Friday, January 12, 2018

The Killers at Madison Square Garden

Brandon Flowers
Vocalist/keyboardist Brandon Flowers was fired by his first band, a synthpop trio known as Blush Response, in 2001 in Las Vegas, Nevada. After attending an Oasis concert, Flowers felt affirmed that his calling was to be in a rock band. He responded to a classified ad by guitarist Dave Keuning, who had moved to Las Vegas from Iowa a year earlier. The two bonded and immediately began writing songs together in Keuning's apartment. After a few shifts in personnel in 2001, the Killers stabilized in 2002 with Flowers, Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. The band's name was derived from a logo on the bass drum of a fictitious band in the music video for a New Order song. Since then, the Killers sold more than 22 million records worldwide and won numerous awards. The Killers released a fifth studio album, Wonderful Wonderful, on September 22, 2017.

The Killers returned to Madison Square Garden tonight, but with a different lineup. Flowers and Vannucci were present, but while Keuning and Stoermer remain members of the band, they declined to tour. Guitarist/keyboardist Ted Sablay substituted for Keuning and bassist Jake Blanton filled in for Stoermer. Keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Robbie Connolly and lead guitarist Taylor Milne of Big Talk, Vannucci's side project, and three backing vocalists were also on stage. The musicians took the stage to the thunderous groove of "Wonderful Wonderful," all dressed in black except for Flowers' bubble-gum pink leather sports jacket. From that ostentatious moment, it appeared the Killers was all about Flowers. He stalked the stage left and right, raised his hands in outsized gestures while standing on monitors at the stage's edge, and plainly played the rock star, while the musicians supported his skyrocketing vocals. No solos or instrumental breaks were particularly spotlighted save for Vannucci's impressive drumming. Nevertheless, this was solid rock and roll, cleaned and polished for the masses, given added dynamics by video screens and confetti cannons. The Killers' concert was air-tight and rehearsed for perfection, but perhaps it would have sounded more authentic if the performance had been just a wee bit dirty and sloppy.

Visit the Killers at www.thekillersmusic.com.

Set list
  1. Wonderful Wonderful
  2. The Man
  3. Somebody Told Me
  4. Spaceman
  5. The Way It Was
  6. Run for Cover
  7. I Can't Stay
  8. Smile Like You Mean It
  9. For Reasons Unknown
  10. Just What I Needed (The Cars cover)
  11. Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
  12. Rut
  13. Human
  14. This River Is Wild
  15. A Dustland Fairytale
  16. Romeo and Juliet (Dire Straits cover)
  17. Runaways
  18. Read My Mind
  19. All These Things That I've Done
Encore:
  1. The Calling
  2. When You Were Young
  3. Mr. Brightside 


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Anderson East at the Bowery Ballroom

Michael Anderson, now known professionally as Anderson East, grew up in Athens, Alabama, where as a boy he sang in church and had his first solo when he was about seven years old. His father gave him a guitar when the younger Anderson was 11 years old. In the seventh grade, he wrote his first song, called "Brains," and performed it at his school talent show. As a youth, he also taught himself piano. He began experimenting with the recording process when he got a four-track recorder, and later, during his college years in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, he went further and studied music engineering. Two years later, he moved to nearby Nashville and released two indie albums, the first in 2009 as Mike Anderson and the second in 2012 as Anderson East. He broke into the Nashville music scene by writing songs for others and working as both a session musician and a recording engineer. As he collaborated with other artists, his music and concerts reached a wider audience. East's fourth album, Encore, will be released tomorrow, January 12, 2018.

Launching a five-month national tour at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, several of Anderson East's verses may have hinted at a sliver of country twang, but despite its Nashville origins, overall his music was not country music by any means. While strains of Americana were embedded in his music, East was a gritty gospel-like rhythm and blues crooner and his band rocked, tempered on a few songs by a string quartet that East introduced midway through the set. Saying he was especially proud of his new album, East performed 10 of its 11 songs, with only five songs in the set from his earlier works. The songs rode pop melodies, but the arrangements were big and full, with 12 musicians booming with power and energy. East's rich, soulful and mercurial vocals whispered and roared, at all times capturing a fervent honesty that presented him as a regular blue-collar guy with a rustic musical style. This was earthy and spirit-filled heartland music that defied the conventions of Nashville's music machine.

