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
2017-12-09
Night Two of Two
SOLD OUT ~ THANK YOU!
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 $$>
Truckin' ->
Music Never Stopped Jam -
Truckin’ Reprise ->
Born Cross Eyed Jam
Enc:
GDTRFB %% > WBYGN (Instrumental)
@ - Unfinished
# - With a “Love Supreme” (John Coltrane)
$ - With a Playin Tease (Band)
% - With a Throwin Stones Tease (Band), a China Cat Tease (TH), a DD/MB Duo Jam, with TH on Drums, & a “Shortnin’ Bread” (James Whitcomb Riley) Tease (MB)
^ - With a “Walk Like An Egyptian” (The Bangles) tease (MB), a China Cat Tease (SM), a “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” (Michael Jackson) Tease (SM) & a “St. Thomas” (Sonny Rollins) Tease (SM)
& - With an Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin) Tease, a “Tom’s Diner” (Suzanne Vega) Tease (SM) and a Slipknot! Tease (Band)
* - With a DD Bass Solo, “Tell Me A Bedtime Story” (Herbie Hancock) Jam (MB) & Eyes Teases (Band)
+ - “Flipped” Version - Started with the “’73 Ending” Changes played in the key of Dancin’, and a DD Bass Solo
@@ - With a “Fly Like An Eagle” (Steve Miller) Tease (MB)
## - With an “Amazing Grace” (Traditional) Tease (TH), an “If You Think I’m Sexy” (Rod Stewart) // “My Prerogative” (Bobby Brown) Jam that included audience vocals, and a Slipknot! Tease (Band)
$$ - 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
2017-12-08
Night One of Two
SOLD OUT ~ THANK YOU!
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
Enc:
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
Shelter
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

encore
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)
Airplane
Cumberland Gap
Keep It Clean (sung by Watson)
It's Too Easy
Ruby
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
Yup
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
Drums
Space
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!

Monday, November 20, 2017

DeadCo Fall Tour 2017 (Boston night two)

As mentioned in the last post, Dead & Company announced a second Boston show (Sunday, 11/19) after we'd already gotten tickets to the first show and to Hartford.  Well, who were we to skip that?  And I was able to get floor tickets so things were looking good!  After the fantastic sound and light in the second balcony on Friday, having the whole arena laid out in front of us, we were eager to see them from up close.

Well, not *really* up close, but a lot closer.  We met Dave at Kinsale after parking in our normal space and had another nice late-afternoon dinner with a few beers.  What did they have left to play?  The Philadelphia and first Boston shows on the tour had been extraordinary (and the others had been very good) ... maybe time for them to repeat some of their mega-songs like Dark Star, TOO, Terrapin Station, etc.  Or maybe they'd be rolling out more new songs.  Whatever, we were ready for anything.

Got down to the Garden and found our seats: take a right just after you get in and we were out on the floor, about at the opposing blue line near the boards.  They have a long, narrow enclosed area set up on the floor in this arena tour with amazing banks of soundboards at the front, the light show guys with amazing banks of computers behind them and on a small riser, and the cameras behind them on another riser.  We were parallel with the middle of that setup, over on the right.  I thought a few times while Bobby was playing that maybe I'd scoop the puck off the boards, be across the red line and into the zone in a few strides, fake right and go left and tuck it 5-hole on him.  He wouldn't stand a chance!

Settled down, met some neighbors (the guy in front of us who'd brought his wife and son was a dancing fool who drove the ushers crazy), got a beer or two, and watched the crowd fill in.  The place seemed sold out to me ... didn't see one empty seat, and before you knew it the guys came on, maybe 7:20 or so which isn't bad.

So how do I describe this show?  At the time I was captivated by the experience and thought it was musically one of the best shows of the tour.  On reflection and on listening to the tape I'd have to knock it down to the middle of the pack, but it sure was fun!  This was closer than I'd ever been to Dead & Company performing and I was able to see some mannerisms from these great musicians that weren't as obvious from farther away.  Sure, I'd seen them on video many times, but seeing, hearing, and whatever sensing you may want to include (Mickey licked The Beam!) from 100-150 feet away was just awesome.  And it was nice to be on flat ground rather than up in the vertiginous balcony and to have people all around me dancing and roaring.  After our great experience up in the balcony on Friday, this was a fantastic change of pace and was as good or better in its own way.

And the music was great too, though perhaps technically not as good as other times we've seen them (quick note, Dave pointed out that this was our 8th time seeing Dead & Company, as opposed to 7 times seeing Furthur).  Anyway, enough scene-setting.  The guys came out and did the song we knew they were going to do that Sunday ... not the hammering, frantic, dual-drum, got-to-testify attack we've seen them do before, but a loping, spiritual rendition.  Here's the first set:

Samson and Delilah
Dire Wolf
Cold Rain and Snow
Loser
Corrina
Here Comes Sunshine
Greatest Story Ever Told

Then John took over the mike for a quintessential Jerry song, and he sure does these things proud.  As I and others have said many times before (and hope to say many times again), he's not a Jerry clone but rather someone who can play with the same ineffable quality that Jerry used to bring, not to mention his skill, which sometimes seems to exceed what Jerry could do and sometimes falls short ... who really cares when you get to this level?

