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Archive for the ‘Philadelphia, PA’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 23, 2018] Courtney Barnett

S. and I saw Courtney Barnett back in May when her latest album Tell Me How You Really Feel just came out.  She did a few shows where she played the whole album in its entirety.  Our show sold out very quickly and I was lucky to get tickets.

This time around she played the larger Fillmore and did not sell out the venue.  Is it better to play a small club and sell out, or a larger one and not sell out?  I’m still not sure why this one didn’t.

So why would we go to see someone five months after we had just seen her?

Well, primarily because I thought that this show would be different–bigger, longer and a bit more fun. Not that the first wasn’t fun–it was.  But at that show, she had a mission to play that album and make us like it.  This time, we already had the album and we liked it, we just wanted to hear it again!

And man was this show terrific.

I assumed she would not play the album straight through again.  But I shouldn’t have been surprised that she opened with the first two songs.  The stage was bathed in red (terrible for pictures so I didn’t bother trying to get any).  However, I love watching her play guitar–her technique is so bizarre to me and yet it sounds wonderful.  It must hurt like the dickens.  You can see her playing with no pick very clearly in this clip from “City Looks Pretty.”  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 23, 2018] Waxahatchee

I really can’t get over how many artists I have seen twice this year.

I saw Waxahatchee back in April.  Katie Crutchfield and her band headlined Union Transfer.  I had no idea that she would be opening for Courtney Barnett when Courtney came back through town, but there she was.

I had enjoyed her set and was looking forward to hearing her and her band again.

So I was a little disappointed to find out that this iteration of Waxahatchee was just her.  Katie has a wonderful voice and writes pretty songs.  But when I saw them in April, I found the few acoustic solo songs she did to be a bit slow for my tastes.  Plus her band was so good! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 22, 2018] Johnny Marr

My friend Garry got me into The Smiths in high school. I had been exclusively into metal before that, but there was something about the guitars and lyrics of The Smiths that I really enjoyed.  And I quickly became a huge fan of Johnny Marr.

The Smiths broke up in 1987 and that was that.  Johnny Marr has since gone on to play with dozens of bands, including Electronic, The The and Modest Mouse.  He has also been releasing solo albums along the way, but I didn’t really listen to any of those.

Because of my love for The Smiths and much of Morrissey’s solo work, I tried to see Morrissey last year.  Of course that show got cancelled.  So I assumed I’d never get to see any members of The Smiths live (I have no idea what the bassist and drummer have been up to).

Then I saw that Johnny Marr was doing a one-off in New York City for his new album Call the Comet (which was getting great reviews).  I tried to get tickets but didn’t.  Oh well, no big loss.  Then a few months later, he announced a small U.S. tour including a stop in Philly.  He has only played Philly in 2003, 2013 and 2014.  So this seemed like my only chance.

I don’t know much about the guy himself.  Morrissey, as we all know, is a prat.

But what about Johnny?  Is he an aloof 80s alt rock star?  Like hell he is.  His merch all says “Johnny Fuckin Marr.”  He was chatty and funny.  He had on a great shirt and smiled a lot.  He was generally a load of laughs.  Who would have guessed?

But the real question is, Is Johnny Marr to stuck up to play Smiths songs?  Like hell he is.  Actually I didn’t know if he’d play any Smiths songs. But i was pretty psyched when he played six of them.

But he was there to promote Call the Comet and so he started out with a new song called “The Tracers.”  It had a repeating “whooo whooo” refrain and a rocking guitar part.  Knowing what I know about Marr, I never expected his songs to rock out like this.  And yet they did rock out.  Virtually every song he played was rocking and full-bodied.  And his backing band was fantastic James Doviak played guitar and keys.  I enjoyed that he supplemented Marr, playing mostly rhythm guitar but occasionally taking on some of Marr’s signature sounds as well.  Despite the shades, he never stepped into the bright lights

Johnny then delighted me and everyone in the room by playing the opening chords of The Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again.”  This is one of the first Smiths songs I’d ever heard and it was amazing to hear it live.  The crowd went berserk (so many old men dancing!) and then Johnny sang.

Johnny is no Morrissey and he does not try to be. He does not sing like Morrissey, but he does have the same Mancunian accent so while it was no Morrissey it was not exactly wrong either.  The delivery was less arch but was still right.  It was an awesome treat.  If that was the only Smiths song he played I would have been happy.  But he had a few more tucked away.

