Sunday, April 30, 2017

Kris Kristofferson at City Winery

Born to a military family in Brownsville, Texas, Kris Kristofferson moved often, finally settling in San Mateo, California, and studied creative writing in college in Pomona, California, and Oxford, England. He started his musical career unsuccessfully in England under the name Kris Carson. Pressured by his family, Kristofferson joined the U.S. Army, but then rejected an opportunity to teach at West Point Academy, leading his parents to disown him. Instead, he moved in 1965 to Nashville, Tennessee, where he swept floors at a record company and flew a commercial helicopter until he began peddling his songs to well-known recording artists in the 1970s. By 1987, it was estimated that more than 450 artists had recorded Kristofferson’s compositions. Kristofferson had several successful albums of his own and launched an acting career; he has appeared in 70 films. His 29th and most recent album, The Cedar Creek Sessions, was released on June 17, 2016.

In 2016, Rolling Stone reported that the 80-year-old Kristofferson was struggling with Lyme disease, originally diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease. At Kristofferson's solo acoustic set tonight at City Winery, the third of three consecutive nights at the venue, there was little evidence of the affliction beyond a much more frail vocal delivery. Kristofferson was charming in his between-song chatter, and accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, the sparse interpretations of his songs demonstrated how gifted he has been as a songwriter. While his soft vocal delivery was absent the husky projection of his past, his new renditions only made the lyrics more poignant and the lonely, pensive passion more genuine. Despite its limitations, Kris Kristofferson's performance was startlingly timeless and a first class experience.

Visit Kris Kristofferson at www.kriskristofferson.com.

Setlist
  1. Shipwrecked in the Eighties (Kris Kristofferson and the Borderlords cover)
  2. Darby's Castle
  3. Me and Bobby McGee
  4. Here Comes That Rainbow Again
  5. Best of All Possible Worlds
  6. Help Me Make It Through the Night
  7. Billy Dee
  8. Rocket to Stardom
  9. Casey's Last Ride
  10. Nobody Wins
  11. Feeling Mortal
  12. From Here to Forever
  13. Broken Freedom Song
  14. Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)
Set 2:
  1. Just the Other Side of Nowhere
  2. Duvalier's Dream
  3. I'd Rather Be Sorry
  4. They Killed Him (Kris Kristofferson and the Borderlords cover)
  5. Jody and the Kid
  6. The Pilgrim, Chapter 33
  7. Jesus Was a Capricorn
  8. To Beat the Devil
  9. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
  10. The Silver Tongued Devil and I
  11. For the Good Times
  12. A Moment of Forever
  13. Why Me
Encore:
  1. Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends (Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge cover)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Mike Peters & the Alarm at the Gramercy Theatre

Mike Peters
Vocalist/guitarist Mike Peters was born in Prestatyn, Wales, and grew up in Rhyl. His musical debut in 1975 was fronting Harry Hippie, a band formed with his schoolmates to perform at his sister's 21st birthday party. After seeing the Sex Pistols perform in 1976, he formed a punk band called the Toilets in 1977, then played in a Who tribute band called Quiasimodo in 1978, and then formed a power pop band called Seventeen. That band evolved into Alarm Alarm, which was shortened to the Alarm in 1981 when the band relocated to London, England. The band sold five million albums before Peters quit the band after a concert in 1991. Since 2000, Peters has used the brand name the Alarm with other musicians. The soundtrack to the documentary Man in the Camo Jacket was released in vinyl on Record Store Day, April 22, 2017; the digital version will be released in June. Peters lives in Dyserth, North Wales.

Mike Peters is a three-time cancer survivor, and his life, musical career, health struggles, and commitment to a cancer foundation called Love Hope Strength were captured in an inspiring documentary, Man in the Camo Jacket. That film debuted at the Gramercy Theatre today and was followed by an acoustic set by Peters in the afternoon and an electric concert by the Alarm in the evening. The electric set was turbo-charged, with Peters singing an archive of 25 uplifting songs of hope, idealistic values and spirituality, and the trio behind him (keyboardist Jules Jones Peters, bassist James Stevenson, and drummer Steve "Smiley" Barnardpowered the songs with a wall of sound. (An additional musician, David Bowie's side man and producer Tony Visconti, joined on bass and back-up vocals on "Sold Me Down the River.") Peters was in fine voice and seemed positively joy-filled. While many of Peters' most recent New York concerts have been solo acoustic, this set was largely booming and bombastic. Far from the band's punk and pop origins, this set was delivered in 1980s-style stadium rock, even when Peters played acoustic guitar and harmonica. More than 35 years after the band began, the world might be in need of another burst of the Alarm's happy rock.

