Thursday, December 21, 2017

More Miss Tess please

I keep an eye on her schedule but didn't realize until the last minute that Miss Tess and the Talkbacks were going to be back in The Burren on a December Wednesday night (we saw her there on a December Thursday night last year).  And this would be the last day of Fall (12/20).

Met Sarah at The Burren after work and had a beer or two with some other GA early-enthusiasts.  The seats in front of the stage were not set up (the room was 75% full at most), but we got good seats in the back.  I have to say that they had grilled tuna on the special list, I ordered it, and it was a beyond-excellent, very large piece of fish.  Black on the outside with some nice spices and just past raw in the center, I can still taste it!

Anyway, harrumph, the beer was cold (Long Trail Limbo IPA) and the show was a lot of fun.  Miss Tess is still playing with basically the same band, the excellent Thomas Bryan Eaton on electric and Sam Zucchini on drums, with a new bass player (James Gascon?).  And she's still playing an outrageously wonderfully rich guitar.  It was a shock to realize that we hadn't seen her for a year.

Miss Tess has written some amazing songs and didn't play many new ones, though she did play a bunch from the last couple of records, including Ride That Train (second in the set), Little Lola, I Can't Help Myself, Do You Want My Love, Take You Break You Shake You, Moonshiner, Raitt's Give It Up Or Let Me Go, and Save Me St. Peter, which is apparently a song about finally getting a parking space on St. Peter Street in JP.

So it was pretty much a repeat of the Miss Tess show and wasn't really crackling, except for some leads by Eaton.  But Sarah and I had a great time and will go to see her again next time she's back in Somerville (or wherever).  Another of those musicians we can't believe is not wildly popular, as agreed to by our fellow enthusiasts.  And I loved the tuna.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

JRAD and HOB Combine Twice

Yikes, time to go see JRAD again!  This would be the last in our recent set of incredible Fall concerts.  Sorry to have this excellent 2017 season end, but how lucky are we anyway?  Gotta appreciate these things.

First snow of the season in Boston and it was 6 inches of wet, heavy stuff that started coming down mid-morning and didn't stop.  We managed to ignore it and headed into the Fenway area on schedule ... then found out on the way that JRAD had just posted that the doors would be opening at 6 instead of 7 to deal with the storm.  Could be that this was actually more a response to Friday's slow, slow, slow security situation, which many people were complaining about on social media, than to the storm.  People were complaining about inappropriate touching and there seems to be a rash of that lately.

We were early as always, but what this change of times meant to us was that we'd better eat dinner fast (we had 5:30 reservations at the HOB Restaurant and were on time) just in case people entering at 6 snagged our spot!  The beer was cold, but they really don't do "food" well at the "HOB Restaurant."  Oh well, the reason we go there is to get something in our stomachs and most of all, to be more assured of getting in early.  We split up the tickets and Sarah and Dave grabbed the receipt and headed for the doors, with me not far behind.  When I got there there was no line, and the search wasn't quite as extensive as it had been Friday.

So what this meant was that we had 90 minutes or so to cool our heels in our preferred corner.  The merch table was exactly as it was yesterday ... nothing new there.  But again, the beer was cold and the crowd really filled in quickly.  As I say, the great majority of the people there were not going to miss a minute of this, snow be damned.  The HOB was pretty packed by 8 and the guys came out a few minutes after that.

In some ways this was a very different concert from Friday.  Friday events everywhere to our experience, and particularly in the Fenway area, are frantic, crowded, and wild.  This Saturday (maybe because a few people opted to stay home?) was much more mellow, less crowded (we had room to dance all night), and developed at a more mature pace.

Here's Costello again:

Costello here. Here's what I think I heard:
Show #135
House Of Blues
Boston, MA
Night Two of Two
Set One (8:09pm - 9:19pm)
Promised Land >
Shakedown Street @ ->
Jam # ->
The Other One $ >
Viola Lee Blues % >
Cats Under The Stars ^
One More Saturday Night
Set Two (9:53pm - 12:01am)
Feel Like A Stranger & ->
Franklin’s Tower >
Dancing In The Streets * >
Eyes Of The World + ->
Jam @@ ->
Let It Grow ## >
Standing On The Moon $$>
Truckin' ->
Music Never Stopped Jam -
Truckin’ Reprise ->
Born Cross Eyed Jam
GDTRFB %% > WBYGN (Instrumental)
@ - Unfinished
# - With a “Love Supreme” (John Coltrane)
$ - With a Playin Tease (Band)
% - With a Throwin Stones Tease (Band), a China Cat Tease (TH), a DD/MB Duo Jam, with TH on Drums, & a “Shortnin’ Bread” (James Whitcomb Riley) Tease (MB)
^ - With a “Walk Like An Egyptian” (The Bangles) tease (MB), a China Cat Tease (SM), a “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” (Michael Jackson) Tease (SM) & a “St. Thomas” (Sonny Rollins) Tease (SM)
& - With an Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin) Tease, a “Tom’s Diner” (Suzanne Vega) Tease (SM) and a Slipknot! Tease (Band)
* - With a DD Bass Solo, “Tell Me A Bedtime Story” (Herbie Hancock) Jam (MB) & Eyes Teases (Band)
+ - “Flipped” Version - Started with the “’73 Ending” Changes played in the key of Dancin’, and a DD Bass Solo
@@ - With a “Fly Like An Eagle” (Steve Miller) Tease (MB)
## - With an “Amazing Grace” (Traditional) Tease (TH), an “If You Think I’m Sexy” (Rod Stewart) // “My Prerogative” (Bobby Brown) Jam that included audience vocals, and a Slipknot! Tease (Band)
$$ - Not played since Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY, 2015-10-2, a gap of 88 shows
%% - With a Not Fade Away Tease (Band)
Pre Show Music: Costello’s Spotify Petty Mix:
Set Break Music: Metzger’s Spotify Early Rock N Roll Mix
Walk Out Music: Man in the Mirror / Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Poster: Colortest
Thanks to the House of Blues Boston staff & crew for improving tonight's entry process for our fans. Our deepest gratitude to everyone that came out & supported the band in 2017. We'll see you all in 2018.
  • Everyone was playing as excellently as they had the night before.  In fact, I could repeat many observations from yesterday, such as Joe's great positioning, Dave's absolute funk (he and Marco did a duo jam, and I wouldn't have been surprised to hear him solo), and the absolutely stellar sound.
  • Tommy was back to his regular guitar, no Wolf, and shockingly he did not have a scarf on.  He seemed almost naked without it!  But you'll be glad to hear that he was wearing a scally cap and a dorky cardigan sweater.
  • The Dave jam at the end of Eyes definitely included "O Christmas Tree," which was taken over by Marco.  Maybe Marco did a little Fly Like An Eagle later, but ...
  • In the Truckin' outro they seemed to consider going into TOO, but realized they'd done that tune already and it was time to end the night.  Joe had a few things to say though, and after introducing the band he thanked us at length for a fucking great 2017.  Well Joe, the feeling's mutual!
Short post today compared to yesterday, but we were no less delighted.  And part of our delight with JRAD is that there seems to be no shortage of people who are as gobsmacked with them as we are.  I mean, they sold out two nights in the huge HOB in two seconds!  To hear these guys play, and to get the chance to see them live from so close in such a great room is awesome.  I already can't wait for their upcoming three-show stand at the Cap in January, which I assume will be webcast.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