He followed that up with the new song, a B-side to “Hi Hello” called “Jeopardy” which had a rockin riff and trippy vocals.  Then he played “Day In Day Out” which has an acoustic-sounding guitar.  Doviak didn’t switch guitars, he juts switched effects which was pretty cool.

Johnny sang from the center of the stage where the soft lights were on him.  Sometimes he was obscured by white, other times, he was faintly visible.  But every time he took a guitar solo he walked up to the front of the stage where the spotlights shone on him and we could see him in all of his leather jacketed or heart-print-shirted glory. The only bad thing was that the really tall men (are all former goths really tall? At least none of them had Robert Smith hair) would put heir heads together blocking my view to scrutinize his playing, leaving me looking at pomade and bald spots.

He said, “Hi guys, how are you all doing.”  He then corrected that he wasn’t only talking to the men.  He’s from England, if he was only talking to the men, he’d say “hello darlings.”  This was an introduction of sorts to “Hi Hello.”   And then came the opening riff to “The Headmaster Ritual.”  So there would be more than one Smiths song!  This song, in addition to having a great guitar riff also has a notable bass line which Iwan Gronow played perfectly.  It was like hearing the band (except that Johnny sang “same old suit since 1982”).

The next cover was a huge surprise because I had forgotten that Johnny was in the duo Electronic (with Bernard Summer from New Order).  Neil Tennant was a guest on “Getting Away with It” (Neil did not guest at TLA, of course).  It was odd because I knew this song pretty well but it sounded so different. The original has lots of keys but this song had far more guitar than synth (and no Neil Tennant).  But the guy next to me (short with a nice head of white hair) danced like a fool.

“Hey Angel” has some great guitar soloing.  Then Johnny switched gears to play a beautiful “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me.” It was interesting as he sang the words and I wondered what he thought about Morrissey’s lyrics.  They are so distinctly The Smiths, but would he have ever written anything like that himself?  Certainly he doesn’t now.  Did he feel weird singing it?  I can’t imagine that Johnny Marr has felt that way in decades 🙂

He joked that politics was fun eh?  Given Morrissey’s recent proclamations, who knew where he was going with this, but he just proceeded to say that “Bug” was dedicated to “you know who.”

Then he asked, “Any requests?  Bet you weren’t expecting to hear that!”  People shouted some favorites and he responded “That’s no one of our songs, sir.” And then finally he said, “What’s that you say sir ‘Get the Message’ from 1991.  Yea I think I can do that.”  This was another Electronic song although I wasn’t as familiar with it (but that other guy sure was).

“Easy Money” from his previous album also sounded familiar.  Perhaps it had some airplay a few years ago.  The guitar chords were very Johnny Marr but the riff was heavy and the verses were very synthy.  Either way it was pretty great.  He followed it up with another song from Playland, “Boys Get Straight.”  It was also a solid rocker, with great drums from Jack Mitchell.  Clearly I need to check out his solo albums.

Just as I was wondering how long of a show Johnny Marr would do, he started playing the most iconic riff in all alternative rock.  “How Soon is Now” was just amazing.  Johnny played the echoing chords and Doviak plays the searing note  The only downside to the whole thing was that I could barely see him or Doviak the whole time.  However, being in the same room as the guy playing those chords was more than enough.

That was a set ender and frankly could have been a concert ender, it was something I’d hoped for and I got and I was satisfied.

But they did indeed come back for an encore.   As has become traditional, the encore included two songs from the new album before getting onto real encore material.

He played that chord and we all knew it was “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.”  I never thought I’d hear a room full of middle-aged men sing “to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die!”  It was amazing.

When that song was over he told us that we were the last night on his tour so how about one more?  (It turns out he played the same two songs back to back on all of his shows.  In fact it was the same setlist all tour, but he did make us feel special).

And who cares if he was lying when the opening notes of “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby” rang out and once again, we all freaked out.  It was an awesome end to the show and left all of us singing and happy.

I had basically written off Morrissey bailed on us last time.  I basically felt that I would maybe go see him if he ever came back, but possibly not.

But now that I’ve seen Johnny Fuckin Marr play “How Soon is Now” what do I need Morrissey for?

