vocals)
5.       The Trooper (Iron Maiden cover) (Bayley on vocals)
6.       The Ripper (Judas Priest cover) (Owens on vocals)
7.       Scream Machine (Beyond Fear cover) (Owens on vocals)
8.       The Stranger (Operation: Mindcrime song) (Tate on vocals)
9.       The Needle Lies (Queensrÿche song) (Tate on vocals)
10.   Jet City Woman (Queensrÿche song) (Tate on vocals)
11.   Man on the Edge (Iron Maiden cover) (Bayley on vocals)
12.   Fear of the Dark (Iron Maiden cover) (Bayley on vocals)
13.   The Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden cover) (Bayley on vocals)
14.   Burn in Hell (Judas Priest cover) (Owens on vocals)
15.   When the Eagle Cries (Iced Earth cover) (Owens on vocals)
16.   Breaking the Law (Judas Priest cover) (Owens on vocals)
17.   Wrathchild (Iron Maiden cover) (Tate, Bayley, and Owens on vocals)
18.   Eyes of a Stranger (Queensrÿche song) (Tate on vocals)
Encores:
19.   Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover) (snippet; Owens on guitar and singing one verse) >>

20.   Living After Midnight (Judas Priest cover) (Tate, Bayley, and Owens on vocals with Owens on guitar)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hendrix in Harlem at the Apollo

Gary Lucas, Ernie Isley, Angelo Moore & Taz
Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington, but in 1946, Johnny's parents changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix. By the late 1960s, however, the world came to know him as Jimi Hendrix, leader of Jimmy James & the Blue Flames, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys, and also as the most influential guitarist is rock history.

Jimi Hendrix began playing guitar at the age of 15. After a stint in the U.S. Army, he moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, and began playing gigs on the "chitlin' circuit," playing in the Isley Brothers' backing band and later with Little Richard and Curtis Knight & the Squires before launching his own career in England in 1966. There, Hendrix became a colorfully-dressed guitarist known for extended lead guitar solos using feedback, distortion and other techniques unheard of in his day, playing his guitar behind his back and with his teeth and setting his guitar on fire.

Little known, however, is Hendrix's early history in New York. Hendrix headed to Harlem in 1963 and won the $25 first prize playing with the house band at an Amateur Night at the Apollo in Harlem in 1964. He returned to the Apollo many times as the lead guitarist for the Isley Brothers and a sideman for Little Richard, Don Covay, King Curtis and Wilson Pickett in 1964 and 1965. Hendrix also reportedly played in numerous Harlem clubs. The British invasion blues rock band the Animals played the Apollo in 1966, where the band's bassist, Chas Chandler, met Hendrix. (Other reports indicate that Chandler first heard Hendrix play at the Café Wah? in Greenwich Village, where Hendrix gravitated by 1966.) Chandler became Hendrix's manager, took him to England, and helped Hendrix form the Jimi Hendrix Experience that same year.

Hendrix achieved fame in the U.S. after his fiery performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. The world's highest-paid performer at the time, he headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Hendrix's mainstream career spanned only four years before his accidental death from barbiturate-related asphyxia in 1970 at the age of 27.

The Apollo Theater tonight hosted Hendrix In Harlem, a tribute concert on the eve of what would have been Hendrix's 74th birthday. Rather than a set of "greatest hits," the tribute traced the road that brought Hendrix to Harlem, from his early foundations in rhythm & blues that defined Hendrix’s pioneering rock experimentation to the electric psychedelic rock that later brought him fame. The concert reimagined the world that Hendrix came from before he became famous, that brought him to Harlem. Hendrix in Harlem balanced interpretations of Hendrix's lesser-known R&B history with the better-known classic rock from his later years.

Funk/ska-punk/rock band Fishbone became the house band, with band leader Angelo Moore doubling as the master of ceremonies. Guitarist Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers recollected how Hendrix was almost living in the Isley household for about two years. Nona Hendryx of progressive soul group LaBelle recounted early meetings and how she later discovered she and Hendrix were related. Vocalists Saul Williams, Alice Smith and Liv Warfield of Prince & the New Power Generation, and guitarists Gary Lucas and 12-year-old Brandon"Taz" Niederauer of Broadway's School of Rock, also performed in rotation.
Ernie Isley
Nona Hendryx & Gary Lucas
Saul Williams & Gary Lucas
Alice Smith
Liv Warfield
Taz
Angelo Moore

Friday, November 25, 2016

Stimulate: Black Friday at Drom

For some 20 years, Xris SMack! has been producing darkwave, deathrock and gothic rock recordings and events in New York. He is also a freelance event producer, booking and promoting some of the wildest gothic (Stimulate) and fetish (SMack!) parties. Most of these events happen in diverse venues in New York, but SMack! has taken his events to Florida, Pennsylvania, Canada, Jamaica and other locations.