JRAD and HOB Combine Once

My last few posts have referenced how lucky we're been in Boston lately to get such a richness of great musical acts.  Hope this continues to happen every Fall, maybe one of these days I'll be more ready for it and not feel so rushed!  But fuck feeling rushed, these are all can't misses, and I mean me can't miss, not them.  Hope you could follow that.

Anyway, goddamn JRAD was making a two-show visit to the House of Blues (12/8-9) and of course we got tickets to both as soon as they went on sale ... and they sold out pretty quickly.  As discussed before, though this might nominally and by evidence be a "tribute band," they are much, much more than that characterization indicates, and in fact are one of the best bands around to my ear.  And I love the HOB and feel that JRAD is perfect for it.

Left work even earlier than normal and was able to get into Boston before Friday rush hour got really crazy. Down Soldiers Field Road in the December gloaming and up over the newly reconstructed but same old Bowker Interchange.  Our parking lot on the corner of Van Ness was still in "day" mode and wasn't ready to let me in (commuters still to leave), but I was able to get a street space on Van Ness and hurry over to the HOB restaurant, where we hadn't been able to make reservations.  What do you know?  I was afraid they'd be having a private party but they were pretty empty and were more than eager to give just me a table for 4, where I spread out, had a beer or two, and waited for Sarah, Dave, and Leen, who all got there pretty soon it seemed.

Ate what turned out to be a fast dinner, fed the meter again and dumped stuff in the car, then waited in the "entree" line to get in.  We four were maybe 20th in line to get in, which was great ... and as expected the entree line soon stretched pretty far and the regular line soon stretched *way* up the street.

And though I'd said that the recent Hartford Civic Center search-to-get-in was extreme, this was even more so!  It took about 5 minutes for the guy to wand me, to pat me, to ask what's in that pocket, what's in that pocket, "can you show me sir?," to insist that I discard the two ibuprofens in my pocket, and to apparently give me a psychological evaluation.  The guy asked a few questions (luckily I can recite pi to the 14th digit), looked me in the eyes, and seemed to be making a mental assessment that I hope went well.  I thought maybe he was going to kiss me just to make the experience more meaningful for both of us, but he finally waved me on and it took me a minute to get my things back in my pockets and my mind back in its compartment ... hope my clothes were on straight!  I guess having just smoked a hit of pot (perfectly legal) might have made this less smooth than it might have been, but maybe not!  And there was a LONG line behind us ... if they did this to everyone it would take all night for the show to get started.

Oh well, Dave and the girls had gotten through before me and Dave waited for me while the girls grabbed our spot.  Took me a while to get my extremities warm again after the wait outside and the search-that-took-forever, but we had a while to hang out (as predicted).  Time passed quickly though, and we soon had checked out the merch table, gotten beers, and all that pre-show stuff while the HOB got packed the way it does.  Leen seemed excited about our great perch, the amazing sight lines from there, and the fact that the HOB just seems like a really big league rock club.

Eventually the room got to around 87.6% capacity (my guess) and the guys straggled on stage at 8:20 or so, not too bad.  They were lined up as they always were, but Joe's kit was not at all in the back, like the classic drummer's position, it was almost at the front of center stage.  Not as big a kit as he used to carry around a few years ago, but on the other hand not as compact as some times we're seen him.  In particular he had twin toms to his right that were a little luxuriant but were used/needed when he took one of his excursions and whacked everything in sight, repeatedly.

Another observation was that Marco had a grand fucking piano, and he sure used this to great effect.  Though we were close, we couldn't see Marco's fingering at all because of the grand pointing right towards us, but we sure could hear him and that excellent instrument.  He was captivating last night, as he always is, but there were times when I and everyone in the vicinity was watching him like a hawk, and he was watching us right back, smiling, waving, and laughing.