Visit Anderson East at www.andersoneast.com.

Setlist:
  1. Sorry You're Sick (Ted Hawkins cover)
  2. Girlfriend
  3. Surrender
  4. If You Keep Leaving Me
  5. Somebody Pick Up My Pieces (Willie Nelson cover)
  6. Devil in Me
  7. Learning
  8. Quit You
  9. King for a Day
  10. Without You
  11. Satisfy Me
  12. All on My Mind
  13. This Too Shall Last
Encore:
  1. Find 'Em, Fool 'Em and Forget 'Em (George Jackson cover)
  2. House Is a Building

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Dorothy at the Bowery Ballroom

Dorothy Martin
Guitarist Sam Wofford of the Remedy heard his cousin sing in 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Dorothy Martin had a powerful, bluesy voice. Wofford introduced her to the leader of his band, Mark Johnson, and Johnson's production partner, Ian Scott, who together imagined her singing in front of a blues-rock band. Rounding up available musicians and naming the band Dorothy, the team cut "After Midnight" as a music video in 2014, and this launched a career. The band generated a local buzz with several singles, then a 2014 EP and a 2016 debut album, Rockisdead. On May 5, 2017, Dorothy released "Down to the Bottom" as the lead single from the second studio album, which will be released in 2018. Dorothy presently consists of Martin, guitarists Nick Maybury and Eli Wulfmeier, bassist Eliot Lorango, and drummer Jason Ganberg.

Charting a forward-looking path, Dorothy performed 10 new songs and only four older songs tonight at the Bowery Ballroom. Ironically, though, the overall sound was a throwback to classic rock of decades gone by, highlighted by searing vocals and fuzzy, charging guitar riffs. Contrasting the music's gutsy approach, Martin sang and spoke between songs about the positive power of sweet love, revealing the singer's tenderness and possible vulnerability. Above all, Dorothy's performance showcased the strength, range and intensity of Martin's grand vocal prowess. What was lacking was the visual, however; the stage was so dark throughout the set that it was challenging for the majority of the fans to see more than a red or blue silhouette of the performers.

Visit Dorothy at www.dorothytheband.com.

Setlist:
  1. White Butterfly
  2. Who Do You Love
  3. After Midnight
  4. Naked Eye
  5. Raise Hell
  6. Pretty When You're High
  7. We Need Love
  8. Philadelphia
  9. Wicked Ones
  10. Ain't Our Time to Die
  11. Flawless
  12. Down to the Bottom
  13. Freedom
Encore:
  1. Dark Nights

The Washington Squares at City Winery

Lauren Agnelli, Tom Goodkind
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Tom Goodkind was playing bass in a garage-rock band, U.S. Ape, and booking music acts at popular New York City new wave venues. His musical tastes started moving in a new direction and he started collaborating with Bruce Jay Paskow, formerly the lead guitarist in the Invaders. In 1983, they brainstormed with Lauren Agnelli, who played in Nervus Rex, wrote about the music scene for a local newspaper, and waitressed in a popular rock club. Fueled by Agnelli's free drinks, they committed to revive the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s and named the venture the Washington Squares after the area's emblematic park. They had little knowledge of folk so they bought old records, resourced veteran folksingers, and sent Goodkind to research folk music at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The Washington Squares released two albums in the 1980s, but split when Paskow died in 1994. Previously unreleased recordings are planned for release, the most current being 2018's pending Monsters of Folk Vol. 2 Sessions 1985 - 1987.

Not counting a little-publicized set at Sidewalk in February 2017,  the Washington Squares tonight performed the band's first official concert in 25 years at City Winery, this time featuring Goodkind, Agnelli, bassist Mike Fornatale and drummer Billy Ficca. The Washington Squares was an ironic band in the 1980s, and perhaps even more so now. Still wearing matching beatnik-era striped shirts and black berets, the Washington Squares played a style evocative of the folk artists of the Kennedy era, but updated twice with the band's original Reagan-era grievances and now newly-charged Trump-era discontent. The Washington Squares opened with a mirror of Peter, Paul & Mary's "Samson and Delilah" and ended with a mirror of the Kingston Trio's "Greenback Dollar," but with jangling guitars and soaring harmonies throughout, the set ended up sounding more like electrified 1960s pop than folk. Although born of rough times, the Washington Squares delivered the songs in a rather light-hearted manner. Even the band's original social commentary, "You Can't Kill Me," inspired by the assassination of gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, now seemed to have an uptempo twist. For the encore, the band brought on stage musicians Peter Yarrow, Michelle Shocked, and Richard Barone, along with poet Anne Waldman, for a rousing revival of Pete Seeger songs. In today's political and social turmoil, perhaps it is as appropriate a time as ever for the satirical follies of the Washington Squares.