Stimulate events often feature gothic and industrial bands that other New York promoters will not book. Last year, Stimulate featured the first New York performance in 20 years of British band Pop Will Eat Itself. Earlier this year, Stimulate hosted a rare New York set by the Cocks (formerly the American–Belgian industrial rock band known as the Revolting Cocks). Other recent performers have included Die Warzau, Combichrist, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Justin Symbol, the Genitorturers and dozens of other dark bands on the rise.

Stimulate’s annual Black Friday event at Drom tonight headlined a rare New York appearance by Christian Death on its "The Root of All Evilution" tour. Canadian synth band Ayria and British electro-industrial rockers Inertia were the opening acts.

Visit Stimulate at www.stimulate-me.com.

Reza Udhin's electro-industrial band, Inertia, which he formed in 1992 in London, England, performed as a duo with backing tracks. Udhin has been the keyboardist in Killing Joke since 2005 but is the vocalist in Inertia.

Ayria is a synthpop musical project formed in 2003 by Jennifer Parkin in Toronto, Canada. Ayria performed a lighter, ethereal gothic, with soft vocals over the heavy bass and driving beats of electro-industrial rock.

Christian Death was formed as a death rock band in 1979 in Los Angeles, California, and evolved into a pioneer gothic rock band. Vocalist/guitarist Valor Kand has led Christian Death since 1985.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Willie Nile at City Winery

Robert Noonan was born and raised in a musical family in Buffalo, New York. He began playing piano at age eight and took classical music lessons until he was a teenager, when he taught himself his first rock and roll song. He soon began to compose songs and made summer trips to New York City's hootenanny clubs. Reimagined as a singer-songwriter named Willie Nile, after college he rented an apartment in Greenwich Village and soon became one of its latter-day troubadours, gaining the attention of the Who's Pete Townshend, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams and many more. Nile released his 10th album, World War Willie, on April 1, 2016.

Headlining at City Winery tonight, Nile opened with a solo song at the electric piano, giving credibility to his sensitive songwriter side, but then for most of the evening that facet was hidden under his street-tough guitar-slinging exterior. If the listener could get past the pounding of his delivery, one could find pensive lyrics that revealed the grittier side and the hopes of a New York lifer. These passionate lyrics could have gotten all Billy Joel on the listeners, but instead Nile led his band through a charge of much rowdier vibrancy not too far removed from a Bruce Springsteen experience. Throughout the set, Nile remained true to his own uniqueness, whereby comparisons to other New York-area powerhouses were irrelevant beyond their common geographical inspiration. Nile shared his stories his way, and it rang sincere.

Visit Willie Nile at www.willienile.com.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Living End at the Gramercy Theatre

Scott Owen and Chris Cheney
Chris Cheney and Scott Owen met when they were in primary school in Wheelers Hill, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Cheney saw a Kiss concert when he was five years old and started playing guitar as age six, imitating what he heard on AC/DC cassettes. Owen played piano until at age 17 he purchased and taught himself to play a double bass so he could play rockabilly with his best friend Cheney. Cheney and Owen had their first public gig in Melbourne in 1991. Naming themselves the Runaway Boys after a song by the Stray Cats, they recruited drummers and covered songs by the Clash and the Stray Cats. By 1994 Cheney and Owen were writing and performing their own material and so they became The Living End – a reference to the 1956 film, Rock Around the Clock. The Living End went on to Australian stardom and won five ARIA Music Awards. Since 2002 the line up consists of Cheney (vocals, guitar), Owen (double bass, vocals) and Andy Strachan (drums). The Living End's seventh studio album, Shift, was released on May 13, 2016.