Two more things: because Joe was so far forward it forced Dave and Scott way over to the right, but the sight lines and the sound at the HOB are so great that we were still able to catch every move they made and every string they strung.  What a band!  And oh yeah, when Tom came out on stage he had a certain tiger-striped, blond guitar that looked like a 70s version of a very cool spaceship.  He was fucking playing Jerry's Wolf guitar all night long and there were certain stretches when I (and everyone in vicinity) were just staring at Wolf, being played like Jerry would if he were alive today.  Especially at the close of the second set ... spoiler alert.

Wow!  We were ready when they came on stage and they started off with a country rocker that got us all into that certain place.  Here's Costello's play by play:

Good evening internet, its Costello, with the #BoxScore from Boston, Night One:
Show #134
House of Blues Boston
Boston, MA
Night One of Two
Set One (8:20pm - 9:43PM)
Big Railroad Blues ->
Silvio >
Loser ->
Jam ->
Easy Wind @ ->
Jam # ->
Row Jimmy ->
St. Stephen ->
Jam ->
St. Stephen Reprise >
Samson & Delilah
Set Two (10:13pm - 11:50PM)
Jam ->
Dark Hollow >
Mr Charlie $ >
Help On The Way ->
Slipknot! % >
Mississippi Half Step >
Estimated Prophet >
Morning Dew
Greatest Story Ever Told ^
TH played "Wolf" for the whole show.
@ - “Flipped” Version - Opened with the last verse sung first.
# - With Let It Grow Teases (TH)
$ - With a “Moby Dick” (Led Zeppelin) Jam
% - With Let It Grow Teases (TH then Band)
^ - With The Wheel Teases (Band)
Pre Show Music: Scott Metzger’s Spotify Xmas Mix
Set Break Music: Costello’s Spotify Motown Mix
Post Show Music: Dirty Water (Boston You’re My Home) - The Standells and Pancho & Lefty - Townes Van Zandt
Poster: Colortest
Thanks to the staff & crew at HOB Boston, to all of you that came out or caught a stream. What's everyone doing tomorrow night? Shall we do it again? Cool, see you there...

Oh jeez, what can I say about this?  This was our fifth time seeing JRAD live and we feel we've seen then a lot more because they webcast so many shows.  When we'd seen them before at HOB, which they just rocked like their own personal spaceship, Joe had been a little subdued.  But he was sure not subdued last night, especially with that extra tom when he wanted to go over the top.  With him being up front we had such a great view, except the largest cymbal was in my way, which was fine ... when he really banged it I could see him better.

Marco the wizard with a grand piano and all his tricks, Tom with Wolf, and Scott with his unique funk were all fantastic, but Dave Dreiwitz was the man!  His hair was wild and reflecting those HOB waves, and his bass playing was astonishing.  Oteil me no Oteils, this was country and funk and rock ... and almost like Phil when it needed to be.  We think he switched from a Fender to a wooden old four-string with big head in the second set.  But whatever, he was laying down the foundation for everybody and taking a lead when it was called for.  He's been doing solos recently, but didn't do one last night, he was just all there.

I remember hearing the first hints of Silvio and thinking, "Silvio?"  I remember hearing Easy Wind and then not recognizing it because they sang the verses out of order ... though we were all there when Scott told us that he had to find a woman be good to him.  St. Stephen was incredible ... what is it about Boston and St. Stephen?  As with a lot of songs they play, they got way, way, way out with St. Stephen and I was hoping they'd go into the Eleven, when they roped it back in like a psychedelic bronco, but then they went into an excellent reprise and then Joe played us Samson.  I hope they put some extra reinforcement under that stage because he sure pounded it out for an ecstatic audience.

The surprise of the night for me was a Dark Hollow beyond description ... loping and folky and whimsical on the one hand and dyed in psychedelia on the other.  This may have been the longest Dark Hollow ever played.  Help was amazing, an exercise in power chords.  Joe playing Slipknot! was what we were drooling to hear.  Halfstep just picked up where Row Jimmy had laid off in the first set ... this is the sweet spot of GD music to me.

Then a fantastic Estimated, with the audience singing along to every word.  I should stop for a minute and say that the audience was 90% Deadicated and was hanging on every note.  But it was a Friday night and there were dates going on, and people getting high, and friends running into each other, and at times the audience got a little noisy.  At one point during Estimated a guy off to my left turned around and said, "Shut the fuck up!"  That's what *I* said to the HOB crowd when we saw DSO there a few years ago, and I was instantly mortified I'd done that (even though people were talking over Stella Blue!).  This guy was mortified too and you could tell he wanted to just disappear after shouting that out.  But he was correct to do so, and amazingly, people shut up and listened to the end of Estimated.

And then ... Dew with Tommy playing Wolf.  Morning Dew can captivate you and take you into the picture of the song like few songs can when they're played at their utmost.  Everyone in the room knew that Tommy was playing Wolf and he proceeded to paint us the whole goddamn picture ... the tone was amazing.  And the denouement of the scene he painted was perhaps not perfect (Joe and Tommy got a little crossed up), but we were all there man, just reveling in the sound, and it really didn't matter anyway.

OMG, I realized that I was exhausted and though back pain during the show was not as bad as I'd anticipated, it was still pretty extreme.  I thought for the umpteenth time that I wished I'd swallowed those Vitamin Is before the guy made me throw them away!  And as happens in the HOB, the crowd had filled in at our backs and sides during the show and we were under severe pushed-and-shoved duress in our little corner.  Whatever, the atmosphere was beyond electric and soon the guys straggled back on stage.