And Jeff deserves his own paragraph and much more.  As good as all the guys have been playing on this tour, when they give him a chance he leaves everyone in the dirt.  And it's not just "Dead" songs, perhaps his best moment on the last tour was his jamming glue into Days Between and perhaps his best moment in the early part of this tour was his strong-as-a-skeleton backbone to Milestones.  But when he needs to rock or play the country blues and his piano or organ gets warmed up, watch the fuck out!

They did one of the repeats I most wanted next.  I adore Cold Rain, I think it represents such a great amalgam of folk music, primal Dead, and jungle rock, and gives the guitars and keyboards a platform on which to go nuts.  Next a song Dave had predicted as a definite, Loser, maybe not as haunting as at its best, and then they started into a beat we didn't recognize as first.  It was Corrina, and a very good version of this quasi-post-Dead Bobby song (he's performed it much more with RatDog and Further than he did with the originals).  I have a hard time believing this is a Hunter lyric, since it's over-the-top obtuse and doesn't flow.  The song almost comes to an awkward stop several times, which is perhaps the effect Hunter was looking for.  Bobby loves weird time signatures and maybe this was Hunter enabling him.

[Just saw this note from David Dodd about Corrina: "'There is no fear that lovers born will ever fail to meet.'  Hunter notes in A Box of Rain that these two lines were lifted from the portion of the 'Terrapin Station' suite which was never set to music, as he despaired of otherwise hearing them sung."]

But the rest of the first set was music to our ears.  Here Comes Sunshine is, at its least, a beautiful exercise in optimism and at its best, as it was that night, a power ballad disguised as a hippy anthem.  They had all four singers (including Oteil and Jeff that is) singing as loud as possible, and the harmony rang through the old barn, probably reverberating through the train platforms below.  This was as good as it gets.

The set close was another song I hoped they'd repeat.  Greatest Story Ever Told is one of my favorites and they hadn't knocked it out of the park when they debuted it a week before in MSG, but they sure got the timing right that night, including transcendent leads by Jeff and John.

Oh boy, what a first set!  Our local usher hadn't killed the guy in front of me, though he'd been tempted.  I told him several times that he was doing as good a job as he could.  The house lights came up and it was suddenly bright on the floor and the arena was a mass of joyous people.  Luckily, the bathroom was as convenient to our seats as could be.  I took advantage of that and then wandered around the opposite concourse, looking for the best beer and enjoying the scene.  Young and old people in funky jackets and wild t-shirts and crazy hair and colorful makeup wandering up and down the concourse of the Garden and smiling like the world was about to begin.  Lovely.

OK, back to our seats with beer and a little water and it was time for the second set.  Again, in retrospect this wasn't consistently top-of-the-heap stuff, but at the time it was wonderful.  Bobby had played four guitars in Friday and this night stuck almost exclusively to his Strat with the big pick-guard.  And the opener was him picking one of his best riffs on it.  Here's the list:

China Cat Sunflower
I Know You Rider
Comes a Time
Playing In the Band
Drums
Space
Morning Dew
I Need A Miracle
Casey Jones

This was an interesting transition to Rider, driven by noodling on the lead guitar more than by the rhythm.  We were very glad to get Oteil excelling on the vocals on Comes a Time, an essential Dead song to me.  This was a gem on the bootlegs we traded long before it was ever released.  And then they went into a song everyone would agree is seminal, PITB.  Who has time for Dark Star or TOO when they roll this out in the key slot of the second set?

PITB got really spacey and degenerated into a nice compact little Drums and Space, and then they came out of it with another essential song, Dew, which featured some great spots and some great John/Jeff leads but didn't really take off the way this song can.  They made up for that with Miracle, which featured Bob at his utmost.  It's hard to say who'd been playing most great this tour, because as soon as you do you think, "Yeah but what about...."  Bobby has always been a sneakily good singer and with Dead & Company (and Fare Thee Well before that) he seems to have upped his game.  He's letting it all hang out (you thought he did before!?!) and this was him just being Bobby all over our consciousnesses.

Then another set closer with Casey Jones.  I was very glad to hear several songs from Workingman's in person on this tour, perhaps their artistic pinnacle and at the least one of the clearest, distinctive musical/artistic statements ever made.

Whoah!  We were a little tired and a lot enervated and tingling.  I'd been dancing with the guy in front of me to Casey Jones and we were one big happy family.  Even the usher was grinning his pants off, seeing how much fun everybody was having and having his own fun of course.  How could you not be crazy about this music?