 

SETLIST

  1. The Tracers 
  2. Bigmouth Strikes Again š
  3. Jeopardy (b-side of single)
  4. Day In Day Out €
  5. New Dominions 
  6. Hi Hello 
  7. The Headmaster Ritual š
  8. Walk Into the Sea 
  9. Getting Away With It 
  10. Hey Angel 
  11. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me š
  12. Bug 
  13. Get the Message 
  14. Easy Money 
  15. Boys Get Straight 
  16. How Soon is Now? š
  17. encore
  18. Rise 
  19. Spiral Cities 
  20. There is a Light That Never Goes Out š
  21. You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby š

Call the Comet (2018)
Playland (2014)
š The Smiths cover
Electronic cover

 

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[ATTENDED: October 22, 2018] Belle Game

I hadn’t heard of Belle Game before this show.  The blurb on the ticket site described them as “crush pop” which was new to me.

Since they were opening for Johnny Marr I thought I had a feeling for what they wound sound like.

I arrived at the club moments before they went on (nice timing), but far enough back that I couldn’t see anyone very well (wish I’d gotten there ten minutes earlier).  The music started and it was this ethereal soft sound–lots of synths and even the guitar was dreamy and almost unrecognizable. And then singer Andrea Lo started singing.

Lo has an amazing voice. Very powerful–she can hit the rafters easily. She also sings with a lot of force (that hand waving to the beat that pop singers do).  Basically, she was like a TV singer.  And it absolutely did not work with the music. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 19, 2018] Mitski

I haven’t had that much exposure to Mitski.  I loved her Tiny Desk Concert and had heard great things about her live show.  So I was pretty excited to see her.  I was amazed that she sold out Union Transfer (and every other date on her tour!) so quickly.  She even added a second date in November and that one sold out, too.  Good for her!

In the Tiny Desk, she is solo, playing her guitar.  I was totally unprepared for what was to come.

This was the first night of her tour, so I gather everyone was unprepared.

The stage was constructed with three large screens.  They projected various images, often static, sometimes scenes from nature, sometimes rain-covered windows, in other words, nothing especially memorable.  They served as backdrop for Mitski herself.

The band came out–drums and guitar to the left and bass and keys to the right.  And then Mitski came out in a high-buttoned long-sleeve shirt and a long black skirt.  Her hair was pulled back and she looked very much not ready to rock.  She looked almost puritanical.   (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 19, 2018] Overcoats

Overcoats were the first concert I went to this year.  They had opened for a band I’d never heard of, but I was there for them.  I got there early, had a great spot up front and really enjoyed the show.

Now here it is ten months later and they were opening for someone I really wanted to see.  I knew they didn’t have a new album out so I wasn’t sure what they’d be playing.  It turns out that they had taken a bit of a touring break and this was their first gig in a little bit (we’re so out of shape, JJ said).

Well, I arrived later than I wanted to and wound up with a not great but not terrible spot.  I walked in during their first song (boo).

The crowd was (like last time) very responsive, which is always fun.  And it felt like Overcoats were more relaxed than last time (but that’s probably not true). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 10, 2018] Gruff Rhys

Super Furry Animals was one of my favorite bands of the 1990s.  Their music was great and I loved that they were Welsh.  It’s unfathomable that some of their singles weren’t huge here.  Even their all-Welsh album Mwng is catchy as anything.

Since the mid 2000s they’ve been in a different musical space (and on hiatus).  Lead singer Gruff (pronounced Griff) Rhys has released several solo albums and just recently released the album Babelsberg.

I hadn’t heard any of Babelsberg, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to see Gruff live for the first time.  (I saw SFA back in the 90s, but this would be very different).

Gruff was supposed to come to Johnny Brenda’s a few years ago (he explained), but Visa issues caused him to miss the Philly date.  That show was supposed to be solo, but for this show he had a four piece band: bassist Stephen “Sweet Baboo” Black and Osian Gwynedd on piano (who I could never see because he was behind Gruff, but whom I talked to after the show).  And he had Kliph Scurlock from the Flaming Lips on drums (!).  Kliph was selling the merch (while the other guys were talking Welsh backstage) and I chatted with him for a bit.  He has moved to Wales! (more…)

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