Although the Living End has been known in Australia for 22 years, the band continues to struggle for recognition in the United States. Tonight's concert at the Gramercy Theatre demonstrated that this is no new band but a tight, polished band that blurred the distinctions between punkabilly and hard rock. Of the 16 songs performed, some were styled after a 1950s revival, some were more punk-driven, but others had flat-out AC/DC hard rock markings. Somehow it all would up sounding like the next chapter of the Clash. Impassioned vocals rang clear and detonated into choruses with big hooks, clearly defining each rallying anthemic song despite their similar nitro-powered in-your-face blasts. With proper exposure, the Living End's controlled rampage would win a strong American audience.

Visit the Living End at www.thelivingend.com.au.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jim James at Terminal 5

For reasons of simplicity, James Olliges, Jr. used the name Jim James when he began performing at local open mics in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. James contributed songs, sang and played guitar in a local rock band called Month of Sundays beginning in 1994. By 1998, James had accumulated several songs he felt were not a fit for Month of Sundays, and looking for an outlet he formed what would become the rapidly successful My Morning Jacket. James then injured himself in a fall from a stage in 2008, putting My Morning Jacket on hiatus and allowing him to start working on solo projects. He soon resumed work with My Morning Jacket, but also recorded albums with Monsters of Folk in 2009 and the New Basement Tapes in 2014. James released his third solo album, Eternally Even, on November 4, 2016.

My Morning Jacket headlined five nights at Terminal 5 in 2010; this time around Jim James showcased his alternate cache of songs with one concert at the same venue. As such, this time around James looked very much like the MMJ singer, with his scraggly beard, dark glasses and long coat, but he performed no MMJ songs. To further distinguish the lines, he played very little guitar this time and trilled like a rhythm and blues singer. The new James persona was equally as eclectic as the MMJ character, however. When he played guitar, the songs rocked; when he played keyboards, the songs dissolved into an atmospheric trance; when he played no instruments, he crooned sentimental pop like Amos Lee. Backed by the opening act, a trio of fellow Louisville-natives called Twin Limb, plus a bassist and additional drummer, James performed nearly all of his current solo album, five songs from an earlier solo album, two covers of songs he recorded with Monsters of Folk and New Basement Tapes, plus a cover of the Velvet Underground's "I'm Set Free." Those who attended hoping for an MMJ experience had an other-worldly experience instead, but this world was impressive as well.

Visit Jim James at www.jimjames.com.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hot Tuna at the Beacon Theatre

In 1969, Jefferson Airplane was on hiatus while Grace Slick recovered from throat node surgery. Several remaining members of the band began playing clubs in the Bay Area of California. That band, primarily led by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady, played covers of Jefferson Airplane songs and old-time blues and folk songs. Initially a band in waiting for Jefferson Airplane, then an opening act for the same band, Hot Tuna evolved into an independent band. Kaukonen and Casady remained the core of Hot Tuna, with many other musicians coming and going as the band alternated repeatedly between acoustic and electric formats. Hot Tuna performed live between 1969 and 1977; in 1983; and from 1986 to present. Hot Tuna's seventh and most recent studio album is 2011's Steady as She Goes.

Headlining its annual Thanksgiving-time concert at the Beacon Theatre, Hot Tuna this time played as an electric trio, augmented by drummer Justin Guip. Kaukonen had two guitars on stage; one for ripping into hard rock tunes and one for more subtle, earthy songs. As usual, the set included several compositions written by Kaukonen, but at least half of the concert was comprised of folk blues covers. Hot Tuna opened with its own "True Religion," but soon delved into vintage songs by Billy Boy Arnold, Rev. Gary Davis, Julius Daniels, Bobby Rush, Blind Blake, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Walter Davis. Throughout the set, Kaukonen's deft finger-picking style burned brightly, and Casady frequently took his bass playing out of its traditional rhythm role and into complex melodies. Hot Tuna played 21 songs over two sets in about three hours, turning virtually every song into six to twelve minute jams. Tonight, like most performances over the past 47 years together, Hot Tuna masterfully wrangled gritty, rocking tones from Americana roots, uniquely bridging the various eras of the 20th century.