Time to towel off for a bit, but as mentioned they haven't been taking much of a break before rolling out an encore this tour.  Dave was barely holding back his hope for a PITB reprise ... in fact, he wasn't.  They'd cut it short to go into Drums but they'd cut Playing short on him before and never come back to it.  This time they were in the mood for a soft landing and gave us a beautiful Brokedown with some nice slow-tempo leads in it.

But then ... wait, they weren't leaving the stage.  And the drummers were setting down a weird beat, and then it resolved into 10, and before we really had comprehended what they were doing, they were in the middle of the PITB reprise of death!  Dave grabbed my arm and tattoed it.  They crested a wave, and then another one, and then dipped down into the valley, and then were coming out of it and John mosied a little closer to the mike, and then a little closer.  He wasn't going to ... yes he was, he did the Donna Scream!!!!!  This was a John Mayer interpretation of a Donna Scream of course, but was distinctly an homage to one of the most distinctive moments of Grateful Dead music ever, and at the same time his own creation.  That was the moment of the decade for me.

OMG, this had been a fantastic experience.  As mentioned, perhaps a bit up and down technically, but in all a superior experience.  I wonder what the king is doing tonight?  Couldn't be as good as this.

Quick exit from the Garden and back onto Causeway, where we lingered for half a second but then headed back up the hill toward our car.  Got things to do on Monday morning, but this was a great Sunday night!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

DeadCo Fall Tour 2017 (Boston night one)

The life of a Deadhead keeps on getting richer and richer, which is very curious, and very wonderful.  As an example, Dave’s Picks 24 came out recently, a sonically incredible re-mastering of a restored tape from 45 years ago, when the earth was flat and I was still in high school.  But it’s some of the most delightful music I’ve ever heard … it’s got that thing that appeals to me about music, a combination of technical ability, poetic expression, great writing, and great performing.

And we continue to be blessed not only by archival releases, but by current musicians playing the Dead’s repertoire in a modern way.  That’s amazing!  Arguably the best Dead band around is Dead & Company of course, and we were very happy when they announced a Fall tour after their excellent tour this past Spring.  I was ecstatic at the prospect of seeing them again, and also extremely glad that the guys were showing a commitment to the band that could possibly be called into question if they just toured once a year.

Well, lots of people are committed and the scramble for tickets was as frantic as you may imagine.  They announced one stop in Boston (at the Garden) and another in Hartford, which we targeted and were able to snag tickets for (in the balcony) with all three of us trying hard.  Then they added another Boston date and we were lucky enough also to get floor tickets for that.  Sarah and Dave just got “wait” messages when they tried but I was able to get through and was offered the floor, which I jumped on!

Are we nuts to go see this band over and over, including the night before Thanksgiving??  That’s for you to determine, I’m not going to defend myself.  All I can say is to listen to this stuff, which in my mind ranks as some of the best artistic expressions of this century.  I’ll be vindicated when they’re still playing it and listening to it in 500 years!

So the first concert was Friday the 17th, and I did the same old thing of leaving work a few minutes before 4:00 and battling traffic on Routes 2 and 16 and then down Soldier’s Field Road and Storrow Drive with a beautiful Fall sunset at my back, lighting up the Charles in a deep blue and the Eastern sky in a hazy rose and reflecting off the buildings in our beautiful city.  Got to Bowdoin Street in plenty of time, met Sarah and Dave, and parked in their building as soon as we could.

Went down to Kinsale’s in Government Center to meet up with Leen and her family, who were attending the concert also.  Had some quick beers, salad, quesadillas, and talk, then walked quickly down to the Garden to battle the crowds getting in.  The place was packed; we waited in long lines for beers and hit the bathroom, and got settled into our seats in section 308 not long before they started.  We were way up in the balcony, but were pretty much straight on to the stage and could see fine.  We were too far away to see fretboard fingering, but everything else going on on stage was clear if you knew what to look for.  And being so far up, our view of the stage was unrestricted and better than in some situations where we’ve been very close.  And the seats were a third what floor seats cost!

The boys started some purposeful tuning, Bobby started a steady beat on his rhythm guitar, and soon they dropped into Jack Straw and we were off.  The Dead were back in Boston, making magic!

We’d heard/seen most of the first three shows of the tour (2 NYC, 1 Philly), and they started off "great" and were already at "excellent" by the time they got to Boston.  What level would they get to tonight?  And seeing them live, standing at one end of an indoor arena while they were roaring at the other end and the crowd was singing along was just an incredible experience.  The bass and drums were of course miles more vivid than when seen/heard electronically, and the sounds from Weir's guitar and Chimenti's piano rang through the whole arena.  And that's not to mention the lead guitar, which made the Celtics' and Bruins' historic banners ripple in appreciation.

In their first few tours the band has been a bit raw and has tried to stick to what they knew they could do well.  The most wonderful thing about them in late 2017 is that they seem to have said fuck that, we’ve been together for a few years now and are a mature band that can take chances.  And taking chances is a big part of what this music is all about!  As one blogger said, “When John turns to Bobby he gets instructions, but when he turns to Oteil he gets inspiration!”  And he was turning back and forth all night.