Visit Mike Peters & the Alarm at www.thealarm.com.

Setlist
  1. Brighter Than the Sun
  2. Knife Edge
  3. Coming Backwards
  4. Absolute Reality
  5. There Must Be a Way
  6. Superchannel
  7. Howling Wind
  8. Kill to Get What You Want (Die for What You Believe In)
  9. Time
  10. Love and Understanding
  11. The Drunk and the Disorderly
  12. Peace Now
  13. 68 Guns
  14. Breathe (Mike Peters song)
  15. Rain in the Summertime
  16. Tomorrow
  17. Strength
Encore:
  1. Spirit of '76
  2. My Town
  3. 45 RPM
  4. Blaze of Glory
Encore 2:
  1. Declaration / Marching On
  2. Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke
  3. Sold Me Down the River
  4. Two Rivers

Friday, April 28, 2017

Sweet Crude at the Mercury Lounge

Sam Craft & Alexis Marceaux
In New Orleans, Louisiana, brothers Sam Craft (lead vocals, violin, additional percussion) and Jack Craft (keyboards, vocals) led a band called Glasgow that in its final incarnation included John Arceneaux (drums) and Alexis Marceaux (lead vocals, additional percussion). Alexis and Sam also played in another band, Alexis & the Samurai, with bassist Stephen McDonald (bass) and Skylar Stroup (keyboard, trumpet, vocals). The six formed an indie mega-band in 2013, and later recruited Dave Shirley (drums). Consistent with a desire to remain true to their origins, they selected the name Sweet Crude, acknowledging the oil-rich Gulf Coast, and chose to sing both in English and in the local Cajun French dialect. Sweet Crude released its debut album, Créatures, on April 21, 2017.

Sweet Crude headlined the Mercury Lounge tonight, and proved to be a unique-sounding party band. Sam Craft and Alexis Marceaux led most of the vocals, but there could be as many as five band members shouting in unison as the songs reached their peaks. Adhering to a strict "no guitars" policy, Sweet Crude was driven by cascades of voices, keyboards, bass, and oodles of percussion instruments at strategic apexes. Tribal rhythms abounded, such that the Franglish chants became additional percussion, even as they injected playful "na na-nas." Drawing from the breath of New Orleans' soul, but decidedly not Cajun, zydeco or dixieland-based, Sweet Crude sounded like a marching band that discovered bouncy bilingual parade-pop. Sweet Crude is a band of party-starters with a penchant for keeping it Creole.

Visit Sweet Crude at www.sweetcrudeband.com.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives at the Bowery Ballroom

Marty Stuart
Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Marty Stuart taught himself to play the guitar and mandolin. By age 12, Stuart performed with the bluegrass group The Sullivan Family. At age 14, he began a six-year stint in Lester Flatt's band, then played with Vassar Clements, Doc Watson and then a six-year stint with his future father-in-law, Johnny Cash. Stuart released his first solo album in 1979, and had a string of country hits in the early 1990s. His 18th studio album, Way Out West, was released on March 10, 2017.

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives (guitarist Kenny Vaughan, bassist Chris Scruggs and drummer Harry Stinson) headlined tonight at the Bowery Ballroom and for nearly two hours performed an eclectic mélange of traditional country, bluegrass, honky tonk, rockabilly, gospel and even surf music. Now at age 58, Stuart still sang his hits as clearly as when he recorded them, and also rocked seven songs from his new album and at least six cover songs. These covers included the set-starter, the traditional "I Know Your Rider" (popularized by the Grateful Dead and others), through Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (popularized by the Byrds), and Lefty Frizzell's "Long Black Veil" (popularized by the Band). Stuart sang, played guitar and dazzled on mandolin, and each of his versatile multi-instrumentalists also sang lead on one song and commanded the spotlight for masterful solos, such that the set often seemed more centered on instrumental jams than on songs, particularly when Stuart and Vaughan engaged in string-bending duels. Yet, several of the songs captured attention as epic story songs, particularly with Stuart singing Marty Robbins' "El Paso" and Stinson singing Woody Guthrie's "The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd." Sometimes more western than country, Stuart and company's roots were in old-time folk and country classics, and the high-energy performance gave these old sounds new life.

Visit Marty Stuart at www.martystuart.net.