Visit Hot Tuna at www.Hottuna.com.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

L.A.M.F.: A Tribute to Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall

In 1975, vocalist/guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan quit the New York Dolls during the same week that vocalist/bassist Richard Hell left Television. The trio became The Heartbreakers and soon added vocalist/guitarist Walter Lure of the Demons. A year later, the rest of the band walked out on Hell and then reformed as Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers with Billy Rath as Hell's replacement; although there were some changes later, this revised personnel became the band's classic lineup. The Heartbreakers became an underground success, reigning over the New York club scene and opening for the Sex Pistols' ill-fated Anarchy tour. The Heartbreakers released one studio album, L.A.M.F., and then officially split in 1977, although the band in various configurations reunited many times from 1979 until Thunders died in 1991. Lure is the sole surviving member of the Heartbreakers' classic line-up, and has continued playing the Heartbreakers catalog with his band, the Waldos.

Jesse Malin recently conceived of an all-star line-up to pay tribute to Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers. The line-up featured guitarists Lure and Wayne Kramer (Kramer formerly of the MC5 and collaborator with Thunders in 1979 in a short-lived band called Gang War), bassist Tommy Stinson of the Replacements, and drummer Clem Burke of Blondie. Although some of the band members had never met one another, this tribute band was booked for three concerts in two nights at one of Malin's clubs, the Bowery Electric, on November 15 and 16, 2016. Shortly thereafter, Malin and former concert promoter Trigger Smith of the Continental bar were sitting together in Tompkins Square Park and thought to add a fourth show at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall on November 15 as a benefit concert to assist Stephen Saban, a former journalist for Details who was battling pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles, California.

The core band first rehearsed the day before the first show. The shows ultimately included guest appearances from Malin, Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys, Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators, Lynne Von of Da Willys (first night), Liza Colby of the Liza Colby Sound (second night), and Deborah Harry of Blondie at the Marlin Room concert.

Walter Lure
Wayne Kramer
Tommy Stinson


Clem Burke
Jesse Malin
Deborah Harry
Cheetah Chrome
Handsome Dick Manitoba
Lynne Von

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Long Ryders at the Bowery Ballroom

In 1981 in Los Angeles, California, Kentucky-born guitarist Sid Griffin left the Unclaimed, a 1960s-styled punk band, after jamming with former Boxboys drummer Greg Sowders. Intent on forming a band, they advertised for musicians in a local newspaper and connected with Stephen McCarthy, a country music lover from Virginia who was new to L.A. Several bassists later, they settled with Tom Stevens, an Indiana native who was a former candidate in the NASA “Right Stuff” space program in Houston, Texas. The Long Ryders, named after the Walter Hill film, The Long Riders, recorded three punky Americana and alt-country albums, then split in 1987. The Long Ryders periodically regrouped for brief reunions (2004, 2009, 2016) but have released only reissues and live albums since the 1980s.

The Long Ryders headlining gig at the Bowery Ballroom tonight was the band's first New York appearance in 29 years. Although the venue is largely a stand-up venue, several older fans pulled chairs onto the dance floor. Armed with a front line featuring three harmonizing vocalists, the songs swept from jangly pop-country (primarily led by McCarthy) to rustic roots rockers (led by Griffin), much of it with a twist of garage psychedelia. Beginning with "Tell It to the Judge on Sunday" and ending with "Looking for Lewis and Clark," the set included the band's best known songs but also included deep cuts from the band's catalog. The set also included covers of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," Buffalo Springfield's "On the Way Home" and Mel Tillis' "Mental Revenge." McCarthy played twangy lead guitar riffs and searing slides on his steel guitar, and at one point Griffin played an uncommon 12-string Rickenbacker. Rather than simply mining an old sound, the band instead indulged their pop songs with an appreciation of American roots music. Pop songs sound so much better this way.

Visit the Long Ryders at www.thelongryders.com.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Sting at Irving Plaza

Gordon Sumner was born in Wallsend, England, the eldest of four children born to a hairdresser and a milkman and engineer. As a youth, he was inspired by Queen Elizabeth II waving at him from a Rolls-Royce to seek a more glamorous life than working in the nearby shipyard. By age 10, he was "obsessed" with an old Spanish guitar left by an emigrating friend of his father. As a young man, Sumner worked by day as a bus conductor, building laborer, tax officer, and school teacher, but in the evenings, weekends and during breaks from college and teaching, Sumner became a jazz musician nicknamed Sting. Moving to London, he sang and played bass in the Police from 1977 until 1984, by which time the group was one of the biggest pop-rock bands in the world. In 2003, Sting received a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II for services to music, and was made a Kennedy Center Honoree at the White House in 2014. Sting's 12th solo album, 57th & 9th, will be released November 11, 2016.