Sure, some of their forays into new stuff don’t quite ring solid, as with their debut of Beat It On Down the Line in NYC and their attempt to jazz up Big River in Boston that night.  But what the hell, we’ll take warts and clams if it means we also get the extended passages of transcendence that sometimes appear.

Speaking of transcendence, here’s the first set:

Jack Straw
New Speedway Boogie
Althea
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Big River
Sugaree
The Music Never Stopped

This was riveting stuff and we could hear every note and the balance was amazing.  OK, Jeff was a little quiet to start with and the vocals had to get a bit straightened out.  As always in an arena, what sounded just exactly perfect in sound check needed adjustment with the bowl full of people.  But they were soon roaring on all cylinders.

Bobby's been cycling between four guitars this tour, and has a new walnut-body electric that just sounds like buttered toast.  The drummers have been on top of their games this tour, and Billy in particular was the guy to listen to all by himself.

The first four songs were up and up, each moment topping what came before, but then Big River was a throw-away, and then they took their shot at Sugaree, which we could have predicted would be in the first Boston set (in fact, we did).  And of course they ended the set with another fantastic Music Never Stopped, in which John finally made the "Keep on dancing until daylight" bridge his own.  No longer will I say, "Yeah but Donna should have been singing that."

We were in heaven, as was pretty much everyone in the audience.  After hanging around at our seats for a while to let the crowd rush die down a bit I ventured out for bathroom and beer and met Dave, Leen, and Madison, who were having a great time.  Madison may be a Dead convert, I hear she liked the second set even better than the first.  How could you not be head over heels about this stuff?

They seemed to have converted all the good beer taps to just Bud Light and Shocktop, but I finally at least found some Sam lager and made it back to the seats right after the roar went up, announcing that they were back on stage.

And here's where it got good.  They hadn't yet done Scarlet Fire on the tour and they were not about to let that oversight go for another minute.  This was a boppy Scarlet, an ultimate hippy anthem, and then it became an exercise in controlled power that ultimately led to Oteil stepping up to the mike and sweetly telling us all how the mountain was on fire and it was all because of dragons playing with matches.  This was excellent, cream-filled stuff.

And then ... well, here's the list:

Scarlet Begonias
Fire on the Mountain
He's Gone
Viola Lee Blues
Drums
Space
Milestones
Wharf Rat
The Wheel
Sugar Magnolia

He's Gone was as lovely as could be, but then one of the moments of the night was when that dwindled into noodling, and then fucking Viola Lee roared out of those ashes and picked up the Garden and shook it.  It was kind of futile to scream our delight from where we were, but this one had me in ecstasy.

Ho hum, Drums, Space, Miles Davis, and Wharf Rat!?!?!?!  Instead of the classic Thunder Drums the guys have dual sets of giant drum pads set up behind their rig this year and they got some incredible noises and rhythms going on those.  This setup allowed them to mix in samples really easily and well.  And they were joined by Oteil soon, on bass instead of traps this year.

A little note: Oteil spent much of his time standing on a red-lined mat(?) but stepped off that to sing, so we had no idea what that was for.  But we figured he knew what he was doing!  Another note is that Bobby's been wearing glasses this tour, the first time the youngster of the Dead has ever done that on stage (except for "home" concerts, like at Sweetwater).  Maybe his vanity has finally lapsed enough for him to do so, but knowing Bobby I figure he finally said, "Hey, I can see better this way!"  You'll be glad to hear that even though he could see better and had a teleprompter right there, he kept on forgetting words at his classic pace.  Anyway, when Oteil had his on (they're on and off), that made 5 of the 6 band members wearing spectacles.

But where was I?  Oh yeah, excellent jazz piano by Jeff on Milestones.  Then epic but perhaps not the best Wharf Rat.  Bobby's vocal power and range has been consistently top-notch lately but he still has a bit of trouble bringing the gravitas when he needs it, though this is a small criticism.  But then they started into The Wheel, and the Garden woke up and started thundering.  As I say, the sound at our end of the bowl was astounding.  Not only was the bass and the rhythm guitar and the drums and the piano rocking us, the Deadheads to our left and to our right and beneath us and all around were singing on key to this epic Garcia song, and of course the lead guitar was piercing through everything with Mayer's twist on Garcia's melodies.

And then OMG, they started into Sugar Mags.  This wasn't the balls-to-the-wall rock and roll of a 1972 version, but was still exactly what we needed to finish off a wonderful musical event.  Bobby (with John on excellent harmony) was singing about love and sexual fascination and being free like irony had never been invented, and then they got deep down into the jam and then they emerged and Bobby didn't exactly jump to the mike (he kind of sidled up to it), and then they were singing about daydreams in the sunshine and life was just perfect.  This is what we come for, I guess.