Visit the Washington Squares at www.washingtonsquares.com.

Setlist:
Set 1:
  1. Samson and Delilah ([traditional] cover)
  2. Can't Stop the Rain
  3. You Are Not Alone
  4. Lay Down Your Arms
  5. You Can't Kill Me (>) Gospel Plow ([traditional] cover) (>) You Can't Kill Me
Set 2:
  1. Daylight
  2. Fourth Day of July ([traditional] cover)
  3. Charcoal (including "Riches" (William Blake poem))
  4. He Was a Friend of Mine ([traditional] cover)
  5. Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen cover)
  6. New Generation
  7. Greenback Dollar (Hoyt Axton cover)
Encore:
  1. Sweet Jane (The Velvet Underground cover, with Michelle Shocked, Richard Barone, and Anne Waldman)
  2. If I Had a Hammer (The Weavers cover, with Peter Yarrow, Michelle Shocked, Richard Barone, and Anne Waldman)
  3. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? (Pete Seeger cover, with Peter Yarrow, Michelle Shocked, Richard Barone, and Anne Waldman)
  4. This Land Is Your Land (Pete Seeger cover, with Peter Yarrow, Michelle Shocked, Richard Barone, and Anne Waldman)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Tom Cochrane at City Winery

Tom Cochrane was born in Winnipeg, Canada, and lived in various parts of Manitoba and Ontario for most of his life. He purchased his first guitar at age 11 by selling a toy train set, and began performing across Canada by age 20. He briefly composed movie soundtracks in Los Angeles, California, but unable to find steady income, Cochrane returned to Toronto, where he drove a taxi cab and worked on the loading dock of a department store. He joined the rock band Red Rider in 1978 and served as lead singer and main songwriter for more than 10 years. By 1986, the band was billed as Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. Cochrane launched his solo career in 1991. Since 2002, Cochrane has reunited periodically with his former Red Rider band mates for concert tours. His sixth and most recent solo album is 2015's Take It Home. Cochrane currently lives in Oakville, Ontario, but spends winters part-time at his home outside of Austin, Texas.

Tom Cochrane has been a professional singer/guitarist for 40 years, but the current tour continues to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first post-Red Rider solo album, the multi-million selling Mad Mad World (actually released 27 years ago). Presumably in his homeland an event like this would be staged in a large venue, but in the states, where he is less known, the tour took him tonight to the intimate setting of City Winery. This was Cochrane's first performance in New York in 10 years, and so he performed a two-hour show featuring Mad Mad World and highlights from throughout his career. The unique feature this time was that he was accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar and by an accompanist guitarist, Bill Bell. The mostly bare stage gave the appearance of a folk music concert, but the tea-sipping Cochrane poured intense energy into his vocals and strummed his guitar wildly like he was back in his arena days. With such a minimal backdrop, there was little to disguise the breadth of Cochrane's catalogue and his dedication to his craft. Only under these circumstances would one come to understand that Cochrane was a songwriter first and a rocker second. If "Life Is a Highway," as he sang in his best-known song, that path was filled with sharply insightful lyrics and a dedication to a passionate delivery.

Visit Tom Cochrane at www.tomcochrane.com.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Concert for Island Relief at Radio City Music Hall

Dave Matthews, the Trey Anastasio Band, Aaron Neville, and Hurray for the Riff Raff performed a charity benefit called the Concert for Island Relief at Radio City Music Hall tonight. Matthews performed mostly solo acoustic and Neville was accompanied only by a guitarist and pianist, but the Trey Anastasio Band was a full eight-piece ensemble.