On short advance notice, Sting headlined two intimate shows tonight at the 1000-capacity Irving Plaza, An early show was billed as album release party and the later show was billed as an exclusive show for Sting fan club members, although tickets were on sale to the general public at show time. At both performances, Sting and band opened with the Police's "Message in a Bottle" and then launched into eight of the 10 songs from his new album, then closing with more familiar tunes. Early in the set, Sting acknowledged yesterday's presidential elections and asked the audience to repeat several times a British adage, "keep calm and carry on." Then he rocked a set that sounded closer to the Police than anything he has done in decades, highlighting songs which were written with no lutes or flutes or other medieval instruments in mind. As he often does, Sting revealed the inspirations for the new songs. For instance, "One Fine Day" was about climate change; "50,000" was inspired by the recent deaths of David Bowie and Prince; "Pretty Young Soldier" was about a 19th century woman who cross-dressed in order to join the military. The set concluded with "Englishman in New York" and "Desert Rose" from earlier solo albums and the Police's "Next to You" and "Every Breath You Take." For the late show, he encored with "The Empty Chair," an acoustic song form the new album. In all, the band was tight, Sting was in excellent voice and spirit, the lyrics were captivating and the songs were refreshingly Sting as he is best remembered.

Visit Sting at www.sting.com.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Terminal 5

Robert Levon Been
Guitarist Peter Hayes grew up in Minnesota, where his mother taught him to play guitar during his teenage years. While in high school in Lafayette, California, he met bassist Robert Levon Been, son of the Call's Michael Been, of Santa Cruz, California, and Hayes moved into Been household. Hayes joined the Brian Jonestown Massacre in 1997 but left in 1998, when the two former schoolmates reunited to form a band called the Elements in 1998. Upon discovering that another band had the same name, the members changed the name to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (often abbreviated as BRMC), after Marlon Brando's motorcycle gang in the 1953 film The Wild One. The band presently consists of Hayes, Been, and former Raveonettes drummer Leah Shapiro. The band's seventh and most recent album is 2013's Specter at the Feast.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club headlined at Terminal 5 on the night of the presidential elections. As the race results were being tallied, the road crew propped near the drum kit a head mask of Donald Trump with a vulgar word across its face; the band members later tossed it into the audience during "US Government," a song with lyrics critical of the state of domestic government. With no new album to market, BRMC played a loud, driving set of rock and roll songs from its catalogue, plus a song in progress seemingly titled "Bandung Hum." BRMC cultivated classic rock sounds from Tom Petty vocals to ZZ Top buzz saw guitars, but also amalgamated shoegaze, drone and grunge. For a slightly softer touch, Hayes briefly rocked an acoustic guitar like an old folkie; otherwise the set was straightforward pedal-to-the-metal rock. While the music resourced many sounds, it all melted into a groove as dark as the dim stage lighting.

Visit Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at www.blackrebelmotorcycleclub.com.

Death from Above 1979 at Terminal 5

Jesse Keeler
Bassist Jesse Keeler and vocalist/drummer Sebastien Grainger reportedly met at a Sonic Youth concert and later became roommates. Keeler played in several pop punk bands in Toronto, Canada, including Black Cat #13 and Femme Fatale. In 2001, he recorded three bass and drum instrumental demo tapes. He played these for Grainger, who then wanted to sing over the tracks. Not finding a suitable drummer, Grainger tried singing and drumming at the same time, and Death from Above was born. The duo changed the band name to Death from Above 1979 after a legal dispute with DFA Records; the "1979" originated from Grainger's birth year, which he has tattooed on his forearm. The duo released a debut album in 2004, but split in 2005. Grainger then founded Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains and Bad Tits, and Keeler formed MSTRKRFT. Death from Above 1979 reunited in 2011, toured, and released a second album in 2014 and a live album, Live at Third Man Records, on April 22, 2016.

Opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club tonight at Terminal 5, Death from Above 1979 played in almost complete darkness, such that the audience could make out two moving silhouettes rather than clearly seeing two performers on that stage. The two musicians faced each other rather than the audience, seemingly immersed in their instruments and their interplay. Keeler riffed his bass like it was a heavy metal guitar and Grainger pounded on his drums with raging fury, simultaneously generating some piercing vocals that floated above the din. The approximately hour-long set included six songs from the debut album and eight songs from the follow-up 10 years later, all of it becoming one wall of sound. This was hard, aggressive, unpolished, minimalistic music. The music felt wild and chaotic, and was sometimes even grating. They made big noise for just two musicians. For some in the audience, this was innovative music, for others it was an occasion to push those earplugs deeper.

Visit Death from Above 1979 at www.deathfromabove1979.com.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Icon for Hire at the Studio at Webster Hall

Ariel Boomer was born in Sweden to an American father and a Swedish mother. When Boomer was six years old, the family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, then 10 years later to Decatur, Illinois. In her teenage years, Boomer asked every musician she met in Decatur about starting a band. She met guitarist Shawn Jump in 2007 and they began writing songs together. They became Icon for Hire, choosing their name as a satirical comment on the state of the music industry. Icon for Hire's third album, You Can't Kill Us, will be released independently on November 25, 2016.

Headlining at the Studio at Webster Hall tonight, Icon for Hire was joined by both a drummer, Shane Wise, and rhythm tracks programmed by Jump. Crunching guitar chords and crashing percussion were balanced by light, pop vocals and synth waves for an adventurous sound that echoed the likes of ParamoreGarbage, and No Doubt, and yet was distinctly its own beast. The songs demonstrated a wealth of modern inspiration, including alternative metal raps and riffs, such that each composition was armed with its own anthemic hooks. There must be a larger, undiscovered audience waiting to hear this bombastic pop-metal music.

Visit Icon for Hire at www.iconforhire.net.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Grouplove at Hammerstein Ballroom

Christian Zucconi (background)
and Hannah Hooper
Vocalist/keyboardist Hannah Hooper met vocalist/guitarist Christian Zucconi in 2009 in New York City, where she was a painter and he played in a hardcore band called Aloke. Hooper was leaving a week later for an artist residency in Crete, and she invited Zucconi to join her. There they met guitarist Andrew Wessen, bassist Sean Gadd and drummer Ryan Rabin, and together the five musicians became Grouplove. The band relocated to Wessen's home base in Los Angeles, California. Daniel Gleason replaced Gadd on bass in 2014. Grouplove released its third studio album, Big Mess, on September 9, 2016.

Grouplove has performed in New York many times, including a recent surprise lunchtime concert in Washington Square Park, but headlining at the Hammerstein Ballroom presented the band with perhaps its largest local audience so far. The parallel trajectory is that the band has refined its pop sound from its earlier garage leanings to a far more polished sheen that brought to mind slick chart toppers like Imagine Dragons and Arcade Fire. Featuring songs built around cascading verses and escalating choruses, the band seemed to reach crescendos often. Although the other musicians did most of the heavy lifting as far as powering the rock, Grouplove was best when the red-haired Hooper and the blue-haired Zucconi teamed on euphoric gang vocals. The two front people seemed comfortable in their new role as pop stars; Zucconi noted the progression from his early New York years when he worked backstage at the same venue, and both Hooper and Zucconi took the liberty to crowd-surf over their fans towards the end of the set. The setlist included better known songs including "Itchin' on a Photograph", "Tongue Tied", "Shark Attack" and "Colours," as well as a rousing cover of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage." Grouplove is destined for greater heights.

Visit Grouplove at www.grouplovemusic.com.

MUNA at the Hammerstein Ballroom

Katie Gavin and
Naomi McPherson (background)
Vocalist Katie Gavin and guitarists Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson all had backgrounds in music when they met while attending university in Los Angeles, California. They discovered their musical chemistry at a party, when Maskin and McPherson started jamming on guitars; Gavin arrived later that night and added vocals. They committed to writing and recording in their bedrooms. Upon deciding on a band name, they exercised word associations and combined the words "luna" and "moon" to create MUNA. A remix of the band's 2016 Loudspeaker EP will be released on November 15, 2016, and a debut album, About U, is scheduled to become available on February 3, 2017.

Opening for Grouplove tonight at the Hammerstein Ballroom, MUNA expanded its arrangements by adding a rhythm section and utilizing electronic pre-programming. Tough lyrics contrasted easy melodies for a brooding pop. The songs were largely emo-rooted, but provided room for optimism and feel-good rhythms. Gavin, Maskin and McPherson toyed with punchy pop hooks, injecting into them both bounce and flag-waving fervor. Additional sharp kicks and plush flourishes made for a sound that was designed for listening and for swaying. MUNA is ripe for commercial radio play.