Dead & Company seem to be buying in to the idea that encores need to be timely.  Jeez, when we last saw Jorma he just stood behind his chair at the end of his set, and then got back in it for the encore.  The guys came back on stage almost as soon as they left.  Billy may have had time for a quick piss in there, but as you get older that becomes a little tougher.

Anyway, John got an acoustic out but the others stuck to their electrics (I loved Bobby's walnut guitar, but he didn't play it for the encore), and they struck up Ripple, which John excels on.  What a wonderful ending to a wonderful concert!

The crowd wanted a second encore, but the house lights came up and it was time to go home.  We hung out a bit (we were in the middle of our row, way up in the balcony), but then we got assembled and got out of there pretty quickly into the cold and windy late Fall night.  Downtown Boston was going at full tilt on a Friday night and it took us a while to push through the crowds up the lower slopes of Beacon Hill (including a short cut through the back of the hill, a working-class neighborhood back say, 45 years ago, but very upscale now).  Then when we left the garage the streets were full of cars like it was rush hour, but we finally got onto the expressway, over the Zakim Bridge, and back home before it got really late.

Day off today and then back to the tour on Sunday!!!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Patty Larkin At The Burren

Thought about it for a long time, and then finally bought a couple of the last seats to go see Patty Larkin at The Burren on Friday, 11/10.  We’ve always loved seeing Patty, and we really loved seeing her again!

The November weather had turned really cold suddenly, as it can in New England, but I got a good parking space right across Elm Street and we settled in at a booth in the cozy Burren with a couple of beers to wait for the doors at 6.  We had GA tickets, though most of the room is reserved tables.  The long table right at the stage is non-reserved however, and that’s where we went.  A quick waiter got us some more beer and then dinner and it wasn’t long before Patty came on.

She was solo of course, though Merrie Amsterburg joined her for a couple of tunes later.  Patty opened with Italian Shoes and played a great setlist, featuring some gems from throughout her career.  She did a few new songs too, including one written at a writer's cabin on the Outer Cape, about the Outer Cape in us all.  She encored with Nick Lowe’s What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding (we were all aware of the very depressing one-year anniversary we were facing).  No I’m Fine or Metal Drums, but quite satisfactory anyway.

Being right at the front we had plenty of opportunities to joke with Patty, and after the show we stopped at the merch table to chat.  Sarah mentioned Louise, and Patty was nice enough to sign her “25” CD to give to her, though it’s been a very long time since their paths have crossed.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Dave and Jimmie Dale at Bull Run

I was kind of surprised to see an announcement from the Bull Run that "loud folk" Dave Alvin would be touring with transcendental Texan Jimmie Dale Gilmore in a few months, but that didn't stop me from rushing to the phone to get tickets.  Both of them are at the top of the heap, and we'd seen a couple of other odd pairings that came off great (like Bromberg and Campbell right there in the Bull Run).  We got our customary center-left table, and then the show sold out fast.

Got to the Bull Run after pickup in West Concord on a Friday night (11/3) and the place was already pretty full by the time we got there.  Got some good beers and good food quick from a very efficient waitress.  Took some last bathroom breaks (Alvin was down there and was mobbed, hard to go to the bathroom that way), and then settled down for a good show.

Dave was right in front of us and Jimmie Dale on the right, both sitting on their low metal chairs.  The show was a lot of fun and I have to say that the pairing worked, though it seemed uneven at times.  I was thinking they were going to do a lot of traditional songs that they both knew equally, but they concentrated on an Alvin song, then a Gilmore song, and so on back and forth.  They did ask for requests early in the show, but they basically wanted us to request what they had planned to play.

Jimmie Dale made a few mistakes when trying to keep up with Dave, which I'm sure can be pretty difficult.  When he took the lead he was excellent, doing Dallas, Just a Wave (which he said was written by Butch Hancock but is HIS song), and one of the moments of the night was him captivating the whole sold out and raucous Sawtelle Room with Another Colorado.  He's magic at his best.

At one point Jimmie Dale was going on about river songs, and how they were in the same vein as train songs, and how there might be outer space songs some day (I think he was losing me).  And then he stopped and said, "But there aren't any bicycle songs!?!"  Dave immediately started playing, "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.  I'm half crazy all for the love of you.  It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage.  But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two."  Or he played part of it at least.

And it was as wonderful as you might expect, seeing Dave Alvin sitting 10 feet in front of me playing acoustic.  Some yahoos shouted for Harlan County Line early on, but he pointed out to them that he needed an electric to play that.  I kind of wished he had his electric and turned it up as loud as he had last time I'd seen him at the Bull Run (that was a topic of conversation at the table, we all agreed that was the loudest we'd ever heard the place get), but he was perfect on acoustic of course and this was great!

For me, the moment of the night was him doing Evening Blues from his Blackjack David record.  I never thought I'd see him play this song and it's a gem.  Several of us requested Blue Wing, but he shook his head and said they'd played that the night before.