Setlist
  1. I Know You Rider (traditional)
  2. Whole Lotta Highway
  3. Country Boy Rock & Roll (Marty Stuart song)
  4. The Whiskey Ain't Working (Marty Stuart song)
  5. Mojave
  6. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere (The Byrds cover)
  7. Tempted (Marty Stuart song)
  8. Old Mexico
  9. Country Music Got a Hold On Me (Kenny Vaughan song)
  10. Hot Like That
  11. Way Out West
  12. El Paso (Marty Robbins cover)
  13. Old Souls Like You and Me
  14. The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd (Woody Guthrie cover)
  15. Orange Blossom Special (Rouse Brothers cover)
  16. Runnin' Down A Dream (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
  17. Wait for the Morning
  18. Tear the Woodpile Down
  19. Torpedo
  20. Humming Byrd
Encore:
  1. Long Black Veil (Lefty Frizzell cover)
  2. Time Don’t Wait

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Faster Pussycat at the Bowery Electric

Taime Downe, born Gustave Molvik, grew up in Seattle, Washington, and in high school he formed a band named the Bondage Boys. He later relocated to San Diego, California, then Los Angeles, where he worked in a Hollywood clothing store and ran the stage lights at the Troubadour. In 1985 he formed Faster Pussycat in Los Angeles, California. The name of the band was derived from the film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. After three albums, the band split in 1993. Downe then teamed with the industrial band Pigface before forming his own industrial rock act called the Newlydeads. In 2001 Downe reformed Faster Pussycat with some of his former bandmates, but in 2006, three former original Faster Pussycat members also began performing under the name Faster Pussycat, creating two versions of the band, both claiming to be the original. A year later, the second band dissolved. Downe is the only remaining original band member; Faster Pussycat presently consists of Downe on vocals, Xristian Simon and Ace Von Johnson on guitars, Danny Nordal on bass and Chad Stewart on drums. Faster Pussycat's fourth and most recent studio album is 2006's The Power and the Glory Hole.

Back in its early days, Faster Pussycat symbolized the excesses of the Hollywood rock scene. The band appeared tamer tonight at the Bowery Electric, with Downe simply holding an unlit cigarette between his fingers throughout the show. From the first song, sexual innuendos established the temperature and riff-cracking rock and roll heightened the heat. The band honed its ragged edge with clear guitar leads, fuzz-infused chord changes, and a steady back beat, but it was Downe's scratchy vocals that led the charge. A bad-boy attitude projected from the stage, as Downe and the gang convincingly revisited the down and dirty spirit of the decadent 1980s. For just a little while there was a taste of 1987 in the air.

Visit Faster Pussycat at www.fasterpussycat.com.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Twin Forks at the Bowery Ballroom

Chris Carrabba
Chris Carrabba was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, and lived there until age 16, when he moved with his divorced mother to Boca Raton, Florida. As a teenager, Carrabba sang in his high school choir, played the guitar his uncle gave him, and recorded his first solo album for the enjoyment of his family and friends. After graduating from high school, Carrabba joined his first band, the Vacant Andys, and later, the Agency. While working as a special education teacher at an elementary school in 1998, he joined the group Further Seems Forever in Pompano Beach, Florida, and in 1999 started Dashboard Confessional as a side project. With both bands on hiatus in 2011, Carraba formed Twin Forks in Boca Raton, Florida; the band is currently based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Twin Forks' current members are Carrabba on vocals and guitar, Sara Ellen on vocals, Kelsie Baron on vocals and mandolin, Jonathan Clark on bass and Shawn Zorn on drums. Twin Forks released a self-titled EP in 2013 and a self-titled album in 2014.

Headlining at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Twin Forks brought a pop-flavored Americana that fell somewhere between the Lumineers and Johnnyswim. The music felt like it was back-porch home spun, yet built up to catchy choruses so often that the set more readily might be flagged as commercial pop music. The band spun classic folk and country ingredients beyond their heritage into breezy, playful diddies that easily put a swing in one's hips. Typically, Carrabba soulfully sang alone the verses that escalated quickly to twinned male-female harmonies, where the inevitable punch was landed. Most of the set consisted of original songs, but these were interspersed with covers, notably Talking Heads' "And She Was," which Twin Forks refashioned into its own identity. Slick as it was, Twin Forks' performance successfully married with integrity its fireside folk roots with mainstream sounds.

Visit Twin Forks at www.twinforksmusic.com

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sheryl Crow at the Bowery Ballroom

Born in Kennett, Missouri, Sheryl Crow attended university in nearby Columbia and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music composition, performance, and education. While at the university, she sang in a local band, Cashmere, and after graduating worked as a music teacher at an elementary school in Fenton, Missouri. Teaching during the day granted her the opportunity to sing in bands on the weekends and record advertising jingles. After years of singing backup and writing songs for others, her debut album won three Grammy Awards in 1995 and sold more than 7 million copies. Crow's ninth and most recent studio album, Be Myself, will be released on April 21, 2017. Crow currently lives on farmland near Nashville, Tennessee.