And the encore was not a throw-away, it might have been one of the best songs of the night!  I love GSET and was delighted this Fall when Dead & Company covered it.  But these guys know a thing or two about covering Dead music and they've got Scott Fucking Metzger on their team ... as well as Dave Fucking Dreiwitz, who capped off an excellent night.  Fans screamed for a second encore, but the guys were done.  See you tomorrow night, Joe told us!  Aye captain.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Tedeschi Trucks Band Boston 2017

Another in our late-Fall run of excellent concerts, Tedeschi Trucks Band again at the Orpheum (12/2)!  One may recall last year's excellent show with Jorma opening solo, for which we had front row center seats.  This year we opted for the third night of their run, at which they'd be doing two full sets with no opener.  This Saturday was the last show of a full 2017 of touring, and they left it all on the stage!

Tried to go to 6B on Beacon but it wasn't open and so went to Carrie Nation across the street for dinner.  Kind of pricey but a very nice room; the really expensive half-chicken with brussels sprouts and whipped potatoes was wonderful, but I hope they stick that leg I couldn't eat back on the chicken.

This was a fantastic concert from this amazing 12-piece band, just pure ecstasy from start to finish.  But (and I'll try to keep this short), the Orpheum in Boston is not a good place to expect people to see concerts.  It's cramped and small and the attendants are surly (one asked me at one point, "Sir, weren't you ALREADY seated?").  The one low-ceilinged lobby and the one small, smelly mens room off of it are masses of people bumping into each other before the show, at the break, and after the show.  People could get trampled easily, or get germs.

Also, they don't know whether they're a theater or a rock club.  They have stacks of speakers on stage and that means that many of the audience can't fucking see what's going on on stage!  We were far right (though close, 8th row) and only one of us could see any of the backup singers, and none of us could see Alicia Shakour (though we sure heard her) or the trombone player.  And there was even another section to our right!  Those people probably could only see the guitarists and Kofi Burbridge, they couldn't even see the drummers.  And they charged full price for this!?!

I hope that TTB comes to their senses and plays some other hall next year.  I think the Orpheum has very good sound (we had no complaints about volume yesterday!), but is a horrible venue.  Oh, one other thing: it's at the end of an alley in downtown Boston you know, and concert goers were trying to walk down it towards the security check and the doors.  We were all being mature and orderly but they had muscle out there shouting at us and almost shoving us into lines that made no sense.  Guess they believe in full employment, but I hate to think that my ticket price went towards these assholes.

But I need to stop bitching and start gushing.  This concert was fantastic, though we were cramped, packed, and prodded.  Derek Trucks was as on fire as much I've ever seen him, and his band was perfectly in step behind him.  There were excellent additions from Burbridge on keys and flute, from Mike Mattison stepping up to take a few leads, and from Tim Lefebvre on bass, who just needed a small nod from Trucks and then turned it up and set our world upside down (he almost lost his man-bun from rocking so thoroughly).

And that's not to mention Susan Tedeschi, who was absolutely stellar on vocals and played a fantastic rhythm.  Another great performance was the drumming of J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell ... who seemed to be wearing out a snare with each song.  And my dog what a brass section, including the craziest, spaciest bass saxophone solo from Kebbi Williams early on and just rock solid grooves from Ephraim Owens on trumpet (he later did a solo himself with a mute, and then discarded it like a frisbee) and Elizabeth Lea on trombone.

The one backup vocalist I could see (besides when Mike came down front) was Mark Rivers and his support of Susan's alto was surreal.  And of course there was Alicia, who has the power to take over a song on a moment's notice ... at a couple of points Susan turned and said, "Yeah Alicia!" and we wish we could have seen her.

And there was a musical theme to this evening to my ear, which was space.  Over and over they'd start a song and get deeply into it and then Derek would turn it up and up and start wandering, and that amazing band would follow him into the most psychedelic corners and before long you had no idea what they were playing, though they were harmonizing and playing off each other and working as hard as they could to produce an awesome sound.  Very rarely did any of them, even the horn players, sit out for more than a few measures.  And then Derek would turn that farthest corner and come back to the theme and then Tim would rip off a run and then Susan would step to the mike and absolutely SCREAM the next verse, with the backup vocalists punching up her every syllable.  This was the most riveting stuff you could imagine, 12 people in each others minds just pouring out the rhythm and blues all over the floor, led by one of the best guitar players you've ever heard.

Well ... here's the setlist as far as I can tell.  I've pieced this together and it may have a few errors but you get the point:

set 1
In Every Heart
Don't Know What It Means
Keep On Growing
Learn How to Love
Don't Drift Away
Get What You Deserve
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
I Want More

set 2
Statesboro Blues
Crying Over You
Part of Me
Let Me Get By
Comin' Home
Let's Go Get Stoned
Made Up Mind
I Pity the Fool
The Storm > Whipping Post

A Song for You
Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
Bound for Glory

Sandwiching the second set with Allman Brothers songs was brilliant!  As mentioned, this was a night of the powerful space blues and to commence the latter part of the night with the singalong of Statesboro Blues, to wind up and down through some of the spaciest songs they know, and then to finally come out of it a few(?) hours later and realize they were playing Whipping Post and that even Susan sometimes felt like she was tied to it and that she was going to scream about it to us for sure with the whole weird theater screaming along was cathartic to say the least.