BUT, never mind that.  He'd opened with Long White Cadillac, soon chimed in with King Of California (with Jimmie Dale frailing the mandolin part on his guitar), done an amazing acoustic Fourth of July in the middle of the set, and his song in the encore was an amazing, delicate and ethereal version of Marie Marie, three of the best songs in the world right there.  Superb!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Alison Krauss In the Windy City

Another tough (not really) concert decision we made this late summer was to not go see Alison Krauss at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.  Reasons that we wanted to go were that this was kind of a come-back tour for her after taking time off because of problems with dysphonia, and she’d recently released a solo record (not with her long-time band, Union Station) that featured another side of her great talent (she is the most-awarded singer and most-awarded female in Grammy history).  Reasons for passing were that we’ve already scheduled many concerts for this Fall and that BHBP sucks: it’s inconvenient to get to and park near, their sound system is pitiful, and their prices for tickets and concessions are outrageous.

BUT, on the day of the concert, Friday 9/22, I saw I had email and it was a flash from WUMB that they had tickets to give away and the first five to reply would get pairs.  I replied and got them!  So that addressed one of our concerns for sure.

It was the last day of Summer (and first evening of Fall) and another concern was that the remnants of Hurricane Jose were causing a storm near the New England coast and, though there probably wouldn’t be torrential downpours, it would be an evening of very un-Summer-like weather and temperatures.  Oh well, we could take that for free tickets!

We went home after work to eat dinner and get prepped: sweatshirts, slickers, and gloves as well as good footwear and warm socks.  And it’s a good thing we did, the wind was absolutely roaring on the waterfront, the temperature must have been in the 40s, and it was spitting rain off and on all night.  There were some people there in t-shirts and shorts and they didn’t last long, the wind cut right through you and though it may have been a sell-out, lots of people couldn’t take it and left early.

We’d decided to drive right to the Seaport rather than park in Government Center and walk, and we miraculously snagged an on-street parking spot when someone in front of us pulled out.  That upped the amount spent for the evening to $1.25, but we soon made up for that with beers in the venue.

Our seats weren’t that bad … one thing about that amphitheater is that most seats have good sight lines and aren’t too far from the stage.  But as before, we were amazed that they thought that the small stacks of speakers they had suspended from the tent, left and right, were enough for quality sound.  They sure weren’t, especially because they hesitated to turn them up!

David Gray was the opener and, though I read that he’s had several chart-toppers in the UK, he’s flown under my radar.  I recognized a couple of his songs, but only faintly.  He was mostly on solo guitar or piano, though he was joined by some accompanists later in the set.  I found him kind of boring I hate to say.  One example was that he featured sampling himself on guitar and playing those loops while he went in other directions … a modern thing to do, and he was skillful at it.  But at one point he had one bass loop going, another little rhythm loop going too, and then he played a line of melody, sampled that, and started it repeating while he put down his guitar, stood back and clapped.  I found this boring!  I mean, you knew exactly what was going to happen in the next measure and you had a pretty good idea what would happen in the measure after that, and the one after that, etc.  It wasn’t that compelling.

Another criticism, and this was the venue rather than the artist, was that their sound system SUCKED (have I mentioned this?) and that they barely had it turned up at all.  He could have been singing a cappella.  And with the howling wind you needed some boost from the PA.  It’s like the BHBP was reluctant to drown out the conversations of the many, many people chattering away during the opening act of a CONCERT!

But there were a lot of David Gray fans there straining to pay rapt attention too, and his songs were greeted with lots of whoops and hollers and he had fans singing along at the drop of a hat.  I was glad to see that, though his set wasn’t really to my taste.

Anyway, then Alison came on and they turned it up a bit, and she was awesome.  And she was joined by Suzanne and Sidney Cox!  I had no idea … here’s the band we saw: Alison Krauss on fiddle and vocals, Ron Block on guitar and banjo, Barry Bales on stand-up bass, James Mitchell on electric lead guitar, Jerry Roe on drums, Matt Rollings (from Lyle Lovett’s band and many other gigs) on grand piano, AND siblings Suzanne Cox on vocals and Sidney Cox on vocals, dobro, and acoustic guitar.

Alison stuck mainly to ballads from throughout her career and though her wispy and delicate voice wasn’t the best to combat a windstorm, the music she and her band produced was excellent.  As with other concerts I’ve seen, the difference in quality of sound between the opener and the main act was astonishing.  We thought Gray was good, but these guys were perfect.

Of particular note was Sidney Cox playing some killer dobro, Rollings being just more and more astonishing on piano as the night went along, and of course Block and Bales from Union Station.  As with other excellent concerts I’ve been to, I could almost see the music with Rollings staring at and bonding with Roe and Bales on a solid groove which was illustrating the sound coming from the other side of the stage, where you had Block doing his best Bob Weir on guitar, punctuating the lead stylings of Mitchell on electric, the flourishes by Cox on dobro, and of course by Alison on fiddle.