Perhaps as a warm-up to a tour of much larger venues, Sheryl Crow performed a two-and-a-half-hour set tonight at the Bowery Ballroom. The lengthy show allowed her to introduce a few new songs and play all the hits. The concert began with "Every Day Is a Winding Road," with Crow on acoustic guitar and crystal clear vocals while the band played a driving rock; Crow spent more time dancing than strumming on this energetic opener. Crow later rocked the bass and eventually the keyboards. For the most part, Crow eschewed her recent country music excursion for her signature energetic pop rock that was nevertheless tinged often with country melodies and hooks. Even the uninformed in the audience knew which songs were the hits; those were the songs with the very repetitive choruses that the audience chanted with her. The live arrangements were largely up-tempo, all propelled by crisp and fluid guitar leads and an undercurrent of honky-tonk piano. Ever personable, Crow chatted with the audience and offered anecdotes for many songs, particularly her newer songs. All in all, Crow performed a highly enjoyable concert that gave the fans everything they wanted.

Sheryl Crow will bring her "Be Myself Tour" to the Beacon Theatre on June 28.

Visit Sheryl Crow at www.sherylcrow.com.

Setlist
  1. Everyday Is a Winding Road
  2. A Change Would Do You Good / All I Wanna Do
  3. My Favorite Mistake
  4. Be Myself
  5. Long Way Back
  6. Alone In The Dark
  7. Can't Cry Anymore
  8. The First Cut Is the Deepest (Cat Stevens cover)
  9. Grow Up
  10. Heartbeat Away
  11. There Goes the Neighborhood/Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo ( Heartbreaker) (The Rolling Stones cover)
  12. Leaving Las Vegas
  13. Strong Enough
  14. Rest Of Me
  15. The Difficult Kind
  16. Roller Skate
  17. Halfway There
  18. Best of Times
  19. Picture/If It Makes You Happy
  20. Soak Up the Sun
Encore:
  1. Run, Baby, Run
  2. Real Gone
  3. I Shall Believe

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Coco Montoya at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Coco Montoya, born Henry Montoya in Santa Monica, California, began playing drums at age 11 and guitar at age 13. As a young adult, he played drums in local bands until he was recruited into Albert Collins' blues band in the mid-1970s. Over the course of five years, Collins taught Montoya his "icy hot" guitar style, and Montoya gradually began doubling on both drums and guitar. Beginning in the early 1980s, Montoya played guitar in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers for 10 years, then played in the Cate Brothers briefly before going solo in 1993. Montoya's eighth and most current solo album, Hard Truth, was released on March 24, 2017. Presently, Montoya is based in San Fernando Valley, California.

At B.B. King Blues Club & Grill tonight, a left-handed guitarist played a curious left-handed guitar that had a right handed neck, meaning the strings were upside down. Coco Montoya knew where to place his fingers nonetheless as he wailed through lick after lick with seamless ease. He is a child of the 1970s hard-edged blues-rock scene, and so his songs were rife with soulful vocals and smooth melodies that faded into blistering guitar solos that were unmistakably blues-rooted. Backed by a keyboardist, bassist and drummer, Montoya steered clear of feedback and fuzz to bring out the sweet notes that a simple electric guitar can produce, then twisted, squeezed and vibrated the notes for added passion and grace. While the overall style sounded like a blues of yesteryear, Montoya's powerhouse guitar work would be smoking in any era.

Visit Coco Montoya at www.cocomontoyaband.com.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kinky Friedman at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Richard "Kinky" Friedman was born in Chicago, Illinois, but grew up on a ranch in central Texas. In the mid-1960s, as a university student in Austin, Texas, Friedman formed his first band, King Arthur & the Carrots, which lampooned the then-current surf music fad. Chinga Chavin gave Friedman the nickname "Kinky" because of Friedman's curly hair. By 1971, Friedman had formed his second band, Kinky Friedman & the Texas Jewboys. The band became known for satirical lyrics, social commentary and hard-luck country songs, but had little commercial success and split in 1979. Friedman moved to New York, where he performed regularly at the Lone Star Café. Friedman's musical career stalled in the 1980s, and he began writing a series of mystery novels. He also entered into politics and was a candidate for Justice of the Peace in 1986 and governor of Texas in 2016, losing in both elections. Inspired by an encouraging telephone call from Willie Nelson, Friedman plans to release Zoey, an album of new songs, later this year. He is based near Kerrville, Texas, where he founded an animal rescue ranch to care for stray, abused and aging animals.