One more note on the crowd ambiance:  At one point between sets I was pushing slowly through the mob in the lobby, not even sure where I was going or why (that is, I had no idea where the ends of the beer lines were or where they led).  But the guy behind me was having an even worse time.  "O God, oh no, oh this is terrible," he repeated over and over.  I turned around and told him, "Don't worry, we'll get there."  He looked startled and said, "Oh you don't understand.  I was complaining about the number of Phish t-shirts."

For the encore Susan and Kofi duetted on Leon Redbone's greatest(?) hit, and this was an incredible showcase, great piano.  And then their beautiful take on Circle, and then one of their most trademark songs to end the night.  WOW!!!

Jeez, time to tackle the lobby and the alley again, but we finally got out of there and made our way up Park Street (the church was totally wrapped in scaffolding except for the tallest bit of their steeple).

We had a little energy and space for wonder left, and so detoured towards the Nova Scotia Christmas tree that had just been dedicated.  This was the 100th anniversary edition ... please catch up on the story if you're not aware.  We circled the tree and touched its tresses, both where it grew free and where the lights had snagged it.  It rose over our heads and dwarfed us, silly Boston people who cared about what happened in Halifax and everywhere in the world.  That's what it's meant to do, and why Nova Scotia makes a point of this.

Goodbye to the tree and over the hill, and back to the car and then home.  Hoo boy, I'd go see TTB anywhere, just don't tell them that!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Hot Tuna Acoustic Back At the Wilbur

In yesterday's post I described how we were suddenly in the midst of a run of shows (and sickness), and not to be overlooked in this was the fact that Hot Tuna were going to be playing the Wilbur again!  Their last time there they'd played electric, which I love, but this time they announced that they'd be acoustic and that's pretty good too. :)

Again, we weren't on top of our game.  There was also something going on in the theater district that night and all restaurants around there were booked up.  But we headed in to the nearby garage on Charles so we wouldn't have far to walk and were able to get a table at Rock Bottom on Stuart, though we had to wait a bit.

There were kids all over the place and we finally figured it out.  "Elf the Musical" had just opened in Boston and that was the huge event in the area that night.  The Color Purple was also being staged that night at the Schubert, and Dave's roommate (and her cousin) were going to that.

Oh well, we got across Tremont in the swirl of people and were waved into the Wilbur with other Hot Tuna enthusiasts ... this was the real stuff.  F&P (recently back from Nepal!) also attended and had managed to snag seats just behind us, in the second and third rows of the mezzanine, right on the left row of the center section, fantastic seats!

After a small beer and much talk about Nepal and events at 18,000 feet, the guys came out and there they were: Jack and Jorma.  I believe this was sold out, I saw no empty seats, and several people in the audience were hooting and hollering and yelling out "Fucking HOT TUNA!!!" all night long.

Spectacle-less Jack was sitting in the kind of chair you might find in the office, a swivel black-mesh chair with a broad back and casters.  But he was perched on the edge of it, rather than sitting back, holding an acoustic bass that was almost as big as he was.  This six-string bass was huge and had a sound hole at top right, with a little mike snapped on above it to relay to his amp setup on stage.  Jorma was in a low chair as usual, leaned over his gut-string guitar like he did NOT want it to escape his bear hug.  His chair was triangular, two legs in back and one in front.  His steel string was in a stand next to him, but we knew he wasn't going to pick up that one until the time was right.

Sorry that I can't remember everything they played.  They concentrated on Jorma's more folky compositions and played them excellently.  They're such a perfect pairing, they've been playing together for over 55 years, and their sounds flow seamlessly into each other.  It almost didn't matter what they were playing, they could be playing anything and you'd still hear that magic of one instrument being played by two people on different sets of strings, sitting in separate chairs.

Here are a few songs they played which got big reactions: Serpent of Dreams, Sea Child, Come Back Baby, 99 Year Blues, Barbecue King, How Long Blues, San Francisco Bay Blues, Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning, etc.  They took a break somewhere in there, but not a long one.

Then finally, the time was right.  Jorma put down his gut string and picked up his steel string and we knew we were nearing the end of the night and what they were going to close with.  It's hard to choose between Jorma's finest songs, some of his compositions are just head and shoulders over everything else, such as Sea Child, which they'd done second(?).  But two others are what he seems to close with every time we've seen him recently, and are played on the ringing steel strings: Bar Room Crystal Ball and Water Song.

Even the leather-lungs in the balcony were silenced by Bar Room Crystal Ball, which is such a signature song of Jorma's, touching on life, addiction, and meaning in the subtle ways his best songs do.  And of course hearing Hot Tuna play Water Song live is almost like hearing the Sermon On the Mount ... well maybe not really, but that's what we were all there for and besides the sound of the two guitars on stage you could have heard a pin drop.  I can't say Jack's bass made the theater echo, but instead it filled it perfectly.  This was excellent stuff, and I can't wait to hear those two play it again.

This time Jorma didn't even get out of his chair for the encore break, and Jack didn't either; he just grinned like the Cheshire Cat, beaming his smile throughout the audience.  It was clear this was the end though and Jorma finally said well, we'll do one more for an encore.  And then he lit into Embryonic Journey.  This is another of his top-shelf songs and I don't think I'd ever heard him play this before, though he first recorded it with the Airplane in the sixties.  This topped off the night like you wouldn't believe!

Two old guys stood up and smiled, then waved and left the stage.  Geez, we'd just heard some of the best music that's ever existed (in my world at least) played by two masters.  How could you beat that?