But the best thing was naturally the wonderful vocals, with Alison solo, her duetting with Suzanne, the small group unisons with Sidney, and the ensemble vocals when Block and Bales joined in.  As the evening went along they shrank into a smaller and smaller group, and for the encore they actually brought out an old RCA mike for the boys (and girls) to cluster around.

Can’t remember the setlist exactly, but here are some songs they played:

River in the Rain, I Never Cared for You, Stay, Forget About It, Baby Now That I've Found You, Broadway, Ghost in This House, The Lucky One, It’s Goodbye and So Long to You, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground, Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby, I Am Weary (Let Me Rest), Down to the River to Pray, Restless, Gentle on My Mind, Losing You, Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues, When God Dips His Pen Of Love in My Heart, When You Say Nothing at All, A Living Prayer

I was delighted that she did Now That I’ve Found You from the very beginning of her career, and of course the O Brother songs.  I was a bit disappointed that she didn’t do the title track from her new record, Windy City, both because I wanted to hear it and also because it was fucking windy in the city that night!  As I say, people were leaving in droves all through the evening because they were freezing and couldn’t take it anymore.

A bunch of us stayed until the end, but when it was over you can believe we all took off as fast as we could.  Not too far back to the car and only a few blocks over to a ramp down to the expressway and back over the Zakim Bridge to home.  Again, lots of fun and very well worth the price, but I wish they had a better amphitheater downtown, or would upgrade this one.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Midnight North at Thunder Road

We've seen Phil Lesh a lot, you know.  And we'd seen and greatly admired his son, Grahame, for a while.  Sometimes show biz offspring can be a little painful, but sometimes they can excel and threaten to eclipse the old man/woman.  I can't imagine anyone eclipsing Phil, but Grahame has shown himself to be a true talent on his own, and a dedicated working musician, which counts a lot in my book.

His latest band is Midnight North, with the excellent Elliott Peck joining him on guitar and vocals.  Geez, he should stick with Elliott, who's quite a talent.  As a young band they don't go on many world tours, but they finally came this way and we were psyched to go see them in Somerville on a Monday night, September 18.

With the demise of Johnny D's, it seems a lot of music clubs have sprung up around Cambridge-Somerville, and Thunder Road is one of the newer ones.  We'd been tempted to go there a few times but this was our first.  After a quick nap for me and Sarah after work, we met Dave in Davis at Redbones for dinner, and then drove the 1.3 miles down Somerville Ave to the Northern edge of Union Square.  Grahame was outside pressing the flesh but we stopped for a toke (totally legal) before we went in, and missed our chance to ask him the tough questions.  And when we got inside the place was empty!

Well, not empty-empty (there were bartenders), but at the height of the evening there were maybe a few dozen people there at most, which means we had plenty of room to spread out.  There were a couple of Deadicated people there, but mostly it was locals looking for a good rocking Monday show.  And I think they got their wish with this band.  We grabbed stools right off the dance floor, but we were up and dancing after a few numbers, as was most of the crowd.  These guys are good.

Grahame and Elliott were accompanied by keyboardist Alex Jordan, bassist Connor O'Sullivan, and a drummer.  Lesh has written some great songs for the band, and Peck has written some even better ones.  Jordan is not only a great keyboardist, but is an excellent country-rock backup singer, and they were in the groove all night.

They played a bunch of songs from their new record (Under the Lights), opening with Roamin' and following that up with The Highway Song.  Lesh was very good on lead guitar and soon had the sparse (but enthusiastic) crowd whooping and hollering.  I think most of the people there were delighted to see such excellent performances on what they thought was a lazy night in a back corner of Somerville.  And Peck was supreme, perhaps most impactful when she backed up Lesh with that little bit of twang and lots of feeling that a good country rock song can hold.

Then they said they were going to do a Levon Helm song, and started into the blues beat that I instantly recognized as one of my favorites ever, When I Go Away.  Larry Campbell wrote it and Levon recorded it (on a Grammy-winning record), and Midnight North killed it.  The vocal arrangements they featured all night were challenging, and pulled off excellently, and they sure had this song down.

They broke into Tennessee Jed after a few originals and that got the crowd dancing faster than a whistle on an evening train.  If you watch their videos on YouTube, Midnight North kill a number of CSN songs, and they soon lit into Long Time Gone (David Crosby) like they wrote it.  This had some jaws on the floor, it was so good.  They mixed in a number of other originals, like Peck's great Greene County.  But then they got the crowd back on the floor for good with Viola Lee Blues and later Mr. Charlie, sung by Peck with a great growl.

For a closer they did the whole Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Steven Stills, perfectly.  This was great stuff and though they were sticking pretty closely to the way CSN had done it, jeez, how could you argue with that?  They finished the song and then kind of trickled off stage.  They left all of us in a pool of sweat on the dance floor and we didn't know whether to shit or wind our watches.  But then we realized they were done, and we recovered.