At B.B. King Blues Club & Grill tonight, Friedman initially took the stage alone with just an acoustic guitar. Later in the set, he welcomed the opening acts, Brian Molnar and Joe Cirotti, to play guitar with him. Compared to the raucous country singer he once was, this set was remarkably tame, as Friedman whispered into the microphone on most songs. Between songs, he told many stories, but sometimes got lost in the telling. Late into the set, he read a lengthy passage from one of his books, A Guide to Texas Etiquette. One of his colleagues, Brian Kanof, auctioned bottles of Friedman's tequila to benefit Friedman's animal rescue cause. While the set was filled with Friedman's light-hearted witticisms, its lack of momentum kept the show perhaps too soft and slow. Friedman is still a character, but not the effervescent and energetic entertainer of his past.

Visit Kinky Friedman at www.kinkyfriedman.com.

Setlist:
  1. Pretty Boy Floyd (Woody Guthrie cover)
  2. Jesus in Pyjamas
  3. Circus of Life
  4. They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore
  5. Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis (Tom Waits cover) (with Joe Cirotti - guitar)
  6. My Shit's Fucked Up (Warren Zevon cover) (with Joe Cirotti - guitar)
  7. Me & My Guitar
  8. Asshole from El Paso (Chinga Chavin cover) (with Chinga Chavin)
  9. A Dog Named Freedom
  10. Saying Goodbye (with Joe Cirotti - guitar)
  11. Pickin' Time (Johnny Cash cover) (with Brian Molnar and Joe Cirotti - guitars)
  12. Zoey (with Brian Molnar and Joe Cirotti - guitars)
  13. Ride 'em Jewboy (with Brian Molnar and Joe Cirotti - guitars)



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Robby Krieger of the Doors at City Winery

Robby Krieger was born in Los Angeles, California, where his first exposure to music was classical. When he was seven, he began listening to early rock and roll on the radio. At age 10, he tried briefly to learn to play the trumpet, but soon preferred playing the blues on his parents' piano. While in boarding school in Menlo Park, California, he used his nightly study time to teach himself the guitar. In the mid-1960s, Krieger took lessons in flamenco guitar, then learned folk, blues, and jazz, and played in a jug band, the Back Bay Chamber Pot Terriers. Krieger became a member of the Doors in 1965 after keyboard player Ray Manzarek's brothers left the group. Led by vocalist Jim Morrison, the Doors became rock music royalty. After Morrison’s death in 1971, Krieger, Manzarek and drummer John Densmore continued the Doors as a trio until 1973. Krieger then formed the Butts Band with Densmore and then recorded solo albums as a jazz-fusion guitarist in the late 1970s and 1980s, and led bands called the Robby Krieger Organization and the Robby Krieger Band in the 1990s. Krieger and Manzarek reformed as the Doors of the 21st Century in 2002 with vocalist Ian Astbury of the Cult.  Densmore disputed the use of the Doors name, and so the band became Riders on the Storm, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of the Doors, and finally, Manzarek–Krieger. Krieger currently tours as Robby Krieger of the Doors. His seventh and most recent solo album is 2010's Singularity.

In recent years, Krieger reverted from jazz fusion experimentation to jamming with Doors cover bands. He relearned the Doors catalogue as it was originally recorded, without extra flourishes. The concert by "Robby Krieger of the Doors" at City Winery tonight was a Doors tribute concert from beginning to end, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the release of the band's debut album. For those who came to hear live versions of familiar favorites by what was essentially a Krieger-led cover band, they got what they needed. The band's ability to mimic the classic records was also the downfall of the concert. Live, the Doors was the world's most unpredictable band, but 50 years later its guitarist was leading the most predictable of all bands. Instead of volatile and alive, all the dynamics were pre-fitted and pre-fabricated to where one could only be in awe as to how inferior this band was compared to the original. Krieger's son, Waylon Krieger, sang all the Morrison parts, and one could only speculate that nepotism secured him the job. The band stretched out a bit towards the end, but it was too little too late. The concert had no mojo rising.

Visit Robby Krieger at www.robbykrieger.com

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Dave Davies at City Winery

Dave Davies was born in North London, England, and grew up playing skiffle, but then bought an electric guitar and started experimenting with rock. Dave and his older brother Ray Davies jammed together in the front room of their house with and their friend, bassist Pete Quaife. Dave founded the Kinks with Quaife in 1963, Ray joined soon after and became the singer and leader of the band, and finally drummer Mick Avory joined and made the group a quintet. The Kinks joined the 1960s British Invasion and hit with "You Really Got Me" and several more singles. The band hit again with "Lola" in 1970 and again with a few more songs in the early 1980s. By 1985, the Kinks' records failed to chart altogether. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, but this did not revive the Kinks' popularity. The Kinks went on hiatus in 1996. Dave Davies released his first solo single in 1967 and his first solo album in 1980. His eighth and most recent solo album, Open Road, was released on March 31, 2017.