Visit MUNA at www.whereismuna.com.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Nosotros Festival at the Bowery Ballroom

New York native Alynda Segarra dreamed of a local music and arts festival that would speak about a radical Latinx activism to fight systems of oppression. She made the dream a reality with the first-ever Nosotros Festival, which took flight at the Bowery Ballroom on November 4, 2016. Brujas, the Bronx’s feminist skate collective, co-hosted the evening, which featured Segarra's folk-rock group, Hurray for the Riff Raff, along with "son jarocho" folk fusion group Las Cafeteras, son-inspired rock band Making Movies, punk rock band The Downtown Boys, drag performance artist Lady Quesa’dilla, Nuyorican poet Bonafide Rojas, youth poets, speakers and many progressive minds. Afro-Latinx DJ Bembona closed out the night.

According to its website, Nosotros was a festival dedicated to uniting Latinx people of all backgrounds to bon in the namde of art, expression and protest. "We are meeting each other at the intersections of race, gender, nationality and all other identities that are often erased from the popular representations of Latinx people. Our mission is to create an alternative to hopelessness in the face of a xenophobic, racist, homophobic and sexist political climate. We wish to provide a platform for social justice workers and artists alike -- an opportunity to share their work with a proactive audience. Creating a response to these turbulent times is reclaiming our narrative and continuing the work of our ancestors. Our event hopes to unify Latinx people and to provide a space to share our work, our stories and to contribute to the greater cause of changing our society. We hope our movement will attract Latinx visionaries, who will leave rejuvenated and inspired with new knowledge of ways to counteract the hatred we face. Nosotros is dedicated to empowering our youth and standing in solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for a better world."

One dollar of every ticket sold was donated to Urban Word, a New York City organization that provides platforms to promote youth literacy.

Glossary:
Latinx (pronounced “la-TEEN-ex”): a gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@, referring to people of Latin American descent.
Nosotros: a Spanish word that translates into English as "we."
Nuyorican: People of Puerto Rican-descent who were born and raised in New York.
Son: the first Afro-Cuban musical form, essentially a marriage of syncopated African rhythms and percussion with Spanish-derived melodies and string instruments.
Son Jarocho: a regional folk musical style of Mexican Son from Veracruz, a Mexican state along the Gulf of Mexico.
Victoria Ruiz of the Downtown Boys
Making Movies
Las Cafeteras
Lady Quesadilla
Hurray for the Riff Raff

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Primal Scream at Irving Plaza

Bobby Gillespie
Vocalist Robert "Bobby" Gillespie and guitarist Andrew Innes started playing music in 1978 in a punk band called the Drains in Glasgow, Scotland; Innes was 15 years old at the time. The band split in short time and Gillespie stayed in Glasgow while Innes relocated to London, England. Gillespie went on to form Primal Scream in 1982, but then in 1984 also joined Jesus and Mary Chain as drummer, juggling the two bands as scheduling permitted. Upon leaving Jesus and Mary Chain in 1986, Primal Scream started gaining an increasing audience until the band broke into the mainstream in 1991. Primal Scream's current lineup consists of Gillespie, Innes (guitar), Martin Duffy (keyboards), Simone Butler (bass) and Darrin Mooney (drums). Primal Scream's 11th studio album, Chaosmosis, was released on March 18, 2016.

Over the decades, Primal Scream has experimented with many sounds, from jangly indie pop to psychedelic garage to dance, blues, funk and shoegaze. At Irving Plaza tonight, the band performed especially well when it focused on what it played best, which was simple, uncluttered rock and roll. The finer moments were when Primal Scream displayed a knack for Keith Richards-style guitar rock, a flair for barroom boogie and a bluesy vocal panache. Perhaps due to injuries suffered in a stage fall this summer, Gillespie's stage moves were moderate but keenly centered on the music rather than showmanship. Nevertheless, he commanded attention throughout the set, even as the musicians surrounding him furnished him with everything he needed to make the songs come alive. Primal Scream's performance was more relaxed than on previous tours, but perhaps this is maturity at play.

Visit Primal Scream at www.primalscream.net.