We were all very worn out by that point, not only us sickies but also trekkers F&P.  Luckily, we had all parked pretty close and when we got out to the street the other events were not letting out so we had smooth walks back to our cars.  Dave picked up the pack he had stashed at the car and then went to meet his roommate after The Color Purple.  Sarah and I drove slowly out of the garage and then down Charles, onto Storrow, under the still sparking pedestrian bridge, and back North.  Not to bed that late!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

David Rawlings and Friends at the Wilbur

As sometimes happens, we had a dearth of concerts towards the end of the summer/early Fall, and then late Fall comes around and wham, there seems to be a concert every minute!  Dead & Company are on tour of course, and besides seeing three of the shows, we've subscribed to the tour on webcast and so have been watching and/or listening to a bunch of them live or next-day.  And then ...

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings announced a stop in Boston (touring under "David Rawlings" this time) and we just had to go see that, at the Wilbur on Wednesday 11/29.  I've gone on before how their music is exactly to my taste.  It's amazing how right it sounds to me.  And this tine they were again accompanied by Brittany Haas, Paul Kowert, and Willie Watson, a super-group of impossible dimensions.

And as has happened before (stop me if I'm repeating myself), we were suffering from late Fall cold/flu bugs and, even if just a little bit, considered skipping the shows.  I even offered the tickets to Kate, but she couldn't make it.  And that turned out to be fine because we sucked it up and headed into the city, determined to at least catch the first set or die in the attempt.  We played it a little smart and parked in a very close-by garage on Charles Street before limping into Wirth's, in the middle of massive construction of course, and having a quick dinner.

We got over to the Wilbur a bit after 7 but the doors hadn't opened yet.  The people waiting were milling about the lobby and we milled too after picking up our will-call tickets, and then were some of the first in.  Several of us immediately crowded up to the stage ... and by "several" I mean several.  Though those of us there were totally psyched, there weren't that many of us.  I'm past being shocked that Welch and Rawlings with some of the best accompanists ever (I mean, have you heard Willie Watson's recent release?) are not as much of a draw as Beethoven, or even DSO.  But whatever!  By the time the show got started the place was pretty full, except for the top balcony, which had more empty than full seats.

So we were right in front of David and Brittany; they lined up as before: Hass, Rawlings, Welch, and Watson from left to right with Kowert in the second row.  As I say, those of us who were there were wildly enthusiastic and the band was full of smiles.  David (native of Pawtucket RI) had his parents in the crowd and of course Rawlings and Welch are Berklee products, so this was a home crowd.

Wish I could remember the setlist (or that it was transcribed online) but no such luck at this point.  Here's what I remember, including opening with Money Is the Meat In the Coconut and doing almost everything on David's new record:

Money Is the Meat In the Coconut
Come On Over My House
Wayside/Back In Time
Midnight Train
To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
Cumberland Gap
Keep It Clean (sung by Watson)
It's Too Easy
Good God a Woman
Short Haired Woman Blues
If I Had My Way (sung by Watson)
He Will Set Your Fields On Fire
I Hear Them All/This Land Is Your Land
Put 'Em Up Solid
Guitar Man
Pilgrim (You Can't Go Home Again)
The Weekend
Look At Miss Ohio
Method Acting/Cortez the Killer
Going Down the Road Feelin' Bad
Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby

There was a set break in there and a short encore break.  Highlights were numerous!
  • Money was started, as on the record, by Gil on the hambone.  Amazing that a woman that thin can make those sounds without beating herself black and blue!  She and Brittany had beautiful complementary outfits, including long skirts from the same pattern cloth.
  • Wayside/Back In Time is one of my favorites and everyone around us seemed to feel the same way ... we were gushing over that one at the set break.
  • To Be Young had us all singing along and was as "high" as I've ever heard it.  And to be clear, I was 6 feet away from David while he did his magic on his hollow-body electric and his traditional magic guitar ... the one he plays like he sold his soul to the devil (and then his wife bashed some heads, Yup).
  • Cumberland Gap just knocked us all over and then they stopped it, they'd just summed it all up in less than 2 minutes and we wanted more!  I asked David to play it again and he laughed.
  • This Land Is Your Land was an epic folk sing-along of course, with the whole Wilbur rocking to Woody Guthrie's old words while we all nodded along to the fact that this land really *is* our fucking land, no matter what anyone pulls off (or not) in the short term.
  • Yup was another favorite, how can you not like this story?
  • Several people called out for The Weekend throughout, and we were all glad when they got around to this.
  • Look At Miss Ohio was the encore opener and got one of the biggest cheers of the night.  I mean, we were watching "David Rawlings" that night and we all loved him but ... Good God, that was a woman named Gillian Welch on the other mike, maybe 12 feet from me.  Gillian's hair is mostly white and she's sporting wrinkles and jowls like a mature person, but she's still the amazing, young, fresh, thrilling musician we all adore.
  • And I have to say something about Haas, Kowert, and Watson.  Britanny was effortlessly brilliant on fiddle, looking almost as frail as Gillian but playing it with the fervor of a Vassar Clements.  Kowert was flawless himself on bass fiddle and low harmonies.  And Watson is quite a force, taking over the mike for a couple of numbers and sometimes grabbing his fiddle and playing duets with Brittany, over at her mike right in front of me.  The iron-jawed guy next to me was captivated by Willie's wandering eye, and I think the attraction may have been mutual.
  • BUT ... perhaps the highlight of highlights was Method Acting/Cortez the Killer in the encore, that had jaws dropped down the line to my left and to my right (as well as mine).  This isn't the most dynamic song and it goes on for a bit, but we wanted it to go longer, it was just a tour de force, rising and falling and rising again until we all almost understood what it was all about.
Ack!  As Sarah said later, while the music was going on we were feeling just fine.  But by the time it was over we were almost ready to collapse.  Luckily it was only a long block back to the car and then a relatively quick drive home, though they're doing something to the pedestrian bridge from Charles Circle to the Esplanade and they tried to shower us with sparks.  Oh well, we survived!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

DeadCo Fall Tour 2017 (Hartford)

When we bought tickets to Wednesday night in Hartford (11/22) in the frenzy of planning for the 2017 Fall tour, we didn't realize that it was the night before Thanksgiving, which came a bit early this year.  Jeez, that presented a bit of a logistical problem, especially when we realized all roads to Hartford would be parking lots that afternoon.  Oh well, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, or something.