Dave Davies suffered a stroke in 2004, and by 2006 was able to resume walking, talking and playing guitar. At City Winery tonight, he seemed back in form. Davies played was the only guitarist on stage and seemed to play leads more prominently than on previous tours. This tour the music was considerably heavier, as Davies led a power trio with bassist David Nolte, formerly of the Last, and drummer Dennis Diken of the Smithereens; "You Really Got Me" sounded more like the Van Halen version than the original Kinks version. Never known to be a good singer, his vocals have improved consistently since his stroke, but still lack the finesse to reach a wider audience. The audience came to enjoy the legacy of the Kinks, however, and Davies' responded by performing only two songs from his new album and all the rest from the Kinks era. Nearly all the songs were more hard rocking than their original versions and the mid-period songs lacked the intricate arrangements of the studio recordings, but perhaps this made the performance interesting rather than paint-by-numbers.

Visit Dave Davies at www.davedavies.com.

Setlist
  1. Open Road
  2. I Need You (The Kinks song)
  3. She's Got Everything (The Kinks song)
  4. Creeping Jean (The Kinks song)
  5. Tired of Waiting for You (The Kinks song)
  6. Susannah's Still Alive
  7. Love Me Till the Sun Shines (The Kinks song)
  8. See My Friends (The Kinks song)
  9. Path Is Long
  10. Strangers (The Kinks song)
  11. Too Much on My Mind (The Kinks song)
  12. Young and Innocent Days (The Kinks song)
  13. This Man He Weeps Tonight (The Kinks song)
  14. I Am Free (The Kinks song)
  15. Death of a Clown
  16. Dead End Street (The Kinks song)
  17. Living on a Thin Line (The Kinks song)
  18. Wicked Annabella (The Kinks song)
  19. Where Have All the Good Times Gone (The Kinks song)
  20. All Day and All of the Night (The Kinks song)
Encore:
  1. I'm Not Like Everybody Else (The Kinks song)
  2. You Really Got Me (The Kinks song)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Dale Watson & Ray Benson at City Winery

A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ray Benson formed western swing band Asleep at the Wheel in 1970 and in 1973 took the advice of Willie Nelson and relocated the band to Austin, Texas. Traditionalist country music artist Dale Watson, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, grew up outside of Pasadena, Texas, and was based in Houston, Los Angeles and Nashville before settling in Austin. Since both musicians were based in the same town, it seemed inevitable that the two would eventually record together an album of vintage-sounding country music. Dale & Ray was released on January 6, 2017.

At City Winery, it became clear almost immediately that there would be as much joking as singing during the show, as the lively camaraderie between Dale Watson and Ray Benson led to more corny punch lines than an old-time episode of Hee-Haw. Fortunately, their larger-than-life personalities did not overshadow their music, but actually gave the songs a context. For instance, the audience learned that Watson bought a tour bus from Benson, but it turned out to be a lemon; instead of a bad deal turning their relationship sour, it inspired a tongue-in-cheek song, "Bus Breakdown." The two baritones sang well, both separately and together, and led their band through original songs and covers of the Louvin Brothers' "I Wish I Knew," Bob Wills' "Take Me Back to Tulsa," Merle Haggard's "Misery and Gin," Willie Nelson's "Write Your Own Songs" and others. The set was light and whimsical, occasionally a little naughty, with a deliberately unfiltered Texas swagger.

Visit Dale Watson & Ray Benson at www.daleandray.com.

Setlist
  1. (Unknown) (instrumental Dale & Ray band)
  2. Johnny's Theme (Johnny Carson cover) (Dale & Ray introduction)
  3. I Wish You Knew (The Louvin Brothers cover)
  4. The Ballad of Dale and Ray
  5. "Lone Star Beer commercial"
  6. Bus' Breakdown
  7. Take Me Back to Tulsa (Bob Wills cover)
  8. Feelin' Haggard
  9. Misery and Gin (Merle Haggard cover)
  10. Jonesin' for Jones (Dale Watson song)
  11. Sittin' and Thinkin' About You
  12. A Hangover Ago
  13. Cryin' to Cryin' Time Again
  14. Forget About Tomorrow Today
  15. Write Your Own Songs (Willie Nelson cover)
  16. South of Round Rock, Texas (Dale Watson song)
  17. Miles and Miles of Texas (Asleep at the Wheel cover)
  18. Carryin' on This Way (Dale Watson song)
  19. Route 66 (Bobby Troup cover)
  20. I Lie When I Drink (Dale Watson song)
  21. Hot Rod Lincoln (Charlie Ryan cover)
  22. Johnny's Theme (Johnny Carson cover) (band outro)

