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