Anyway, we tried to prepare as well as we could.  And in the few free moments in the run-up to Thanksgiving we did a little research into how best to get to Hartford that afternoon and what to do if we got there and found time on our hands, neither of which, we realized, might come true.

Oh well, things went as well as could be expected.  Except it was raining cats and dogs and the wind was blowing like a Dire Wolf!  We picked up Dave at Alewife after slogging through a packed, busy, and frantic Arlington and North Cambridge.  And then we hit route 2, made it past 128, and then were in a long, long, long, long line of traffic crawling out through Lincoln and Concord, and Acton, and beyond.

Our plan was to continue West on route 2 (as bad as the traffic was on that road, at least it was moving) until Waze showed us that we could detour South-Southwest without increasing our problems.  Oh well, we thought, at the worst we can follow route 2 out to goddamn Greenfield and then head down 91!  And that turned out to be what we did when all we saw to the South was angry red on Waze.

And of course it was beautiful, even on an apocryphal late-Fall afternoon.  As we approached the Connecticut Valley the clouds started to show breaks, and streaks, and sudden beams of sunshine tearing over the gray and green clouds and hills.  By the time we finally got around Greenfield and headed South the low-on-the-horizon sun had ripped through the clouds in several spots and Dave (driving) had to put on his sunglasses.  We got tied up in rush hour traffic a bit in Springfield and then held up by an accident just North of Hartford, but in all we had done the right thing and we pulled off the highway onto Trumbull and Church Streets in downtown Hartford in a bit over three hours, perhaps a couple of hours quicker and definitely with more of our sanity left than would have been the case if we had gone straight out 90 and 84.  Who says the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides?

Got a good spot on the second floor of the garage across from the XL Center (the whilom Hartford Civic Center, built in 1974), though we suspected that this might be a trap.  We'd been stuck in a parking garage in Worcester after a Dead & Company show before and we tried to position ourselves for a quick getaway after the concert, FWIW.

As mentioned, we'd done some research on things to do in downtown Hartford, but it was already late afternoon and we figured the best thing to do was to head right for the brewpub we'd earmarked.  It was a cold, windy, few blocks but we got right up there and got one of the last tables at the City Steam Brewery ... it was packed and they were cranking the Dead on their sound system.  We'd come to the right place and were there in plenty of time to relax and get ready!

The City Steam Brewery is a really fun combination dining room, catering center, and sports bar with its own beers that sprawls through several adjacent suites in the first floors of one of the oldest buildings in downtown Hartford, the H.H. Richardson-designed Cheney building.  We had no idea about this when we got there ... it was just a brewpub we'd picked out, but serendipity had struck again.  Jesus, just when you've resigned yourself to the fact that the world is a stressed out place where you don't belong, something brings you back in.

OK, several beers and several tacos later we were out of there and got in line for the XL Center just as the doors were opening.  And it was probably a good thing we did, because this was one of the most thorough searches-entering-a-concert ever and we're sure the lines behind us soon stretched out back to 84 and beyond.  They wanted me to prove to them that my empty water bottle (you were allowed to bring one in) was really empty.

On the other hand, we were soon seated with some good beers in the arena and had an interlude for some crowd watching and some more speculation about what they were going to play.  It was about time for another Dark Star!  They'd played in DC the night before and opened with Stranger (this had been Dave's prediction for our show), had done the Help troika, and also Terrapin.  What was left?  We agreed it was very probable they'd do TOO, but what else?

We were in row G (7th) of the balcony, but the balcony stretched up WAY past us, as balconys used to do in the early 70s.  It was kind of funny to watch person after person turn up the stairs at the base of the balcony, stop short, and say, "Oh My God!" when they realized they had to climb like 70 stories on narrow concrete steps to get to their seat.  We went up there ourselves to check it out, and from the top you could barely recognize that that was a hockey rink far below you, let alone a stage at the left end.  Anyway, we had excellent seats, akin to where we'd been in the arena at Worcester, the first time we saw them.

OK, time for the boys to come out and light into the first song.  We hadn't called this one!  Here's the first set:

Iko Iko
Shakedown Street
They Love Each Other
Loose Lucy
Friend of the Devil
Bird Song

Iko knocked us all silly immediately.  The arena was jumping and twisting already.  And John and Oteil did a great unison backup in this, an element from their earlier tour that I'd complained about being lacking. And immediately Jeff was back blowing our minds on the piano, and Bobby was extemporizing on vocals!

And the "great" song we anticipated they'd repeat didn't take long.  They had a false start but then ripped right into Shakedown, with John doing the wah-wah-iest stuff and again, John and Oteil pairing on the backup.  I guess this was the municipality in which to sing "Don't tell me this town ain't got no Hart [sic]."