Encore:
  1. Big Balls in Cowtown (Bob Wills cover)
  2. Truckin' Man (Dale Watson song)
  3. Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way (Waylon Jennings cover)
  4. Johnny's Theme (Johnny Carson cover) (band outro)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Son Volt at the Bowery Ballroom

Chris Frame and Jay Farrar
Jay Farrar learned to play the guitar as a 12 year old in Belleville, Illinois, and in high school teamed with Jeff Tweedy to form a garage rock band called the Primitives. The lead singer quit to attend college, Farrar and Tweedy recruited drummer Mike Heidorn , and the trio began incorporating the country music influence of their youth along with some traditional folk sounds; they renamed the band Uncle Tupelo in 1987 and grew into a quintet. Relationships soured and Farrar quit in 1994 and reunited with Heidorn to form Son Volt, leaving the remaining Uncle Tupelo musicians to form Wilco. Son Volt recorded three albums, then went on hiatus in 1999. Farrar launched a solo career in 2001, then reformed the Son Volt brand in 2005 with new personnel. Son Volt presently consists of Farrar (vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano), Chris Frame (guitar), Mark Spencer (keyboards, steel guitar), Andrew Duplantis (bass) and Mark Patterson (drums). Son Volt released its eighth and most recent album, Notes of Blue, on February 17, 2017. The band in based out of St. Louis, Missouri.

While Wilco continually expands its soundscape, Son Volt took the opposite approach at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, holding fast to the alt-country genre it helped to invent, adding only a dash of blues. Onstage, Farrar exhibited virtually no personality, rarely speaking or otherwise acknowledging the audience or his band mates and nearly always singing with his eyes shut tightly. He cranked out some impressive guitar solos and sang with a rugged, weathered, and yet durable voice that at its most grooving points sounded like it fell somewhere between Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young and possibly Creedence Clearwater Revival. Son Volt's identity was found in the music, however, with Son Volt rocking an unmistakable country twang and a blues swing, all hinged on an Americana-roots skeleton. The set emphasized the new album, but as the band dug deep into its repertoire, it wound up performing most of its debut album as well. The band cranked out 26 songs in rapid fashion, even coming back out for encores of three Uncle Tupelo songs and a cover of a Rolling Stones song.

Visit Son Volt at www.sonvolt.net.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

John Mayer at Madison Square Garden

Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and raised in nearby Fairfield, John Mayer became fascinated with the guitar after watching Michael J. Fox's character play one in Back to the Future. When he turned 13, his father rented one for him, and Mayer started taking lessons from a local guitar-shop owner. After two years of practice, while still in high school, Mayer started performing live, both solo and in a band called Villanova Junction. At age 17, Mayer was hospitalized for a weekend with cardiac dysrhythmia and wrote his first lyrics the night he left the hospital. At age 20, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he played acoustic rock in local clubs. Moving between the worlds of pop, blues and, most recently, playing Grateful Dead songs with Dead & Company, Mayer won seven Grammy Awards and sold over 20 million albums. His seventh and most recent album, The Search for Everything, will be released on April 14, 2017. He currently lives in Bozeman, Montana.

John Mayer's current live show is divided into full band, solo acoustic and trio "chapters," yet features a loose set list. Headlining at Madison Square Garden tonight, Mayer's show was retrospective while highlighting his more recent work. In recent years, Mayer was sidelined at least twice by vocal issues requiring surgery, but he sang well, a slight rasp lending more depth to his bluesy delivery. He performed the hits, deep cuts, covers and mash-ups, showcasing his abilities both as singer-songwriter and blues guitarist. The staging likewise was intricately crafted, as segments were introduced on a screen and, for the acoustic set, the stage at Madison Square Garden visually became a Japanese garden, complete with a small bridge. Indeed, Mayer and company uniquely and successfully bridged the genres that satisfied both younger pop fans and their guitar-loving dads. By the end of the 21-song set, both facets would applaud Mayer's credentials. Next up, Mayer will resume touring this summer as part of Dead & Company.

Visit John Mayer at www.johnmayer.com.