All proceeds from the event and from online donations will benefit hurricane relief efforts in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Funds will support both immediate and long-term needs in the devastating aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The Madison Square Garden Company donated the use of Radio City Music Hall and covered all venue-related expenses, so that all proceeds from "A Concert for Island Relief" will go directly to organizations benefiting the victims of the hurricanes that devastated parts of the Caribbean. Additionally, Ticketmaster donated its net proceeds from ticket service fees to this event.
Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff
Aaron Neville
Trey Anastasio of the Trey Anastasio Band
Aaron Neville, Trey Anastasio and David Matthews
Hurray for the Riff Raff setlist
  1. Nothing's Gonna Change That Girl
  2. Hungry Ghost
  3. Rican Beach
  4. Living in the City
Aaron Neville setlist
  1. Stand by Me (Ben E. King cover)
  2. Bird on the Wire (Leonard Cohen cover)
  3. This Magic Moment (The Drifters cover)
  4. A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke cover)
  5. Three Little Birds (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover)
  6. Stir It Up (The Wailers cover)
  7. Louisiana 1927 (Randy Newman cover)
Trey Anastasio Band setlist
  1. Mozambique (Trey Anastasio song)
  2. Everything's Right
  3. Sand (Phish cover)
  4. Valentine (Trey Anastasio song)
  5. Dark and Down (Trey Anastasio song)
  6. Curlew's Call (Trey Anastasio song)
  7. Money, Love and Change (Trey Anastasio song)
  8. Clint Eastwood (Gorillaz cover)
  9. Push On 'Til the Day (Trey Anastasio song)
  10. The Parting Glass (a cappella, traditional cover)
Dave Matthews setlist
  1. Don't Drink the Water (Dave Matthews Band song)
  2. Stay or Leave
  3. Funny the Way It Is (Dave Matthews Band song)
  4. So Damn Lucky
  5. Samurai Cop (Dave Matthews Band song)
  6. Grey Street (Dave Matthews Band song)
  7. Mercy (Dave Matthews Band song, with Rashawn Ross)
  8. Satellite (Dave Matthews Band song, with Rashawn Ross & Ben the Sax Guy)
  9. Save Me (with Rashawn Ross & Ben the Sax Guy)
  10. Some Devil
  11. Dancing Nancies (Dave Matthews Band song)
Encore:
  1. Waste (Phish cover by Dave Matthews and Trey Anastasio)
  2. The Maker (Daniel Lanois cover by Dave Matthews, the Trey Anastasio Band, Aaron Neville, Rashawn Ross & Ben the Sax Guy)
  3. Iko Iko (The Dixie Cups cover by Dave Matthews, the Trey Anastasio Band, Aaron Neville, Rashawn Ross & Ben the Sax Guy)
  4. (I Want to Take You) Higher (Sly & The Family Stone cover by Dave Matthews, the Trey Anastasio Band, Aaron Neville, Rashawn Ross & Ben the Sax Guy)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Joseph Arthur at City Winery

 In his early teens in Akron, Ohio, Joseph Arthur inherited an electronic keyboard from his aunt and began writing and playing music. At age 16, he played bass in a blues band called Frankie Starr & the Chill Factor. In the early 1990s, Arthur relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, and sold guitars at a musical instruments store by day and played local clubs and recorded home demos by night. One demo caught the attention of Peter Gabriel, who then helped launch Arthur's career by financing Arthur's debut album. Arthur has played in several short-lived and commercially unsuccessful supergroups: Holding the Void with Pat Sansone of Wilco and the Autumn Defense in 2002-2003, Fistful of Mercy with Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison in 2010, and RNDM with Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament in 2012. Arthur is also a painter and designer, and in 2006 published a visual collection of his artworks in a book entitled We Almost Made It. Arthur's 14th and most recent album, The Family, was released on June 3, 2016.

Returning to City Winery for his eighth annual New Year's Night residency, the Brooklyn-based Arthur once again played solo. In past performances he built his songs by looping guitar, percussion and vocal lines live, but this time almost all the tracks were pre-looped. Nevertheless, he ingeniously created a layered sonic palette by singing and playing guitar along with and adding to the prerecorded tracks. His lyrics were poetic, often brooding introspectively with emotional and spiritual struggles, and he sang them with brawny confidence, sometimes harmonizing with himself via loop effects. On this particular evening, Arthur was especially jovial, charmingly engaging his audience with amusing banter between songs. Arthur also drew on a canvas, saying he hoped to sell the painting so he could use the money to escape the cold and fly to Mexico. Arthur's performance was unique and splendid, a terrific model for how to stage a one-person show imaginatively.

Visit Joseph Arthur at www.josepharthur.com.