John took a turn at the mike with a good TLEO.  I kept hoping Bobby would pick up his walnut guitar but he stuck with the Strat with the big pickguard all night.  He had two clones on stage, which he switched between when one was slightly out of tune, but they were the same guitar.  But we really couldn't complain about a nit like that ... they were *on.*  And Bobby's a professional.

Another one we might have anticipated, especially since they were in such a funky groove, was a quick Loose Lucy after that.  Dave called FOTD from the tuning and this was excellent too.  I'd mentioned r.e. the first Boston show that the drummers were playing really well and this was more of the same.  Mickey seems much more disciplined this tour (even though he's adding samples and weird sounds at the oddest moments) and Billy is mixing it up like he thinks he's Joe Russo or something.  I think Mickey being more on the beat enables Billy to fool around more.

And then they closed the set with a great Bird Song.  A setlist Dave caught a glimpse of had Good Lovin' as the real last song, but I guess Bobby has his reasons when he cuts a set short.

We really liked these seats also.  It was great to be in such different parts of the arenas for our three nights on this tour.  High up and straight back the first night, on the floor on the right the next, and then in the close balcony on the left, this was a great variety.  I think there's something about me that likes being on the left facing the stage at a concert.  I can see the instruments a bit better, since it's natural for a right-handed guitar player to present to (his) right.  Or maybe it's a corpus callosum kind of thing and I can perceive sound slightly better with my ears at that angle.  Or maybe it's something.  But whatever, it seemed ... like it had in Worcester ... that I was right in the middle of the sound, especially Oteil's bass, which had never had a nicer tone.  I'd lock on Oteil, feel how his sound was playing around with the beat laid down by Billy and Mickey, be amazed by John and Jeff when they took their leads, and realize that there was one sound that underlaid it all, though I still wanted him to switch to the walnut guitar!

Wandered around and got some fine beer again, then settled back to watch the people climbing Mount Section 201, which was daunting to many.

Yikes, I was about to go for another piss before the second set started, thought I had plenty of time, but then they suddenly bounded out on stage and started strumming.  I guess they realized this was the night before Thanksgiving and they should not dilly-dally.  Hmmm, John was raised in Fairfield.  Maybe the band has been invited over to his parents' house for Thanksgiving, a nice thought!

Here we go with our last of 6 sets on this tour, here's to many more.  And here's the second set:

Estimated Prophet
Eyes of the World
China Doll
The Other One
Spanish Jam
Black Peter
Uncle John's Band
U.S. Blues

I think Bobby knew who was in the audience, singing me two of my favorite(!) songs.  Whatever, though there some moments, this was a fantastic, solid, second set.  In all, this was possibly the best concert of the tour so far.  This was a smooth and professional Estimated Eyes (missing Deal!).  Right after Eyes Oteil did a TOO tease, but then they turned on a dime and it was Oteil on another surreal vocal on China Doll, the whole thing a note-perfect, pace-perfect start to the second set.

And speaking of pace ... gee, I haven't been complaining about that!  In Summer 2016 they were playing stuff almost comically slow sometimes.  But that's changed; I referred to Sunday night's first encore as a "slow-tempo Brokedown," but that's Brokedown.  They've picked up the pace a lot since then and on that day were playing right at the beat of our hearts and minds.

And then Oteil stepped back after the last chorus, and they paused for a split second, and then John started on the TOO riff, and then we were flying through the air and Oteil was dominating and we knew what was coming, and this time he hit the beginning of TOO like he meant it and we were flying up the cliff vertically.  Amazing stuff!

Then Drums/Space, and then Space turned around a bit, and around again, and then they were all playing a textbook Spanish Jam, like it was a pop tune or something, it was so well formed.  This was a Dead & Company debut and was led by that beatnic Jeff on grand piano.

OK, I admit that the following Black Peter was really well played and right in so many ways, but I'll say again that Bobby has a hard time switching persona to sing a tragic song like this.  He's not a natural with the mysterious folk songs.  But this and the following Uncle John's were again, such a treat: two more Workingman's songs done with skill, respect, and brightness.  Like they were songs that had been written well over 45 years ago but still needed to be explored.

And then a closer of U.S. Blues, it's in their contract to play this regularly, like before big American holidays.

We'd all taken turns at the close-by bathroom during the second set and at this point started putting our coats on and getting ready to take off.  Needless to say, we weren't going to leave early and miss a note of Dead & Company!  But we realized that as soon as the encore ended, each added second we took to get to the highway might translate into an added minute of delay, and this would result in a shorter Thanksgiving tomorrow!

So we were all ready by the time they got back on stage and grooved with everyone to the first Dylan song on the tour, Knockin' On Heaven's Door.  Great end to a great concert but as soon as they hit the first chord of the ending crescendo we were out of there.

We had to get a third of the way around the building on the concourse and didn't knock anyone over, though it was close.  Ran down the stairs over on the Church Street side and then up to the car, which we jumped into and started like we were trying out for The Dukes Of Hazzard.  There were still a few cars in front of us by the time we got to the bottom of the ramp, but we all paid up quick; I had my ticket and my Alexander Hamilton out and threw them at the happy attendant and took off up ... well, we weren't sure where we were but I guess it was Morgan Street because before we knew it we saw the sign for 84 to Boston straight ahead and that's the way we went.  We were on the highway almost before Bobby stopped Namaste-ing, I figure.  I hope they have a nice Thanksgiving!

There were a good number of cars out on the highway, but we made fine time back to Massachusetts, did a quick McDonalds stop because we were hungry, dropped Dave off in Quincy, and made it back in better time than I'd anticipated.  Bed by 1:43!