Setlist
Chapter 1: Full Band
  1. Moving On and Getting Over
  2. Helpless
  3. Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
  4. Waiting on the World to Change
  5. War  (Bob Marley & the Wailers cover) (David Ryan Harris singing)
Chapter 2: Acoustic
  1. Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967
  2. Emoji of a Wave
  3. Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)
Chapter 3: Trio
  1. Crossroads (Robert Johnson cover)
  2. Vultures
  3. Bold as Love (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
Chapter 4: Full Band (Reprise)
  1. Who Says
  2. Stop This Train
  3. Queen of California > Fire on the Mountain (Grateful Dead cover)
  4. Still Feel Like Your Man
  5. Why Georgia
Encore
  1. Love on the Weekend
  2. Gravity
Chapter 5: Epilogue
  1. You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Pretenders at Terminal 5

Chrissie Hynde & John McEnroe
Originally from Akron, Ohio, Chrissie Hynde wandered through the United Sates, France and the United Kingdom until 1973, when she settled in London, England, working for a music newspaper and a punk clothing store. After a few bands went nowhere, she began sorting out her own music briefly with drummer Gas Wilde of Hereford, England, and by 1978 had solidified a band comprised of three musicians from Hereford. Hynde named the band the Pretenders after the Platters song "The Great Pretender." After the drug-related deaths of two band members in the early 1980s, the lineup changed frequently until the Pretenders went on hiatus in 1988. Hynde revived the brand name in 1990 using session musicians until she assembled a new lineup in 1993. The Pretenders became dormant again in 2012, and Hynde launched a solo career in 2014. The Pretenders' 10th and most recent album, Alone, released on October 21, 2016, was essentially Hynde's second solo album with session musicians. She then reconvened the most recent Pretenders line-up in 2016 to promote the album, with Hynde on vocals and guitar, James Walbourne on lead guitar, Eric Heywood on pedal steel, Nick Wilkinson on bass, and Martin Chambers returning on drums.

The Pretenders are on tour supporting Stevie Nicks, but found a night off to headline at Terminal 5 tonight. Perhaps because of the opening band slot, this Pretenders tour was a greatest hits package, with 13 of the 19 songs originating from the band's peak period in the 1980s. At first tonight, Hynde sounded as if she had lost her signature vocals. It took about four songs before that distinctive voice made its way to the forefront and proved that it retained the same refinement of the past. Although born in the punk era, the Pretenders now sounded more like a classic rock band, with precise guitar chops and super-clean vocals gyrating around strong pop melodies. On softer songs like "I'll Stand By You," the Pretenders sounded more like a commercial power ballads band. Ricky Peterson replaced Heywood on keyboards tonight, and all that the Pretenders did, the band did slickly. For a finale, John McEnroe joined the Pretenders on lead guitar, and Hynde announced a lifting of the ban against photography at the concert. But why was there a ban in the first place?

Visit the Pretenders at www.thepretenders.com.
  1. Alone
  2. Gotta Wait
  3. Message of Love
  4. Private Life
  5. Down the Wrong Way (Chrissie Hynde song)
  6. Hymn to Her
  7. Talk of the Town
  8. Back on the Chain Gang
  9. Stop Your Sobbing (The Kinks cover)
  10. I'll Stand by You
  11. Don't Get Me Wrong
  12. My City Was Gone
  13. Mystery Achievement
  14. Middle of the Road
  15. Brass in Pocket

Encore:
  1. Let's Get Lost
  2. Thumbelina
  3. Up the Neck
  4. Precious

Sunday, April 2, 2017

James McMurtry at City Winery

In Fort Worth, Texas, novelist Larry McMurtry gave his seven-year-old son, James McMurtry, the boy's first guitar. The boy's mother taught him his first three chords; the rest he learned by ear or by watching other musicians. As a teenager in Leesburg, Virginia, he began writing and performing, a path that continued as a university student in Tucson, Arizona. After traveling to Alaska and playing a few gigs, he returned to Houston and then San Antonio, Texas, where he worked as a house painter, actor, bartender, and sometimes singer. In 1987 he was one of six winners in the Kerrville Folk Festival's New Folk songwriter contest, launching his professional aspirations. His ninth and most recent studio album is 2015's Complicated Game. McMurtry currently resides in Austin, Texas.

On this tour, James McMurtry performed solo rather than with a backing band. At City Winery tonight, this quieter approach accented his vocals, his guitar picking skills and especially his lyrics. Although many of his fans have touted him as a story teller, his lyrics actually were more akin to still photographs, painting a person or a scene with little movement. Many were observations, some leaned towards commentary, but they were all poignant, lengthy and visual. When McMurtry turned to his acoustic guitar and ripped a speedy solo, the listener was simultaneously mesmerized by his picking and the images incurred by the previous lyrics. His deep, relaxed singing made the stories all that much more authentic.

Visit James McMurtry at www.jamesmcmurtry.com.

Setlist
  1. Melinda
  2. Saint Mary of the Woods
  3. Red Dress
  4. Copper Canteen
  5. You Got to Me
  6. Ain't Got a Place
  7. Choctaw Bingo
  8. Hurricane Party
  9. How'm I Gonna Find You Now
  10. Long Island Sound
  11. Levelland
  12. Carlisle's Haul
  13. Restless
  14. Lights of Cheyenne

Encore:

  1. Peter Pan