They half-heartedly manned the merch table at the back of the room ... there wasn't really a crowd there to besiege them.  But the three of us got our stuff together and then migrated back there and had a nice talk with Elliott and Alex.  I told Elliott about just missing Larry and Teresa do When I Go Away with Phil & Friends at the Cap and she was nice enough to sympathize.  They were anxious that we'd come back the next time they were in town, and we were anxious that they'd come back to town!

Got out of there and wove through the faster- and faster-changing Kendall Square area over the Longfellow Bridge to drop Dave off at Charles, then got on the road back home.  Not in bed too late, though it was well past our normal bedtime for a Monday.  But this was really worth it, we saw a great young band in a great new venue without any crowds or hassle, and this was fun all over.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Benevento After Wolf!

We'd seen Marco Benevento, the amazing keyboardist for JRAD (etc.) at the 2016 GRF ... loved him, and he's been scheduled for Sinclair in Cambridge a couple of times since then.  Dave saw him the first time and we all were psyched for the next time.  But he was cancelled by snow early this year and rescheduled for ... September.  Oh well, we could wait.

In the meantime we saw that (JRAD guitarist) Scott Metzger's band, Wolf!, was going to be opening and were almost as psyched to see them.  The middle of September finally came around and we moseyed into Harvard Square after assembling in the newly-refurbished house for dinner on Friday the 15th.

Doors were at 8 and we had a good time waiting in the slight drizzle and hanging out with other enthusiasts, including the young guy I'd met at GDMUATM back in April.  When we got in at 8 for the show at 9 we had our choice of standing room spots, but ended up hanging back in front of the soundboard, which is very good in some ways (sound, sight lines), but not in other ways (endless streams of people passing by left and right).  The air conditioners were also going full tilt and dripping water onto the floor ... that is, if it didn't hit our heads first.  Don't look up!

Anyway, we were there with some PBRs, having a good time, and then the opening, opening act came on right at 9.  This was Spencer Albee from Portland (ME) on piano, with a bassist and a drummer (note the start of a pattern here).  He was really good and had some good rocking tunes and a tight band.  His penultimate song was Zevon's Lawyers Guns and Money, and that was right in his sweet spot.  The crowd was pouring in and we, and a lot of Cambridge, were having a great Friday night already.

Then Wolf! came on and they were fantastic, as good as we imagined they would be and better.  Though Scott is a great vocalist, they eschew vocals for fancy instrumentals and for the freedom to be able to pivot on a dime, fuck the lyrics!  Scott had a bassist (Jay Foote subbbing for regular Jon Shaw) and drummer (Taylor Flores) with him, and both knew enough to stick with him around the slippery curves.

Scott stuck to his Telecaster and milked so many styles from it in such rapid succession that our minds were spinning, let alone our ears.  He played classic rock, surf rock, rockabilly, blues rock, acid rock, country rock, a little prog rock, and lots of rock and roll.  No feedback, but that's cool, he didn't have time.  Can't name any of the songs he played, probably mostly originals; on listening to this archived performance with the same band, a bunch were definitely covered, so those may be the titles.  The one song he introduced was Sock Full Of Quarters.  Scott really showed us and the almost-packed Sinclair that he can do it.

Then it was time for Marco, the Sinclair let in the last few before closing its doors, and the air conditioners continued to drip.  It was getting near 11 by that point but we weren't paying much attention to the time, though we knew we were exhausted.  Oh well, can't rock and roll all night without a little inconvenience.

With Marco was his long-time second-string (but-almost-as-much-fun-as-Dave) bassist, Karina Rykman and substitute drummer Dave Butler (from Guster).  They were a great band and the third trio we'd seen on the night.  Guess there was some kind of rule about that.  There were times when Marco could have used a guitar, but in general he's just an incredible, incredible keyboardist with an overflowing sonic palette.

Karina and Dave were wearing white t-shirts with matching slogans (We're Using Time For Fun) and white khakis, and Marco had his top-hat and pink glasses but besides that was dressed in a white suit and t-shirt himself.  This meant they all glowed in unison when they started the trippy lights, though they were never that far from a trip.

Marco opened with the whole Fred Short suite and played an eclectic set list, mostly from his earlier records (after the opener).  He's a great showman and had the crowd at his beck and call throughout, ending with three encores and teasing the crowd to beg for more.  It didn't hurt that Karina and Dave were smiling all night, and that Karina showed some great ability to jump around the stage with her huge electric bass and rock our worlds with some booming runs.

He closed with At the Show, but we were a bit disappointed that he didn't do Heavy Metal Floating Downstream or Dropkick, two of his catchiest tunes.  Oh well, we had a great time and will definitely see him again.  It can be surreal to watch a great keyboardist tinkle on the ivories and then work them and work them, like they're an extension of his hands and fingers.  He's nick-named his stand-up piano "Gib" (I assume it's a Gibson) and he let it take a number itself, on which it excelled of course.

OK, we were done and dragged ourselves out of there.  It was already too late for the Red Line and so Dave came home with us and we all got to bed before 2, though it was close.